Friday, April 29, 2011

The New York Whines

You know something, fellas?

Y'all could have done more to clear all this mess up a long time ago by saying something like this every time the issue arose.

Because that's what it is going to take, these days. Every fake issue that comes out of our poisoned political system is going to require massive response. From birtherism to the Ground Zero Mosque to Kenyan Anti-Colonialism to Secular Atheist Islamic Fundamentalism to Andrew Brietbart splicing Shirley Sherood into the next Busta Ryhmes video and calling it news.

Y'all are the news. Y'all have to respond. Y'all have to investigate what is factual and what is not factual and YOU HAVE TO TAKE A STAND ON THE SIDE OF REALITY.

But you didn't. You let each comment, building on the last, slip past you while reporting what people said. You thought this stuff was a joke. You thought this wasn't serious. You, and the rest of the national media, went ahead and published the words of these people with little or insufficient condemnation or correction. Hell, at least it meant pageviews, right? At least you were being "balanced" by publishing the "other side" of the opinion that our President was a legitimate American.

Y'all left it mainly to people on internet message boards and blog comments to call this nonsense what it is. Because we'll do it without pay.

It built up so much attention that the President of the United States of America has had to go on national television to again address the issue of his own citizenship because our nation has a large population of clowns who can somehow get a hold of two years worth of news cycles to display thier honking noses and whoopie cushions while we're engaged in three wars and one tenacious recession.

But I'm glad y'all finally came out and said what needed to be said. Once the President, of course, got down in the mud first.

(HT: Cliff)

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Keep 'em Separated

Since the 1950's, there has been a tremendous political movement to increase the use of private school vouchers - that is, sending students to private school on the public dime. The current reasoning is another of those common-sense-isms that seems rational on its face.

But all you have to do is dig a little deeper.

First of all, there is an inherent conflict of interest. The same people (state legislators) who are able to politically enact vouchers programs to "allow even poor people to escape the worst public schools" (their words) are the same people who politically affect policy for the state's worst public schools.

Meaning a politician who wants a voucher program can create the need for a voucher program by passively neglecting or actively kneecapping public education through his or her legislative perogatives.

This behavior is demonstrated very well, as Jay Bookman indicates, when political supporters of voucher programs refuse to require voucher recipients take standardized testing the state mandates for public school students.

I wonder what the explanation is for that?

Let me get this straight: a legislator will force education budgets to spend millions on standardized high-stakes testing infrastructure, to quantitatively evaluate the value of a public education and to "install accountability." This makes public schools cut extracurricular programs in favor of teaching the test, degrading the overall value of a public education. Then, in response to that degredation, that same legislator will say that students need to escape the mess that's been made, and offer to send them to private schools with public money. Finally, once the kid is in private school, the legislator does not want that student tested against one of the only metrics available to quantitatively evaluate the value difference between private and public education.

Where's your accountability now?

That's why I vote against every single politician who proposes a voucher program - it is, literally, a public and policy-based admission that the candidate is incapable or unwilling to do the job they were elected to do. Not only that, but such politicians are usually openly hostile to doing that job.

Now, I wouldn't vote for them if they just came out and admitted that they despised the idea of public schools and would rather that not be the government's responsibility. I think that position is terrible and has been demonstrably proven false. But I would at least respect the honesty. That's an improvement to the way they're going about things now.



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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recovery

SB Nation site Roll, Bama, Roll has a list of references to assist the recovery effort in Tuscaloosa and Alabama.

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Chemical Weapons

I don't know what makes me angrier:

1. The company that has subjected the Gulf Coast to one of the worst environmental disasters in history

2. That the company gets tax subsidies for doing so

3. That Democrats allowed it to happen, and did everything they could to cover it up

4. That Republicans called what happened a "shakedown" and insist we do more to help the company responsible

5. That the big national media is obviously ignoring the story

6. That many Americans are happy to keep believing that everything is OK now

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Safe-Water Elevation

The man made strucutres that failed and flooded New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina passed the city have been the subject of much less talk than, say, the idea that "people shouldn't live in a city below sea level." Even though the city is not below sea level and people have lived here for hundreds of years, just like humans have lived in cities near rivers and coastlines for millenia.

The appropriate question is rather: "why do we appear to make the same mistakes over and over, even as recent events have demonstrated how costly those mistakes can be?"

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Liveblogging Oil & Water

Loyola University New Orleans is hosting "Oil & Water: Spotlight on the Gulf" as part of the 2011 President's Forum Series.

Participants include Virginia Burkett, Ph.D. of the USGS; Amy Harmon of the New York Times; Cynthia Sarthou of the Gulf Restoration Network; and the panel is moderated by Robert Thomas, Ph.D., Loyola Center for Environmental Communcation.

8:55pm Questions.

Q. Are you finding oil in the water these days?
A. (Greco) No. Hasn't seen the first drop of oil where he works.

Q. Several companies producing bacteria-eating oil felt stymied by government.
A. (Sarthou) In the days after the spill, Gulf REstoration Network was contacted by hundreds of technologists with ideas, but those ideas had not been tested. BP created a number, but besides the Kevin Costner solution and the Whale, no one seems to have gotten through. Agents appeared uncomfortable with biological agents and preferred mechanical solutions.

Q. How has this affected oysters?
A. (Sarthou) Many oyster beds unaffected. Some areas were devastated. It depended on where you were.

Q. Government telling people oysters are safe, but some folks are saying they aren't safe.
A. (Sarthou) Again, it depends on where the oysters were. Oysters are filter feeders, if there was stuff in the water they take it in.
A. (Thomas) When you see studies, make sure you check sample sizes and where the areas were.
A. (Greco) Has checked on oyster leases and eaten dozens of oysters since the spill, and they've all been OK.

Q. What studies are examining the dispersant, and what have they found?
A. (Sarthou) Studies haven't really been finished yet. Have spoken to toxicologists finding disturbing information on whale autopsies, but studies have not been comprehensive. Using FOIA to find information. EPA has not complied with Oil Pollution Act over the last 20 years, so studies have not been conducted to determine a baseline or determine ingredients in some dispersants.

Q. Why haven't national media (NYT, LA Times) been ignoring human health impacts, only hearing about it in local papers.
A. (Harmon) Can't speak for all media. NYT has people looking into it, but she'd be receptive to evidence.

Q. Points of clarity: Louisiana had good luck in that oil didn't get into many oyster beds, and tests have proven they're ok. Many federal studies ongoing, but being held up by funding issues.

Q. Is Gulf Future plan working for true mediation, what is being done to promote new technologies to remove and neutralize oil and corexit?
A. (Sarthou) GRN does not promote technologies, if there are technologies available, you can go to the Feds. Examining dispersant and the claims that it is still being sprayed. Biggest problem in terms of technology is that many people have come to GRN and asked to promote technology, but there is a lack of expertise on technological issues. Sarthou is an attorney not a chemist or a bio-scientist. Try to refer technologists to Congress to institute a system to test technolgies. Congress is not very friendly to this issue since this last elections, and congress has Gulf fatigue - think the Gulf has too much money and too much attention.

Q. Entire Louisiana delegation is against oil industry accountability. What strategies or tactics does GRN use to get stakeholders involved?
A. (Sarthou) Partners of oil industry will talk to them. If you have long-term plans for diversions, you're talking 10 - 15 years. Trying to come up with short-term components that can be cost effective to "stop the bleeding." Try to talk to people about things, in addition to suing people.

Q. If they're building new canals, are they putting any back or filling any in?
A. (Sarthou) Sometimes, usually when it does happen, they put a block at one end of the canal instead of filling it in.

Q. Will you swim in the Gulf of Mexico this summer?
A. (Sarthou) Probably. I ran through DDT when I was a young child, so whatever damage it would do would already be done. There are tarballs all over the Gulf, but not sure the water is contaminated.

Q. What about privatizing the Gulf restoration, especially if the government refuses to help.
A. (Sarthou) Own opinion, not organizations. Everyone wants privatization, but when some disaster happens, folks ask where the government is. Where states have privatized prisons, treatment gets worse while costs go up. With restoration, you have to take private land and shut down industry, private businesses might not be able to make the changes necessary. In the central wetlands, they're having trouble figuring out who owns the land. Sometimes only the government has the ability to make the hard choices.
A. (Burkett) Louisiana wetlands are privately owned. Benefits of restoring the wetland aren't gained by the people that owned the land. Shrimp come in and out on tides, a land owner who restores his land doesn't get all the shrimp. Benefits of restoring the coast go to the city and the nation and the public. Private land owners may be able to lease land for duck hunting or camping.
A. (Thomas) Ownership comes out of mineral rights. That's where the money is. 90% of land privately owned by families or companies. Trying to set up Louisiana Wetland Trust so owners can donate surface rights to trust, but maintain mineral rights. Trust would manage surface areas. Right now, private interests own it and look at what it has become.



8:35pm
Amy Harmon. Discussing the Greco family from Delacroix Island - son chosing to become a fisherman in the family tradition. Will be the first full fishing season this year. Their story demonstrates why traditions for fisheries are important, and where America gets its seafood.

(New York Times video)

Today most Americans eat farm raised seafood from overseas. Only 5% of shrimp eaten in America is wild caught in American waters.

Buddy and Aaron signed up to help lay boom and clean up oil, which allowed Aaron to buy his own boat.

Prices of wild shrimp have been falling for decades.

(Back to the talk)

NYT sent many reporters to the Gulf for the oil spill. Image that sticks in everyone's mind was the underwater oil gusher. Media wrote a great deal about the gusher. "Everyone" writing about threatened livlihood of Gulf coast fishing industry.

Editor wanted a "narrative" a story that followed certain individuals. Harmon came to Gulf, met up with a photographer who was already working on a photo essay, and then met up with Aaron and Buddy. Aaron was 19 and could have chosen another profession or college, but chose to become a fisherman even though millions of gallons of oil and dispersant were threatening his ability to pursue his chosen livlihood.

Editors may have been looking for a story of lives ruined by oil, but she found one of the last vestiges of American life.

8:20pm
Cynthia Sarthou and the Gulf Restoration Network. Four priority issues: clean and healthy water; protected species; Gulf future post oil disaster; defend wetlands.

Focus on impacts of oil & gas industry to state of Louisiana. By 1980, LA had lost 46% of its wetlands, 8.8 million acres. Problem for New Orleans. Bigger problem for Houma and Thibbodeaux.

Causes of wetland loss.

Started in 1927 when USACE adopted "levees only" policy. Levees from St. Louis to mouth of Mississippi kept river water out of wetlands. Spring floods had renourished coast.

Oil and Gas Development has cut 10,000 miles of canals cut into environment starting in the 1940's. Canals were necessary to extract oil. As pipelines were built, mud dredging created small levees that cut off wetlands from water (spoil banks). Web of waterways allowed salt water to move from Gulf into salt-sensitive freshwater wetlands. LA has lost 40 - 60% of wetlands due to these canals.

Urban development in the wetlands - slab on grade housing. Deforestation - cypress mulch is created by cutting down forests. Agricultural use.

Then came the BP disaster. Estimate 5 square miles of direct damage to wetlands. No good options to clean up. Raking the marsh destroys marsh. Air cannons used to keep wildlife out of the marsh. Beach cleaning disrupting beach life. Uncertain that cleaning oil is actually helping.

Oil and gas canals still being built and dredged. Back filling oil canals would stop indirect destruction. $14 - 50 billion will be required to fix wetlands.

How do you ask America to fix something state isn't willing to fix itself? Oil and gas industry needs to be held accountable. Not going to stop drilling, but it will require industry to clean up after itself. Oil companies need to give a percentage of revenues to Louisiana to restore wetlands.

Restoring the Coast:

River diversions - reintroducing river and sediments. Need to capture sediment of the river and put it into the wetlands. Pipeline sediment delivery, increase connection to river and new sediment.

Multiple lines of defense strategy for communities. Infrastructure and houses need to be elevated. Creation of healthy wetlands. Have to effectively evacuate. Learn to live with flooding. Has been "adopted" by State of Lousiana but not implemented.

Current assault on coast by oil industry not the first assault, just the latest. But oil industry is part of this community, and needs to start acting like it.

7:50pm
Dr. Virginia Burkett on Climate Change.

Climate change has been happening throughout the geologic record. There is a regularly occuring cycle of CO2 increase, temperature increases, followed by decreases.

Over a period of last 150 years, CO2 has increased beyond all records in the geologic record.

Cycles tend to correlate to the elliptical orbit around the sun. Orbital eccentricity affects temperatures on earth.

Past 10,000 years, temperature of planet has been relatively stable. This is when civilization as we know it developed. This is also when coastline that we recognize developed. Including the Mississippi Delta formation.

Over the last 100 years, C02 increased 35%, methane increased 150% compared to pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric water vapor increases - increased volume and intensity of rainfall, but the time between rainfall has increased. Temperature of the ocean has increased, hurricane activity has increased, ocean acidity has increased, and global sea level has risen (1.7 mm/year during the 20th Century; 3.1 mm/yr during 1993 - 2003). Gulf Coast sea level rise has occurred even faster than the global average.

Future changes in temperature based on emissions - all models predict warming at different rates. Expecting fewer frost days, increase in heat waves, and an increase in growing season. Canada will have a longer growing season. Precipitation expected to increase as well as increase of dry days - spacing between rain events.

Nutria increasing range due to milder winters. Increase of invasive species. Chinese tallow is pretty, but it isn't good for local wildlife.

In the South, less rainfall in the Spring and Summer growing seasons, more rainfall in the Fall.

As you heat water, it expands. Ice cover decreases. Sea level rise will accellerate as water becomes warmer.

Greenland ice sheet disintegration would raise sea levels 6-7 meters.

Louisiana coast already sinking. Add subsidence and sea level rise.

Lower soil moisture leads to intense, frequen and widespread wildfires. Brown marsh events due to low fresh water inflows and increased evaporation speed marsh degredation and erosion. Bald cypress become stressed at higher salinity levels; loss of bald cypress increases erosion and removes natural protection from hurricanes. Old cypress swamps become open water.

Land loss will accellerate based on environmental stress. Expecting to see increase of water intrusion onto human infrastructure. Threshold of community sustainability will be crossed in low-lying areas.

Things that can be done to reduce affects of climate change. Mitigaton & Adaption. Reduce non-climate stressors: canal cuts. Reduce catastrophic fires. Prevent and control non-native species. Maintain connected, genetically diverse fish & wildlife populations so they can adapt to change.

Adapt infrastructure - raise houses. Do not rely on historical projections without considering climate change in fish and wildlife management. Adjust harvest models for fisheries. Establish corridors for species migration. Retreat from low-lying coastal zones; in some areas retreat is not cost effective, however. Factor understanding of natural processes.

Focus on water - with more intense droughts water becomes more valuable. Stop damage to coast, put Mississippi back into the Delta. Sediment is vital to health of Louisiana's coast. More dynamic view of systems. Education.




7:45pm
Dr. Thomas starts off with some of the facts on the ground. 11 people dead; 6 million gallons of oil, 1.8 million gallons of dispersant; the spill happened in one of a few spawning grounds for blue fin tuna; human health is degenerating without much empirical data; we have no idea how much oil still remains in the environment or how long it will be there.

It is frustrating to keep saying "we don't know." Thought we would have seen 2 feet of oil coming miles into the marsh. That didn't happen. But we aren't sure what did happen.

How do we plan for a future accident?

Louisiana's economy is dependent on shipping, fishing, and the petrochemical industry.

Explore 3 aspects of the health of Gulf of Mexico

1. Affects of Climate Change
2. Effects on Environment
3. Impact of Oil Gusher on Local Citizens

7:40pm
The room is still about a third empty. This is a good turnout for a panel at Loyola (it is more robust than the New Orleans education panel I came to recently), but the topic is the damn oil spill. You'd think with emotions so high about this issue, it would be standing room only.

This event is sponsored by the Center for the Study of New Orleans, the Center for Environmental Communication, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Women's Studies Program.

Loyola President Kevin Wildes, S.J., is introducing the panel. These forums are designed to elevate discourse on urgent issues on our time. Wildes mentioned impacts on human and environmental health, as well as regional dependency on dangerous industry.

Dr. Burkett is an expert on climate change. Amy Harmon has been covering the oil spill since it happened. Cynthia Sarthou and her partners filed a lawsuit against the EPA because of the use of dispersant chemicals.

7:30pm
People are still filing into their seats. There are two video cameras recording the proceedings. Many, many faculty in attendance; a bunch of students. Some individuals who live on the Gulf Coast made it up. I know because I was behind them as they showed up and introduced themselves to the moderator as such. You could hear Southeast Louisiana in their voices.

More Feudalism

Which, as Jay Bookman points out, should not be confused with "conservatism." With "conservatism" and the "free market," the consumers chose where to spend their dollars, and the government provides the infrastructure necessary for markets to exist.

But we don't have that anymore (if we ever really had it). In our current feudal state, the government - often those run by the GOP - choses where to spend both tax dollars and consumer dollars. That way, the Lords and Ladies of well-connected industry are sure to recieve returns on their modest investments in the form of profits that are taxed less and less, regardless of how their ventures actually perform. They even benefit from consumers who never patronize their business.

Not to say that subsidies and tax breaks aren't sometimes necessary to encourage economic development, but things have gotten quite absurd.

The GOP is very lucky that most Democrats also appear to have confused the terms "conservative" and "free-market" with "feudalism" (those both for and against it). If that dynamic ever changed, the GOP would get blown out of the polls based on economic policy alone, because they no longer represent economic conservatism.

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Sound Familiar?

Atlanta has a problem with their city streets.

In Atlanta, like other major cities, utility companies — cable, telecommunications, power and gas — pay franchise fees to be able to do regular work beneath the city’s streets. Developers and contractors are granted work permits. All are supposed to restore the streets to their original conditions, or close to it.

In one of the most egregious acts, Ward said auditors identified 26 random street cuts on 10 streets. Nobody in the Department of Public Works could verify when the cuts were made, or by whom. She said in another instance, she and her staff found 22 plates on streets near City Hall, and none of them had an identifiable marker on them to say to whom they belonged.


So, when a private utility company, private contractor, or ineffective city department incorrectly repairs a street - and doesn't report it - the city ends up having to clean up after them. Taxpayers subsidize private business and ineffective government yet again, and it works because - who do you call if no one knows who made the hole? It creates a zero accountability system for those doing the damage.

How about this: rasie the hell out of the franchise fees, require everyone tearing up a street to report it to Public Works, and then use the increased franchise fees to support Public Works' budget to fix the streets. Any street cuts get made, Public Works fixes the street. That way, any time there is a street torn up somewhere, everyone knows who is responsible for it. Accountability.

Bet that could work in some other Southern cities who have pothole and street problems...

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Remember

When black people thought the government had bombed some levees to flood low property value areas to save high property value areas, they were considered crazy conspiracy lunatics who were uneducated and trying to guilt the government into giving them a hand-out.

Because everybody knows that levees don't get blown up by the United States government.

< / narrative >

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More Union Thuggery

Video from First-Draft.

< / sarcasm >


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President Oil-bama

If you haven't already, you're going to start hearing how President Obama is somehow responsible for the high gasoline prices this country is paying. Americans should will blame the President. He is, after all "waging war" on American energy producers.

How?

Look at last year's shakedown of an oil company! Just what you would expect from someone who is into "Death Panels" and "Kenyan Anti-Colonialism" and who refuses to talk about his demonstrably proven Hawaiian birth certificate.

And I give the pundits trying to hang gas prices around the President's neck just about as credibility as I believe they had on those issues. The only action politicians in America can take to address rising gasoline prices is to ruthlessly try and assign blame.

This is, of course, not the first time we've seen this. Not even close.

Don't believe the hype, this is all crap. Here's just one reason why. All the "easy" oil is gone. Another reason? Oil producers are already some of the most subsidized businesses in the United States.

Oh yeah, that's another way the President is "waging war" on these poor, defenseless little altruistic energy companies, by working to eliminating their socialist feudal robust federal tax subsidies in the face of massive profits.

Maybe we should just start having the government pay oil companies directly. That might keep the prices down at $3.75 for another three months.

I thought maybe more Americans would have paid a little bit closer attention last year when BP was busy dispersing free oil to the Gulf of Mexico. I thought maybe more Americans would remember the last time gasoline hit $4 a gallon. For those of you who might have let the likes of Charlie Sheen cloud your too short memory, please allow me to refresh it.

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When the Levee Breaks

My heart goes out to the residents of Missouri suffering from a water overflowing their levees.

It just goes to remind us that water, given enough time, pressure, or volume, will overwhelm man's defenses. Maybe it is time man started thinking beyond mounds of dirt as our only defense.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Anger the Appropriate Response

David Simon covers most of America's problems in one fantastic interview with Bill Moyers:

How can you have lived through the last ten years in American culture and not be? How can you not look at what happened on Wall Street, at this gamesmanship that was the mortgage bubble, that was just selling crap and calling it gold? Or watch a city school system suffer for twenty, twenty-five years? Isn’t anger the appropriate response? What is the appropriate response? Ennui? Alienation? Buying into the great-man theory of history—that if we only elect the right guy? This stuff is systemic. This is how an empire is eaten from within.

...

Listen, I don’t like talking this way. I would be happy to find out that The Wire was hyperbolic and ridiculous, and that the “American Century” is still to come. I don’t believe it, but I’d love to believe it, because I live in Baltimore and I’m an American. I want to sit in my house and see the game on Saturday along with everybody else. But I just don’t see a lot of evidence of it.


The only counterargument that holds any weight is that our country has been down this road before, faced similar problems, and reckoned with them. There are no such thing as the "good ole days," just different days with different problems on a different scale. Thing is, corruption will always exist in systems, and will always need to be fought with vigilance and justice. Sometimes vigilance and justice get the upper hand, but corruption always finds a way back in.

And I don't mean that as a fatalistic or pessimistic statement. What I do mean is that there is work to be done, because there will always be work to be done.

(HT: Virgotex)

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Season Two

Maitri welcomes Season Two of Treme by looking back at the New Orleans of 2006.

[T]he entire human condition made manifest in one town on the southern shores of North America.


I was thinking similar things when driving through New Orleans East this weekend, where many places - too many places - still look just as they did in 2006. I was thinking these things driving through coastal Mississippi, where they are also still trying to rebuild.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Destroying America's Credit

Ladies and gentlemen, The Tea Party with special guests Populist Culture of Fear.

Though it might be fodder for late night comics, the United States government debt ceiling is not like your maxed-out credit card.

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The Teacher's Fault?

Low performing schools are obviously the fault of public schoolteachers and their lousy unions because there are never political externalities that affect a public school's funding base.

< / narrative >

Public school reform will enter a new phase when local voters realize their local governments and states often make the decisions that pick which schools lose resources and gain risk and which schools gain resources while shedding risk. Often, it is a legislative committee that decides which public schools fail and which pulbic schools prosper.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rollback

Or, how the right to choose slowly became illegal in America. And it happened pretty much without a fight.

Because savvy marketing and emotionalism have trumped realism and the brutal reality these laws are forcing on women.

It is a shame we'll have to deeply return to the "good ole days" of high birth mortality and childbirth fatalities before anyone will figure out what all this was about in the first place.

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Indirect Subsidy

BP's going to get out of paying millions in taxes because they took a loss while nickel & dime-ing the Gulf cleanup and holding onto payments to those affected by their oil spill.

That was some shakedown, all right.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Medical Officers & Bikefleet

Athens, Georgia is already reaping the benefits of their new biomedical corridor, though it is attached to the medical school extension more than the industrial parks set aside for such development.

Strange how using and modifying existing space helps speed up such a process. Other southern cities looking to encourage biomedical investment through public medical school expansion should take note.

And speaking of using existing space wisely, UGA is looking to buy refurbished bikes and let students check them out, get to class, and then return them when they are done. They'll be called Departmental Bike Fleets.

Even if the pilot program is successful, Kirsche admits, the problem of transportation to campus—as opposed to merely on campus—remains. But he hopes the Departmental Bike Fleet will help create a culture of cycling at UGA that will influence both the university and Athens-Clarke County to be more accommodating of cyclists. “We need to simultaneously work to improve bike networks, but infrastructure is costly," he says. "I think we need to prove that accommodating bicycles is a worthwhile investment before we can expect action.”


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Seriously

A lot of Democrats, liberals, and progressives need to stop laughing at the current clown car of GOP Presidential candidates and mocking Paul Ryan's budget plan as "unserious."

With the economy still vulnerable, Barack Obama's Presidency is at serious risk in 2012, and it will remain so no matter who the GOP nominates for the top post.

Not to mention the 23 Democratic Senate seats, compared to 10 GOP seats, that will be on the electoral table. Further down the ticket from that, redistricting will be ready to take effect, draining resources from state and local political organizations as candidates in combined districts get in ugly fights over their jobs.

Next time, before you laugh and make jokes, you should envision the possibility that Paul Ryan's budget proposals could be incredibly serious come 2013, as passed by a Republican House and a filibuster-proof Republican Senate, signed into law by President Romnalentbeerich, and upheld by a right-leaning Supreme Court.

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Four Inch Nails

And I thought American Christians sometimes took their "faithful" exhibitionism a little too far with their staged crucifixions and fake whippings at the hands of people dressed like Romans. Some Catholics in the Philippines, however, have taken to actually nailing themselves to crosses.

I don't want to talk smack about someone's religious beliefs, but doesn't that seem a little...much?

Church leaders in the Philippines, Asia's largest predominantly Roman Catholic nation, have frowned on the Easter week rituals, saying Filipinos can show their deep faith without hurting themselves.

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, based in Iloilo Province, said the crucifixions and self-flagellations are an "imperfect imitation with doubtful theological and social significance," adding that only Jesus Christ's death saved mankind.


Jesus was a carpenter, too, fellas. Couldn't y'all find a better use for nails and wood in the Philippines? I'm sure there are some children somewhere who are homeless.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Civil Discussion

This is what one looks like:

But the president’s tone, like Tuesday in Northern Virginia, was again softer than it was last week. Asked by an attendee if Ryan’s plan was bold, Obama answered, “The Republican budget that was put forward I would say is fairly radical. I wouldn’t call it particularly courageous. I do think Mr. Ryan is sincere. I think he’s a patriot. I think he wants to solve a real problem, which is our long-term deficit. But I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.”


Of course, there's the usual talk about "partisan bickering." Umm, folks, there is a difference between legitimate disagreement style partisanship and demagoguery style partisanship. Let me show you the difference...

Legitimate disagreement partisanship goes like this: America has a problem, and we are exploring two different and realistic ways to solve it. One side wants to fundamentally alter the national social compact to continue lowering taxes - already the lowest in about 60 years - for the wealthiest Americans based on the theory that those low taxes will create jobs they haven't been able to create previously. The other side wants to restore tax rates to levels comparable to those under the Clinton Administration, roughly the second lowest in about 60 years. Neither of these actions, taken alone, will solve our problems, and the idea that either helps solve our problems are based on economic projections and estimations of what will happen to our economy in the future. That's the way Obama and Ryan are talking right now.

Contrast that with demogoguery style partisanship, like we've heard for the last two years from certain folks: OMG TEH KENYAN ANTICOLONIALIZMS! TEH WEALTH REDISTRIBUTIONIZMS! TEH COMMUNIST FASCIZMS! THE ATHEIST ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIZMS!! TEH ANTI-AMERICANIZMS! TEH BURF CURTIFICATEZ!! TEH VICTORY MOSQUES AT TEH GROUND ZEROIZMS!! TEH ILLEGAL IMMIGRATIONIZMS! TEH DEATH PANELIZMS!!

See the difference? Now, which one would you rather deal with?

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Security Theatre's New Season

So, the new Department of Homeland Security wants to scrap the old, color-coded terror alert levels. Napolitano brought up a great point:

"We've been at 'orange' since 2006."


I always found that color-coordinated stuff nonsense, and I remember it changing every once in a while to remind Americans to fear, fear, fear. I believe it was counterproductive, the equivalent of crying "wolf" constantly for years.

Don't get me wrong, I don't expect to be a fan of the new system, either. All this is, in my opinion, more theatre. Maybe it comes from those American people who allow themselves to believe that they can outsource vigilance to a government agency so they don't have to worry about it personally. Maybe it is the government, who wants to advertise that they're doing something of value to the taxpayer without people looking too closely. Maybe it is a combination of both.

I only know this: you are never perfectly safe. Never. You never have been, you never will be, and no amount of complaining too or about the government is going to change that. They have limited resources to act proactively and reactively to those things that go bump in the night. While you are right to expect those actions to work effectively and continuously to help minimize risks to society as a whole and to work towards justice after the fact, you cannot abdicate your responsibility to participate in your own personal safety.

Now, you can let your fear of non-safety rule your life, or you can deal with it and pay attention to your surroundings, mitigating your risk as much as you can within reason, and understanding that sometimes no amount of preparation will ever be enough.

The answer isn't an overactive, color-coded government. The answer isn't to live your life in fear and never enjoy things because you're worried about events beyond your control. The answer is a society where everyone is, on average, a little bit vigilant; a society where people are more educated and less fearful, more involved in their communities and less alienated from each other, and use more common sense to pay more attention to their surroundings.

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Confused

Democrats have been beaten so badly in Georgia that at least some of them appear to be confusing abandonment of positions for equal rights and reproductive rights with being "socially moderate."

What they appear to be missing, as they scrape for votes they aren't going to get anyway, is the freedom they are provided by not having a chance at winning elections. Because if you can't possibly win and have no chance to govern, you can take completely pure, uncompromising positions on policy and attempt to move the debate.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Planning Cul-De-Sac

What if you had a street in a major urban area. This street has streetcars, a wide median neutral ground, and permits left turns.

Then planners, in their wisdom, take all that away to make the street more car-friendly for suburb dwellers who need to get into the city.

Now, 50 years later, the city is hoping that a massive new hospital and some high density developments will increase the walkability and encourage reinvestment of properties on that street. Of course, what would help with that is to widen the neutral ground, put in a streetcar, and let drivers make left turns...

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The Big Secret

The national media likes to report the confusion of scientists trying to find out "Where's the Oil?" one year later. (Guess where!) Folks on the Gulf Coast are facing medical problems that threaten lives, and you hardly hear a word.

Outside of The Houma Courier, The Daily Comet and The Tri-Parish Times, their stories exist solely on blogs and Facebook — unless you visit Al Jazeera English, or sources in Germany, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe. A Swiss TV crew asks me why U.S. media aren't talking about this. It's a good question.


If there was ever a thing that would make you lose almost all faith in the ability of the national media to investigate news and inform the American people what is really going on in their country, living in Southeast Louisiana in the last 5 years or so should do the trick.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Lawyers Went Down to Georgia (Updated)

I guess by writing about this on Facebook and Blogspot, I'm part of the "firestorm in the blogosphere and elsewhere" described by Judge Amanda William's libel suit against Ira Glass and This American Life.

I'm honored to have, in some small way, participated in an actual, legally described "firestorm." I think it might be my first.

Of course, Glass' lawyers responded with quite a smackdown.

(HT: Alli)

Update: Maybe some of the Georgia press will actually start paying attention to all this. Atlanta's Creative Loafing has a report. The Tribune-Georgian out of Camden County (also under Judge Williams' jurisdiction) also ran a story.

But here's the thing, the original story in This American Life didn't actually get much media attention. By pursuing legal action against a nationally recognized radio personality and program, and by submitting documents on the legal record exposing how her court works, won't this only raise the profile of the report?

Looks to me like it already has.

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Of Offseasons & Memories

The last time the Boisie State Broncos were blown out in a football game, the year was 2005, the place was Athens, and the team on the giving end of the whoopin' was the Georgia Bulldogs squad led by DJ Shockley.

Since then, Georgia has turned in a few lackluster years. The Broncos, on the other hand, have rampaged through their conference brethren out West, and upset the likes of Oklahoma and Virginia Tech on big national stages.

You think folks out West don't have long memories? Their Athletic Department rearranged their schedule this year for a chance to come down to Atlanta and excorcise one of the last ghosts haunting their program. They are going to be fired up.

The Dawgs better be ready, or we could be in store for a dish Revenge served Rocky-Mountain-Cold.

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Other Economies

Not only have American taxpayers been subsidizing their own upper classes for a while now, but, as Jay Bookman at the AJC reminds us, we've been subsidizing a lot of other nations' whole economies, too.

Specifically, America spends a lot of money on defense so Europe doesn't have to.

And, yes, we'll loan friendly foreign powers money and encourage them to buy our old weapons and technology. Yes, this creates a few jobs here and there (and a lot of very wealthy defense contractors). But has anyone really done an intellectually robust, cost-benefit analysis of this relationship?

I think about this when I hear folks talk about how awesome social programs and transit and infrastructure are in Europe. I think about it when I hear folks telling me how competitive those economies are compared to our own. It all comes down to priorities, they explain.

But how would those priorities have changed if those nations didn't have the American people subsidizing their national security?

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Power to Fire Elected Officials

Umm. I really would like to hear one of you conservatives explain what all this is about.

Gov. Snyder’s extraordinary law became all too real this week when Emergency Financial Manager, Joseph Harris, appointed by the Governor to take charge of Benton Harbor, Michigan, issued an order which took away all powers of the city’s elected officials.

Yes, this has really happened right here in the United States of America.



Because, after all the talk about tyranny and fascism for the past couple years, that might appear to be at least a tad bit disingenuous.

(HT: First-Draft.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Where Are the Jobs? (Updated)

For a generation, the GOP (and a bunch of Democrats) has been telling us that the way to stimulate economic growth is to cut taxes. And people love to pay less and get more - our entire consumer economy is based on that idea - so it is usually a political winner to talk about tax cuts. These low taxes would put money in the hands of the taxpayers, which they would in turn spend, increasing demand for goods, increasing the economy, and generating more revenue through sales tax.

Just like a perpetual motion machine!

So, for the last generation, the nation and the states have cut taxes, and cut taxes, and cut taxes, and cut taxes. The last President to nominally raise taxes was George H. W. Bush, and he lost his reelection bid because of it.

Based on the bill of goods we've been sold, where are the jobs? Where is the economic growth and dynamism that is supposed to come with low, low taxes? Why does it feel like we are closer to 1929 than 1999?

And you can't tell me "it's because we're spending too much money." Even if our government has to borrow money to pay for programs that were already put in place through the process of lawmaking, how does that affect the low taxes that are supposed to be putting more money in the hands and increasing the buying power and economic participation of the consumer?

It doesn't. And it wasn't supposed to.

The plan was that the low taxes would lead to a hot economy that would produce more revenues through other taxes to pay for our levels of spending. Has that happened?

No.

When it comes down to it, only one - one - conservative I know has been able to explain what is going on with taxes and jobs in a way that makes sense. That's Dante. He has brought up in the past (I can't find the link) that people are being taxed somewhere else and this is affecting their buying power & participation in the economy.

I absolutely agree. They are being taxed somewhere else, especially at the state and local levels. I don't even want to get into the feudal ways property taxes are used in a certain southern city to subsidize blighted properties and land speculation.

Lagniappe "taxes" can be found elsewhere, too, as private industry colludes with government to take advantage of the extra buying power tax cuts "provide." Insurance premiums keep going up and up for home ownership, auto-ownership, and medical coverage. Working families have to pay for child care. If you live in a city without a functioning public school system (that you already pay for), you have to pay for your kids to go to private school or get extra tutoring to make up for the shortfall. Your city can pay contractors to provide public services that you can also recieve a bill for. Best of all, cities and states can offer subsidies to businesses and sports franchises to welcome or keep them in certain places, while the "jobs they create" will be taxed higher to make up for the subsidy.

And that's where your "taxes" come from. And why no jobs are created by keeping tax rates low.

Update: Weigel at Slate investigates where the "Washington doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem" narrative comes from.

Update: As if on cue, the Georgia GOP Delegation ties together their constant work towards keeping taxes low while repeating the "spending problem" meme.

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You Forgot Your Receipt

Do you know how much you paid in taxes this year? Do you know how much you paid for each part of government? You can find out here!

I agree that we should get one of these after filing every tax return.

(You can also calculate what your real tax rate is, with simple division.)

Update: Writers at Slate don't think reciepts will do much good to correct the wildly inaccurate assumptions most Americans make about where their tax dollars go.

I know that I've argued with my Mother for more than a decade about the "bloated" cost of foreign aid.

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The Invisible Hand & Self-Regulation

While sometimes held up as examples of economic recovery, I see stuff like this as evidence of how far we've fallen.

Because if your economy is so weak that so many are choosing the lowest common denominator out of financial necessity, you aren't in a good place.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Parallel Universe Expansion Kit

What is the sound of one hand, clapping?

That tree falling in the woods without anyone to hear it gets a little bit louder.

From the start, I've said that Ryan's plan was courageous. It was proved so yesterday--kamikazi courageous. It lays plain the true intentions of latter day radical conservatism: the gutting of the social safety net. Republicans will now have to run on this principle. We should all be grateful to Ryan for his intellectual honesty. The President should be especially grateful.


A lot of folks in the echo chamber of the left got really angry that people looked at Paul Ryan's plan and said the words "serious" or "courageous." They forget that such a plan has a chance to become law when it is seriously proposed by the majority party in the House of Representatives, and is the end result of a serious right-wing ownership of political dialouge in this nation for the past generation (mainly do to liberal and progressive incoherence, non-participation, and lack of focus).

The folks proposing the plan just won a national election in a landslide, control congressional partisan gerrymandering redistricting in the majority of the states, and have sold a lot of folks on their ideas through constant mass marketing. This stuff is about as serious as it gets.

But here's the catch: it is far easier to market vaugue ideas, theories, and common-sense-isms than it is to really flesh out the details of policy. "Protect Your Marriage From Gay People" and "Support the Troops With Lapel Pins" isn't policy.

That's why I've always said I prefer to discuss policy involving plans like Paul Ryan's. Disagree with it as much as you want - it presents an intellectually consistent argument; it is the tip of the iceberg of real Republican political wishes. It is this is our plan serious, and it presents something tangible to be discussed.

It is difficult to engage in fake arguments about imaginary things like the "Ground Zero Mosque," "Death Panels," and "Kenyan Anti-Colonial Islamic Atheist Birth Certifications."

But when it comes to discussing deficits and voucherizing Medicare, privatizing Social Security, and why all these tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans have yet to produce any economic expansion after 10 years, liberals and progressives may have some traction. Those are arguments that liberals and progressives won at least once already.

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Of Heritage & Blight

So now there's one more thing New Orleans and Athens have in common: the demolition of historic structures that grace the cover of local popular culture offerings. In New Orleans, it is the Treme Shotgun Houses. In Athens, it is the Murmur Trestle.

The difference? Preservationists and conservationists have been working together in Athens for almost a decade to turn the famous bridge into a rails-to-trails project that would link East Athens and Oconee Hill with Downtown. They've even voted to increase their local sales tax to support the measure.

(That vote also included funding for a new jail, to point out another similarity.)

But in New Orleans, where sales taxes are already so high no one would vote for a voluntary increase, the Mayor made the call to go ahead and tear down the Treme Shotgun Houses - because it isn't fair to make people live in a neighborhood where that many houses are falling down.

I think that's a fair point. What isn't fair is when preservationists and private sponsors wait around for the final week to get into the house saving business. If someone had been working on those houses already, maybe they would have had the credibility to convince the city to save the structures. But as happens all to often in this city, the calls for action came too late.

Which is OK. There are plenty of blighted historic structures left around town for the preservationists and the Treme folks to invest in saving. Too bad we don't have something like this to jump start the process.

But that's the difference between "crisis-reactive" preservation and "working proactively" for preservation.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Actions & Words

Hey, look! Ridiculous words lead to ridiculous actions.

I wonder what all these jokers are going to do when their own state government has to let Obama on the ballot because he has all the paperwork proving he was born in Hawaii? This won't end there, because it isn't really about the integrity of elections, it is about demagoguery and Obama being labled "other."

If it were about integrity of elections, they'd be talking about the ridiculous way this country handles redistricting.

Update: I wonder how much her veto of this bill will hurt Jan Brewer's reelection chances?

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"Who Are You Giving Money To?"

Jeffrey posted a roundup before I did.

Gulf Coast residents were arrested while trying to shakedown a BP shareholder's meeting.

I mean, this is such a big shakedown, the Mississippi Attorney General is now gettin' in on the act. You all know about those liberal, anti-business Attorneys General in Mississippi? Just following orders from the Kenyan-Anti-Colonialist In Charge, really. Shaking down the companies that create jobs.

But to answer the serf's individual's question, "Who are you giving money to?" The answer is simple: the money went to the "spillionares."

Of course it did. After the Road Home and now this, disaster affected residents of Louisiana can rest easy knowing that the levees may leak, the oil platforms may explode, but the money-traps - located between the coffers and the residents in need of aid - are working just fine. But I bet the rest of the country is going to get mad at folks down in this part of the world because, even after $20Billion in shakedown money, people down here still have the nerve to complain.

As far as the environment, the water, and the food that comes out of the water, that isn't working so well at all. A lot of right-wingers call environmentalists "tree huggers" as if humans aren't affected by crap dumped into the air, water, or food.

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The Problem with DNA Evidence

Is that examining the cases of the wrongly convicted are demonstrating the many innocuous investigation procedures that lead to false convictions.

Not that DNA evidence is a problem for the exonerated. Not that DNA evidence is a problem in that it requires investigators and prosecutors actually do their jobs. But it does present a tremendous problem with credibility.

For a justice system to work, the people must trust its authority. Just one overturned conviction is enough to shake the foundations of credibility. With so many convictions overturned, and the by-the-books tactics exposed as vulnerable, and now even confessions called into question of validity, how can we trust a justice system?

That's the problem.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Republican Overreach

Now taking place in Georgia.

If these guys didn't have the slickest marketing on the planet, and some of the most inept political opponents imaginable, Georgia would be considered a swing state.

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Fear & Cartooning

Recognize the format of this video? They're riffing off a powerful information transmitter to spread a culture of fear.

Because, really, that was some shakedown?

Not to mention the fact that, it AIN'T EVEN BEEN A YEAR, and they're already back to drilling.

And spilling.

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Of Heritage & Concrete

One thing I never got about the "Heritage Not Hate" line of thought regarding the Civil War South is how so many of the staunchest supporters of "heritage" done sold the family farm off to some hot shot real estate developer who bulldozed the trees, graded away the creeks, and laid concrete over the red clay with singular disregard for the bones of warriors long forgotten.

That's why so much of the South ain't got no sense of place no more, it is just one long strip mall connecting ranch-style houses with the local movie theater.

Pictures are worth a 1,000 words, but these pictures are worth far more than that.

I don't got to say much. All I got to do is remind folks that it didn't take Sherman "burning" Atlanta or torching Columbia, or Grant chewing up the approaches to Nashville and Richmond. We'd have paved over a fair bit of the good stuff ourselves, left to our own devices. That's one thing the last 150 years have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

More Union Thuggery

Those in attendance knew there would be trouble when demonstrators showed up with hundreds of balloons.

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Angelo Brocato's In Athens?

Now I'm hearing that Sisters' Creole Market in Athens, Georgia not only gets their bread from New Orleans, but they serve Angelo Brocato's spumoni.

This is sounding less like a New Orleans-themed restaurant somewhere other than the Crescent City and more like a little piece of Mid-City landed on Barnett Shoals Road.

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Too Many Judges in the Kitchen

My brother relentlessly chastises me when I have an opinion on matters of law, judges, and things like that. He likes to remind folks how I never went to law school, because that should reduce my credibility, even if I link to the opinions of individuals who did go to law school.

As if all lawyers and judges agree with each other about the law 100% of the time, and as if us folks down here in the service industry caste aren't allowed to have opinions on decisions of the many courts.

Well, now the truth comes to light! Based on a new study that finds food breaks sway the decisions of judges, I demand equal merit for the legal opinions of food service workers.

Because, apparently, lunch has just as much to do with making up a judge's mind as the law they are reading.

Though what this means for the criminal justice system here in New Orleans is anyone's guess.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Politics & Football

Most sports blogs I read try to stay away from politics as best they can. Hell, one of the reasons I started this weblog six years ago was so my friends and I would have a place to chew on politics away from the tailgate.

But with so much public money tied up in sports, at the college and professional levels, sometimes those paths are going to cross. This is what happens when they do.

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Of Parallel Universes

If a tree falls in the woods, but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Dean Baker discusses government deficits.

First, the current deficit should not even be viewed as a problem. Yes, a deficit of $1.4 trillion is big, but this is a direct result of the loss of demand stemming from the collapse of an $8 trillion housing bubble. This bubble was driving the economy until its collapse. There were two channels through which the bubble generated demand in the economy: bubble-inflated house prices led to a boom in construction, bubble-inflated wealth led consumers to increase their spending, pushing saving rates to almost zero.


Basically, our consumer economy lived on credit, cheap imported goods, illegal immigrant labor, and moving money from place to place to make it look like more money. All of this in pursuit of higher real estate prices while simultaneously expanding the real estate supply beyond all measure of real estate demand.

And who knows how much money county governments sank into utilities for far flung new developments over the last decade that are now worth pennies on their previous dollars.

(I, of course, use the past-tense to describe the economy that was, not the economy we have now which has a foundation in attempting to re-create those conditions as evidence of "recovery.")

I get all of that.

So why would I compare Baker's column to a tree falling in the woods? Why is our nation focusing so much political capital on the Ryan Plan or the Bowles-Simpson Plan? Why does Baker's parallel universe sound a lot like the universe we live in?

I wonder if it is too late, and the debate to far gone, to insert dialogue like this into the conversation. But if there ever was a time, now would be it.

(HT: Alli)

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Nancy Pelosi

Still callin' the shots down in the Bay Area Pelican State.

Who knew how much power an ousted Democratic House Speaker still had over her minions in Shreveport?

More on the redistricting hayride from Lamar.

HT: EJ

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That Was Some Shakedown

Like the oil spill never happened.

Despite its hefty spill-related spending, BP's cash pile more than doubled in 2010, to $18.6 billion. Free cash flow will likely be another $8 billion to $10 billion this year at current oil-price levels


Isn't that amazing? And some folks were worried that the socialist Kenyan anti-colonialist government of the United States might get in the way of BP making oodles of cash last year.

But even after all that "shakedown" and "extortion," BP's back to payin' dividends, baby!

Except, of course, to the creatures that live in the water and those pesky folks who live at the water's edge.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The New Belt

I'll let Cliff tell you about it.

[S]top saying we are in a crisis and just explain what’s really going on. The rich and corporations want to keep all of the money they can and have the power to make more with no restrictions. The middle class can’t be taxed anymore without starting a revolution and the poor have no lobbyists. When you don’t have enough money coming in to pay for what you have and you are not willing to do anything to change that something has to go.


Another friend summed it up thus:

America: Where the people with most of the money have convinced the people with some money that the people with no money are the greedy ones.


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Saturday, April 09, 2011

The KSM Civilian Federal Trial Unicorn

Promised. Not delivered.

But let's not kid ourselves who is at fault for this broken promise. While the President and the Attorney General bear tremendous responsibility for it, you cannot excuse the cowardice of the political factions in this country who would use such a trial as an excuse to fan the flames of cultural panic, nationalist fear, and sectarian hatred all over America.

They are the same people who manufactured a controversey about a "Ground Zero Mosque," which was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero, which an issue last summer (several of whom are running for President) to help them win elections through demagoguery. They are the people who, fearing the political fallout from that manufacture, choose to bow or cower before the altar of cultural panic instead of leading the nation away from it.

It is a shame that, when it comes to big decisions, the political calculus must include expectations of issue demagoguery by the opposition and allies. What is even more of a shame is that those calculations show the manufacture of fear to be more powerful than doing things the way they ought to be done.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Tu Quoque

Newsflash: human beings still prone to outbursts of violence, threats of violence, advocacy of violent policies and behaviors, and extreme cases of government sanctioned violence - regardless of religion or political affiliation.

One of the dumbest things about stereotyping and demonizing one group of people for a universal human flaw is the cognitive dissonance required to ignore your own demographic's similar behaviors.

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The Cover Charge (Updated)

Common-sensism, that's the term I use to describe political narratives sold to people based on what appears, on the surface, to make a great deal of sense. It adds a little bit of bandwagoneering to the political narrative landscape, as in "well, everybody knows..."

Like the idea that tax-cuts and subsidies, or "tax relief" in the land of savvy political communicators, will always increase economic growth because people will have more money to spend on things instead of paying taxes. That economic growth then increases tax-revenue, from the expanding economic climate.

That has always sounded to me like something that was too good to be true. And you know what they say about things that are too good to be true.

First of all, you have to look at America's history. If low marginal tax rates increase the economy, and high marginal tax rates destroy the economy, why did the economy collapse in 1929 when taxes were low, but expand continually in the late 1940's and 1950's when taxes were astronomical?

The answer lies in having a dynamic economy. Ford got rich making Model T's, but he wouldn't have made a dime if he couldn't have sold a lot of them. For an economy to work, you have to have markets for your goods and you have to have inexpensive ways to get your goods and customers to markets.

That's why education and infrastructure are more important to an economy than big industries. Education and infrastructure build and support a robust, dynamic middle class. The middle class buys some cheap goods and some luxury goods and opens their own businesses to increase their income. Those businesses need to purchase some cheap goods and some high-dollar goods to make it. All those purchases support the big industries and financial institutions, not the other way around.

So one has to wonder about economic and fiscal sanity if someone's plan to grow the economy is to take the knees out from under the middle class to increase the already favorable climate for big business.

For the past decade, Georgia has been losing the type of high-paying jobs attracted by good infrastructure, quality schools and an attractive quality of life, perhaps because it hasn’t been investing in good infrastructure, quality schools and an attractive quality of life.


At some point, you have to start focusing on your market, and charging businesses for access to that market. Just like the hipsters will pay to get into the club that puts the best band on the stage, businesses will pay to get into the state where they can get returns on their investment for a long time. And if they don't want to, let them go. If there is even one dollar of profit to be made in a place, a different business will show up or start up to compete for it.

And if they want to pass the costs along to the consumer? Well, we live in a free-market economy. Businesses can set their prices based on how much profit they'll make, and that number isn't guaranteed or regulated. As long as the rules are the same for every business, the consumers will regulate that for us.

Update: For another look at just how far reaching the narrative is when it comes to education, be sure to check out the new happenings in New Orleans and Wisconsin.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Other 99%

There were a lot of pathologies present in the way America, and especially cities in the South, concentrated poverty and minorities in public housing projects. Coupled with the criminal mismanagement of public education resources, these pathologies created conditions responsible for replicating generations of at-risk populations.

While some folks can be lulled into the false choice that any change to a bad situation is good change, we must never forget that "solutions" may simply create or replicate progress-resistant pathologies in different ways. And guess which Southern American cities get to go first?

New Orleans and Atlanta are providing the opening scenes of a new era of American decline, with fewer and fewer economic opportunities and more and more ways to fall through the cracks.


This becomes very important to me. I realize that every year, as I become more secure in my job, as I gain experience and encounter my yearly merit raises, my economic position slips further and further down the class ladder. At the same time, there is a group of politicians in this country that blame my personal economic decline and tax burden on the most at-risk members of our society.

While the emotional reaction is immediate when you see an outwardly looking, able-bodied someone using public assistance to purchase junk food in the grocery store, and argue with the clerk about it, the reverse emotion is true when you talk to folks who do menial service work for private contractors 50 hours a week and still can't make ends meet without SNAP benefits. Help out with a city-assisted evacuation sometime, and the few dozen people who are obviously taking advantage of the situation - and complaining about it - will boil your blood. Perspective comes when you see the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people who need the assistance, whose elderly, infirm, or children would be at the mercy of leaky levees yet again if the storm comes too close. There is always a disconnect between what people say on television and radio and what actually happens in front of your face. Yes, there may be wasted tax dollars spent on the social safety net for these people, but that simply cannot be so much it is destroying our nation's fiscal health.

On the other hand, according to that group of politicians, it is the tax burden on the richest people and the corporations that is holding our economy back. So we cut and cut the taxes of the top 1%, we provide endless tax loopholes and subsidies so those corporations will provide jobs and that 1% will spend their money around. We've been following this general fiscal plan since about 1980, and all our nation has done is find fiscal decline.

The explanations seem to make sense. Lower taxes allow people to spend more on goods, and people at the top have the most buying power. But does that spending go to regular goods that create the most jobs, or to the luxury goods that require already well-paid specialists? Are they investing in real businesses that build the economy or the legalized gambling in the stock markets? The idea that corporations will move their jobs to the places where they incrue the lowest costs (and make the most profit) seems to make sense until you realize that - where are they going to go?

Then there is the deeply soothing narrative that, if we increase taxes on companies, and eliminate their subsidies and loopholes, they will "pass the cost on to the consumer." This also makes sense in the "common sensism" of soundbyte news and talk radio. But in a free market economy, isn't that up to the consumer to decide?

I don't buy a lot of stuff. I try not to buy a lot of gasoline. I don't fly commercial. I don't live in a suburb. But my tax dollars are used to subsidize or provide loopholes for companies that buy crap goods from cheap manufacturers in China; my tax dollars go to subsidize the oil companies and their billions and billions of profits; my tax dollars go to subsidize the airline industry at the expense of rail and mass transit; my tax dollars go to subsidize infrastructure and schools in other parts of the state or country while our levees leak, our roads are cratered, and our schools are being privatized because 'they don't work' for lack of resources. I'm not chosing to consume goods I'm already paying for.

Pennies come out of my tax dollars and go to the social safety net. But quarters go to subsidize the lifestyles of the top 1%. And by saying this, I know that makes me a "class warrior" to some - usually those who would have me focus my attention on the pathologies present among the most disenfranchised, at-risk populations because they can provide the easiest scapegoat.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Check

That's a betting strategy in a game of Texas Hold-'em. It happens when you are the decision making bettor, and you pass the decision on to the next betting opponent.

The opponent can then initiate a bet of their own or pass the decision to their next opponent by "checking" as well.

A lot of people like to compare politics with war metaphors. I prefer cards metaphors as more appropriate. Especially when it comes to complex negotiations like this.

The last Democratic Congress "checked" the issue of fiscal reform to the President. Obama "checked" the decision on fiscal reform to the GOP. The GOP "checked" to Paul Ryan, one of the only Republicans with sand, who has now opened the betting.

I disagree with Sullivan that this is a powerful rebranding of the GOP. They've deomonstrated there isn't a single issue they can't "death panel" into the news cycle. I expect the Democrats will try to do the same to this plan, so that takes care of all the usual suspects who will be yelling at each other without the ability to change minds and policy.

The interaction to watch will be between Ryan - who the GOP has either anointed or set up to take the blame (depending on which way this goes) - and the President.

Which means there is a chance for some sane policy to come out of all this. Not a good chance, but a chance.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Impunity

Justice Clarence Thomas and the Right-Wing of the Supreme Court of the United States of America have recently ruled that a prosecutor can knowingly rob 14 years off your life and nearly get you murdered under state sanction, and they can do it with near absolute impunity from prosecution or punitive damages.

I'll let Jeffrey show you the round-up.

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Of Broken Clocks & Flip Flops

You know what we need more of in this country? Real conservatives to take on the bullshit slung around by folks who play "conservatives" on TV and radio. Like when Conor Friedersdorf deconstructs the fake persona that is Rush Limbaugh, and throws in an elbow at other "conservatives" who let him get away with it:

But this is a teachable moment for his listeners: every week on his show he leads you astray by making incorrect and ungrounded assertions about the interior lives of his ideological adversaries, and even when he turns out to be wrong other thinkers in the conservative movement are loath to call him on it.


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Sunday, April 03, 2011

All According to Plan

Well, it looks like the best-laid plans of American evangelical exhibitionist fundamentalist Christian-istas have achieved the desired effect.

The ironic thing is that too many Americans will watch the news and see a bunch of Muslims in Afghanistan chanting "Death To America," and think this is A) an unprovoked reaction, and B) representative of Muslims worldwide.

Let's put the truth to it:

1. A professional American Christian congregation Hate Group with non-profit tax status, in order to raise money and get attention for itself, abused our nearly sacred First-Amendment Rights in order to yell "Death to Islam" as loud as it possibly could.

2. Muslims in a place that has been living in stone age conditions since at least 1978, who are under military occupation by troops from nations with mostly Christian populations that have significant political factions and popular cultures that constantly demonize Islam, hear "Death to Islam." Again.

3. Because they have not lived under a constitutional government for some time, and have no experience with ideas like the First Amendment, it is very easy for our legal protection of "Death to Islam" speech to appear like a legal endorsement of "Death to Islam" speech.

4. Many Americans ignore items 1 - 3, and watch the news to see Muslims burning flags, effigies of the President, rioting, and killing UN workers.

5. Many Americans use that to justify their continued xenophobia and religious bigotry, which is far more of a historical and existential threat to America than Muslims or Sharia law will ever be.

All just a part of the plan.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Some Measure of Justice

An edtorial. Includes a striking quote:

Turmoil and chaos cannot be used as excuses for breaking the law, especially not by those sworn to uphold it.


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