Sunday, March 25, 2012

The prism Jack Kelly looks through

What do you think about the US action in Vietnam fifty some years ago? With the cold war long over, it's hard for us to remember why we were even there, and I think most Americans simply follow the story their party advocates (Democrats says evil Republicans took us in, Republicans say Nixon betrayed them), or if they are an independent, blame the politicians. Jack Kelly reminds us today in a column on Afghanistan of his views on Vietnam:

"In 1997, H.R. McMaster, then an Army major, wrote a book about an earlier war in which senior military leaders paid excessive deference to political superiors.

"The Joint Chiefs of Staff became accomplices in the president's deception and focused on a tactical task, killing the enemy," he wrote. "The war in Vietnam was lost ... even before the first American units were deployed.""

Kelly has written in the past about how the US actually won in Vietnam, but decided to throw it away.

I think we have to keep these views in mind when we look at today's column "Delusional about Afghanistan". Kelly first complains about what he sees as overly optimistic testimony to Congress by the NATO commander in Afghanistan. He goes on to note how Afghan soldiers are killing US soldiers, and how Afghan soldiers are of such a low quality. Plus, "The Afghans don't like us, either.". Instead of explaining why that might be so, Kelly complains that there are not enough trainers, and the Afghan soldiers themselves are illiterate and corrupt. The unspoken message so far - US politicians are lying to us, not giving US troops what they need to accomplish the mission and anyway the natives are substandard and evil.

The rest of the column stays in that vein, withdrawing troops on a timetable gives the Taliban a reason to simply wait and that since the surge was was "halfhearted" and troops our being drawn down, our own soldiers "have lost all idealism". The unspoken message is we are losing in Afghanistan because our politicians (specifically the Democrat Obama) are lying to us.

I have to say I agree; I think we are losing in Afghanistan, everything I hear is that our troops have lost any and all idealism they might have had, and that the Afghans don't like us.

But there is everything Jack Kelly doesn't mention.

First of all, our war/occupation Afghanistan started quite a while ago. The Bush administration ran it on the cheap, and allowed itself to be distracted by Iraq (although make no mistake that Iraq was filled with evil people, many of whom we justifiably killed). I vaguely recall Kelly has been willing to throw Bush under the bus for handling of Iraq, and apparently Afghanistan (though I don't think Kelly would call even George "Dubya" Bush a Democrat in Republicans clothing). I suppose that is why in seven Republican administration years the US couldn't win in Afghanistan, although that view requires some pretty spectacular blinders.

Then there is the issue of why the Afghans don't like us. Since the US is self-evidently a global force for good, and the American way of like is clearly so much better than any other, the only reasons the Afghans have for not liking us is that they are illiterate and corrupt (Kelly has some nasty thoughts for Hamid Karzai).

Kelly mentions nothing about our use of drones to hunt the Taliban, how they frequently kill civilians along with suspected Taliban. Further, Kelly mentions nothing about how we then attack the funerals for the suspected Taliban, killing more civilians. I suppose Kelly justifies that to himself (to the extent he thinks about it at all) that the relatives of Taliban members deserve what they get if they don't distance themselves, let alone turn in those Taliban. I suspect the people of Afghanistan see things differently.

So if/when you read this Jack Kelly column, ask yourself, do you think we should have gone into Vietnam at all, and regardless do you think we won Vietnam only to have the politicians throw it away? If you answer yes, then you and I see reality somewhat differently, and I suspect the overwhelming majority of the American people agree with me. Not that history is somehow voted on (well, there are concepts like shared myths, but that is way beyond the scope of this post), but I think the overwhelming majority of historians would not say we won Vietnam (even if we did win a lot of individual battles).

But Kelly's view of Vietnam informs his view of Afghanistan, this is the prism he sees the world through. Who is delusional?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I hadn't really noticed ...

The Daily show is in repeats, Krugman is away and frankly I didn't read the Times in any depth in the last couple of days, so I didn't see this. If Reich's numbers are correct, and I see no reason to think they aren't, the Republicans have doubled down and literally declared war on the poor. It is apparently a non-binding resolution, but it is an incredible thing to ask Representatives to commit to impoverish 80% of their constituents, and help one percent of their constituents become much more wealthy.

Prove to me that austerity works. Show me where Krugman is wrong.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ruth Ann Dailey's weekly ...

Spork in the drawer noticed Ruth Ann's latest column and posted at (unusual for Spork) length about it. I won't add anything to what he said except to say that anyone who thinks that this year's Republican primary race is some kind of epic clash of competing ideologies needs to see a shrink and ask them about cognitive dissonance. I mean, I will admit I am delighted Ron Paul is such a libertarian, because the monied interests get to see what a libertarian is. I admit I have not paid enough attention to know what Paul has said about carving up the government, but you can bet abolishing the FED and going back on the gold standard (how much gold does the government own right now?) would put the economy in some sort of weird tailspin. Personally, I am thinking food and gas riots.

Anyway, any resemblance between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and actual political theory is purely coincidental, not the result of any thinking the two men might have done. Wait a week, and Mitt's position will have changed. Maybe he will admit he is a bishop of the Mormon church. Maybe he will promise us all that Mormons will baptize us after our deaths into the Mormon church.

That aside, I wanted to notice one small comment by Ruth Ann that really gets to the heart of Republican/conservative/Tea Party blinders. No conversation is possible between Republicans and Democrats until common ground on essentially the shape of the world can found. I mean, I think there are places where we can talk. Tax brackets and credits to low end people are actually choices, based in part on economics, and things for which there are economic studies and numbers available.

But there are other issues where there are, yes, policy components, but also issues of analysis which should be the responsibility and purview of science. I am talking, of course, of this Ruth Ann Dailey line: "And who can ignore the religious subtext of aggressive environmentalism? The sun is god, the heat of its wrath envelops the globe and it must be appeased by recycling, simpler living and the purchase of conscience-clearing carbon offsets."

'Kay, which party wants to replace evolution with creationism in schools (am I supposed to believe Republicans would be satisfied with just teaching them side by side)? And of course, we should notice Ruth Ann Dailey is lumping the largely mythical tree-hugger in with anyone who expresses an interest in climate change. Largely mythical, but I will admit there are, in fact, domestic terrorists who do things like bombing facilities that, what, test cosmetics on animals, or chain themselves to trees that are going to be logged.

But I should point out that the overwhelming majority of people who think climate change is real are just ordinary, decent people. If they are rather quick to accept the word of scientists, well, you know, biologists tell us which snakes are poisonous, engineers improve cars and SUV'x and make them more safe and powerful, and biochemists find ways to make McDonalds more tasty (although apparently they weren't told to do anything about healthy). I guess when science starts suggest people should find ways to use less oil, coal and yes, natural gas (which is a scarce resource and which would save people money), then all of a sudden it is a religion. And not a Christian one, some kind of pagan (at best) religion at best.

You know, do we need the Pope and Jerry Falwell to step up and say the we should respect certain levels of scientific consensus? I mean, forget the IPCC; pretty much all the national academies of science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Meteorological Association all agree on Climate Change. Surely that should mean something. Can Democrats and Republicans agree on Climate Change? Actually Googling it brings mixed results. the most positive suggest half of Republicans believe it has already started. I suspect a number of that half would disagree about how to ameliorate the problem (I am assuming they would agree it should be ameliorated).

I've gone on too long, I will only ask, someone tell me what is wrong with living a sustainable lifestyle? Assuming you don't have to give up vacations, entertainment, good tasting food (along with perhaps better health), etc. And when did we start believing priests and ministers should explain reality to us, not scientists?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday night's Bill Maher

There were a couple of interesting things about Bill Maher's Real Time. First, Maher talked just a little bit about how Republicans/Conservatives have latched onto Maher for his remarks about Sarah Palin apparently a year ago (apparently called Palin a stupid cunt, I believe I have heard). Maher has carved out his niche as a troublemaker, but one who has conservatives guests as well as liberals on his discussion panel at the same time. Just as Jon Stewart tries to be scrupulously fair to his guests even if they are as conservative as Jim DeMint, Bill Maher allows conservatives to talk as much as the liberals. Maher does sometimes insist on facts (he sometimes blames the increase in the debt on increases in payments for unemployment and food stamps, because of the bad economy on Bush's watch).

So now conservatives commenters make a token complaint about Limbaugh, and then demand any liberal in reach throw Maher under any available bus. But surely there are some important differences between Maher and Limbaugh. Maher stated that Palin had suggest Maher is the de facto leader of the Democratic party. Maybe Maher was referring to something David Axelrod said, but it is a good point that liberals only laugh at Bill Maher, where conservatives take Limbaugh fairly seriously.

Just think about that for a minute, roll it around in you mouth. Bill Maher as the de facto leader of the Democratic party. Compare that to how the Republicans see Limbaugh.

The other interesting thing on Maher was Alexandra Pelosi. Last week she showed a video of white men from Mississippi, who had nothing good to say about Obama or government programs. I will say at least one of the interviewees are taking that aid, which brings to mind a New York Times article that might have inspired her (that article described how Tea Party types are still taking the Earned Income Credit and other government aid).

So on the latest Maher Pelosi showed a video of what she called "welfare queens" standing outside the welfare office across from where she lives. I gotta say I find the term "welfare queen" (not least because they were all guys), but then I should (and rather secretly do) find the term "redneck" offensive. Actually, I find tea bagger offensive as well, and I at least try to avoid that one (and wince when other people use it).

She talked to the welfare recipients about what they were there for, whether they had a job, would look for a job, etc. Their responses were not surprising; a combination of mugging for the camera and some relatively wise remarks. One guy said he wasn't looking for a job, he was waiting for a career. If you spent a few days preparing taxes for the working poor, the ones that took the plunge and took the low wage jobs they could get, you might have more sympathy for that remark. That's not counting another remark - that is that it is a little tough to get a job when you have been in jail.

I'm sorry, there is a difference between even uneducated white poor people and unemployed African Americans (especially those who saw no point in playing enough of the game to finish high school). Not that poor white people are not deserving of help, but helping them generally does not require a systemic response.

The final thing I will say is that Pelosi predicted that liberals would attack her for making that video. Personally I have no trouble with her making the video, although the "welfare queens" remark (and in fairness what she said about white Mississippi) was pretty ignorant. But it turns out, she was not wrong about liberals.

Kelly sort of gets it right

When I saw the headline of today's Jack Kelly column"Obama can kill you" , my first reaction was - I might have to agree with Mr Kelly this Sunday. If you have been reading my blog over time, you know that I have been talking about Glenn Greenwald's ongoing columns on Obama's targeting particularly American citizens for literal execution without a trial (in addition to columns about using drones to attack groups that include non-combatant civilians). Mind you (to indulge a brief tangent), it annoys me that an accident of where you were born gives you special standing; I think it ought to be a problem when anyone is killed. But Americans are supposed to enjoy particular constitutional rights from their home country, yet Obama is ordering the killing of suspected terrorists who are also American citizens. Obama (and Eric Holder, Leon Panetta and other high level members of the administration) claim there is a through investigation and review, it's just that none of us ordinary citizens can know about it (but how can have due process if no one can see it?).

This is the issue Jack Kelly takes on today, and in several ways, he gets it right. Americans are being killed abroad, and although we don't know for sure, we have no evidence any kind of judge is involved. Maybe that doesn't even matter, as far as I know judges do not have the power to order the killing of people so much as to examine the legal process involved for (ultimately) constitutionality. We don't know there is not a secret court, but then Americans are really not supposed to be in favor of secret courts, and anyway the administration has not offered us even that degree of reassurance.

I can tell this is a complicated issue for Kelly, however, as he indulges himself in his customary level of over-reach. He has an issue where at least a few liberal journalists agree the President is absolutely wrong, yet he pushes out in several directions and undermines his own credibility. For example, he mentions Anwar Al-Awlaki as the "poster boy for the new policy". But a paragraph later Kelly says "Few doubt Mr. Awlaki posed "an imminent threat of violent attack."", it is just that Kelly does not want the "President alone" to decide to execute this man. Kelly seems to me to insinuate that if a more proper person, such as a military man, decided to kill Al-Awlaki, it would be fine with him. Kelly then mentions due process and the Fifth Amendment in opposition to this program.

Now, I would have liked to see Osama bin Laden extended due process protection, I think a trial in New York City with tremendous amounts of evidence and testimony would have been pretty cathartic for the country. Admittedly, if we had put bin Laden on trial and subsequently executed him, then American citizens would have wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan immediately after (perhaps putting the President in an uncomfortable position with powerful US interests). Meanwhile, I imagine Pakistan might well have objected basedo n bin Laden being taken from Pakistan, and possibly other countries like Iran and Syria, but I suspect most countries would have celebrated the US sense that justice deserves due process (no, I'm serious). But we didn't get that chance, a helpless, unarmed bin Laden was executed in cold blood.

Did Jack Kelly raise the due process issue when he wrote about the killing of bin Laden. No, he quoted a film critic on how clumsy Obama's speech to the country was, and repeated a rumor that the President had held the SEALs for 16 hours. Evidently, Jack Kelly only cares about warrants, judicial review and due process when it suits him.

Kelly actually mentions the very issue of FISA warrants later in this column, although he only frames it in terms of wiretapping foreign terrorists, conveniently forgetting to mention any US end component of George W Bush's wiretapping program. And Kelly describes Obama and Eric Holder as "stunning" hypocrites, not seeing that his own mis-statement (to put it charitably) of the issue and his own dismissal of due process then compared to his calls for it now is pretty spectacularly hypocritical.

Kelly finishes his column with claim that is almost true, but as such shows a pretty stunning lack of research on his part. He complains that "liberal" journalists blasted Bush when he was in office, but are silent on Obama. One journalist who could only be described as liberal has complained loudly about both Presidents. Kelly's conservative, Tea Party type blinders make him prone to wild hyperbole that entirely undermine his message, and turn what should be an important indictment of President Obama into mere partisan whining.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kucinich in retrospect

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting examination of Dennis Kucinich. I personally have always thought of Kucinich as no better than a killjoy, opposed to all those fun things like wars and bellicose behavior (yeah, I know, pretty immature of me), and perhaps a bit nutty. Greenwald raises interesting questions (at the very least for me) about Kucinich and particularly how his own party views him. Apparently I wasn't alone in thinking that someone who is consistently against war is kind of nutty.

Greenwald's basic point is that Kucinich has been surprising;y consistent, about things we all should support. I mean, what has going to war in the Middle East gotten us? I have to admit I was in favor on the war in Afghanistan, since I naively believed we were trying to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. But I thought it blatantly obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism or weapons of mass destruction (I did believe the UN weapons inspectors over President Bush, and by the way, look who turned out to be right). Kucinich opposed them all, and it seems pretty obvious we would have been better off if we had not go to war so many times (or even once). Apparently Kucinich was not very successful in getting legislation passed, I guess because anti-war and helping poor people is not very popular.

But shouldn't it be?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kelly's dog whistle column

Jack Kelly always uses coded language to whip up conservatives while still alarming independents. Today's column on energy prices is a bit more straightforward - gas prices are up, it is Obama's fault, and by the way, Obama is throwing away tax dollars on "renewable" energy that is more expensive anyway. Kelly is throwing a nod to "crony capitalism" with that last, which actually takes up most of his column.

But Kelly does start with the line that gas prices are up and it is Obama's fault. Interestingly, a video has shown up on the internet (I saw it on Facebook) from 2008 when Bush was in office and gas prices shot up to over $4.00 per gallon. The video shows Fox News' defense of Bush; that a President (any President) can't do much to affect gas prices. I see no reason to think the numbers cited on the video are any less true today, despite what Republican candidates are saying now. Yet, apparently Republicans/conservatives are willing to throw Bill O'Reilly and Fox News under the bus when their history becomes inconvenient.

Past that, I would make a couple of points. In Kelly's first paragraph he quotes Stephen Chu, who apparently in 2008 suggested US gas prices should actually be at European levels. Once again this is Republican/conservative slamming of Europe. Granted, Europe has a unique problem in adopting the Euro as the currency for so many countries, and they are finding that not being able to let a currency float downward during a recession makes improving exports and lowering imports really difficult. But on other fronts, Europe is far ahead of the US in terms of government services, including health care systems with lower costs per patient and to their GNP's while also having better aggregate health outcomes. International surveys consistently say that Europeans are among the happiest peoples on earth, far happier than Americans (and this was true during the Bush administration as well as now).

Yes, Europeans have higher gas prices largely as a result of higher taxes. But they are not unhappy in general, they have adapted to these higher prices. They get (and actually take) longer vacations than we do, but they frequently (mostly?) take them by really fast train. Europeans often live in apartment building groups, and tram stops and grocery and other shopping venues locate within walking distance of these groups. Europeans often travel by bicycle to work or walk to shop, helping making them healthier than us. Obviously a model like that won't work for farmers, but apparently 82% of us live in cities or suburbs, so there are a lot of us who have already chosen to live near urban centers. We just need to go back to a notion that it is cool to live in a Manhattan style metropolis (as opposed to the "Leave It To Beaver" car-focused suburb, although as I recall the kids in that show rode bikes all the time).

Europeans are far ahead of us in terms of wind and solar as well. Again, despite Republican/conservative attempts to paint Europe as a hellish landscape with a dystopian dictatorship, the Europeans themselves feel pretty good about their lives. Maybe part of that is a satisfaction that they are doing the most they can to ameliorate climate change.

Kelly grudging notes wind is pretty competitive but then talks about bat and bird kills and wind not working in extreme heat and cold. But Kelly is hardly convincing as an environmentalist (he slams "green" energy in his next paragraph), and the extreme weather in Texas and England he mentions could well be caused by the very climate change non-fossil fuel energy sources are supposed to address. This article provides a reasonable discussion of the issue.

Kelly trots out the tired canard about how green energy firms support the President and his administration's green energy policies in turn help them. Are we surprised green energy firms might have been started by liberals who might also be inclined to support Obama on general principle? Do I need to talk about Republican connections to oil, gas and coal companies (the Koch brothers, for example). Kelly' quoting of a retired Shell executive and the American Petroleum Institute kinda of prove the point.

But I do want to finish with a somewhat larger point. We know that fossil fuels are inherently limited. For the planet to keep supporting any human life, much less the roughly seven billion people we have now, we need to switch to renewable energy sources. I don't expect we will be totally or even mostly off petroleum-powered cars in my lifetime, or off coal powered electricity. But I think we need to make a credible start. Honestly, I can't imagine what fantasy future Jack Kelly sees. But it worries me that the Post-Gazette allows him to peddle it as truth to those who still read newspapers week after week.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Ruth Ann Dailey weighs in, and we are the poorer for it ...

I have to note that I was entirely silent (last week) on the passing of Andrew Breitbart. I will not conceal that he was very far from my favorite person, but I would not wish a premature death like his on anyone, especially a family man. I would have been perfectly happy if, on the advice of his doctor to avoid unnecessary stress, Breitbart had turned to reporting on Hollywood.

Ruth Ann Dailey gave us her opinion on the Sharon Fluke/Rush Limbaugh debacle today. Dayvoe at 2 Political Junkies addresses a subtle shot Ms Dailey makes against the Obama administration. That shot is in this paragraph (my emphasis):

"As Mr. Limbaugh himself had pointed out, that's exactly what the White House wanted. It can't defend its economic record -- the recession and jobless numbers now belong solely to Mr. Obama -- so it needed to shift the campaign focus to social values."

Dayvoe does a good job of showing, once again since Republicans have been bringing this up since June of '09, that Obama inherited the bad economy, that the National Bureau of Economic Research stated that recession ended in June of '09, and that the numbers have mostly been getting better since then (with some back sliding here and there). I will make one point that Ruth Ann Dailey or any Republican could (but never would) make: the economy would be doing better if the stimulus had been bigger. Now, the blame that needs to be shared, including by Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins, the three Republicans who broke ranks but demanded cuts in the stimulus in exchange for their votes. Still, to be sure the Obama administration could have (and should have) proposed a bigger stimulus.

But what I really wanted to address is Ruth Ann's attack on Sharon Fluke. She starts her column with this:

"As necessary and welcome as Rush Limbaugh's apology to Sandra Fluke is, there's a bigger victim of his ill-chosen remarks still waiting for the situation to be set right -- if it can be."

So while she goes on to complain that the so-called attack on religious liberty that Republicans/conservatives entirely created (not exactly her words), Ms Dailey seems to imply that Mr Limbaugh needed to apologize for what he said about Ms Fluke.

But wait, Ms Dailey clarifies her position later:

"The unremarkable episode quickly passed from the political scene but was revived when Mr. Limbaugh called her a "slut" and challenged her to tape the sex that taxpayers would now be subsidizing. That's how he cast himself in the role of scary, woman-hating monster -- without any help from the Left.

Why take that route when tongue-in-cheek barbs could have been launched from many angles? He could have conducted a fundraising drive for Ms. Fluke -- to prove that liberty-loving conservatives can always be counted on to meet human need through private charity! "Coins for Condoms," "Pennies for Pills," "Freebies for Fluke" -- silly slogans sure to paint the Left's insistence that free birth control is a fundamental right, trumping the free exercise of religion, as the ridiculous assertion it is."

What is clear from the second paragraph is that it's not the attack Ms Dailey disapproves of, only Limbaugh's chosen method. Ms Dailey doesn't want to call Ms Fluke a slut or prostitute, but "tongue-in-cheek barbs could have been launched from many angles". Notice Ms Dailey only specifies one example of what she has in mind - a fund raising drive for Ms Fluke. No mention of what other "barbs" would be acceptable or otherwise to her (calling Ms Fluke an idiot? saying that if a woman has health issues that are addressed by the pill, well, God meant for that woman to have those health issues (unless she is rich, in which case she is favored by God and can get the pill if she wants)).

Actually, notice how Ms Dailey's suggestion, raising money from "liberty-loving conservatives" carries a faint echo of Mitt Romney's "bet you ten thousand dollars" elitism. Plus the idea of only raising money for Sharon Fluke shows an entire ignorance of the real issue. I mean, yes, a scholarship student at Georgetown might well be poor enough that paying for the pill would be a hardship. But that student could possibly find a way to get a loan since after all, they will soon graduate from Georgetown law. They will very likely be part of the top 5% of the population money wise, possibly the top 1%. Meanwhile, there are food service workers and housekeepers at Georgetown, or Duquesne University or at Catholic hospitals who do not have that luxury, whose lives will be made genuinely worse if Republicans get their way. Where's the fundraising campaign for them, Ms Dailey?

And while Ms Dailey is answering questions, perhaps she could tell us which liberties, whether economic or religious, are under threat of being lost if President Obama wins re-election. Tell us what "Obamacare"'s (the ACA for those of you with a shred of respect) real threat to liberty is. Don't just complain that the real issues aren't being talked about, actually talk about them. But be fair, include in your discussion a comparison of European, Canadian, Japanese and Australian/New Zealand healthcare to ours before and after the ACA passed (and is implemented). Talk about the cost to the GNP of uninsured workers, the bankruptcies and preventable premature death. Give us an answer to this question, if "Obamacare" is repealed, will companies that do not offer health insurance to their workers compensate the rest of us who have to pay in higher hospital bills and health insurance premiums for their workers who go to the hospital and can't pay, declare bankruptcy is they do survive or die prematurely subsequently. Why should we have to pay because Republicans/conservatives want so badly to win an election that they create a false issue to pull religious extremists to their side and sabotage healthcare for all?

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Kelly channels (Ron) Paul, opposes (Paul) Krugman

So today Jack Kelly again turns to economics, telling us that inflation is much higher than the government tells us it is, and is set to explode. In so doing, Kelly is simultaneously channeling Ron Paul (he who said "We are all Austrians now") and dissing Paul Krugman. The Ron Paul thing is a bit surprising, I had the impression Kelly preferred his outlandish theories to have a cynical realpolitik element to them, i.e. Santorum is electable because he is a real conservative, Ron Paul is not because he is bat shit crazy.

(just a brief self=serving tangent) Mind you, just because I am a fan of Krugman, and just because Kelly somewhat limited the craziest of his economic assertions today, I am still convinced Jack Kelly does not know I am alive, much less see that I criticize him for mangling economics. Krugman is apparently a favorite target of conservatives, and of course vice versa.

Kelly starts his column firmly grounded in reality; the price of gas(oline) is going up. But quickly he veers into crazy land, strongly implying we should be comparing the price of oil to gold, not dollars (although you have to use dollars to compare, but then how is the free floating dollar really capturing the value of gold ... my head is starting to hurt). (long sentence alert) Kelly then veers between complaining about Obama's restrictions on oil production (even though oil/gas production is the highest it has ever been, but although Obama takes credit that is probably just result of market forces trumping NIMBY-ism), then giving us a history of our leaving the gold standard and a (n incomplete) description of how inflation works. Kelly uses a libertarian "dog whistle" phrase - ""fiat" currency", which ends up referencing the Austrian school of economics without his actually having to actually say he is using their theories. I think that is a favorite tactic of a particular type of conservative conspiracy theorist who wants to sound both superiorly informed/educated and very in tune with the reality of our economy.

Another bit of a confession, inflation effects and their relationship to/with interest rates can (and do) confuse the ... er, (ahem) heck/excrement out of me. But, with that caveat, when Kelly talks about inflation in terms of the government spending past revenues (the deficit/debt) and also low interest rates (held there somewhat by the Fed; Kelly suggests controlled by the Fed) and "quantitative" easing, he insinuates that Obama/Bernanke want to create inflation and then conceal it from us.

But low interest rates, government spending and increases to the money supply should also cause the economy to take off (according to standard economic theory; see the Reagan economy after stagflation broke), and I don't think anyone would say our current economy is exploding. Which should be where anyone can see Kelly's arguments falling apart. I mean, I guess he is saying we are in a sort of stealth stagflation (to the extent he has thought out what he is saying), that there is both high unemployment and high inflation. But what people forget is that for high inflation to work, a fair number of worker's wages have to increasing with the price increases or the economy just collapses. I remember learning in 1980 that American wages are "sticky downward", that is, once they go up, they won't go back down. Inflation was bad for low wage earners and especially those on fixed pensions (without Cost Of Living Adjustments) and Social Security back before it had automatic COLA's and had to be adjusted by vote of Congress. But particularly union workers (and of course the wealthy) did OK, because they renegotiated their wages upward fairly frequently.

Setting aside what Kelly is theorizing and returning to his column, Kelly tells us the Fed currently says the risk of inflation is low, and the Fed/BLS says right now inflation is low. But the American Institute for Economic Research has a different method of evaluating inflation (using a different "basket" of goods, if you will) and finds that by their measure inflation is actually 8 percent and will increase to as high as 15 percent next year (and overwhelm the Fed'a ability to control it).

Paul Krugman addresses these suggestions about stealth inflation often in his blog (and yes, I am too lazy to find specific posts to that effect since my own post had gone too long already and will go even longer). He even addresses this specific notion that the government is hiding inflation.

Meanwhile, who is the American Institute for Economic Research? Well, apparently they are a think tank created out of MIT after the Great Depression. In a small amount of Google research, they were mostly described as centrist, to the extent anyone noticed them at all. But they are self-described as libertarian. Which makes we wonder, since Ron Paul, the libertarian (and I believe other libertarians), are enamored with Ludwig Von Mises and the whole Austrian School of economics and since that school of economics is obsessed with inflation and the gold standard, it seems possible that the AIER is viewing the world through Austrian school colored glasses. Which (for me) makes their conclusions somewhat suspect. Yeah, that is pretty thin, and maybe Jack Kelly cherry picked quotes from them, but that is where I am with them.

By the way, I am pretty sure that Paul Krugman has mentioned that Ron Paul makes similar predictions that inflation is going to go hyper in six months or so (and has made that six month prediction for years). I have heard Ron Paul use the term "fiat" currency and of course Ron Paul wants to abolish the Fed and return to the gold standard. I have no idea if Kelly is suggesting support for the full Ron Paul platform, or just using Paul-like ideas to try to skewer Obama.

However, I will concede that with rising gas (gasoline and natural gas) prices, it seems like it should be possible to slant inflation as higher than the official Fed position. High gasoline prices were a component of stagflation, although to some extent it was also driven by sucessful wage demands pushed by (then more powerful and larger) unions which extended into the rest of the economy. Kelly ends with his column with a quote from Joseph Svetlic in the ultra conservative American Thinker ""So now we have inflation coupled with low economic growth," he said. "Welcome back, Carter."". There may be some truth to that, but Paul Krugman would disagree with (Kelly's noting of) Svetlic's contention that "Obama-Bernanke policies are precisely the opposite of the Reagan-Volcker policies". There are some differences, but once staglation was broken, Reagan and Congress spent like sailors, while Volker let interest fall much lower than they had been.

Which happens to lead us (well, me) to point out where Kelly is misinterpreting history and economics. He says "President Ronald Reagan and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker ended stagflation by cutting taxes and regulations to stimulate growth in the private sector, slowing the rate of growth of federal spending and tightening monetary policy." Only the tightening of monetary policy was the part that worked. I am not terribly convinced that Reagan cut taxes that early, that he actually even slowed the rate of growth of federal spending (which is Kelly not totally lying in trying to say Reagan cut spending, but still lying in not acknowledging the Reagan explosion in defense spending) or that Reagan even cut that many regulations (maybe some OSHA or drilling in parks regulations, not much more) much less that that doing any of that so positively affected growth. I am fairly convinced Reagan had nothing to do with the Fed raising the prime rate to 21.5%, a policy that is largely considered to have ended the inflation part of stagflation, or even with Volker's loosening the reins by dropping interest rates after having raised them so high.

A bit earlier in the column Kelly quotes the director for education and research at the AIER ""An enormous wall of money has built up in the banking system. If it finds its way into the general economy at pre-recession rates, the United States is in for quite a ride."". Frankly, considering we are in the deepest recession since the Great Depression, seems to me we should hope we should be so lucky as to see explosive growth.

Which maybe should be the question to end my post with; why doesn't Jack Kelly want to see explosive growth when the official unemployment rate has been so high for so long, and there are so many uncounted discouraged workers? Is he so afraid of the economy recovering while Obama is President that he has to raise the specter of the inflation bogeyman?

And of course, why does the Post Gazette continue to allow Jack Kelly to write a column?