Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NEWSMAX Now Left Leaning, Like the New York Times

They've even hired Judy Miller!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

White Kids Are Hurting Our Schools

I'm not sure what to make of this column by Pat Buchanan, but I think he's saying that if we kicked out all the students except Asians, our GED scores would skyrocket. Or is that the familiar quack quack?

Okay, As Long As They're Not Earmarks

You know what killed the 2010 budget, don't you? Republican objections to earmarks. The omnibus bill was full of 'em! Many of them put into the budget by the Republicans who objected. Anyway, they're going to to take another crack at it in February, and there won't be any Republican earmarks in it! Why? Because!

Though Mr. Kirk and other Republicans thundered against pork-barrel spending and lawmakers’ practice of designating money for special projects through earmarks, they have not shied from using a less-well-known process called lettermarking to try to direct money to projects in their home districts.

Mr. Kirk, for example, sent a letter to the Department of Education dated Sept. 10, 2009, asking it to release money “needed to support students and educational programs” in a local school district. The letter was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the group Citizens Against Government Waste, which shared it with The New York Times.

The district, Woodland School District 50, said it later received about $1.1 million in stimulus money.
See, it's not the spending of federal dollars that they object to. It's the PROCEDURE. Instead of Congress approving the spending, Congress want to put it up to unelected bureau heads. That way, less accountability all around. And probably a little more corruption. Especially where the real money is, the Department of Defense. But how does it work, exactly?
Lettermarking, which takes place outside the Congressional appropriations process, is one of the many ways that legislators who support a ban on earmarks try to direct money back home.

In phonemarking, a lawmaker calls an agency to request financing for a project. More indirectly, members of Congress make use of what are known as soft earmarks, which involve making suggestions about where money should be directed, instead of explicitly instructing agencies to finance a project. Members also push for increases in financing of certain accounts in a federal agency’s budget and then forcefully request that the agency spend the money on the members’ pet project.

Because all these methods sidestep the regular legislative process, the number of times they are used and the money involved are even harder to track than with regular earmarks.
Given the ease of tracking, no wonder Congress is up in arms about earmarks! Especially considering how many of those Teabaggers are armed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It Was Supposed to Rain On Sunday

Here I was, driving back from Sacramento on Sunday and expecting a storm, and this is what Fresno looked like.


Fresno has no business looking this good in any circumstances, but to be this way when the whole state is supposed to be drowning is just wrong. Wrong! On all levels.

More bad news - Fresno is said to be the "Raisin Capital of the World" but according to a sign I saw a few miles down the road, that distinction belongs to Selma, CA. Which means that Fresno got nothin'.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Guy On Your Left Is Illegal, The Guy On Your Right Isn't

He's probably kidding, but Madeline's Dad said in a comment here that he believes that illegal immigrants comprise a third of most American classrooms. I probably shouldn't write this before finding out if he's just counter-snarking to something I said, but the figure has been gnawing at me ever since I read it on my iPhone during xmas dinner.

See, here's the thing. The population of the US is a little over 300 million. Assuming the general population of illegals is only a quarter of the population (they are just pumping out the kids like waffles, you know, for anchor terror babies) then that would equal about, oh, 75 million illegals in the country. Sure they're not all Mexican; some are Canadians, sneaking over the border for our superior health care. Some are illegal Muslims. Point is, it's a lot of people! A lot more than even these guys think.

They put the number at 20 million. Of course it's an old estimate, but most evidence is since the recession the illegal population has declined. Less jobs here. Other estimates are as low as 12 million; I'm willing to go up to 16 million, which is a lot but it ain't no third.

I'm wondering how you could possibly believe that we could eliminate a quarter (or a third) of the US population and think it would be good for the economy.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Loose End

It just occurred to me that I have failed to wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

America's Supply of Smart Thin People Dries Up

Add this to the list of problems that free-market solutions won't help with.

MIAMI (AP) — Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small.

"Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. "I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system."

The effect of the low eligibility rate might not be noticeable now — the Department of Defense says it is meeting its recruitment goals — but that could change as the economy improves, said retired Navy Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett.

"If you can't get the people that you need, there's a potential for a decline in your readiness," said Barnett, who is part of the group Mission: Readiness, a coalition of retired military leaders working to bring awareness to the high ineligibility rates.
Let's cut more school funding! That oughtta help. And kill school lunches in areas where there is a fast food place nearby!

A Department of Defense report notes the military must recruit about 15 percent of youth, but only one-third are eligible. More high school graduates are going to college than in earlier decades, and about one-fourth are obese, making them medically ineligible.

In 1980, by comparison, just 5 percent of youth were obese.
Hey, enough politics. Let's all go over to Aunt Sarah's place for s'mores!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Hope You're Still Allowed to Read This

Another thing I'm for has been implemented by the FCC! This time it's Net Neutrality. Though it's an imperfect compromise (wireless carriers are allowed to regulate content, wired one are not - I think) it's something anyway, and something is better than nothing.

The rightwing spin on this is a little more crazy than usual, indicating that the right is getting their information from other sources than the rest of us. As far as they're concerned, if the government is preventing regulation of content that means the GOVERNMENT IS REGULATING CONTENT. Not allowing big media companies the option of blocking content is a blow to free speech, and will eventually lead to a revival of the fairness doctrine.

Think about this - the right are upset that the interent won't be under the control of the liberally-biased-big-media companies. What the hell!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Duck Has Wings

I'm happy to admit that again, I was wrong. Republicans have failed to obstruct the repeal of DADT, they've allowed the extension of unemployment benefits. They're still willing to throw away our ability to inspect Soviet nukes (it's in the treaty we need ratified and if we don't get it, we'll have to negotiate from scratch) but I was expecting NOTHING to go forward after the Tax Cut extensions. I assumed they'd get their tax cuts for the rich and then still back out of their promises.

Perhaps they're just tired and want to get some Xmas shopping done. Obstruction takes time!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Today, Obama Will Raise Taxes

I'm basing the title on the results of a study conducted by the University of Maryland. I'm going to have my friends at Talking Points Memo summarize the more salient points.

The study found that daily Fox News viewers, regardless of political party, were "significantly" more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe that:

•Most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)

•Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)

•The economy is getting worse (26 points)

•Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)

•The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)

•Their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)

•The auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)

•When TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)

•And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points
Remember, all the bulleted points there? The OPPOSITE is true. To be fair, though:
Daily consumers of MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) were higher (34 points and 25 points respectively) in believing that it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates. Daily watchers of network TV news broadcasts were 12 points higher in believing that TARP was signed into law by President Obama, and 11 points higher in believing that most Republicans oppose TARP.
Which all indicates that there is a bias in the MSM. Weirdly, the bias seems to favor the RNC. Nutty, huh? Who'd have thought?

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm Not Sure, But I May Have Won An Arguement with MD

Check out the comments section.

I'm not buying any part of this post. I doubt he has a friend who is making three times his investment in day trading (try it some time!) and if it were true, I wonder why MD isn't furious at his friend for sponging off the government when he clearly has no need to. And whether MD would take a job as a stock boy at Best Buy rather if he lost his lucrative sales position.

Bright Ideas to Stop Terrorism

A Muslim joke so offensive, even Mediaite gives it bad marks:

But here's the thing, the concept is totally sound! If we take that defense money we're spending on ICBMs and put it into bioengineering, we can develop a metal/pork alloy that will protect us from bombs! Ain't no terrist wants to be touched by pork, even pork alloy! You don't want to blow up something if it's going to touch your lips as it explodes, and keep you from heaven!

We stop the threat of terrorism and keep our nation's farmers solvent at the same time! Get on board with this!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It Is A Season

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Take It Or Leave It, Biden Said

Guess how the house is leaning?

It will be an interesting strategy. This is classic dealmaking - and for a change the Democrats are willing to walk away from the table. Will the Republicans hold their ground on tax cuts for the rich, i.e no tax cuts for anyone?

Me, I'm willing to pay more in taxes, if only for the entertainment it buys.

This Just Proves What An Insecure Guy God Really Is

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's All Just A Little Bit Of History Repeating

Where are we going to get $900 billion dollars over the next two years to make up for those tax cuts we're in the process of extending? I say in the process because, let's face it, anything up for a vote nowadays is subject to someone in the house threatening to filibuster it. Most likely it still won't go through.

But if it does, no worries! Because Republicans are holding the the purse strings now! And who are they putting in charge of appropriations? This guy. He's nicknamed "The Pork King."

Rogers defends earmarks because he’s very good at getting them. Rogers received over $431 million in earmarks just in fiscal years 2008-10, and has steered billions of dollars to his rural Kentucky district over the course of his career, making him one of the most prolific earmarkers in Congress.
Hey it's no big deal. The Chinese will lend us the money. We're good for it man!

Quote of the Day: Perspective Edition

“Today marks a lot of tragedy. ... Tragedy comes in threes... Pearl Harbor, Elizabeth Edwards’s passing and Barack Obama’s announcement of extending the tax cuts, which is good, but also extending the unemployment benefits.”
-Christine O'Donnell, who added, "That's not what I meant at all."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Horse Latitudes

Obama and a handful of Senate Republicans have brokered a deal which, if it goes through, will ensure that the crummy economic conditions we're experiencing now will prevail for the next couple of years. Unemployment payments will be extended, so the jobless can still buy food and pay rent, the tax cuts that are in place will remain in place, which will ensure that the jobless rate won't rise significantly. Our friends at the New York times point out:

The package would cost about $900 billion over the next two years, to be financed entirely by adding to the national debt, at a time when both parties are professing a desire to begin addressing long-term fiscal imbalances.

It would reduce the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax on all wage earners by two percentage points for one year, putting more money in the paychecks of workers. For a family earning $50,000 a year, it would amount to a savings of $1,000.
What Republicans remain vehemently opposed to, though, is any attempt to make the climate for employment BETTER. They're demanding the return of unspent stimulus funds (except in their own states, of course) and the notion of even encouraging business to behave differently will be met with howls of tea-fueled anger. Thus conditions will be in place by 2012 to run whatever good-looking cypher against Obama that Republicans can dig up. This guy will claim to be able to fix the problem, then once he's in he'll pursue the same policies that we're pursuing now. The economy will erode and somehow they'll sucessfully blame Democrats for it.

More and more I'm looking at Obama's strategies and thinking that the "long game" that he's playing accounts for him to be out of office in 2012. It's too bad. I'm all for compromise if it means both sides give up equal , but that's clearly not what's happening here. The one thing that IS different in this deal - the Obama Tax Cut. Somehow the Republicans managed to get him to agree to an estate tax cut. This isn't so bad because hardly anyone is affected by it; but symbolically it's devastating. It's still better than having McCain in charge, but I'm less and less able to explain how.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Oh, THAT'S How They're Going to Get Us Jobs!

Back when Clinton was running for President, James Carville coined the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid.” I thought, “Well, that’s stupid. It isn’t the economy at all. It is the culture. If you get the culture right, you’ll get the economy right. Everything will fall into place automatically.”
- Congressman Steve King, Right Side News

Friday, December 03, 2010

You Tell Me: Priorities

Yesterday I wrote about this thing. Republicans, you may recall, refused to vote for a tax cut (with the added bonus of a paperwork reduction) for small business, on the grounds that the Tax Cut HAD TO BE PAID FOR with a corresponding spending cut. It's my opinion that the spending cut is a red herring. After all, the lame duck session is all about one issue - extension of the Bush Tax Cuts. And at least in the case of the the ones for those high-bracket earners, the rhetoric has been that there's no need to designate spending cuts because the economy will be stimulated by all the hiring and investing that the rich will do, because they're not paying taxes.

And in fact, this bill probably failed because of this pledge that Republicans signed, to refuse to vote for cloture on anything until the tax cuts are extended. All of them.

So my question, and I'm completely sincere about this - is it fair to say that Republicans value tax cuts for the rich more than they value tax cuts for small business, based on this choice? If it isn't fair to say, why isn't it?

The Tea Party, Shrinking Government ***Update***

Bear in mind, these are just the ones ENDORSED BY THE TEA PARTY CAUCUS.

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

...In founding the caucus in July, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she was giving voice to Americans who were sick of government over-spending.

...Bachmann and 13 of her Tea Party Caucus colleagues did not request any earmarks in the last Fiscal Year, according to CAGW's annual Congressional Pig Book. But others have requested millions of dollars in special projects.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), for one, attached his name to 69 earmarks in the last fiscal year, for a total of $78,263,000. The 41 earmarks Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) requested were worth $65,395,000. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) wanted $63,400,000 for 39 special projects, and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wanted $93,980,000 set aside for 47 projects.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) takes the prize as the Tea Partier with his name on the most earmarks. Rehberg's office requested funding for 88 projects, either solely or by co-signing earmarks requests with Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D), at a cost of $100,514,200. On his own, Rehberg requested 20 earmarks valued at more than $9.6 million.

More than one member can sign onto an earmark. Still, there are 29 caucus members who requested on their own or joined requests for more than $10 million in earmark funding, and seven who wanted more than $50 million in funding.
Bachman missed out on the action because she had other items on the agenda - for example, crusading to ensure that we'll be able to buy incandescent light bulbs 20 years from now. Focus, Michele! In these precious few years before the rapture, you need to budget your time.

Just think, that billion could have paid for half of a proposed tax cut!

***Update*** Out of respect for my friend Madenline's Dad, I'll add this disclaimer: PAST PERFORMANCE IS NO GUARANTEE OF FUTURE BEHAVIOR. Just because they racked up a billion in 2010, doesn't mean they'll do it this year. Possibly they'll be good fiscal conservatives. Like Rand Paul.

Holiday Cheer

see more Sketchy Santas"

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Do The American People Even WANT Compromise?

Obama Approval Over/Under: 45.4/49.6          Net -4.2

Congressional Approval Over/Under 21.3/73.0          Net -51.7

Republicans Vote Down Lowering Taxes and Eliminating Paperwork

...Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the new 1099 reporting requirements included in the healthcare reform bill should be repealed. ...The problem is that the new requirements essentially raise taxes on contractors and small businesses and this raises revenue. So if you want to repeal the requirements, you need to figure out how to make up the revenue, and Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on how to do this.

Yesterday, however, Sen. Max Baucus decided the hell with it. The amount of revenue is tiny (less than $2 billion per year), so why not just repeal the 1099 provision, lower everyone's taxes, and forget about paying for it? This is an eminently sensible position, since Republicans want the provision repealed and have repeatedly and unanimously taken the position that tax cuts don't need to be paid for.

So Baucus introduced an amendment to do the deed. And it failed because all but two Republicans voted against it.
Suck it up, small business! Republicans insist that NOTHING BE CHANGED IN THE HEALTHCARE BILL! Because they love it so much!

Seriously, this has nothing to do with a promise to obstruct any vote, even if they support everything about it. It just looks that way. A lot. And there's really no other way to look at it, but that totally not what's going on.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

This Infuriates Republicans

If you buy groceries, you probably like this label. It's on most commercially available food, and it's helpful for debunking the crazier nutritional claims on the bigger label on the other side. Forcing companies to list ingredients also has a chilling effect on the inclusion of certain unhealthy but legal ingredients, like formaldehyde. It's a nice little tool for determining what you're consuming. What's not to like?

Well, for starters, it's the result of government interference in business. The FDA was started under Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 and expanded under Franklin Roosevelt in 1939. Most Republicans are vehemently opposed to any government interference in business, preferring the free market to regulate products. That is, if someone sells tainted bacon, you the consumer will take notice and switch brands. Maybe you'll buy that new brand of bacon, started by the guy who was selling tainted bacon last month under a different name.

Should a bacon supplier not be allowed to change brand names? No, that's regulation and regulation is bad for business.

That label - if people want it, then companies will put it on their products and consumers can choose to buy labeled products over unlabled ones. Suppose someone sells bacon that claims that one serving is a whole rasher, it's only 50 calories, and contains no sodium. That's their perogative! The consumer can always do some testing at home to verify the claims. And if it turns out to be a baldfaced lie and someone becomes morbidly obese because they eat a rasher of bacon every morning for a year, they can always sue.

Well, no. Republicans always are working to limit your ability to sue business. You should have known better than to trust unregulated labels! What are you, stupid? Get a clue, blimpy!

(By the way, too bad your private insurance company dropped you. If they treat you, it cuts into their profits; the profits they made by charging you for a guarantee to treat you! If you aren't comfortable with that arrangement, you shouldn't have been buying insurance.)

Republicans are also insanely furious about the idea of regulating drug companies, though not about clamping down on Marijuana, a free-market alternative to legal drugs. I'm still puzzling that out.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the near future now that Tea Party candidates are the majority in all branches of government. I'm looking forward to access to radioactive beverages, which were banned in the 30's.