Monthly Archives: January 2013

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No, that negative GDP report wasn’t “bad”, and yes, it proved Keynes right yet again

The “surprise” report about GDP contraction in the fourth quarter of 2012 (Oct-Dec) that had all the usual suspects celebrating bad economic news shouldn’t have been a surprise at all. Rather, it’s what Keynesian economics predicts to happen.

The explanation for why it happened tracks perfectly with arguments that serious (as in actually serious, not pretend serious) economists have been making since the recession began, and debunks virtually every argument made by conservative economists and Republicans.

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Election theft by design

If you’re curious why the proposed changes to the electoral college in Virginia are a big deal that would take America several steps further away from true democracy, I’ll make it as simple as I can by using three states to illustrate the problem.

I’ll begin with North Carolina, mostly because that’s where I live, but it also was conveniently close in 2012. North Carolina has 9.7 million people living in it, making it the 10th largest state by population. Each state gets two Senators and a number of Representatives to be determined by its population according to the most recent census. For NC, that’s 13. A state’s electoral vote count is then determined by its combined representation in the Senate and House, which is how North Carolina ends up with 15 electoral votes.

North Carolina had been a reliably red state until 2008, voting for the Republican Candidate from 1980 until 2004, spanning six elections. A growing minority population combined with a decline in manufacturing and farming jobs and an increase in bio-tech, information technology, and banking jobs in the Research Triangle Park area — home to some of the best medical facilities and colleges in the country — has been pushing North Carolina towards the center for decades. Although Mitt Romney clawed it back last year, NC is going to be a battleground state for many years to come, and may eventually become more blue than than purple.

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What Fox News probably isn’t telling you about the economy

There seems to be persistent confusion about the current state of the economy and how it has changed since Barack Obama was sworn into office as President of the United States in January of 2009. There seems to be more confusion on one side than the other, politically speaking, and I suspect the source of that is probably Fox News. While political liberals get their news from a variety of sources (NPR, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, massive sprawling blog networks, etc), political conservatives tend to have just a few. This magnifies the problem that Fox News presents.

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Allen West lectures women on serving in combat

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta formally repealed the ban on women serving in the military this afternoon, subject to any objections the services may have. Some expect the special forces to object based on many of the same views that people used to justify the ban, mainly that women aren’t physically capable of doing what men can do. Repealing the ban meant rejecting that view overall, so I don’t see why it could be true in a subset of service but not true overall, given the unpredictable nature of combat. Especially when the Joint Chiefs supported lifting the ban unanimously, and surely they all would have considered this very issue.

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A path for the GOP to win 2016

It’s not my job or interest tell the Republican (or Democratic) Party how to win elections. I’m not an analyst. But I’ll make an exception and give the GOP the most amazing gift it’ll ever receive, one small piece of data culled from exit polls over the past 40 years that will tell it how to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, how to keep control of the Texas state government for the next decade, even as Hispanics become a majority, and how to keep Arizona from becoming the next Nevada or Florida.

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When a simple lack of respect can be fatal to a party of millions

It’s absolutely true that the Republican Party is in serious trouble, demographically speaking. The booming Hispanic population will see Texas and Arizona look more like Florida by 2016, and with the occasional poor candidate or fatal campaign gaffe granted, may result in a near permanent Democratic White House.

That would go a long way towards explaining the really brazen election rigging going on in Virginia right now, where the state GOP has engaged in the most naked gerrymandering possibly in American history, so indefensible that even the state’s Republican Governor and Lt. Governor have expressed shock at what happened. Under the proposed changes to Virginia’s electoral vote allotment, Mitt Romney would have won more electoral votes from the state in 2012 despite Barack Obama having more votes from actual people.

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Criticism of Israel is not automatically antisemitism

Articles like this usually aren’t worth writing about, much less defending. So I’m not going to do either. But it is important to promote free and open debate, which is exactly the opposite of what this person is doing.

All too often, especially in the United States, criticism of the Israeli government is smeared as antisemitism in order to immediately end any debate over controversial policies and actions by that government. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been criticized especially for its aggressive retaliatory attacks against rocket attacks by Hamas from within Gaza, killing dozens of Palestinian civilians per strike. Israel is a leading beneficiary of American foreign aid and routinely buys many of the most advanced weapons and technology in the world, only to turn around and use it in Gaza. Not to mention the always-expanding settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world — including the United States — consider illegal.

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Two more red states join the insurrection party

Missouri has joined Kansas, Utah, Texas, and Wyoming in suggesting that it will pass legislation that would empower local law enforcement to arrest federal agents attempting to enforce a still un-passed federal ban on assault weapons.

State laws that purposefully contradict federal laws are unconstitutional, and federal officials are immune from state and federal prosecution for actions they take in carrying out their official duty. I’ve already explained the reasons behind that. But I find it worthwhile to once again note that going so far as to arrest federal agents who are just doing their jobs qualifies as armed insurrection, which is both secession and treason when practiced by a state.

Missouri’s law sets itself apart from the others in how far it goes, covering things like ammunition and other firearms laws other than those involving assault weapons.

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Protect oil infrastructure, but who should pay?

Increasing security at critical energy facilities in countries like Algeria is probably a really good idea, if not to protect the lives of innocent people just trying to earn a living, but also to protect the already volatile energy markets that already fall over every time a single refinery goes offline unexpectedly (while nobody bothers to build excess capacity to deal with unscheduled downtime, since tight supplies = big profits).

But who should pay for that security? Someone I know suggested that we (American tax payers) should. Although he didn’t explain why, my guess would be to protect our national interests in a stable energy market and to protect our citizens working abroad. My first thought is, OK, but why do we have to pay for that?

Oil companies tend to be the most profitable in the world. BP, the company that owns the facility in Algeria that was attacked (and the company that basically destroyed the Gulf of Mexico) made $25.7 billion in pure profit in 2011 on $386 billion in revenue. That’s quite a bit more than the entire economic output of the country of Algeria, at $263 billion.

Additional security at overseas energy facilities is a good idea, but when we’re fighting at home to prevent cuts to social spending programs like Social Security and Medicare that involve the most precious parts of people’s lives (eating, being warm, going to a doctor), I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect BP to pay for its own security.

Common sense or debt trap?

Articles like this make it seem like the GOP might not have the stomach for pushing the United States to another credit rating downgrade:

“Next week, we will authorize a three-month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget,” Cantor said in an emailed statement.

“If the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay,” he said on the last day of a House Republican retreat in Williamsburg.

That proposal could be a good thing, but I’ve learned to be skeptical. There’s almost always another story between the lines if you look for it. Cutting off Congressional pay is, frankly, pandering to low information voters that believe cutting off $150k per year paychecks to a Congress where the median networth is like $1 million, is going to change something.

It won’t.

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