Sunday, July 10, 2011

Last Call

Oliver Willis has a point.

There is a story today about how the unemployed have been globally ignored by the people who set the agenda. This story appears in print on page “BU1″ of the New York Times.

In a completely unrelated bit of trivia, the New York Times happens to be the most influential news organization in the world. On the left or right, the Times sets the agenda for the rest of the press. Whether its circulation is up or down for the year, the Times sets the tone.

So, a story lamenting a missing story is below the front page of the Times.

News organization bemoans news organizations not paying attention to what the American people see as the number one issue right now, jobs, while simultaneously not paying attention to jobs.

We're about done here, I think.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Don Surber, unintentionally funny guy.

From Rasmussen: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 55% of Likely U.S. Voters now think decreases in government spending help the economy. 24% believe decreased spending hurts the economy, while 11% say it has no impact.”

54% say raising taxes will hurt the economy.

Now who are the likely voters? They tend to be older, better educated, more stable and frankly more accomplished than the average adult. The non-voting public is not a bunch of losers. When she was CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman did not vote. I got that. But likely voters tend to be more engaged politically and in their community. They don’t see it so much as a right, but as a civic duty.

Dismissing what a majority of likely voters believe is arrogant and dangerous.

Contrary to Republican dogma, polls show that the American people strongly support higher taxes to reduce the deficit and improve income inequality. Following are 19 different polls since the first of the year that say so.

I'll take that 19 to your one, Donny.   It would be arrogant and dangerous to ignore the voters, I agree.  And the voters overwhelmingly agree higher taxes on the wealthy needs to be a part of deficit reduction.

Something you and the GOP might want to keep in mind.

Light Bulb, Heavy Hitters

You'd think Texas Republicans would be worried about jobs, the economy, or even whining about the deficit, but it seems Gov. Rick Perry and the state GOP have chosen their new Alamo:  the federal phase-out of incandescent lightbulbs.

Texas hopes to get around the law with a measure recently signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry declaring that incandescent bulbs — if made and sold only in Texas — do not involve interstate commerce and therefore are not subject to federal regulation.

"I think that Texans as a whole are tired of the federal government trying to micromanage our lives," said George Lavender, a Republican state representative who sponsored the legislation.

Critics of the federal mandate hope the Texas action will spur Congress to repeal the light bulb rules or prompt other states to adopt similar laws. The Republican-controlled U.S. House on Monday is expected to take up a repeal measure sponsored by a Texas congressman. Efforts also are underway in Pennsylvania and South Carolina to follow Texas' lead.

The 2007 federal energy legislation phases out the old-style incandescent bulbs over three years, starting with 100-watt bulbs next Jan. 1. Supporters said that consumers will be able to buy a new kind of incandescent bulb that is more efficient and cost about $1 more. The latest model — shown off to lawmakers recently — surrounds the filament with a halogen capsule that uses fewer watts.

But that hasn't stopped attacks targeting an alternative to incandescents — the spiral-shaped compact fluorescent light.

"I just believe that we should be able to buy what we want," Lavender said of the Texas law. "I've had calls from people in every state, and even in foreign countries, saying how much they appreciate this bill."

"This is about more than just energy consumption, it is about personal freedom,'' said Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas.), who's leading the repeal effort in the House. He recently cheered his state's action, declaring on Fox News: "I do thank the Lord that I live in Texas."

Yes, this is about FREEEEEEEEEEEDOM and fighting the evil government and micromanagement and has nothing to do with the fact that old-style light bulbs add $85 per household to the energy companies that dominate Texas politics, which would take something like two-thirds of a billion dollars out of the pockets of energy companies each year if the laws caused Texas's 8 million plus households to switch over to CFL bulbs.  Add 2 million Texas businesses to that, and well, yeah.  Let's ballpark it at a billion a year in additional energy costs that Texans wouldn't pay to power companies there.  Yearly!

Are you illuminated as to why Gov. Perry is trying to convince Texans that this is about "freedom and liberty" when it's really about bilking Texans out of hundreds of millions a year for Texas power companies?  Yeah Texas, Perry wants you to pay more to his energy company buddies.  And they think you're dense enough to believe him.

Nice guy, huh.

Camera Records Arrests And More

"First and foremost, it protects the officers, it protects the citizens and it can help with an investigation and it shows what happened," said Steve Tidwell, executive director of the FBI National Academy Associates in Quantico, Va. "It can level the playing field, instead of getting just one or two versions. It's all there in living color, so to speak."
In Oakland, where the department is still under federal supervision because of a case in which four officers were caught planting drugs on suspects a decade ago, the cameras are like another set of eyes, said Capt. Ed Tracey.
Last year the department began a pilot program with about a dozen patrol officers wearing the VIEVU (Vee-view) body camera, and now officials hope to equip at least 350 officers by the end of summer.

I'm against being filmed without permission, but the arguments that upheld car cams will uphold these so it's a moot point.  I think citizens will win in this instance, especially when this type of footage becomes required with any interaction.  Instead of allegations of abuse, the interaction can  be reviewed.  

The Future Of Facebook, And Why We Care

Facebook is something different to everyone, but for the bulk of users it isn't just a place to grow imaginary gardens.  Some people are invested in Facebook, and plan to stick around for the long haul.  It's a way to check on people that you don't want in your day to day life.  It's a way to keep a web presence, and a popular place that anyone truly looking for you will check.  That's a mighty big draw to people who miss people from their past.  For some it is a living memorial for people who have passed away.  Visitors can see videos and pictures of loved ones, and it's worth a few pesky game invites to have that layered access for millions of people.

But what does the future hold?  I'd like to think that with the data storage capability in the world, some universal place will become where we register to be found or to find.  Our likes, thoughts and major life events can be recorded.  For the first time in human history, we can including video, pictures and voice clips in our legacy.  We are so shortsighted when we consider social networking sites, not understanding what we can grow with a little planning.  I'm not implying Facebook is the eternal recording of our generation.  I'm saying we need one and I'm surprised more people haven't focused on that.  Imagine being able to go back and read John Lennon's teenage thoughts, or Helen Keller's reflections on what passed through her mind on any given day.  Our data isn't just good for marketing exploitation, it could be useful for hundreds of years to come.

The future of Facebook isn't clear yet.  It still has the potential to be really great, or really not.  It may take a few refining steps before we have a place that we can be recorded for all time.  Still, it's full of potential and I hope we see more than Farmville when millions of people come together and contribute to something this big.  But then, if that is what we show is of interest, I guess that's a statement in itself.

Planned Chaos

Over at Big Picture, John Mauldin has a depressingly sobering take on the jobs numbers, but his analysis is mostly incorrect.

Everything is very fluid, but the headlines in today’s Wall Street Journal suggest a deal on the order of $4 trillion in on the table. I assume it will be back-loaded, but it is a start. But assume that the first year sees real spending cuts of $200 billion. That is a reduction of 1.5% in GDP. It’s that pesky old equation I keep using:

GDP = C (total consumption) + I (Investments) + G (government Spending) + net exports

Now, the literature suggests that the effect on the economy from a reduction in G should be over within about 4 quarters, on average. But then we reduce “G” again the next year. Maybe not by as much overall, but at least by another $50-100 billion. This is going to put a real headwind in the face of economic growth for years, but we simply have to do it or we become Greece.

Here's his first problem.  Mauldin admits that we're facing a slowdown, which is true.  He admits that pulling out of the economy will make it worse, also true.  But then he says we have no choice other than to do this, and that is patently false.  The notion that if we raise the debt ceiling we "become Greece" is fantasy and an economist should know better.

We do have a choice, and that's the Senate Dems' plan:

Senate Democrats have drafted a sweeping debt-reduction plan that would slice $4 trillion from projected borrowing over the next decade without touching the expensive health and retirement programs targeted by President Obama.

Instead, Senate Democrats are proposing to stabilize borrowing through sharp cuts at the Pentagon and other government agencies, as well as $2 trillion in new taxes, primarily on families earning more than $1 million year, according to a copy of the plan obtained by The Washington Post.

A combination of tax increases on those who can afford it and spending cuts where we don't need it.  If we simply went back to Clinton-era taxation on the wealthy, our deficit problems would be slashed.  We had a balanced budget and years of surplus under Clinton...until Bush cuts taxes and spent trillions on wars and Big Pharma.

We do have a choice.  We can raise revenues. Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton did it.  Bush 43 refused to, and look what happened.
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