Sunday, December 26, 2010

Education as the boogeyman

Last week Jack Kelly claimed everyone hates "Obamacare" (well a majority of right thinking people hate it) and that it costs too much and takes away our freedom. This week Kelly is going after education; it costs too much and yields to little reward for people who study humanities or social sciences. This is an issue that strikes close to home, as my Dad is a retired math professor and I work at a local University. Now, I will say that in some respects I agree with him, but mostly Mr Kelly is full of ... well, you know.

There are funny meta-aspects to Kelly's argument, which I will get to after saying far too much. He says that since 1981 the cost of colleges/Universities has increased "sixfold", while the Consumer Price Index has only increased 2 and a half fold. What's interesting to me about that is that since 1981 a Republican has been in the White House for twenty of the last twenty nine years. Now Jack Kelly writes an essentially political column, so one would assume Kelly thinks this is a political problem, with political solutions. So why have the Republicans been so mean to college students (or allowed colleges to be so greedy)? Of course, indeed if the government stopped providing (or insuring or whatever) college grants and loans and tax credits, undoubtedly only the rich would go to college. And many colleges would cut back and many would close up shop all together. This apparently would suit Kelly just fine.

Now, for myself, the job I do could absolutely be done by someone who does not have a college degree. But they hired someone with a degree over all other applicants (me), which is the trend these days in a number of jobs. I suspect (although I do not know) that many of my work colleagues who have been on the job for twenty years or more do not have degrees, but all the more recent hires do seem to have them.

Part of my job involves verifying receipts and insuring that purchases are legitimate ones, following accounting rules. I am only part of that mechanism, and if I wanted to cheat the University (and the taxpayers and students and donors), I would have to enlist the help of several people, some who I know only barely. I would like to think that my college degree also makes me a more conscientious employee, one who is better able to see the big pictures as I perform smaller tasks. But I am probably not working all the way up to my potential, so I might be the poster child for Kelly's argument.

Except that I am working at a University, where we are supposed to be fleecing the public. Well, I have good hours, good benefits, a comfortable office, a gym I can workout at, good (but not great) vacation benefits. If I take classes, the tuition is free, but at the graduate level the taxes on that tuition are literally supposed to be crushing. And to be clear, my pay does not reflect the fleecing part. My dad, the math professor, received what one might call comfortable wages. I suspect he made as much as a plumber or an electrician, maybe a tad more, maybe a tad less.

It is true that the costs of Colleges, Universities and technical schools such as the Art Institute, Kaplan/ITT something or other and Rosedale Tech have all increased. There are two aspects to the increase, in my opinion. One is the commitment the government and sometimes the nation made to helping level the playing field for minorities, and the other is Bill Clinton.

During the seventies I think that there was an increase in both minority scholarships and assistance for low income people in general, which might well
disproportionately benefit minorities (who have higher rates of poverty). And Bill Clinton greatly subsidized higher education through new tax credits for attending school. And since the seventies, I think the government system of guaranteeing student loans has also increased the number of people attending higher ed of one form or another.

This is all related to what Kelly was getting at, that everyone has to admit higher ed costs have gone up. I will say he is wrong that educators and administrators are making out like bandits. But schools have gone on a property buying spree (probably more expensive during the bubble), and tried to sock money into endowments (consisting of investments ... uh oh).

But here's the thing. I think Kelly's argument that people with non science degrees are not getting the benefit of their degree by taking lower skilled jobs overlooks the fact that many companies are choosing to hire college in preference to high school grads, even if the job doesn't require the degree. And the college grads can advance, where the high school grad might not be able to (unless they use Clinton type tax credits to get the degree @ night). So although it is not an ideal situation, the reality on the ground is that if a person takes Kelly's apparent advice, saves money and does not have a degree, (s)he may lose in the competition even for the jobs that ostensibly don't require a degree.

But there are two further issues. As I have mentioned before, the unemployment rate for people without a high school degree is 15%, for those who have only a high school degree the rate is 10%, while for those with a college degree the rate is 4.5% (I am not sure for those with an associates or "some college/university"). Having a degree means that it should be easier to get at least some job, if you try, while not having a degree makes that much more problematic.

And of course we know that the unemployment rates for young African-Americans are often much higher, although I suspect having the degree makes an even bigger difference there. I wonder if that is something Kelly has taken into consideration when seeming to recommend young people not get degrees. His suggestion could set one or even two generations back, considering how little progress has really been made in achieving equal rights for the vast majority of African Americans.

Now, anyone who reads this blog knows I have linked Kelly to the Tea Party movement. Unfortunately, the semi-racist narrative I described above fits with the views of at least some Tea Partiers. But there is an additional ominous element here. The Tea Party "declaration of independence", which presumably some number, possibly a majority or even all Tea Partiers agree with, includes a line complaining that the government is trying to bankrupt the country using socialist schemes so that the peasants will have to beg for sustenance from self styled "educated classes" and so-called "experts". There is also an line about the Tea Party rejecting "transformational change" performed on the nation by (as they put it) smug elites who call them "educated classes".

I believe the Tea Party has made it's position clear on intellectualism and education. So why should I not believe Kelly is subtly advancing the Tea Party position even while claiming to look out for the interests of young people. And as side consequence, out and out torpedoing the chances for employment of young African Americans and other disadvantaged minorities. Which is the final meta-aspect to Kelly's column for me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Want to die?

Jack Kelly would like you to risk death so that he can keep some tiny measure of freedom that he doesn't need anyway. Today in his column, Kelly tells us a federal judge in Virginia struck a blow for freedom; also the often partisan Rasmussen polling organization found that when they ask the questions, Americans don't like "Obamacare".

The thing is (and I can't believe I have to say this again), health care reform is good for everyone in almost every way you look at it. When the uninsured poor go to the emergency room (as George Bush obliviously suggested they do), they literally face bankruptcy, and since hospitals don't have to admit people without insurance, they simply have to stabilize them, going to the emergency room does not necessarily solve health problems. But of course past that, there is that bankruptcy (whatever loans and credit card debt being swept into the un-payable healthcare debt), the higher costs hospitals charge to address unpaid bills, the absenteeism, the loss of potential productive labor to untreated illness and possible death. By the way, as a PG employee, I suspect Kelly has perfectly good health care benefits, which I am strongly suspect he would be unwilling to give up as a matter of principle (Go ahead, Mr Kelly, prove me wrong).

Now I will grant you that the wealthy enjoy a great health care system, possibly the best in the world. If adding health-care insurance for those without it and adding new regulations about whose coverage can be canceled and also limiting lifetime maximums mean that the health care of the wealthy would suffer, I can understand why they (and thus the Republicans) would object. But as far as I can see, the only way the wealthy suffer is if the small (or large) business they own has to buy health insurance for their (low level) employees (which they could make those employees pay a huge portion of). I assume these are low paid employees like cleaning or clerical staff in law firms or medical practices, employees who see how much the professionals are making in profits. If it is suffering to provide employees with a benefit that you yourself enjoy, and would help keep them at work and not bankrupt, then I think a little suffering is in order.

So (noted constitutional scholar) Kelly spends time giving us his (actually the Tea Party's) view of the commerce clause of the constitution. Of course, the Supreme's have shown the ability to accommodate the modern world in their rulings (Scalia: handguns are constitutional because you can hold a handgun in your other hand); so I think the idea of balancing economic needs with the constitution is not beyond them (unless they start getting death threats from Tea Party members).

Kelly also whines about costs (ignoring the cost of no health care reform to the country in terms of both dollars and lives), and Kelly emphasizes that 222 waivers from health care provisions have been granted to various entities including "many to labor unions that fought for passage of the bill". Kelly states that more than a million workers have been exempted, says this a lot, but tellingly he doesn't say what the waivers are for. Are they for minor provisions? Is Kelly saying that the only good laws are ones with no flexibility (the kind of laws republicans like are the ones they can force down everyone's throats)?

At least smart Republicans are talking about alternatives, though not Tea Party types. Again tellingly, Kelly offers not a word about alternatives to Obamacare, he only cackled about what he thinks is momentum against it. Of course, the Republicans/Tea Party have been fairly successful in turning their stories (which sometimes could be characterized as out and out lies) into some people's view of reality (see Two Political Junkies).

Monday, December 13, 2010


I am still turning Wikileaks over in my mind.

I suspect some people will now choose not to defend Wikileaks because Julian Assange is accused of rape. Except that I think what he is really accused of is consential sex gone bad. The two women he had sex with went with him willingly, undressed and started the process (so to speak) willingly. At some point in one case a condom broke and in the other the woman wanted to stop and Assange didn't. So, I don't think you can call Assange some sort of sexual predator, although I would be willing to stipulate Assange is an asshole of a Bill Clinton degree.

The point is, though, whether Assange's character has anything to do with whether the cables in the latest Wikileaks release are true or not. It puts me in mind of the ACLU defending Nazis (or the KKK) having marches. As long as the Nazis don't violate any laws, don't throw rocks or firebomb synagogues, you kind of have to let them march. That's because you want to make sure that the government couldn't use anti-Nazi rally rules to silence anti war or anti racism protesters. Yet that effort by the ACLU was what has really done them in as a national organization.

So too, I gather American politicians (most notably Hilary Clinton) have been screaming that the Wikileaks release will destroy our ability to conduct diplomacy. I say that being able to say one thing publicly and another privately between government employees and politicians is what gets us bad policy and even into wars. There was one politician I had met years ago and had the rare opportunity to ask him first if he knew protectionist steel policy was bad for the economy (he did) and then why he supported it. He basically admitted it was for the votes (a politician being kind to a student intern). My point being that if more politicians (and for that matter economists) told the truth as they understand it, we would be less happy in the short run but maybe much happier in the long run.

This Wikileaks release exposes the fact that our diplomats don't think much of some politicians in some government, that we spy even on allies as a matter of course, and that some of our allies privately want us to do things they won't admit to wanting publicly. And Yeman agreed to claim credit for things we did. Whoopee.

This release has nothing to do with the much more important financial industry situation, where the industry is fighting many reforms, and many, perhaps most politicians are assisting the financial industry. In other words, this Wikileaks has nothing to do with the most important issues facing us, yet some politicians and some of the media act as though it is the Apocalypse (and almost all the rest talk about it with a sneer).

I suppose that's the point. Wikileaks is a wedge into a world outside our view. With that wedge, we can do one of two things. We can put in more wedges at other places in that shadowy world, or we can kick the Wikileaks wedge out, and forget we ever saw anything.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kelly's Hero

So, I guess there is a new thing in the world: the Jack Kelly Presidential fantasy scenario. Kelly is trying to be a calm, rational prognosticator, to help us by noticing things we may have missed, and guiding us to their true meanings. He identifies Michael Bloomberg as a possible candidate for President. He notes Bloomberg's contempt for Republican voters and the current Democratic President. And Kelly notes that if Bloomberg ran, he would hurt a candidate like Mitt Romney most, perhaps because he and Romney are similar in being wealthy and regarded as intelligent. According to Kelly, Bloomberg would hurt Sarah Palin the least, because Bloomberg is more like Obama than he is like Palin. So ipso facto if the Republicans want to retake the White House and Bloomberg runs, then they should nominate Palin

The helpful Jack Kelly, pretty much proving what I have been saying about how he wants to get involved with and shill for the Tea Party (two words he never says once in today's column; did he think he could fool us). To be sure, Ralph Nader had a majorly bad effect on Al Gore's campaign and probably cost him the election. Still, I would be shocked if Palin made it past the first hurdle, getting nominated as the candidate. It would prove all the negative things that have somewhat jokingly said about the Tea Party and the Republicans were in fact true.

By the way, I skipped last week's column (I guess I just wasn't in the mood). It wasn't as political as usual, more of a defense oriented column. Kelly thinks we should leave South Korea to defend itself. I disagree, I think defending South Korea continues to send a positive message to the rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


One of the stories I have let sail past me is the Wikileaks story. This issue strikes right at the heart of the sorts of cognitive dissonance we live with now. Which is to say one of, perhaps the biggest, disappointments with the Obama administration has nothing to do with increasing the deficit to stimulate the economy, or health care. That disappointment is the large scale continuation of business as usual in the executive branch. Now, the current Afghan surge is possibly part of that situation (that is sort of ambiguous), but the sorts of things revealed in the Wikileaks dump clearly is. Without having gone through them, I gather there have been secret talks where our middle eastern allies are pushing us to at least bomb Iran.

Glenn Greenwald has been covering this story, and delves into government and media reaction to the Wikileaks release. And to me, that is where things get interesting. The government is objecting to this theft of secret documents and the media is largely agreeing with them. Bill Keller admits to checking with the administration as it went to publish parts of the release, to make sure lives would not be endangered. So how is that different than Judith Miller publishing information about WMD's that she got from the (previous) administration without independent confirmation in the run-up to the Iraq war?

However, since this is the Obama administration, many people are caught between their automatic support for a Democratic administration and their desire to support whistle-blowers standing up to authority. Actually, I'll allow that any given person's support for Obama may be more nuanced than "automatic", but any one who steps back and tries to look at this situation dispassionately has to wonder why the Obama administration is acting so much like the Bush administration. Most nobody is stepping back. And that is a problem because it will have a further chilling efect on whistle blowers elsewhere in the government and in private industry.

The movie "Inside Job" also noted that many of Obama's top advisers, including Timothy Geitner and Lawrence Summers, have strong ties to banks and Wall Street (including sitting on boards). Now, I won't say that Obama's administration should have been a complete break with the past. But I think that an attempt at more balance, bringing in some people who were less inclined to place the financial industries' interests over the rest of the country, would have been a good thing. Increasingly, Obama is inhabiting the worst of all worlds. He is villainized by the right, excoriated by the Tea Party, and yet serves the interests of super rich and the military industrial complex. Can we get something, either Obama cutting his ties to industry and secrecy, or for the right to acknowledge Obama has done them a lot of good?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back in time for Kelly


Yeah, I was out of town, visiting my brother, dad and cousin in the sunny South (where it was under 30 this morning). My brother asked if I would blog about my trip, and I may.

Meanwhile, though, I could chat a bit about Jack Kelly's Column today. My overall reaction is to say a word that Mr Kelly does not: "deficit". So many of the Republicans in general and Tea Party people in specific ran on reducing the deficit. Here's Jack Kelly suggesting the Republicans hold the Start Treaty hostage to a commitment to spend huge new amounts of money to modernize our nuclear arsenal. Kelly is worried that our aging arsenal will not be seen as a credible threat (because nukes deteriorate). Yeah, buit what would be the reaction to our suddenly having a new set of nukes compared to the Russian's old set. Kelly expresses concern about China being a threat, which it is to some degree. However, I am not sure that giving the Chinese a new reason to fear us is necessarily a good move. Our previous President showed a willingness to invade one country based on a flimsy excuse, and we could elect another Republican in 2012 or 2016. Perhaps Mr Kelly is thinking about a near version of mutually assured destruction, one where our nukes are weighed against our debt that China is holding. Except that in that case we have an incentive to nuke China to cancel the debt (probably what Kelly has in mind).

In any event, Kelly thinks the Senate should wait until January to vote on the Start treaty. After all, the people have spoken in that they elected Republicans such that they are a majority in House, and six new members in the Senate. The people have spoken, and certainly would not want the current Senate to do anything until it's new members are there. Except I think the people were lied to ("the Democrats have done nothing/have expanded government to a larger size than ever before") and misled. Now, you may disagree with that assessment, or say "so what, too bad". But I think I am entitled to say the Democrats should do now what they can as much as Mr Kelly is entitled to say Congress should defer to the (supposed) will of the people.

Kelly pretty much tries to mislead us in this column as well, intentionally or otherwise. For example, he takes pains at the beginning of the column to tell us the treaty itself is a bad treaty (not in our national security interests), and that he will get back to that. Then a bit later he says something about how progressives are frozen in cold war thinking, and repeats that the treaty is bad, as if he had made his case. Now granted, he then complains about China and about how ballistic missile defense might be harmed by the treaty, but if that is part of his case, he makes it in the most confusing manner possible.

And as far as ballistic missile defense goes, I have not heard of a successful test ever since the program was started during the Reagan administration. All it seems like is corporate welfare for defense manufacturers. Maybe it is time to scrap the program (remember - "deficit"?).

Kelly tries to flash his "national security" credentials today, but mostly shows himself to be a transparent shill for the Republicans. I do have to say, though, he risks angering those new darlings of the Republicans, the Tea Party, some of whom are ready and willing to cut defense as well as Medicare and Social Security.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You can't always get what you want ....

but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you neeeeeeeeeeee-ee-eeeeeee-ee-eeeeeed (ooooooo oo oo oooooooo). *grin*

What to say about today’s Jack Kelly column ? Well, I majored in econ (as well as poli sci) as an undergrad (a quarter century ago) but would not call myself an economist. But I wouldn’t call Mr Kelly one either.

I will bring up my own favorite left field loony idea. Kelly brought up numerous critics to “quantitative easing”: the Chinese, the Germans, Republican leaders, the Chamber of Commerce and somebody called Charles Hugh Smith. The one group he failed to mention is the one group I have been suggesting he is court (although I confess I don’t know why he is doing that). And mind you the group is more of a loose movement that doesn’t have specific leaders or anyone that can set specific policy or even articulate agreed upon goals; they’re more like a mob that picks up a chant. The group of which I speak is of course the Tea Party. Both Sarah Palin and rand Paul have spoken out incoherently against Fed Policy. I couldn’t say whether any of Bristol’s dance numbers were supposed to be interpreted as comments on Fed Policy (instead of comments on how dumb we really are).

So can I say Kelly is wrong about the effects “quantitative easing” will have? No, I am not that smart, and to be fair, there are a fair number of critics besides the obvious opponents of the Obama administration like Republican politicians and their patrons the Chamber of Commerce. I can not see how the Fed’s ultimate articulated goal of stimulating commercial lending will affect the extremely high unemployment rate (15%) of Americans without high school degrees. As I have said before, spend money (maybe the same amount as would be spent on quantitative easing) on transportation projects that give hiring preference to people without high school degrees (if that is feasible to do). As an executive department decision, call it a defense priority (national emergency highway system) and let Defense run it.

And something like that may still happen if Congress gridlocks next year. Meanwhile, though, after watching “Inside Job” I am unhappy about feeding the banks even more money, especially since they aren’t lending with the first round of money they were given. But the banks are where commercial lending takes place, so I suppose we still need to deal with them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back again ...

Back again. I still remember the podcamp speaker who said she hates when bloggers apologize for not posting. Never the less…

I went to a movie yesterday – “Inside Job”. Do you know the story? It is a documentary on the financial collapse. Yeah, I knew a lot of the material, but hardly all. The movie was well put together. Perhaps in some ways too well, but mostly it was words speaking for themselves (if you will forgive the phrase). They had many of the individuals in the crisis, not necessarily the CEO’s of Morgan Stanley or Lehman Brothers, but they had the guy who designed the Bush tax cuts. They had a major financial lobbyist. So I think it is fair to say they had the other side (as well as Barney Frank and others). The movie maker (Charles Ferguson?) asked the questions, to be sure, but there was the other side. It is at the Manor and a Bridgeville Destina theatre right now, and well worth seeing.

By the way, the movie spared neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama, they both subscribed to what is becoming our prevailing wisdom of deregulation and coddling the damn financial companies. And speaking of the prevailing wisdom, the movie reserved a chapter (one of six or seven) to talk about how economics has been co-opted, how economists are literally bribed by financial corporations. As someone who hopes that academia can help us understand and find solutions, it was really disappointing to hear (I think it was) the chair of economics at Harvard say that he didn’t think professors should have to disclose their possible conflicts of interest.

Needless to say, at this moment I am even more suspicious (and disgusted) with the prevailing wisdom(s). I don’t like how the Democrats are echoing Republicans, and I am really, really pissed about what the Republicans said before and still say after the election.

And I will pause and pivot here a minute to give my usual Sunday comment about Jack Kelly. I didn’t comment on last Sunday’s column in part because it wasn’t that interesting. He wants Obama to set aside in 2012. How should I interpret that? He talks in a Republican tinged prevailing wisdom, so already his view of reality appears distorted. Is it that he just doesn’t like the black man? He says the Democrats (which by the way I think he means Obama) lost working class whites; but since he doesn’t have a citation, I would wonder who he means – actual Democrats or just independent working class whites. One thing to consider is that apparently Obama only won white males under 30 in 2008. A majority of white males above 30 supported McCain, so Obama and the Democrats never had them to begin with.

This week’s column does much the same for Nancy Pelosi. He suggests she should not run for minority leader, and as proof he says that she might be the most unpopular figure in the country – only 8 percent of independents approve of the job she is doing.

“Independents”? Are they somehow more important than the rest of us? Any discussion of independents makes me think of a character in “12 Angry Men”. The “ad” man (George Webber) was swayed by the last authoritative argument that he heard, so he switched his jury vote a couple of times. Independents were clearly swayed by the Republican’s version of “prevailing wisdom” in the recent election. I already mentioned what I think about the prevailing wisdom, even or perhaps especially if supported by academic economic opinion (especially a Martin Feldstein, although Bernanke and even Laura Tyson did not come off well in “Inside”.

Kelly said a couple of interesting things in the last couple of weeks. Last week he said (and I agree) he foresees gridlock in Congress for the next two years. This week he came roaring back to courting the Tea Party with this final remark:
“We cannot restore the republic our forefathers intended unless we limit the terms of members of Congress, and limit their ability to sell favors.”
Yeah, I don’t like earmarks much, although I understand that politicians first and foremost do want to be re-elected (for better *or* worse), and so want to bring home presents for their constituents. But at a deeper level, Kelly’s folksy BS not only doesn’t help address the current financial crisis, it actively prevents our finding real solutions.

That would be a good place to stop, but there is one more thing I want to put out there, a general proposal to alleviate unemployment. I believe I have mentioned before that the middle and of course upper classes are not suffering as an aggregate group, 4.5% and 4% unemployment for bachelors and graduate level degree holders. But for people who do not even have a high school degree: 15% unemployment. We also know we need to at least shore up if not improve our infrastructure. Let’s put them together, manual labor jobs with preference given to people targeted as need job experience and training for projects working on our roads and bridges. In fact, I could also see public/private partnerships for solar, wind or tidal power corporations. A win win that would help the people really hurt by the recession. Therefore without a chance.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two days ....

This post was inspired by a Paul Krugman column.

So the election is in two days. In Pittsburgh, Mike Doyle is likely to be relected, it is a possibly toss up between Toomey and Sestack, but apparently likely to be Toomey, and the same for Corbett and Onorato (Corbett winning). Now here’s a question: what do you think will happen when the Republicans take the House, and perhaps the Senate?

My answer: nothing. If you thought we did not see much progress on the economy in the last two years, get ready for less in the next two years. Some Republicans claim vaguely they want to reduce spending, and certainly they want to cut taxes for the rich. But most Republicans (besides some Tea Party fanatics) don’t describe specifics, even to the point of not pledging to reduce earmarks.

But assuming that Republicans can overcome their lack of enthusiasm and their history of spending during the Bush years, and pass bills in the house, how well things go in the Senate. The Republicans may or may not get a majority there, but we now know that 60 votes for cloture is the new standard for passage of legislation. What is to stop the Democrats from picking up the habits of the Republicans of the last four years? Personal holds and filibusters are absolutely possible. And if the Republicans change the rules to prevent Democrats from doing these things, then when the pendulum swings again, the new rules will apply to them too.

And at the end of the process, there is still Obama, who can veto legislation. And whatever else might be the result from Tuesday’s election, I don’t think the Republicans will have two thirds majorities in both houses.

So what will happen next January when the new members take their seats in Congress. My guess is nothing. I think the House may do some things, nothing that would help people who are actually unemployed. I don’t think a repeal of healthcare will pass the Senate, although some tax breaks for corporations and the rich might (and might be signed by Obama). I think the remaining middle class and those who do make more than a hundred grand (whom I classify as at least upper middle class) will continue to do OK. But I think the poor face more tough years, out as far as I can see.

Of the races, I am not a huge fan of Onorato, but I guess he would be better than Corbett. I am also not a fan of Doyle, but that race doesn’t matter (the primary was more important, but I don’t even remember if Doyle had a challenger). But the important vote is for Toomey or Sestak. Yes, it may not matter if I am right that the Republicans can never get enough of a majority to do anything. But I gotta say why give the Republicans reason to think they might be able to roll back the Democrat’s accomplishments. Plus, despite the Republicans/Tea Party’s overheated rhetoric, I don’t think either Obama or Sestak is that radical. But Toomey might be.

You will have to decide for yourself. I hope you read/watch more than one source, and if you have a job now, you ask yourself how much Republicans have tried to help the poor in the past.

Yeah, Kelly today ...

Yeah, so I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. I am hoping to get better about that.

I didn't bother with Jack Kelly's column last week, because he was blaming everyone for intelligence failures (except "Able Danger", an apparently muscular data mining program). I am a little baffled by Kelly's column today. He cites a report by Neil Barofsky, Treasury’s Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Now, apparently Congress saddled the TARP not only with saving Wall Street (a reasonable enough goal, or have we forgotten the Great Depression), but also with having banks lend to small business and even bring unemployment down. Now those were laudable goals but as Obama was elected Wall Street decided to refuse to play along. They have loaned little, and apparently are still engaging in risky behavior (as financial regulation slowly gets implemented). Loaning almost no money means that of course that there was not extra cash to expand business, which is how TARP would help unemployment fall.

But what is amazing is that in the interest of criticizing Democrats and especially Obama in any way possibly, Kelly is agreeing with this report from the TARP IG. He is agreeing with the idea that banks should have been forced to loan money to business. What happened to the free market, to shrinking the government, to getting the government off our backs? I mean, I might go for forcing the banks to loan money, but even I would have trouble with what mechanism would be used to decide where loans would be made (how the businesses would be approved and how much).

Kelly disguises his desperate embracing of any criticism of Obama as a criticism of the media. He claims that the “liberal” is deliberately ignoring the TARP IG’s report, because it criticizes the President. Maybe that’s true, although the media (liberal or otherwise) has not really been a friend of the President, with all the coverage of the President’s low approval ratings and sketchy coverage of the health care bill. But here’s a couple of questions: what about the people in government who eliminated the regulations that would have prevented the financial crisis? What about the banks that decided not to lend money?

As I said, TARP’s goal was laudable enough, but perhaps unrealistic. And as Democrats all over the country have done, I have some complaints about the President. But in this case, I think that the “crime” of not meeting unrealistic goals should take a back seat to other “crimes” that have been committed, such as getting us into this mess and those that have done little to nothing to help us get out of the mess.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Sunday ...

So today's Jack Kelly column has one interesting element. It has no pandering specifically to the Tea Party that I can see. Kelly does take a number of shots at a sitting United States Representative, and makes assertions that may not be fact.

Barney Frank is a interesting character. I realize saying that paints a big target on my (somewhat out sized) stomach, but I will make the obligatory statement that I have nothing against, and indeed have been friends with gays (although I am lousy about maintaining friendships with everyone, including my gay friends). I don't begrudge Barney Frank being angry if he thinks he is being attacked because he is gay. The reason I say that is because Frank was apparently really pissed when Stephen Colbert did a profile on Frank. Of course you should know what you will get when Colbert asks to do a profile of you (an often cringe-worthy event) and although I haven't seen it I believe Colbert went all out (I have seen clips of Colbert sashaying behind a striding, glaring Frank). What was interesting to me was that for months after words Frank emphasized in his appearances how he has a sense of humor. He even told a few jokes here and there (I think one on "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me") that were OK, not knee slappers. As I said, an interesting character.

Of course, Kelly said absolutely nothing about Frank being gay, which is no more than as it should be. What Kelly does say is that Frank is “The member of Congress most responsible for our current economic troubles” (and possibly in trouble) right off the bat. This is the alternate reality that conservatives live in. Kelly also identifies Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad, and also (interestingly) parts of the financial industry as villains in the economic collapse. Of course in the financial arena Kelly focuses on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, claiming their “bankruptcies accelerated the economic collapse”. Well, yes, that statement is obviously true, but to what degree did their collapse affect the recession as a whole? I would say not too much, but it fits Kelly’s view of the world to say the vast bulk of the recession is due to the Democrat created, assisting the poor Freddie and Fannie. In fact, Kelly re-writes history in saying that in 2003 and 2005 Bush proposed tighter regulation of Fannie and Freddie (read: gutting their mission of helping the poor get mortgages). I don’t remember Bush doing that, although I am sure he did, he just didn’t push very hard. Remember, Republicans held Congress in those years, and could have passed Bush’s regulations the way they passed the Bush tax cuts, through reconciliation.

I found it interesting that Kelly also blamed “Wall Street bankers” for their “bizarre financial instruments which were supposed to reduce risk, but multiplied it instead.”. He specifically mentioned Countrywide mortgages as a villain, a safe target since it is now defunct. I guess Republicans have taken a page from the Obama campaign playbook and now its ok for financial firms to be cast as villains in this election. After all, if Republicans take the House they can pass all sorts of deregulation and see if the Democrats in the Senate have the balls to stop them. The prospect of getting rid of Frank would be a big bonus for financial firms, since he has been a long time thorn in their sides.


The larger sociological questions of what is going on in this election are quite interesting too. How many people, in 2008, voted not for Obama but against McCain, especially after his poor debate performance? If Obama had tried to keep more of his campaign promises, such as to release more of the “detainees” (read prisoners) at Guantanamo, to stop being so secret about torture and wiretapping and to get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq, would the Democrats be more popular? Mind you, I would argue Obama has taken a half step on all of these (and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, which has passed the House), but for every half step, there are more steps where Obama has allowed the Bush programs to continue, or even expand somewhat (predator drones). Mind you, these programs have nothing to do with jobs, and one might argue that the predator drone program, if correctly used, could be very effective against terrorists (even as one concedes it has not been effectively implemented). And speaking of jobs, what if Obama had not been distracted by health care for a year, what if he had made the stimulus larger and perhaps taken out some of the tax cuts in favor of spending on state and local government jobs. Would he have been a lightening rod for Republican fury such that Americans would not vote for a black candidate for President for decades?

Understand that in some ways Republicans won in 2008 in losing. They have been able to make wild accusations against Obama, the Democrats and what legislation has passed (health care reform, the stimulus) while using (abusing) the rules of the Senate to hold up hundreds of pieces of legislation. If Republicans win the House in the midterms and especially if they win the Senate, they will be expected to get things done. This will be a chance for Democratic Senators to take a page from the Republican play book and place holds on legislation, and use cloture against Republican legislation (especially if Democrats retain the Senate).

Meet the Press today implied that Obama may start to behave differently after the midterms (it’s not clear whether this depends on the outcome of the midterms or not). About time, I say. I think that Obama would re-energize his original followers if he became calmly strident towards the Republicans. He tried the reach across the aisle thing, and I will give him credit for that, but clearly the Republicans have rebuffed every effort (almost totally).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tea Party in a bit more depth

I've been watching Bill Maher's "Real Time" (which I want to call "Politically Incorrect") when I remember to catch it. I have to say, Maher makes a habit of having conservatives on, such as Andrew Breitbart sometime one, two weeks ago. Unfortunately since he usually has celebrities on, whether left or right, the discussions never resolve anything.

This past Friday (yesterday) Maher had a young woman on who was in charge of the St Louis Tea Party. Maher had evidently been looking for a Tea Party person to come on this show and somehow connected with this young woman. At the risk of being sexist or giving offense I will say she is an attractive young woman (whose name totally escapes me) but also, I was perhaps as curious as Maher about what she would have to say.

So I remember maybe the first thing Maher asked her concerned why all the Tea Party candidates are Republicans. Personally I think it is to get the votes of people who wouldn’t vote for a third party candidate or for a conservative unless the only other option was a liberal. But this woman’s response was, as I remember, to say that she had been a Democrat in college, and was an independent before joining the Tea Party. In other words, se simply didn’t answer Maher’s question. He didn’t press enough, but the rest of the program also went like that. When the Stimulus was brought up, she said it failed, she said we spent more on the Iraq war than on the stimulus, she threw in the phrase “out of control spending”. In other words, whether she was making points or defending herself, she simply used little Republican/Tea Party phrases.

A lot of politicians give interviews in sound bites, but I thought the Tea Party was/is supposed to be the antidote to politics as usual. It was/is supposed to be a breath of fresh air, a cleaning out of the old boys and bringing in people who might not be operators in the political world, but are good honest folk looking out for the little guy.

That’s saying nothing of how the Tea Party manifesto states that the Tea Party doesn’t trust or intend to obey the Republican party. Except that they really are identical to them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I'm Reading

Nick Hornby, one of my favorite writers, used to write a column for the Believer magazine entitled "What I'm Reading". Basically the Believer paid him to read books and write witty things about them, and he did. In fact his columns were compiled into very good books.

In lieu of a proper post, I am going to point to some very good columns by other people I have stumbled across recently. Maybe I will write more about them later.

There was a fascinating review of/interview about a new documentary (coming to Pittsburgh in November) called "Inside Job" in Salon; the movie is yet more about the financial collapse. It is mostly an interview with the film maker; about midway through the interview he compares the last twenty years of popular economic thought to the intellectual decline of communist thought in the Soviet Union. Interesting stuff.

Glenn Greenwald is one of my new favorite writers. Paul Krugman has a blog entitled "The Conscience of a Liberal", but really that title should belong to Greenwald's column in Salon. Just recently he had a column where he describes the war on drugs and the war on terror as mirrors. Just before that, Greenwald continued the role he has taken up, as a very intelligent and fair critic of the Obama administration. In this case, he took Robert Gibbs to task for accusing the Chamber of Commerce of behavior that Gibbs had himself had participated in 2004. My dad used to say (and probably still does) that the Democrats did the same thing in the sixties that Nixon did in the seventies, its just that the Democrats didn't get caught (I should write more about this in the future). Greenwald's column on Gibbs does not let the Chamber off the hook, he simply also takes the Chamber's accusers to task for (a) the sloppy tenor of their accusations and (b) the messy past of some of those accusers.

Finally, the NYTimes has its share of good articles and columns (more than I actually read). Paul Krugman has a good column on mortgages and the financial industry in general today (a tad bombastic, but then again if an economist can't get upset about wasted money ...). Some more detail about how the banks engaged in the bad mortgage to toxic asset process itself is detailed here.

Next thing I plan to read is details about Pittsburgh's parking/pension mess.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Air Traffic Controllers and teachers ...

Sometime around 1982 I took a class in labor economics. The labor professor, Hirschel Kasper, I think, was considered the best of the econ department. Of course when you study labor economics, you have to look at unions. At the time, unions were getting the bad rap, what with the decline of manufacturing in the 1970's and the firing of the Air Traffic Controllers. Kasper liked to tell anecdotes as well as give us the statistics and graphs. He recounted the story of railroad "firemen" whose were still "working" on diesel locomotives because of the union rules, despite having no wood or coal to shovel into a (non-existent) fire to run the (non-existent) boiler on the train. But Kasper pointed out that statistically train accidents (big, ugly expensive things) went down for those trains. Those firemen, sitting around doing nothing, looked out the window and spotted the potential accidents before they became accidents. Not that that is a very productive use of labor resources, but, you know, big ugly expensive accidents.

So I learned a long time ago to try to keep an open mind about unions (if nothing else). Historically of course they were the counter weight to companies who saw workers as faceless, easily replicable inputs into the assembly line. By the 1970's, though, as I said, unions were blamed for the decline in US manufacturing. Since then we have seen service unions, including or particularly teacher's unions, come under attack. The teacher's unions are seen as the primary culprit in the decline in public education.

Now, the rules of employment are interestingly complex in education, both at the university and grade school levels, though for obviously different reasons. Tenure is the big issue for post secondary institutions; for better or worse, it preserves academic freedom or perhaps it protects bad professors. In secondary education there is also tenure in at least some districts, and also usually unions. Again there is the question of whether unions protect bad teachers, or help keep classes smaller, or do both simultaneously.

Without even attempting to answer any of those questions, I will step right up to a bit of what the government has done in the last ten years. I assume we all understand that “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) was an anti union bill. Lower performing schools (ie, those in poor neighborhoods) would be shut down and parents would be “allowed” to send there kids to better schools. No mention of who was going to pay for this, or how better schools would react to or even be able to accept a large number of new students. But that wasn’t the federal government’s problem; the important thing is that schools were held accountable. No one looked at or even mentioned 25% unemployment rates, single moms only fourteen years older than their children (and thus not having even a high school degree) or any of the other problems of low income neighborhoods. I have to say what I found most amazing was that Teddy Kennedy was a cosponsor on this bill.

Flash forward nine years and the new big thing is charter schools. There is that documentary “Waiting for Superman”, which has already had caveats assigned to it. Just today Ross Douthat wrote a column which had faint praise for charter schools, but claims this does not damn them; it shows they are sufficiently superior we should embrace them. Douthat says that charter schools may not outperform public schools in test scores, and in fact a week or so ago Gail Collins wrote that 17% outperform public schools, while roughly a third trail them, although she didn’t reveal what that meant specifically (test scores, grades, graduation rates?), But Douthat tells us Charter Schools have other value, including “money saved (both charter and private schools usually spend much less per pupil than their public competitors), in improved graduation rates, and in higher parental and student satisfaction”. I would highlight the money saved part, and further point out this Douthat’s second paragraph, “the plight of children trapped in failing schools with lousy, union-protected teachers”. Charter schools as a group are well known for being almost entirely non-union shops.

Douthat’s source for this column is Frederick Hess, who wrote an essay recently “Does School Choice Work?”. Hess is an ‘education scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute. Hess (via Douthat) says that instead of (tax) money going to school boards and thus schools, it should go to students, who will bring it to the school of their choice, whatever that school may be.

Bad enough that Douthat is trying to get private or even religious schools funded with taxpayer money (and public schools defunded), but I can’t help but think that Hess and Douthat have brought us to a hop and a skip of saying that not only should the student’s school money stay with him, but his or her parents specific tax should stay with the student (only fair, after all, mom and dad (or great grand dad, but whose counting) bought that mansion and pay taxes on it; why shouldn’t Thurston junior benefit from those taxes?), We have certainly heard similar logic used in talking about double taxation in the inheritance/estate tax and capital gains taxes.

Meanwhile, behind the rather overt attempt to privatize education is an additional more subtle attack on unions, the teachers union in particular. Now, I am as willing as anyone to say bad teachers should be weeded out of the profession. What may surprise you is that the anyone in this case are the leaders of the teacher’s unions. Whether it is because they see the handwriting on the wall or because they truly are dedicating to providing the best education for our children (your children, I have none), union leaders have made a point of saying they support local district goals of getting specific bad teachers out of the classroom.

In this kind of battle/war, however, perception often trumps reality. I urge all of us to step back and look and think and consider what’s best for all children, maybe particularly the ones that don’t get that high school diploma, and grow up to be the group that has the 14% unemployment now.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back to basics

You may have heard of Podcamp, an annual meeting and educational conference for "social media". I go to learn more about blogging and other kinds of electronic communication. I've been at least twice, and each time I remember always hearing someone say "never apologize for not posting on a blog". Never the less, I am not happy I didn't post since last Sunday.

But at the minimum, I like to look at Jack Kelly's weekly column. This week Kelly seems to return to his roots, raising questions about how much the defense intelligence community knew about 9/11 before 9/11. I think we all know Kelly is a hawk, but he also seems to like David and Goliath stories of patriotic soldiers standing up to a faceless bureaucracy determined to protect itself. Kelly seems to have no sources of his, instead he does the sort of summary that most anyone with an internet connection could do. Granted, Kelly is only columnist, not an investigative reporter, but I believe Kelly has been working on variants of this story for a long time (thus having old stories and information he can reuse). Is there something there? I dunno, maybe. The Justice department and the Defense department have been just as secretive and I guess vicious under Obama as they were under Bush. In fact, many of the events Kelly talks about took place during the Bush administration, something Kelly acknowledges late in his column (after taking his obligatory shot at Jamie Gorelik).

Actually, his saying Bush might be involved in this cover up is the one thing about this column that is relevant for today's political situation, and is interesting in itself. Although the Tea Party professes itself to be independent, they were of course guided by people like Dick Armey behind the scenes and Sarah Palin very much out in front, and funded to some extent by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. So the Tea Party has ties to the Republicans, and it is really Republican or right leaning independents who are interested in the Tea Party. Tea Party backed or endorsed candidates are running as Republicans, not as third party candidates. But where the Tea Party parts ways with the Republican party is in their demands for ideological purity. Apparently George Bush has failed that test, and Jack Kelly is, if not throwing him under the bus, at least giving Bush a bit of a shove. I guess Kelly is still angling to become a local voice for the Tea Party.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

This Sunday in Kelly

You know, let's be clear, the Republicans are the party of Lincoln. And rather surprisingly to me, that still meant something even forty years ago, for whatever reason. Republicans were instrumental in getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. But then the Republican party initiated their southern strategy, luring/welcoming white "Dixiecrat" politicians to the Republican party, and ever since Republicans have represented/balanced corporate and white interests. I will say that in an ideal world unfettered capitalism shouldn't necessarily disadvantage African Americans. But we don't live in an ideal world, we live in a reality that reflects the state of realities just prior to one we are in, where the parents of today's African American adults were systematically discriminated against, where today's African American adults don't have jobs in much higher percentages than the norm in America, and where underfunded urban schools meet African American children who, looking at their parents, see no future in America for themselves. And the only policies that Republicans would agree to (maybe) address these problems are ones where other traditional Democratic will suffer (charter schools with their generally anti union stance) or where traditional Republican constituencies will benefit more (tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy). Whether this is because of racism partly motivated by the large number of former dixiecrats or just pragmatism on the part of obstructionist Republicans, the end result is the same.

Jack Kelly tells us that liberals think Republicans are racist (the idea I just address above). He tells us this notion is disproved by the fact fourteen blacks are running for Congress as Republicans in this election, and 32 ran in the primaries. Actually, Kelly admits that 11 of the 14 are running in heavily Democratic districts, and have no chance. Plus what are we to make of the fact only 43% of the blacks running as Republican won their respective primaries?

Anyway, Kelly hold up three black Republican candidates as proof the Democrats don't understand reality, although one might say 3 of 538 is only a small number, perhaps (dare I say) only a token (apparently I do dare).

I'll say this once. I haven't investigated these three candidates, but I have to wonder. If they toe the Republican line and vote with their party, don't they realize they will voting on measures that will direct government resources away from the vast majority of African Americans who need help, and direct those resources towards almost entirely white Americans, the segment that is already wealthy? Now just because I'm white doesn't mean I need to choose to support legislation that benefits other whites (often, maybe mostly, whites don't need government help compared to minorities). So the three black candidates with a chance, or the 14 black candidates running or the entire 32 who ran in the primaries, they are not obligated to care about other members of their race. But I always thought being a public servant should mean starting with those who need help most, particularly (short of some natural disaster) those who have been disadvantaged historically by the majority.

There are two other comments Kelly made in passing I want to zero in on. First, Kelly says "Accusations of racism against Republicans are a staple of Democratic politics because Democrats need to keep blacks on the plantation to remain viable nationally" Ummm, accusations of racism by the Democrats may be made because they think there is evidence to support such accusations. Also there is nothing wrong with Democrats choosing to support policies popular with African Americans in order to get their votes (particularly since these policies often attempt to address historical injustices). And by the way, I find the phrase “keep blacks on the plantation” to be deeply offensive.

The other comment I want to look at is his last sentence (in his last paragraph): “It could be the increased number of black Republicans running for office and their increased acceptance by other blacks is due in large part to Mr. Obama. His election represented the pinnacle of black hopes within the Democratic Party. His disappointing performance in office is causing more than a few to consider alternatives.” Of course blacks can (and I feel should be able to) consider alternatives. But the characterization of Obama’s tenure in office to date as disappointing needs to be questioned. I try to say as often as possible I believe that when the stimulus was proposed and going through Congress, Obama tried to use his influence to put things in the bill that Republicans would agree to, such as a large fraction in tax cuts (admittedly not one that heavily benefited the rich). From the get go Obama tried to reach across the aisle (a point he had campaigned on), and in the House was flatly rebuffed, and in the Senate was almost totally rebuffed (although the three Republicans who did cross the aisle were given a lot of power). Basically the Republicans in Congress gave Obama no credit for trying to reach across the aisle, in fact they have characterized him as being a socialist (even though the stimulus had 40% tax cuts in it). There was some disappointment that Obama and the Congressional Democrats did not simply bulldoze over the Republicans, instead of trying to move forward together. If they had done so, maybe more of the stimulus would have gone directly to the unemployed, instead of indirectly through the rest of us employed people.

But even more than that, there is health care reform. Republicans characterize it as evil or at least as very bad. Yet every other “first world” industrial nation has a health care system either controlled by or heavily regulated by the government. No other industrialized nation leaves health care to the free market (of course, we had some regulation, but not nearly to the degree of other industrialized nations). Apparently nine other Presidents (dating back to Teddy Roosevelt) tried to pass comprehensive health care reform. Obama spent a year working on it, a year he could have been working on unemployment. There was all the negative stuff, scary town halls and “death panels”. Yet the end result was the first African American President managed to drag us from spending far and away the most on healthcare over to policies similar to Switzerland, which happens to spend the second highest on healthcare. But he did it. And he gets no credit for doing it.

The fact that conservatives/Republicans/Tea Party dogmatists like Jack Kelly can distort truth, without even pretending to acknowledge other points of view, should be the real disappointment.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Once and again ...

So I bounce around the web in my spare time, or at least a couple of sites (like the NYTimes, Slate and Salon). Salon itself does the same thing apparently, which is how I happened upon this story.


(you were actually supposed to go read it)

Democrats aren't doing anything to help the economy ('cause when they spend money and increase the size of the government it doesn't help the economy) and in fact they are keeping the Republicans from helping the unemployed. Or so everyone says.

Because TANF was extended in March, right? Uhhhhh, or at least today, the last day to do so. The last paragraph of the post captures my feelings exactly.

Meanwhile, in a different vein, I think Gail Collins sets exactly the right note in a post on schools. I know that the the popular thing to do is to slam public schools (especially urban ones, with teachers in unions). So it was refreshing to find out (via Collins) that two thirds of the new supposed panacea - Charter Schools - are in fact failing: themselves and thus (more importantly) their students. I like how Collins spoke up for unions (Finland beats us ... no surprise, but jeez). Don't get me wrong, I think bad teachers need to be disciplined and perhaps fired (like Republicans like to advocate). But I also think the unions of today are a different animal than the (self destructive) unions of thirty years ago, perhaps because they survived the last thirty years. As I said, I think Collins sets a good tone about education.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I wuz robbed ...

Well, not really. On Sunday morning I walked the Great Race 5K course, which is kind of pathetic considering I used to run these kinds of things. But that is the shape I'm in right now and what I am capable of. I did the same thing last year, walking it in a little over an hour. This time I thought I was maybe under an hour (which at least would show improvement). But when I arrived at the finish line this year the clock wasn't running, so I couldn't get my time that way. Then, when I looked on the Great Race website, I still couldn't get my time, they seem not to have recorded me. Not that it matters in any real sense, but it is a little annoying.

Gail Collins, along with Glenn Greenwald, is now one of my new favorite columnists. She had an entertaining and educational essay on Saturday. She writes about the personal hold a couple of Senators have placed on a piece of legislation. Along with the filibuster, the personal hold is fast becoming one of the more abused tools available to Senators. Truly I do not know how it works, whether there is a time limit or limit on number.

Collins does not say that she thinks the hold should be abolished or anything like that, just that the couple of Senators should release their hold on a small, non-partisan bill to allow private funders to buy a piece of government property in DC, on which they wish to build a National Women's Museum. But looking at the general issue, I don't think that either filibusters or holds should be abolished, since one day the Democrats will eventually be in the minority (maybe next year) in the Senate. Still, I think that making Senators read their holds and the reasons they have used them aloud to the chamber would be a good thing, as would having a Senator actually (once again) stand and talk for as long as he/she can during a filibuster. I don't care if Democrats would be embarrassed doing these things (as I suspect Republican partisans might not care if their Senators were similarly embarrassed). But independent voters might pay attention, which might help a Senator decide whether to actually pursue a hold or filibuster.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Country Mouse and the Court Mouse ...

Jack Kelly continues his glorification of the Tea Party this week, although he pulls off the neat trick of never mentioning the Tea Party by name today. I think that for some time at least some in the Tea Party have been as suspicious of elected Republicans in their district or State (those of the ilk of a Susan Collins or an Olympia Snowe). Still, Jack probably doesn't want to name names, partly because the GOP and the Tea Party still need each other to retake first the Congress and then the white House. One that's done, there will be time later for the Tea Party to purge the weak sisters from government

Still, I have to laugh reading some of Kelly's conclusions. If it's not religious discrimination that fuels opposition to the "Ground Zero Mosque" (which is not a mosque and is four blocks from Ground Zero), then what is it? Being miffed at the insensitivity and inappropriateness? But a strip club is appropriate for sanctified ground?

Kelly also states that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a lousy landlord, and jumps from that to stating that Rauf is not the moderate liberals think he is. Because he's a bad landlord? One has nothing to do with the other.

But I think the ultimate irony is that it would stretch the bounds of credibility to say that a Mitch McConnell or a John Boehner is anything but a Washington insider. So are those two worthy gentlemen really country mice or court mice?

Friday, September 24, 2010

What kind of country?

So I am still trying to wrap my head around conservative/Republican ideas. I mean, unless they get sixty Senate seats, then getting the House will do them little good, except to render government inert. But suppose in 2012 the Republicans/Tea Party took the White House (Palin/O'Donnell?) and Congress. We see now that the Tea Party is evaluating candidates and proposed legislation based on their particular ideological standards. I have read that they are fanatical about following the constitution. Now, I respect the constitution a whole lot. The greatest system of government put into real practice (as opposed to the elegance but impracticality of Marxist-Leninism). A system with good checks and balances between the executive, the legislature and a court system that not only issues practical and workable justice, but is the final arbiter of the constitutionality of either the laws written or the action taken by the executive. And rights for individuals that are enshrined in the first set of amendments to the document.

But still, I know the founders struggled with the balance to set (Hamilton versus Jefferson). I can't help but wonder what they would think of how the world has changed. Millions of Americans. Slavery resolved after a bloody civil war, and yet blacks still seem to be struggling in our society for the (overwhelming) most part. And then there are the financial issues, the role of technology in the economy that have increased the speed and complexity of transactions (like for example, you are reading my blog). And the penultimate, at least for me. Guns and the Second Amendment. When the second amendment was written, handguns had one bullet, were enormous and used a flint scrapping on a piece of metal to ignite a little pile of powder to ignite a bigger pile of powder to move the bullet. Misfires were frequent, guns were inaccurate and it was hard to shoot more than one person at a time. Now of course it is fairly easily to carry a concealable weapon that could shoot literally dozens of people, or you can buy military-type rifles with bullets that can penetrate the sorts of body armor the police generally wear, and shoot a lot of them. Now, I think we need tighter controls on guns, and I think most if not all of the founders would agree. But not the Republicans.

But I think there's more. Apparently the Tea Party also connects religion to the constitution. So I guess not only would there be some new constitutional standard for new legislation, but apparently there would be other rules or laws or whatever, based on biblical standards for behavior. We would lose out (supposed) tolerance of other religions, and all have to follow others interpretations of Christianity. It wouldn't matter what my own interpretation might be, I would have to follow someone else's. Which is to say I have to wonder if the tea Party wants to create a theocracy. I expect the Tea Party wonders why someone like me, or everyone else, would not want to live in a better (more moral) country.

Not that any of this is likely. But it is frankly disturbing to me that people who might serve in the Senate who think this way.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Disenchantment fever ...

I think I have caught the disenchantment fever, although I came the long way around.

There is enough information, now in your home if you have an internet connected computer, for you to know much of the detail of the history of the United States pretty darn quickly. If internet surfing (and TV watching and driving fast) has has not so sapped your attention span as to give you de facto ADD. I know it has sapped m - SQUIRREL!!!!!

(sorry, bad joke you won't get if you didn't see "Up!")(and yes, Stewart used it first)

It bothers me that the media gives credence to every nut job theory that comes down the pike simply by "fairly" reporting on it. I first became aware of this when I read Jonathan Schell's "Time of Illusion" in college (Schell, I have come to realize, is another nut job, except he is a left leaning nut job: I don't necessarily agree with Schell except in this one instance). Schell pointed out that when the Nixon administration criticized the main stream media as being controlled by liberals, the media did not simply dismiss this as an attack from an administration with a conservative agenda. Instead the networks (remember CBS, ABC, NBC?) had one hour prime time specials with furrowed brows and tortured admissions of have been liberals in college. In other words, the media took Nixon seriously and treated his accusations as something worth considering.

Needless to say, the media is just as bad when they are not being attacked personally and things are, if anything, worse than they were in the early seventies (of course I could stop and look at my own role in all this, but I will settle for this parenthetical notation that I do have a role). We all know (or should know) that the mainstream media is largely obsessed with appearing balanced as journalists, and not editorializing in news reports. The practical effect is that the vast majority of scientists who study climate and believe climate change is real and caused by human activities is equated with a much smaller number of scientists and non-scientists who refuse to acknowledge climate change is real, or if they do say it is real, claim it is not caused by human activity. Personally I believe most if not all climate deniers have an agenda (and possibly a check from energy companies), but I can not prove that (although now, for better or worse, I have put the idea in your head: you may agree totally or dismiss me as a paranoid lefty, but you can't not think of the possibility of industry influence now). Regardless of that, I think it is a crime that the media is not being more explicit that at least a majority of climate scientists think we are cooking the planet.

So a lot of voters, who are not really interested in politics, get these misleading messages of equivalencies. Except for the voters who get all their news from one of the more polarized networks or news magazines (Fox or Rolling Stone, for example). I favor the New York Times, which has some liberal leanings, but also shows some conservative tendencies, and frequently parrots the popular but also safe call (voters are angry and want to vote for Republicans). Unfortunately the more the equivalencies are repeated, and the standard line is repeated, the more people go from being confused to being sure of the mishmash they are being fed. So nobody in Washington or at the UN is actually sure about Climate Change, but at least the Republicans aren't trying to take our money to fix a problem that probably doesn't exist. And despite whatever silly thing Republicans are saying, either for themselves (shop owners should not be punished just bcause they refuse to serve black people and only black people) or about Democrats (Joe Sestak only cares what Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama want), we should vote for the Republicans, because the Democrats promised results and didn't deliver. So now we should hand the government back to the Republicans, because at least they aren't the Democrats. Plus there is playing on fear (Muslims, Mexicans) and claiming that Obama has already raised taxes (in fact, one third of the stimulus was tax cuts, and only three Republicans could bring themselves to vote for that).

We have better access to information than we have ever had before, and yet we settle for the same old simplified messages. I'm not disenchanted because the Democrats aren't delivering, I've made my own peace with that issue. I am disenchanted because you can lead a voter to a vast array of information, but you can't make him/her see.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What was she thinking ...

So I sure no one wants to see anything more about Christine O'Donnell, but I do find it interesting. In the nineties she was on Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" apparently like twenty times(??!!). Maher released a clip where she talked about dating a witch (or wiccan?), and having a little picnic on some kind of alter that had blood on it (Maher is threatening to release more of 'em) ...

I know that nobody actually "vets" candidates in the sense that someone could tell a Christine O'Donnell not to run. Although I bet a number of people may wish they could have done.

I am curious to see if more of these old "Politically Correct" leak out.

By the way, to totally change direction, so now, nine years after 9/11, we are suddenly concerned that Muslims are taking over the country? How frickin' transparent are we?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tea, anyone?

Although I am trying to post more, and plan to continue to do that, it is Sunday, so I will comment on Jack Kelly's column today. I don't have that much to say about him, just a bit. Last week I suggested Jack wasn't really saying anything specific to support the TP, but I would have to say that he's come roaring back this week.

His major themes are that more Republicans are voting in the primaries than Democrats, and that more of the Republicans voting are Tea Party members. I decided not to research that, I suspect Dayvoe of 2PJ's will look (or maybe someone else). But I do want to call attention to an ironic comment made by Kelly "The last time Republicans received more primary votes than Democrats did was in 1930". Maybe it's just me, but I think I'd hesitate referencing an election held early in the Great Depression, given the current economic climate.

I don't think the current mindset of both Republican and Democratic voters is that complicated or hard to figure out. Obama built up some expectations during his run for the Presidency, some that the voters projected on to him, and some that admittedly he stoked. Since being elected, he and the Democrats in congress (mostly the Congressional Democrats) passed a stimulus bill presented as a compromise to unwilling to compromise Republicans. He also helped shepherd through a mild health care reform, something several President's had attempted and failed to do, but he spent/wasted literally a year doing that. He may also have been extending some wiretapping, surging in Afghanistan, and continuing some Bush detainee programs in that year. Meanwhile, the stimulus turned out to do so little that after a weak uptick, the economy has slipped back a bit (it doesn't help that banks and corporations are sitting on billions in capital, no doubt waiting for the results of the midterms or perhaps even the 2012 election). Now, the NYTimes has shown that the Tea Party is rural or suburban, relatively wealthy, white and has concentrations in the states not in the Northeast or California. So it is likely that Tea Party members are not unemployed, but they are people who have never supported Obama, idependents who either vote Republican or don't vote. They appear to be unusually susceptible to the anti-Obama propaganda that is emanating from Fox News and the "grassroots" (astroturf funded by the ultra rich) organizations leading the Tea Party in the absence of a party structure. i'll wait to look at this more in the future, but I think it is no accident that we are seeing anti Islamic fervor as we approach the first national election in the Obama administration.

This is actually a pretty horrible situation, with political neophytes receiving direction from front organizations funded by the ultra rich. These neophyte dupes could become the driving force of the midterms, which could result in a Congress that by this time next year that will have not only repealed HCR, but also voted to eliminate OSHA, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare (although Obama would likely veto what he could).

And where are the people who voted for Obama? Well, before I answer that, let me repeat a thought I have suggested before (I think I said this before). Once he was elected, I think Obama decided that in being the first actually black African American President (sorry Bill Clinton), Obama did not want to also be the last (at least, the last for the next fifty to one hundred years). So Obama has been ultra cautious, keeping Bush programs (such as war) intact to avoid confirming the expectation that a black President would have a black agenda. In doing so, he is losing his liberal supporters. Which is worse, allow conservatives even more cause to say that Obama is a radical or socialist (more than they already are, which is a quite a lot), or lose that liberal support, enthusiasm and energy? I will allow that it is a tough call, but the process of setting a balance is heartbreaking.

Meanwhile Jack Kelly is crowing because neophytes are being misled with propaganda. I am constantly amazed that people who claim to be patriots are happy when America is put at risk in this manner.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Boehner, Boehner, Boehner

I remember once watching both the PBS Newshour and the Daily show back to back, and the Newshour had the more clever caption for their graphic of a particular story than the Daily Show. Ever since the Daily Show started, occasionally mainstream news shows will run something just a little funny (OK, maybe that started with Charles Kuralt)> Just this past Sunday, ABC's This Week (which I watched) had a video montage of Obama's Cleveland speech which consisted of showing us how many times Obama said Boehner. I believe it was eight, like something out of the Daily Show, Obama in rapid succession saying "Boehner"(snip)"Boehner"(snip) "Boehner"(snip) etc.

Apparently I should have been watching "Face the Nation", where Bob Schieffer had the man himself. Whether by Republican design or not, Boehner showed a rare flash of reasoned insight and declared himself in favor of the Obama tax plan, if that was his only alternative. He even apparently admitted that only 3% of small businesses yielded personal incomes of over $250,000.

Now I doubt many, if even any, other Republicans are going to take this position. So Boehner's position, even as House Minority Leader, amounts to essentially nothing in terms of votes or the real world. It could be a nice wedge for Republicans, though, if blogs and pundits around the country talk about it a lot. But since Boehner is in the House, even if he could get a lot of Republicans to vote with him for the Obama plan, the legislation would still face the Senate. Where they have yet to decide they have no alternative.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oh, *there's* the oil ...

Maybe the Post-Gazette has this story somewhere buried below Rich Lord's excellent series on the local "Network", which itself is being buried below Steeler mania. But Yahoo only listed the Tribune Review for this story (the author is "Wire Reports"). I also saw it on Treehugger dot com.

So instead of floating on the top of the water as Lisa Margonelli tells us it should (June 2010) , there is a bunch of oil on the sea floor in the gulf, covering lord knows how much area (zero miles from the Deepwater Horizan well, 80 miles from the well, yada yada). Of course, the Wire Reports story the Trib chose includes lots of doubting experts. But personally I blame those kooky dispersants that BP (and the stupid government) said was evaporating the oil (as if airborne oil is somehow better). One thing I do know is that I am not going to be eating any shrimp for the next few years (or any warm water fish).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ever Notice How ...

So, it being Sunday I will comment on Jack Kelly's PG column today. Before I do that, I want to mention that I took Steve Goreham's book "Climatism" out of the library and i am slowly making my way through it. That book was addressed in a 2PJ post back on June 1st, it is basically supposed to be the climate skeptic's response to things like "An Inconvenient Truth" and the various IPCC reports.

But first I want look at Jack Kelly today. For the last few weeks I have suggested that Mr Kelly is trying to either court or support the Tea Party, but this week I would put a different slant on things. In this column, Jack Kelly seems to turn into a mean spirited Andy Rooney. He rants about a couple of barely related environmental issues, sounding a fair bit like the famous 60 Minutes curmudgeon.

Kelly starts by complaining that a plant in Virginia that manufactured incandescent light bulbs is closing, putting 200 people out of work. I don't cheer that, but I do wonder where Kelly's concern is for the other 15 million (or more) unemployed Americans, many of whom have been unemployed for many months.

Kelly goes on to whine about CFL's. They're too expensive, they have mercury, they can trigger migraines. But when Kely says the bulbs cost five times as much, Kelly doesn't say the use a fifth of the energy, and last five times as long. Plus it is possible to buy the CFL bulbs in bulk at Walmart or Home Depot, so they only cost maybe twice as much. As for the mercury, if you don't break the bulbs, it will never be an issue. If you do break a bulb, apparently instead of contacting your state department of environmental protection you should just open the window and maybe turn on a fan. And avoid eating Tuna, because the mercury coal powered electric plants generate is getting into Tuna, which can cause the same or worse brain damage that a broken CFL. The migraine thing is interesting only in that it blew up as an issue in January 2008, before fizzling out. It seems like the only way someone would link migranes and CFL's is if they one did cursory research (showing what Kelly really thinks of his readers).

Kelly then tackles the DDT ban of the early seventies (clearly the fault of Obama and Pelosi). Apparently DDT is not harmful after all, because a doctor of agricultural bacteriology (who was on a committee at the National Academy of Science; now conservatives trust the NAS?) thought that Rachel Carson exaggerated the effects of DDT. I would hope that DDT was banned based on scientific studies, not just Rachel Carson's book (during the Nixon administration). Kelly brings up a resurgence of bed bugs and malaria. Now, bed bugs are unfortunate, although I would rather find alternatives than sleep on a DDT-treated mattress (I will freely admit I don't know how DDT figures in bad bug control). As for malaria, in turns out that international treaty specifically allow DDT to be used in disease vector control and in fact the liberals Obama and Pelosi have our government apparently paying other countries to use DDT to control malaria. So Kelly either didn't actually research DDT very well, or did and decided to deliberately lie to his readers.

These were odd topics for complaints, moderately dated and somewhat trivial and/or incorrect. And Kelly manages to make himself whiny. Plus no mention of 9/11. Could it be Jack Kelly just doesn't care about people who actually kill Americans?

I wanted to say at least a little bit about "Climatism". I am only midway into chapter two. In chapter one, Steve Goreham complained about AL Gore, James Hansen and a Brit named Nicolas Stern. He also supposedly disproves eight "disasters" of global warming. Looking at just one, Goreham talks about how all three of his villains predict a twenty foot rise in the ocean level. Goreham admits in the same paragraph that the IPCC itself says about seven inches (at least, maybe 15 inches by 2100). The IPCC notes that that is enough ice in one part of the Antarctic to create that twenty foot rise, but they don't think it would occur in this century

Now I will admit that James Hansen and especially Al Gore are given to hyperbole. But I don't think exaggerations (accidental I would say, Goreham would probably say deliberate) have any effect on the validity of the actual climate science. So far, by calling attention to other's predispositions to believe that climate change is man made, he has managed to mostly call attention to his only predispositions. More later.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Kelly's Spin Around the Track

In his column today, Jack Kelly becomes a small, petty man. Kelly suggests that with his speech on Tuesday Obama takes unjustified credit for winning the war in Iraq. I guess Kelly is trying to help out his Tea Party chums by trying to undermine a well received speech. Kelly suggests Obama was bored with his own speech, the speech flat. Kelly complained that Obama talked about the US economy too much (four times as much he talked about our “future relations with Iraq and why this is important to U.S. security” whatever that means).

Kelly trots out quotes from a variety of relatively famous and relatively obscure critics that reflect negative about Obama’s speech, but I want to suggest the real issue is the larger problem of the war/occupation of Iraq. Although he wants to present Michael O’Hanlon as critical of Obama and the administration, O’Hanlon presents a much more balanced picture in an article written just before the speech. The funny thing is, a lot of Obama’s critics are on the left. At least some people are taking note of the 50,000 troops still in Iraq. Some of those troops are special forces, whose mission is still to go and hunt terrorists. I sure that hunting will not be combat, just a minor unpleasantness.

Kelly is particularly perturbed that he feels Obama does not credit Bush for winning the war: “President Bush handed him a military victory there”. I think the real irony is that this is the second time combat operations have been declared over. We might remember the first time was on the deck of an aircraft carrier, with a banner. Kelly thinks Obama shortchanged Bush with the few words of praise Obama had for Bush, I suspect many on the left were annoyed Obama praised Bush as much as he did.

There are multiple facts that both Kelly and also frankly Obama are willfully ignoring. On Kelly’s side, he is ignoring that Bush started the war (without cause), declared victory prematurely once himself and really did not hand Obama any victory. On Obama’s side, he is choosing not to blame Bush for starting the war, and Obama has now himself declared victory prematurely (are we victorious if we leave 50,000 troops in place?).

But really bothers me about today’s column is that Kelly repeats his obnoxious charge that the stimulus cost one hundred billion more than the Iraq war and the stimulus failed and we won in Iraq. This suggests that without the stimulus our economy would be doing as well better than it is now.... Really? Well, leaving that nonsense aside, I am surprised Kelly wants to associate himself with the cost of the Iraq war. After all, Cheney had said he believed Iraq would cost maybe 80 billion. A previous (2007) CBO report suggested the war would cost 2.4 trillion by 2017, including interest costs. But the Nobel Prize winning economist (no, not Krugman) Joseph Stiglitz believes the war could cost 3 trillion when all is said and done. Perhaps that includes the 350 to 700 billion estimate for care for our wounded and disabled soldiers (something Kelly continues to fail to mention). Meanwhile, while Krugman has said all along the the stimulus was too small, at the very least it kept us out of another financial collapse and depression.

At the risk of having this post go too long, but on a tangential note, I have noticed at least a few Republicans/conservatives defending their desire to keep the bush tax cuts for the very rich by claiming that the Reagan tax cuts "worked", they generated more revenue than they lost. This is demonstrably untrue, although one certainly has to say that the economy rebounded from the stagflation of the 1970's. It is difficult to give Reagan unqualified credit for the increase in the GDP, it is possible (likely?) that then Fed Chair Paul Volker may have had a hand in that. To further illustrate that the Reagan tax cut did not work, Reagan's successor George HW Bush famously stated "Read My Lips: No New Taxs" and then, in the face of a recession (another failure of Reaganomics), Bush grew worried about the rising level of federal debt and during a recession, Bush decided to raise taxes. Evidently Reagan's policies were not as wise as Republicans would have us believe.

Do they think we are stupid?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Who could have known ...

Glenn Greenwald (yeah, him again) had an interesting column on Tuesday, talking about an evidently common theme in the media, of saying that no one could have known that Iraq would turn out the way it did. This sort of article is apparently very common now that our "combat" troops have pulled out of Iraq.

I have to say I think it should not have been a mystery that a) Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, b) that Iraq would have no weapons of mass destruction and c) that our "benign neglect", dismantling of the Iraqi army and our lack of a plan for Iraq post-invasion resulting in a disastrously long and painful occupation. In point of fact, much the same can be said about Afghanistan: I remember reading that the Taliban government tried desperately to find a way to hand over Osama bin Laden (remember him?) from September 12th until they were invaded and deposed. They offered bin Laden, but with conditions (such as that they wouldn't be invaded). Now I don't remember/didn't research the details, so there be things I am missing (but I am inclined to believe otherwise).

Getting back to Iraq, I remember hearing interviews on NPR (particularly Fresh Air), with Scott Ritter back in the late 1990's. Greenwald makes a point of mentioning Ritter in an update to his post. Ritter was convinced and convincing back in the 1990's that the various high tech methods used by the UN weapons inspectors had found all the WMD's that Iraq had, before Saddam Hussein had kicked them out, in 1998 I think. I believe at that point the UN and the US tightened the sanctions on Iraq that were already in place (or at least kept them as tight).

And it is not like I have some special access, so that I knew things about the UN weapons inspection program that the media wouldn't have access to, rather the opposite. Yet nobody could have known.

My tiny bit of research showed me something I hadn't seen before. Apparently Scott Ritter has a thing for underage girls. He was apparently noticed in April 2001 and then arrested in June 2001 for trying to contact and meet girls over the internet. The charges were dropped and the records sealed in exchange for his staying out of trouble for an unspecified period of time. The records were later leaked to the press in what Ritter says was a political effort to silence him. Unfortunately, the same thing happened with a cop posing as a fifteen year old girl in November of 2009. At least Ritter didn't go for someone younger, which I hope makes him only a scumbag, not a full on pedophile. And I still trust his judgment on WMD's.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's Political ...

Of course there was that Glenn Beck rally yesterday. It was held on 9/12 last year, because he wanted to link it to 9/11(/01), but Beck also has 9 values and twelve principles, or nine principle and 12 precepts, or some damn thing. But this year, 9/11 falls on (as apparently Beck called it) "the sabbath". Beck did not want to make the faithful come to a rally on a Sunday. So Beck looked around for another day, and 8/29/10 was the day that fit everybody's schedule. Just happened to be the anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. Oops, just a coincidence, says Beck, I had no idea. But what the heck, while were doing a rally, lets do it at the Lincoln Memorial, like King did. Let's talk about how Beck's people are taking back the Civil Rights movement. Let's say that African Americans don't "own" Martin Luther King (because anyone who complains about someone owning someone is being hypersensitive).

Beck tells us the rally would be non-political, and Beck's supporters say that it is so. Instead there was religion, apparently. Christianity, of course, obviously. But not politics.

I didn't pay attention to Beck's rally (at least in listening to the text), but I watch the Daily Show when I can. One day, perhaps last Monday, they had a story about a mosque (actually another frickin' civic center) in a place called Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Seems residents there are afraid of this civic center. Now there has been a fire and gunshots at this place.

Is there a connection between Glenn Beck's religious message and America's sudden revival of animosity towards Islam? A connection with the sudden equation of all of Islam with terrorism? I haven't heard one mention of Osama bin Laden, and almost nothing about al Qaeda.

You tell me what the connection is. What the cognitive dissonance is.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kelly tries being more reasonable ....

Jack Kelly's column today does nothing to convince me that he is not wooing the Tea Party. But Kelly does do a good job of trying to be reasonable. He notes that Robert Gates is cutting American defense spending (to have his department do its part to help address a growing deficit). Kelly admits (ruefully) this is a necessary step, but thinks that the rest of the government should do its part as well. Kelly's suggestion, return government spending to 2007 levels. Along the way he takes the opportunity to take a shot at the stimulus, calling it failed, and commenting that it cost more than the Iraq war.

Turns out, as far as I can see, Kelly is correct in at least one way (official congressional outlays for the war). But while looking around, some websites suggested that the final cost of war might be in the neighborhood of two and a half trillion. At the very least there is the issue of paying the long term medical costs for tens of thousands of wounded (some very seriously) soldiers.

Kelly's version of reasonable is to suggest that the government walk it's non-defense spending back to it's 2007 levels. That was, Kelly says, the year the Democrats took over, and "They were exactly starving then". Except that the issue is not Democratic politicians starving, it is the poor starving, the environment going undefended, workers unprotected from dangerous working conditions (and so on). Not that Democrats have (likely) gotten that much done in the last three years (something like three filibusters a week by Republicans), but the poor, the environment and business regulations are not really Kelly's target anyway (just an added bonus).

Kelly (and his Tea Party buddies) want to gut the stimulus and, of course, the health care reform. Just as Kelly (probably deliberately) ignored the cost of caring for wounded soldiers, he complains that some farmers in California were forced to curb irrigation to protect a fish, and in so doing ignores the larger amount of support farmers receive (and please note, I myself am ignoring what farmers, and agribusiness in general, give us to eat; that's a different fight).

All of which is to say one person's reasonable is another person's continued oppression of the poor.