Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kelly on Keynes specifically ....

This is a copy of a comment I made on the PG opinion pages. Today's Jack Kelly column is "John Maynard Keynes, the conservative (The economist was right about much, but his prescriptions have been misapplied)"

Well, there is a fair bit here that I would agree with. One thing I will say off the bat is that I would/am extremely reluctant to put words in Keynes mouth, but I do tend to go by what those who study Keynes say. Also, by now anyone paying attention knows how conservatives hate Paul Krugman, who Kelly (almost) subtly ridicules here.

The funny thing is that I swear when Kelly writes that Keynes said "The market system is "the best safeguard of the variety of life," preserving "the most secure and successful choices of former generations," " that Krugman has quoted (or at least paraphrased) Keynesian on exactly the same subject, to the same effect. Kelly writes that economists feel Keynes repudiated classical economic theory and that is true in the sense of changing policy prescriptions in economic downturns. But Keynes was neither Marx nor Lenin, and, as I understand it, Keynes firmly believed the basic economic tenet that the market is the most efficient method of allocating scarce resources, all things being equal. Now things are frequently not equal, so to speak, but then that is the entire study of economics.

Kelly also gives us this paragraph "The great flaw in Keynes' thinking was his assumption government could act wisely and impartially to stimulate the economy. Spending is popular, tax increases unpopular, in good times as well as bad. So politicians run deficits year after year. Debt mounts. Inflation eats away the savings and investments of the industrious and prudent." Well, there are several things wrong with this. If Keynes says that deficit spending is good only when you are in a economic downturn, but should be avoided when the economy is growing, then why blame Keynes for the deficits of Ronald Reagan and George W Bush? And by the way, why isn't Jack Kelly praising Barack Obama for running a deficit during the current deficit (which started on George W Bush's watch)?

But I have read on these comment threads time and time again liberals saying that balancing the budget and even running surpluses is a fine idea when the economy is growing. And liberals have referenced Bill Clinton as an example of a Democrat who not only said he supported government surpluses, but did his part to actually achieve them.

(A brief aside, something I did not put on the PG - one might ask about the cost of government programs to aid the poor and provide assistance. Strikes me they can be put into two groups, those like education and public transportation that are really sort of investments, and those like health care and food assistance that are humanitarian. Neither group is really that big an item compared to the big three of defense, Social Security and Medicare, and can likely be funded out of general revenue. And since Medicare and Social Security have their own dedicated taxes, they should be discussed separately as well. In any event, I believe spending that is an investment should be the last item cut. But efficiency standards should always be applied.)

I am not nearly as familiar with the theories of Hayek, but to the extent they involve going on the gold standard, I can not possibly agree. But to the extent they involve promoting market like efficiency in government, I believe Keynes, Krugman, certainly myself and apparently Kelly could all find ourselves in agreement. And to the extent that makes Keynes a friend to conservatives, I can believe and agree with that. But Republicans/conservatives/Tea Party types refuse to believe that liberals believe in economic efficiency as much if not more than conservatives (and this comment thread is likely to fill up with personal attacks and lies).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Taking away guns ...

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy I have tried to follow some of the discussions about possible solutions. In many, probably most instances I have seen comments about how liberals want to take away guns.

In my own comments in these conversations I generally preface them with a statement that we would be better off if there were no guns, or at least no handguns and no semi-automatic weapons that can hold more than seven rounds. This would hardly end violence, but it would make mass killings more difficult and would go some distance toward reducing gun deaths.

But then I go on to say I believe taking away guns or certain types of guns is a practical impossibility. Only a willful misreading of my comments would cause one to think I support taking anyone's guns away. And i believe no one else has suggested taking anyone's guns away. But that is what many, many gun rights advocates say that liberals are saying.

Which shows that a reasonable discussion is not possible, because gun rights advocates will actually lie, not to mention refusing to compromise in any real way.

And there is one other thing I want to take note of. The NRA is calling for a national database of the mentally ill. As I recall, the NRA has successfully fought against a national database of gun owners. I suppose the notion is that of "good" people versus "bad" people. However, the practical effect is to protect "straw" buyers, making it difficult to track guns that have found their way into the hands of criminals.

So you tell me, is the NRA being hypocritical, in both philosophical and real terms?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Kelly plays a card

This is a copy of a comment I made on the PG on Jack Kelly's column today "Racist Liberals".

What should we take away from this column? Jack Kelly praises Tim Scott and some successful NFL players. Mr Kelly does not express affection or concern for any persons of color who are not Republicans, and it is interesting that the only Black Republicans he does show an interest in are wealthy ones. Considering Mitt Romney's statement about the "47%" and repeated and insistent calls for an end to food stamps, Medicaid and unemployment compensation, what jack Kelly seems to really being saying is that any wealthy blacks who want to be Republicans are welcome, as long as they are willing to act to make all low income people (including a disproportionate share of persons of color) poorer.

Time after time when anyone raises the issue of treating Barack Obama differently or suggests attacks on the meager food stamps program, unemployment compensation and Medicaid are attacks on people of color, they are accused of "playing the race card". Yet it is fine for Jack Kelly to point to the maybe ten persons of color he can identify as Republicans and then screech that liberals are racist and "What does it say about liberals that so many think only losers and whiners can be authentically black?" ?

No one says Tim Scott is not black. He has joined a party that is attempting to find ways to not only protect the wealth of the uber rich, but actually increase by ending assistance to the poor and force the poor to have "skin in the game" and end all tax credits and deductions for the poor so they pay taxes not matter how small their income. Of course, when I say end all tax credits and deductions I don't mean the tax loopholes the rich use. Republican calls for fairness in the tax system are hypocrisy of the highest level.

And by the way I find it interesting that Jack Kelly has so far dodged the issue of gun control in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Jack Kelly's version of a cliff

This is a copy of a comment I made on the PG about Jack Kelly's column today "The real 'fiscal cliff' (It plunges down from our mountain of debt)".

I could say something about living through stagflation and Reagan's record breaking (in size) deficits (and remember the true hero was Paul Volker). I could say something about the "Dubya" years spending. But I will just reference Dick Cheney quoting Ronald Reagan - "Deficits don't matter". Not that I am saying that I agree with Reagan/Cheney, I was fan of Clinton's balanced budget and surpluses. Republicans, by their actions and statements when a Republican is in the White House, believe otherwise.

Conservative commenters here will disagree and screech I am playing the race card, but Kelly's largely unspoken message is that this is all the fault of and will not solved by the BLACK DEMOCRAT (socialist, communist, Islamic, terrorist). Now, surely there is a point where we can go so far in debt that we do get into a terminal level of trouble, but if we look at how the market for treasury bonds is behaving now, people still treat the US as so safe (compared to the rest of the world) they are willing to pay us a small amount to hold their money.

It is possible Republicans/conservatives like Jack Kelly will be able to damage us so much they can get more than just Citigroup to lay off 11,000 employees. Remember, Republican intransigence managed to get our credit rating reduced, according to the company that did the reduction.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

This is a copy of the comment I made on Jack Kelly's column today: "Freedom spawns prosperity (Economic growth depends on freeing our natural creativity)".

There are two significant lines in this column, in my opinion. "Most of us have difficulty seeing beyond the here and now" That is clearly the case for Jack Kelly. He sees an economic downturn and declares the growth of GNP dead. Actually, Kelly sees a black Democrat in the White House and calls the current government "overbearing". This despite the fact that someone with such unimpeachable conservative credentials as Bruce Bartlett calls Obama a centrist or even center right politician.

Which brings me to the other significant line in this column: "If Americans become again as free as once they were to pursue their dreams, economic growth will resume, probably greater than ever before.". American enjoy the lowest ax rates in at least thirty years, and really probably since income taxes began. Yes, there are safety rules for workers and rules for what companies can do to the environment, but is Jack Kelly really saying that workers have to work 60 hour work weeks, be maimed or killed at work and the rest of us be poisoned by corporate waste and pollution in order for people to invent things?

Jack Kelly truly is delusional at this point.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jack Kelly today - his version of reality

This is a copy of a comment I made on the PG for today's Jack Kelly "The right will rise: Conservatives first must take the culture back from liberals"

This is simply the extension of Jack Kelly's world view, presumably the exact Tea Part line. Kelly treads a twisted, cognitively dissonant path, suggesting (for example) that "young people today" are i"so massively ignorant of history, civics, economics, geography, physics and basic math", yet his choice for Republican candidate in 2016 calls the age of the earth one of life's great mysteries, essentially (as I understand it) equating science and religion.

But the really insulting thing is the contempt Kelly has for the voters and really all the citizens of this country. Simply because the President won, Kelly assumes that voters were persuaded by lies. Instead of advocating for truth, Kelly tells us that Republicans need to spend money the way liberals do, in co-opting the young. Kelly doesn't advocate for truth because when some 97% of climate scientists all feel one way about climate change, you can't (credibly) say it is another, or even just suggest the issue is not resolved.

Simply saying that newspapers and colleges/universities are "technologically obsolescent" does not make it true. Newspapers have had issues responding to the 24 hour news cycle, but comment sections like this one are one innovation, and newspapers/magazines (like Mother Jones) can do the in depth stories, with lots more facts (sometimes only words) than TV can provide. But conservatives are threatened by the in depth knowledge provided both newspapers and Universities. Conservatives would like to make the case that both groups lie and spread propaganda (I guess because conservatives lie so reflexively), but newspapers are the oldest popular information source and Universities are the oldest learning institutions around. Both have long standing procedures ad mechanisms for being truthful, and I guess that annoys conservatives.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Could I find agreement with Jack Kelly?

This is (another) straight copy of a comment I made on the PG on today's Jack Kelly column "Sex sells, but what about Libya? (The Petraeus affair raises big questions)"

This is sort of frightening. I agree with a lot of what Jack Kelly says here. We do have a fundamental disagreement about who was deceiving who in the government, but I will agree there are things to investigate.

I agree that we (the nation) were lied to by our government about who was behind this Benghazi consulate attack. I think we do *now* know who was behind it, and I hope our government is pursuing them, if only to send a message to other terrorist groups. But I think that if conservatives continue to say our government is *currently* lying to us, they are just being irritating and ultimately silly.

Where Kelly and I part company is in this paragraph - "The White House claims no one there learned of the affair until Election Day. This strains credulity. Gen. Petraeus may have misled the House Intelligence Committee Sept . 13 about what happened in Benghazi to hew to the administration line that the attack had mostly to do with a protest over an anti-Muslim video. Why would he do this? Conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol have raised the possibility that the administration blackmailed him with knowledge of his illicit affair." The point about when the White House knew about the affair is worth investigating (slightly, although if the affair was over, then the only question was whether Paula Broadwell would be arrested for violations of secrets rules), but much of the rest of paragraph defies common sense. I seriously doubt Petraeus "hewed" to any administration line, rather I think the CIA was running its own game, and feeding bad intelligence to the administration for some time period after that attack (a week, two, honestly I don't know).

Actually, I disagree with Kelly's last bullet point as well, for pretty much the same reasons I gave above.

I am still personally convinced that Petraeus was forced to resign because he fed the administration bad information after the attack, that the CIA essentially let four Americans die at Benghazi, and that they gave conservatives a fairly juicy issue right before the election. I think investigating the President on this issue is at least the wrong place to start, if not down right absurd. Let's talk to the people who had/have a facility inside the consulate, who managed to put a big target on the consulate. Let's investigate the CIA on this.

And by the way, although it is premature, if I had to suggest where ultimate blame should lie, I would divide it evenly between Bush and Obama. Bush started this resurgence of covert operations and suggested weakening FISA, but Obama has certainly carried on and even expanded this new philosophy. If you kill Americans without due process, if you direct the CIA to assassinate suspected terrorists with drones and then allow the CIA to target their funerals, killing children along with adults, then you have little room to complain if they use consulates as intelligence facilities, and don't bother to warn anyone.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kelly's sorry (we chose the wrong man) ...

This is a straight copy of what I posted to the PG comment section about today's Jack Kelly column "Eating crow, expecting trouble (I was wrong about the election; now I fear for the future)".

Well, it's nice that Jack Kelly is admitting he was wrong in his predictions of a Romney victory. He admits that he read the politics wrong. Of course, Kelly only goes so far. He gives no credit to Obama for turning another Great Depression around. He thinks that the (admittedly surprising) new Democratic coalition of voters could be easily split if the Republicans advance a Hispanic candidate. Now, we all remember how the Republicans screamed about Obama's lack of experience in 2008, yet Kelly simply insults all of America by suggesting candidates with no national experience at all.

It is already looking like Republicans will continue their practice of total intransigence in Congress. If we do drop into another recession, it will be clear who is to blame (hint - not George Bush). And Kelly's parting shot at "the gravy train" is beyond insulting, but of course neither Kelly nor the PG will apologize for that.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Kelly on desperation

You know, no one doesn't say this election is not real close (today's Jack Kelly). But what Jack Kelly says seems at odds with everything I read, including glancing at Real Clear Politics right now (which shows the race as no worse than a dead heat).

Meanwhile, if the 538 Blog on the New York Times is to be believed, their summary of the aggregate of national polls shows Mitt Romney never took the lead, even after the first debate. The fact that Kelly clings to what Gallup says or has said is what seems desperate.

Of course, if one party or the other thinks it is likely their candidate is going to lose, some number of the faithful have a reason not to vote. So Kelly has reason to spread his version of reality. Except that Jack Kelly is supposed to be writing the truth, or at least presenting maybe more than one point of view (or acknowledging another point of exists and is legitimate for some people).

So as a public service, a different point of view: 538 blog

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Today's Jack Kelly column

(copied from my comment on the PG website) - This Jack Kelly column is a weird combination of alternative reality and wishful prediction. Every time I read a Kelly column citing polls, I just go over to the 538 blog.

As for the prediction part, what the heck, sure, we'll see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Last debate reactions ...

So I have not seen any of the reactions from CNN or ABC or Fox news or the NYTimes, etc to the debate. I watched on CSPAN (in part because my girlfriend doesn't like David Brooks, who comments for PBS, and I would rather not watch on any other network).

My immediate reaction is neither candidate landed a knock out punch. Obama remained vulnerable on Benghazi, but Romney did not hammer him on it. There was a story in the Washington Post about how Benghazi had a CIA facility, so a) maybe the CIA lied to the White House about what was going on and b) maybe neither candidate now wants to risk "outing" the CIA.

Romney did try to pin deaths in Syria on Obama, and various other problems, but I felt nothing stuck, although the same could be said about Obama trying to trip Romney up. You could tell, though, that these are two men who do not like each other.

But the thing that struck me the most? Romney worked up a bright sheen of flop sweat. I first noticed his upper lip shinning, and then I realized he was glowing all over his face. In addition, towards the end of the debate his frozen half smile/smirk picked up a quality around his eyes that made him look queasy. I half wondered if someone had given him a mild poison (or he ate a bad burrito).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jack Kelly goes after Candy Crowley

In today's Jack Kelly column he goes after Candy Crowley, saying essentially she was responsible for Barack Obama winning the last debate. I found that interesting, considering the next (and last) debate is about foreign policy.

Kelly spends much of his column on the Benghazi incident. I have to agree somewhat that the thing was not well handled by the administration, but I think we need to realize that the incident is probably more complicated than we first or even still realize. I have seen an editorial that suggests there was more going on at the "Consulate" than we might otherwise think. It might have been more complicated to add security troops to the "Consulate" since that might have served to put a spotlight on the place.

Meanwhile, Kelly cites Breitbart dot com and Judith Miller for their opinions about the debate. And look what Mitt Romney says when no moderator is around.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Campaign scan-dals?

Today Jack Kelly turns to "Obama's Campaign Scandals". Well, he talks about campaign scandals for the half the column, then starts retreading other (old) scandals. He ties the two parts together by claiming they are not covered by the media. Maybe that's true for people who don't follow the news, but then these are people who don't follow the news.

A lot of people, the people who might not otherwise follow the news, watch Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show (and Stephen Colbert). And a lot of these stories show up on these shows. Sometimes they soft pedal on Democrats, but as often as not they are as vicious to Obama as they are to Republicans.

The thing is, Jack Kelly's paranoid fantasies come out very clearly in this column. It will appeal to people who already agree with him, but it has the opposite effect of persuading anyone else.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The First Debate.

I am still trying to wrap my head around what it is I heard in last night’s debate.

Mitt Romney said that he isn’t giving us details of his tax plan or where he will cut government programs because Congress doesn’t like to be told what to do. It is enough that we know Romney’s principles, that he wants to lower the deficit while not increasing the burden on the middle class. So you may not get a deduction for your mortgage any more (just rent, let the rich own all the houses) and your children may not be able to attend a prestigious college (not even if they would qualify for a scholarship, since the deduction for charitable giving to organizations that give scholarships might well disappear, but just let the rich go to Harvard while you kid goes to community college), but you will have the satisfaction of knowing … tax rates are lower for small businesses.

So now I am confused. Is Mitt Romney going to leave all details up to Congress, or just the ones that involve cutting tax benefits and government programs that people have relied on for decades? Romney cited Reagan and Tip O’Neill as his models here, that they sat down and negotiated legislation. George W Bush expressed as one of his principles that Social Security be privatized. Congress jumped right on that popular idea, and … oh wait.

Which is what I am wondering about. Making cuts and changes like the ones Romney is talking about is going to be really difficult, especially in this partisan era. So instead of presenting ideas to voters so that voters could consider them and compare with them with President Obama’s, Romney wants to throw the issues to Congress. Congress, of course, never shies away from a tough fight, never kicks an issue down the road. This is what Romney’s experience tells him.

That and if three percent of small businesses employ a quarter of the workforce (over 25 million workers), then how are they still "small" businesses? Plus, if you are a worker at a (big) small business, and the businesses income is really high, does that mean you will be paid a huge sum of money ... well, if you work at Bain capital, sure, all the people worth knowing got big salaries. And the secretaries ... well they are nice people too. Romney made a comment about how raising the top tier tax bracket to Clinton levels (38%, not the 40 he quoted) would raise the taxes of all the workers at these 3% of (big) small businesses that employ 25% of American workers. The guy is seriously math challenged.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Real Campaign

Today Jack Kelly wants to tell us "Obama's Real Record". Kelly hits the standard points, how Obama had a huge majority in Congress, yet has been unable to reduce unemployment. What Obama did manage to shove do our throats, Obamacare, was promised to reduce premiums, yet it is raising them and increasing the deficit. There's slow growth in the economy, the national debt and Obama's foreign policy, including a war in Afghanistan that is almost lost.

I could respond to all of these points with complicated, detailed answers that take a lot of the blame off the President, but we all know them (we know, just to mention one, that Republicans in Congress have resisted Obama literally every step of the way). But I will concede there is a grain of truth in each of these charges, and we all know that as well. Democrats may be inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt (even as Republican opposition has hardened), but what about independents? Since those are the voters, especially in swing states, that both campaigns are concentrating on, both campaigns will make the race about their opponents. Both candidates are vulnerable in this area, and the race will be about who makes the most mistakes, and how serious the mistakes are. All for what it is worth.

Which one, Obama or Romney, would make the better President for the next four years? That is actually a reasonable but complicated question. I personally think it comes down to some issues on the periphery. I mean, I think Obama is trying to help the economy recover, but I think he is trying to keep Wall Street, the banks and the wealthy from suffering much at all. I believe Glenn Greenwald (now at the Guardian.UK) when he accuses Obama of all sorts of unconstitutional and unethical behavior (he has no kind words for Mitt Romney though either).

The thing is, as bad (in many ways) Obama is now, would Romney be an improvement? Romney might be no more successful than Obama in moving legislation through Congress, but his executive orders and directives to agencies would likely damage our recovery (in my opinion, backed by my study of economics). I see no reason to believe Romney would be more favorably inclined to whistle blowers either, for example.

So for me it comes down to Supreme Court nominees, as well as Federal judicial nominees. That and the possibility of persuading Obama to reverse himself on the Constitutional issues. Maybe those are weak reasons to vote for a candidate, but we live in the real world, where the necessities of politics make all candidates less than desirable.

Which reminds me, I need to say something about Bill Peduto versus Luke Ravenstahl soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Jakc Kelly today.

This is a copy of what I posted to the Post Gazette and also Facebook about Jack Kelly's column today.

You know, I will give Jack Kelly credit for acknowledging that there is a difference between the few Muslim extremists and the vast mass of the rest of Islam. Although Kelly had to get a dig in on Obama while making that point.

Short of a shooting war or some trade dispute that actually affects the price of 3D TV's, most Americans are content to judge foreign policy success based on their perception of things. By all rights Jimmy Carter was a fair success, for example, in advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East. And as far as Iran goes, Carter was cleaning up a mess started in the World War II when we (and the Soviets!) installed the Shah. The Iranian people knew who to blame for the years of the secret police and no democracy, and a few extremists reacted directly by seizing the embassy.

By contrast, exactly what did Ronald Reagan achieve in foreign policy. Yes, the Soviet Union collapsed (technically during George HW Bush's term), but that was really a matter of outspending the Soviets in the cold war for decades. Past that, Reagan blundered a bit in the Middle East, resulting in the deaths of nearly three hundred Americans and French. Lebanon suffered for years after. How exactly was Reagan a success.

Well Reagan could brag about illusions like no one else (morning in America?). Reagan said he was a success, so he was.

Jack Kelly wants to tell us he has given us information that the rest of the world knows, but most (other) Americans have been deceived about. And I am sure there is a core of PG readers who catch all the right wing conspiracy theories, who think Kelly is a great truth teller. But I suspect most Americans, while dismayed by the deaths in Libya, basically don't blame Obama for them. It was the crazy Muslims reacting to that crazy film.

Jack Kelly could be right about some or even all of what he is saying. But most Americans have already made up their minds about what is going on the Middle East, and are unlikely to want to change their minds based on Kelly's column.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Kelly invokes Saint Reagan

There are a couple of ways to discuss today's Jack Kelly column. Kelly has a long history of repeating inaccurate, incomplete and frequently wrong facts. But, without even accusing Kelly of outright lying we can look at his central premise.

In this column Jack Kelly compares the economies that Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan inherited, and how well their respective responses fared. So first, what kind of economies did both men inherit? Obama came into something that resembled the great depression. Banks were in danger of failing, the stock market was in danger of crashing, unemployment was shooting up, the GNP was crashing as well. It was an immediate crisis. By the way, I need to say that while the crisis started in the Bush administration, that administration had also reacted swiftly with hundreds of millions of dollars to stem the immediate effect. Although they deserve blame for allowing the crisis to occur, they also deserve praise for not simply allowing the economy to drop into depression before Obama came into office.

When Reagan came into office, the economy was in the grip of something that had been labelled stagfaltion. That was where unemployment was high, but also inflation was high. It was not a situation where there was a threat that unemployment would go higher, or that banks would fail. There was, as I recall, concern that inflation could continue to rise and no one was sure what would happen. But no one, *no one* thought we were no more than a month or two away from another great depression.

In terms of Obama's and Reagan's responses to their respective economic crises, first, many economists agree that Obama's stimulus was too small, and contained too many tax cuts that don't really have as big an impact as direct spending (Obama's tax cut disproportionately benefited the middle class and poor, but tax cuts they were). Obama introduced the thing to Congress with a lot of tax cuts I believe as an immediate olive branch to Republicans. Not one House Republican voted in a bipartisan way to save the economy. Only three Senate Republicans voted for the stimulus, and only after they had further gutted the package, ensuring it would be too small. Thus the recovery now is anemic.

By contrast, Reagan's recovery was, as Kelly says, quite strong. But the man to credit with that recovery is not Ronald Reagan, it was the Jimmy Carter appointed Chairman of Federal Reseve Paul Volker. Volker raised interest rates much higher than the (then) current rate of inflation, and basically caused the economy to crash. Inflation dropped rapidly and then Volker dropped interest rates, essentially opening the flood gates and caused businesses to borrow money to start hiring and buying equipment, and those new hires bought things they had been putting off buying. Reagan watched this all from the Oval Office. All legislation he did put through was passed by a Democratic Congress that was interested in making America great again.

So you can see Jack Kelly whole column is disingenuous. There is no comparison between Reagan's and Obama's economies, and by the way Kelly fails to give credit to Paul Volker. I guess that is because Volker supports the idea of raising taxes on the rich now.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Kelly disses the EPA

Jack Kelly fires a shotgun blast of complaints today towards the EPA. Which is interesting, given that the Republican convention just ended, and Kelly could have talked about the platform and Republican proposals for the economy and our society. Or Kelly could have addressed the accusations that both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney lied through their teeth in their convention speeches. Or Kelly could have talked about Ryan's boast that he had run a sub three hour marathon, which a day later he had to admit was actually a four hour and one minute marathon. Jeez, I ran a faster marathon than Mr P90x.

But Mr Kelly talked about none of those things, instead essentially crowing about how Republicans have packed the DC Court of Appeals, repeatedly blocking and refusing to vote on first Bill Clinton's and the Barack Obama's nomiinees. Now the children of America will suffer from asthma and early death thanks to Republican intransigence. The first thing Kelly mentions is an August 21st decision by the Court to block new EPA rules for coal fired power plants. Kelly quotes the Court as saying the EPA exceeded it's authority under the Clean Air Act. Interestingly, the group of lawyers that forms the Natural Resources Defense Council (and the dissenting opinion on the Court) said exactly the opposite.

Kelly next mentions how the DC Court blocked a suit against EPA on technical grounds concerning an increase of ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 15%. Kelly says that much ethanol can harm engines, especially older ones. Now apparently the EPA rules would have permitted the higher ethanol in cars newer than 2007, but ...

This might be one of those rare areas of agreement between me and Jack Kelly. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of bio diesel made from whatever - sugar cane, switch grass or, yes, corn. But the gasoline additive ethanol ... I have never trusted it. Kelly is likely correct that the EPA is advancing a political agenda in supporting ethanol, but to be fair, it is an agenda set during the Bush administration. There was apparently a 2007 law pushing the higher amounts of ethanol, which means a Democratic Congress passed it (pushed by farm state Congressmen, no doubt) and a Republican President signed it. Popular Mechanics goes into how it harms engines and some of the politics. I am with Kelly that ethanol is a poor direction for us to be going in.

Kelly also mentions fracking and the wonderfulness of natural gas. But I think we have all heard about ground water contamination related to fracking; Kelly uses concerns about groundwater to assert that it is clear the EPA is not actually concerned about air pollution! The Atlantic spends some time last spring talking about the EPA and fracking, but only in terms of air pollution. I guess the industry and Republicans have successful forced the EPA to roll over on protecting our water.

Kelly has lots of other accusations, including the oft-repeated claim the Obama's green energy initiative (which I think would be more Department of Energy than EPA, but Kelly doesn't care) is actually a scheme to enrich Obama donors. Factcheck dot org addresses that in detail, and finds indications of sloppiness but none of these pay to play accusations.

The last accusation I will deal with is that the EPA is using drones to inspect farms and ranches for pollution. The EPA does use planes to make aerial inspections, saving taxpayers thousands. But the Washington Post found the drone story to be totally made up.

I guess just like ignoring the lies Republicans told at their convention, Jack Kelly does not care about truth in his own column.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kelly disses student loans

Jack Kelly's column today is kind of interesting. He is making a case for part of the cuts that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are advocating. You may remember that at a fund raiser Romney said he would cut all of the education department except the part that collects outstanding student loans. This is a classic dog whistle column masquerading as a "reasonable" criticism of modern education. Make no mistake, agreeing with this column is agreeing that unless your parents make over a million a year or you score in the 98th percentile on your SAT's, you are only going to a for profit trade school or community college. No Harvard for you!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jack Kelly 8/19/12

So Jack Kelly’s column today continues his recent trend of accusing the Obama campaign of expecting the liberal media to cover for them, and the liberal media of mostly going along with them. His previous column harped on the Joe Skoptic (sp?) ad as a lie, now he is concentrating on the charge that Obama is stealing $700 billion from those who pay into Medicare as well as from the people on Medicare themselves.

But Kelly’s column has at least three problems. First of all, his suggestion that Obama is somehow going to skim the seven hundred billion off out of the payroll taxes, and lower the reimbursements to the elderly is too simple and pretty clearly inaccurate. First of all the savings come from two areas, as I understand it (maybe three, but I remember two). Part comes from reducing payments to Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage was a program started in the Bush administration, which like education vouchers for private primary/secondary schools, takes the money Medicare would use to administer and reimburse seniors healthcare. According to this source, Medicare Advantage plans cost more than the regular Medicare program by a significant amount. Kelly calls these programs popular and perhaps they are, but they are also a case of the private sector gouging the government. And the other part of the savings comes from negotiated reductions in reimbursements to hospitals, which should not affect the healthcare senior citizens receive. Yes, the savings in the Medicare program are supposed to be transferred to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare to ignoramuses). But the ACA should mean illnesses getting caught earlier, and treated more efficiently, more time on the job, fewer bankruptcies and premature deaths. That should benefit the economy as a whole, helping everyone.

Second, there is the point that apparently the Ryan budget also had some 700 billion of cuts to Medicare that Jack Kelly entirely ignores. Other parts of the Ryan budget have few details about where specific cuts were to fall. What are we to think about where Ryan’s 700 billion was to come from? Would it have been simply from the reimbursements to patients? We might never know, but although apparently neither Kelly nor Ryan is now not going to talk about that part of Ryan’s budget, the cuts were there.

The third problem that Kelly does not acknowledge, or perhaps does not understand, are the impact of the cuts in the Ryan budget to Medicaid. Anyone who does not think there is a connection between Medicare and Medicaid has not had a parent (or perhaps themselves) go into a nursing home. At least in Pennsylvania, Medicaid will not pay for nursing home care until a patient loses all assets down to a few thousand. If Paul Ryan’s budget passes, Medicaid will no longer be capable of paying the large sums of money nursing homes want (thousands a month). That is a serious issue that Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Jack Kelly will not talk about before the election. Is that being honest to the voters?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Greenwald on Ryan

In the last few months (maybe a year) I have touted Glenn Greenwald of Salon dot com as a liberal critic of President Obama's. Greenwald has castigated Obama over detention issues, drone attacks, the related issue of assassinations without due process of American citizens, prosecutions of whistle blowers, the secrecy of the Obama administration and more. Greenwald give lie to the conservative contention that the media is in bed with Obama.

Yet Greenwald is at pains to stress that he is leaving Republicans/conservatives alone only because one is not President right now. He claims he was just as hard on Bush (I wasn't reading him then).

Today his column was an interesting departure from his recent criticisms of Obama; Greenwald took a look at the divergence between Paul Ryan's and Mitt Romney's bellicose language as well as Ryan's supposed support for small government and their actual records. Rather than review it piece by piece I will leave you to read it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jack Kelly doubles down on teachers

I think it is really interesting that Jack Kelly so totally missed the Paul Ryan boat with today's column on education. But I will go ahead and just talk about the Kelly column.

Today Kelly attacks schools of education and their place in the education system. He particularly attacks certification, since it keeps mid-career professionals outof the classroom. Now, although Kelly doesn't actually mention unions in this column, we know he is on record wanting to bust all unions, including particularly the teacher's union. But how attractive is a union busted teaching position to an engineer or private sector PhD? The union busted job will have minimal benefits, including healthcare the employee mostly has to pay all the premiums and almost no retirement plan (defined contribution with no employer contribution) and low wages.

The people who will apply for teaching positions that you need no certification for are Tea Party activists and evangelicals. And I think Republican controlled school boards will hire them, despite all that Kelly is saying about qualifications. We should remember the Bush Justice Department favored conservative credentials over actual ability. I believe that will happen with teachers as well.

If it is evangelicals and Tea Party types are the ones who apply and are hired for teaching positions, what will happen. Well, I think how evangelicals will affect things is obvious (if there is a Romeny Presidency, we will see the Supreme Court turn away any challenges on Constitutional grounds). As for the Tea Party types, see if you can find the clause on "self styled educated classes and so-called experts" in the Tea Party declaration of independence.

And Jack Kelly missed the whole Paul Ryan thing


Friday, July 20, 2012

The Aurora shooting

The shooting at the Batman Dark Knight Rising is absolutely terrible, and of course I am as horrified as everybody else (I would hope that would be the word everybody would use).

I gather the shooter's name is James Holmes, and he was a PhD student in neuroscience. I also gather some enterprising journalists have made internet connections and made (mistaken) declarations about how Holmes is a radical or a conservative. Others have decried this as jumping the ... (ahem) ... gun. And they would be right, in my opinion.

I expect there will be some interesting pathology here. I mean, a PhD candidate, there is something weird going on here. Might be political, although it could just as easily be an apolitical pathology.

But I think there is one early comment of a political nature that could be made. If Mr Holmes had only had a lever action rifle (think the Winchester rifles you see in westerns) and revolver pistols, the death toll might have been lower. But the NRA has to allow Americans to buy files that fire 30 shots - one pull of the trigger for each shot, and for that matter pistols that can shoot perhaps seventeen shots, again one shot per pull of the trigger, and reloaded in no more than a couple of seconds. I think we have to admit that one of the arguments underpinning the NRA's defense of having these highly lethal weapons available to the public is that somehow we are supposed to be able to overthrow the government. We are supposed to kill the cops and soldiers who I thought we called heroes, in particular for doing things most of us only watch on TV and in the movies.

What's somewhat alarming is that there are apparently (at least possibly) members of the Tea Party who believe that such actions are necessary, at least as long as Obama is in office. If Obama is re-elected, I suspect some of these people might turn violent. And thanks to the NRA, they will be so much more lethal. Like James Holmes was. Just targeting the police.


What would have happened if, in July of 2008, Michelle Obama had said, about Barack Obama's birth certificate that "We've given all you people need to know"? The incredible outcry that would have followed ...

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The Daily Show just had a snippet from some morning show where Ann Romney said "We've given you people all you need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our lives" apparently about the tax returns.


"you people"?

"all you need to know"?

I think Ann Romney has just given us all we need to know about the Romney's attitude towards us, the little people.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

once again, tilting at windmills ... er publicly financed elections

If you look back to close to when I started writing this blog (January 10, 2007), you will see the enthusiasm I felt for the city council campaign of Pat Dowd. A secondary school history teacher with a PhD, he said (what I thought) were all the right things. Somewhere along the way I remember expressing caveats (what I think of as usual caveats) of the sort that all politicians break your heart at some point. I should mention Barack Obama as practically the perfect example of this.

Pat Dowd of course is now on city council, has taken some strange positions but surely is no worse than the rest of city council and probably better than many. My point in referencing him is to point out the risk of choosing to support a candidate or a specific cause, particularly a candidate. Reading Glenn Greenwald on Salon dot com is enough to convince one Obama should be impeached, but I am still convinced that the Republicans are a worse alternative for the nation as a whole, that they would do nothing for the unemployed and in fact make things worse. But make no mistake, President Obama has had American citizens killed without due process, and (for me, perhaps more serious) had civilians killed in the Middle East; there is no reason to think he won't do more of that unless stopped. Plus Obama has not shown a strong enough willingness to oppose Republicans in Congress. Maybe doing so would not accomplish any more than what has been accomplished and achieving a symbolic victory would not put one more person to work.

So supporting Pat Dowd was not an unambiguous good (no surprise) and supporting Barack Obama is only just barely justifiable. But I still think supporting Len Bodack (who? look it up) and/or Mitt Romney would have been at least slightly worse, barring unforeseen yada yada.

What about supporting specific causes or legislation. Not quite as risky, since legislation can't change its mind once it passed, but the "law of unintended consequences" (not a real law) often rears its head. Student loans and tax credits have probably contributed heavily to the huge rise in higher education tuition, for example. A (larger) Keynesian sort of stimulus could jump start the economy and revitalize our infrastructure, but there is always the danger that the huge bump in debt might take a long time to grow our way out of, placing a huge burden on grand kids.

It is in this spirit that I refer you to this article from Drew Westen. Westen is the author of the Politcal Brain which I found compelling, despite its partisan leanings (OK, I have those same leanings, but I hope I redeem myself somewhat by mentioning those leanings). The New York Times article is an interesting proposal for publicly financed elections.

It is hard to see how we could get to publicly financed elections. But what is our alternative? Our politicians have become specialists in raising money, specifically from the wealthy. Even more important than the (diminishing) differences between the parties is the influence of the ultra rich.

We already have a system for publicly funded Presidential elections. The problem is that it is optional if the candidates can raise more. D'oh!

Check out the article, see what you think.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jack Kelly today on Afghanistan

There are three points worth talking about in Jack Kelly's column today. Today's column is a rejection of the concept of nation building, with the usual complaints about Obama and his policies along the way.

The first point to mention is that while Kelly does not say it explicitly, he implies that Afghan soldiers are attacking US and/or NATO soldiers because they hate Obama. Kelly says ""Green on blue" attacks were virtually unheard of before October 2009. During the entire war in Iraq, there were only three such incidents." "Virtually" strikes me as possibly a weasel word, and Iraq had a whole insurgency against US soldiers.

What's interesting is that one could make a case that Obama's reliance on drone attacks might be affecting the views of Afghan soldiers. Attacks using drones on civilians to get to (suspected) terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and probably others gets back to people across the Middle East. But Jack Kelly doesn't mention drones. Could it be that the Tea Party (and thus Jack Kelly) approves of the use drones, even if civilians get killed?

The second point I think worth talking about is Kelly's general indictment of nation building. The obvious question is, if you bomb the heck out of a country when you invade them and you want them to be a democracy when you are done, what's the alternative? Kelly calls it expensive. But isn't it more expensive to fail in nation building.

By the way, it should be pointed out that the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of Japan was nation building. I think if you say that nation building in Europe and Japan was a failure, you better have a pretty strong, unshakeable argument. Still, I would not surprised if Tea Party mouthpiece Jack Kelly made that suggestion.

The third point I want to look at is Kelly's final point that Ronald Reagan had aided the mujahideen "freedom fighters" without engaging in nation building in Afghanistan. To suggest a comparison to our current situation is ludicrous and basically insulting. It was the Soviets who were the invaders in the 1980's, and until they left, the US could not engage in nation building in Afghanistan. And by the way, who was more responsible for aid to the mujahideen, Ronald Reagan or Congress who controls the purse strings? This is the question raised by "Charlie Wilson's War". Interestingly, the movie also suggests Wilson wanted to engage in nation building in Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew. But although Wilson had secured perhaps 500 million for the Afghan resistance plus 500 million more from the Saudi's, according to the movie he couldn't get a few millions or even hundreds of thousands for roads, schools and hospitals later.

The final thing to say is that whether you blame Ronald Reagan or Charlie Wilson for our not helping the Afghans out after the Soviets left, there is a direct link from the victorious mujahideen to the Taliban, and from the Taliban/mujahideen to al Qada and 9/11. How expensive is nation building?

Romney and Bain ...

I am not sure I am supposed to do this, but I want to comment on a post on Two Political Junkies. The post is about the recent discovery that Mitt Romney was listed as Bain Capital's CEO and drew a paycheck for some years (perhaps four) after he said he left to run the Olympics.

Actually, part if the 2PJ post was about how Fox News did not cover the SEC statements, rather they were talking about how the campaigns sparred.

The Obama Campaign (in the person of Stephanie Cutler) promptly declared that Romney had lied, and possibly committed a felony. Unfortunately, no less an organization than Factcheck dot org disputes the Obama campaign charge.

Factcheck does not say that Romney was not in fact the titular (heh heh) head of Bain, nor do they say that Romney did not get a paycheck. However, Factcheck states this is not fraud, let alone a felony. I tend to believe them, which means the Obama campaign erred in trying to go for the simplistic charge.

Meanwhile, it may be true that Romney committed no felony in remaining the (non-functional) CEO of Bain, or even has any responsibility for Bain's activities after he left to run the Olympics. However, I am not sure that is the end of it.

OK, Romney broke no laws. While a case can be made that Romney was less than truthful with all of us about the entirety his relationship with Bain, it may will be that one has to say that Romney was not making the decisions that led to outsourcing or driving companies into bankruptcy and depriving workers of their retirements.

But here's the thing: the case Romney and the Republicans are making is that Obama has not done enough for unemployment. Anybody else would be better as long as they are willing to work harder than Obama on unemployment.

But what it turns out that Romney's commitment to fighting unemployment is not that strong? How would we know? Well, suppose Romney was not working at Rain anymore, but because he was still technically the CEO, he could step in and prevent Bain from outsourcing American jobs. How strong can we say Romney's commitment is to American jobs, if he didn't raise a finger to save jobs Bain was eliminating, when Romney still had the ability to?

Admittedly, that is a more complicated argument to make than "Romney committed a felony". But it is maybe more important. Romney wants to criticize Obama on jobs, yet Romney had the ability to save jobs Bain was killing during the time romney was running the Olympics, and he didn't. How hard will work for ordinary Americans as President?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Kelly goes round the bend

In today’s column, Jack Kelly has finally declared his vision of what the world (really just America) actually looks like. If you ask me, Kelly modeled it after what liberals (and to a small extent Democrats) accused George W Bush of, Emperor Dubya the first who supposedly wanted a permanent Republican majority, and (in the weird nightmares of some liberals) to stay in power indefinitely. Actually Dubya ended up kind of like Slick Willie (hey, we should be non-partisan in our insulting nicknames, yeah?), his term ended with a reversal that was more a whimper than a bang. His somewhat hysterical descriptions aside, Barack Obama’s term as Presidency will end either later this year or in four years, and if history is any guide, likely a Republican will take over the White House (if it is in four years it probably won’t be Mitt Romney). And our giant cultural juggernaut with be pushed along by inertia in a continuingly negative direction of income inequality and diminished benefits for the poor and elderly, whether or when our economy recovers.

But to the matter at hand, Jack Kelly’s dog whistle column today. More like a dog foghorn. Before I even address the insanity therin, I want to reference this unrelated column from last someone else, last September. This column is another dog whistle, essentially saying that no attempt should be made to register the poor, since all they do is vote in politicians who get them more benefits. If you buy that, you will buy all of today’s Jack Kelly column.

The thing is, the world is not that black and white. Barack Obama has done some things that appear to be designed to perhaps appeal to or at least assuage the concerns of independents (assuming true conservatives are essentially a lost cause). Some pundits would put the too small stimulus in that category (although part of that is also the fault of Congress), and perhaps the increased program of arrests of medical marijuana shops in California and the war on whistleblowers. Or perhaps there is something more going on with Obama, where he is actually more extreme than even Bush was, on marijuana, whistleblowers and the assassinations Jack Kelly mentions.

Which brings me back to the world not being black and white. There are reasons like the ones listed above to criticize Barack Obama, and more. Obama’s and Obama’s administration‘s connections to Wall Street, and the fact that Wall Street has not suffered much since the meltdown and in fact has prospered (those who merged, and probably even those who were merged) is a great concern. The use of drones to kill terrorists that ends up killing civilians (who if they are male adults are promptly dubbed also terrorists, and if women or children, they simply aren’t acknowledged) is another great concern.

But as I have said there is only one of the concerns I listed that Jack Kelly also lists as a concern. The assassinations are serious, but Kelly’s and apparently all Republicans don’t seem to care about Wall Street, drones, whistle blowers or medical marijuana. Instead Jack Kelly trots out a bunch of in this early paragraph: “King Barack I treats the public treasury as his piggy bank, enforces only the laws he likes and asserts the power, without oversight from Congress or the courts, to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism. His attorney general dodges lawful subpoenas while protecting and promoting vote fraud.”

Kelly claims both the judiciary and the press (except presumably for News Corp and he rest of the right wing noise machine) are in the bag for Democrats. I guess its fortunate that an election is coming up, but I fear what might happen if Obama is re-elected. Jack Kelly might call for the assassination of Barack Obama.

Meanwhile the Republicans are going after different issues than the ones I listed. Some of then, such as debt, are real issues. I personally think the debt is something that we can’t afford to deal with until after we reverse the recession. I think Bill Clinton showed extraordinary wisdom when he suggested that the deficit/debt should be addressed when thinks are good, not in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression. But then the rest of their issues, that the Obama administration is spending money on unemployment, food stamps and Medicaid because of the massive up-tick in unemployment. And universal health care has not destroyed the governments of all other industrial democracies, or are Republicans saying that Greece, Ireland, China and Russia are dictatorships (well, China and Russia … never mind)? And this business of not obeying the laws of Congress, well, Bush’s attitude toward FISA and signing statements make that issue a lot more complex (except the Republicans I have talked to refuse to acknowledge Bush’s actions).

Are Republican and independents getting good information from their leaders and the right wing noise machine? Admittedly on the other side I wouldn’t know some things if I hadn’t stumbled on to Glenn Greenwald, but there is Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job” and apparently Ezera Klein is not too bad. But a lot of the media is obsessed with being fair and finding two equal sides for every story, and there is a smaller group that does actually worship Obama (much like conservatives accuse). So the left doesn’t always have the best sources either, but at least they are there for people to find. As far as I know the right has no equivalent, only people like Bill O’Reilly, the late Andrew Breitbart, Matthew Vadum and Jack Kelly.

That’s the state of political debate today, and Jack Kelly’s contribution.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Jack Kelly Foreign Policy, and other fantasies ...

The first thing to say about today's Jack Kelly column “Dangerous naivete: Obama's policies allow radicals to rise in the Middle East” is that he wants you to change your view of Barack Obama depending what type of politics we are talking about. The Barack Obama who is masterminding the voter fraud to steal is an evil genius, while today's Barack Obama is a naive moron stupidly encouraging our enemies. Kelly starts with this "Since 2009, the percentages of Middle Easterners who have a favorable opinion of America, and of President Obama, have declined by 40 percent and 37 percent, respectively, according to Pew's annual poll." (Pew has an annual poll of Middle Easterners?). Kelly goes on to say that the "Arab Spring" has produced new breeding grounds for terrorists.

Personally I think that Middle Easterners see an America that in many ways is the same as America was under George Bush. We are killing civilians and we are still supporting the puppet governments of Iraq and Afghanistan that we cobbled together after we allowed better alternatives to be literally killed off. They don't like us because they see what we doing. Obama has turned out not only to not reach out to the Middle East, he is making thing worse. Of course they’re ticked off.

But Jack Kelly sees Barack Obama as a wide eyed innocent, blundering through the world thinking everyone who says they are our friend are actually our friends. Kelly sort of conveniently forgets the assassination program he mentioned Friday in an online column.

The thing is, Kelly’s world view apparently includes the idea that we can control the governments of other countries. Kelly talks about Carter’s naiveté concerning Khomeini and Obama’s naiveté concerning Eqypt’s President-elect Mohammad Morsi. It’s true that we were essentially able to install the Shah of Iran and various governments of South Vietnam in the past, but look how well that turned out for us in the long run. Kelly apparently thinks (or wants us to think) we still should be able to do this, or at least wants to blame Barack Obama for not doing it.

Mind you, Jack Kelly is not talking about installing democracy in the Middle East. In fact, our goals have never been about installing democracy in the Middle East, unless you were taken in by George W Bush’s claims about Iraq, made some time after we had actually invaded and hadn’t found anything (much) in the way of WMD’s and found that rather than Iraq already being involved with al Qaeda, our invasion had brought them in. Dubya decided that the real (third) reason we had invaded Iraq was to bring democracy to Iraq, which would then be an example to the rest of the Middle East. By the way, how well did that work out.

I mention all that because of Kelly’s line in his column – “The utter failure to date of his outreach efforts hasn't shaken Mr. Obama's confidence that the force of his personality will convert Islamists into democrats.”. Mr Kelly shows that selective memory, What he accuses Obama of is pretty close to what Dubya was supposed to be trying.

As I mentioned, Kelly’s world view apparently includes the notion that we can control who runs countries, at least in Middle East. Kelly suggests that Syria’s Assad and Libya’s Qaddafi (when he was alive), while brutal and supporters of terrorism, are/were “secular dictators who accepted limits ignored by ardent jihadists.” Is Jack Kelly really suggesting that we control Assad?

I remember the Star Trek episode where a history professor from earth established a form of Nazism on some underdeveloped planet. I suppose in some debating society venue there are arguments to be made for fascism as an efficient form of government, or Bashar al-Assad as a lesser evil. But surely we have learned from Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak that our dictators do no better and in the end probably worse for countries, plus often end up creating lots of ill will towards us in a country we think is important to us (see Iranian government)(you don’t think Saddam was one of ours? See the Reagan and first Bush adminitrations).

By the way< Jack Kelly trots out the line about the Nazi’s “mentoring” the Muslim Brotherhood. I have read in other places that it occurred, but I don’t believe there is any current influence. But it is a powerful image for Jack Kelly, especially with Israel being right there (a little gratuitous, n’est pas?).

So isn’t Jack Kelly showing us his own naiveté about the Middle East? Take a country like Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan or most others (including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait). Over the years that they have been ruled by kings or dictators, what has been their experience with democracy? How many democratic traditions have they built up? Well, OK, you say, what political traditions do they have … none, except being told what to do. At best the dictator was unable to totally suppress Islam. Which means that when democracy is thrust on an Eqypt or (to some extent) an Iraq, Islam is their only cultural tradition which can be linked to politics. Politicians able to show some links to Islam have a built in advantage.

But does all this mean we should advocate (or subvert, or whatever), as Kelly says, for “secular dictators”? That strikes me as unsustainable in the long run, and since we never know when the dictatorships will unravel, there is no way to help prepare for transition to some other government. Democracy (as we are finding ourselves – Citizens United) is not necessarily stable or sustainable, but still surely it is worth the effort.

Will the Muslim Brotherhood cause Egypt to run amok, causing problems in the region? Honestly I don’t know, all I can say is that in the last twenty five years, the region has had some problems from both Iran (theocracy) and Iraq (secular dictatorship). The region doesn’t have enough experience with democracy, but Kelly’s preferred secular dictatorships really haven’t done any better than the religious dictatorships. Jack Kelly’s assessment of Barack Obama as naïve suffers from its own form of naiveté.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's never OK when Democrats do it.

Today's Jack Kelly Column about "Emperor Barack I" evokes a weird sense of deja vu. Have we all forgotten the time in the Bush administration maybe 2005, 2006 when John Yoo was talking about the "Unitary Executive" theory, essentially that famous statement immortalized in the movie "Frost/Nixon" - "When the President does it that means it is not illegal"?

I was watching the first season of "West Wing" in the last couple of days (my girlfriend had not seen it, I thought she might like it, so I took it out of the library). It strikes me that the era depicted in that show is currently gone. Now, one can certainly argue that 9/11 justified some of that change. A President at war does need additional powers to prosecute that war. And of course the "global war on terror", being a special kind of war, involved interesting problems in what powers might be needed. After all, the enemy does not have a home country where they can be found (or hold prisoners), wear's no uniform when fighting us so they could be anyone, has the most rudimentary of leadership structure so they are unable to sign the Geneva convention.

But many Americans (maybe even most)(who had an opinion) finally decided that warrant-less wiretaps entirely without independent monitoring of who knows who (supposedly only foreigners, but exactly hard would it be to listen in on Americans). Few Americans who aren't Republicans express unqualified support for the Patriot Act and in fact many (maybe most) Americans opposed it. But there it was, and first Republican Congresses and then a filibustered Democratic Senate was unable to help the American public. Assuming enough of Congress actually agreed that the Patriot Act is a enough of a bad thing.

Now, of course, Republicans now want to block anything and everything President Obama does. Although in some cases Republicans/conservatives seem selective about what they object to. Jack Kelly was at plans to tell us how granting the children of undocumented aliens essential amnesty is the act of an emperor (and then he goes into how political it is, and how Obama wants to steal the election by having illegals vote multiple times). Kelly also talked about Obama's assassination program, the one where Obama can kill even US citizens as long as they are suspected of being terrorists. But Kelly didn't mention the drone attack program, something that Glenn Greenwald has talked about numerous times. Could it be that Obama does something that Kelly approves of, wants to preserve for a potential President Romney?

The Presidency is often about pushing the bounds of power, from (Saint) Lincoln suspending habeous corpus to FDR's infinite Presidential terms (until death clipped that), trying to stack the court, all sorts of things, to Truman trying to nationalize the steel industry. If my liberal friends suggested Republicans do it more (in the last forty years) I would probably tend to agree. I mean, no one ever accused Jimmy Carter of being power mad.

But besides Obama's continuing the Bush administration's coddling of Wall Street and pushing the war in Afghanistan, there is the doubling down on whistle blowers, and the assassination program, which is new. Is it unprecedented? Personally, I don't think so.

I realize I have biases, but I think I can keep enough perspective to say whether something is a significant new precedent or not. Assassination is new, but as long as it is limited to (suspected) terrorists outside the US, even if some fraction are US citizens, then it perhaps more incremental than revolutionary.

Meanwhile, it seems safe to say that Jack Kelly is unconcerned about the concept of perspective; for him there is only a partisan agenda.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kelly tries to make Obama into the liberal characterture of Dubya

Today's Jack Kelly column is a startling study in what information to leave out when you try to persuade your readers of a point of view. I don't believe anything Jack Kelly says (or anything he quotes) is, strictly speaking, untrue, but he leaves out information that would indicate the reverse of the points he is trying to make and, I would argue, tries to persuade us of arguments not supported by reality.

The title of the column plays off the media stereotype of Mitt Romney - "Out-of-touch Obama: The president doesn't understand how the private sector works". Right of the bat Kelly is referencing the soundbite from the President - "the private sector is doing fine". Pretty much everyone knows Obama was making a comparison between a weakly growing private sector and state and local governments that are laying off employees. Yeah, that sentence was a stupid thing for Obama to say, but the point of the entire press conference was not lost on the public, since right after Mitt Ronmney said we have enough teachers and firefighters right now, we don't need any more (maybe in the wealthy suburbs where your three current houses that I know of are).

Actually, starting with that title and in the rest of the column, it really reminded me of the media stereotype of George W Bush. Kelly starts the column talking about how Obama has set a record for fundraising appearances. This is certainly true (I have seen it reported elsewhere), but Jack Kelly omits a couple of interesting facts. First, in a list of the top ten groups that give money to candidates, seven of the ten are industry groups that are now giving to Republicans. The other three are unions that are now giving to Democrats, but they are in the process of shrinking largely because of what is being done to public service unions by Republican governors. The second point is, despite Obama's numerous fundraising appearances, Mitt Romney is now raising more money than him. So when Jack Kelly insinuates that Barack Obama does not understand how bad the economy is for ordinary folks because all he does is hang out with rich people at fundraisers, why shouldn't we think that applies even more to Mr Romney?

Kelly takes throwaway shots at Obama along the way, reminding us of Scott Walker's victory in Wisconsin and how he describes "green" energy projects as "crony capitalism". You have to kind of assume that Jack Kelly's readers know that billionaire businessmen are giving record amounts of money to Mitt Romney and other Republicans, so I guess this constant rant about "crony capitalism" is the far right's attempt to paint the Democrats as worse in this area. It is an attempt to paint efforts to curb carbon emissions as having a financial benefit for the President's pals. This all fits into the greater narrative of the far right, that global warming is an obviously refuted hoax, created to solidify government control of our lives redistribute wealth from the rich to the bureaucrats by robbing energy companies of their income and impoverishing us all. I guess, I don't really follow the sketchy logic of the far right world view (where Jack Kelly lives) all that well.

At this point in the column, Jack Kelly describes the current state of the economy, which is not good. I guess he does this to show that while Barack Obama is out of touch, Jack Kelly (and I suppose by extension we are supposed to think Mitt Romney) is in touch with the pulse of the economy. This could be a risky strategy; on Bill Maher's "Real Time" on Friday night David Frum suggested the hidden message of the Romney campaign is that Barack Obama can't fix the mess the Republicans created.

Jack Kelly then does an abrupt about face, he suggests that in fact Barack Obama is wrong about state and local governments. First Kelly cites an interesting unemployment number (4.2%) for government workers. Honestly I don't know quite why it is so low, but I will say that a) it is for the feds, state and local, and Media Matters takes considerable pains to explain the effect of state and local job cuts. Among others, they quote the Economist magazine expressing alarm about the job cuts.

Kelly then points out that state revenues grew by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012. There are two reason why this statement is so incomplete as to be misleading. First of all, tax revenues starting falling hard in 2008. and didn't start recovering until 2010, and just like the economy at large, tax revenues have not recovered to 2008 levels (hint: part of that is unemployment not having dropped to 2008 levels). So to illustrate the point with totally made up numbers, if tax revenues were at 100 in 2008 (100 percent, perhaps), they might have dropped to, say 75% by 2010, and have slowly grown back by maybe 10 points in 2011 and now by 4 more points in the first quarter of 2012. That's still more than 10 points down from 2008 levels, and there is the state and local debt incurred in 2008 through 2010. The stimulus defrayed some of that in 2009 and 2010, but it was temporary and (now generally acknowledged) too small, so it is no surprise that state and local governments are scrambling to cut jobs - a half million or so in the last couple of years. Add in Republican governors pursuing an anti-union agenda to the mix, and we see a special enthusiasm for cutting government jobs.

Kelly also raises that old canard that government workers are paid 16 percent more in pay and benefits than public sector workers, but that misses the point that many government workers such as teachers pretty have to have at least bachelors degrees in order to teach. Government workers are, in general, better educated and therefore better paid than the private sector as an average. Actually, I have read that government workers are in fact more poorly paid than their equivalents education wise in the private sector (teachers making less than corporate trainers, for example).

But a larger point is that Jack Kelly is making contradictory arguments here. First he is telling us the economy in general and the private sector in particular are doing badly. Then he tells us that the public sector is doing well. Yet how can this be the case if states and local governments have to depend on tax revenues, which we have already indicated are likely quite reduced. Remember, they can only borrow for capital projects, and then only by issuing bonds. Kelly's contention that the private sector is doing well (too big) makes no sense. Which is one of the problems of the Republican narrative as a whole.

Kelly's final snark about Obama being more out of touch than Romney is undermined by Kelly's distortions by omission throughout his column. Maybe Obama is out of touch, but how would the Republicans know when they think a half million laid of workers is a sign of healthy state and local governments? And anyway it is still true that the Republican is building a car elevator in his vacation home.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Republicans and unemployment

Unemployment and its flip side job creation are things that have been bothering me recently. The issue has been important all through Obama’s Presidency, but it also neatly illustrates the depth of Republican hypocrisy.

Right at the beginning when the stimulus was moving through Congress, Republicans were already grumbling that the county couldn’t borrow and spend its way to recovery. Obligingly, Obama and Congressional Democrats made the stimulus some 40% tax cuts (because Republicans love tax cuts), but still no House Republican voted for the Stimulus. Could it be that because the tax cuts only benefited people with incomes below a quarter million that Republicans suddenly weren’t in favor of them.? Of course, three Republican Senators (the two women from Maine and Arlen Spector) did vote for the stimulus, after they had made it smaller (and thus less effective). But essentially the Republican Party as a whole said that the government could not help put people back to work, that temporary jobs (where people could afford to buy groceries, pay rent and not have to declare bankruptcy) would have no benefit to the economy.

After that for about nine months we had health care reform/death panels (and “you lie”). But once the ACA passed, we got close to the mid-terms and all of a sudden Republicans started talking about unemployment, after having tried anything and everything to block health care reform. Republicans found the unemployment message very useful in the mid-terms, and were able to take back the House. So of course in January when the new members took their seats, Congress immediately started to work on their campaign promises to address unemployment, yeah?

Well no, instead the Tea Party dominated House took the United States government to the brink of default and bankruptcy with the debt ceiling fiasco. Where was unemployment in January 2011 and after? Well, the Republicans stopped talking about it and so the media (feckless government watchdogs that they are) stopped talking about it.

After the debt ceiling debacle, the assassination of bin Laden (I won’t say anything about why that was a disaster here now), the Arab Spring and Libyan war, we did hear from some conservatives some occasional snarking particularly about how the Obama administration had (stupidly) said unemployment would not go over 8%, but mostly there was silence since the Republican House was not able to make the unemployment situation any better either.

By now we were getting to the Republican primary season, where the only thing the candidates could agree on was that Obama’s policies had failed, particularly for unemployment. Mind you, the Republican candidates had essentially no proposals of their own to make things better, mostly they pledged to undo what (little) Obama had gotten done, like repealing the ACA and Dodd-Frank.

Now somewhere around this time there was discussion about taxing the rich somewhat more heavily, by about four percentage points. Actually, the discussion really started in December of 2010 when the question of whether to let the Bush tax cuts expire or not came to a head (and Republicans took unemployment compensation hostage). When rich people started to complain aloud about having to fire gardeners and maids, Republican politicians and pundits took over the message and repackaged it by saying the small businesses would be hurt by this tax on the top bracket. You know, they told us, these are businesses so small that they do not become corporations (become incorporated) and thus file just a schedule C subject to personal tax rates, yet these small businesses are so profitable that they have over $250,000 grand in bottom line income (as opposed to 250 grand in revenue, from which expenses – like wages for employees and costs of supplies are supposed to be taken out before you get to bottom line income). Anyway, regardless of the fuzziness of the Republican tax and income logic and math, I think this is where we first started to hear about the wealthy being “job creators”. At least when they were talking about small business men (not persons, Republicans don’t roll that way), it almost made sense. But quickly job creator became a generic term for any and all members of the top 1%.

And when Mitt Romney emerged as the clear candidate, he had a ready made narrative about why he would be a better President that Obama. See, Mitt has business experience and he is a member of the top 1% income/wealth-wise of Americans. He has created jobs as a member of that 1%. And suddenly Republicans were talking about unemployment again.

Except that right around and after the debt ceiling debacle, Republicans were also fretting about the deficit. It is too high, it needs to come down so our children and the private sector aren’t strangled by it. The reason unemployment isn’t coming down, according to the Republicans, is because it is the private sector that creates jobs, not the government.

Wait a minute, isn’t there a point where Mitt is extolled as a superior candidate because of his experience in the private sector, creating jobs. But if the government can’t create jobs … shouldn’t we send Mitt back to Bain capital, since according the Republicans the government can’t … uh …

Just to square the circle, as I said Mitt wanted to run on his record, tell us it is his biggest asset. But when Democrats started to dig up deals where Bain ended up bankrupting or carving up some of the companies they acquired, and putting hundreds (or perhaps even thousands) out of work, Republicans accused Democrats of distorting the record . Still, if a candidate says that he is a superior candidate because of his record, isn’t it fair to look at that record?

Such is the tortured path of Republicans on unemployment as a political issue. Meanwhile, I can’t help bur remember Republican accusing John Kerry of being a flip flopper. I guess it is OK as long as the entire party does it together.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jack Kelly on Wisconsin

Jack Kelly doesn't care.

This week Jack Kelly talks about Tuesday's recall election in Wisconsin. He starts by complaining that a headline from an unidentified collection of news sources "Walker survives recall in Wisconsin," is not vindictive enough. Kelly snarks about Reagan beating Mondale, Nixon beating McGovern, but doesn't say what the headline should have been (kind of weaseling out of actually telling us what specifically he believes).

By the way, Kelly weasels later when he tells us "A caller to a Washington D.C. radio station Tuesday said he was on his way from Michigan in a union-organized four bus caravan to vote in Wisconsin." without any verification or even telling us which radio show. A vague accusation that is impossible to verify, but I strongly suspect it will make the rounds of right wing blogs and Fox News.

But what most impressed me is that Jack Kelly admits Walker had much more money than Tom Barrett, but then says that Democrats outspent Republicans "in last year's recall elections, in their attempt to oust a conservative state Supreme Court justice and in the petition drive to force the election Tuesday.". Jack Kelly doesn't say how much was spent by Democrats or Republicans, or how much was spent in the 2010 general election. And perhaps most importantly, Jack Kelly doesn't mention how much of Walker's money for this recall came from out of state and/or wealthy donors.

Of course, the hidden subtext of this whole discussion is the Obama/Romney fight upcoming. Republicans have learned/verified that they can buy an election, even getting people to vote against their own interests with a candidate less likable than Ronald Reagan. Just barrage the State/nation with six times as much money as raised by the opposition.

The economy is still struggling, and Obama deserves his share of the blame for that. But so too do Republican Senators since 2006 and Representatives since 2010, with their absolute opposition to anything the Democrats propose. Still, States cutting funding for a half million public sector employees when unemployment is so high ... the only way Republicans can spin that is to point out it allows taxes to be cut (in a time of decreased revenue because of the recession!). Of course, we may all remember that the GOP (I believe Paul Ryan) has suggested that the payroll cut for the middle class was not useful at all, what we need is greater tax cuts for the top 1% (even though person income tax rates for the 1% are are at their lowest pretty much ever). Somehow that justifies putting a half million people out of work in this time of high unemployment.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Jack vs Gail and Maureen

There have been a lot of newspaper columns recently about Mitt Romney, now that he has clinched the nomination. Who is he, what is he all about? Although it is funny, I can't recall seeing anything about Romney's time as governor, only a piece or two about Bain's effect on that steel company, Romney's barber(ous)) attack on an assumed gay fellow student and Gail Collins continuous mention and occasional explanation of Shamus' car roof adventure. Somehow, the exposes of Romney's closet skeletons end up still being boring.

Maybe it was inevitable pundits attention would turn back to our previous once and future President, the orator who was supposed to help us all talk politely about race. But three years later, as he asks us for another term, we are left wondering what happened. The economy is not fixed, somehow the fixed healthcare system hasn't yet made much of a ripple, and racial issues seem alternatively swept under the rug and popping up inconveniently. Oh yes, and the President recently finally suggested gays should enjoy the same rights of marriage as straight America (which considering our divorce rate is not much of a blessing).

So today Jack Kelly has a column describing in typical detail how the President is losing support. As I thought about this column, I noticed Gail Collins had an interesting column on John Edwards' recent acquittal in court that was not any sort of absolution. And today Maureen Dowd writes her own detailed examination of Obama: "Dreaming of a Superhero", wondering what happen to our once and future President.

Kelly's column talks about George McGovern's 1972 defeat, he wants us to believe a similar defeat is coming. Kelly then goes through various groups, Jews, Catholics and veterans, and how they don't like Obama for a variety of reasons. Now, from what I can see, probably there are some special interest groups (possibly right leaning) that do have a grudge (legitimate, not? you decide), but I am not sure that translates to actual voters (how many voters will base their vote on our Iran policy?). Kelly also mentions the various Democrats who are running away from Obama's attacks on Bain because the party is dependent on Wall Street money (we might see voters turn on those Democrts who defend Wall Street as hypocrites). But the message the title of Kelly's column: "Defecting from Obama: The president is losing ground among 2008 supporters" (which of course Kelly doesn't actually deal with) does seem worth considering.

Barack Obama had an interesting voter coalition in 2008. I do think there was a hard core of racism in America that Obama had to get past. He did that in a few ways, benefiting from the economic collapse, winning some voters over with his oratory skills, bringing a lot of young voters into the electorate (well, even doubling the number of under 24 voters actually is still a pretty small number, but it is something) and John McCain's poor performance in the debates.

Now it is June now, and while it would be nice for Obama if he had a commanding lead now, there is still a long road to the election. However, it is hard to see how Obama can win young people, possibly even the ones who voted for him in 2008. As I suggested above, things have no gotten better faster enough, and while (I think) there are lots of reasons for that, eventually people do blame the President (even as they would (perhaps naively) give him credit when things are good).

Maureen Dowd actually does look at Obama in detail in her fairly fascinating column. Obama showing signs when he is a community organizer of being unwilling to take risks, until he is forced to? Obama in New York, feeling he is too white, and could never find a black woman he would be comfortable with? Obama dreaming of being a super hero? This is interesting stuff. I am not sure whether it would make an average voter more or less likely to vote to keep Obama in the White House, although it makes me want to have dinner with Obama and try to have a frank discussion.

Gail Collins Saturday column did not mention Obama at all, although I have to say he is an unspoken shadow in the column. Collins simply rakes Edwards over the coals and good for her. Conservatives like Kelly like to say that Democrats never police their own, but Collins' column is a dissection in detail of John Edwards, his shallowness on policy compared to John Kerry and Bill Clinton. Make no mistake, John Edwards health care reform proposal dragged Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama toward the left during the campaign (didn't last into his Presidency for Obama), but Collins catches Edwards not knowing about a peripheral policy. Collins doesn't want to see Edwards doing anything public going forward, and I am heartened to say every Democrat I have heard comment on it echoes that message.

Does Dowd's column amount to a similar negative dissection of Obama? I don't think so. It is the sort of thing that would have been good to have had in 2008, but honestly I think it makes him seem a lot more like the rest of us. I think polls say that voters/Americans still like Obama more than they dislike him. Now, the sluggish progress of Obama's may keep voters at home, but I have to wonder, when voters look at the other choice, what will they think? Conservatives like to point out taxpayers get a lot of benefits from the Feds (what is it, half getting a net plus from the government?); will those taxpayers realize Romney wants to take a lot of those benefits away form them?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Which bias?

I have heard other bloggers (at Podcamp) say to never apologize for not posting. Yeah, but, you feel bad ...

I mentioned before that Jack Kelly himself is writing more columns. I don't believe I mentioned that there is a comments section at the bottom of his (and I assume all PG columnists') column. I have been frolicking (so to speak) there. Kelly has his share of ditto heads. People who think that Obama's not having released his transcripts proves something nefarious.

I am back here today for Jack Kelly's Sunday column, where he spins a story of how biased the media is toward Barack Obama, and how since it has been done so many times, it might be losing its effect.

Let's look at these broad statements first, before getting to picking apart some of his statements in detail. Now obviously everything I say is colored by my opinion, so your mileage may vary (as they say) in your reaction to what I say. I hope y'all realize the same is true for Kelly, that is the whole point of my doing this. But I will say now that watching Meet the Press or This Week (with Stephanopolus/Ammanpur/Tapper - and no, I don't feel like finding the correct spellings), these shows almost always start a discussion from the conservative point of view. The discussions were always "what's bad about the health care reform plan""Why are people so angry in town hall meetings""What about the death panels" or before the midterms "Why hasn't the President done more to lower unemployment". I believe a Jack Kelly would deny this as an evidence of bias, and spin it around somehow. Now, I will admit I think the press has shown a certain amount of affection for the President as a person. I think they like him in a way that they did not like George Bush (maybe because they sensed Bush's antipathy towards the press when he called a New York an asshole or maybe because in some ways Bush seemed like a dry drunk). But I don't think that affection for Obama carries over into discussions of policy.

Cory Booker's recent defense on Meet The Press of a generic "private equity" and Harold Ford's and Steve Rattner's defense of Cory Booker shed's light on another interesting media bias - a willingness to let Wall Street off the hook for past and current crimes and misdeeds. While the example I gave is of Democratic politicians, I will say that it is only media outside the "mainstream" that really seem to be investigating, examining and complaining about Wall Street and their actions. I am talking about Mother Jones, Democracy Now, Democratic Underground, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, scores of liberal blogs, etc, etc. I mean you get the occasional New Yorker or Vanity Fair piece, which are generally only partially negative (don't want to bite the hand ...) and there is Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times. I may have missed one or two (they're in the "etc's"), but by and large these outlets can be dismissed as fringe or having a known bias. The "mainstream media" chuckles at their antics, pat them on the (collective) head and tell them to leave Real News to Real Reporters. Real News being anything that doesn't harm Wall Street. (Honestly, do they know they are on TV on "Washington Week in Review"; maybe that's why it is on Fridays, to do the least harm).

To some of Kelly's more specific charges, I will say that despite the Monica Lewinsky episode, or perhaps because of it, the Press does show some deference to political candidates. Did you know that Al Gore developed what he thought of as almost an addiction to marijuana after he came home from Vietnam (yes, Al went to Vietnam, as a journalist, but still in country, unlike Dubbya)? I suspect most everyone who reads this blog also knows that George W Bush had a cocaine habit in the eighties (in fairness, like a lot of people who could afford it) in addition to his drinking problem. But think about it, do you recall any major news stories on these particular topics? I am certain 95% of the media knew these stories were out there, but chose not to talk about them. Deference.

With that in mind, what about Jack Kelly's complaint that the media is using Romney's Morman faith to attack him. Well, we have not had a Morman President, surely some in the public are curious about a religion that seems to be such a big part of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. That the religion's history and/or relative weirdness reflects badly upon Romney is not the fault of the messengers. And should it be a secret that Mitt Romney is very, very wealthy? Jack Kelly thinks talking about Romney's wealth is showing bias, although presumably he is eager to talk about Romney's business skills as a basis for being President (although not his time as Governor of Massachusetts apparently). Kelly thinks that the media is wrong on the facts of "a nasty prank" from 1965 based on the victim's sister who "said she had no knowledge of the incident but that the portrayal of her brother was "factually inaccurate"". Hmm, could a victim of a vicious attack based on the victim's supposed homosexuality keep that from his family? I don't know if John Lauber is or isn't gay and frankly don't care, it is only important that a young Mitt Romney apparently thought he was, and that humiliating Lauber was something Romney should do. We also know the adult Romney thought that the family dog should ride in a crate with a windscreen strapped to the roof of the family station wagon on the highway. Romney says the dog liked it up there, but I suspect dog owners could tell us about how far dogs will go to please their owners. Had the dog traveled at highway speeds up on that perch before or if ti had, had it been up there that long? Regardless of that, on that particular trip the dog reacted with what I think many of us suspect was terror, and had considerable diarrhea. Romney reaction was to hose to dog and car off and continue. Yet according to Kelly we should never have heard these stories as they show the clear bias of the media, he thinks we should know only what Romney wants us to know about his character. Kelly then pivots and launches a series of attacks on Obama under the guise of things the media didn't cover even though they are crucial. Isn't that actually being hypocritical?

Kelly talks about the primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky, how other candidates (or "uncommitted") got 4 in ten votes. Kelly gushes, when Eugene McCarthy got 40 percent of the vote in New Hampshire in 1968, Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for re-election. Well, maybe there were other, more important factors in Johnson's decision (Vietnam, although the primary vote may have sealed that decision), and of course, New Hampshire fall in a different place in the primary season than Arkansas and Kentucky. But it is fine with me that Jack Kelly is that excited about this.

Kelly then comes back to Jeremiah Wright (and later he will go back to Obama's birthplace, again). Look, frankly, I am a bit alarmed at what Wright has said (and I don't know if it was once, occasionally or all the time that he God-damns America and expresses hatred of white people). But keeping in mind that at least in the past I probably had more contact with African Americans on TV than in real life (I always had some, more recently), I might be forgiven for thinking that I wish they would stop being scary criminals, get over it and just get along with us white people. But I have also always had the thought at the back of my mind - I have no idea what life is like as a black man - or less to my credit - I am glad to have that extra little advantage of being white, for while we have no secret handshake, there is the implicit connection of shared heritage that most of us whites are not "Christian" enough to extend to blacks. Now, I don't think I would say whites are born with a leg up, but I think most honest people would say that all blacks in America, even Jaden and Willow Smith, are born with a leg down with at least some and often most white people.

I could go into more detail about my thoughts of race relations, but suffice to say what I learned from reading and a few conversations with blacks, the constant oppression over literally two hundred year of blacks in America puts perspective on Reverend Wright's feelings about history. Douglas Blackmon wrote a book "Slavery by Another Name" that puts a different perspective on segregation (more than just separate water fountains). I think Reverend Wright, far from intending to offend, is trying educate everybody in America (although he cares more that blacks get a positive message about their own situation). Kelly wants to pin guilt by association on Obama, even as he wants to exempt Mitt Romney from the same treatment. Yet we have already heard about Jeremiah Wright (even if Kelly thinks an Obama supporter trying to buy him off makes him relevant again), we are only just now learning about about Mitt Romney, and his associations.

before putting Obama's birthplace in Kenya, Kelly mentions lawsuits brought by the Catholic Churches top hierarchy. It is a sad and cynical statement that the only contraceptive the church can attack is the one that has medical uses as well, and that the church claims a constitutional right to oppress poor women. But we have heard the story in the last few months and know that Republicans have tricked the Church into being being their dupes.

And finally we get (back) to Obama being born in Kenya, which one literary agent had written in a book of clients in the nineties. That trumps the birth certificate, newspaper notices and family memories. Kelly thinks this one point should be the headline story, trumping unemployment, natural disaster and *some* international news (the triumph of austerity in Europe and/or the triumph of the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt could *share* the headlines).

Kelly's column really is nothing more that the umpteen millionth recycling of the eternal conservative complaint that Nixon made (probably not even the first instance) about the vast Eastern intellectual conspiracy. Kelly speculates that the familiarity of the liberal bias in the media might render it impotent this time (certainly the mainstream media, let alone left wing media, has no chance to penetrate the right wing noise machine for those immersed in it). As I argued, the mainstream media is actually rather more conservative in their leanings than liberal. Conservatives themselves have done an excellent job of playing their own race card, in part by accusing Democrats of playing the race card, and making sure Barack Obama's blackness has stayed front and center (if often unspoken) for many to fear or despise, and many others to show contempt towards. But I think there is a danger of the conservative noise machine falling into the very trap Kelly thinks the mainstream media is in, of showing too much bias, of trumpeting faux issues while ignoring the real problems in ordinary people's lives.

And once again, what is the PG thinking?