Friday, November 30, 2012

Economists and The Fiscal Cliff


Economists suck at predictions.  Economist Kevin Hassett, and former Romney economic advisor, said in 1999 “Stocks are now, we believe, in the midst of a one-time-only rise to much higher ground—to the neighborhood of 36,000.” Of course there was President Obama’s own Christine Romer who predicted that unemployment would never pass 8% if the stimulus was passed.  We know how that turned out.  How many economists predicted the 2008 economic collapse?  I can only think of one: Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini.  Roubini now warns of a perfect storm recession in 2013:  “Everybody’s kicking the can down the road of too much public and private debt. The can is becoming heavier and heavier, and bigger on debt, and all these problems may come to a head by 2013 at the latest.”   Meanwhile Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman says “So yes, debt matters. But right now, other things matter more. We need more, not less, government spending to get us out of our unemployment trap. And the wrongheaded, ill-informed obsession with debt is standing in the way.”
We have one economist who predicted a Dow at 36,000, another who badly miscalculated the effects of the stimulus on the economy, and two more with opposing opinions on concerns about debt.  If both Roubini and Krugman are considered leaders in the dismal science how can they have decidedly opposite views of debt?  Roubini called the 2008 collapse but he has also missed terribly on oil and gold predictions since 2008.  Is Roubini the blind squirrel who found his nut one time?  Is Krugman the broken clock that’s right twice a day?
I don’t know.  I am not an economist.  But I do know a little about finances, probability, and human behavior:
1)      Chaos Theory.  Many remember Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park as he was criticizing the park’s creator and references the famous quote about how a butterfly batting its wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas.  The point is the world is dynamic and most predictions are based on a static state; does anyone really believe interest rates will remain at these historically low levels?
2)      Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow.  Many liberals correctly state Social Security has not contributed to the debt, but with an aging demographic honoring the earned benefit will increase the Treasury’s financial burden.  To ignore it now when we can do something about it is akin to filling sandbags after your house has flooded from a hurricane.
3)      The rational mind is a myth.  Fear is real and fear can throw markets into turmoil and with a 24 hour news cycle people can be overwhelmed by warnings and threats from politicians, pundits, and media whores. 
4)      When you run $1 trillion deficits you have both revenue and spending problems.  As the urban legend goes, bank robber Willie Sutton famously said “because that’s where the money is” in response to the question as to why he robbed banks and that is where we need to go.  Increase receipts to the Treasury through taxes and cut spending in the big ticket items including defense and yes some social spending.
5)      Risk does not equal uncertainty.  The risks of the expiration of Bush tax cuts and spending sequestration can be assessed and quantified.  They are known knowns.  And while I try to avoid sounding like Dom Rumsfeld, uncertainty comes from what we cannot envision, estimate, or predict.  For instance what will be the market’s response to hitting the fiscal cliff?  What will businesses do?  Could the removal of $Billions from the economy lead to irrational and unpredictable behaviors?  Remember rational markets are a myth.
So what am I saying?  Firstly, don’t trust any economist’s predictions.  Secondly, it’s not dollars and cents, it is common sense.  The impacts of the fiscal cliff will be best measured by how regular folks respond.  Thirdly, I believe in reallocating spending and increasing tax revenue over the short term and long term.  Fourthly, we need to invest in long term cost reduction and revenue enhancement  by investing in energy, education, and infrastructure today.  And finally, if we do not solve the large wealth disparity that exists today, our society will not survive.
Oh, I will make one prediction on the topic of the fiscal cliff: 98% of Americans will criticize their party for getting a bad deal.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Morning Mishegas


How about the establishment clause?   Oklahoma judge Mike Norman sentenced 17 year old Tyler Alred to ten years in church in connection to a drunk diving incident that killed the teenager’s friend.  Church?  I am all for a progressive judge trying to find alternative sentencing, but this is bad for justice AND religion.

Nativity plays will need new casts.  Pope Benedict XVI says there were no oxen, donkeys, or any other animals for that matter at the birth of Jesus.  No word yet if the Three Wiseman are in jeopardy of being cut too.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas?  Pope Benedict XVI also claims that the entire Christian calendar may also be off due to a 6th century monk’s miscalculation regarding the actual birth date of Jesus.

Never too soon to kiss ass.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio visited Iowa soon after the 2012 Presidential election.  Rubio is building his credentials with the evangelical Iowa caucus crowd where he dodged the question about the age of the earth.  Psst Senator Rubio, scientists generally agree that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.

The right decision for the wrong reason.   Conservative mouthpieces Sean Hannity and Charles Krauthammer immediately after the November 6th presidential results indicated an Obama victory, that they were open to immigration reform.  Really?  Their reasoning had nothing to do with a change in social attitudes, but the realization that the GOP was doomed to future general election failures because Hispanics would continue to vote for Democratic candidates.

Must be the other guy.  Even though approval rating for Congress hovers in the low teens at best, historically 85-90% of House and Senate incumbents are re-elected. 

Welcome to Farmville.  According to the NY Times, there are now more software engineers than farmers.

The Ugly Truth: So far this year there have been 166 active-duty suicides in the army and this does not include servicemen no longer on active duty.

What have you done for me lately?  Auburn fires football coach Gene Chizik two years removed from winning national title.

Not here?:  Imagine a country where everyday 500,000 people lose power for two hours?  Third world right?  Nope, it’s the USA, and I am not talking about Hurricane Sandy type events, I am talking any ordinary day.  But hey, let’s not invest in upgrading our power grid.

But I thought Obama was a big spender?:  The annual federal deficit has fallen faster in the past 3 years than during any period since the 1960’s  As a percentage of GDP, the deficit has fallen from 10.1% to 7%.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

If erring is human, forgiving divine, what is compromising?


 

With 36 shopping days until the ‘fiscal cliff’ pundits and analysts from both sides are offering their opinions and giving advice to the political combatants.  And as usual, the left is calling for President Obama to not ‘cave in’ like he did in in 2010, he didn’t, and the right is calling for Speaker Boehner to hold fast and not allow a tax increase.  Now that we are passed the election and Black Friday the rhetoric will amp up on cable news, I won’t watch, and the Sunday Talk Shows, won’t be watching those either, to a fever pitch with the zealots on each side looking for unconditional surrender and unanimous victory.  Yes compromise is on the endangered list of political will.

But should this come as a surprise to anyone?  In every aspect of society we feel we have to treat everything  as a competition.  Within hours of the Gaze cease fire, pundits were already trying to declare winners and losers.  Now I am no ‘everybody gets a trophy for participation’ kind of guy.  I believe in competition there needs to be winners and losers and promoting mediocrity is harmful and frankly un-American.  But good governance is not a competition.  Elections yes.  Governance no. 

Now that is not to say that the opposition party should simply roll over and rubber stamp what the party in power wants to do.  There should be opposition and debate because it is only through the democratic process can we hope to advance.  And the process has to include give and take and realizing that the best deal is the deal where both sides feel they have accomplished something.  For the record, the 2010 deal during the lame duck Congress that the professional left likes to vilify the president over, included billions of dollars for extending unemployment benefits, continuation of middle class income tax rate cuts, and a payroll tax cut.  But the left only remembers that tax cuts for the rich were also extended, businesses were granted tax benefits, and the estate tax wasn’t increased.  It seemed the only people who didn’t get what they wanted were the pure deficit hawks who wanted spending cuts and the end of corporate welfare.  Oh and by the way, those that thought President Obama caved apparently forgot he also got a new START Treaty signed, DADT repealed, and was able to continue funding for Race To The Top and alternative energy research.   One could argue that it isn’t compromise if both sides get everything and no true sacrifice is made.  I reacted in such a way when I saw the details of the 2010 deal and thought that the government was simply making sure everybody and every constituency got a gift.

So the latest round of deal making and bargaining is here.  I am not going to get into the pros and cons of lowering rates, eliminating deductions, dividend income versus ordinary income, the benefits of a territorial tax system, or the AMT.  Instead I am reminding everyone that this nation was born out of compromise, survived crises by compromising, met the challenges of a dynamic world through compromise, and evolved to the changes in societal beliefs via compromise.  Across the political spectrum everybody loves the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, too bad they don’t love the need to compromise like our founders. Hell, we wouldn’t even be talking about this today if it weren’t for the Great Compromise that established the idea of a bicameral legislature with two bodies: one based on state population, the other on equal representation.  During those heated testy bitter debates, these men were able to compromise on slave trade (ok more like kick the can down the road), tariffs, and even how the president was to be elected.  (Pardon this digression but the 3/5ths compromise establishing slaves as 3/5ths of a non-slave for determining population and House representation conflicted with the notion that slaves were property and thus had no rights, but hey I guess the white guys in the south wanted to make sure they had as much representation as possible to keep slavery alive). 

Yes in many of the best deals both parties walk away thinking they won.  But in political compromise isn’t more important that the nation wins in the long term?  Yes sometimes the can gets kicked down the road resulting in a potentially bigger problem, but those instances are rare as in the case of abolishing slavery.  Figuring out tax codes, discretionary spending, immigration, and the environment really shouldn’t be this difficult when compared to what happened in Philadelphia from May 25 to September 17, 1787 when 55 state delegates hammered out the Constitution. 

It really shouldn’t be this difficult.  But it’s not even the hunger to win that is causing this gridlock, the fear of being perceived as having lost is equally motivating yielding progress crippling intransigence.  Maybe the founders had it easier, there was no 24 hour news cycle and very few pundits.

If erring is human, forgiving divine, what is compromising?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Diggathanks


I am thankful for:

History repeating itself, because I fear how we would cope if everything was new.

David Chase making a sociopath the protagonist in the HBO series The Sopranos, and in the aftermath we have been treated to the likes of Vic Mackey, Nucky Thompson, Dexter Morgan,  Al Swearengen, Walter White, Russell Edgington, Don Draper, and Tommy Gavin.

Hindsight because without it we wouldn’t know what we were supposed to do.

Political pledges because anytime you can get a politician to sign anything you have a document and record that becomes useful in mocking said politician

Box cutters because they are the most useful tool to overcome manufacturers and retailers fear of theft and are necessary if you want to open the most basic packaging.  A must if you want to open the package sometime this century

Sports surgeons because isn’t every surgery deemed ‘successful’?  I mean have you ever heard a surgeon say “Well that didn’t go so well”, following an ACL procedure on the team’s running back?

Nate Silver and the idea that math and statistics can be cool….nerd cool, but cool.

The mute button because if CBS is going to keep on having Jim Nantz broadcast Patriots’ games….

Lounging pants…no further explanation should be required

Melatonin.  Not so much for the sleep aid but for the vivid flat screen stealing bear drinking train robbing rednecks and giant snakes I encounter during my dreams.  Gives me something to ponder over my morning oatmeal

Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist who prove if egomaniacs and sycophants can get on national TV there is hope for the rest of us.

Fact checkers who quickly rule on the relative truthfulness of politician’s claims.  The downside is even when called out as Pants On Fire, these pols don’t even feign shame in getting busted.

Movies that are not based on video games, old TV shows, and comic book characters and include scripts written by real writers

The Daily Show and Jon Stewart. 

Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich for showing who pathetic the GOP has become when these clowns actually were considered front runners at one time.

The Tea Party for enabling Democratic control of the Senate and President Obama’s re-election

Independent redistricting commissions such as the one in Arizona that results in a 5-4 Democratic advantage in the state’s House delegation to Washington

Sarcasm and cynicism because without it no one would get me

Gobble Gobble

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

97 House Republicans on the wall...take them all down

97 House Republicans sent a letter to President Obama telling him they were ‘deeply troubled’ by his consideration of Susan Rice to be the next Secretary of State.  The letter goes on to claim “Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter.”  That’s rich from a party that ginned up the Iraqi invasion or lied to the American people about every piece of Obama-approved legislation.  I have copied the link to the letter below for your reading pleasure which includes the signatures of the 97 cosigners.   Here are some of the select few that have signed the ludicrous letter.

Author South Carolina’s Jeff Duncan, who wants to open all of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to drilling exploration and production, including the Gulf Coast, Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific. Also approves new leasing areas such as the Southern Atlantic OCS and the Eastern Gulf, and full exploration of ANWR.

Texas Congressman Michael McCaul who believes live begins at contraception and voted to declare the preborn as persons under 14th amendment.

Iowa Congressman Steve King, who called the man who flew his airplane into an IRS building “a hero”.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann…you know the rest.

Infamous South Carolina Congressman Joe “You Lie” Wilson who also said “The Southern heritage, the Confederate heritage is very honorable."

Indiana’s Dan Burton who opposes abortion in all cases, but thinks guns should be available to everybody and wiretaps expanded. 

Georgia’s Phil Gingrey who Voted NO on removing US armed forces from Afghanistan and on investigating Bush impeachment for lying about Iraq.

California’s full of shit incompetent Dana Rohrabacher who Voted NO on investigating Bush impeachment for lying about Iraq and on redeploying US troops out of Iraq starting in 90 days.  And voted YES on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date,and on authorizing military force in Iraq.

Texas’ Louis Gohmert who worried that immigrant babies that "could be raised and coddled as future terrorists"— and later, "twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life."

Many of the signees voted to invade Iraq based on false intelligence and never censured Secretary of State Powell or National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice for their words and testimony in support of that false war.  And while you will see other nut jobs like Allen West, Jean Schmidt, Trent Franks, and Sue Myrick, you do not see the name of  Michigan’s Mike Rogers, Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  Rogers clearly recognizes bullshit politics and understands the intelligence game.
Here's the Letter from House Republicans

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weekend Wrap Up, What's on Digg's mind


·         Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan loves to chastise Israel for its treatment of Palestinians living in Gaza.  I could take him seriously if he wasn’t systematically trying to wipe out Kurds living in Turkey.

·         The next time the Muslim Brotherhood and it’s new government feel the need to criticize Israel for its handling of Gaza, perhaps they should look in the mirror and ask themselves about how they treat Egypt’s Coptic Christians.

·         If the Netanyahu government cared about Israel’s long term security, it would work out a deal with Fatah.  Alas, his Likud led RW government cannot see the inevitable.

·         Yes it is true that Social Security has not been a significant contributor to the current deficits and debt.  Nonetheless, it along with Medicare, are bridges we will be crossing very soon and wouldn’t it be novel for our government to deal with a situation before it becomes acute?

·         We are much better off without the likes of Mike Pence ,Allen West, and Joe Walsh in Congress

·         One sure thing from the impending compromise on the fiscal cliff: Liberals will be upset at the President for not punishing the rich enough, and Conservatives will be upset that spending wasn’t cut deep enough.

·         Nearly two weeks after the election we are still counting votes but is evident that the northeast House delegation will be 100% blue and the southern delegation nearly all red.  Hmm such political polarization, region against region; hmm when did we see this in the U.S.?  No kumbaya moments anytime soon.

·         Perhaps the most shocking congressional election result has to be the Arizonan delegation.  With Ron Barber’s victory in the 4th Congressional District, the Arizona delegation now has 5 Democrats (Kirkpatrick, Sinema, Grijalva, Pastor, and Barber)and only 4 Republicans (Salmon, Schweikert, Franks, and Gosar).

·         One thing that Mitt Romney did het right during the final debate is the growing al-Qaeda and related organizations threat in northern Mali.  Expect U.S. special forces operatives on the ground.

·         While many condemn Israel for creating ‘an open air prison’ in Gaza, the truth is that Gaza was an open air prison under Egyptian control before 1967.  It wouldn’t hurt to actually read a history book.

·         During last weekend’s 60 Minutes, author and historian David McCullough warned that we were raising  a generation of “historically illiterate”.  In other news, Breaking Dawn Part II and Skyfall both beat Lincoln at the box office this weekend.

·         I am usually guardedly optimistic in most things, but when it comes to the Middle East I am definitively pessimistic.  The al-Assad regime in Syria will fall, the questions are whether he is allowed to leave and seek asylum or he goes the way of Gadhafi or Mubarak,  and how bad the fighting, death, destruction, and despair will be in the void that follows.  Winning the war is the easy part, creating lasting peace is often beyond our reach.


 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Digganalysis: The Latest Middle East Conflict

The latest Israeli-Palestinian deadly altercation continues in Gaza and Israel, is very much like previous battles, but also different.  One thing that remains the same is the media’s inability to delve into the awful situation beyond the surface, I hold out hope for Fareed Zakaria this weekend, and get to the root of the situation.

What seems to have triggered the latest battle was Israel’s targeted killing of Al-Qassam Brigade’s, the militant wing of Hamas, leader Ahmed Al-Jabari following the launch of over 100 rockets from Gaza into southern Israel over the preceding days.  Immediately following Al-Jabari’s death, the conflict escalated as rocket launches from Gaza continued and return fire from Israeli land, sea, and aerial forces became more deadly.

It’s Politics Stupid:

There has been speculation that the Netanyahu government targeted Al-Jabari to help his Likud party in the coming elections on January 22, 2013.  Whether the rapid escalation was part of the calculus is unknown, but  is it out of the question to think that Prime Minister Netanyahu would risk the lives of Israelis, the deaths of innocents on both sides, possible global condemnation, and potential economic shock for an election?  That is a serious allegation and I am not prepared to make it, but when you look at recent history, is it beyond the realm of possibility?  Four years ago Israel launched operation Cast Lead, an all-out assault into Gaza, including ground troops that left over 1,000 Gazans and 13 Israelis dead.   It too came after unanswered rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel and it too occurred just two months before the last Israeli election.   In 2006, under Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the invasion of southern Lebanon in response to rocket and mortar attacks and the killing and kidnapping of five Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.  These two most previous ‘wars’ took place when the Israeli government was facing social, economic, and even legal challenges.   Are these causal or correlation?

Inside Hamas:

In January 2006 Hamas defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections and following a brief civil war they took control of Gaza as Fatah fled to the Palestinian territories in the West Bank.  Since 2006 Hamas has faced the reality that after the insurrection it is time to govern; instead of blowing things up, people expect you to build things.  And while Hamas and the various Israeli governments it has opposed have declared openly their mutual hostility, the nastiness apparently climaxed in the 2008/2009 conflict described above.  A tacit agreement had been in place between Hamas and the Netanyahu government where each would use low level violence to prop up their popularity.  Hamas would launch rockets into empty fields in southern Israel and Israel would respond with some artillery shells into buildings that have been abandoned.  The rhetoric and victimless attacks allowed the powers to remain in power.

This suddenly changed when Bashar al-Assad launched the brutal crackdown turned mass murder of his own citizens in 2011 and which continues today.  As the resistance stiffened and the atrocities mounted Iran continued to support its ally al-Assad and when Hamas came out in opposition to the brutal Syrian regime, it drew the ire of its Iranian patron.  Iran pulled its funding and rocket supplies from Hamas in favor of its Gazan rival Islamic Jihad.  Suddenly Hamas’ leadership was not threatened by Israel and it was not threatened by Fatah, instead the threat was from within, the new Iranian darling.

Strange Bedfellows

Facing a threat from Islamic Jihad, Hamas turned to its rivals to help support its political power position.  Yes it turned to Fatah and the Netanyahu government.  It started floating the idea of reconciliation with its West Bank rival Fatah and here is the crazy part: the aforementioned late Ahmed Al-Jabari was being paid by Israel to keep peace.  SHOCKING!  Yes Israel was paying its sworn enemy a sort of mafia protection fee.  That is until last week when Islamic Jihad launched 100 rockets into southern Israel and not at the usual empty fields.  Apparently, this broke the agreement and Ahmed Al-Jabari was sanctioned and quickly killed by the IDF.  No one in Israel will mourn Ahmed Al-Jabari, the mastermind behind numerous attacks and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.  Nonetheless, the pact of enemies had been violated.

What’s Different This Time?

For starters, I think the Netanyahu government completely underestimated the response from Hamas and Islamic Jihad and this time the arsenal includes longer range unguided rockets courtesy of Iran.  Also, following the Arab spring, the new Egyptian government is clearly more supportive of the Hamas leadership in Gaza.  Whereas the Mubarak regime would have worked with Israel to suppress Islamists in Gaza, the Morsi government is trying to establish its credibility with the Muslim Brotherhood and its Hamas brethren.  Finally, there is Iran.  The Shia nation has no love for the Sunni Hamas, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend and sometimes friends make great diversions.  As long Syria remains embroiled in its internal conflict, as long as Turkey and Syria are sniping at one another, and as long as Hamas and Israel are engaged in a missile and rocket exchange, no one is talking about the Tehran nuclear program.

The Final Analysis

It’s about Power.  Netanyahu wants to consolidate his power in advance of the election.  Hamas is fending off internal threats from Islamic Jihad.  Bashar al-Assad struggles to hold on in Syria.  Mohamed Morsi is trying to establish his authority in Egypt.  Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to be the power broker in the region while battling his own Kurdish autonomy movement. 

It’s that simple.  It’s that complex. It’s that messy.  It’s not going to end anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Digg's Tax Policy: I Won't Make Friends With This Post


I was disappointed watching the Ed Show this evening.  For a party that claims to be pro math and science, for a party that loudly applauded Bill Clinton’s “People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets.  What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic”, and for a party that chided the Republicans for holding America hostage, the liberal wing of the Democrat Party certainly are singing a different tune.  A tune that may whip them into a frenzy, but a tune that doesn’t help the country.

You see, I too think that the rich are getting off way too easy with respect to effective, not marginal, tax rates.  I am disgusted that Mitt Romney only pays 14% effective tax rate because his capital gains and dividend income rates are so low.  Tell a Reagan loving Republican that his hero RAISED the capital gains tax rate to 28% and they will look at you incredulously.  Today’s 13% rate is hurting this country as it robs the Treasury of funds and those that claim raising that rate will curb investment are arguing with themselves if they believe Reagan recovery is fact.  In 2013 – increasing the capital gains tax from 15 percent to 20 percent and more than doubling the top dividend rate from 15 percent to 39.6 percent will happen when the Bush tax cuts expire.  Republicans claim that this increase hurts everybody, and to some degree it does, but those that are hurt the most are the Romneyites whose income is derived from dividends.  For the middle class, the impacts will be far less impactful.  

But to think that raising taxes on the rich, those making >$250k/year, will make the Treasury’s coffers suddenly flush are not using basic arithmetic.  I hold those on the right that think we can cut spending to achieve the same in equal contempt.  Our $16Trillion in debt is money we already spent and we continue to run $1Trilion annual deficits.  Sorry folks the debt is real, deficit spending cannot continue.  When I hear Ed Schultz say scuttle the long term plan for a two year plan for political gain, I am reminded once again why I am now a nonaligned citizen.

Economists, politicians, and mathematicians will come up with a plan.  The plan will include a mix of short, mid, and long term tax policy changes affecting ordinary, dividend, and capital gains rates for different income levels at different times.  The plan will also include changes to deductions but these changes will have to be equally progressive like the marginal rates.  What I can tell you is I equally mistrust a RW and LW economist’s theories on tax policy.  When in doubt, I will always chose growth over austerity.

But above all, what disappoints me the most is the rhetoric.  The right wing talk about lazy Americans taking the hard earned money of the successful and the left talk about punishing the rich.  Yes we use terms like fair share, job creator, progressive, free market, middle class, etc.  But what is so disappointing is as a nation we are still divided and in order to win we not only have to beat the other side, we need to do so convincingly.  I ask those on the left to not seek some political vengeance against the right. I ask that they refrain from seeking to make the other side pay, literally and figuratively.

Tax revenues will be going up , the rich will see an immediate increase in effective rates, and spending will be cut.  Now can we get onto the business of creating a true 21st century economy.  An economy not built on bubbles, debt, and speculation?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Twenty Questions for a Monday


Twenty Questions

1)      Will President Obama have as successful a lame duck congressional session as he did on 2010 when he was able to push through another $300Billion in stimulus, get DADT repealed, and a new START treaty signed?

2)      Will anybody really miss Jon Kyl?

3)      Has the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences started engraving  Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar yet for Lincoln?

4)      Anybody else not really missing Kristen Wiig on SNL this year?

5)      Why are a year’s worth of great movies crammed into the last 10 weeks of every year?  (That one is rhetorical)

6)      Why does the NFL mandate the color of a players undershirt, but not the safest helmet?

7)      Can the media now move on from Lance Armstrong?

8)      Does anyone else find the notion that a show called Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader is not a good sign for our global competitiveness?

9)      If the Tea Party believes in individual responsibility to take care of oneself, why does it oppose the individual mandate?

10)   If a broken clock is right twice a day, what’s Sarah Palin’s excuse?

11)   Did Papa Johns stores in Massachusetts raise their prices after Romneycare went into effect?

12)   Why didn’t Dwight Eisenhower warn us about the Conservative Entertainment Complex?

13)   How soon until Allen West becomes a Fox News Contributor?

14)   What does it say about our political culture when we have to have so many fact checkers?

15)   Who does NBC’s Meet The Press’ David Gregory have naked pictures of?

16)   If Greta Van Susteren has her own show on Fox, why did ABC think we needed to see her on This Week?

17)   If Republican Representatives in the 112th Congress really believed in the free market and pay for performance, why did they take a salary for the last 2 years?

18)   When will teachers’ union supporters realize that you can be for meritocracy and against tenure BUT still be pro teacher?

19)   Is anyone else stunned by the statistic that 1 in 88 kids will get an autism-related diagnosis?

20)    Did you know that over 50% of our total population lives in coastal watershed counties in an area less than 20% the size of Alaska?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Final Look at the 2012 Election


 A final Diggapedia post on the 2012 election:

Irrespective of outcome, the biggest loser is the voter.  As the global proponent of democracy we are the epitome of do as is say, not as I do.  We are skeptical of elections in other countries claiming they are neither ‘free nor fair’, but when the same international body used to judge a nation’s electoral fairness is not only banned in a dozen U.S. states, these monitors are also threatened with arrest.  What are we hiding?  When poorer countries like Mexico and India can invest $Billions in biometric technology to insure fair elections and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela has electronic voting machines and we have a patchwork of the archaic and antiquated. I say enough is enough.  The time has come for a new voting rights act, a national independent bureau for voting standards.  Those that believe in state’s rights might balk at such a notion, but accepting the status quo is not a practical solution.

One of the problems with the voting process is the large number of ballot initiatives and referendums that slow the polling process down.  Now I believe in citizens having strong voices in policy, but I have a problem with placing state constitutional changes in the hands of a rather ignorant electorate when we have already chosen our elected officials.  I want active voters, not necessary activist voters easily swayed by special interests and big money.  If you are an elected legislature, then legislate.  In Arizona, sales tax increases have been placed on ballots and not legislated by the elected officials.  If the state legislature and governor cannot deal with simple things such as revenue and spending, what good are they?  Yes states can be the laboratories of democracy, I just don’t want mine to be the meth lab.

Negative ads is redundant.  With all of the money that poured into the election the overwhelming amount was spent on negative ads at the local, state, and federal levels.  I am not a Pollyannish naïve Kumbaya singing ‘why can’t we all get along’ optimist, but to think that the day that campaign ads that promote a candidate’s record, accomplishments, beliefs, visions, or goals has come and gone is a disappointment.

So now that those aforementioned political ads are now longer be broadcast, we’re back to ambulance chasers, Empire Flooring, Wayne’s World quality car dealership promotions, and ‘we buy your gold’ advertisements.  Not sure what is worse.

At the end of the day, we have suffered through a two year long election cycle featuring campaigns based on hate, fear, and greed.  I know the nominating process is grueling but watching Republican candidates try to out Tea Party one another with their anti-Obama hate, social conservative views, and guns guns guns rhetoric did not help the country.  I also single out the ridiculous GOP debates that were moderated by stooges and governed by idiotic rules.  Jon Huntsman summed it up best on Sunday when he said the GOP needed to be more concerned about big ideas and less about the President’s birth certificate. 

And finally, has there ever been a better surrogate than Bill Clinton?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why We Need a Strong GOP


Now that may surprise some of you, but our Republic requires strong opposition.  When one party completely dominates the legislative, executive, and judicial branches debate, problem solving, critical thinking, liberty, society, and the nation suffer.  This goes for both parties.  Our greatest asset is our diversity and when there is no opposition to provide alternative ideas or proposals, group think takes over and suddenly a mob mentality ensues.

I am an independent because I believe no party today best represents my views on the role of government, economics, and globalization and based on the growing number of unaligned voters I tend to believe I am not alone.  In Arizona, local and state government is now dominated by ultra conservative politicians having purged Republican moderates from office.  The impact?  The opposition voice is often muted and ineffectual resulting in social and fiscal dominance from one party.  The same is true on the other end of the political spectrum where excessive government regulation and dominance can cause irreparable harm to civil liberties.

Our social, racial, economic, ethnic, and education diversity are our strength; inclusion over exclusion.  This is why I vote left of center on most occasions and why I am dismayed and worried about what has happened to the Republican Party.  When conservative senators such as Dick Lugar and Bob Bennett are forced out because they only have a 95% conservative score, because they are unwilling to HATE the president, and because they dare call senators from across the aisle ‘friends’ the GOP has indeed lost its way.  The same is true for Blue Dog Democrats who felt the same persecution from their more liberal caucus members.  But is the job of a congressman to represent his district first or support a greater political or party agenda?

Democrats loved it when former Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel spoke out against the war or when Maine Senators Collins and Snowe broke ranks to work with Democrats in 2009 and 2010.  But in the same breath we castigate Senator Joe Manchin for opposing the president’s agenda and say good riddance when conservative Democrats lose general election.  We tend to think of these things in terms of sports teams and athletes.  Everybody hates LeBron (Heat fans excluded), but they would give their right nut (or lady ball) to have him wearing their colors.   The late Arlen Specter is a great example of that dynamic. 

I want solid opposition and yes, even the voices of the wilderness, because all voices must be heard and the debate lively and all encompassing.  But the debate needs to be respectful and focused on the specific issue and business at hand.  The hate and personal attacks are toxic to having a proper debate and it is incumbent of that party’s leadership and members to straighten the haters whether they are elected officials, pundits, or media personalities.

So as we enter Fiscal Cliff avoidance mode, I hope the can isn’t kicked, I hope all sides are heard,  I hope Simpson-Bowles, Dominici-Rivlin, Gang of Six, and other plans are assessed, I hope demagoguery is extinguished, and I hope the adults in the room put country first.  The best solutions come from debate, compromise, balance, and diversity.

As someone who is still smiling from the Tuesday victory, I want the GOP to get its act together for the future of the country.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Eve Memories From The Campaign


-          Newt Gingrich
o   “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
o   “Drop a little bit of the pious baloney.”
o   “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.  I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”
-          Mitt Romney
o   “Uh, I'm actually going to to, I'm not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was. And with regards to, uh, I'll go back and take at what was said there.”
o   “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals.”
o   “This feels good, being back in Michigan. You know, the trees are the right height."
-          Rick Perry
o   “I would do away with the Education, the, uh, Commerce, and, let's see. I can't. The third one I can't. Sorry. Oops”
o   “Those who are going to be over 21 on November 12th, I ask for your support.”  Too bad the voting age is 18 and election day is November 6th.
-          Paul Ryan
o   “Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.  I was fast when I was younger, yeah.”
o   ”I don’t have the ... It would take me too long to go through all of the math”
-          Herman Cain
o   "President Obama supported the uprising, correct?  President Obama called for the removal of Qaddafi - just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I say yes I agree, or no I didn't agree. I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason - nope, that's a different one."
o   "I'm ready for the 'gotcha' questions and they're already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm going to say, you know, I don't know. Do you know? And then I'm going to say, 'How's that going to create one job?'"
-          Michele Bachmann
o   "You're the state where the shot was heard around the world at Lexington and Concord.”  Unfortunately for the geographically challenged one-time presidential candidate, she was in New Hampshire and not Massachusetts where the battles actually took place.
o   “Well, what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too."  Unfortunately, for Bachmann and the citizens of Waterloo, it wasn’t screen legend John Wayne, but serial killer John Wayne Gacy who hailed from Waterloo, Iowa. 
-          Rick Santorum
o   President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college.  What a snob.”
o   “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.  The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”
 
Thanks for the clown car memories.   See you in four more years.