Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wonder Why College Sports is So Corrupt? - Steve Alford and UCLA Are Exhibit 1

If People Break Contracts Of Course They Are Teaching Others to Lie, Steal and Cheat

The athletes who play college basketball are awesome.  The men and women who manage and control and exploit them, not so much.  Here for example is the story of Steve Alford.  Mr. Alford was a great player for Indiana coach Bobby Knight and apparently learned enough from playing for Mr. Knight that he became a pretty good coach.

Alford won a national championship while playing for legendary Coach Bobby Knight at Indiana. Alford has taken three teams to the NCAA tournament as a coach: Southwest Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico.

But like or dislike Mr. Knight, and there is a lot to dislike, he also had a tremendous amount of integrity.  As for Mr. Alford, that apparently is not something he learned.

Steve Alford
Steve Alford giving the finger to New Mexico - Okay, not the finger pictured

UCLA officials had approached Butler’s Brad Stevens and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart, who both passed on the job. Guerrero turned to Alford, who recently agreed to a 10-year contract extension worth more that $20 million.

Yes that’s right.  After just a few days ago signing a contract for $20 million to stay at New Mexico Mr. Alford signed a contract to go to UCLA. As for the players, they get paid zip and get to know that if they are successful Mr. Alford will back out of his new contract and go some place else.

UCLA said in announcing the hiring that Mr. Alford was perfect for UCLA.  Given that he walked away from a contract with another school that he just signed they may want to rethink that.

John Wooden he ain't.

Mitt Romney – Back to Being Just One of the Guys

One of the Guys with $250 Million of Course

Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney just doesn’t know when to keep quiet.  The candidate of high wealth wants everyone to think he really is just a regular guy leading a regular life.

Mitt Romney: Good to be ‘normal’ again

By KEVIN CIRILLI | 3/28/13 7:11 AM EDT
Mitt Romney isn’t missing the campaign trail, saying that “it’s good to live a normal life again.”

. . .
“But I have to admit, being able to go back to our own life and going to the grocery store and shopping on my own is kind of nice to be by myself without a bunch of people hanging around with me,” Romney added. “I like the life of being an American citizen. It’s good to live a normal life again.”

Mitt just doesn’t understand, people do not resent his wealth, but they do resent his attempts to act like he is just another regular person.  Or maybe Mitt thinks everyone has an underground garage in their homes to hold a fleet of cars that are brought up on elevators.  He might, after all that’s what all his friends have.

Go away Mitt, just go away and enjoy your massive wealth.  But if you really want to live like the rest of us, give away your money to charity and keep enough for a $50,000 a year income, that’s what the average family lives on these days.  Oh, you don’t want to do that.  We didn’t think so.

Remember How Conservatives Say Private Insurance Plans Save Money Over Government Plans?

Well That’s True if One Disregards the Data

A key element of Republican doctrine is that the government is inefficient at everything and that the private sector is better for everything.  Thus the thinking goes that government should get out of the health insurance business and leave it up to the private sector, where costs will be lower.

Of course none of the data supports such a position.  This is simply faith based policy.  And here’s another example.  Arkansas and Ohio are exploring whether or not the new Medicaid expansion could be done by using private plans.  But there is one small issue here.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the average annual cost of federal subsidies for private insurance for a low-income person at $9,000 when the health-care law takes full effect, while Medicaid only comes to $6,000. Arkansas lawmakers said they were working on their own estimates.

Oh, that.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Japanese Electric Company TEPCO Determines Rat Caused Cooling System Problem in Nuclear Facility

Well Of Course It Did

Japan is on edge about nuclear power, for good reason.  So when the cooling system in a nuclear reactor went down it made front page news.  But the good news, apparently Japanese power company officials have found the problem.  The rat did it.

The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, said when its engineers looked inside a faulty switchboard, they found burn marks and the rodent’s scorched body. The company said it appeared that the rat had somehow short-circuited the switchboard, possibly by gnawing on cables.

The company, known as Tepco, has blamed problems with the switchboard for the power failure that began Monday, cutting off the flow of cooling water to four pools used to store more than 8,800 nuclear fuel rods. It took Tepco almost a day to restore cooling to the first of the affected pools, with cooling of the final pool resuming early Wednesday.

Now none of us are nuclear engineers, but don’t you just think that maybe, maybe there should have been a backup system from something as critical as the cooling systems in a nuclear electrical generating plant.  Oh, maybe next time.

Bonnie and Clyde Move to Wall Street – The Exclusive Interview Here

News You Will Not Get Anywhere Else

[Editor’s Note:  After abandoning bank robbery and relocating to Wall Street the notorious couple, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow sat down with The Dismal Political Economist for this exclusive interview.]

The Barrow Gang, Before They Went Bad and
Moved to Wall Street

DPE:  Thank you for agreeing to do this, you know you have a reputation of shooting people who make you mad, so please bear with us.

B & C:  Well we have a right to you know, them Republicans have just been great in keeping those do-gooders from taking away our automatic weapons, bazookas and small artillary.  The U. S. Bank Robbers Association, of which we are charter members have already sent them a bunch of contributions.  And the best part, it wasn't even our money.

DPE:  But I understand you gave up bank robbing.

B&C:  Yep, just not enough money in it anymore, besides we found a better way to make big bucks, with nobody shooting at us.

DPE:  Is that why you moved to Wall Street?

B&C:  You betcha, heck on Wall Street we can cheat everyone out of tens of millions, or even more, and you know what happens if we get caught?

DPE:  Well I assume it’s a long stretch in jail.

B&C:  Where you been son, jail.  (laughter).  We don’t go to jail as long as we are doing it in the Big Apple.  In fact, we don’t even get charged with a crime.  The government says pay a fine, about a tenth of what we cheated folks out of, promise not to do it again and be on your way.  The hardest part, not giggling at them until we get out the door.

DPE:  But if you are charged with cheating, and even admit to it and pay a fine doesn’t that mean no one will do business with you?

B&C:  You would think so, but the more we get caught the more business we get.  It seems like people think unless you’re cheating you are not doing it right, not earning enough money.   In fact, a lot of times we have to alert the government to what we are doing because they are really not smart enough to catch us on their own.  The government always want to keep the settlement quiet, but we insist on the publicity, it’s like free advertising.

DPE:  Well sounds like you are doing well, have you ever thought about branching out and doing something like investment advising or running a hedge fund?

B&C:  (brandishing that gun the DPE was worried about).  Hey, what’s with the insults here, we’re professionals thieves, not a bunch of common criminals.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Republican Congressman Don Young Uses Ethnic Slur to Refer to Hispanics

But He Meant No Disrespect - It's Just Basic Prejudice

Conservatives try to run stealth campaigns, to hide their beliefs and intentions until they are elected and take office.  For example, they claim to have no ethnic bias against men and women of Hispanic heritage.  But every now and then the truth is blurted out.  Such is the case in an interview with long time Alaskan Representative Don Young.


Rep. Don Young on wetbacks' comment: I 'meant no disrespect'

Don Young is pictured. | AP Photo
Young went on to praise the role migrant workers play in society. | AP Photo
Funny, he doesn't look like a bigot

Rep. Don Young says he “meant no disrespect” when he used the term “wetbacks.”
“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” Young, an Alaska Republican, told a local radio station in a story posted Thursday.

Well we’re sure he didn’t mean any disrespect, or bias, or prejudice or anything else when he used the derogatory slur.  Just as we mean no disrespect, bias or prejudice when we refer to Mr. Young as “an ignorant baboon”.  Oh, to clarify, we mean no disrespect, bias or prejudice against baboons.

Note to Republicans:  Is this really the way to win Hispanic support?  Just asking.

J. P. Morgan With Coveted Industry Award for Massive Trading Loss – Really, This is Not a Joke

But Apparently It is to the Industry

The Dismal Political Economist does not believe that the news part (as opposed to the editorial part, or what is known as the ‘Fantasy Division) of the Wall Street Journal has much of a sense of humor.  So he assumes that this report on J. P. Morgan winning an award for its handling of its huge trading loss (($6 billion or so and counting) is a serious story.

The latest moniker for the "London whale" affair: award-winning.
J.P. Morgan Chase  & Co., the nation's largest bank by assets, added another notch on its belt Thursday night, winning an award for "best crisis management," the second time in three years it has taken the prize.

Yes, it would appear to be that the investment industry has honored J. P. Morgan for sustaining a massive trading loss.  Yes we know the award is for managing the problem, but the only way J. P. Morgan had a chance to manage the problem was because they created the problem in the first place.

The massive banks in the United States through greed, mismanagement and just plain stupidity helped created the worst economic mess since the great depression.  Millions of Americans, none of whom had any responsibility for the problems suffered greatly.  To the banks though, this is just one great big joke.

"J.P. Morgan Chase is winning for its handling of the $6.2 billion trading loss by the London whale last year," said the event's host, CNN anchor Ali Velshi. "I would say that's what you call making lemonade out of lemons." Kathy Hu, an executive director in J.P. Morgan's investor-relations department, accepted the award and quipped: "Can I just say, 'Crisis? What crisis?' "

Gosh Kathy, nice comment.  And maybe next year you can win for your handling of being named one of the biggest and most insensitive assholes on Wall Street.

And lest anyone think that the industry is lacking compassion, there is this.

The bank beat out fellow nominees Chevron Corp.,  which struggled with a refinery fire last year, and St. Jude Medical Inc., which battled problems with a heart device.

Well folks at Chevron and St. Jude, there’s always next year.  Maybe your inept, incompetent and avaricious management can manage to kill a few thousand people and then get an award for a great PR job explaining it away.  We’re rooting for you.

Reality Check Time in the Gun Regulation Debate – Sorry People, No Bill is Going to Pass

And No Eugene Robinson, It’s Not Harry Reid’s Fault

Reality bites, so they say, and the reality of the current debate on whether or not to add sensible regulation to gun ownership in this country is that after all the debate nothing will be done.  Whatever bill passes the Senate, if any does, will not be approved in the House.  The current posturing on the issue is for public consumption only, the idea is to look like legislators are doing something when they are not.

Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson
Opinion Writer

Harry Reid’s surrender

So it is disheartening to see an opinion piece by Eugene Robinson, an otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable person that condemns Senate Majority leader Harry Reid for the failure to have an assault weapons ban in the current doomed legislation pending in the Senate.

Shame on Harry Reid for killing any prospect of an assault weapons ban. I understand why he did it, but that doesn’t make it right.

Mr. Robinson wants the Senate to vote on the ban, to put Senators on record that they want to allow Americans to own assault weapons freely and unencumbered. 

The worst way to respond to the shocking massacre in Newtown, Conn.,would be to let political self-interest stand in the way of meaningful action. The parents of those 20 slain children deserve a vote on the assault weapons ban. The families of the 30,000 Americans who will be killed by gunfire this year deserve a vote. Bringing the measure to the floor of both the Senate and the House is the least Congress can do.

Exactly what a failed vote would accomplish is not clear.  Everyone knows who is opposed to banning assault weapons, just as everyone knows the vote to ban them will fail and just as everyone knows there will be no political repercussions against those who want every American to own an assault weapon. 

If Mr. Robinson wants to fume and rant on this issue, he should do so against the people who are the problem, Conservatives who feel that somehow the 2nd Amendment means that anyone can own a weapon designed for military action and designed to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.  

Former Idaho Senator Larry Craig Wants to Use Campaign Funds in His Defense

Defense of Criminal Charges Of Course

When he was still a United States Senator from Idaho, Republican Larry Craig was arrested in the state of Minnesota and charged with criminal sexual misconduct, the details of which we will skip over in deference to everyone’s sensibilities.  Mr. Craig’s legal issues with respect to the charge have been settled.

The Idaho Republican was arrested by an undercover police officer conducting a sting operation against men cruising for sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. An undercover officer said Craig tapped his feet and signaled under a stall divider that he wanted sex. Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a fine. After his arrest later became public, he tried unsuccessfully to reverse his conviction.

But getting a first class criminal defense act together is expensive stuff.  So the Senator decided to use some cash that was on hand.


Former Senator Craig - Aghast That He Cannot Use $200,000 in Campaign Funds to Fight
Charges of Sexual Misconduct - What's the World Coming To?

Craig contends that the airport bathroom trip fell under his official, duties as senator because he was traveling between Idaho and Washington for work, and therefore the legal fees could be paid for with campaign money. 

A Federal judge is skeptical

Jackson pointedly reminded Craig's lawyer, Andrew D. Herman, of his client's guilty plea.

"That had no connection to his duties, other than being in an airport," she said.

Jackson pointed out a letter Craig's lawyers wrote to the Senate Ethics Committee in 2007 describing Craig's arrest and conviction as "purely personal conduct unrelated to the performance of official Senate duties."

And everyone hopes that she will indeed rule against Mr. Craig.  But it is interesting to contemplate the solicitation of  campaign funds by people like Mr. Craig.  Here’s what it might have looked like.

Hey Republicans and supporters of family values.  Donate campaign funds to Senator Larry Craig and you too can be a part of his defense against criminal charges.  That’s right, Senator Craig needs your money and your help so he can stay out of jail and fight the long, lonely battles against Democrats, liberals, do-gooders, and other morally degenerate people on behalf of the decency that Larry has always held.  Larry doesn’t think he will get caught, but if he does he needs campaign contributions to bail him out so he can continue to vote against health care for low income people, halt protection for workers, fight pollution controls and the rest of the anti-millionaire agenda.

Yeah, probably something like that.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Another Astounding Fact From NCAA Basketball News – Involving Colleges Towson State and UNC Wilmington

And Another Reminder of the Big Business Aspects of College Basketball

As exciting as the NCAA basketball tournament is, everyone needs a reminder that this is really just a very big business, a giant of the entertainment industry who goal is the same of every big business, make a lot of money.  So the colleges that play big time basketball are constantly doing just what basic economic theory says they will do, they are trying to maximize profits.

So in news that matters to no one, except fans of the D. C. area college George Mason University, that school has announced it will leave the Colonial Athletic Association (who?) and join the Atlantic 10 Conference (which of course has a lot more than 10 colleges, just as the Big 10 does not have 10 members, Big East has schools from the west and the Atlantic Coast Conference has schools far away from the ocean).

But here is the really startling part of the story.

Only seven teams competed in the CAA tournament this month. ODU and Georgia State, which is headed to the Sun Belt Conference, were ineligible because they had announced their intentions to leave the league, primarily for football reasons; and Towson and UNC Wilmington did not meet the NCAA’s minimum academic standards. (emphasis added)

Really!  How is that possible?  How is it possible for a college to have academic standards so low that they do not meet NCAA requirements?  What do these schools do, have their the Freshman year the equivalent of  Pre-K?  Do they not have classes at all?  Do their academic building exists as drawings only?  Really, we want to know.  How can a school be so deficient academically that the NCAA, an organization that grasps for every last dollar and cares nothing about the academic aspects of its student athletes won’t let them compete? 

The Moral Bankruptcy of Those Who Led the U. S. Into War in Iraq is Led by Superhawk Richard Perle

And Even He Cannot Defend the War

With the tenth anniversary of the U. S. invasion of Iraq it is clear to almost everyone, even past supporters, that the war was a terrible mistake. It’s cost was horrendous, in the lives destroyed, both American and Iraqi.  Its monetary costs, which pale beside the cost in human lives was huge.  And the geo-political cost is still with everyone.  By removing a counter balance to Iran in the region, the U. S. freed up Iran to become even more belligerent, more dangerous and a stronger more determined foe.

But notice the response by one of the persons responsible for the war, Richard Perle to the question of whether or not the war was worth its costs.

Wednesday, Perle had the perfect answer to the inevitable question, posed by National Public Radio’s Renee Montagne.

Former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle
 (Greg Wahl-Stephens - AP)

“When you think about this, was it worth it?” she asked.

“I’ve got to say,” Perle responded, “I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn’t have done that.”

Actually Mr. Perle, it is a reasonable question and you can after a decade later say we should not have done that.  But we understand your reluctance to visit the issue.  If we had the massive destruction the war caused on our conscience we would not want any one to raise the question either.  So we understand, your lack of an answer is the only way you can live with yourself.

Los Angeles BBB Chapter is Expelled Because It Did Not Operate as a Better Business

Giving Hamas an A- Rating Maybe the First Clue There Was a Problem

The Better Business Bureau is a commendable organization.  The group does what government cannot objectively do, rate the quality of businesses with respect to integrity.  The BBB brand is very strong, so much so that the threat of a bad position with the BBB is enough to ensure integrity in many firms.

So the fact that the national BBB has expelled the Los Angeles chapter for taking money in return of good ratings is a good thing.  It means the national organization is at least trying to live up to its name.  The violations of the Los Angeles chapter have been well documented.

The Better Business Bureau chapter that predominantly served the Los Angeles area is no more. 

The BBB of the Southland was expelled Tuesday from the national organization, losing the right to use the BBB name and logo.

The move comes after a 2010 ABC News report which detailed the group's practice of accrediting new members and awarding them inflated ratings in exchange for cash.

And once again we have proof that the people who do these things in addition to be corrupted are also stupid.

In 2010, a group of Los Angeles business owners that had been critical of the BBB conducted a sting operation by paying dues for fake companies, including one named after the Palestinian organization, Hamas, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist group.

The fake businesses were all accredited and given ratings, according to the ABC News report. Hamas received an A-minus rating.

As for the reason Hamas got the A- instead of an A,  a spokesperson for the LA BBB chapter said

“Well we did have to penalize them somewhat and not give them a pure A rating since they are a terrorist organization responsible for murdering tens of thousands of people.  That's not very good customer service.” 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

With Cyprus Europe Continues Its March Towards Non-Lethal Suicide

Resolving a Crisis in the Worst Possible Way – Thanks to Germany

The crisis in Cyprus looks like it will be resolved with the equity holders, bond holders and holders of large deposits (greater than $140k) in one bank being wiped out, and equity and bond holders in another bank being forced to buy equity.  The large depositers in the Bank of Cyprus will exchange their bank accounts for stock, in effect being forced to invest in the stock of the bank.

Reality set in with respect to insured deposits, who will be kept whole.  The legacy though is a bitter and fractured Europe and a distrust in the banking system that will take decades to restore.  And when a banking system cannot function, an economy cannot function as Europe will learn in the coming months.

One of the really good economic columnists of the Financial Times, Wolfgang Munchau has it pretty much correct.

Few in Cyprus may agree, but the island state has got the best deal it was entitled to expect. This was not the morality play rolling across media bulletins that paint the country as an innocent victim of European highhandedness. It chose a high-risk strategy of living off a banking system far bigger than the state could support. Two years after Nicosia lost market access, the banks still have books seven times Cyprus’s annual economic output. Even proportionately small losses are unaffordable for the state to make good.

Yes, Cyprus got the best deal it could and

The relative victors are small depositors, who faced an unconscionable haircut, and non-financial business which was spared much worse chaos in a euro exit.

Had Europe arrived at this solution the first time, much of the damage could have been avoided.  But German insistence on punishing the people of Cyprus, an insistence motivated by domestic German politics made a problem into a crisis.  And the problem created by the inept crisis management is just beginning.  What a bunch of idiots.

Incredible – Justice Scalia Gets It Right at the Supreme Court

No, Not That Issue – An Unreasonable Search Issue

In an amazing, one might even say astounding decision Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion which affirmed that a person has the right to be secure in their home and free from an unwarranted search by authorities.  The question was relatively straight forward.  Can the police, with no justifiable or legitimate reason walk on to a person’s property with a drug sniffing dog.

Police took a drug-sniffing dog to Jardines’ front porch, where the dog gave a positive alert for narcotics. Based on the alert, the officers obtained a warrant for a search, which revealed marijuana plants; Jardines was charged with trafficking in cannabis. The Supreme Court of Florida approved the trial court’s decision to suppress the evidence, holding that the officers had engaged in a Fourth Amendment search unsupported by probable cause.

Now there was no way Justice Scalia, the champion of police powers and a judge for whom government can do no wrong against defendants was going to uphold the Supreme Court of Florida and rule that the police (and the dog) had no right to be on Jardines’s property.  BUT HE DID.

But when it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals. At the Amendment’s “very core” stands “the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental in- trusion.” Silverman v. United States,365 U. S. 505, 511 (1961) . This right would be of little practical value if the State’s agents could stand in a home’s porch or side garden and trawl for evidence with impunity; the right to retreat would be significantly diminished if the police could enter a man’s property to observe his repose from just outside the front window.

And yes, the outcome of the case, where a drug dealer was probably allowed to go free is deplorable.  But the outcome is not relevant to the law, the law is relevant to the law.  And had the policy simply waited for the accused to leave his house, and had they followed him and determined that he was dealing drugs they could have arrested him and got their conviction. 

So Justice Scalia came down on the side of the law, and not the outcome.  Police officials in Florida were visibly upset, but the dog later said the decision was the right thing to do, and that he was sorry to have been a part of an Unconstitutional search.  Elsewhere Porky Pig and a few of his friends were seen flying over the Supreme Court Building in Washington.

Suppose It’s The 1860’s – and No 13th Amendment – An Conservatives State Their Position on Ending Slavery

History That Didn’t Happen, But Could Have

Warning – Offensive Material Follows

[Editor’s note:  Given the posturing and position of Conservatives in the Gay Marriage debate The Dismal Political Economist wonders what the debate would have been like in the mid 1860’s if the Civil War had not occurred, the 13 Amendment banning slavery had not happened but the 14th Amendment guaranteeing due process and equal rights had been enacted.  He Thinks the debate would have gone something like this.]

Conservatives Argue That Prohibiting Slavery
Would Violate Slaveholder’s Freedom of Religion

Jackson, MS April, 1865 (AP).  A group of conservative religious leaders today argued that because slavery is present in the Bible, slavery itself is sanctified by God and the practice of slavery is a part of everyone’s right to practice religion.  The group, Concerned Religious Leaders for Freedom to Own Slaves said in a press release that everyone who believed in the right to practice their own religion as they see fit should be alarmed at the move to outlaw slavery.

“The Creator must have intended slavery to exist” said the release, “or else he would not have created it and made it a prominent part of the Holy Scriptures.  Anyone who denies the right of anyone to own a slave is going against the will of God.”  When asked how the slaves might feel about this a spokesman for the group said “Well they are heathens, you know, and not entitled to a religious belief that conflicts with the right religion.”

 Or something like this.

Conservatives Say Slavery Should be Kept Because
It Has Existed for Almost 250 Years

Charleston, SC June 1866 (UPI)  South Carolina became the 11th state to pass resolutions stating that since slavery has been a long and gloried tradition in the United States that tradition dictates that slavery remain in effect.  “The fact that slavery has existed since the 1620’s is sufficient reason to keep the practice” said the South Carolina statement.  “If something has been around that long then surely it must be meant to be.  To abolish slavery would go against what the brave men and women who came to this country fought so valiantly to protect.”

Or maybe something like this.

Slavery Supporters Reject Charge of
 Bigotry; Claim They Have
No Animus to Black People Just
 Because They are Inferior

Atlanta, October 1865 (Reuters)  Angry supporters of slavery rejected the charge that they were bigoted and prejudiced against Africans and said the charges were a slur intended to distract citizens from the real issue.  “The point is not our beliefs which are not directed at anyone” said a prominent member of Congress from Georgia, “But the fact that anyone of African heritage or descended from Africans is an inferior person, lacking much intellect and not capable of doing anything but manual labor” 

Or even something like this.

Americans Urged to ‘Go Slow’ on
Eliminating Slavery – Moving Too Fast
Could Upset Non Slaves

Washington August 1865 (AP)  A coalition of upstanding citizens today urged the United States to move very slowly in any action that would result in ending slavery and freeing millions of  American slaves.  “We don’t want to upset the free people of this nation by suddenly ending a practice that has stood the test of time” the group said, “and any sudden change in slavery such as making even a small group of slaves free might really bother the non-slave population.  It is their welfare we are most concerned about” the group added.

When asked whether or not the delays might perpetuate slavery and continue to make life horrible for the existing slaves the group said that was not the point, that slavery had been present for so long and was so much a part of American culture that keeping slavery for several more decades was the right thing to do.  Besides, they said we are sure the slaves won’t mind.

Yep, that’s probably how it would have gone.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Opponents of Marriage Equality State Why They Are Opposed to Allowing Same Sex Couples to Marry

But See If This Makes Any Sense?

[Editor’s note:  The post does not have the usual snarky attitude of The Dismal Political Economist.  We apologize for that and hope it does not happen again.  Also, we think he has exhausted the marriage equality issue and we have asked him to move on to other topics.]

The problem many of us have with those opposed to same sex marriage is trying to understand why.  Economists talk about externalities, which is where the actions of one set of individuals spill over and affect other individuals.  But what are the externalities involved when someone else gets married, regardless of who they are.  How does that affect anyone else?

A story in the New York Times clears up the mystery, or at least tries to.  The article presents the other side, and tells the story of those opposed to allowing same sex couples to wed.  And here is the explanation of the opposition.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Eric Teetsel, 29, is the executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, which describes itself as a movement of Christians for life, marriage and religious freedom.

“In redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, what you’re doing is you’re excluding the norm of sexual complementarity,” Mr. Anderson, the Heritage Foundation fellow, said. “Once you exclude that norm, the three other norms — which are monogamy, sexual exclusivity and permanency — become optional as well.”

The result, proponents of traditional marriage say, would be further rises in divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births.

Okay, so now we now what their objections are.  But the first point is gibberish, it makes no sense to anyone at least in the context of same sex marriage.  As for the other points, well now we have the externalities identified.  But identifying the externalities does not mean they exist.  There has to be a logical argument as to why same sex marriage decreases monogamy, for example, and there has to be data to support the analysis.  Both are lacking here.  The problem exists only the minds of those who see a problem, and in the minds of those who have animus towards gay and lesbian people.

It may not help the anti-marriage cause either, whose proponents say this.

“Proponents of same-sex marriage have done a fantastic job of telling the story of same-sex marriage through music and television and film, " said Eric Teetsel, 29, the executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, which describes itself as a movement of Christians for life, marriage and religious freedom. “I think it’s really a case where once they hear the other side of the issue, and really think about it deeply, we’re going to win a lot of those folks back.”

Because quite frankly we don’t think the above explanation, if that’s the best they got will do the job.  But everyone should welcome the other side to the debate, that’s what we do in a democracy, and everyone on the pro-equality side can afford to be generous.  We are winning, they are not.  And they seem to recognize this.

“Even if we are doomed, and I’m totally na├»ve, I think it’s important that I do this work anyway,” Mr. Teetsel, of the Manhattan Declaration, said. “If what I believe is true is true, then I’ve got a responsibility to be on its side for as long as I can be.”

Yes Mr. Teetsel, but if what you believe is false think about the horrible wrong you are doing, how you are supporting and encouraging bigotry and hatred. And the religious freedom you support does not mean the freedom to impose your religious beliefs on others.   Okay, we can note the sincerity and dedication of people engaged in trying to deny equal rights to everyone, even if we cannot overlook their hatred and bigotry but  wish all of that sincerity and dedication was dedicated to a decent cause.

Doesn’t Everyone Just Miss Him – Romney To Charge $5,000 to Donors to Hear Him . . .

Well, Hear Him Do Something

The ability of the human mind to forget is a problem most of the time, but in the case of Mitt Romney the forgetting just cannot happen too quickly.  Mr. Romney has had little public attention since he lost the Presidency.  Oh he went on Fox News to whine and complain, and he went to CPAC telling them he really, really was a true Conservative and not to make the same mistakes he did. 

But interest in public policy is not Mitt’s thing.  The Presidencial run was largely an ego trip, Mitt wanting to be President because he was entitled to it.  That he really had no interest in public policy is evident by his post election activities.

Mitt Romney is pictured speaking at CPAC. | M. Scott Mahaskey
Romney is asking donors to join him for a summit in Park City, Utah. | M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

The former presidential candidate sent out an email Thursday evening to bundlers and big donors, asking them to join him for a four-day June summit in Park City, Utah. The cost: $5,000.

This of course is just the natural follow up to his employment decision after the election.

Romney recently announced he was joining his son, Tagg Romney, and aide Spencer Zwick’s investment firm Solamere Capital. He will also be giving a presentation on the Solamere Founders Fund update following the first evening’s official program, according to the email.

But there is good news.

As we only have capacity for a small group of people to be part of this gathering, invitations will be kept to a limited group of industry and thought leaders.”

So it looks like The Dismal Political Economist will be unable to secure a seat.  As for Mitt, here’s a word of advice.  Try not to make disparaging remarks about the people who are not multi-millionaires and billionaires.  It didn’t go too well for you the last time you did that.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Remember How the War in Iraq Was Going to Turn That Country Into Our Mideast Ally?

Think Again

Our new Secretary of State, John Kerry was in Iraq recently to lobby that nation to stop indirectly helping the murderous regime of Syria from murdering (that’s what murderous regimes do) its citizens.


Kerry: Iraq helping Syria’s Assad by allowing arms flow

Video: Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced trip to Iraq Sunday. He met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, saying Iraq shouldn't allow Iran to use its airspace to ship weapons and fighters to Syria.

It’s not certain how this will turn out, but what is certain that those who advocated nation building in Iraq because it would produce a stable, democratic U. S. ally in the area were wrong, again. (and again and again).

Conservative Justices Decry Having the Supreme Court Serve as a Legislative Body – but in a North Carolina case, WOS v. E. M. A. Dissent They Do Just That

Because They Don’t Like the Outcome – They Seek to Change The Law

One of the many frustrating things about Conservatives is their lack of intellectual consistency.  When principles lead to an out come they like, they accept it.  When the same principle leads to an outcome they don’t like, they reject it.  On trial to illustrate this is the dissent in a just reported Supreme Court case, essentially the state of North Carolina vs. a disabled child.

The issue is rather straightforward.  The state of North Carolina has a law that says one/third of any settlement for damages must go to the state to reimburse it for Medicaid expenses, if Medicaid paid expenses.  There is a Federal law that overrules this, it says that unless the medical expenses were specified or identified, the state cannot arbitrarily take any money from the settlement. 

The decision of the Supreme Court, six to three basically said the law is the law.  North Carolina cannot override the Federal statutes.

North Carolina’s law is pre-empted insofar as it would permitthe State to take a portion of a Medicaid beneficiary’s tort judgment or settlement not designated for medical care. It directly conflictswith the federal Medicaid statute and therefore “must give way.” PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, 564 U. S. ___, ___.

and the case was so clear that even strong conservative Justice Alito agreed.  But for the other conservatives on the court, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas, allowing a Medicaid patient to keep money from a settlement went against their wishes.  So they dissented.

Here is what bothered the conservatives

According to the Court, however, because North Carolina’s law provides no “mechanism for determining whether it is a reasonable approximation in any particular case,” ibid., (emphasis added), it “directly conflict[s]” with the “clear mandate” of the federal Medicaid statute, and is therefore preempted. Ante, at 7 (quoting PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, 564 U. S. __, __ (2011) (slip op., at 11) (internal quotation marks omitted)), 10. This reflects a basic policy judgment: that segregating medical expenses from a lump ­sum recovery must be done on a case-specific, after-the ­fact basis, rather than pursuant to a general rule spelled out in advance.

But see that is exactly what the law says.  If the state wants to take money from a settlement it has to show it is entitled to that money, not just pass a law saying hey, one third is ours.  This is a bedrock principle of U. S. law.

So no, a state cannot just arbitrarily take a person’s money.  In fact, this would seem to be a basic principle that is a large part of conservative dogma.  But because the outcome in this situation went against what the conservative Justices wanted, they dissented.  They want the state legislature to have the power to arbitrarily take one third of a settlement regardless of any merits of that taking because this involved Medicaid, something poor people get.   

Ok, not a case that affects most of us, but a case that demonstrates the hypocrisy of the conservative Justices.  For that we thank them for showing, at least in this instance, what we all know to be true but sometimes have trouble illustrating.

Advice to NBC Executives – Don’t Get Into a Fight With Someone Who Has Millions Watching Him Every Night

If You Are Not Smart Enough to Avoid That – How Can You Run a Network

NBC has a lot of problems these days.  The network is fifth in the ratings, behind a Spanish language network and it is trying to shove its top rated late night host Jay Leno out to make room for the cool, hip, young and probably to be last in the ratings Jimmy Fallon. 

To make matters worse, some NBC execs complained about Mr. Leno’s jokes at their expense.  Bad idea.  Mr. Leno has a TV show watched by millions.  Nobody knows or cares about NBC execs.  So Mr. Leno has the insult field all to himself.

For example there was this.

According to a NBC transcript from Friday's taping, Leno said that he had dinner Thursday with a "bunch of NBC executives" who offered to make things up to him: He and his wife are going on an all-expenses paid Carnival Cruise, he joked.

And there was this.

In another wisecrack, Leno cited news reports of a Canadian man who had a knife pulled from his back after three years. Sniped Leno: "He must have worked at NBC, too."

And even funnier was this.

"You know the whole legend of St. Patrick, right? St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland - and then they came to the United States and became NBC executives," Leno joked on Monday's show.

On Tuesday, he played off a news report about a Serbian woman with a rare brain condition that causes her to see the world upside down: "Isn't that crazy? It's unbelievable. She sees everything upside down. In fact, she thinks NBC is at the top of the ratings."

Of course, it may be that the NBC execs are doing this all as part of an elaborate plot to get publicity for the Tonight Show.  But it they were that clever would they really be running the nation’s fifth rated network?

Michele Bachmann – Remember Her – Needs to Make Even More Outrageous Statements to Keep in the Public View

So, Here She Goes Again

Member of Congress Michele Bachmann is a creation of the media.  Ms. Bachmann made a bunch of outrageous, stupid, incorrect and highly provocative statements after she was elected to the House, and as a result the media fell in love with her and gave her substantial air time.  But the problem with generating fame by form over substance is that the fame is fleeting and the outrageous positions become normal, and not newsworthy.  The only way to recover the massive coverage is to increase the rhetoric, to make even greater inflammatory and incorrect statements.

So after losing the limelight Ms. Bachmann is back with a charge that the new health care law results in killing people.  Not figuratively, literally.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said on the House floor Thursday that Obamacare would kill women, children and senior citizens — “literally.”

“That’s why we’re here: Because we’re saying let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens,” Bachmann said. “Let’s not do that. Let’s love people. Let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can.”

Ok, charging that a law results in murder should get anyone back in the news media.  Which then raises the question of how Ms. Bachmann will top that.  Here are some possibilities

  1. People who support reproduction rights have died, sold their souls to the devil and have been reincarnated as demons.

  1. President Obama is a vampire and has signed a contract to star in a new vampire series of movies after he leaves office.
  1. Democrats not only want illegal immigrants to become citizens, and but also support making currently lawful citizens  re-classified as illegal immigrants.

  1. Any elector of the electoral college who voted for President Obama committed treason.

  1. There are 217 Communists in the State Department (She does not have to be original you know.)

  1. The Defense Department has a secret plan to use drones to put chemicals in the water supply of citizens that vote Republican.  This will turn them into zombies.

  1. Those who support gay marriage want to legalize gay marriage between cats of the same gender.

Remember, you read them here first.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Republicans Need for the Supreme Court to Rule in Favor of Gay Marriage

They Really Cannot Prosper if the Court Rules in Their Favor

In an odd twist of events Republicans and Conservatives have to be hoping that the coming Supreme Court decisions in two cases involving the legality and Constitutionality of prohibiting gay marriage will result in legalization of gay marriage.  This seems strange, given that Republicans and Conservatives, with some notable exceptions, are unalterably opposed to marriage equality.  But the logic here is this.

Acceptance of gay and lesbian couples as basic, decent, regular Americans by the rest of the nation is soaring.  Poll after poll is showing approval of equal rights for everyone, and now Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post shows us the why behind the polling.

The most commonly cited reason for the change of heart — offered by one in three respondents — is that they know someone who is gay.  Interestingly, that’s the reason Ohio Sen. Rob Portman gave for his decision to come out in support of gay marriage recently; Portman’s son, Will, told his parents two years ago that he is gay.

Other regularly-mentioned reasons for changing opinions on gay marriage include “grown more open/thought about it more” (25 percent), “it’s inevitable” (18 percent) and “everyone is free to choose” (18 percent).

Doc Sweitzer, a Democratic media consultant based in Philadelphia, offered another take on why attitudes on gay marriage have shifted.

“Here’s the answer: Television,” Sweitzer wrote in an email to the Fix. “It’s the greatest socializing tool of all time. Archie Bunker changed attitudes about race and the generational divide. Gays are portrayed in all kinds of shows in a positive light, from ‘Law and Order’ to ‘CSI’. They are shown as people who just want to live their lives.”

So as far as the eventual outcome on this issue is concerned, the issued is done.  The American people have reversed themselves and that reversal is permanent.  Equality has won out over those who would try to dictate how others lead their lives.  The conservative principle that people not harming other people should be left alone to live their lives has triumphed in spite of Conservatives.

Since Republicans and Conservatives cannot cause themselves to reverse their position and admit they were wrong, they need for the issue to go away, big time.  So the Supreme Court can do them a great favor by taking the issue off the table.  This will not cause the opponents of basic equality, decency and equal rights to change their positions, it will just make their positions irrelevant.  They can go on fomenting their hate, it’s just that no one will pay any attention to them.  And that’s what they need on this issue.

Can a Major American City in Financial Chaos Be Saved by a Financial Czar?

Detroit and the Rest of Us Are Going to Find Out

That the city of Detroit is a civic and economic disaster is not subject to dispute.  The solution is.  The current population of Detroit had replaced a scandal ridden government with one headed by former NBA star Dave Bing.  Mayor Bing has done remarkable good for the city, but the financial hole was so deep that the state of Michigan gave up.  Under Michigan law the Governor can appoint a person with almost unlimited power to run the city, and that is exactly what Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has done.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr 
doesn't rule out bankruptcy for Detroit.

Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy attorney and partner at the law firm Jones Day in Washington, D.C., was named Detroit's emergency financial manager, a role that will give him sole, sweeping power to map the future of the city of roughly 700,000 residents. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said he picked Mr. Orr for his interpersonal skills, legal and financial acumen and a 30-year track record of work on complex corporate restructuring efforts, including the 2009 bankruptcy of Chrysler Group LLC.

On paper Mr. Orr seems highly qualified.  And the fact that he is an African American should be positive element (although it really should be irrelevant, and one day maybe it will).  And Mr. Orr is approaching the job with some optimism.

Mr. Orr said he wouldn't rule out a municipal-bankruptcy filing by the city—which would be the largest such filing in U.S. history—but that he thought the restructuring could be done without one.

But the reworking of the city’s finances will take money, something Republicans are simply not going to provide.

Mr. Snyder has said there could be targeted state funding, but added, "The idea of bringing a lot of money into Detroit right now doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

So the expectation here is that the highly partisan Governor is simply setting up Mr. Orr and Detroit to fail.  So if the city does succeed and the state has not supported the new city manager, then the success will have come in spite of rather than because of the Republican controlled state actions.  But if success does come expect the Governor to take all the credit, and if failure happens, well Republicans will shoulder a zero amount of the blame.