Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reading Sleeping with The Devil Leads To Great Bliss & Complete Knowledge

Pain and foolishness lead to great bliss and complete knowledge, for Eternal Wisdom created nothing under the sun in vain ~ Kahlil Gibran (1/6/1883 to 4/10/1931) a Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer chiefly known in the English speaking world for his 1923 book "The Prophet", an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose.

The head of the Progressive Ideology Foundation Laura Fawkes smiled and embraced me. "Welcome back Dervish", she said warmly. "We were genuinely worried about you when you disappeared and it appeared to be foul play". "Actually", I said, "I've been back at work for more than four months now. Although, according to what I've heard, nobody really cared that I'd disappeared or that foul play may have been involved. My research assistant Janeane told me that the tip line our security man Rusty Farber set up received zero calls. And I heard that you alerted the news media but they declined to cover the story".

"We suspected the two officers from Tannis Protection who have been hanging around here were responsible, but when we called their office they denied it", Laura responded. "It was Smurf Jones and Tony Hawkins, acting under the direction of Emergency Financial Manager Reginald Kingston who kidnapped me, held me for several days, and then released me".

"Thank goodness they released you", Laura Fawkes interjected. "Actually, I don't feel that lucky", I replied. "They beat me savagely... and caused me to miss my appointment with the representative of George Soros. An appointment I had hoped would allow me to obtain additional funding for my blog. I tried to set up another appointment but the representative said all the money that Mr. Soros had set aside to support Liberal bloggers had been allocated for the year".

I saw a look of genuine concern cross Laura's face when I mentioned my failure to secure the funding from George Soros. That had, in fact, been the reason why the Tannis goons had nabbed me. They wanted me to miss the meeting and lose the Soros funding. Also, after I returned from my three days of imprisonment and torture I found that the entirety of my investigative staff - almost a dozen people, had been reassigned to other, more successful bloggers.

Budget cuts at the Foundation were why I sought the funding from Soros to begin with. Laura told me awhile ago that the Liberal think tank (also known as "PIF" or informally as "Liberal Headquarters") could no longer pay for my investigative staff. My Senior Fellow position with PIF was safe, as was Janeane's (since she had been assigned to be my research assistant in my pre-blogging days), but the Foundation would no longer subsidize work on my blog.

As a Senior Fellow I was a success, but as a blogger I was a failure. I considered shuttering the blog, but decided to keep it open and update it only occasionally, on my own time. So, "Sleeping with the Devil" was not going to become successful like "The Daily Kos" or "The Huffington Post". My plans were initially that it would, but clearly that was now out of the question. Unless I could obtain funding from another source. But perhaps it was for the best. I probably wouldn't have been approved for the Soros funding even if I had kept that meeting... which made me wonder, why were Jones and Hawkins so keen to keep me from it?

"In any case, I'm glad to hear you've decided to refocus your energies on your research here at the Foundation", Laura Fawks said, interrupting my train of thought. "Yes, I won't be wasting any more of my time here at work with that foolishness" I fibbed.

What I did on my own time didn't concern the division chief. Clearly she didn't read my blog anyway, or pay attention to the expense reports I submitted. Janeane wasn't supposed to attend the conference in DC with me back in May, but when I submitted my request for reimbursement for two plane tickets and two rooms at the Capitol Hill Suites, her office approved it.

"Great! That's all I wanted to talk to you about... I just wanted to be sure the blogging issue was settled", Laura said, dismissing me. I left, shutting the door to her office behind me. Out in the hall I spotted Barry. He was standing there, apparently waiting for me. In his hands he held a small wrapped package topped with a bow. When he saw me Barry smiled and said, "So, Dervish, I'm guessing Laura lowered the hammer?". "Barry, I have no idea what you're talking about" I answered; then I started down the hall at a brisk pace, not wanting to know what Barry was talking about.

"Wait up", Barry said, trotting after me. "This is for you", he said, handing me the package. "It's a parting gift; something to say, sorry to see you go, if you will". "Barry, I'm not going anywhere, except away from you", I said, swatting the package away. "What the hell?", Barry exclaimed. "I know you've never liked me Dervish, but I like you. And I'm genuinely sad you got canned".

But Barry didn't look sad; in fact he was still grinning. What Barry didn't know was, being a Senior Fellow, I couldn't be fired except by the board of directors. Laura Fawkes wasn't on the board, and thus had no power to terminate my employment. But I didn't tell Barry that. I grabbed his present and walked away. Finally I lost Barry when I sprinted up a flight of stairs on my way to my office on the second floor. But shortly after I closed and locked my door I heard Barry knocking. I ignored the thumping and tossed Barry's unopened gift in the trash.

SWTD #92, PIF #10.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Figures Don't Lie, But Rick Perry Figures

Definition of Statistics: The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures ~ Evan Esar (1899 to 1995) an American humorist who wrote Esar's Comic Dictionary 1943, "Humorous English" in 1961, and 20,000 Quips and Quotes in 1968.

The following monologue is an excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 8/17/2011, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Thom's rant concerns Texas Governor (and 2012 presidential candidate) Rick Perry's claims of job creation in his state...

Thom Hartmann: Rick Perry is running around saying, quote, "Since June of 2009, Texas is responsible for more than 40 percent of all of the new jobs created in America. Now think about that. We’re home to less than 10 percent of the population in America, but 40 percent of all the new jobs were created in that state". End of quote.

Now, notice that he says since the end of June 2009. If you go back to 2008, jobs actually grew faster in Massachusetts (a classic example of "figures don't lie, but liars can figure"). And secondly, Texas has actually done worse than the rest of the country in increasing rates of unemployment. In fact they are the worst in the country, in terms of how rapidly unemployment has increased in the state.

Why? For the exact same reason why they have created more jobs than any other state - because over 437 thousand people of working age people (it's probably over a million when you consider their spouses and children) have moved into Texas. Many of them from Mexico. Many of them from surrounding states. But because Texas by-and-large doesn't enforce anti-immigration laws like Arizona, a lot of illegal immigrants are moving out of Arizona into Texas, and because Texas hasn't a higher minimum wage than any other state, you've got a lot of cheap labor in that state. A lot of cheap labor.

So, 437 thousand people moved into the state, and the state only created 126 thousand jobs. So, Texas has seen an explosion in unemployment. Over 300 thousand people - the most rapid explosion of unemployment in the entire United States. At the same time they created more jobs.

I would submit, that probably the major factor, is that because of Senate bill 1070 in Arizona, people who are in Arizona illegally... or simply people who are in Arizona and committing the crime of walking down the street while being Hispanic, even if they're American citizens... those people are saying screw this hostile atmosphere, I'll go to Texas, where people are actually, in many parts of Texas, proud of the fact that they're bilingual, and a lot of people have Mexican heritage. People who are 5th generation American Texans, are proud of their Mexican heritage.

So you've got a lot of people moving out of Arizona and into Texas. But while 126 thousand of them found a job, 300 thousand of them didn't. It turns out Rick Perry is really wrong. But expect him to repeat it... it's his lie.

Note: If you are a subscriber to the Thom Hartmann program podcast, the location of this segment of audio can be found at 13:30 to 17:03 of Hour 2 on Wednesday August 17 of 2011.

SWTD #91

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Hard Left Progressive Who Lost Faith in President Obama's Vision

I'm going to vote NO. I think this proposal is extraordinarily unfair. It's going to make devastating cuts to programs that working families and low-income people desperately need. At the same time it is not going to ask the wealthiest people in this country or the largest corporations to contribute one nickel to deficit reduction. It is not only grotesquely immoral; it is very bad economic policy that will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs ~ Bernie Sanders (dob 9/8/1941) responding to a question asked by guest host Al Sharpton on MSBC's 8/1/2011 airing of the Ed Show. Bernie Sanders is the junior United States Senator from Vermont.

In the end the President blinked ~ Lawrence O'Donnell (b. 11/7/1951) on the 8/1/2011 broadcast of his MSNBC program "The Last Word".

I've lost faith in President Obama's vision, or, more accurately, I've lost faith that his vision is what I used to believe (or hoped) it was. Also, when I suggested (in my previous post) that Social Security Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit the poor are back on the chopping block I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I was implying that the President is a liar. This is what a self-described "good 'ole hippie liberal" who is now disappointed with the "hard left" progressives says.

I'm sorry to disappoint a fellow Liberal, but I believe Glenn Greenwald who says Obama wants to "cut entitlement programs long cherished by liberals [because it] will increase his appeal to independents and restore his image of trans-partisan conciliator that he so covets". I also believe Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks who says Obama is "eager" to cut entitlements (see the video at the bottom of this post).

For the record I do NOT believe the President is a liar. He just didn't say any of these programs are protected from cuts. The super committee CAN cut anything. Everything IS on the table. I'm going by what it says in the "Bipartisan Debt Deal: A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline" fact sheet on the White House website.

Specifically the fact sheet says, "The President did not agree to any entitlement reforms OUTSIDE OF THE CONTEXT of a bipartisan committee process where tax reform WILL be on the table and the President will insist on shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks".

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit low income folks are safe from any cuts ONLY if the super committee can't reach an agreement, or the recommendations of the super committee are voted down by either house of Congress, or if they are vetoed by the president.

In regards to that possibility Robert Greenstein, founder of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (and a guest on the 8/1/2011 airing of MSNBC's "The Last Word") said, "the super committee could raise revenue but it will not [because] Boehner will not appoint a single Republican who will approve any tax increases". And he concluded that "it is a FOREGONE CONCLUSION that the super committee will fail".

But I'm not so sure the super committee will fail. The members of the super committee will consist of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans (who haven't been selected yet), and if this committee is anything like the Simpson-Bowles committee, they WILL recommend cutting entitlements. For all we know the 3 Democrats appointed could be Blue Dogs and EAGER to cut entitlements.

If a second deficit reduction package that includes entitlement reforms is agreed to by the super committee and passes Congress - I think Obama will sign it.

Also, contrary to what the hippie Liberal believes, the president didn't promise to let the bush tax cuts expire. What he promised is that he wouldn't extend them for the wealthy a second time. HOWEVER, this is the same promise he broke when he said he was initially going to let them expire. I see another excuse similar to the first one coming.

Remember the first time he extended them he said he didn't have a choice because the Republicans were holding tax cuts for the middle class hostage? The same thing is going to happen again... and Lawrence O'Donnell (a progressive pundit both I and the hippie Liberal watch) agrees... or, it is my impression he does.

Last night (8/1/2011) Lawrence O'Donnell said (not an exact quote), "The Republicans will always win in the fight to extend the bush tax cuts UNLESS the President is willing to let all the tax cuts expire, including tax cuts for the middle class and working poor - and extending these cuts was something Obama campaigned on".

I think the super committee will recommend cutting entitlements. I think the Super Committee will NOT recommend, "shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks". I think Congress will pass the super committee's debt reduction package, and I think Obama will sign it. Or, this is what I FEAR will happen.

The only way I see this not happening is if either - Robert Greenstein is right and, "it is a foregone conclusion that the super committee will fail", or if Progressive Democrats block the package - and every time in the past when they said they might block something... they did not. They said they'd block the Affordable Care Act if it didn't include a public option. They said they'd block the deal that extended the bush tax cuts. They said they'd block the deficit reduction deal that included the raising of the debt ceiling if it didn't involve "shared sacrifice".

The President, I'm afraid, WILL sign a deficit reduction package that cuts entitlements and contains ZERO "shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks". I hope I'm wrong and the hippie Liberal is right, but being part of the "hard left" I'm inclined to believe (even though I can think for myself) other "hard lefties" like Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Robert Greenwald, Cenk Uygur and Bernie Sanders.

Hopefully we're all wrong and what the president negotiated is "a win for the economy and budget discipline". Or perhaps, as Lawrence O'Donnell said on his program, the largest deficit reduction package in history is actually the "the most ill-conceived deficit reduction package in history" and "the stupidest deficit reduction package in history".

SWTD #90

Monday, August 01, 2011

An Age of Austerity & Plutocracy

Historians will look back on tonight and this week as the beginning of the age of austerity in America ~ Jonathan Alter (b. 10/6/1957) speaking in his role as an MSNBC contributor on 7/31/2011 and referring to the debt-ceiling deal. Alter is a journalist and author who has written books on Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Alter was the senior editor for Newsweek magazine from 1983 until 2011, and is currently a lead columnist for Bloomberg Review.

One of the final nails is close to be hammered into the coffin. Yesterday (7/31/2011) the President and Republican leadership reached an agreement to withdraw life support from a dying economy. There may be something to Lawrence O'Donnell's claim that President Obama won the debate by appearing to be the only reasonable party amongst the negotiators, and that could very well help him win Independent and Moderate votes in 2012, but at what cost?

The economy will not recover nor will jobless numbers drop by any significant amount. Unemployment figures are likely to start rising again once the cutting begins and we'll head into a double-dip (or a prolonged period of stagnation). Will Independent voters still go for Obama in November of 2012 because 16 month previously he capitulated to Republican demands for zero tax increases (or even elimination of loopholes) for the wealthy? Or will they cast their votes for Willard Romney?

The title of economist Paul Krugman's 7/31/2011 New York Times article is The President surrenders. Krugman says that when the deal goes though, "many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong". The entire package may turn out to be a wash anyway, since slashing spending will further depress the economy and thus tax receipts. Krugman compares spending cuts to "medieval doctors who treated the sick by bleeding them, and thereby made them even sicker".

This is the lesson the Republicans learned when they forced the president to agree to the very bad deal back in December of 2010 when the bush tax cuts were extended. Paul Krugmann says that this is when the President should have "demanded an increase in the debt ceiling".

Krugman calls the deal a "catastrophe", pointing out that "just a few weeks ago [Democrats] seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare [but] now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away". Because this deal creates (another) comission that will recommend (by November) an additional 1.5 trillion in cuts (in addition to the 1 trillion in cuts already agreed to). The big three, says the president, will again be "on the table".

According to Robert Reich's article, "Ransom Paid", "Anyone who characterizes the deal... as a victory for the American people over partisanship understands neither economics nor politics". In his absolutely correct assessment of the situation, Reich says, "biggest economic challenge we face is restoring jobs and wages and economic growth". Mr. Reich also makes the point that cutting spending will cause the economy to contract (therefore if you think this is a good deal you do not understand economics). Also, the deal was arrived at not through negotiations but through brinkmanship and hostage taking, which isn't how the political process is supposed to work.

This is a very bad deal for the Democrats and for the country - and the Republicans know it. In fact, I say they are banking on it. When the cuts are enacted and the economy predictably contracts - the Republicans will be quick to blame the president. The worsening economy will help the presidential campaigns of Willard Romney and (for certain) Michele Bachmann (who didn't want to raise the debt ceiling at all). I've heard it suggested that we could see a Romney-Palin ticket in 2012. With Michele as VP the problem some Republicans who may have a problem voting for a Mormon will be overcome.

First on the agenda for President Romney will be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, followed by passage of Cut, Cap, and Balance. Although, even if all three branches of government were controlled by the Republicans, I doubt 3/4ths of state legislatures would pass a balanced budget Constitutional amendment. But even without a Constitutional amendment, a Republican-controlled government could institute a lot of harsh austerity measures, even over the objections of the people (austerity measures have been passed in Greece, despite the fact that Greek citizens are demonstrating against them).

Is this the beginning of an age of austerity and plutocracy to coincide with depression and decline? Contrary to the hypothesis put forward by Lawrence O'Donnell who believes the President prevailed in the debt ceiling negotiations, I think Barack Obama may have set himself up for defeat in 2012. I'm worried that the bush recession will lead to the Romney depression.

This is the second half of the very bad deal and, in my opinion, should be rejected by Democrats (or all non-Blue Dog Democrats, at least). I've included a list of petitions below. It is my strong belief that Barack Obama should reject any deal that does not include tax increases and invoke the 14th amendment if necessary.

Petitions to Reject President Obama's Capitulation
->Tell Congress: Kill The Bill a petition from
->Dennis Kuchinich's petition to tell President Obama that Social Security is not a Pawn.

SWTD #89