Sunday, February 26, 2012

Science or politics?

Today, in talking about Jack Kelly's column, I was going to make a long comparison between economics and Climate Change as fields of science. (economics being complicated and worthy of debate, Climate Change considered settled by those actually in the field), but I think you are smart enough to already understand the topic (and just dissecting Kelly's column takes long enough, sorry). Jack Kelly is counting on you to just accept what he says, and not do any research of your own

Kelly writes today a column titled “The great ‘warmist’ caper”, about the Heartland Institute document controversy, and essentially all his assertions are at least questionable, not to say outright lies. First, what motivated this column is that an anonymous source emailed a document on a strategy to Climate science, supposedly from the Heartland Institute, to Peter Gleick. Gleick decided to try to verify the document by posing as a Heartland board member, and request documents from the last board meeting. Gleick then forwarded those Heartland board documents to climate concerned blogs/websites. Heartland was infuriated and Gleick came forward after a few days and admitted what he had done and apologized. And pretty much everyone agrees the original document was a fake, by the way.

A quick aside, Kelly mentions that the (fake) document "included plans for "dissuading (K-12 teachers) from teaching science."" While as I said many agree the document mailed to Gleick is a fake, there must be other mentions of plans concerning K-12 education. The AP investigated and found the "expert" who is designing a curriculum for schools suggesting "teaching both sides of the science, more science, not less." The AP then quotes Harry Lambright, a Syracuse University public policy professor who specializes in environment, science and technology issues "Scientifically there is no controversy. Politically, there is a controversy because there are political interest groups making it a controversy,".

People concerned with Climate Change and policy understandably talked about the Heartland documents, but Gleick initially acted alone (I don’t think the anonymous source of the fake counts). The sub-title of Kelly’s column is “Global warming activists get caught conniving”. To connive is defined as both “Secretly allow (something considered immoral, illegal, or harmful) to occur” and “Conspire to do something considered immoral, illegal, or harmful”. Gleick was not exposed, he came forward on his own, and he acted alone. Where’s the conniving?

Kelly starts his column talking about how the people who believe Climate Change is real see the Heartland Institute documents as the “Climategate” of the deniers. This is a false premise in a couple of respects. First, people who study the issue and believe climate change is real were not persuaded by the claims the deniers made. Some people whose political views are shaped by 30 second TV news reports may well have been confused by the claims of the deniers about Climategate, but experts agreed Climategate proved nothing about science, only that scientists are casual in emails they think are private (like all of us). Second, no one who thinks Climate Change is real thinks that the Heartland documents would have any impact on the science concerning the Climate. One could say that the Heartland Institute has nothing to do with science, it is entirely about politics, specifically the politics of misinformation and confusion.

Kelly doubles down by quoting Michael Mann, the person behind the now infamous “hockey stick” graph. Mann says essentially that the documents confirm Heartland is funded by oil interests and right wing billionaires. Kelly proceeds to attack Mann’s character and how good a scientist he is. Kelly asserts the National Academy of Science states little confidence in Mann’s data and even less (than little!) in Mann’s conclusions that the 1990’s were the warmest decade for a thousand years.. Well, the actual report actually finds Dr. Mann’s conclusions “plausible” and states the “conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes the additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and documentation of the spatial coherence of recent warming described above (Cook et al. 2004, Moberg et al. 2005b, Rutherford et al. 2005, D’Arrigo et al. 2006, Osborn and Briffa 2006, Wahl and Ammann in press) and also the pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators described in previous chapters (e.g., Thompson et al. in press).”. Judge for yourself.

Kelly also quotes an email from Phil Jones of East Anglia exposed in the Climategate scandal that mentions Mann. Once again, investigative panels found nothing in the Climategate emails that changed the scientific consensus on Climate Change.

Kelly turns to the Heartland scandal and Peter Gleick. Kelly quotes Andrew Revkin, who is very critical of Gleick. The interesting thing is how seriously those who support the scientific view of Climate Change take ethical charges. Read all of Revkin’s column, including the end where Revkin says “It’s enormously creditable that Peter Gleick has owned up to his terrible error in judgment.”. Revikin also points out “The only people I see out there in the climate fight who – as far as I can tell — never admit to an error are people with agendas from which they can never stray. They’re perfect.”. He could about be talking about Jack Kelly.

Kelly then mentions an LA Times editorial about Heartland that suggests that deniers engage in a "big" lie, and uses a quote from "Mein Kampf" to describe it. This is of course red meat for deniers like Kelly and other deniers. Kelly states ""The impacts of global warming are already patently obvious," the paper's editorial board said. But if this were true, warmists wouldn't need to fabricate evidence."

Kelly then turns to Fritz Vahrenholt as his proof of fabricated evidence. He says Vahrenholt is "to Germany what James Hansen of NASA, the original global warming alarmist, is to the United States.". In fact, Vanrenholt is a chemist who works for energy companies, who admits he is not not expert in climate science. He is one of those people with agendas, from whom he can not stray no matter what reality is.

It is not exactly clear to me what Kelly wants from us. I guess in true cognitively dissonant fashion he wants Congress to dismantle the EPA, cancel any restrictions on drilling for oil and give away all mineral and drilling rights on public lands to energy corporations. The National Academy of Science sees Climate Change as settled facts, apparently Kelly sees climate change denial as settled facts. Whose opinion do you want to accept, especially in the light of Kelly's repeated distortion of facts and other people's statements?

Actually, the real question is why the Post-Gazette puts up with Jack Kelly.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

When will we talk about real isses?

Jack Kelly started out pretty good today, but then he utterly fails to actually talk about real issues and falls back on Republican stereotypes. His topic today is apparently "crony capitalism", although he doesn't talk much about government aid to "crony" corporations.

Kelly does start by complaining that Obama's new chief of staff, Jack Lew, is a millionaire like former chief's of staff Bill Daley and Rahm Emmanuel are. That's actually not a bad point (see Inside Job). All three do have significant connections to banking as well as to the Clinton administration (and Emmanuel had significant Congressional experience). The banking experience leads to reasonable questions about how aggressively they would pursue the Wall Street banks who could reasonably said to be largely (and criminally) responsible for the current financial crisis.

But also let's step back here for a moment. Was there Republican outrage when Dick Cheney was chosen to be George W Bush's Vice President? Was there any Republican comment on Halliburton getting so many government contracts, and contributing to the awful bungling of the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, and the resulting incredible waste and fraud? And let's be clear, it's no excuse for Republicans to now say that Bush was wrong to do these things. It doesn't give Americans any sort of confidence in Republican's decision making ability if they wait five to eight years to say "hey, wait, that's not a good idea". If Republicans/conservatives want to say they are better than Democrats/liberals, then I think it is fair to expect them at least own up to and apologize for past performance (as Colbert likes to say "George W Bush, great President or greatest President?").

Certainly Kelly has no trouble dredging up the pre-Obama past if it supports his narrative. I should actually say the invented pre-Obama past, implying (clumsily) that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the biggest cause in the financial meltdown (without actually saying that): "Fannie and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac) bought bad loans from firms such as Countrywide Financial -- where "fraud was systemic" -- then resold the toxic mortgages to Wall Street."

Freddie and Fannie did get involved in the trade of subprime loans, although late in the game. Freddie and Fannie were government agencies that were pushed out into the private sector, with originally a mandate to help make low income home ownership possible, a goal they performed admirably for years. But they were also supposed to make profits, and my sense is that at some point (no earlier than 2005, possibly later) Fannie and Freddie looked around, saw record profits already being made by private financial institutions, and decided to get in. They had enormous market share of repurchased mortgages as opposed to originated (essentially all the clean low income mortgages, huge numbers of little mortgages), so they end up having significant impact.

But even the duplicitous Jack Kelly admits fraud was systematic at Countrywide (and implies at other financial firms like Countrywide). Now admittedly when the House was controlled by the Democrats, it did not hold Pecora style hearings, but guess what, when the Republicans took the House, no hearings then either. Again, can the Republicans still claim to be better than the Democrats?

Kelly goes on to assert that since the war on poverty started in 1964 "$16 trillion has been spent on means-tested welfare programs ... more than double the $6.4 trillion (in inflation adjusted dollars) America spent on all its shooting wars combined.". I looked for a couple of hours and found that the 16 trillion figure originated with the Heritage Foundation, but everywhere I saw taht, I never saw a footnote to indicate where the numbers came from or how they break down. It seems these numbers must include not only food stamps (now SNAP) and Medicaid, but also Social Security and Medicare. Remember that those two programs have their own dedicated taxes (that can be adjusted), but it strikes me that Jack Kelly is saying that Social Security and Medicare should be shut down tomorrow, all because there are still Americans who live below the poverty line. Do we really think that if we throw mom and dad under the bus, the poor will magically disappear?

If you know anything about economics, you know that programs that aid the poor reduce that aid as the poor get raises at their jobs. They do this at different income levels, and at different rates for different programs (such as SNAP, housing assistance and the EIC), with the result that a raise at work can leave a poor person worse off. There are real world disincentives to work harder. We need to understand even as these programs reduce as income rises, the EIC in particular is a bell curve that starts low at the lowest level of income. So for some, you need to have a job to get the benefit (the earned income credit) and if you move from a five thousand dollar a year job to a fifteen thousand dollar a year job you get more EIC. In fact, if you are a single mom and you income goes up to twenty two grand, your children will help reduce your tax by thousand for each kid. Now you may also be losing part of your food stamps and if you had got on subsidized housing your rent is likely at least going up (I honestly don't know when or if you get kicked out).

My point being that welfare does deserve a good hard look, but an honest look. None of Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" or Jack Kelly's other comment "They also deliver less than promised. Medicaid patients are more likely than the uninsured to die in hospitals, researchers at the University of Virginia found." Is that because the uninsured don't go to the hospital if they are seriously ill because they fear the cost, where Medicaid patients are more willing to chance it? Could it be that hospitals send the uninsured home from the ER, while Medicaid patients are admitted? Prove me wrong.

There's things that could be said about the negative income tax research of the 1970's (essentially using the EIC to replace all aid to the poor by increasing it and allowing the poor to optimize their consumption of housing, food and other life essentials and making the reduction in their aid a clear one). There's more to say, such as keeping education credits as a necessary infrastructure investment, but changing higher education status to something like a regulated utility to limit their taking advantage of that government benefit, but ... That is for another time, if this country actually gets serious about real reform that benefits everyone (including making the rich richer by making the whole country richer). This post is about Jack Kelly's column.

Yeah, this a long post in response to Kelly's column (I am reminded of a running joke in the movie "Clue" - someone says "to make a long story short", someone else says "too late"). but I like to try to respond to each point if I can, or at least the major ones.

Kelly suggests that the war on poverty is an actual war we can win, much like the "Global War on Terror" (copyright pending) was declared by George W Bush. Both wars ended up only addressing the symptoms of the problem, meaning they would never solve the root causes (for poverty, education and good jobs would do that).

Kelly goes on to launch on oblique attack on elementary and higher education "To Democrats, teacher unions matter more than children trapped in failing schools. The federal student loan program has saddled thousands of young people with debts they can't repay, but has been a bonanza for colleges and universities." I already suggested a fix for higher education (why doesn't Jack, past his suggestion to vote Democrats out of office and put college out of reach for millions of poor Americans, a suggestion he has made in the past?). Kelly's attack on teacher's unions is a typical Republican attack on teachers - reasonably paid unionized public school teachers working in poor inner cities with students who know the score are less effective than poorly paid non-union teachers at private schools teaching privileged students. Well duh. But would busting unions in public education and perhaps only have private schools in cities actually help inner city students, or only line the pockets of the wealthy? Oh, I think I just answered my question.

Kelly finishes with "Times are tough for most Americans. But Wall Street is making record profits. Members of Congress are getting richer. Crony capitalists reap billions in taxpayer subsidies."

What's Kelly saying? We know he wants the White House to be Republican and both houses of Congress to be Republican, does he think they should all be paid less as a reward? Does he think that conservatives can distinguish between crony capitalists (i.e. solar power companies) that do not deserve aid (because the market does not support them) and worthy companies (like oil and coal companies) that do deserve aid (because the market does support them)? Or does Kelly in fact advocate income redistribution?


But Kelly's parting words are actually not the worst. "If you want to know what's really going on, follow the money" Absolutely, look at Obama's Wall Street affiliated advisers. But also investigate the Kochs and Scaife.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The gap between Republican and Democratic myths, and maybe the truth ...

As I have been saying, Glenn Greenwald has made a full time job of criticizing President Obama and his supporters. Targeting American citizens (not to mention non-citizen human beings) for execution without due process or any sort, the use of drones not only to hunt terrorists, but to attack funerals (in the attempt to kill more terrorists, although inevitably civilians are killed), the Obama justice department's war on whistle blowers and more, Greenwald is furious that Obama is, if not ordering these things done himself, then is not stopping them. That Obama is supposed to be a liberal and/or progressive is worse, and worse still that the left in America is giving Obama a pass on all of the above and more.

And yet, Republican's say nothing about these things. I mean, yes, there was some talk about whether Obama should have gone to Congress when he wanted to deploy troops in Libya per the War Powers Act, yet conservatives made themselves look silly alternately complaining and cheering Obama in that particular situation.

The more usual Republican view is neatly characterized by the first paragraph of Ruth Ann Dailey's PG column on Monday: "Conservatives and their libertarian kin have long contended that Barack Obama's vision for America is fundamentally different from the founders' ideal. With his policy on free birth control -- and even in his shell game of a reversal -- he has proven them right."

So (at least according to Greenwald) Obama has gone at least as far as George W Bush did in attacking civil liberties and due process, and (many of) Obama's advisers and appointed officials are straight from Wall Street. Yet the Republican's claim is that Obama is a European style socialist (Muslim), the most liberal since ... ever.

Mind you, my view of Obama does not mean I will not support any of the current crop of Republicans. Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Paul? None of them have any clue, and as far as I can see none have much potential. I believe Obama still has the potential to do better, to reverse himself on the current policy of assassination and using drones to attack civilians. I am fairly sure that a President Romney or President Gingrich would not.

Having said all that, I will only spend a little more space on the rest of Ms Dailey's column. She concentrates on how she believes the first amendment gives religions as almost unlimited right to declare actions (or not doing certain things) as central to their faith, and therefore things the government can not compel them to do (or not to do).

The fact that Catholics rarely if ever involve themselves in anti war demonstrations leads me to suspect there is (at least) some hypocrisy here. Further, we should really look at the contraception issue as it is in the real world. After all, if the Catholics succeed in being able to avoid paying for contraceptives for employees of their institutions (or presumably also patients of their hospitals), what will that mean in practical terms. Well, all the condoms in the grocery and drug stores will not disappear. what will happen is that middle income and especially poor women will lose access to an effective form of birth control that they can control, and yet if covered by ones health insurance can be relatively cheap. Essentially one has to say the Catholics are (once again) oppressing mostly poor women.

Of course, at least the Catholics have the excuse that the Church has always been this way. The Republicans trying to make points with conservative voters and Catholics are essentially willing to sacrifice poor women to curry favor particularly with wealthy donors. How should we look at that?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


What are the odds that we will go to war with Iran soon? Myself, I put them at no better than 3 in 10, although those odds could change quickly if Iran decides to do something we see as provocative.

Why am I even talking about this? It's not like it's September 12th, 2001. But apparently the media is talking about the possibility, according to Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald has spent (mostly) his last few columns talking about things associated with Iran. Apparently there is a group "Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)" that is opposed to the current regime in Iran and has been giving money to US politicians such as Rudy Giuliani and Howard Dean. Only hitch, the State department has designated them as a terrorist organization. Apparently this is a complicated situation (with echos of Achmed Chalabi?) that makes the US politicians involved look like dupes.

But Greenwald wonders if we all are. Forget having learned lessons from Vietnam, have we forgotten we were lied to about Iraq? I guess it's OK, it's the Obama administration.

The bigger worry for me is what Israel might do. I haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to Israel recently, but I wonder if the the current conservative government might need a distraction from the hash they are making of their relations with the Palestinians. The current assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists (which Greenwald has mentioned) seem like something that either this MEK group or the Israelis might do, as opposed to our doing that. I say that not because we wouldn't, but rather because Israel and/or this MEK know the area and are likely more competent than we are.

Could Israel end up dragging us into a war with Iran? Iran has some missiles, which I am about 95% sure can not reach us, or even much of Europe. But I'll bet they could reach Israel easy. If Israel bombs what they think is an Iranian nuclear development site, the Iranians could retaliate (possibly with chemical weapons). That, or Israel's nuclear retaliation, could drag us in.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Frets are for guitars ...

A friend of mine once loaned me a book, a piece of fiction about how the United States had degenerated, was threatened by craven, cowardly politicians and its only hope were these wise, somber, deliberate ... militia guys (you know, the guys who plav soldier dress up and run around the woods with guns). Reading the dialogue, I remember where the Vice President was scheming to … I don’t even remember what, but the only people who kept their head in the crisis were the militia guys.

I wonder if that is what Jack Kelly’s world is like (at least this week). After all, apparently in his world, one of the big topics (if not the biggest topic) of conversation on “college campuses” and among “liberal elites” are Paul Ehrlich’s neato theories/predictions about population (which, as Kelly pointed out, really flopped after 1968). Also, apparently Kelly thinks that economists haven’t learned anything since Malthus.

Kelly points out that where Malthus thought population would explode (geometrically) while food production only increases modestly (arithmetically), actually food production abilities have more than kept up with our population growth. Well, I guess anyway, although it still seems like there are still a bunch of starving people around and about, while many, if not most, of us 300 million some “exceptional” Americans are getting fatter. Of course, the reasons people are starving have to do with complicated geopolitical realities that, if you think long and hard about it, don’t make much sense. Our being fat is about our having way too much disposable income (many of us anyway) and price supports for food

But I digress somewhat. This is another one of those columns where I agree part way with Kelly; Malthus and Ehrlich clearly were wrong about population growth causing starvation. But past that Kelly and I disagree. I have a lot of trouble believing Ehrlch is much of a topic on for anyone, let alone college faculty, students or any liberals (whether elite or not), nor is there any indication of that in a Google search on his name.

Kelly tells us that actually world population is about to decline. Maybe so. I remember a class reading in a labor (dismal science) economics class, suggesting that large families are a rational choice in countries with less industrialization and particularly a smaller government structure; large families (where only some children survive) are a de facto retirement program. As governments get better at collecting revenue and offering safety net programs, as countries industrialize (so people are likely to leave their parents homes for better paying jobs elsewhere) and as infant and child mortality rates drop with improvement in national and international health systems, parents stop having as many children as they did in the past.

So there is a (rational) economic analysis/prediction that suggests Kelly is correct about the predictions I assume he is repeating. But the pesky thing is that as I understand it, the world’s population is still increasing.

Of course, there is a racist (or xenophobic) tinge to Kelly’s column when he starts to identify where birth rates are falling. And a little conservative dig with this passage “This means that in advanced countries, there won't be enough people working to pay for the pensions and health care of the elderly.”

The title of the column is “Fretting Liberals”. I might well fit that description, but Kelly does not particularly capture my concerns related to world population at all. I am much more worried about fossil fuel use in the US and around the world. I think that managing our fossil fuel use in the United States (as the world’s biggest per capita user) is actually a national security issue, something that would make our nation stronger (by preserving what assets we have, reducing pollution in the US and contributing to the reduction of climate change). Managing fossil fuel use around the world has implications for how world economic development proceeds, and the totality of how the world addresses climate change. There needs to be an international discussion about whether Europe and America want to deny the developing world the standard of living we enjoy now, or whether the developing countries might benefit more from personal and large scale sustainable technologies. How we all use fossil fuels should also take into consideration the needs of future generations. Yes, there is technical progress, but Jack Kelly has made it clear that he does not support government having a role in any kind of technological innovation. Jack Kelly seems delighted that oil companies are among the biggest in the country, and I guess he would be delighted with the auto companies if the auto companies were to break the unions that infest their companies.

The US is heavily invested in oil fueled vehicles, but whether Kelly likes it or not, oil is an inherently finite resource. If we simply say future generations will take care of the problem, I think we abrogate our responsibility to show we understand reality as science understands it. We lose our chance to manage a transition from using something that will grow scarce (and expensive) before it runs out to finding sustainable fuels (like solar, wind, tidal and water forces) that should last for as long as there is a planet and a sun.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Kelly fights economics, does economics win?

So this week Jack Kelly turns to economics. He presents a damning comparison (that he implies actually Democrats are making) between Obama and Ronald Reagan. He then presents instances of how Republican governors are beating Democratic governors during the Great Recession. I will address these as best I can.

But in someways maybe the most interesting thing is how Kelly starts his column. He begins with the beginning of the Dickens classic "A Tale of Two Cities": ""It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness""and""It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."".

Kelly suggests that Democrats and Republicans embody these traits:

"To get the economy moving again, increase spending, bail out failing businesses, invest taxpayer money in "green" technologies and redistribute wealth, Democrats think.

Reduce government spending and debt, lower tax rates, slash government red tape, Republicans think.

What is Light to Democrats is Darkness to Republicans, and vice versa. Both approaches have been tried. They've produced very different results."

Does this count as insightful? In my opinion, it does, to some extent. But it is the equivalent of Mitt Romney's assertion that income inequality should only be discussed in "quiet rooms" (in other words, only whispered about, not the subject of protest signs and Occupy camps). Yes, Republicans are using a different sort of economics than Democrats do. Ron Paul states he looks forward to the day when we will all say "We are all Austrians now", referring to the Austrian school of economics. I don't know that Romeny and Gingrich particularly embrace Friedrich Hayek, but certainly neither man publicly rebuked Congress when they held the debt ceiling hostage. As Kelly says (whether there is a theory that supports it or not) Republicans believe in cutting spending and red tape and taxes. The assumption is that growth will result as the free market is unfettered, and that even though tax rates are reduced, the revenue will explode. Of course, that would require incredible growth.

I have to admit that the our corporate tax rate of 38% is among the highest in the world, although I think we have all heard about the GE's, Exxon's and other huge companies that pay no corporate taxes. On the personal income tax front, our tax rates are the lowest they have been in 50 years. Personally I can't see personal spending increasing that much if rates go even lower, but perhaps that's just me. On the regulation ("red tape") front, there is major disagreement on how much and how effective it is. Lower regulations scare me (in much the same way Republicans claim "the climate of uncertainty" for new regulations, since there are not that many actual new regulations, scares them); I like to have water I can drink, air I can breath and a job where my safety is at least a minor concern.

But Republicans would disagree or dispute all of what I just wrote. We apparently no longer have a common language with which to discuss economics. All I can say is that in 1979 when I was first studying economics, Paul Samuelson's introductory economics textbook that so many students studied firmly stated that (deficit) government spending is the best cure for a recession, as it was for the Great Depression. I guess Republicans say he was wrong, as we all were, about economics and particularly the Great Depression.

Which is maybe why Kelly chose to compare the current recovery with the end of Stagflation during Reagan's administration: "This recession was very bad, Democrats note. The only one comparable was in 1981-82.". Really? What about comparing to the Great Depression?

And does Kelly mean Democrats are saying the only recession comparable to our current one is '81-'82? He doesn't actually say that, he just implies by mentioning Democrats in the previous sentence. But why bother actually telling us the truth, when playing word games is so much more satisfying.

Kelly pushes us in the direction he wants us to go; Obama versus Saint Ronald (Reagan). I remember maybe six months ago that Obama was losing (in polls about who would you vote for) to a "generic" Republican presidential candidate. I believe now Obama is beating Romney slightly, Gingrich much more, these days in those polls. What better "generic" Republican to run now against Obama than Saint Ronald (Reagan)? All the better that Reagan is conveniently dead, so he can't talk about how he worked with an opposition Congress to achieve what he did. And apparently we will ignore Reagan's deficit spending.

Also apparently we will ignore Paul Volker, the chair of the Fed appointed by Jimmy Carter and re-appointed by Ronald Reagan, the guy Kelly doesn't mention once. Volker raised the Fed Funds rate to 20% in 1981 which I believe acted like chemotherapy - it killed inflation slightly faster than it killed the overall economy. After inflation had dropped sufficiently, Volker's Fed dropped the Fed Funds rate and the economy came roaring back. I suspect some of the growth post-stagflation and post-recession was the Reagan deficit spending, somewhat vindicating the ideas of Keynes. But that's not the myth, so Republicans/Kelly ignore the actual history and broadcast the myth.

By the way, this 2008 interview with Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz gives us an interesting perspective on the economy. But Stiglitz must an ivory tower academic liberal who doesn't understand the real world, I guess, since he calls for more regulation, and a change in our view of regulation.

Kelly goes on to tell us that states with Republican Governors are doing better than state with Democratic Governors. Perhaps, okay. Then Kelly gives us this "Democrats control the state house and the legislature in three of the four states where unemployment rose." First of all, in our system of government, generally speaking a "state house" is either the entire legislature or part of a legislature, along with a state senate. But no matter, Kelly's factual sloppiness only peripherally informs his intellectual rigor. In this case, apparently Kelly wants to engage in those things he sometimes accuses the "liberal" media of, cherry picking facts.

For example, in response to the positive (downward) trend of unemployment, Kelly brings up discouraged workers who are not counted in unemployment. Certainly as the recession has dragged on, that number has become more important, so the accusation becomes that Obama has not done enough for the unemployed. But Obama himself does not make policy per se, Congress votes laws and budgets. Which brings us back to Reagan and his opposition Congress. Reagan's rhetoric included "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.". Yet Reagan and Tip O'Neill and Congress worked together to pass bills (for better or worse). In the last three years, Republican Senators have continued to filibuster to stop almost all legislation, and since January 2011 the House has simply ignored the President and gone in bizarre directions.

And how were George W Bush's job growth numbers in his first term? Pretty anemic (lower than Obama's so far, according to Wikipedia). His second terms was actually negative. But then Republicans have long since thrown dubya under the bus.

I mean, yes, Truman famously said "the buck stops here", but we are not a monarchy (yet); the President has to work with a Congress and then there are the actions (and ability) of the Fed affecting things. But conservatives like Kelly (and Limbaugh and Fox News in total) don't care about reality, they want to spin and cherry pick any news to benefit their side, regardless of the effect on Americans in general.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Some stuff

So apparently the ground hog saw his shadow this morning. Six more weeks of winter. These days I think that means six more weeks of mid forties and rain.

Welcome to global warming. Actually, we are not suppose to conflate climate and weather; climate change is the world being a couple degrees warmer, weather is us at 45 degrees and Europe in a deep freeze. Which actually could be related to climate ...

By the way, I hope that "ground hog" refers to a critter close to the ground, not a chopped up pig.

Toyota has finally figured out the formula to making hybrids stupidly enormously popular; shrink it and price it under 20 grand. Actually, Honda has already done that with the second generation Insight, but the Insight gets mild hybrid Honda mileage (41 mpg combined according to the EPA). The small Prius is supposed to get Prius mileage (50 mpg combined per the EPA).

You just won't be able to buy it. Argh.