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Intelligent Design nonsense destroyed

Here’s a nice refutation of the ridiculous concept of “irreducible complexity” used by neo-Creationists to pull the wool over the eyes of the uneducated:

Science deniers are one of my pet peeves.

-Chris

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November 29, 2010 Posted by | Religion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Deficit Reduction and Social Security

Seal of the United States Social Security Admi...

Image via Wikipedia

In reviewing the proposal by the president’s bipartisan deficit reduction committee, there is one portion that I cannot disagree with more.

To be sure, this is a serious proposal, with pain all around, but the delay in benefits for Social Security recipients until the age of 68 is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I have always been a huge advocate of the much-derided lock box for Social Security.  The current system is solvent until 2037, but will rack up huge losses going out to 75 years from now.

Treating Social Security as just another part of the overall budget is one of the accounting tricks that have gotten us into this mess to begin with.

This is the first year since the 1980s that the Social Security will start paying out more than it has taken in.

This is due to the large number of Americans expected to retire. The 75 year shortfall is calculated at $5.3 trillion. Insurmountable, right?

Wrong.

Senate report says tweaks can sustain Social Security

Social Security faces a $5.3 trillion shortfall over the next 75 years, but a new congressional report says the massive gap could be erased with only modest changes to payroll taxes and benefits.

There are a few options to fix Social Security:

1. Increase the age where retirees qualify (as proposed by the committee)
2. Curb cost of living adjustments
3. Raise payroll taxes on EVERYONE

Social Security isn’t an “entitlement”. Everyone pays into it. It is an insurance policy that provides a modest safety net for retirees.

I agree with this letter writer to the Baltimore Sun on this point:

Cutting Social Security benefits is as bad as raising taxes

Social Security is said to be an “entitlement,” but the difference between an “obligation” and an “entitlement” is just a matter of point of view. Those of us who have been paying into the Social Security system for years are entitled to our promised benefits. The U.S. government is obligated to keep its promises.

Social Security and it’s problems should be addressed separately from the concerns of the burgeoning Federal deficit.

For too long, legislators have counted on being able to dip into the Social Security revenues to work their accounting magic and prop up a wasteful budget.

It’s long past time to end that practice.

-Chris

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Economics, Republicans, Tax Debate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deficit Rhetoric vs. Action

Rand Paul at Louisville forum by Gage Skidmore

Image via Wikipedia

Two articles came to my notice today concerning the deficit.

The big news was that Obama’s bipartisan commission on the deficit released their report on cutting the budget deficit:
Panel Weighs Deep Cuts in Tax Breaks and Spending

The lead:

A draft proposal released Wednesday by the chairmen of President Obama’s bipartisan commission on reducing the federal debt calls for deep cuts in domestic and military spending starting in 2012, and an overhaul of the tax code to raise revenue. Those changes and others would erase nearly $4 trillion from projected deficits through 2020, the proposal says.

The recommendations are dead, dead, dead.

Why?

The plan would reduce Social Security benefits to most future retirees — low-income people would get a higher benefit — and it would subject higher levels of income to payroll taxes to ensure Social Security’s solvency for at least the next 75 years.

Italics are mine.

These are the tough choices that country faces, and this is a serious proposal to fix what’s broken. Politically, however, it’ll never fly.

The plan calls for a simplification –and tax cuts across the board– by cutting many popular tax loopholes. The overhaul of the tax code would net a projected $80 billion in 2015.

On the other hand, the Tea Party poster boy, Rand Paul, can’t specify exactly what he would do to slash the deficit:

In Tense Interview With Spitzer, Rand Paul Can’t Name Specific Cut To Balance Budget

Spitzer asked Paul to name specific programs he would cut from health care, Social Security, or defense. But Paul demurred, explaining that he would offer a balanced budget in the next Congress — over 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 year increments, but was still unsure of what to cut to get there. At one point, Paul even suggested that rather than pressing him for specifics, Spitzer should invite liberals and ask “how do you continue to have these programs?”

In other words, complete and utter bullshit.

Serious debate about the deficit is important, but for the Tea Party crowd, allegedly fueled by their deep concern about the deficit, have absolutely no plan to make things better.

It reminds me of the Monty Python skit, “How To Do It”:

Simplistic solutions to complex problems with no understanding and no hard work — that’s the stock and trade of the Tea Party and the Republicans who are trying to channel their activism to continue their campaign to reward the wealthy.

Bolstered by their midterm wins, there’s little hope that the Tea Party Republicans will negotiate in good faith to address the deficit.

Many of them have expressed publicly and privately that they do not want Obama to have a legislative win that he can run on in 2012, so they are quite content to do absolutely nothing and block everything.

We’ll see how it plays out, but it doesn’t look promising.

-Chris

November 10, 2010 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Economics, Elections, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Myth of Reagan

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

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Having lived through the 1980’s as part of a military family whose father was constantly deployed overseas, the Myth of Reagan has always pissed me off.

Ronnie was not super popular, and was quite often the butt of jokes for his ineptitude. In the military family circles I traveled,  some spoke frankly about who was to blame for the Beirut Marine barracks bombing. That disaster left 299 of our soldiers dead.

Recently, in their constant march toward a revisionist history, the right’s chroniclers of Reagan have tried to erase the god awful state of things The Gipper left for Americans.

Salon’s Steve Kornacki takes the whole fabricated tissue down. Hard:

“Um, yeah, about Ronald Reagan’s Popularity”

[Craig Shirley, a Republican political consultant] pretends there was no “mess” left to clean up, but tell that to George H.W. Bush, who upon taking office had to deal with a Savings and Loan crisis brought on by Reagan’s policies. Bush ultimately authorized a massive, politically toxic bailout — and the crisis has much to do with the recession of 1990 and 1991. There was also the little matter of Iran-Contra, the scheme by which arms were sold to Iran with the profits used to fund an illegal war in Central America, which resulted in the indictment of 14 Reagan administration members, 11 of whom were ultimately convicted (although some of the convictions were later tossed out). Reagan himself was still dealing with that mess after leaving the presidency…And then, of course, there was the national debt, which in the 192 years before Reagan’s presidency had risen to around $1 trillion. But in just eight years under Reagan, it exploded to nearly $3 trillion, thanks to his steep tax cuts, ramped-up defense spending and failure to reduce the size of government. Again, it was left to Bush to try to clean up the mess; hence, Bush’s 1990 decision to raise taxes in an effort to tame the country’s deficits. Like the S&L bailout, this was a deeply unpopular move, especially in light of Bush’s “no new taxes” pledge in 1988, but was — ultimately — one of the reasons America was running surpluses by the end of the 1990s.

Read it. It’s an eye-opener for anyone spoon-fed the hagiographic version of a man who single-handedly ended the Cold War.

As Kornacki notes, Will Bunch has addressed how this legend came about in his terrific book,  Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future

During the 1990s, the Republican media machine and activist front groups set about revising history.

Schemes were launched to rename everything after Reagan, and a narrative outlining his popularity, folksiness and alleged accomplishments took shape.

It was beautifully orchestrated stagecraft — in keeping with the former actor’s ability to perform a role. And what better role than a better, more popular version of yourself?

The reality is this:

During the Bush re-election campaign of 1992, polling showed The Great Communicator was less popular than Jimmy Carter.

His failed policies had left an enormous mess for the country — one that I would argue America has never recovered from.

Now his acolytes want to continue his policies and take them to new extremes and need to refurbish his image to cover over the natural end result of tax cuts upon tax cuts and removing the protections of government oversight on the banking industry.

Same tired old horse, only more so.

-Chris

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, History, Politics, Reagan, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Compare and Contrast

Cropped headshot of Keith Olbermann

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It seems that MSNBC has taken swift action against one of it’s liberal stars for donating to three Democrats in the recent midterm campaign cycle.
Keith Olbermann SUSPENDED From MSNBC Indefinitely Without Pay

The major crime, it appears, is not requesting permission from NBC brass before doing so.

Over at another cable outlet, one that pretends to be “balance” for the super biased liberal media, standards are different.

Let’s take a look at the journalistic ethics of Fox News:

  • Allowed Glenn Beck to attend, host and promote Tea Parties across the nation
  • News Corp donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association
  • Fox News sponsored several Tea Parties, providing millions in free advertising
  • Fox “reporters” at the anti-Democrat protests were caught stage-managing the crowds to push a particular message
  • The cable outlet coordinated attacks on specific Obama Administration employees by fabricating false stories (Media Matters has a nice summation, “2009: A Year of Fox News Political Activism”
  • The Media Matters piece also mentions that they allowed sleaze operative Dick Morris to raise money on air.
  • In coordination with lie-merchant Andrew Breitbart, Fox launched a sustained campaign of falsehoods and misinformation about ACORN

Anyway, you get the idea.

By the way, Fox personalities regularly make appearances to pump up the conservative base and donate money to conservative candidates like clockwork.

I’m counting down to hear the snickers and feigned outrage from the right. And I’m also sighing and rolling my eyes in advance of hearing:

“MSNBC is exactly like Fox!”

No it isn’t. Not even a little bit.

-Chris

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Fox News, Media Criticism, Politics, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exactly.

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, Elections, Obama, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elections, Money and Citizens United

http://www.wpclipart.com/money/. Per the licen...

Image via Wikipedia

I watched for two years the coming of the slow-motion train wreck that was Tuesday’s mid-term election.

Of course, the right is crowing that this is a repudiation of liberals and liberal ideology, which of course is wrong.

If this were true, the Blue Dogs would have sailed to reelection, and progressives would have all gone down hard. Instead, it seems progressives did better than the conservative/corporate toadies who call themselves Dems:

Progressives Fare Better Than Blue Dogs In Contested Races

Of the 54 seats occupied by members of the Blue Dog coalition, 27 of them were lost to Republicans. (That includes five held by incumbents who either retired or ran for the Senate.) On the other hand, all but three of the much larger group of Progressive Caucus members up for re-election won their seats, including six out of nine caucus members whose races were rated as competitive.

If anything the elections were the result of these things:

1) The timidity of the Democrats — and their inability to put their message out (and highlight their accomplishments)
2) The shit-ton of money poured into campaigns by secretive, unaccountable front groups in the light of the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling. Release the Kraken, indeed.

The New York Times has the critical article on this.
“Outside Groups on the Right Flexed Muscles”

While it is hard to sort out the exact difference they made, their success rate, particularly in races in which Republican challengers would have otherwise been badly outgunned, raises the prospect that a relatively small number of deep-pocketed donors exerted an outsize influence on Tuesday’s results.

Yeah. Classic understatement.

The principle right-wing shadow organ has been the hilariously misnamed US Chamber of Commerce. I’ve written about them before, and they look to be one of the most powerful money-laundering outlets for the Bankster set.

As a side note, I find it hilarious the way right-wing nutbags snarl the name “George Soros” (who funds liberal organizations) but can’t find their voice to say anything about Richard Mellon Scaife, the Koch Brothers, front groups like the US Chamber and media vampire Rupert Murdoch.

Until a way is found to get the oversized influence of huge multinational (and in many cases, foreign) money out of the election process, this country is on the fast march to Fascism.

The unbridled celebration of corporatism is about to begin, and the faith of the true believers is unlikely to be broken by any disaster visited upon us as a result.

If these deluded hordes could be swayed by reality, the BP disaster, Mortgage catastrophe and Enron certainly would have done the trick.

The inestimable Bill Moyers recently gave a speech honoring the late progressive historian Howard Zinn. Entitled “Welcome to the Plutocracy”, it should be read by anyone who gives a shit about this country.

The elder statesman of a dead art (journalism) crafts a lesson filled with all the history needed to highlight the consequences of the regressive direction American voters just chose.

Moyers captures the moment perfectly:

Now let’s connect some dots. While knocking down nearly all limits on corporate spending in campaigns, the Supreme Court did allow for disclosure, which would at least tell us who’s buying off the government. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell even claimed that “sunshine” laws would make everything okay. But after the House of Representatives passed a bill that would require that the names of all such donors be publicly disclosed, McConnell lined up every Republican in the Senate to oppose it. Hardly had the public begun to sing “Let the Sunshine In” than McConnell & Company went tone deaf. And when the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce was asked by an interviewer, “Are you guys eventually going to disclose?” the answer was a brisk: “No.” Why? Because those corporations are afraid of a public backlash. Like bank robbers pulling a heist, they prefer to hide their “personhood” behind sock masks. Surely that tells us something about the nature of what they’re doing. In the words of one of the characters in Tom Stoppard’s play Night and Day: “People do terrible things to each other, but it’s worse in places where everything is kept in the dark.”

In the short term, I am extremely interested in how the alleged principles of the Tea Party zealots breaks against the wall of corporate adulation that is the Republican party.

I’ll be crying into my popcorn as I watch.

-Chris

November 4, 2010 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Economics, Elections, Obama, Politics, Tea Party, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment