Archive

June 28th, 2016

Accounting According To The GOP

    The GOP has now refused funding to fight the zika mosquito saying we can't afford it without cutting from other health and welfare funds.  Don't they know it is one of the things we can't afford not to do?  Don't they appreciate that prevention is far more effective than remediation? Don't they understand that every penny allocated to health and welfare is already needed for previously existing situations?  

    Most especially, there is no remediation for the babies born with the undeveloped heads resulting from their mother's exposure to the mosquito carrying the zika virus.  It will cost far, far more to care for these babies who will never develop to the point of managing their own lives.  Their quality of life will be extremely limited to say the least.  How would these legislators happily expecting the birth of a child of their own feel when it arrives with such an abnormality?  I think it will be a different reaction from the limited vision they currently hold.  I think the money would flow. 

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June 26th

Learning to live with the Fed's low interest rates

    The Federal Reserve last week decided not to hike interest rates just yet. This seems like a sensible enough decision -- labor market indicators are looking a bit weak, inflation is still a little below the Fed's 2 percent target, and Brexit and China's slowdown are obvious macroeconomic risks. Why raise rates when economic conditions look a little subpar?

    People have come up with a lot of reasons to worry about zero interest rates. At first they worried about inflation, and later about financial instability and bubbles caused by a reach for yield. But the years passed, and there was no inflation, no bubble or instability in financial markets. So people are finding new reasons to be afraid of low rates. Unfortunately, as the fears have failed to pan out, the new worries are getting pretty vague.

    A good example is a recent column in The Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein, which echoes criticisms made by many other skeptics of low rates. Declaring that the Fed isn't raising rates fast enough, Pearlstein offers the following argument:

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What Republicans' obstruction costs them

    For more than 20 years, Republican politicians have followed one overarching strategy: pursuing maximum opposition to the president when they don't control the White House.

    While liberals may hate this obstruction, they agree with conservatives that it is successful and makes sense from a Republican point of view. Jonathan Chait describes it this way:

    "The link between the design failures of the presidential system itself and these failures is clear enough. The worse things go for the president, the better the chances for the opposition party to regain power. Cooperating would merely give the president bipartisan cover, making him more popular and benefiting his party as well. Republican leaders have openly acknowledged these incentives. In the Obama era, this has forced the Republican leadership to mount a scorched-earth opposition, demonizing the president as an alien socialist who threatens America's way of life."

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Trump sells out faith

    Where religion is concerned, Donald Trump's bigotry is his biggest problem, but his ignorance comes in a close second.

    We already know that Trump will say whatever he thinks will appeal to the crowd he is talking to, but calling Hillary Clinton's faith into question before a group of evangelical leaders on Tuesday represented a new low -- if such a thing is possible in a campaign that hits those markers on an almost-daily basis. Trump's comprehensive and often factually challenged attack on Clinton Wednesday is drawing much attention. But his comments on her faith say even more about him.

    Trump does not appear to be very religious and seems uncomfortable around the subject. In principle, this is not a problem. The Constitution explicitly forbids religious tests for federal office. Over our history, presidents have varied in their attachment to religion, and there is no sure-fire way to know whether what a politician says about his or her belief in God is true.

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The Supreme Court reminds everyone why it's the most important issue in the 2016 election

    In two dramatic decisions, the Supreme Court Thursday reminded everyone of what the most important issue in the 2016 presidential election really is. In the first case, the justices upheld the University of Texas's affirmative action program in a surprising 4-to-3 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Justice Elena Kagan had to recuse herself.) But I want to focus on the other case, in which the court, shorthanded because Senate Republicans have refused to consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia, deadlocked 4-to-4 on a critical immigration case:

    "The Supreme Court handed President Obama a significant legal defeat Thursday, refusing to revive his stalled plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and give them the right to work legally in the United States. …

    "The court's liberals and conservatives deadlocked, which leaves in place a lower court's decision that the president exceeded his powers in issuing the directive."

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Money for nothing

    By an overwhelming 3-to-1 margin, Swiss voters have rejected a proposal that would have guaranteed all residents a monthly income, whether they worked or not. Yet supporters of the concept elsewhere are not taking the Swiss "no" for an answer.

    Frequently proposed in the past, guaranteed income for all is back in vogue because of fears that robots and artificial intelligence threaten whole categories of jobs, especially for less skilled workers, and that any remaining jobs will be unstable "gigs." Mass poverty and inequality loom.

    Economists' usual prescription is greater investment in education and training, to equip people for high-paying work. The guaranteed-income movement says it's smarter and simpler to separate subsistence from labor.

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Hair-trigger alert

    I feel the finger on the trigger. I also feel it on the button.

    "Dear President Obama," the letter begins. It goes on to remind him of something he said in his 2008 presidential campaign: "Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment's notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation."

    The letter, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, is signed by 90 scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates. It continues: "After your election, you called for taking 'our nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.'"

    Presidential campaigns, mass killings, war . . . nuclear war. Washington, we have a problem.

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Democrats' sit-in is a justified act of civil disobedience

    Sometimes civil disobedience is justified. Sometimes it is necessary. The unprecedented events playing out on the House floor -- Democratic members staging a sit-in in the well of their own chamber - represent such a moment.

    The immediate, and understandable, precipitating events were the massacre in Orlando and the refusal of House Republican leaders to permit a vote on a measure to try to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of possible terrorists and others whose past behavior and mental state mirror the profile of the mass murderers who have made the United States the citadel of gun violence.

    But the underlying cause for the revolt runs far deeper. Partisan polarization and intense competition for control of Congress have ushered in a ruthless stewardship of the first branch of government, motivated mostly to kill bills and avoid votes, all in the quest to retain or gain majority control. Regular order did not carry the day in the House, but then regular order has not been in evidence in the House or Senate for many years.

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Will Trump Last The Election?

    An ordinary sociopath would have known to pretend shock and sorrow after the terrible mass murders in Orlando. Shielded from ordinary human interaction by his arrogance and wealth, however, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump had no clue how to act. So he sent out an instinctive, self-serving reaction on Twitter:

    "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!"

    Meghan McCain, Arizona Sen. John McCain's daughter, reacted incredulously: "You're congratulating yourself because 50 people are dead this morning in a horrific tragedy?"

    Even more pointed was GOP consultant and TV talking head Ana Navarro: "Translating Trump: '20 people (sic) are dead. 42 people are injured. But of course, 1st, it's all about Me. Me. Me.' Ugh."

    Both women spoke for millions. Is there no tragedy so grave, no sorrow so profound, that it can penetrate the hardened carapace of Donald Trump's ego?

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What the Russian hackers who attacked the DNC don't get about 'oppo research'

    Last week, The Washington Post broke the news that for the better part of the past year, Russian hackers have been in and out of the Democratic National Committee's computer servers, targeting the opposition research that the party has developed to use against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    Why were Russians looking in the DNC's oppo files, and did they get what they were looking for? Probably not the 211-page document most of the media has been digging though since Gawker published it on Wednesday. That looks like a traditional and fairly basic "book" that political researchers like me prepare for non-researchers. (And judging by the relatively slim length and December date, it's probably a preliminary glance.) It gives campaign leaders a window into what public information is out there and what themes and narratives have been out on Trump before. It's the CliffsNotes to the research, not the research itself. Most likely, what the Russians were after is something much bigger. But what they did find was a lot of information they could have gotten elsewhere in the public domain, legally.

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