Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jack Kelly Sunday 11/24/13 - Jack Kelly - Sudden Populist

This a copy of a comment I made on Jack Kelly's 11/24/13 column in the PG "Party of the rich: Obama policies have been helping fat cats". Does anyone think that Democrats have been getting their way for the last fives years, the ACA non-withstanding (and perhaps in fact exhibit one, considering the single payer option)? Anyway, here it is:

I am sure many of us remember Pat Buchanan talking about income inequality and fair trade over free trade in the 1990's. That did not make him particularly a friend of the working man, and Jack Kelly gives us no reason to think a Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin administration would be one now. He just sees a angle to attack Barakc Obama on.

It is certainly true that Wall Street has not done badly in the Obama administration. Anyone who watches the documentary "Inside Job" would quickly understand why. And I have long advocated paying attention to what Glenn Greenwald was saying, years before Edward Snowden, but certainly in the Obama administration. Obama has not been the hero liberals thought he would be. Maybe with the utter and total obstructionism of Republicans, he would not have been anyway, but what seems to make things worse is he doesn't seem interested in even trying.

All that said, Republican politicians, pundits and Jack Kelly seem to think that both liberals and their own readers are easily persuaded idiots. Whatever the failings of Barack Obama in specific and the Democrats in general, laying the blame for everything that has happened in the last five years solely at their feet is ignoring reality. I mean, Jack Kelly is right that the rich have gotten richer in the last five years, the poor have gotten poorer and the rich have skated on any consequences from the near depression they essentially caused. But when you think about it, there was some short time period, five or eight months, when the Democrats had a super majority in the Senate, which was mostly squandered with debate over the health care bill. Before that was the stimulus bill, which in the end a couple of Republicans voted for because even the Republicans couldn't let themselves go down in history as the party that allowed America to slide into another great depression (remember George Bush also spent hundreds of billions on that before he left office). Mind you, the couple of Republicans demanded so many compromises of a stimulus bill that was brought to Congress already too weak, facts conservatives like Jack Kelly conveniently forget.

But past the time when Democrats had a super majority in the Senate, Republicans had set records for filibusters in the Senate (really since January 2007). Then in January 2011 they took control of the House. Between those two facts, it is hard to escape the conclusion that any legislation that has passed Congress has had to be at least agreeable to Republicans as well as Democrats. Everything Jack Kelly is saying about income inequality and the rich getting richer is as much if not more the result of Republican policies and efforts.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kelly tries to capitalize on Obamacare 11/09/13

This is a comment I made on the PG on this Sunday's Jack Kelly column More lies about health care Now the president is lying about past lies.

Let's be clear what we are talking about here. The insurance policies that are being cancelled are policies that do not conform to the rules of the ACA, in that they have limited yearly or lifetime maxes, or the deductibles are out of bounds, what have you. You understand that these letters are not coming from the government, they are coming from private health insurance companies. To me it is perfectly clear the insurance companies are trying to lock customers into relatively expensive plans while the ACA website is still a mess. They are trying to take advantage of the inability of customers to shop around at this moment, trying to trap people for a year or more in a more expensive policy.

This is happening because Obama did not want to legislate the health insurance companies out of existence. But does Jack Kelly acknowledge this?

Now clearly when Obama said that if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep, he essentially had in mind the people who get their health insurance through their employer. And I believe for the most part that is still true. As I understand it, there are some employers throwing people off insurance, forcing them to get it through the ACA. I believe they will pay a penalty for having done so, not to mention as the economy gets better their employees may well move to a different job.

But the interesting thing is how extreme Mr Kelly's rhetoric is. As conservatives claim Obama is a pathological liar, it pulls the dialogue of the media outlets that actually want to report the news to the right. We should all remember the summer of 2010 when conservatives started a relentless drumbeat of how Obama hadn't done enough for the unemployed. This was echoed by the Tea Party candidates and probably could be found on Youtube if someone looked hard enough. That conservative drumbeat was commented on by the CNN's and MSNBC's, and then they tried to analyze and in so doing, legitimized it as the dominant talking point of the midterms (to be fair, Democrats failed spectacularly to offer any counter message). Now conservatives are trying to do the same thing, pull CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN to the right with their relentless and baseless propaganda.

The thing is that George W Bush claimed Iraq had WMD's, and that claim cost 4,487 American military deaths, as well as probably over 100,000 Iraq's dead. I don't see conservatives apologizing for that, I see them blaming liberals or distracting us with their complaints about Obama.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Jack Kelly in/on the shutdown

This is my comment on todays Jack Kelly column "Shutting down the Democrats: They have more to lose than they might think". Let me note the PG online has gone behind a paywall; you might get a few as five clicks in month, so keep that in mind.

"This "shutdown" is over Obamacare, which most Americans dislike." I heard a number, which now I forget, but a Google search indicated 2.8 million people visited the online exchange web sites in the first couple of days (actually that number may be low, a different source said 2.5 million visited the web sites in New York alone, on the first day). That is certainly not "most Americans" but it is a sizable number of people, all of whom presumably do not have health insurance now. Jack Kelly wants to see 2.8 million specific Americans go without health insurance.

"Americans blame Republicans more for the "shutdown," polls indicate, but by smaller margins than in the past. Most of the few who will suffer real pain typically vote Democratic." I have no idea if the first sentence is true, but giving Mr Kelly the benefit of the doubt, that is probably because of partisanship and literally years of the Republicans saying "Obamacare is bad" without giving specific verifiable reasons why it is. And the second sentence is Jack Kelly implying that he does not care if people who vote democratic suffer real pain or not.

I have yet to meet a Republican/conservatives who addresses the issue, in an aggregate manner, of every other high income country - all of Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand - having a universal health care system that costs less per capita and has better public health outcomes. Yes, when asked about this Republicans make up mythical wait times and invariably talk about foreign citizens who come here. But never do they deal with the comparison of the entire systems statistic for statistic.

Now that reliance on the foreign visitor anecdote should tell us two things, neither of which Republicans/conservatives explicitly admit. First, pretty much by definition a foreigner who comes here for treatment is coming for treatment for a exotic or at at least very serious and *expensive* condition, meaning they are wealthy themselves. And second, no one denies that at the top price level, we have the best health care in the world. But literally 99% of Americans can not afford that level of health care. In some senses we have three levels of health care. One is for the wealthy, the second, being trimmed away every day, is for the middle class with health insurance, and the third is no health insurance, which is the one where a visit to the emergency room mean that if your credit wasn't ruined before, it is now. And you better not have a chronic condition, because then the emergency room will stabilize you and release you to die some time in the future, with those tens of thousands of medical bills.

That Republicans/conservatives see the pre-ACA system as more desirable than the ACA, with its increasing share of the GNP and large numbers of people dying prematurely and/or going personally bankrupt, tells you quite a lot. I will say that Republicans do have plan to reform health care, I guess. The only one anyone has mentioned involves allowing health insurance companies to sell insurance across State lines. Wait a minute, you say, doesn't Aetna show up in multiple state? Yes they do, but they have to follow the rules of each particular state. So the Republican plan is to allow insurance companies to follow the rules of the *least* strict state to sell insurance. And noticing the natural consolidation of the banking industry (based on the big guys gobbling up the little guys), what we would be left with only a few huge health insurance companies, unanswerable to anyone below the millionaire level.

That is the real meaning of this column.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kelly relives the glory of the cold war

My long overdue return to blogging, and yes, it is a Jack Kelly column. Today's column, of course, "Humiliated by Putin. The below is the comment I made about it.

I hadn't realized the Cold War had never ended. Mr. Kelly's yearning for that time is almost palpable.

Who was it who suggested Syria turn its chemical weapons over to international control? Come on, say it out loud, we all know ... even Jack Kelly admits this "So when another stupid thing Secretary of State John Kerry said provided an opening, the Russians pounced.". Here is a conundrum, if this is/was such a self-evidently clever policy move for the Russians, why didn't they just propose it? Why wait for John Kerry to make the mistake he might never make? Suddenly Jack Kelly's estimate of the cleverness of Vladimir Putin seems on shaky ground.

And let's notice the appropriation of the phrase "low information voter" by conservatives. George Lakoff identifies the phrase as having originated with liberals, and to be fair the studies showing (in mixed results) the largely lower knowledge Fox News viewers have of current events (I would add slanted to the description) as well as the voting pattern of States like Kansas and Texas which have voters who are in the majority poor give some credence to the notion that a majority of low information voters are Republicans. That said, Dr Lakoff does bring up two uncomfortable points for liberals, a) why can't there be Democratic low information voters, and what is the implication if there are (as there surely are) and b) the term is insulting, even or especially to a person who makes a quick voting decision based on their gut choice.

Maybe we should let conservatives keep the phrase.

Never the less, I think it is worth asking Jack Kelly what his evidence for "President Obama expects the news media to help him persuade "low information" voters that this catastrophe is really a triumph." is. He's not just describing what the White House is doing, he is actually reading the President's mind.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Kelly and I agree ... sort of ... well, not where it counts

This weeks Jack Kelly column "The NSA's close shave: For now, let's hope that government incompetence will protect our privacy" is interesting for the reasons I describe below. What is below is a copy of a comment (mostly unedited here) I made on the online PG edition.

I found this Jack Kelly piece pretty interesting. First of all, I found I agreed with large parts, although not his ultimate conclusion.

Second, I will encourage people to read this Glenn Greenwald Guardian UK OpEd piece where he asserts that the Republicans do not block every Obama program as Democrats like to say. On this bill, as Jack Kelly suggested, the House Democratic and Republican leadership made common cause in voting against this bill. Now, if I say it should give the White House and Nancy Pelosi pause to be making common cause with John Boehner, maybe I am being too partisan. But I think I am on safe ground when I say that this White House has a considerable problem with its whole "anti-terrorism" program, that is increasingly looking like a domestic comprehensive surveillance program.

Third of all, I am confused by Kelly opposition to the Amash amendment. He says it "would have removed the legal authority for the National Security Agency to collect communications "metadata" on U.S. citizens." Well, then he goes onto to clarify the amendment would "permit surveillance only if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decides that individual business records are relevant to a specific investigation." Frankly I thought that was how the Patriot Act was supposed to work anyway, that if a suspected or suspicious foreign person contacted a US citizen (at least on US soil), the NSA would make a request to monitor that US citizens "metadata" to the FISA court. I guess that was blown wide open (or made wide shut) in 2006, dropping the FISA court part if it had ever been there. As I have been reading, there was a debate to that effect in 2006, the last year the Republicans held Congress under Bush.

But if we are not going to rely on the FISA court to at least keep a record when it rubber stamps every NSA request, then what does Jack Kelly suggest we should do? He suggests nothing, which I suspect will always be is position.

This *is* an interesting Kelly piece, in that Republicans appear to be tying themselves in knots over whether to consistently oppose the President or in this case to preserve the ability to spy on American citizen for the next Republican President who comes down the line (whoever that might be and whenever that might be). And some Democrats show how little they care for what are supposed to be their principles, and rubber stamp White House that also should be following principles.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Martin/Zimmerman again

So I am trying to participate in this "Blogging Trayvon" or "blogging for justice". I have been writing about this incident on the PG OP/Ed comment section for months now. I have watched those who supported George Zimmerman evolve over those months. Many started generally saying that while it was self-defense Zimmerman should not have gotten out of his car, but after the verdict they hardened into a positon that by attacking Zimmerman, Martin sealed his own fate. This is what the gun rights advocates (or absolutists, as some say) seem to feel.

One thing that has been interesting to watch is the efforts to make a logical case for profiling Trayvon Martin. Actually this effort to use logic to justify one's position permeates the PG comment pages. There is a great deal of (something like) "if they would only take responsibility for themselves" and in the Trayvon Martin comments (something like) "It's a fact that African Americans commit (some number, I have seen as high as 76%) of (some crime - robbery, murder, etc)". This is all done in isolation, as if the only history we have are these crime statistics, there is no other history or context.

But this brings me to a first point about context. Much of what we know about what happened comes from George Zimmerman, and I would suggest he has strong incentives to paint himself in the best light possible. But there are a couple of things he said when he was talking to the police dispatcher that I want to note. First of all, early in the conversation he said "these assholes always get away". Shortly after that he tells the dispatcher Martin is running, and Zimmerman starts running after him (what he was thinking I can not imagine). The dispatcher asks Zimmerman if he is following Martin (as Zimmerman is evidently breathing hard) and when Zimmerman says yer the dispatcher utters the now famous "OK, we don't need you to do that".

I want to pause briefly to point out that Martin did not have a history of violence that I am aware of. Some possible petty theft and marijuana use, but not violence (and most people will say that marijuana promote lethargy, not violence). On the other hand, Zimmerman had once shoved a cop and once had domestic violence charges leveled at him. These did not come to much, but there they are, along with the mixed martial arts training and the concealed handgun.

So at that point that particular evening Zimmerman had lost Trayvon Martin (or so he said) and is supposedly returning to his vehicle. Trayvon Martin reappears. According to Zimmerman Martin "sucker punches" Zimmerman from behind, but it doesn't seem like that is born out by the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Martin up to the final confrontation.

We already know that Martin had tried to run away from Zimmerman. Why had Martin returned? Well, one possibility is that Martin had turned in a thug bent on beating Zimmerman to death (despite having no history of violence). Another possibility is that Martin, unfamiliar with the neighborhood, had gotten lost trying to get home, and in desperation had gone back towards where he had seen the creepy guy since he thought the house he was staying at was back that way.

So we have this claim by Zimmerman that Martin sucker punched him, which is made doubtful by other testimony. What if what actually happened is Zimmerman repeated to Martin a version of the thing he had said earlier to the dispatcher - "You are not going to get away with it"? What if to make his point Zimmerman life his shirt to show a gun concealed in his waistband? What if he did all that without identifying himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer who had call the police?

If those things were true, it is easy to see that Martin, already frightened, might feel his worst fears were confirmed, that he was dealing with a crazy person about to kill him for no apparent reason. Martin, only 17, might well have reacted instead of asking what was going on. As a member of the football team, Martin would have had some experience with tackling a person and taking him down to ground. Being terrified at that moment, Martin would had reserves of adrenaline and the training needed to overpower a heavier man (whose fitness at the time is apparently an open question), could well have knocked Zimmerman to the ground and if they were on the sidewalk (at least one witness put them on the grass, but whatever), could have wrung Zimmerman's chimes.

Am I justifying Zimmerman's claim of self defense? No I am suggesting what seems the strongest possibility is that Zimmerman provoked the situation at every step, right up to the point the kid did not cooperate by collapsing to the ground crying. Zimmerman played with fire and it got away from him and bit him in the ass (so to speak).

Much was made in the trial that Zimmerman had no obvious hatred of African Americans. Perhaps not, but how should we look at Zimmerman's automatic assumption that the suspicious figure he saw, who he knew was black, was "getting away" with something? The insidious casual racism can be seen as worse, in that it is so ingrained that we can overlook it. Supposedly at least a couple of the jurors started deliberations leaning towards a guilty verdict for Zimmerman (either of second degree murder or manslaughter), but were persuaded otherwise by the rest of the jury. And as I said earlier, even here in Pittsburgh, commenters on the PG online refuse to look at the totality of the situation of African Americans, instead only seeing violent criminals or at best welfare cheats and abusers. This is a problem that seemingly has been made worse by the election of an African American President during an economic downturn that has swollen the ranks of the unemployed and the welfare rolls.

The other point I want to make is how this all fits in with the logic of the gun debate. Gun rights advocate want to say that this has nothing to do concealed carry law laws or the stand your ground laws, except to prove that they work. But I think that gun rights advocates have based a lot of their arguments on the notions that gun owners are responsible, and therefore to do not need to be regulated. But we know that the neighborhood watch had training that said volunteers should not follow and especially should not confront suspicious people. We know the police dispatcher essentially reminded and reinforced that point with George Zimmerman that night. We can reasonably assume the purpose of saying those things to volunteers was to avoid the risk of injury to either volunteer or suspect. Yet Zimmerman ignored his training and what the dispatcher told him.

"Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun". So sayeth the NRA. But was Zimmerman a good guy with a gun? Does a good guy with a gun take unnecessary chances with people's lives? As I am sure others have concluded, George Zimmerman, taking chances and with a casual racism, went from neighborhood watch good guy with a gun to reckless vigilante, the guy who kept Martin from zlways getting away with it. Problem was, Martin did nothing except maybe get scared and then killed when he tried to defend himself.

What responsibilities does concealed carry place on you? In the State of Florida, apparently very few. And if things do go bad and a black man is shot, you can be confident people will decide he brought it on himself.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What can be said about ZImmerman?

I believe several Pittsburgh bloggers are posting about the Zimmerman/Martin case tonight, unless I have missed them doing some earlier time. Whether or not I might have missed the group, I am doing this tonight.

Like so many others, I have been following this case. It certainly seems to have had a polarizing effect, down predictable party and liberal/conservative lines. For liberals, Zimmerman profiled Martin, decided he was up to no good and in danger of getting away with whatever he had done, and literally hunted him down. For conservatives, Zimmerman was merely doing his neighborhood watch duties, apparently thought Martin would elude police, and so followed Martin.

What seems like undisputed facts are that somehow Martin approached Zimmerman and took him by surprise. I do not know if any words passed between them, whether maybe Zimmerman showed Martin that he had a gun in his waistband or a holster, but we do know the two proceeded to start fighting. I think at least one witness said the two were rolling in grass, one or more may have supported Zimmerman's story about Martin being on top of him, another one or more may have said Zimmerman was on top of Martin (possibly post gun shot). Martin may have been fighting harder than Zimmerman expected, possibly because Martin was fighting a man who he thought was about to shoot him. In this context, one can make a case for both the man and the boy invoking self defense, but only one of them had access to lethal force.

Having said all that, I actually want to step back and discuss events directly prior to the fatal confrontation. I want to talk about rules governing our behavior. I know that saying "I was only following orders" is practically an archetype of a certain form of (perhaps bureaucratic) evil, yet I will say I think many of the individual acts of evil in history come from people deciding to ignore orders. The My Lai massacre leaps to mind immediately, although the specific orders in that situation may have been somewhat ambiguous.

But my point in bringing up orders is that as a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman had a set of parameters that were supposed to govern his activities while watching the neighborhood. He was supposed to be the eyes and ears of the police, but he was not supposed to pursue and absolutely not supposed to confront. Yet when Zimmerman left his vehicle to follow Martin that night, he knew he was risking confronting Martin. Why would the neighborhood watch rules say not to follow and risk confronting someone suspicious? Exactly because of what happened next.

In a way, the Zimmerman trial is a simplified version of the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration alleged Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that it was going to give to terrorists in the near future. After we invaded, we did not find any WMD's. I maintain that if you looked at the total history of the weapons inspections after the Gulf War and the sanctions, unless you literally had a nuclear bomb or canister of sarin gas in front of you, it simply was not credible that Iraq had any kind of WMD's, and that's what turned out to be the case. Yet George Bush was never held accountable for thousands of American deaths, and as many as a hundred thousand or more Iraqi deaths.

Similarly, George Zimmerman decided not only that Trayvon Martin looked suspicious, but that he must have committed crimes in the past, and was looking to commit a crime in the immediate future. All that based on zero evidence connected to Martin himself and zero evidence of any crime Zimmerman had heard about occurring that night or anything Martin did besides walk. Zimmerman then departed his car in direct violation of neighborhood watch training as well as what the police neighborhood watch coordinator told him on the phone at that moment. Yet Zimmerman is not going to be held responsible for violating his instructions and the eminently predictable death that resulted from his actions.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

After a week's delay, Jack opines ...

Below is a copy of a comment I made on the PG website about this weeks' Jack Kelly column, "Obamacare on hold" Curiously, last Sunday's Kelly print column never appeared online. No idea what that means.

I read somewhere that the election was the major reason for this new delay in implementing part of the ACA. Apparently a number of companies decided maybe Mitt Romney had a chance, and he *was* promising to repeal Obamacare (although *how* he would do that was not clear). So businesses are behind on their reading and taking the steps necessary to implement their part of the ACA. And in fact businesses should be glad that the administration is giving them more breathing room.

But Republicans/conservatives/Tea Party Types are determined to undermine national universal healthcare as best they can, even though they have *never* had a coherent plan to replace it.

In fact, some say it is reasonable to say the entire party is now irrational.

But of course gerrymandering will insure that Republicans will keep the House for decades to come (no matter what is done with the filibuster in the Senate).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I'm back, though "Jack's back" would sound better

Jack Kelly is an Opinion section columnist, so he has no obligation to reveal his sources for his claims (and some commenters here will say his sources are the only unbiased sources in the media universe). Today's column"We work for the government - And we just want to help ... ourselves" is a good example.

Looking around the internet, the only source I found for Mr Kelly's claim that we have spent more on the war on poverty is the Heritage Foundation, and their listing for their source: "research".

This paper ran an opinion piece by the co-director of Pitt's Office of Child Development on Head Start on March 24th of this year, which acknowledged how kids in and out of Head Start at the end of first grade seem to be doing the same, but said that later the Head Start kids do better. Maybe that's true and maybe it isn't, but surely Kelly was aware of it, and it is quite rude of him to ignore it.

Ms Englebrcht's (or Engelbrecht, it appears both ways on the internet) group started to fight voter fraud curiously only finds fraud as "largely a Democratic party problem" (from the "True the Vote" Wikipedia page)(again, so commenters here will say that only democrats committing vote fraud accurately reflects reality). Her group has been accused of voter intimidation, which if it occurs only of Democratic voters amounts to working for one party, which is to say one candidate in an election. Among other claims, True the Vote apparently stated (and I recall Jack Kelly claiming) that voters were being bused in to swing the recall election in Wisconsin. No license plate of a bus was ever given, apparently. Ms Englebrecht's supposedly primarily educational group does this, and then complains it is being examined for engaging in political activity?

This group True the Vote was formed out of a Tea Party group King Street Patriots. Was a member of KSP ever involved in domestic terrorism? Evidently the FBI would like to know, but Jack Kelly would stomp his boot on the necks of FBI agents, intimidating them when they try to do their jobs. And by the way, Ms. Englebrecht's shop has a license to make guns. Commenter's around here complain the ATF doesn't do its job, Jack Kelly complains when it does.

Show me a driver who doesn't speed (knowing full well it is against the law), and then tell me about about breaking federal laws.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Harper and Ravenstahl

I have been wanting to say something about the resignation of Nate Harper since it happened. It should be significant for the Mayoral primary coming up, except that Bill Peduto and Michael Lamb are simply going to cancel each other out, and Ravenstahl will win re-election.

But here's the thing about Nate Harper. I wondered back in 2007 whether Nate Harper was somehow the administration's apologist if not fall guy ( One thing significant to me about the story about Ravenstahl's guard detail making up to a hundred grand was Nate Harper's comment (made presumably with a straight face) that the Mayor works from six in the morning to after 1 or 2 am the next morning. A) that statement was made while the Mayor was still married and B) it made me wonder what the Mayor had on Harper that Harper would stick his neck out for the Mayor like that. I guess maybe now we know.

Kelly back to defense

This is a comment I made on the PG website about today's Jack Kelly column Obama is weak on defense.

So this is a column about the opposition to Chuck Hagel for Secretary of State, but it starts and is shot through with complaints about Benghazi. If the President had come forward and stated that there was a CIA facility at Benghazi, and that the CIA had successfully resisted efforts to reinforce and otherwise protect Ambassador Chris Stevens, Jack Kelly would complain that Obama is hampering US intelligence. Instead Obama (and also Susan Rice) repeated the information the CIA had told them after the Benghazi attack. Conservatives say Ms Rice should have researched that information herself before going on the Sunday talk shows the weekend after the Benghazi attack, and gathered her own information. How would she do this; the people she would talk to were the ones telling her the video caused the attack.

Jack Kelly's criticism of Chuck Hagel is first that he was a Sargent, not experienced at running a giant bureaucracy, which means he is not qualified to run the Pentagon. Of course Kelly frequently complains that Democrats are too enamored of bureaucracies and what we need is someone who will cut through the doubletalk and get to the truth (see Kelly on Ben Carson). Yet Chuck Hagel is not a Democrat (despite what the ideological purists want to say) and did co-found and run the Vanguard cellular company, as well as serving as President and CEO of the USO.

Jack Kelly finishes by saying that foreign policy disaster is almost upon us. But then conservatives (including Jack Kelly) have been predicting hyperinflation since Obama took office, even some saying it is already happening (look at the price of gas!), yet is has not now nor is likely anytime soon to happen. Makes you wonder about the foreign policy thing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kelly plays the race card.

This is a copy of a comment I made on the the PG on Jack Kelly's column today "President Benjamin Carson?".

I have no doubt that Dr Carson is a talented doctor, although I wonder if or perhaps just when he decides to defer to the bible rather than science in a diagnosis or treatment recommendation.

Which is by way of pointing out the glaring hypocrisy in Dr Carson 's quote about how doctors have "learned how to make decisions based on facts, empirical data, rather than on ideology" should be involved in politics and then suggesting we should base tax policy on religion.

Carson's assault on political correctness that shines a light on what is clearly becoming a glaring double standard in America. Conservatives on these comment threads jump all over any innocent person who expresses a concern about "assault weapons", any one who expresses a concern about "income equality", even anyone who points out that Wall Street was the cause of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Republicans/conservatives/the Tea Party now want to silence discussion about certain issues, actually condemning saying certain words. Liberals have ALWAYS questioned and essentially condemned the idea of politically correct speech, but now Republicans march in lock step and say that there can be NO discussion about certain issues, to the point of not speaking certain words.

This is the rational, empirically-based approach that Jack Kelly advocates. Of course.

And by the way, where are conservatives complaining about Jack Kelly playing the race card? Or are all of you that intellectually dishonest (as a libertarian recently accused me of on a PG comment thread)?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jack Kelly - waterboarding is not torture, but everything Obama does is wrong

This is once again a copy of something I posted to the PG as a comment on today's Jack Kelly column.

This is an interesting Jack Kelly column. He walks a twisty but interesting path. Water boarding isn't torture, but Obama is trampling the constitution. That Kelly supports his contention about waterboarding not being tortu by saying that journalists volunteered to have it done, and that it is effective because of a scene in a movie is absolutely repugnant. I would invite Kelly to either allow himself to be water boarded every day for the next ten years or admit that he has no idea if it is torture.

As far as drones go, Kelly is very late to the party. I took major grief on these comment threads when I repeatedly referenced over a couple of years Glenn Greenwald 's several columns on the use of drones. Go google "Glenn Greenwald Salon" (Greenwald is now writing for the Guardian). Yes, liberals have ignored the issue for some years, but so have conservatives. Greenwald has been almost alone (in the wilderness?), but there he was, and Jack Kelly has ignored his existence for years.

George Bush ignored the briefing that gave him the information that would have prevented all of this. Since 2001, the Republicans have set up all the problems we face now. Bush failed to capture or kill bin Laden in December 2001 and for seven years after, invaded the totally, totally, totally unrelated country Iraq based on lies, opened the Guantanamo detention facility, approved the at the very least morally ambiguous technique of waterboarding. And yet Republicans turn around and blame Democrats for any thing that the American people find questionable. Together with their incredible fiscal irresponsibility (which again they blame on the Democrats even when they were in control of Congress and the Presidency), Republicans have essentially by themselves caused the major problems of the last decade. When will they take responsibility for what they have done?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kelly on debt

This is a copy of a comment I made on the PG website on today's Jack Kelly Column "Dance of the debt ceiling: Going through it wouldn't be as bad as people think"

If Jack Kelly had been remotely fair in this column, then I would be more prepared to accept some of his conclusions. It is a matter of record that George W Bush publicly stated that the (Clinton) was the government keeping the public's money. He explicitly and on purpose unbalanced the budget. He cut revenues by cutting taxes, he allowed Congress to spend like drunken sailors, he ignored the coming financial crisis. And yet Jack Kelly wants to label Obama a hypocrite for speaking out against Bush's spending.

Of course some on this thread will say that I am a hypocrite for defending Obama. Yet Obama's deficit was caused by dropping tax revenues (caused by the financial crisis and the contraction of the economy), automatic stabilizers like unemployment compensation, Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps for those of you who don't follow politics) and of course continuing to fight (when he cam into office) two wars started by George W Bush but kept off the books to make his administration look better. The stimulus saved or created up to three million jobs according to the CBO, so it was clearly a good investment. And otherwise conservatives can tell us which unemployed people should become homeless and starve.

Right now borrowing costs are still effectively negative, but Jack Kelly wants to cut programs that help the poor and cut taxes for the rich. Just like every other Republican/conservative/Tea Party type.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jon Stewart Versus Paul Krugman

So Jon Stewart and Paul Krugman have been having a halfhearted battle of words with each other. It started when last Thursday evening Stewart made some fun of the idea of minting a trillion dollar coin and depositing it in the Treasury, an idea that Krugman had somewhat promoted recently. Now, Stewart said this sounded like a silly idea all on its own, and also a silly way to pay down the national debt. In that context, Stewart mocked the amount, why not make it a 20 trillion dollar (our current debt being 16 trillion)or some other utterly absurd amount.

Let me say right here that in the absence of any other information, the coin does sound pretty damn stupid or silly.

But anyone who reads Paul Krugman knows the trillion dollar coin is not about paying down the debt per se, it was intended to be an option should the House of Representatives refuse to raise the debt ceiling (again) without the President agreeing to eliminate Social Security, Medicare or both plus Big Bird.

OK, even in that context the trillion dollar coin is still pretty silly, but at least we can see at as a sign of how bad things are getting in Congress, that a President might have to do something like that.

Now, I have to admit the CNN piece the Daily Show first aired to describe the coin mentioned paying on the debt, but Stewart's researchers should have gone out and actually read a Krugman column or blog post, or any of the other economists or columnists talking about this. Not doing so, or doing so and then allowing Stewart's comedian writers or Stewart himself to get the issue wrong seemed at least lazy.

Which is what Krugman said on Saturday in a blog post, and again on ABC News (This Week with whats his name?). Krugman stated that he thinks the Daily Show tries for "knowing jokes", intelligent humor, but their take on the coin was just dumb. That the Daily Show was damaging it's "brand".

Stewart countered on Monday with a series of (in my opinion) weak statements - he thinks the Daily Show's brand is dumb (yeah, sometimes), Stewart admitted there are other points of view but implied he didn't have time for them, and then stood by his characterization of the trillion dollar coin as a dumb (expletive) idea.

Again, yeah, the coin is dumb but Stewart totally ignored the context in which the coin was proposed ... again.

Now, if the Daily Show were some program on Fox News, or CNN, MSNBC or even the late, apparently unlamented Current TV, then we might well shrug. But the Daily Show is two things that separate it from those other shows. First, it is fairly smart. Daily Show viewers are among the best informed people compared to other channels and media outlets. Which I believe Stewart himself has mentioned on occasion (while being modest about in an insincere way).

And second, the Daily Show regularly goes after news programs on other channels, particularly on Fox News. Being the show that knowingly mocks other news shows places a burden on the Daily Show to get its own coverage right. If you want to skewer Bill O'Reilly for some piece of hypocrisy, there is no hiding behind a "We're just a dumb comedy show" when you are caught peddling your own misinformation.

Instead of, on Monday, a) claiming stupidity, b) making a vague statement about other points of view and then c) repeating that you think the coin is stupid, Stewart should have said a) we learned/knew the coin was intended to be a means of temporarily raising the debt ceiling by executive order, b) we did not describe the context that was forcing people to resort to outlandish ideas like a trillion dollar coin, namely, the Republican intransigence over the debt ceiling, and the devastating consequences if the Republican controlled House refused to raise it. And that point Stewart would then be entitled to a c) the coin is still a pretty stupid idea anyway.

We would have all laughed but also breathed a sigh of relief that Jon Stewart was not, in fact, turning into Steve Doocy (ow do you even spell that name?).

Stewart did say he is a fan of Paul Krugman, which is nice, although clearly Stewart is not a regular reader of Krugman. The Daily Show should have Krugman on soon as a guest, although it occurs to me that there are also any number of skit things Krugman could do.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kelly on confirmation

This is a (cleaned up) copy of a comment I made on the Post-Gazette's pages. It is on today's Jack Kelly column "Obama's insecurity team - His national security nominees are weak as he seeks to cut defense spending"

Apparently Jack Kelly's standard for being qualified to be on the national security team is simple - did you support George W Bush's policies? Bob Gates did, while secretary of defense for Dubya, for example, but Hagel did not while in the Senate; hence Gates qualified, Hagel not.

And apparently our enemies and allies, knowing the records of Obama's nominees, will see us as a great power in decline.

Honestly, how does it work that with one breath Republicans/conservatives/Tea Party types can call for massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, federal housing assistance and unemployment because our national debt is our greatest security threat, then with the next breath call for reduced taxes on the rich (although calling for an increase in taxes on the bottom 47%, the poor, to force them to have "skin in the game") to stimulate the economy and then with a third breath complain that defense is being cut to the bone? No one sees any contradiction in the cumulative effect of these three policy philosophies?

I guess no "true believer" would