Archive for July 2013

Not the Only Game in Town

With the federal government gridlocked into doing nothing (thank you Republicans) I picked up the San Francisco Chronicle this morning to see that the City of Richmond is ready to take on the banks. The gist of the story is that they have 624 underwater properties in their city limits. So the City sent letters to 32 banks and mortgage companies offering to buy the properties at discounts, indicating that if the banks and mortgage companies won’t play, it would use eminent domain to seize the properties at court set fair market prices and then refinance them at the lower rates with the home owners.

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Frivolous: My Facebook Pet Peeves

Facebook is an interesting study in human psychology, particularly our tendency to be narcissists. It can be a great way to keep up with your friends or family, share some insights or bits of wisdom, but the reality is, for most, it is posting a billboard of all their flaws. Maybe there should be a few rules on its usage that would benefit all of us. Here would be a few I would recommend:

  • Only change your Facebook picture when something dramatic happens in your life like someone threw acid in your face. Changing it on a weekly basis says something about how you are trying to figure out who you are, but aren’t there yet
  • Don’t post inspirational sayings for the rest of us, because we all know they are trite, and you are the one who really thinks these shallow thoughts are actually helpful and need to believe in them but you don’t
  • You are only allowed one baby picture a week. I know this may be a shock, but most of us have raised kids and the thrill is over. Besides they don’t change that much every hour and all those posts about how adorable they are is just butt kissing so you will return the favor
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Politics Kills all Good Ideas Because the Media is Only Interested in the Politics

I have been arguing for some time in this blog that the test of a policy should be its efficacy, not whether it can get bipartisan support. Finally Ezra Klein took up this argument:

Here’s the problem with coming up with policy ideas in Washington: It’s not enough to go to the media and say, “Here’s an idea we think might make things better.” You have to come up with the reason that Congress might pass your idea to make things better, or else the media will ignore it as just one more DOA white paper…

That’s the problem with subjecting every single policy idea to this political test: If the opposition party doesn’t want to cut a deal, there won’t be a deal. And if all coverage of policy is colored by that core political decision, then there’ll never be real pressure on them to make a deal, either.

But there’s an alternative world on offer, one where the coverage of new policy ideas leaves their political future alone and focuses, at least at the outset, on whether they’re good ideas. If they’re bad ideas, then the conversation should end there. If they are good ideas, and people know that, then perhaps the knowledge will move a few Republican senators, or even — unlikely as it is — the public, and a policy that began with no evident path to passage will find a way forward.

Maybe now that this thought has entered mainstream media, it might take hold. Could we actually look at a policy in terms of whether it will work as opposed to defining it as right, left, or DOA in a dysfunctional Congress?

Lynch Party

First and foremost, why is the press giving us continual coverage of Anthony Weiner? Second it is a lynch party. The pundits and the press continue to hang him up for all to see. They are making the news, not covering the news, and whether he deserves to get to be mayor is a New York issue, but they have given us a barrage of their opinion that he shouldn’t that he has no chance. It is like continuous propaganda. It is everything that is wrong with our press today. It is disgusting. It is how we got Iraq wrong, they missed the whole economic bubble, they are not covering voter suppression, the attack on women’s right to choice, are missing the import of the Bradley Manning trial, and don’t get the Snowden affair (they lynched him too instead of really looking at what he exposed).

Anthony would not get my vote, but the barrage of “he is a scum and should withdraw” reporting isn’t reporting, it is tar and feathering and we should all be ashamed.

What to Do after Flow Down Failed

This is just a continuing mental challenge in what we really do know and what we are not reacting to. Note that most of this comes from social science and economic studies that the Republicans would unfund if they could and have proposed to do just that. They know what they want to know and they don’t want to be confused by actual facts.

I made the point in my earlier blog that increasing wealth inequality is an unintended consequence of “flow down” that is hurting our economy. Here were a few facts that showed up today and yesterday that we might want to use to craft policies for the future. I will keep them simple:

The End of Flow Down and What It Means

We like to blame flow down and the bad policy outcomes on the Republicans, but in reality we all have been complicit. We all did and in some form or other, still believe that if the market place is roaring, so are we. But that is belied by the facts. Wall Street reached record highs, corporations are making record profits and sitting on record amounts of cash, and there are no jobs. When you really look at the jobs numbers and consider who isn’t counted and how many dropped out, we are close to the numbers of unemployed in 2009. And as Dean Baker pointed out, if you look at average income gains, President Obama was about right when he said the wealthy have increased their income by large amounts and the middle class is running in place since 1970. Between 2009 and 2013 the top 1% took 93% of all income growth. In the 1970s CEOs made 50 times the average worker, today, 300 times. Flow down is not flowing down.

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Understanding Tea Party/Libertarian Politics

“This month, the House adopted, largely along party lines, an energy appropriations bill that among other things forbids the government from enforcing energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans, light bulbs, refrigerators and freezers. Sponsors of these measures said they had had enough of President Obama’s nanny-state policies. Here is Martha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee and a sponsor of the amendment blocking implementation of ceiling fan standards: ‘First, they came for our health care, then they took away our light bulbs, and raided our nation’s most iconic guitar company — now they are coming after our ceiling fans. Nothing is safe from the Obama administration’s excessive regulatory tentacles.'” (NYT)

Energy efficiency is really Gestapo storm troopers in disguise. See the unregulated market place will solve all our problems. People should be able to choose to be stupid. Said another way, short term thinking is what polluted our world back in the 70’s. Drill baby, drill. It is what is bringing us global warming now. It brought us the financial meltdown in 2007 and unregulated greed is what is bringing us the great divide in haves and have nots and destroying our economy. But let’s not set standards to ensure our future. Instead, lets rush toward the least common denominator, short term profits, and let chaos reign. These people are mental midgets and they have seized control of our government

An Example of a Progressive Compromise

If Democrats had a brain, and I realize that Democratic coupled with brains is probably an oxymoron, then a compromise position on student loans is a bill that is priced (interest rate) so that the net effect on the balance sheet of the federal government is zero. Don’t get me wrong, that would be a compromise, bottom line position. The desired position is where we have a sliding scale and for those who are needy, the whole package is subsidized and those who are not, get the zero cost loan. Our kids are our investment in our future. Instead we are arguing about just how much the federal government should make on these loans on the backs of our kids. How bent is that?

Anthony, Anthony, Anthony

Okay, I have had a little wine, but… Did it ever occur to Anthony Weiner to sue his cell phone maker for putting a dangerous weapon in his hands without the proper warnings: “Danger! Taking pictures of your privates and sending them out on the internet could create embarrassing situations and prevent you from being Mayor of New York”. That should be a warning label on on computer products.

WTF Friday

So it is Friday and shortly there will be a cold beer or a glass of wine later in the evening, or maybe a bottle. So as I await that moment, I watch the news with something akin to horror. Let me summarize:

  • San Diego Mayor is going to undergo therapy. I assume that would be a frontal lobotomy
  • The press continues to focus on mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and his wiener and I am wondering why anyone outside of New York City cares. I am sure they will spend just as much time on the Mayor of Sacramento right?
  • Oh, and while we are on it, isn’t it his decision whether he stays in the race or not, and the people of New York to speak with their votes, not the pundits? And what really pisses me off is speculation about what his wife’s motivations are. This is not news, it is voyeurism at its worst, and also explains why the media gets most stories wrong the first time and most of the American public are clueless
  • Anybody who watched the video of the train crash in Spain knows the driver took the turn too fast. The question one has to ask based upon his reckless behavior chronicled on Facebook and his love of speed, why this is a surprise. Oh, and was he the only one in the train control cabin and why? Could it be cutbacks and austerity so no one was checking?
  • I think I get the cantaloupe calf analogy Steve King used. If you have cantaloups for brains, everything is a cantaloupe. Wouldn’t he and Michele Bachmann make a great couple? Both of them are probably wearing aluminum foil under their clothes to ward off x-rays from the government
  • Oh, and the guy who told us that we don’t need the Voting Rights Act anymore (John Roberts) is picking the justices for the secret FISA court. Now I feel reassured…

Just another Friday in America where we are so far off the rails we don’t even remember what the rails looked like. See Spain.