Monday, December 3, 2012

American Exceptionalism, Definition of

American Exceptionalism, n. (1980-present), a belief on the part of certain Americans that allows them simultaneously to feel 1) different from, 2) superior to, and 3) threatened by everyone else.  Paradoxically, the sentiment is not unique to the United States and is merely the current counterpart to sentiments expressed elsewhere in earlier eras.  Among memorable predecessor episodes, early 20th century Germans indulged themselves in the fantasy of a Teutonic master race that ended badly for everyone it touched.  In the late 19th century the French justified empire by reference to a 'mission civilatrice' in the service of the childish races while at the Victorian zenith of the British empire the English were wont to suggest that the 'niggers begin at Calais.'  And so on.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Republican, Definition of

Republican, n., (American, 2012): member of a political faction in the United States of America, who, out of fear that the country is in danger of turning into Canada, advocates policies that, if given effect, would turn the country into Mexico.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Roll over, roll over . . .

It's all over, Grover,
In a new twist, screw Norquist.

Bail out, boys (and Republican girls, too), on that no new taxes pledge, while there's still time.  Your shoes may be wet and mucked with the night soil, but if you roll up your trousers (lift up your skirt hems, ladies), there's hope you save them.

Watcha gonna do if all those cardiac care nurses, all those Marine Corps gunnery sergeants, all those front line supervisors on the night shift, wake up and realize just what they've gotten from a generation of tax cuts for the rich?   Realize what those tax cuts have done to the country they and the rest of the 47% percent love and fertilize with blood from their veins rather than trickle down and capital gains.  They've gotten less than nada.  Way less than nada.  And the crime against the country has been unspeakable.

Yeah, their kids are graduating from State U with a lot more debt--so the one percent can have one more jet?  'scuse me, its just a share in a Netjet.  New York to Nantucket, Chicago to Mackinac.  The well earned weekend.  And remind the new housekeeper that we recycle religiously.  Gotta be religious about something.  What is a carbon footprint, anyway?

Give me a break.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rich White Trash

With his latest comment about 'gifts' buying the election for Obama, which is after all just a riff on the 47 % comment, Mitt Romney is rapidly becoming to failed Presidential candidates what Jill Kelly is to honorary consuls.

And I'd like to hear him elaborate on the 47% comment again, but not on a conference call to donors.  How about to a roomful of wounded vets in a military rehab center?  But first, I'd like to hear him in front of those guys explain how his sons' service in his presidential campaign was a patriotic contribution comparable to their service in the Middle East.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How Could You Betray Us, General Petraeus?

Okay, so your little head got the better of your big head.  You're not the first guy . . .

And Paula Broadwell, you have given a whole new dimension, a final and full measure of definition, to the term 'embed.'

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Landslide Barry

From Tuesday until Saturday I watched as Florida slowly completed its tally of the Presidential vote.  On Wednesday morning, President Obama led former Governor Romney by .54 percent, just barely  enough to avoid a mandatory recount (.50 percent).  By Saturday midday the president led his challenger by .88 percent (and had broken through to an absolute majority--50.1 percent--of the total vote cast), or almost twice the margin needed to avoid the mandatory recount.

At this point a recount seems unlikely, since it matters little how big the electoral college margin is.  So, the president swept all eight of the 'toss-up' states.

That says something about how bad polling can be when somebody puts a thumb on the scale (whether that somebody is the Romney campaign desperately trying to confirm a path to victory or the media, desperately wanting to report a close contest).  And it says something that both Nate Silver and the Princeton Election Consortium were giving the good stuff anyway for free (with no social disease mambo jambo) to anyone willing to strip and dip in the data.

But it also says something about the president's re-election campaign.

He won all but two of the states he carried in 2008.  And 2008 had a couple of special elements--the ya-ya factor of the first ever election of an African American president and the repudiation of the Bush Cheney regime.  This time around, the first element was gone, and, let's face it, Obama was the guy facing repudiation.

Despite the, er, best efforts of Team Romney, the country wasn't ready to repudiate the Democrats.

And, for something to think about, not only did the country not repudiate the president, not only did the country increase the Democratic majority in the Senate, but across the country a majority of voters voted for Democratic candidates in the House of Representatives.  The only reason the Republicans control it is the odious practice of gerrymandering, at which they excel.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Flat Earthers and Tax Stimulus

Nobody could ask for a starker demonstration of the superiority of government spending over tax cuts as a means of stimulating a weak economy or achieving fiscal balance than the Congressional Budget Office's breakdown of the economic impact of various aspects of 'plunging' over the 'fiscal cliff.'  It's particularly impressive because that is not the avowed purpose of the exercise, which is to assess the loss of economic growth attributable to various reductions in spending and increases in taxes.

Bottom line, removing a dollar of government spending is far more injurious to the level of economic activity than adding a dollar of taxation.  And, adding a dollar to the tax burden of the 99% is more injurious than adding the same dollar to the tax burden of the 1%.  Anyone with an open mind would conclude that a serious exercise in fiscal responsibility without derailing the private sector would emphasize increases in tax revenues and not cuts in government spending.  But there aren't many open minds out there.

Mind you, all this is on the margin, where direction doesn't make much difference.  But that's where we live.  No extrapolated straw men, please.

How much longer will the braying advocates of economic stimulus through tax cuts and fiscal responsibility through cuts in government spending be given column inches, bandwidth or airtime to tell their lies?  They are today's answer to the flat earth society.  They may be free to believe the earth is flat, just like Donald Trump, the first citizen of Richistan, is free to question the president's Hawaiian birth.  But they shouldn't be given any more respect than the science know nothings or grownup boys born on third who think they've hit a triple.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lynching and the Tea Party

In my lifetime, lynching has been defended as necessary to protect the  virtue and flower of Southern womanhood from the rapacious animal appetites of the subhuman African male.  Today, commonly and to national audiences, Republicans have defended the position of the Minutemen, the Tea Party and the Arizona legislature on immigration issues as necessary to protect the sanctity of American national culture and the purity of the English language from the assaults of the Hispanic horde.  Unless a Republican Party candidate publicly, loudly and repeatedly repudiates that position for the mean-spirited, un-American and bigoted drivel that it is, he or she isn't worth supporting for dog-catcher (Mexican catcher?).

America is all about paths to citizenship.  Always has been.  Always will be.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cliffs and Sunsets

Why is everyone talking about the fiscal cliff and no one talking about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts?

The Bush tax cuts are the immediate source of the government's fiscal 'woes' (assuming the government has any, hard to see it from Treasury's borrowing costs, but I don't want to needlesly insult conventional wisdom by speaking too much truth to power, or whatever).  Those 'woes' are the justification for that Simpson-Bowles business which is the fiscal cliff.  Voila, let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2012.  Strike a Democratic blow for fiscal responsibility.  And it's probably the only avenue in the next four years to restoring some fairness and progressivity to the federal tax code.

Start 2013 staring at the fiscal cliff.  Maybe it won't seem so awful.  And if the Republican House retaliates for allowing the tax cuts to expire by pushing the country over the fiscal cliff, well, if a recession ensues, Team Obama's job is to clearly and convincingly show the country whose fingerprints are all over it.  That should be no hill for a climber.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Renting Textbooks . . .

is a great idea.  And the death of a sinecure.  When I was in college, no one gave the cost of the textbooks a second thought.  When my kids were in school, they played a little game with their parents that converted the proceeds from the resale of their textbooks into additional pocket money, and everyone accepted that textbooks were overpriced and a ripoff, but, also, just one of the unavoidable costs of a university education.

Something changed.  My first inkling came a couple of years ago, when I went back to school to take the university level calculus sequence, a bit of unfinished personal business.  Most of my fellow students were 40 years younger than me and serious about the schooling, at a big urban state university (Portland State in Oregon).  I did not make many friends among the kids, but I sure heard a lot of interesting conversations.

These people were actively trying to minimize the cost of textbooks.  They were even organizing and doing so collectively.  Forget Tea Party rants about socialism and private property, this was the American communitarian impulse at its self-organizing best.  Professors politely announced, for the benefit of those using the far cheaper superceded earlier editions, a willingness to post conversion tables tracking the assignments and problem sets from the current edition back to those earlier editions (some professors would even grade the earlier problem sets, though most wanted the student to go to the library and do the problems from the current edition).  The fraternities and sororieties (yes, the Greek system, home in my day to recyclable banks of term papers to save the brothers--and sisters--the trouble of doing their own work) had developed libraries of textbooks for the more popular courses, to save the brothers and sisters a little money, whether with the aim of smaller student debt loads or a better class of kegger, I don't know.  The kids were sharing information about buying cheaper off the internet and, panecea of panecea, buying foreign editions, always cheaper, usually paperback and lighter.

So renting textbooks makes all the sense in the world.  And when that catches on, watch the interval between textbook editions mysteriously lengthen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This is a Test

Can Zhou Yongkang handle the Chen Guangcheng situation in a way that satisfies the remaining members of the Standing Committee or will his peers find his performance unsatisfactory and intervene?

If you  consider the situation, in the aftermath of the Bo Xilai challenge to Panda power, the utility and competence of the security apparatus is called into question.  Now, faced with an entirely different kind of challenge, that apparatus is getting an entirely different kind of workout.

We certainly won't know in real time.  But I suspect by early next year it will be possible to make an educated guess.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bo Xilai

London (April 1, 2012)--Several dozen Harrovians assembled at Boodle's this morning and marched en masse, escorted by a Horse Guards detachment, from Pall Mall to the Chinese Embassy, chanting, 'Hey, ho, ho, hi, Gu Kailai, you must die!', and 'For your pleasure he stood at stud, for his death, you'll pay in blood!