Friday, April 6, 2012

Last Call

David Brooks inevitably weighs in on Scary Black Man Is Being Mean To Serious Paul Ryan, and writes arguably one of the most rottenly mendacious aggregations of swill he's ever disgorged onto his PC.  Starting off with the title of "The Other Obama" (and you can practically hear the comma after the second word in that) he dives into the abyss with his floaties strapped on:

I suppose it’s to his credit that he’s most inept when he tries to take the low road. He resorts to hoary, brain-dead clichés. He wanders so far from his true nature that he makes Mitt Romney look like Mr. Authenticity. 

That’s pretty much what happened this week in Obama’s speech before a group of newspaper editors. Obama’s target in this speech was Representative Paul Ryan’s budget. 

It should be said at the outset that the Ryan budget has some disturbing weaknesses, which Democrats are right to identify. The Ryan budget would cut too deeply into discretionary spending. This could lead to self-destructive cuts in scientific research, health care for poor kids and programs that boost social mobility. Moreover, the Ryan tax ideas are too regressive. They make tax cuts for the rich explicit while they hide any painful loophole closings that might hurt Republican donors. 

But these legitimate criticisms and Obama’s modest but real deficit-reducing accomplishments got buried under an avalanche of distortion. The Republicans have been embarrassing themselves all primary season. It’s as if Obama wanted to sink to their level in a single hour. 

It's gotten to the point where, when I hear Serious Pundits talking about "Simpson-Bowles," the room starts smelling of incense and votive candles. There was no Simpson-Bowles plan. There were suggestions put out by Messrs. Simpson and Bowles that couldn't pass their own commission, largely because the Democrats were shocked and the Republicans were nuts. And trickle-down, Trojan horse-bearing social Darwinism was once known as the Reagan Campaign. Hell, at the time he was St. Ronnie's budget director, David Stockman called the whole Reagan economic plan "a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate." And, not for nothing, but Alan Simpson actually is an '80's cliche.

So yes, Brooks admits Obama is correct and then proceeds to try to completely contradict himself, and fails at it.  Badly.  It's like he's his own Tao of Failure.  All he does is end up proving pretty much 100% that the President is right.

So, I guess I should be thanking Brooks for his own ineptness.  Good bad job, Bobo.

The Orange Julius Job

The White House noted yesterday that if Republicans were really serious about job creation, we'd have local and state governments hiring and infrastructure humming.  Since Republicans are serious about creating only jobs with the word "Chief" in the start of the title, that's not going to happen, of course.

Obama has long championed sending more aid to state and local governments and boosting infrastructure spending. These two areas received billions of dollars from his 2009 stimulus act in hopes of reversing the nation's freefalling economy. But Congress has resisted funneling more money to assist these sectors.
Since then, they have continued to lag, even as companies have ramped up their hiring. State and local governments have shed nearly 600,000 jobs since the recovery began in mid-2009, though they have recently stabilized. And the unemployment rate for experienced construction workers remains higher at 13.1% for the fourth quarter of 2011 than the national average of 8.3%.
Now is an especially good time to revamp the nation's infrastructure, which would boost job growth, Obama said. Interest rates are historically low, construction workers are dying to get back on the job, and contractors are competing for projects, coming in on time and under budget.

Seems like a simple prospect to me.  Sadly, since we now live in a totalitarian thugocracy where there is no rule of law if the President is re-elected, the House GOP will of course have to respectfully decline actually doing anything like this until we rid the country of all Democrats and usher them into a permanent supermajority which would be completely nothing like Obama's current crypto-fascist Hunger Games.

Hurry up, Mayans.  I'm getting a headache from the waiting.

Valley Of The Jolly Tech Giants

If you want a big clue as to why the JOBS bill passed so easily in the House, the Senate, and was signed into law in relative record speed, you can look towards Silicon Valley's new lobbyist clout.  Republicans certainly are, and they're making the pitch to multi-billion dollar tech giants like Google and Apple that Silicon Valley could join Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Ag in the DC money game...for the right price.

The software developers and smartphone designers may not agree with their guests on gay marriage or abortion, but they’re anxious to protect their businesses from new taxes and regulations. Republicans say it’s a natural fit: They’re younger than their Democratic counterparts in Congress, and they’re making better use of these companies’ platforms in the political sphere. Best of all, they don’t have to tailor their business message to appeal to Silicon Valley — they oppose new government regulations across the industrial landscape.

“There is a growing realization on the part of the players in Silicon Valley, in the venture [capital] community as well as the startup community, that the Republicans in Congress, and in the House, really do represent the next generation in terms of wanting to move the country forward in innovation,” Cantor told POLITICO in an interview.

In essence, Republicans are packaging themselves as the next great innovation for Silicon Valley: a plugged-in protection force pledged to defend private enterprise. It’s part of a sustained GOP effort to position itself as the party of the future, both for the industry and for the voters who use its products.
“A lot of us came out of a small-business world and are naturally sympathetic to startup companies, to capitalism, to free enterprise, to innovation,” said Walden, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

At the same time, the tech companies have been undergoing a political maturation process in which they are, for the first time, looking at Washington as a major battlefront, and stocking D.C. offices with new lobbyists — many of them Republicans — in hopes of staving off taxes and regulations.

Republicans may never turn a traditionally Democratic constituency into a Republican bastion, but there are signs that Silicon Valley is a little less blue today than it was just a couple of years ago.

Considering the billions at stake in the tech industry right now, and the burning issue of small donor funding for startups for Silicon Valley in general, Dems really didn't have too much of a choice in order to keep these guys happy.  Republicans know this, which is why they worked so many deregulation points into the JOBS act.  In return, the Dems and President Obama are leaving the final say of these new rules up to the oversight agencies in the Executive.  Republicans figure that when they get the White House back someday, they'll just eliminate that oversight altogether.

Unfortunately, that's how the game works these days.  President Obama has to play in order to try to win.  I'm certainly not happy about the JOBS act weakening critical small investor oversight, but I'm hoping other options in the Executive branch are available.  And you certainly can't blame Silicon Valley for wanting in on getting the green.

We'll see how it works out.

Remembering The Classics

Of course I love my LolCats.  I'm always making my own captions and even contributing here and there. But while organizing my files and archives, I found The Best One Ever.  This was the one that I had in every office since 2005.

My friends, today I share the saga of Karl.

Happy Caturday!

Science Awesomeness

This was one of those times when I just had to share the awesomeness I stumbled across. This is a caterpillar who will take petals from the flower it is on, and attach it to its back with silk. No matter where it may be, this little guy will be safe, and then come out as a beautiful, pale green wonder.

I love Mental Floss.  They are constantly filling my well of useless information.  This one surprised me, and answered something I had wondered about off and on for my entire life.  I learned that the reason your nose gets stuffy one nostril at a time is because your nostrils switch off and on.  You have a primary and a secondary, and through involuntary muscle regulation, they take turns.

I hope you enjoyed this bite-sized bit of science.  Now get out there and have a good weekend!

At The Chart Of The Matter

Steve Benen kindly presents compelling evidence to squish "the stimulus failed, this President failed" nonsense on jobs and unemployment:

Despite last week's annual revisions, the same metrics still apply: when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly.
And with that, here's the chart -- which reflects the revised, seasonably-adjusted data -- showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007. (Remember, unlike the monthly jobs chart, a lower number is good news.) For context, I've added an arrow to show the point at which President Obama's Recovery Act began spending money.

Stimulus happens, unemployment claims go down, and they've been decreasing steadily now for 3 years.  The problem is it took Bush roughly one year to cause the damage, and the expectation that President Obama could fix it by any means in that short of a time frame was ridiculous.  But even by November 2010 things were remarkably better by comparison.  Would have been nice if he and the Democrats in Congress who passed the stimulus had gotten a little credit then from the voters.

Would be even better if the voters gave them credit this November, yes?

Well Now Here's Your Problem

President Obama gave a speech this week to assembled Associated Press editors (among other news professionals) and cited obnoxious Both Sides Do It(tm) false equivalence in political media narratives as a contributing factor to the problems in fixing our broken government.  As Tim Murphy of MoJo points out, the inevitable AP fact check of President Obama's speech is rife with...yeah, you see where this is going, right?

President Obama delivered a fiery (as we journalists like to call such things) speech to a gathering of newspapers editors in Washington on Tuesday, chiding Mitt Romney for using words like "marvelous" and knocking GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan as "social darwinism." It was, by most accounts, a sign of what's to come from the campaign over the next seven months. Let's hope this fact-check of the speech from the Associated Press isn't also a harbinger of the future. ("It's not even 10 A.M. and we already have a 'worst of the day' winner," tweets Pema Levy.) The problem with the piece, by the normally solid Calvin Woodward, is that it doesn't really check any facts (inflated jobs figures, spending increases, that kind of thing). Instead, it suffers from a massive glut of false equivalence.

It's like the AP did this on purpose or something.  I give it Five Pinocchios On Fire!

As a candidate, Obama campaigned on a public option. Progressives were devastated when it was nixed from the Affordable Care Act—to the extent that some refused to support the final bill. Instead, Obama went with the market-driven approach favored by the Republican governor of Massachusetts. Why? Well, in part because Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley suggested there would be "broad bi-partisan support" for such a solution. Can you really knock someone for moving to the left when they started off on the left and ended up where the center used to be?
The fact-check goes on to rebuke Obama for accusing Republicans of wanting to toss out lots of economic regulations (something Republicans want to do) by pointing out that Romney himself doesn't want to literally eliminate every federal regulation—only a lot of them, including the Dodd–Frank Wall Street reform package, which was designed to prevent a repeat of the practices that led to the 2008 crash. But Obama didn't actually say Romney wanted to eliminate all federal regulations—only a lot of them.
A sense of nuance is helpful when writing about Washington politics—and nuance, incidentally, is something campaign speeches generally lack. But fact-checks are for objective facts, not subjective arguments about what does and doesn't constitute excessive deregulation. Pieces like this sort of defeat the point.

No, pieces like this have always been the point of "fact-checking".  PolitiFact and the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler do it all the time.  The entire point of stuff like this is to conflate objective fact checking and subjective refereeing and leveraging the credibility of the former to justify making calls on the latter.  Hence, we get "Even PolitiFact says X is wrong about Y!" when X is a subjective judgement call and not an objective fact check.  That is a cottage industry in DC, if not your raison d'être of being a Villager.  PolitiFact and Kessler are far from alone in this respect.

It's how we end up with "Lie of the Year!" and such.  There's danger in conflation like that, as anyone who might, say, want to ever see the tax dollars they paid into the Medicare system again would tell you.


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