Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Economist Magazine Wonders What if Mitt Romney Had Won – Sees Reform and Progress

 In Reality It Would Have Been Fantasy, Delusion and Catastrophe

The political gods spared, or at least postponed America’s tragic meeting of Republican governance and economic reality (see what's going on in North Carolina if there are any doubts about the disaster of Republican rule.).  But in a recent issue of the great British news mag, The Economist, their American columnist Lexington speculates (with help from the Romney transition team) what might have happened had Mr. Romney prevailed last November.  The writing is a mixture of falsehoods and delusions.

For example, there is this.

Michael Leavitt, the former Utah governor who chaired Mr Romney’s transition team, describes plans to deliver a “jolt of confidence” by showing seriousness in a few big areas. He would simplify America’s spaghetti-spill of a tax code. He would grapple with the deficit; expand domestic energy production; and reduce the role of government in health care by hollowing out “Obamacare” reforms. Success was to be measured by bosses releasing cash they were hoarding when Mr Obama was president, and rushing to join a Romney-led American revival.

Much of that wishful thinking revolves around what Paul Krugman derisively and correctly dubbed the “Confidence Fairy”, that business investment would be stimulated not by increased demand for goods and services but by ‘confidence’ in the national goavernance.

Here how this might be accomplished, according to the fabulists of a would be Romney administration.

Team Romney’s 200-day plans included immediate, 5% cuts to public spending excluding security and social payments (though more money for defence), a weakening of the rules that Republicans say favour trade unions, a squeeze on public-sector jobs and pay, and a global push for free trade. Mr Romney would also have proposed lower income- and corporate-tax rates, offset by closing loopholes. Abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency, a conservative dream, was not on the cards. But “personnel is policy”, notes Glenn Hubbard, Mr Romney’s chief economic adviser. Those chosen to regulate energy and tackle climate change would have weighed costs against benefits minutely. A long-term squeeze on welfare and health spending was a priority: wholesale immigration reform was not.

Okay, let’ see.  Cutting domestic spending by 5% would result in massive harm to millions of people and retard rather than stimulate growth.  Changing rules on labor unions is useless.  Labor unions have not been a factor in the economy for decades, their risk to the economy exists only in the minds of people like Mitt Romney whose collective consciousness resides in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Lower and flatter tax rates would have reversed the reduction in the budget deficit now being achieved by the Obama administration.  How that would stimulate a Confidence Fairy is unknown because it would not.  Lower spending on welfare and health care would have accelerated the division of America into two groups, a small one with massive wealth and a large one living lives of quiet economic desperation.

Still don’t believe Mr. Romney and his team were living on Fantasy Island.  How about this.

Romney aides wince at the comparison, but their 200-day plans sound like a Bain turn-around for America’s economy: a co-ordinated series of shocks aimed at impressing investors, but likely to startle and anger many ordinary folk. Democrats would have scorned it as a wish-list for bosses and billionaires. But Mr Romney believed his reforms would work, and work fast. Benefits would follow swiftly, in the form of private investment and job creation: persuading the wider public to trust in President Romney’s competence, if not to love him.

In truth the Romney plan has already been tried in Britain and Europe.  It has been an umitigated disaster.  Britain, France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal etc all provide evidence that cutting government spending and believing in the Confidence Fairy results in stagnant economies at best, and massive unemployment at worse. 

That is the future that a Romney administration would have brought, and that is a future that has been hopefully eliminated but probably just postponed.

Health Insurance and Health Care Evolving Into a Sustainable System

Why – Because It Has To

No economic news is totally bad or totally good.  The decades long news that health care costs are rising astronomically is terrible news, but the good news is that the cost increases are forcing the industry to evolve into a better system.  Yes the evolution is taking too long and costing too much, because public policy is not leading, but it is happening.

In the Washington area this is the look of the future.

In 2012, MedStar Health, like many large employers, struggled to keep up with rapidly rising health-care costs. For three years, the company held down premiums for its 19,000 employees by absorbing the increases itself.

Most employers would have had no choice but to raise premiums — in this case, by about $550 for a family — and cope with frustrated employees. MedStar, one of the Washington area’s largest health systems, saw another option.

It would launch its own health insurance plan, offering it first to its employees. Patients would be limited to MedStar-affiliated providers, and as a result, pay lower premiums. In time, MedStar could compete with the Aetnas and Blue Crosses of the world, offering insurance to the public.

“By putting in the new health plan, we had the ability to give them an option that actually allowed savings,” said Eric Wagner, a MedStar vice president. “People who enrolled in MedStar Select got a lower premium than they had the year before.”

Why didn’t the old system work?  Basic economics.

“They make their money by not paying for health care to be delivered,” Wagner said of health insurers. “We make our money by delivering care. There’s always been a natural tension.”

Had the U. S. moved to this type of system years ago, with competition among competing health care system providing assurances of good, low cost care, much of the inflation in U. S. medical costs could have been avoided.  But this would have taken people to recognize that the health insurance model was broken.  That was apparently beyond the scope of people’s abilities.  In some cases it still is. 

Republicans think that competition in health insurance will solve the problem.  They are not deliberately trying to wreck the system, they are just ignorant. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Poster Child for Split Personality – John McCain Has One of Rational Days

Maybe There Are Two McCain’s Who Move Back and Forth From a Parallel Universe

Anyone Got a Better Explanation?

Here is Senator John McCain commenting on immigration reform.  Close your eyes and you can almost see a reasonable person.

Quote of the Day

"Oh, I think they're terrible. But the consequences for the country are worse. Are we going to sit around -- 11 million people? Do you know how some of these people are exploited? You know, pick up a guy on the corner and have him work all day, and then say, 'To heck with you, I'm not paying you. Call the cops if you don't like it.' I mean, they have no protections of our law and our society. I'm no bleeding-heart liberal; you know that. But, my god, we need to resolve this issue."

-- Sen. John McCain, in an interview with 
Bloomberg, on the consequences for Republicans if the House kills the immigration bill.

Want to Buy A Seat on the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees – For Wealthy People The Seats are For Sale

And You Don’t Even Need to Live in North Carolina

Rich people claim they like to do a lot of public service, and a lot of rich people do a lot of public service.  But some rich people just like the prestige of sitting on a prestigious Board of a public institution.  Such is the case in North Carolina with its wonderful University of North Carolina.  If you are a Trustee you get wined and dined, great seats at sporting events and you can be sure your son or daughter doesn't have to get all involved with qualifications in order to be accepted to the freshman class.

Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis Auctioning off a seat on the UNC Board of Trustees

"I got $100,000, do I hear $110,00?"

Republican Speaker in North Carolina Thom Tillis, currently running for the U. S. Senate supported one person for the North Carolina Board of Trustees who lives in South Carolina (Mr. Tillis may have gotten confused about the Carolina’s.  The craziness of South Carolina Republicans has seriously infected their North Carolina brothers and sisters.)

Tillis also strongly supported G.A. Sywassink for the board, even after the Republican caucus rejected Sywassink because he lives in South Carolina. The House narrowly elected Sywassink after Tillis circulated a list of his preferred candidates that included Sywassink.

But more important for a Trustee of UNC to be living in North Carolina is giving money to Thom Tillis.

Sywassink, owner of a Charlotte freight company, had given $7,500 to Tillis’ campaign for the state House. In June, Sywassink gave $25,000 and Parrish gave $20,000 to the super PAC supporting Tillis’ bid for the U.S. Senate next year.

 But if one is a Democrat can one still get appointed?  Sure, it’s just that the cost is a little higher.

When his fellow Republicans questioned why House Speaker Thom Tillis backed a Democrat to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in March, the speaker had a simple reason:

R. Doyle Parrish had raised a lot of money.

“I would estimate he is directly responsible for more than $100,000.00 in financial support through personal contributions to my campaign committee and other candidates and through the Hospitality Alliance,” Tillis wrote in a March 21 email to House leaders.

But your sponsor may have to lie a little bit about your being a Democrat.

In reporting the results, The News & Observer noted that Parrish was the only Democrat elected by either chamber. Some House Republicans complained that they had unwittingly voted for a Democrat.

After reading the N&O report, Tillis responded with the email to his leadership team. He said he was embarrassed that he had led the caucus to believe Parrish was a Republican and that he did not know Parrish’s party affiliation. Tillis said he would have still sponsored him regardless.

And he sure would have, give $100 k to Speaker Tillis and you can pretty much get whatever you want.

And no, this is not a new practice by Republicans, Democrats did exactly the same thing when they ran the state of North Carolina.   It’s just that the Republicans are better at the hypocrisy than Democrats.

Jordan Shaw, Tillis’ spokesman, said Tillis was merely surrounding himself with supporters who share his vision. Shaw said the Board of Governors’ appointments took place in a rigorous and bipartisan fashion.

Shaw’s previous job was as spokesman for the N.C. Republican Party. When Democrats were in power, Shaw and former Republican Party chairman Tom Fetzer excoriated Democrats such as former Speaker Jim Black and former governors Mike Easley and Bev Perdue, who they said put North Carolina government up for sale to the highest bidder. Shaw said Republicans don’t.

“That is not how we do business,” Shaw said.

Actually Jordan that is how you do business.  So we are all waiting on your retraction.  Yeah we know, it’s a long wait. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Annals of American Idiocy – The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution

Celebrating All The Bad Ideas in American History, Politics and Economics

[Editor’s note:  There are innumerable writings about how great America is and what wonderful things have been done in this nation.  This is one of an irregular series whose topics are all of the things America has gotten wrong.] 

The U. S. Constitution is a wonderful document, a great call to freedom and equality, but that doesn’t mean all of it is acceptable.  Here is one of the worst parts, the 2nd Amendment.

Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Now the quarrel with the 2nd Amendment here is not about the right to have guns.  In America that right is so embedded in the national psyche that it would be impossible to eradicate.  It would be nice if guns were much better regulated, like getting them out of the hands of crazy people and getting automatic weapons out of everyone’s hands, but that is not the subject at hand.

No what the issue here is the language of the 2nd Amendment.  It is gibberish.  It is meaningless.  No one knows what a ‘well regulated Militia” is or is supposed to be.  How did the Founding Fathers want Militias to be regulated?  And does the right to keep and bear arms relate to a Militia or is it just a right in general.  And what exactly is a Militia?  And does the term "free State" refers to the individual states or the nation as a whole?

In short, Madison and Monroe and all those other great men really blew this one.  If they wanted states to have armies, they should have said so.  If they wanted private citizens to have an unlimited and unregulated access to every gun type imaginable, they should have said so.  Instead they left the nation with an unintelligible mess.  And the result, automatic assault weapons litter the nation and we all have to endure the NRA.

The 2nd Amendment – Another chapter in the Annals of Idiocy in America.

USA Today Story Highlights Republican Policy Cutting Off Unemployment Benefits In North Carolina

This is Not Republican Policy, It is Not Conservative Policy –It is Just Mean Policy

When Republicans took complete control of the North Carolina government they had a chance to show people what they really were and what they stood for.  And that is exactly what they are doing.  Here is what USA Today is reporting.

Unemployment snafus in states across the country aren't new or unusual. But North Carolina is unique because it's the only state to cut off access to the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), a program that gives unemployed citizens money after they use up their state benefits.

How bad is it?  Here are the details of what North Carolina Republicans have done.

Until recently, the standard limit for state unemployment benefits was 26 weeks. But five states have lowered that number to either 19 or 20, and Georgia has reduced it to 18. Arkansas and Illinois have lowered their limits to 25.
With the new state law, North Carolina's benefits end after 20 weeks.

What makes North Carolina's situation different, though, is the fact that the state government also reduced the maximum amount of money that unemployed people can get each week from $535 to $350. It's this change that cuts off North Carolina from the federal unemployment funds: states that change the average weekly benefit can't get this money.

About 70,000 North Carolinians have already felt the impact of the change, effective July 1, and an estimated 100,000 more are expected to face cuts in the next few months.

Why are the ultra conservative Republicans who run the state in an uncontested manner doing this.  Because they can, what other reason do they need?

In North Carolina the voters can be excused for not knowing what they were doing when they voted in all the Republicans.  Now they know.  If they retain that party in power after the next set of elections they are getting what they deserve.  But the unemployed are getting what they don’t deserve. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Forum Does the Unthinkable – Supporting Expansion of Walmart in Washington D. C.

It’s Not Like the City is Full of Virtuous Organizations Anyway

It has been a long time since the community battle against Walmart was over.  Towns and cities all across America fought the giant retailer in a futile attempt to protect local business.  The fight is over.  Walmart won.  Big power retailers almost always win.

But the local government of Washington (the nation’s capital, not the town in Pennsylvania) didn’t hear the news.  They are trying to prevent Walmart from entering the city, unless, that is, Walmart enters on the DC’s terms.

IT CANNOT be said that officials in Washington, DC lack confidence. True, the District has a jobless rate nearly a point higher than the national average, and over three points higher than neighbouring Virginia. But according to Vincent Orange, a city council member, the District is “at a point where we don’t need retailers”. Retailers, he claims, need the District.

The council seems eager to test this hypothesis. On July 10th it passed a bill requiring retailers with at least $1 billion in annual sales and stores of more than 75,000 square feet to pay their workers $12.50 an hour—over 50% more than the city’s minimum wage of $8.25, which is already a dollar above the federal rate.

The bill did not mention Walmart by name, but it might as well have. It does not apply to Walmart’s unionised rivals, such as Giant and Safeway. And it does not apply to existing stores for four years. That leaves only Walmart, which had planned to open six new stores in the District.

Now it’s not like Walmart plans to rob and pillage the nation’s capital (hasn’t that already been done by the House and Senate?). 

Walmart had tried to smooth its entry into the District by promising job-training programmes, transport projects and heaps of charitable giving. Other big companies can expect juicy incentives to move to Washington, but not Walmart. The Beast of Bentonville even refused to take a tax break to which it was entitled. It says its six stores would create 1,800 new jobs and generate millions in tax revenue.

And despite the wealth generated by the federal government, (that goes to the wealthy few)  the regular people in the city need jobs and need low cost shopping and need help.  So yes, Walmart is not a perfect employer and no they don’t want to pay $12.50 minimum wage and yes they do have alternatives. 

It has had better luck in Chicago: a wage bill similar to the District’s was vetoed by the then-mayor, Richard Daley, in 2006. As Vincent Gray, the District’s mayor, decides whether to follow suit, he might note that Walmart has just opened its ninth store in the Windy City.

But politics is trumping economics and welfare for working men and women in DC, it usually does.

Here’s a Great Idea Britain – Sell the Blood Plasma Operations to One of the Greediest American Buyout Companies

Doesn’t Everyone Want Critical Blood Supply Managed by a “Profit Above Everything Else” Bain Capital

This Forum is not a foe of privatization, that many government functions can be better handled by the private sector.  But processing blood plasma, which is currently done in Britain by its National Health Service does not seem like a good candidate.  The reason, private companies have a huge incentive to cut costs, cut corners, do anything to make a profit.  Mess up the blood plasma processing and you kill people.

But Conservatives in Britain are not willing to let public health stand in the way of ideology.

The Department of Health overlooked several healthcare or pharmaceutical firms and at least one blood plasma specialist before choosing to sell an 80 per cent stake in Plasma Resources UK to Bain Capital, the company co-founded by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in a £230m deal. The Government will retain a 20 per stake and a share of potential future profits.

At least one person who has the credentials to comment on all of this is appalled.

Lord Owen, the former Health Minister, wrote to David Cameron earlier this year asking the Prime Minister to intervene and halt the sale. “In 1975, against some resistance from those guarding the finances of the DHSS budget, I decided as Minister of Health to invest in self-sufficiency in the UK for blood and blood products,” he wrote. “I now believe this country is on the point of making exactly the same mistake again. The world plasma supply line has been in the past contaminated and I fear it will almost certainly continue to be contaminated.”

After hearing of the sale Lord Owen told The Independent: “It’s hard to conceive of a worse outcome for a sale of this particularly sensitive national health asset than a private equity company with none of the safeguards in terms of governance of a publicly quoted company and being answerable to shareholders.

And an academic, presumably an objective voice also weighs in.

Lucy Reynolds from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine wrote  an academic paper earlier this year strongly arguing against the sale of PRUK.

She said the Coailtion deal undervalued the company adding: "Plasma supplies have a long record of being operated on a not for profit basis, using voluntary donors where all the necessary checks take place. The difference with a commercial firm is that they will want to have as many donors as possible and be looking to secure large profits first and foremost.

"This amounts to the government abandoning UK blood products users to the tender mercies of the cheapest supplier."

And where will the newly privatized company get its blood supply?  Oh they pay for it at DCI centers.

Plasma donors at DCI centres in the US receive cash for each donation, typically around $25 for the first visit and $20 for any subsequent visit. People can donate up to twice a week.

So yes, in addition to everything else one can say about Bain Capital, now they are literally Blood Suckers.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Haliburton to Settle Charges in Deepwater Gulf Oil Spill Horror That Will Set a New Level for Disgusting Behavior

Disgusting Behavior by the Government Though

The Haliburton Company, the former lair of former Vice President Dick Chaney had mounted a vigorous defense of its activities relating to the huge explosion, deaths and resulting oil contamination of the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.  Now it turns out that Haliburton was really just a criminal enterprise, at least in regard to this situation.

The oil services giant Halliburton agreed Thursday to plead guilty to destroying evidence during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010, admitting to one count of criminal conduct and agreeing to pay the $200,000 maximum statutory fine, according to the Justice Department.

In a startling turn in the three-year-old criminal investigation, Halliburton said that on two occasions during the oil spill, it directed employees to destroy or “get rid of” simulations that would have helped clarify how to assign blame for the blowout — and possibly focused more attention on Halliburton’s role.

Notice that Mitt Romney’s assertion that corporations are people too is contradicted once again.  Haliburton is not going to jail; its employees are not going to jail, and a $200,000 fine is like a couple of pennies relative to Haliburton’s profits. 

There some good news though,

Halliburton, which has repeatedly denied responsibility and pointed fingers at BP, will be placed on probation for three years. It also agreed to pay $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation even if the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana does not accept its plea agreement.

The admission is likely to complicate Halliburton’s efforts to avoid damage payments in civil suits linked to the Deepwater Horizon spill. During the first quarter of this year, the company took a $637 million charge against earnings to increase to about $1.3 billion a reserve set aside for possible Macondo settlement costs.

Although again none of that money is really a dent in the company’s finances or the shareholder’s returns.  But maybe some regular folks will get a little relief.

So what’s the ugly disgusting part of all of this?  It is the statement of the government in the settlement.

Halliburton said that the Justice Department agreed not to pursue further criminal prosecution of the company or its subsidiaries and that the department “acknowledged the company’s significant and valuable cooperation.”   
                        (emphasis added)

Bonnie and Clyde
That’s right, the government is forced to acknowledge the company’s ‘significant and valuable cooperation’.  This is similar to other government statements where they acknowledged ‘Jack the Ripper’s significant and valuable cooperation in solving the murder of women in London’ and ‘Bonnie and Clyde’s significant and valuable cooperation in solving bank robberies’ and the ‘KKK’s significant and valuable cooperation in furthering race relations’. 

Look, people died in this explosion.  The Gulf of Mexico was heavily polluted with oil.  Thousands of people had their lives and their economic situation upended here.

The explosion at BP’s Macondo oil well on April 20, 2010, killed 11 people, destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and ultimately leaked nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

And now the government acknowledges a perpetrator’s ‘significant and valuable cooperation’.  Yeah that Obama administration really is anti-business.

Wall Street Journal Editorial on the Economy Goes to Flat Out Lying

And to Show Just How Stupid These People Are – Their Own Chart Is the Lie

A difference of opinion where both sides present intelligent arguments is always welcome.  And that is why an editorial from the Wall Street Journal is seldom welcome.  For example, here is the chart they show along with its title as part of their never ending criticism about the Obama economic policy.


Notice the title of the chart, that family incomes fall despite the recovery.  Then notice the chart.  Notice that there was a fall in family income, but that it happened because of the Bush created Great Recession.  Finally notice that contrary to the title, family income has increased during the recovery and become steady for recent times and is not falling.

So why print this chart.  Apparently the editors of the WSJ are too stupid to know what their own charts are saying, and think the readers are too stupid to notice that the chart does not support its titled conclusion.  A lot of stupidity out there firmly esconced in the editorial offices of the WSJ.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Even The Economist, a Great Magazine, Gets Taxes Wrong

No the U. S. Does Not Have Too High a Marginal Tax Rate

One of the problems with conventional wisdom is that it is neither conventional nor wisdom.  Take taxes for example.  Conventional wisdom says that high marginal tax rates discourage economic investment and economic growth, and thus are counter productive with respect to sound economic policy.  This seems so obvious that even highly respected journals like The Economist are prone to print that conclusion without any supporting evidence.  Here is what The Economist says in an article on tax reform proposals.

The Economist depicting the U. S. tax code

Both want to address the tax code’s two big problems. First, it is inefficient: it imposes high marginal rates on individual and corporate income, which discourages work and investment, 

Really, and what supporting evidence does this otherwise excellent article on tax reform provide for this conclusion?  Absolutely none, it is just presented as a given.

Now it is true that an overly high marginal tax rate, say 70% or higher would discourage investment and work, but the tax rate in the U. S. is not currently so high as to discourage work and investment.  How do we know this, two reasons.

  1. The U. S. has had much higher investment and growth in the past with higher marginal tax rates.

  1. There is no documented evidence, research or anecdotally that investors say things like “Gee, that a great opportunity but the taxes are too high for me to invest?”

But the idea, particularly among conservatives is that if somehow the marginal tax rate could be lowered all sorts of magical things would happen.  Oh really?  Take a look at the Bush tax cuts and their results, huge deficits and ultimately the Great Recession. 

Furthermore lower marginal rates will have a highly negative effect on both recovery from a recession and reducing the deficit.  Progressive tax rates are automatic economic stabilizers.  When the economy weakens taxes will fall by a greater percentage than income falls, cushioning the fall in the economy.  When the economy recovers high marginal rates will tend to increase revenue, move the nation towards a balanced budget and reduce inflationary pressures.

But as the newspaper editor in the Liberty Valence saga says, when the legend and the facts conflict, print the legend.

NYT Columnist Ross Douthat Defends Texas’s Abortion Restrictions by Comparing Texas to Ireland on Women’s Health

Is Ross Douthat the Dumbest Columnist Ever for the Times?

We Don’t Know, There Could be Dumber Conservatives Out There Waiting for the Times to Call

In order to defend restrictions on a woman’s right to choose an abortion, as opposed to the state dictating her choices New York Times conservative opinion writer draws on the experience of IrelandHis point, Ireland almost totally restricts abortion and yet women’s health in that country is good.
NY Times Columnist
Ross Douthat -
Did not major in logic in college

Meanwhile, international rankings offer few indications that Ireland’s abortion laws are holding Irish women back. The country ranks first for gender parity in health care in a recent European Union index. It was in the middle of the pack in The Economist’s recent “glass-ceiling index” for working women. It came in fifth out of 135 countries in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap” report. (The United States was 22nd.)

Now one interesting thing here is that Mr. Douthat admits that in order to make a comparison one has to account for other variables that affect outcomes.

But there’s a problem with these comparisons: They don’t compare like to like, or control for the host of variables that separate, say, sub-Saharan Africa from the United States and Europe. They tell us that underdeveloped countries are more likely to ban abortion, but they don’t tell us whether those bans actually hold back progress and development.

To prove that case, you would need to look at how abortion restrictions play out in a wealthy, liberal and egalitarian society. Here two examples are instructive: Europe in general and Ireland in particular.

And then goes on to make this utterly ignorant statement.

So if liberal fears about the Texas legislation’s impact are correct, one would expect the Irish ban to have produced obvious, disastrous side effects. At the very least, one would expect Ireland to lag in female mortality, health and economic advancement.

No Mr. Douthat, one would not expect that because in order to do a proper, or even credible analysis one would have to control for the thousand or so other variable that affect women’s health and economic achievement.  And one would have to account for the differences in health care system, in particular where the Texas situation is abysmal as far as health insurance is concerned.  As Red Foreman, one of the great TV dads of all time would say, “What a dumbass.”

But let’s play Mr. Douthat’s game.  It turns out that alcohol consumption in Ireland and Europe with all those abortion restrictions is much higher than that of the United States.  So using Mr. Douthat’s logic it must be that restricting abortion causes alcoholism.  So in addition to restricting freedom, imposing unwanted controls by government on women’s health and dictating medical practices Texas will also be creating a huge number of alcoholics with its new abortion policies. 

Well that’s the conclusion everyone would reach using Mr. Douthat’s logic, assuming that there was some logic in his article.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Iowa Rep. Steve King Explains Exactly How Republicans Feel About Hispanics – They Are Drug Mules

Exactly How Does This Help the GOP Attract Hispanic Voters?

[Update:  Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor have both come out strong against Rep. King. They are to be congratulated, albeit a little late.]

A politician in a safe seat is often able to speak more truthfully about what he thinks and what his party stands for more than a politician who is more vulnerable or more subject to national attention.  Such is the case with Iowa Republican Representative Steve King, who tells everyone exactly what the party position is on Hispanics.

Steve King is pictured. | AP Photo
King says he didn’t make the remarks to incite controversy. | AP Photo
Of course not, what could be controversal about what he said in Republican circles?

King’s initial remarks came in an interview last week with Newsmax. While discussing the DREAM Act, which would allow children brought to the country illegally by their parents to qualify for citizenship, King said supporters were incorrectly depicting the children as valedictorians.

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

Given a chance to backtrack on what is surely some of the dumbest, cruelest and most insensitive remarks anyone has made during the debate on immigration, Mr. King passed.

Rep. Steve King is defending his remarks that drew criticism from his own party leadership that the children of some immigrants were being used as drug mules.

“It’s not something that I’m making up,” King told Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson. “This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back and if those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people.”

And to be fair there was an almost unheard of actual criticism of Mr. King by a few of his party.  Here is what the leaders in the House said, and note that even Eric Cantor was apparently offended, and it is almost impossible for any conservative position to offend Eric Cantor.

“There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language,” Boehner said in his statement. “Everyone needs to remember that.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the second-ranking House Republican, said of King’s remarks: ”I strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants and find the comments inexcusable.” Cantor is working on a bill that would legalize young undocumented immigrants.

But this is all the leadership of the House will do, after all, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor are not going to continue to condemn someone who speaks for the large majority of the Republicans are they?

Forget the Budget Deficit – NASA is Spending Money to See if the Star Trek Warp Drive is Possible

Your Tax Dollars at Work

For reasons totally beyond the understanding of this Forum or anyone else, NASA seems to lead a golden life.  The agency is apparently free to do with its money whatever it wants, regardless of whether or not the expenditure benefits anyone.  Now they are trying to prove that faster than light travel is possible, not practical, just possible.

NASA - Now wasting money at the speed of light and
trying to figure out how to waste money at greater than the speed of light.
Harold G. White, a physicist and advanced propulsion engineer at NASA, beckoned toward a table full of equipment there on a recent afternoon: a laser, a camera, some small mirrors, a ring made of ceramic capacitors and a few other objects.

He and other NASA engineers have been designing and redesigning these instruments, with the goal of using them to slightly warp the trajectory of a photon, changing the distance it travels in a certain area, and then observing the change with a device called an interferometer. So sensitive is their measuring equipment that it was picking up myriad earthly vibrations, including people walking nearby. So they recently moved into this lab, which floats atop a system of underground pneumatic piers, freeing it from seismic disturbances.

The team is trying to determine whether faster-than-light travel — warp drive — might someday be possible.

Warp drive. Like on “Star Trek.”

Now of course NASA will say that they are spending very little money here.

For NASA, Dr. White’s warp speed experiments represent a rounding error in its budget, with about $50,000 spent on equipment in an agency that spends nearly $18 billion annually. 

But hold on, there is also this.

But it has made internal resources available for the project and freed up other engineers to assist Dr. White. It has also restored the pneumatic system in the laboratory Dr. White is using, to allow it to float. The lab was once used to test equipment for Apollo missions and has control panels underneath it that look like they belong in a fallout shelter that time forgot.

So altogether probably a million or two is being spent wasted here.  But why? And how does NASA get away with it?  The answer to the second question, NASA is based in Texas and the conservatives who would normally try to strike down wasteful spending like this control Texas.  So an attack on NASA is an attack on conservatives.  As to the answer to the first question, like space itself the answer is unknown. 

As for NASA, we didn't ask them but if we had we think their justificatin would have been something like this.

"If the United States does not develop Warp speed engines than we will lose the battle for the galaxy to the Klingons, and the entire American way of life will be threatened.  Our civilization depends upon us beating the Klignons and other outer space species.  Although there is no evidence to support it, we think the entire advanced civilization on Mars perished because they didn't advance towards faster than light travel.  Do we really want to be like the Martians?"

Yep, that's probably what they would say.

Virginia’s Radical Republican Nominee for Governor Wants to Criminalize Adultery –

If Democrats Cannot Beat This Guy They Ought to Get Out of Politics

Virginia Republicans opted to nominate their candidate for Governor in the only 2013 race that matters by holding a convention.  This was done in order to get the most conservative slate of candidates possible.  That was achieved.  The nominee for Governor is the Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who it is now reported said this about laws forbidding adultery.

Ken Cuccinelli is pictured. | AP Photo
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli -
Jailing Adulters - And Cracking Down on Fornication, Sluttiness and Impure Thoughts

Speaking to Richmond’s Style Weekly magazine back in 2008, Cuccinelli defended laws criminalizing extramarital sex, saying that such restrictions “ought to stay on the books.”

“Frankly it wouldn’t hurt to enforce them more,” Cuccinelli is quoted saying. The magazine paraphrased Cuccinelli drawing a comparison to “perjury inasmuch as the occasional prosecution or two would get people thinking twice.”

And here is what his campaign said when asked about the statements.

In response to an email from POLITICO, Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix said the question of adultery was not a major issue in the 2013 election.

“Ken Cuccinelli is someone who believes in and supports the institution of marriage. The campaign for the governorship in Virginia is about the concerns of voters, which include first and foremost creating jobs and growing the economy,” Nix said.

Not exactly a change of opinion is it?  Mr. Cuccinelli has a chance to win this race only because the Virginia Democrats are pretty useless, and have as their candidate Terry McAuliffe who has never before had elected office and whose major credentials are that he is a friend of Bill and Hil, and has raised gobs of money for the Democratic party.

So Mr. Cuccinelli could be the next Virginia Governor.  How this for a campaign slogan?

Ken Cuccinelli – Coming Soon to a Bedroom Near You, Maybe Even Yours.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh on Slavery From the FSA (Former Slaves of America)

Thanking Rush for His Courage in Standing Up for Caucasians

Offensive Post Alert!!

Editor’s Note:  Rush Limbaugh recently opined on slavery and the role of Caucasians in it.  No, its not what most people think when they consider slavery and race.

Limbaugh said that the “rest of the world” gets a pass when the “civil rights coalition gets ginned up.”

“Compared to the kind of slavery that still exists in the rest of the world and has existed, by no means was it anywhere near the worst. The Chinese, the Arabs, black Africans, in fact, we forget about it. Even American Indians were constantly warring against tribes, other tribes for slaves. You know how many wars were fought for slaves, to claim them?

My gosh, folks, the ancient Israelites were all slaves. The Exodus, the war, everything. There have been so many wars fought over this. Ancient Rome went to war to win more slaves. We’re pikers compared to the rest of humanity throughout human history.”

The conservative host argued that since slavery was a main catalyst for the Civil War, Caucasian Americans actually transcended other races by fighting a war to end slavery.

“Despite all that, no other race has ever fought a war for the purpose of ending slavery, which we did.  Nearly 600,000 people killed in the Civil War. It’s preposterous that Caucasians are blamed for slavery when they’ve done more to end it than any other race, and within the bounds of the Constitution to boot. And yet white guilt is still one of the dominating factors in American politics.  It’s exploited, it’s played upon, it is promoted, used, and it’s unnecessary.”

While most people might be highly offended at this, it turns out the largest organization of former slaves, the FSA is quite supportive of Rush and penned this letter to him.

The Organization of Former Slaves of America
118 E. 22nd Street
Washington D. C.  12034

We Report the Myths of Slavery - You Decide

Mr. Rush Limbaugh
Theodore Bilbo Drive
Whiteflight, Florida  50324

Dear Rush:

As the largest group of actual former slaves (all of our members must have been in bondage for at least five years) we wanted to applaud your stand on supporting Caucasians and their role in ending slavery.  Far too many people blame the Caucasian race for establishing a slave culture in America that lasted almost 250 years.  They overlook the good things about slavery and instead focus on the fact that Caucasians transported slaves from Africa in boats that killed a great many of them, sold them at auction, separated families and forced men, women and children to live and work in abject conditions for all of their lives.

But thanks to Caucasians millions of Africans and their descendants got to participate in the revered and historic institution of slavery which as you point out goes back thousands of years, and includes such people as the Israelites (until Moses ill advisedly intervened).  Without the intervention of slavery our members would have had to live under horrible conditions in Africa all of their lives, instead of the life on the beautiful plantations. Plantation or jungle, not a difficult decision of where to reside is it?

A large number of our fellow former slaves and descendants of former slaves should not only be grateful that you Caucasians fought a war to end the slavery that you started, but they should also recognize that after that Civil War you kept the former slaves and their descendants from integrated education and from voting.  By forcing us to live among our own kind and have officially segregated facilities you made it possible for all of us former slaves and our offspring to realize what being black in America really meant.  

The fact that after World War II it was a Caucasian President, Harry S Truman who ended segregation in the armed forces is not taught in public schools, where instead the focus is on minor things like lynching.  In fact, one of the great injustices of history is blaming Caucasians for all of the lynching that took place after the Civil War up until the 1950’s. 

Since no person was ever even accused of lynching, it is impossible to say that these were Caucasians, yet they are the ones who are blamed.  It is entirely possible that all of the lynching was done by done by Eskimos or Australian Aborigines.  We just don’t know, but that doesn’t stop people other than yourself from putting the blame squarely on Caucasian even though history does not record a single conviction of a Causcasian for lynching.   We hope this will be a theme sometime soon on your broadcast.

There is little our organization can do for you, as most of our funding is used to provide retirement benefits for ex-slaves. The plantation owners did have a very generous 401k  plan with matching contributions for older slaves, at least the ones that survived past 70 (another fact that is not reported by the liberal anti-Caucasian press but one we hope you and others of your ilk will publicize) but they invested the funds in Confederate war bonds.  But we do have some money set aside for special purposes.  So we would like to sponsor you and pay for a lifetime membership in the Klu Klux Klan.  No need to thank us, we just think a person like yourself should be among his peers.


The Board of Directors

Former Slaves of America, Inc. 
A 501 (c) (4) Corporation funded in part by the Koch Brothers and listeners  like Rush Limbaugh

Nate Silver is Leaving the NYT and Going to ESPN

About the Worst News Ever of a Non-Critical Nature

Nate Silver is the dean of the statisticians who use that science to analyze and forecast elections trends and results.  He started out as a sports statistician, set up his own political blog and then signed on with the New York Times.  Now he is moving to ESPN.

Nate Silver, the statistician who attained national fame for his accurate projections about the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, is parting ways with The New York Times and moving his FiveThirtyEight franchise to ESPN, the sports empire controlled by the Walt Disney Company, according to ESPN employees with direct knowledge of his plans.

As the father of the hopefully soon to be defeated primary candidate for the Senate from Wyoming would say, this sucks, big time. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Loose Banking Regulation – Yes Mr. Obama We Are Talking About You – Allows Banks to Buy Commodities Companies

A Lesson That Has to be Learned Again and Again – Banks Need to Stick with Banking

In the 1930’s Federal legislation called the Glass Steagall Act forced commercial banks to stay pretty much in the commercial banking business.  The reason for this special treatment of regulating banks as opposed to other companies is that a strong healthy banking system is critical to a strong healthy economy.

But thanks to conservatives and in this case a lot of liberals, regulation got a bad name.  Despite the fact that the New Deal regulations cleaned up the banking industry, starting in the 1970’s banks said they had learned their lessons and de-regulation started.  The results were an S & L crisis and most recently the Great Recession. 

Now we learn that the so-called regulation heavy Obama administration has loosened regulations so banks can get into the commodities speculation business.

Only a tenth of a cent or so of an aluminum can’s purchase price can be traced back to the strategy. But multiply that amount by the 90 billion aluminum cans consumed in the United States each year — and add the tons of aluminum used in things like cars, electronics and house siding — and the efforts by Goldman and other financial players has cost American consumers more than $5 billion over the last three years, say former industry executives, analysts and consultants.

The inflated aluminum pricing is just one way that Wall Street is flexing its financial muscle and capitalizing on loosened federal regulations to sway a variety of commodities markets, according to financial records, regulatory documents and interviews with people involved in the activities.

The maneuvering in markets for oil, wheat, cotton, coffee and more have brought billions in profits to investment banks like Goldman, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, while forcing consumers to pay more every time they fill up a gas tank, flick on a light switch, open a beer or buy a cellphone. In the last year, federal authorities have accused three banks, including JPMorgan, of rigging electricity prices, and last week JPMorgan was trying to reach a settlement that could cost it $500 million.

Using special exemptions granted by the Federal Reserve Bank and relaxed regulations approved by Congress, the banks have bought huge swaths of infrastructure used to store commodities and deliver them to consumers — from pipelines and refineries in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas; to fleets of more than 100 double-hulled oil tankers at sea around the globe; to companies that control operations at major ports like Oakland, Calif., and Seattle.

Read closely, banks are accused of acting illegally, unethically and manipulating markets.  Gee who would have expected that.

So the U. S. is going to have to learn its lessons, again and again and again.  If this nation does not closely regulate banking it will have a succession of Great Recessions.  A smart nation would learn from the 2007 horror.  The United States is going to need a few more banking crises, maybe even a lot more.

Now That the Voting Rights Law Has Been Gutted by the Supreme Court

North Carolina Joins Other Republican Controlled States in Gutting Voting Rights

One difference between Conservatives and the rest of us is that the rest of us see elections as a fair fight, and that the right to vote should not be obstructed in order to win elections.  Conservatives see their cause as so righteous, so correct, so ordained by the Deity that any tactics can be employed.

So now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Voting Rights bill is partly unconstitutional (namely the part that actually protects voting rights) Republicans are rushing to make voting harder and more difficult for groups of voters they see as inimical to Republicans.  In North Carolina, where the GOP is giddy with new acquired power there is this.

RALEIGH — Resurrecting one of the legislative session’s most contentious issues, Senate Republicans unveiled a new voter ID bill Thursday that would further restrict the forms of photo identification accepted at the polls.

The new measure would require voters to show one of seven types of photo identification issued by the government, such as driver’s licenses, passports, non-driver IDs and military or veteran cards.

It eliminates about half the types of photo identification allowed under the House version, including cards from UNC system colleges, state community colleges, local governments, private employers and law enforcement agencies. The bill would take full effect in the 2016 elections.

Although there were rumors that Republicans planned to exempt any voter ID requirements for persons who could show they were voting the straight Republican ticket, these proved to be unfounded as Republican leaders stated that they felt reducing the number of voters likely to vote Democratic would be enough to allow them to win elections they might otherwise lose.