Monday, August 9, 2010

Last Call

Rand Paul just has a head full of bad wiring, folks.
The strangest episode of Paul's time at Baylor occurred oneafternoon in 1983 (although memories about all of these events areunderstandably a bit hazy, so the date might be slightly off), when heand a NoZe brother paid a visit to a female student who was one ofPaul's teammates on the Baylor swim team. According to this woman, whorequested anonymity because of her current job as a clinical psychologist, "He and Randy came to my house, they knocked on my door,and then they blindfolded me, tied me up, and put me in their car. They took me to their apartment and tried to force me to take bong hits.They'd been smoking pot." After the woman refused to smoke with them, Paul and his friend put her back in their car and drove to thecountryside outside of Waco, where they stopped near a creek. "They told me their god was 'Aqua Buddha' and that I needed to bow down andworship him," the woman recalls. "They blindfolded me and made me bowdown to 'Aqua Buddha' in the creek. I had to say, 'I worship you Aqua Buddha, I worship you.' At Baylor, there were people actively going around trying to save you and we had to go to chapel, so worshiping idols was a big no-no."
Nearly 30 years later, the woman is still trying to make sense ofthat afternoon. "They never hurt me, they never did anything wrong, butthe whole thing was kind of sadistic. They were messing with my mind.It was some kind of joke." She hadn't actually realized that Paul woundup leaving Baylor early. "I just know I never saw Randy after that—forunderstandable reasons, I think."
 Casual misogyny and noodling about with the cannabis, hey that's college, right?

The problem is, Rand Paul has a long and storied history of casual indifference towards others and making bad decisions.  Dunno why he's running as a Beltway outsider...sounds like he'd fit in just fine, actually.

Google Still Goes Evil

That Google/Verizon deal from last week that Google denied?  Repackaged for this week.  Still evil.
Google and Verizon have announced their joint policy agreement on the Internet and broadband, seeking a continuation of the free and open policies around the public Internet while allowing for additional services outside of that network without a commitment to net neutrality and only a commitment to transparency.
In other words, Google and Verizon want to build their own premium services internet that has no neutrality.  It's Google and Verizon's national network, and you would have to be a customer of it -- a paying customer -- to use it.

Ergo why would Google or Verizon put anything worthwhile on the "old internet" when all the exciting new stuff will go on the Google/Verizon network instead?

No, they're not going to make the internet pay-for-play.  They're going to take Google and Verizon to their own network and make THAT pay-for-play.
On a conference call, CEOs Eric Schmidt of Google and Ivan Seidelberg of Verizon both announced the policy agreement, the outline of which is available here. While both of them criticized the New York Times story from last week and other reports about the two corporations backing down from a commitment to net neutrality (“almost all of which has been completely wrong,” Schmidt said, and asked reporters that they base their criticism “on what is actually announced today”), what they produced doesn’t necessarily conflict with the story.

The joint policy agreement makes a distinction between wireline and wireless broadband, basically the Internet you get on your computer, and what you can get on a smart phone, PDA, or some other not-yet-invented device. On wireline broadband, which the CEOs kept calling the public Internet, they displayed a full commitment to Internet openness and freedom.
Sure, it's the difference between HBO and public access TV, dig?

Meanwhile the new Google/Verizon internet gets all the cool tech, and the "public internet" gets...well now why would it get any investment from Google or Verizon at all?

What, did you think Google Phone, Gmail, Youtube, Google Earth, and Google News was going to be free forever?

You're funny.  "Don't be evil" my ass.  Google is going to wreck the internet and rebuild it in its own graven image.

Much Littler Britain

The austerity cuts are already taking effect in the UK, and the plan for the next five years is nothing short of disaster.
In June, the government announced its first round of cuts, removing about $10 billion from the current year’s budget.
While that is a drop in the bucket compared to the final goal, the reduction measures have already had severe consequences. Public sector workers across the country, except for the lowest paid, will have their salaries frozen for the next two years. Oxfordshire, facing a nearly $1 million trim in its road safety budget, has been forced to shut down all its 161 traffic speed cameras.
The cuts mean that Nottinghamshire plans to close three recycling facilities and some of its day care centers. And that the city of Coventry, which already cut spending in January, is trying to find $5.6 million more to cut from its current child services budget.
But none of this is much compared to what the country will face when the government issues its long-term budget plans in October. Mr. Mutton, the Coventry official, predicted that the next round of cuts would cost the city at least 10,000 jobs in the public and private sectors. Analysts have estimated that some 600,000 public-sector jobs could be lost nationwide.
Mr. Mutton said that the most recent news — which included the announcement that a multimillion-pound program to build new schools and refurbish crumbling old ones in Coventry had been canceled — had come so abruptly that carefully wrought plans and partnerships had to be torn up overnight.
“It’s impossible to plan,” he said. “We believe in trying to plan our budget for three years, particularly in order to give our voluntary and private-sector partners some stability. But we can’t do that at the moment. We haven’t a clue.” 
Keep in mind that 600,000 lost jobs in Britain is roughly equivalent to three million additional lost jobs in the next five years in America...just from the public sector.

And you know what?  I think we're in for cuts that draconian should the Republicans get in charge.  Want to know what the GOP solution to the economic crisis here is?  You have to look no further than Britain today.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

How is Megan McArdle still employed?
When more of your extra dollars are going to the government than yourself, I think it's a problem, even if you're very rich.  I think that has to be factored into any argument about the "fairness" of the tax system.
Doesn't the term "extra dollars" there mean "as in not necessary for living on" and such?  In other words, dollars that you can afford to pay in taxes?  Imagine that.  The people who have extra dollars pay more in taxes on those extra dollars.

Meanwhile, we can't afford streetlights and roads in this effing country.  Yes, McMeathead, they need to pay more.

Epic Two Mothers Of America Win

Via Digby, as any student of history can tell you, we all grew up with two mothers here in America:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_9ks36c549BI/TF-JfKR2liI/AAAAAAAABik/DCLcv2PwILg/s1600/39996_10150246140255486_695480485_14142929_7665580_n.jpg


...and we turned out okay.

.Thought this was familiar.  We first saw this back in 2004 at the Village Voice.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

What is it with Republicans and Constitutional amendments?  We're right back to 1995 now and a balanced budget amendment again.  You see what Republicans did after that when Bush was in charge, yes?  Does anyone here believe Republicans will balance the budget ever?

You know, unlike Clinton?

Economic Event Horizon

A small business owner named Michael Fleischer opined in today's WSJ that it's just too expensive to hire people because the additional obligation cost of hiring a new employee is not guaranteed to be covered in additional profits.
Employing Sally costs plenty too. My company has to write checks for $74,000 so Sally can receive her nominal $59,000 in base pay. Health insurance is a big, added cost: While Sally pays nearly $2,400 for coverage, my company pays the rest—$9,561 for employee/spouse medical and dental. We also provide company-paid life and other insurance premiums amounting to $153. Altogether, company-paid benefits add $9,714 to the cost of employing Sally.

Then the federal and state governments want a little something extra. They take $56 for federal unemployment coverage, $149 for disability insurance, $300 for workers' comp and $505 for state unemployment insurance. Finally, the feds make me pay $856 for Sally's Medicare and $3,661 for her Social Security.

When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally's pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits. Bottom line: Governments impose a 33% surtax on Sally's job each year.
You know, Ezra Klein has been talking about a payroll tax holiday as instant stimulus for a while now, but Fleischer's argument is stupid:  payroll taxes are there for pretty much everyone.  33% is pretty standard.  Fliescher goes on to rage against "being conscripted as a tax collector" so he can't make changes to his "pay structure".  He concludes "Why bother?"
And even if the economic outlook were more encouraging, increasing revenues is always uncertain and expensive. As much as I might want to hire new salespeople, engineers and marketing staff in an effort to grow, I would be increasing my company's vulnerability to government decisions to raise taxes, to policies that make health insurance more expensive, and to the difficulties of this economic environment.

A life in business is filled with uncertainties, but I can be quite sure that every time I hire someone my obligations to the government go up. From where I sit, the government's message is unmistakable: Creating a new job carries a punishing price.
So...yeah, business owners don't like government taxes.  Who knew?  The anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric is to the point where even basic economics are ignored in favor of Rupert Murdoch's paper getting a dig in against Obama and company.

Even if your taxes and benefits were zero there Andy, it would still cost you $59,000 a year to hire Sally.  It costs money to hire people?  Why bother?  And people go right along down the path of "failed economics class" in their analysis.
The flat truth is no one is going to hire new employees unless there is some reasonable promise that the additional cost of the employee will be recovered through increased profits resulting from the new employee’s work.  That’s not “greed”, it is bare survival in tough economic times.  And all the recent additions to per-employee costs aren’t alone.  There is a seemingly endless well of new possible costs coming, including new environmental regulations, the possibility of a massive new “carbon tax”, and “card check” that promises to raise labor costs even further with exactly zero (at best) increase in productivity. Vague gestures towards a few thousand dollars of tax credits to stimulate job growth don’t even begin to cover the risks.
Which is why we need serious economic stimulus, small business tax credits for hiring to offset these costs, andwe need to put money in people's pockets so that demand goes up, so that the profits for hiring additional workers are there because more goods and services are being bought.

Let me make this as simple as I can:  The.  Problem.  Is.  Demand.

No demand, no sales.  no sales, no profits.  Get it?  As Jim Joyner puts it:
But, presumably, his competitors face exactly the same pressures.  And, surely, there has to come a point when additional hiring pays off despite the marginal costs?
This small business owner is looking for a scapegoat.

Secular, Not Religious Law

Double G points out that Ross Douthat apparently doesn't know the difference between the concept of secular law and religious law in a very instructive lesson, since so many people seem to be confused about the two.

The State's official neutrality on the question of marriage does not even theoretically restrict Douthat's freedom -- or that of his ideological and religious comrades -- to convince others of the superiority of heterosexual monogamy.  They're every bit as free today as they were last week to herald all the "unique fruit" which such relationships can alone generate, in order to persuade others to follow that course.  They just can't have the State take their side by officially embracing that view or using the force of law to compel it.

But if the arguments for the objective superiority of heterosexual monogamy are as apparent and compelling as Douthat seems to think, they ought not need the secular thumb pressing on the scale in favor of their view.  Individuals on their own will come to see the rightness of Douthat's views on such matters -- or will be persuaded by the religious institutions and societal mores which teach the same thing -- and, attracted by its "distinctive and remarkable" virtues, will opt for a life of heterosexual monogamy.  Why does Douthat need the State -- secular law -- to help him in this cause?
The answer of course is the entire problem with gay marriage bans is that they are an attempt to enshrine religious law into secular law, always a dangerous proposition.   Douthat and other social conservatives say their right to not have gay marriage because they are offended by it outweighs the right for gays and lesbians to enter into marriage because marriage is a religious, social contract.

It's not.  Marriage is a secular, legal contract.  It's using religious arguments to enforce secular law.  By this argument we should be criminalizing adultery, disrespecting your mother and father, and having graven images of false gods as well.  We do criminalize murder -- That Shalt Not Kill -- because of secular law.  There are secular reasons against allowing people to go around and kill other people in cold blood.  Gay marriage bans?  Not so much.  It's a legal contract.

Greenwald concludes:
But the moral, theological and spiritual questions about marriage are every bit as open and unconstrained as they were before.  Just as is true with a whole host of questions on which the State takes no position, private actors are completely free to venerate some marriages and stigmatize others.  Churches, synagogues and mosques are free -- as they should be -- to sanction only those marriages which their religious dogma recognizes.  Parents are completely free to teach their children that certain marriages are superior and others immoral.  And columnists like Douthat are free to argue that the relationships they want to have are not just best for themselves but are, as an objective matter, morally and theologically superior.

They just can't misuse secular law to institutionalize those views or coerce others who don't accept them into having their legal rights restricted based on them.  But if they're as right as they claim they are, they shouldn't need to coerce others into acceptance through legal discrimination.  Their arguments should prevail on their own.  The fact that they believe they will lose the debate without that legal coercion speaks volumes about how confident they actually are in the rightness and persuasiveness of their views.
In other words, you can choose not to like gay marriage, gay people, gay anything, the color blue, fig newtons, clowns, and the number 17 all you want to on religious, moral, spiritual, and philisophacal grounds.  You're free to do so.

You just can't make laws based on that.  That abridges other people's right to like all those things.  It's that simple, and it's an argument that's so blindingly obvious it's overlook and unvoiced.  Good for Double G to put that out there.

No Shame, No Sense Of Irony

BooMan points out today that 47 years after Dr. King gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963 of non-violent cooperation and racial harmony, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have kidnapped the day to spout their crap at an NRA rally on August 28 at the Lincoln Memorial.
The National Rifle Association, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are using the anniversary and site of Dr. Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington for what they are calling a "Restoring Honor Rally."

Calling the date of this rally "divine providence," Beck, the talk show host, has partnered with the NRA and Palin to help him generate interest in the August 28 event. The NRA placed a four-page advertisement for the event outside its monthly magazine, First Freedom. The ad is at www.bradycampaign.org/xshare/bcam/gunlobby/nra/NRA-1st-Freedom-Beck-Palin.pdf.

In a blog just posted, Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke today wrote:

"this is the same Glenn Beck, a life-member of the NRA, who has insulted the Anti-Defamation League; challenged Keith Ellison, a Muslim who had just been elected to Congress to ‘prove to me you are not working with our enemies;' repeatedly called President Obama ‘a racist' and accused him of having ‘ a deep-seated hatred for white people.' 
Glenn Beck is welcome to hold his little "We hate President Hussein" rally wherever he wants because it's Constitutional right to do so, but invoking the name of Dr. King  to justify his hateful rhetoric is an insult not only to people of color but every American and every human being who believes in equality.

But of course, he has an agenda to sell.

Fancy Farm Fracas

Kentucky's biggest political event -- Fancy Farm -- was over the weekend and after last year's Jack Conway swearing incident (technically Fancy Farm is the St. Jerome Catholic Church picnic event in Graves County) you'd figure Conway would have kept a low profile.

Not this guy.  He came out swinging.
"There seems to be an emerging theme for Rand Paul and the Republicans this year," Conway said. "And that theme is, 'accidents happen.'"

So began a call-and-response routine with the crowd at the event that called for them to repeat the phrase, which came from Paul's infamous explanation for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Conway has already suggested that Paul is too extreme for Kentucky. Now he's focusing, his campaign says, on the times Paul has been forced to move toward the establishment Republican view on an issue since he handily won his primary running against the mainstream Kentucky GOP, led of course by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Though McConnell stood with Paul all day today and offered strong praise for him both at Fancy Farm and the Republican breakfast Saturday morning, Conway tried to reopen the wounds from the primary, when Paul defeated the man McConnell wanted to win the Republican nomination. Democrats hope that residual anger at the primary among more moderate Republicans could turn them into Conway voters.

"What did Mitch McConnell tell the Republican Party the day after the primary?" Conway quipped in his speech. "Accidents happen!" the crowd dutifully replied. 
Now there's a bumper sticker.  "Accidents Happen!"

Good for Conway to stick it to Paul.  He just might pull this off after all.  Lord knows we need him to, because the thought of Rand Paul in the Senate causes bits of my soul to scream in protest.

Good ol' Yellow Dog has a great report from Fancy Farm too.
Mid-morning Saturday, the drive along Highway 80 to Fancy Farm foreshadowed the afternoon's speeches. Along the eight-mile stretch of two-lane between drought-stressed fields of brown corn and stunted soybeans, Jack Conway for Senate signs dominated. I counted more than 100 Conway signs to zero Ron Paul signs between I-24 and St. Jerome's Catholic Church.

Conway's speech was strong, on target, passionate and real. It came as a relief after his passive and false-sounding performances at the Marshall County Bean Supper Friday night and the Graves County Democratic Breakfast that morning. I'd crossed my fingers that he was saving the fire for Fancy Farm, and I was right. 
And Hillbilly Report's Jim Pence completely WTFPWNED some teabagger puke.  Here's his video of Conway's speech:



Good stuff from both of them.  Dems were out in force this weekend and they definitely showed Rand Paul a thing or two.

The Kroog Versus The State Of The States

Paul Krugman argues that the refusal of Republicans and ConservaDems to provide more help to state governments is wiping out the effects of the stimulus and the results are getting truly ugly now.

It’s crucial to keep state and local government in mind when you hear people ranting about runaway government spending under President Obama. Yes, the federal government is spending more, although not as much as you might think. But state and local governments are cutting back. And if you add them together, it turns out that the only big spending increases have been in safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, which have soared in cost thanks to the severity of the slump.

That is, for all the talk of a failed stimulus, if you look at government spending as a whole you see hardly any stimulus at all. And with federal spending now trailing off, while big state and local cutbacks continue, we’re going into reverse.

But isn’t keeping taxes for the affluent low also a form of stimulus? Not so you’d notice. When we save a schoolteacher’s job, that unambiguously aids employment; when we give millionaires more money instead, there’s a good chance that most of that money will just sit idle.

And what about the economy’s future? Everything we know about economic growth says that a well-educated population and high-quality infrastructure are crucial. Emerging nations are making huge efforts to upgrade their roads, their ports and their schools. Yet in America we’re going backward.
How did we get to this point? It’s the logical consequence of three decades of antigovernment rhetoric, rhetoric that has convinced many voters that a dollar collected in taxes is always a dollar wasted, that the public sector can’t do anything right.

The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole.

So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere
That's true.  We are going in reverse now.  Increased federal spending is being canceled out by sharply decreased state spending, and remember: Republicans apparently want as many states to go bankrupt as possible to "teach them a lesson" or something, particularly the biggest blue state of them all, California.

Thirty years after Reagan said "Government is the problem" and then promptly expanded the national debt by cutting taxes on the rich and boosting government spending, Republicans have become increasingly blind to government providing any useful service at all.  We don't need schools, we have home schooling.  We don't need police, we have the Second Amendment.  We don't need social services, we have church charities.  We don't need public transportation, we have SUVs.  We don't need regulatory agencies or oversight, we have the free markets.  We don't need roads, streetlights or sanitation because those cuts happen to those people who live in urban hellholes, not in our neighborhood.

Sharron Angle knows exactly who she's talking to when she said that she considered government to be a false God.  Millions of Americans feel the same way.  "Why should I pay taxes?" has become the central question of the last quarter-century even though taxes now are the lowest they've been in generations.  They're plugging their ears are yelling like babies.

And we continue to rocket down the path of oblivion.

StupidiNews!

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