Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Get Inspired

No, this isn't another awesome video of Elizabeth Warren talking about class warfare. This is a video of the University of Ohio football team getting black uniforms for the first time, and the incredibly awesome reaction of their players. Watch it, you won't be disappointed. (via deadspin)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cuban/Hezbollah Missile Crisis!

I'm starting to feel like Michele Bachmann's campaign was put together using nothing but right wing chain letters:

At an event in Iowa on Monday, the poll-plummeting candidate warned of a new potential Cuban missile crisis — involving Hezbollah.

“And the question was asked, should we normalize trading with Cuba? Why would you normalize trading with a country that sponsors terror?” Bachmann said. “Cuba — there’s reports that have come out that Cuba has been working with another terrorist organization called Hezbollah. And Hezbollah is potentially looking at wanting to be part of missile sites in Iran.

“And, of course, when you’re 90 miles offshore from Florida, you don’t want to entertain the prospect of hosting bases or sites where Hezbollah could have training camps or perhaps have missile sites or weapons sites in Cuba. This would be foolish.”

As Think Progress notes, it appears that the sole source of Bachmann’s allegation is an unconfirmed report in an Italian newspaper, about Hezbollah setting up a cell in Cuba, in order to have a base of operations for targeting Israeli targets in Latin America.

Thus Bachmann’s logic appears to be: 1) Hezbollah are bad; 2) Hezbollah has missiles; 3) Hezbollah are trying to set up shop in Cuba; and therefore 4) Hezbollah could imminently set up missile sites in Cuba to target the United States.
In a field that isn't exactly light on stupid, Bachmann seems to have out crazied herself from the pack. That's impressive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Murder is a Type of Action!

The Obama Administration has been trying to push through several free trade agreements, the most offensive being a pact with Colombia because they've basically legalized the murder of union leaders.

In a pathetic attempt to paper over issue, the Administration created an "Action Plan" in April that was designed to get the Colombian government to pretend care about these murders long enough to pass the deal. As it turns out, even with a spotlight on their actions 15 union leaders have been murdered since the action plan went into effect!

Yesterday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter to President Obama listing the names of the 22 workers who has been murdered in Colombia so far this year. It is an absolute disgrace that President Obama is pushing this deal, and good for Trumka for putting the human cost right in his face. Anyone who supports this deal has the blood of those workers on their hands.

Monday, September 26, 2011

First Rule of Job Creation: Creating Jobs

It's really not as complicated as people would have you believe. Dean Baker: (via atrios)
It is essential to remember that this is a crisis of a lack of demand, not supply. For this reason, it is ungodly stupid that so many people are being made to suffer from unemployment and declining living standards.

We know how to get out of this mess, we have known how for 70 years. We just need the government to generate demand. That means spending money. Ideally it would spend money on useful things like education, health care, and infrastructure, but even if it spent money in wasteful ways it would still create jobs and put people to work.

In the 30s we got much of the way back to full employment with the Works Progress Administration and other programs. Much of what was done was useful -- look around, you won't have to go far to find infrastructure built by depression-era programs. However, it took the massive spending associated with World War II to get the economy back to full employment. There is no magic associated with war that makes military spending more effective in creating jobs. The only difference was that the threat to the nation from the Axis powers removed the political obstacles to the necessary spending.

The same situation applies today. We just need to spend money. That applies to both the United States and the euro zone countries. The problem is that we have more people in political leadership positions who want to be morality cops and lecture about balancing budgets rather than focus on policies that will restore economic growth. This includes the top officials at the European Central Bank, many of the voting members of the Federal Reserve Board's Open Market Committee and much of the political leadership in the euro zone countries, the United Kingdom and of course here.
It's really that simple. We know what works, and we know what could restart the economy and alleviate suffering for millions of people. Our elites have simply decided these solutions aren't going to be considered. Republicans and quite a few Democrats won't support government spending that isn't related to killing brown people and Jared Bernstein has stated repeatedly that there is "no appitiete" for direct government job creation in the White House.

So for all the talk of jobs, there is no discussion of the best way to actually create jobs. Frustrating.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"No One In This Country Got Rich On Their Own"

This video of Elizabeth Warren is incredible, and is important viewing:

We haven't launched the 2012 site yet, but she will be our first Train Action candidate when we do.

I was nervous about her running in a tight race in Massachusetts in an incredibly bad economy, but she has swept all my doubts aside. Besides, being in the senate will give her good experience for her 2016 presidential campaign. Not even joking about that one.

The right understands the power of her message, and that's why they've already started trying to tear her down with everything they have. The amount of money and energy the wealtest companies in this country and their protectors will spend to defeat her be like nothing we've ever seen. But it's ok, she is that good, and she's worth fighting for.

As depressing as this blog is sometimes discussing the corruption and corporate takeover of the Democratic party, people like her give you reason to believe. She is the real deal. You don't get such amazing advocates of a fiery populist message very often, so get ready to start hearing a lot more about her.

Social Security: Not A Ponzi Scheme

I wasn't going to mention this because it's so absurd, but our nation's idiots (and the people trying to get their votes) have been pushing this claim into the forfront. Dean Baker's response to Paul Ryan is pretty brilliant:
During a recent interview on The Laura Ingraham Show, you made a number of remarks about Social Security, among them, characterizing Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," that would yield a negative rate of return, and saying, “…[Social Security] is not working, it is going bankrupt, and that current seniors will be jeopardized the most by the status quo.” None of these statements are accurate.

Almost no one will get a negative real return on their Social Security taxes. This issue has been researched extensively and assuming a 2 percent real discount rate, even as late as 2030, most new retirees will receive more in benefits than they paid in taxes. There is simply no basis for the claim that beneficiaries will receive negative returns on their taxes as the value of scheduled benefits actually rises in later years since life expectancy, and therefore the expected period of retirement, will continue to increase. The only way we would see negative returns would be if Congress voted to cut benefits.

In fact, if Congress makes no changes at all to the program, the latest CBO projections show that Social Security will remain fully solvent through 2038 and would pay about 80 percent of full scheduled benefits from then on, indefinitely. It is quite difficult to make the case that a system that pays full benefits for the next 27 years is not working or is going bankrupt, let alone claim that it jeopardizes the retirement security of current seniors.
So one last time things that arn't Ponzi schemes: Social Security

Things that are Ponzi schemes: What Charles Ponzi, Bernie Madoff and that Miami booster did.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Job Killing Regulations

Or, you know, not:
It’s become a mantra on Capitol Hill and a rallying cry for industry groups: Get rid of the job-killing regulations. In recent days, with nearly every one of the GOP presidential candidates repeating that refrain, the political echo chamber has grown even louder. Earlier this month, President Obama also asked the Environmental Protection Agency to back off more stringent ozone regulations, citing the "importance of reducing regulatory burdens" during trying economic times.

But is the claim that regulation kills jobs true?

We asked experts, and most told us that while there is relatively little scholarship on the issue, the evidence so far is that the overall effect on jobs is minimal. Regulations do destroy some jobs, but they also create others. Mostly, they just shift jobs within the economy.

“The effects on jobs are negligible. They’re not job-creating or job-destroying on average,” said Richard Morgenstern, who served in the EPA from the Reagan to Clinton years and is now at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan think tank.

Almost a decade ago, Morgenstern and some colleagues published research on the effects of regulation [PDF] using ten years’ worth of Census data on four different polluting industries. They found that when new environmental regulation was applied, higher production costs pushed up prices, resulting in lost sales for businesses and some lost jobs, but the job losses were also offset by new jobs created in pollution abatement.

“There are many instances of regulation causing a specific industry to lose jobs,” said Roger Noll, co-director of the Program on Regulatory Policy at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Noll cited outright bans of products—such as choloroflorocarbons or leaded gasoline—as the clearest examples.

That’s supported by recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows employers attributing a small fraction of job losses to governmental regulations. In the first half of 2011, employers listed regulations as the cause of 0.2 to 0.3 percent of jobs lost as part of mass layoffs. But the data doesn’t track the other side of the equation: jobs created.

“The key point is that regulation affects the distribution of jobs among industries, but not the total number,” said Noll.
There are two things that drive me nuts about the right wing rhetoric over regulations. The first is that generic "regulations" are somehow a massive problem, not things that make our environment cleaner, our working conditions safer, and allow capitalism function to run in a smoother, less destructive manner. I'm sure there are a few outdated ones in there that could be repealed, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that this is what people arguing for reducing regulations are talking about. They want to pollute at will, they don't particularly care if their workers are safe, all of this because they could make more money if those laws weren't there. When asshats like Mark Warner come up with actual proposals that "remove one regulation for every one added", without naming any actual regulations that are sooooo damaging to their business, you can basically assume they're trying to make things easier for companies to destroy our environment and murder more of their own workers with no penalties.

The second thing that drives me mad is the idea that any of these companies care about losing jobs. Really? In a climate where workers are being laid at companies raking in massive profits and people are fired every day simply for exercising their right to organize, but suddenly they care about jobs? Give me a break.

I'm guessing most of you knew that the OMGJOBKILLINGREGULATIONS stuff was bullshit anyway, but the fact that this came from Pro Publica, an outstanding journalistic enterprise is important as well.

Then again, since we live in a fact free environment where people lie constantly without any repercussions, it probably won't make a difference, but it's still important to have out there.

Those of us non-insane people who still believe in mostly factual discourse need something to read, right?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Troy Anthony Davis was executed at 11:08 PM tonight.

Rest in peace.

Too Much Doubt

 I've been posting about this on twitter, but the news is not good. At 7 PM tonight, Georgia will execute a man who very well may be innocent.
A Georgia parole board has denied clemency to Troy Davis, the death-row inmate whose case attracted international attention amid what supporters say are significant doubts over his guilt. With the failure of Davis' last-ditch appeal, announced Tuesday morning, he appears all but certain to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday at 7 p.m.

"He's guilty," Joan MacPhail-Harris, the widow of the Savannah cop who Davis was convicted of killing, told reporters Monday before the board announced its decision. "We need to go ahead and execute him."
Davis, 41, was convicted of the 1989 murder of Mark Allen MacPhail, an off-duty Savannah, Ga. police officer. MacPhail, who was running to the aid of a homeless man being pistol-whipped, was shot three times in a Burger King parking lot before he could draw his weapon.

Davis has always maintained his innocence, and several witnesses who testified at his trial have since recanted or backed away from their testimony, alleging they were improperly pressured by police.
The case has generated worldwide attention, with opponents of the death penalty depicting Davis' case as a perfect example of the inherently flawed system of capital punishment. Davis' supporters have sponsored a series of protests and fundraisers for his case in New York, Washington D.C.,  Paris and Oslo. Last week, supporters delivered petitions with about 650,000 signatories calling on Georgia state authorities to free Davis.

One witness who testified at Monday's parole board hearing said she once heard another man who was at the scene of the murder, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, say that he fired the fatal shots. Coles was the first person to implicate Davis to the police. Another of Monday's witnesses was a juror from the original 1991 trial; she had voted to sentence Davis to death but now says she has doubts. Two other jurors signed affidavits asking the board to spare Davis' life.

Former FBI director William Sessions called for Davis' sentence to be commuted to life in prison, writing in an opinion column Thursday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the case is "permeated in doubt." In addition to the witness recantations and allegations of police pressure, Sessions pointed to a "lack of relevant physical evidence."
It's last minute stuff, but if you have a moment to make some calls:
  1. Email and call the Board of Pardons and urge them to reconsider: 404-656-5651.
  2. Contact the Chatham County District Attorney and urge him to withdraw Troy's death warrant: phone: 912-652-7308, fax: 912-652-7328.
  3. Email and call CorrectHealth and urge them not to participate in this travesty of justice: Phone: 770-692-4750; Fax: 770-692-4754

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rick Perry 4 Prez 4 Realz

Maybe the South will get some ideas and try seceding again and Mr. Let's Dissolve This Union will let them get away with it? That'd solve 95% of the problems our nation faces pretty much overnight, and we'd also get the same constant amusement and happiness from living next to a failed state that I imagine South Koreans get. They're amused and happy about it, right?

Anyway apparently Perry is trying to be even crazier than your generic Republican/Democratic politician about Israel, and Salon quotes him as saying:

Perry also called for the shutting down of the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington if the U.N. recognizes a state of Palestine.

That's actually really helpful of him, because if Palestine is recognized as a state then they get their own embassy, right? I hereby move that the Embassy of Palestine should thank Perry by mailing him a large beautifully-framed printout of goatse after they make the move to Washington DC. That is, if America doesn't go maverick and veto the thing, which is just the kind of braindead thing we would do thanks to politicians like Rick Perry.

Class War Tuesday

Krugman on the right wing fury over "class war" rhetoric:
some notes on the actual class war that has taken place over the past 30 years — namely class warfare for the rich against the middle class.
1. Major tax cuts for high-income Americans, much larger as a percentage of income than for the middle class; CBO data here.
2. Decline in real minimum wage.
3. Union-busting, aided and abetted by federal policy.
4. Financial deregulation, which has fed inequality because very high incomes come disproportionately from that sector.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Acknowledging the Obvious

With the upcoming US veto of the UN resolution supporting Palestinian statehood, it's hard to argue that much progress has been made in the ending the occupation of Palestine over the last 5-10 years. With that said, Glenn Greenwald points out that Walt and Meirshimer's incredible book "The Israel Lobby" has made a major impact simply by talking about the elephant in the room:
There were numerous reasons that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer were accused in prominent venues of all sorts of crimes -- including anti-Semitism -- when they published The Israel Lobby, but the most common cause was the book's central theme: that there is a very powerful lobby in the U.S. which is principally devoted to Israel and causes U.S. political leaders to act to advance the interests of this foreign nation over their own.  In The New York Times today, Tom Friedman -- long one of Israel's most stalwart American supporters -- wrote the following as the second paragraph of his column, warning that the U.S. was about to incur massive damage in order to block Palestinian statehood:
This has also left the U.S. government fed up with Israel's leadership but a hostage to its ineptitude, because the powerful pro-Israel lobby in an election season can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America's.
Isn't that exactly Walt and Mearseimer's main theme, what caused them to be tarred and feathered with the most noxious accusations possible?  Indeed it is; here's how the academic duo, in The Israel Lobby, described the crux of their argument as first set forth in an article on which the book was based:
After describing the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel, we argued that his support could not be fully explained on either strategic or moral grounds  Instead, it was due largely to the political power of the Israel lobby, a loose coalition of individuals and groups that seeks to influence American foreign policy in ways that will benefit Israel . . . We suggested that these policies were not in the U.S. national interest and were in fact harmful to Israel's long-term interests as well.
Is that not exactly the point which The New York Times' most "pro-Israel" columnist himself just voiced today?  This thesis has long been self-evidently true.  Indeed, many of the same Israel-loyal neoconservatives who accused Walt and Mearsheimer of promoting an anti-Semitic trope of "dual loyalty" -- by daring to suggest that some American Jews cast votes based on what's best for Israel rather than the U.S. -- themselves will explicitly urge American Jews to vote Republican instead of Democrat because of the former's supposedly greater support for Israel (you're allowed to argue that American Jews should make political choices based on Israel but you're not allowed to point out that some do so).  Ed Koch just ran around the 9th Congressional District in New York successfully urging American Jews to vote for the GOP candidate based on exactly that appeal ("Koch, a Democrat, endorsed [the GOP candidate] in July as a way to 'send a message' to Obama on his policies toward Israel").  And in The Wall Street Journal this week, Rick Perry excoriated President Obama because of the small handful of instances where Obama deviated ever-so-slightly from the dictates and wishes of the Israeli government.

Walt and Mearshiemer merely voiced a truth which has long been known and obvious but was not allowed to be spoken.  That's precisely why the demonization campaign against them was so vicious and concerted: those who voice prohibited truths are always more hated than those who spout obvious lies.  That the foreign affairs columnist most admired in Washington circles just expressed the same point demonstrates that recognition of this previously prohibited fact has now become mainstream. 
There is a long, long way to go, the more these issues are discussed in the open, the better.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

No One Fears An Unpopular President

Apparently there is some anger among Democrats about Obama's plan to create jobs::
“I think the American people are very skeptical of big pieces of legislation,” said Senator Robert Casey, Democrat from Pennsylvania....“I have said for months that I am not supporting a repeal of tax cuts for the oil industry unless there are other industries that contribute,” said Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana....“I have been very unequivocal,” said Representative Peter DeFazio, Democrat from Oregon. “No more tax cuts.”....“I have serious questions about the level of spending that President Obama proposed,” said Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia....Senator Kay Hagan declined on Wednesday to say her support for the bill that Mr. Obama spent the day touting in her state was indubitable..... “I’m going to have to look at it.“....Representative Heath Shuler, another North Carolina Democrat, said Congress should tame the deficit before approving new spending for job programs. “The most important thing is to get our fiscal house in order,” said Mr. Shuler.
So most of these Dems (DeFazio, who is a beast, being the exception) are normally bad, so their opposition isn't too surprising. But it struck me that Bob Casey and Kay Hagan were on that list, because while not great champions of progressive policy, they don't belong in the douche bag hall of fame with Landrieu, Shuler and Manchin. So why are they comfortable attacking this policy? Because unlike 2-3 years ago, President Obama is now pretty damn unpopular in their home states of Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

So how does this effect the jobs bill, and a aggressive strategy of passing it?

Unfortunately it hurts it a lot. As a advocate of running this type of outside campaign for policies such as the stimulus and health care, it drastically changes things. If in 2009 Obama had rallied in Maine to pressure the wonder twins to vote for either a public option or a stronger stimulus, he would have probably been successful. Why? Because he was really popular in Maine then, and when you're popular you have leverage over your political opponents, because they also want to be popular, or at least not attacked my someone who is popular.

From poll numbers to results like Tuesday's election, President Obama is reaching record lows of popularity at the state and national level. Even if he's finally discovered a tactic that plenty of us have wished he had used from the beginning of his administration, it may not even matter, as popularity is a central element to that plan.

If there's a political advantage to campaigning against Obama in many of these states, that's not a good sign for the strategy of him "taking these ideas" to the American people. And that's definitely not a good sign for his jobs plan.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jobs Plan Getting Better and Better

So not only was Obama's jobs plan was genuinely good policy, but he seemed to be more confrontational than in the past, and ready to take the fight over this bill to the american people, rather than backroom caves negotiations.

With all those positive signs, there were always still the potentially troubling aspect of how this bill would be paid for. Normally this wouldn't even be an issue, but with a president who spent two years talking about the deficit and floating cuts to medicare and social security, there was reason to be concerned.

Thankfully, this part of the plan is great as well:
Most of the new funds, Lew said, would be attained by limiting itemized deductions for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000, a plan President Obama has tried to push since his campaign days. Taking these steps would raise roughly $400 billion over 10 years, Lew said. [...] The administration also include a long-time policy goal of taxing the income investment fund managers make, known as carried interest, as regular income instead of as capital gains, which has a lower 15 percent tax rate. So far, Wall Street has strongly resisted any attempt to increase the rate on so-called carried interest. That change alone, would provide an infusion of $18 billion in revenue, according to administration officials.

The elimination of a tax break for the oil and gas industry would raise another $40 billion, and another $3 billion would come from changing the way corporate jets depreciate. Combined with a few other smaller revenue raises, Lew said the total measures proposed by the administration would bring in $467 billion, with some "wiggle room" -- $20 billion more than the cost of Obama's jobs bill, to ensure there's room to account for Congress' bean counters score the total a bit differently.
It will be interesting how far he goes in pushing for this plan, but this proposal is probably as good as liberals could have hoped for (especially considering Jared Bernstein's revelation about there being no appetite for direct government job creation in the White House).

During the rest of Obama's first term, we've seen the results of half measures designed to please conservatives, with the substantive efforts to pass those bills being done only in backroom negotiations.

This jobs bill could make a real difference in the economy, and if he's ready to go state to state and take the case for this bill to the american people, who knows?

Frankly, I'm just excited to see the White House putting their efforts behind genuinely good policy.

About fucking time.

Get Sick, Then Die Quickly

Remember when the national media collectively got the vapors because Alan Grayson had audacity to point out the effects of the GOP's health care plan? For those who don't remember:

And his amazing non-apology:

Now, last night, CNN hosted a Tea Party debate for all the republican candidates. Ron Paul was asked about a hypothetical man who had a job, but didn't have health insurance, but suddenly gets ill are requires a lot of care. When pressed further about whether society should just "let him die", the crowd takes over and their response speaks for itself:

This is the Republican healthcare plan: Get sick, die quickly. Between cheering the number of executions in Texas last week and this, it has been an unpleasant reminder that we have some really sick fucks in this country of ours...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Energy Subsidies: What If?

A pretty cool graphic via Roger Ebert's blog:

This is a good response to the usual knocks against solar energy from conservatives. Despite all the doom and gloom rehtoric, a greener country is possible! It would just take the government deciding they no long want to prop up energy sources that are killing us and our planet, and put that money into energy sources that won't kill us.

With the political power of the oil/gas/coal industries this isn't an easy task, but it's not as if there's some permanent bond we have with dirty energy that can't be overcome.

I Just Watched Super 8

And I really have to know... what is the deal with JJ Abrams and lense flares?! The man seriously just can't control himself. In the Star Trek movie from last year or whenever, sure, ok, it's the future, where apparently every single indoor location is blindingly bright and white. Like an Apple Store, but somehow even more hellish. But Super 8 is set in Michigan in the 70s, not exactly a time and place renowned for its futuristic sheen.

Abrams- What is the deal with them lense flares? What are you doing? Please leave your reply in the comments.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Press Conference of the Year

This is incredible. Have a good weekend.

Krugman on the Jobs Plan

Very interesting stuff, worth checking out.
Even though Obama's jobs plan is "bolder and better" than Paul Krugman expected, the Nobel-Prize winning economist still told Bloomberg Television on Friday that it might not be enough to stave off global recession.

The risk of global recession is "quite high, maybe 50 percent," Krugman told Bloomberg. He added: "The risk of something that feels like a recession is much higher than that. My central belief is that we're likely to have higher unemployment a year from now than we do today."

Krugman said that while Obama's plan "could make a noticeable difference to the economy," Republican opposition to the President's proposal, on top of the euro zone crisis, still makes recession a substantial possibility.
Had the video imbedded here, but it's auto play, so fuck that. Click on the link to watch the whole thing.

Job Speech Thoughts

So Obama's job speech/plan is a bit of a pleasant surprise, in that there are elements of his proposal that could actually do a lot of good in addressing our unemployment crisis. Maybe it was spending 2 years talking about deficits, but I was all ready for a proposal of trade deals and tax cuts for rich people. Some pros and cons:

The Pros:
  • Obama is talking about jobs, and proposing actual stimulus.
  • It is larger than I initially thought.
  • It includes money for infrastructure, hiring teachers, things that would have close to an immediate positive impact on the economy.
  • His speech was a bit more confrontational that I'm used to, which is a good thing.

The Cons:
  • It took him 2 years to do this.
  • He's still pushing job killing free trade deals
  • He's also pushing medicare cuts/tax cuts for rich people
  • We have no clue about the "how to pay for it" side of the deal, which if we know Obama could very well included medicare cuts. He said so himself in the speech.
So no actual plan has been released, but those are my initial thoughts.

Did you see it? What did you think?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Woooooo Killing People YEAHHHHH!!!

I was in class and didn't see this live, but looking at tweets and texts about this exchange really didn't do justice to how disgusting it was:

No matter how you feel about the death penalty, the idea that simply stating the number of people executed in texas is an applause line so so revolting it's hard to know where to begin.

Also, on that death penalty in Texas thing:
When, in 2004, new advances in arson science seemed to prove that death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham had not, in fact, murdered his three children via arson, Perry denied a stay of execution. And when the Texas Forensic Science Commission, after taking the unprecedented step of reexamining the case, seemed on the verge of posthumously exonerating Willingham, Perry took the also unprecedented step of replacing three members of the commission. Just like that. Last year, meanwhile, when Texas Monthly helped spring an innocent man, Anthony Graves, from death, Perry pointed to the case as proof that the system works. Which is true—if your definition of a functioning criminal justice system is one in which courts wrongly sentence an innocent man to death, only for an intrepid journalist to swoop in and, after countless hours of work, help secure his release.
In fairness, Perry knows his audience and it does "take balls to execute an innocent man".

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Politics of Failure Have Failed

There seems to be an ever changing rational defending Obama's actions and inactions over the last two years. A common excuse seems to be that because the president is not a king or prime minister, that somehow makes him powerless over everything that occurs in the other branches of government.

Assuming you buy into this theory (I don't), you would at least acknowledge that the president plays some meaningful role in giving speeches and choosing the issues that are debated, right?

Obama has spent the last two years talking about the horrors of a completely fabricated problem (the deficit), while the economy has been in ruins.

Stating the obvious: That decision was 100% up to him, and A HUGE FUCKING MISTAKE!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

But They Passed The Stress Tests!!!

Move along, nothing to see here:
Sometimes, personal-finance gurus advise cash-strapped consumers to pay off their high interest-rate credit cards by using a lower-rate one.

Banks have been trying the same tactic to get out from what they owe to Uncle Sam - by borrowing from Uncle Sam. And guess what? Uncle Sam is encouraging it.

TARP, the US Treasury’s $700 billion bailout of banks and the housing market, technically expired all the way back in October 2010. The exhausting debate about whether TARP was successful persisted more than two years after the program started. Neil Barofsky, the official in charge of keeping TARP accountable, stepped down in February and slammed the program in a New York Times op-ed in March.

So it’s no surprise the government wants to clear its rolls of the hundreds of banks that have been dawdling in paying back their TARP bailouts from January 2009. Keefe Bruyette & Woods says that Treasury has $19.1 billion still invested in about 473 banks through TARP.

How to do that? Funnel them to yet another Treasury bank-stimulus program. So earlier this year, a Treasury official dropped a big hint: some banks might want to pay back TARP - hint, hint - by applying for loans from the newly established $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund.
If "finding jobs for unemployed people" could somehow be called "bailing out insolvent banks", imagine how many creative solutions the administration would find!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

This first one thanks to wb's suggestion:


This second video because Tom Morello is awesome:


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Clean Air is For Suckers

This is fucking shameful: (Brad Plumer On Ezra Klein's blog)
On Friday, in a surprise move, the White House told the EPA to pull back on national standards for ground-level ozone pollution — smog — which the agency has been working on for the past two years. My colleague Juliet Eilperin has the full story, but the upshot is that this represents a clear victory for business groups and Republicans, who had been lobbying to postpone the regulations until a new scheduled review in 2013.

To add a bit to this, though, it’s worth taking a closer look at why environmentalists and clean-air advocates are so furious right now. Groups that have been lobbying for the long-delayed ozone update say they were essentially betrayed by the Obama administration, which, back in 2009, had fended off a lawsuit over Bush-era ozone rules by promising to issue tougher new standards. That, obviously, isn’t going to happen now. What’s more, critics note, the White House’s stated reasons for yanking the rules make no sense at all.
At the surface, this move is typical. Obama caving to conservatives on a no brainer issue in exchange for a political advantage to be named later. So just how bad is this?
First, some context. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to conduct a review of national standards on industrial smog every five years. Ground-level ozone is formed when emissions from power plants, vehicles and factories reacts with sunlight. The resulting pollution can, as the EPA explains, “trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.”

The last time new ozone standards were set was back in 1997 — at 84 parts per billion. In 2006, the EPA reviewed the science on ozone and health, which had advanced considerably over the years: It wasn’t until the 2000s, for instance, that researchers realized ground-level ozone might actually be killing people, not just causing respiratory problems. Realizing that the old standards were woefully out of date, EPA scientists recommended a new level of 60 to 70 parts per billion. The Bush administration, however, decided to go with a less-stringent level of 75 parts per billion in its final rules, issued in 2008.

Groups such as the American Lung Association quickly filed a lawsuit to stop the Bush rules, which they claimed were too weak and would lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and cases of respiratory disease. After Obama got elected, however, the new EPA said it basically agreed with the critics and would issue stronger rules by August 2010. At that point, the ALA agreed to hold off on its lawsuit. “We said, that sounds reasonable to us,” says Paul Billings, the ALA’s vice-president for policy and advocacy. “We basically trusted their intentions.”

But August 2010 rolled around. Still no rules. The EPA asked for a further extension. Then October. Then December. Still nothing. Then the EPA said it wanted to go back and look at the science again, just to double-check. Sure enough, EPA’s scientific review board said that a standard of 60 to 70 parts per billion was the most cost-effective way to protect public health. And EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the final rules would be in line with the science.

Industry groups, obviously, weren’t pleased with this. They noted that complying with a stricter standard could cost them anywhere from $19 billion to $90 billion per year by 2020. (The EPA did, however, note that a tougher standard would yield benefits of $13 billion to $100 billion, and that the benefits would outweigh the costs.) Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor dubbed the ozone proposal “possibly the most harmful of all the currently anticipated Obama administration regulations.”

So now, today, the White House announced that it’s not going to have any new rules. On a call with reporters, White House officials argued that it doesn’t make sense to put out new rules in 2011 when there’s going to be another scheduled review of the ozone science in 2013.

But critics say that this reasoning is flawed. For one, notes Amy Royden-Bloom of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, if the EPA did issue a new ozone standard this year, then it could always just postpone its next scientific review until 2016, in line with the law. Second, notes Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch, there’s no reason to think that a brand-new ozone standard will actually be issued by 2013.

That’s just when the scientific review is due. Crafting new rules will take longer than that, given the inevitable delays and lawsuits. “I’d say three years, minimum,” says O’Donnell. (When I asked White House officials about this, they said they weren’t sure how long it would take.) And third, says Paul Billings of the ALA, it’s not clear that the science on ozone and human health will change dramatically between now and 2013 — if anything, the case for regulating ozone is likely to get stronger.
That's really fucking bad. And the Administration had 100% control over this issue themselves, with no congressional approval needed, to tea party standing in their way. And they send us back All to score political points that no one gives a fuck about.

Absolutely disgusting.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Austerity Forever

Hey, maybe talking about a fake problem for the last two years wasn't the best idea?:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Employment growth ground to a halt in August as sagging consumer confidence discouraged already skittish U.S. businesses from hiring, keeping pressure on the Federal Reserve to provide more monetary stimulus to aid the economy.

Nonfarm payrolls were unchanged, the Labor Department said on Friday, the weakest reading since September. Nonfarm employment for June and July was revised to show 58,000 fewer jobs. Despite the lack of employment growth, the jobless rate held steady at 9.1 percent. The unemployment rate is derived from a separate survey of households, which showed an increase in employment and a tick up in the labor force participation rate.
. . .
If job growth does not accelerate, it could take more than four years to return to the pre-recession employment level. Private payrolls increased only 17,000 after rising 156,000 in July. Government employment fell 17,000, contracting for a 10th straight month. The decline in government payrolls was tempered by the return of 23,000 state workers in Minnesota after a partial government shutdown in July.

Details of the employment report were weak, with manufacturing payrolls falling 3,000, reflecting the slump in business confidence. Factories added 36,000 new workers in July as disruptions to motor vehicle production caused by a shortage of parts from Japan eased.

The average work week dropped to 34.2 hours, the fewest since January, from 34.3 hours. Average hourly earnings fell three cents.
I'm excited for next week's "jobs" speech to find out how more free trade deals and more spending cuts will get us out of this mess.