Day: 2014.12.02

Brought to You by the Letter ‘A’

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01), promoting his budget agenda.

The life cycle of bad ideas is a curious thing.

No, wait, no it isn’t. Something about history repeating itself and not being smart enough to recognize the point goes here. At any rate, Simon Maloy tries to explain a thing or two about the latest revival of supply-side mysticism:

they love cutting taxes for rich people, and they’re also enthusiastic deficit scolds. There’s a seemingly irreconcilable tension in that worldview that arises from a straightforward assumption: cutting tax rates for the people who pay the largest share of taxes will result in the government taking in less revenue.

The way they get around this dilemma is through the magic of dynamic scoring. Basically, when they calculate the cost of a tax cut, they assume that cutting taxes will produce an explosion of economic growth that will actually result in higher tax revenues. Cutting taxes, therefore, won’t increase the deficit – it could actually lower it! This is, to put it mildly, a contentious idea. Dynamic scoring on its own isn’t a particularly controversial practice, but strong proponents of supply-side economics vigorously abuse it in order to make some ruinous economic proposals seem palatable.

One of the biggest adherents of dynamic scoring is Rep. Paul Ryan, the incoming chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. The most recent of his celebrated ultra-conservative budget proposals made enthusiastic use of dynamic scoring in order to achieve balance in 10 years while simultaneously slashing tax rates and boosting defense spending. When you just assume that lowering tax rates will supercharge economic growth, anything becomes possible.

This is hardly news: The presumed increased revenues resulting from tax cuts are simply presumptions.

Those who remember Voodoo Reaganomics occasionally scratch their heads and wonder, “What? We’re still having this discussion?” And those who remember the financial crisis that started with the Bear Stearns collapse in 2007 can always blame it on the president who was elected in 2008 and didn’t take office until 2009. The idea is simple enough, that if the government takes less money in taxes, that money will produce even more in taxes under lower rates by staying in the consumer and business economies. The result, of course, is a widening gap between rich and poor, a private business sector that has become so privileged it feels the products and services it offers in exchange for money are merely obstacles they must overcome in order to get what is rightly theirs—namely the money in your pocket—and a resounding, persistent failure to produce the promised returns. All of these, of course, are why Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01) calls “dynamic scoring” by another moniker, “reality-based scoring”.

You see, sometimes a joke is funny because it’s true. In the Republican Party, a fantasy is true because it sounds funny.

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)No, wait, that’s still not right.

The thing is that we have an ongoing supply-side experiment in progress, and that is called Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters—self-described (ahem!) “Brownbackers”—have produced not the fantasy results but, rather about what you might expect. Fiscal affairs in Kansas government are a bit sensitive at the moment, but don’t worry, the fantasy math says things will work out okay in the end.

Strangely, Mr. Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, is considered something of a budget wonk.

Perhaps they have the wrong vowel.

____________________

Maloy, Simon. “Paul Ryan’s ‘reality’ problem: Why his justification of ruinous supply-side tax policies is warped “. Salon. 1 December 2014.

Advertisements

¡A Puti-Toots Bonanza!

"I understand why he has to do this—to prove he's a man.  He's afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this."  (Angela Merkel)

When it rains ....

And that’s not a Weather Girls joke.

Apparently the story is famous, which is why Max Fisher has to explain it to Americans, complete with a headline that tells us what it means.

The incident of Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and the dog is a famous one. It was 2007 and Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, was visiting Putin at his presidential residence in Sochi to discuss energy trade. Putin, surely aware of Merkel’s well-known fear of dogs, waited until the press gathered in the room, then called for his black Labrador to be sent in. The Russian president watched in unconcealed glee as the dog sniffed at Merkel, who sat frozen in fear.

Later, in discussing the incident with a group of reporters, Merkel attempted an explanation of Putin’s behavior. Her quote, reported in George Packer’s recent profile of Merkel in the New Yorker, is one of the most pithily succinct insights into Putin and the psychology of his 14-year reign that I have read:

“I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man,” Merkel said. “He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”

And who else but Puti-Toots would try to dog the German Chancellor … with an actual dog?

____________________

Fisher, Max. “This quote about Putin’s machismo from Angela Merkel is just devastating”. Vox. 2 December 2014.

A Note About Tennessee Family Values

Elizabeth Lauten, former communications director for Rep. Steven Fincher (R-TN08)

How … interesting. And you can take that proverbially or not as per your inclination. But consider this: Elizabeth Lauten has resigned.

Some might wonder who the hell Elizabeth Lauten actually is, and they would likely not be wrong to do so. Well, unless they happened to be a regular follower of the ins and outs of Rep. Steven Fincher (R-TN08), whose communications director reminded us all of the relationship between Republicans and family values.

A GOP staffer will resign after launching a verbal assault on Malia and Sasha Obama in the wake of their appearance at the president’s annual turkey pardoning ceremony last week at the White House.

Elizabeth Lauten, who served as a communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), criticized the two girls in a Facebook rant which eventually went viral. “Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events,” wrote Lauten.

She also said that the Obama daughters, who largely stay out of the limelight, should show “a little class.”

Many have argued Malia and Sasha were behaving like typical teenagers at the event. They appeared unamused by their father’s corny jokes and at one point Malia declined to pet the Thanksgiving turkey by simply saying, “Nah.”

You might recall we mentioned this episode recently, in an attempt to fill space in an otherwise useless post about a really stupid American holiday tradition celebrating a mythical act of human decency. And while it is one thing to point out that it is Gawker, and wonder what else we should expect, one might think a communications director for a sitting congressman should know better.

(more…)

Even More Puti-Toots (Bill Day Ltd. Ed. Mix)

Detail of cartoon by Bill Day, 2 December 2014, via Cagle Post.

What? We couldn’t resist. Attribute this one to Bill Day of Cagle Cartoons, via Cagle Post.

Offensive, Maybe, In Which Case Just Deal With It

Detail of 'This Modern World' by Tom Tomorrow, 1 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.I would like, if I may, to ask that you imagine a simple scene. Everyday Americana. A parking lot, for instance.

There is nothing unusual about parking lots in these United States. Indeed, we hear of them here, there, and everywhere, along roadsides and outside of stores. Even gun stores, like this one. And in this particular parking lot there is a car. And in this car is a seven year-old boy.

At least, he was a seven year-old boy.

Until his father shot him to death, allegedly by accident through negiligence, with a handgun illegally in his possession.

And you know, we’re not going to charge that guy with any crime. He’s suffered enough.

Yes, really. Same country as the one where they shoot black men to death for looking like black men scary, a word that here means “not white enough”.

It’s the best criminal defense in the history of America: I swear in good faith I thought he’s a dirty nigger come’a kill me! And, you know, dead guy’s black, so what spiked grand jury is going to indict?

____________________

Tomorrow, Tom. “Black and White”. This Modern World. Daily Kos Comics. 1 December 2014.

“What Happened in Ferguson?” The New York Times. 25 November 2014.

Important Clickbait (NextGen Mixhate)

Detail of cartoon by Mr. Fish, 30 November 2014, via Clowncrack.

And then there are the obvious questions.

(Detail of cartoon by Mr. Fish, 30 November 2014, via Clowncrack.)

What Frightens Minnesota

Framegrab from KTSP. Mayor Betsy Hodges (left) with Navell Gordon. The Minneapolis television station considers pointing a "gang sign", and thereby sparked the #PointerGate controversy.

Thus it should occur that a goofy diagram of gangland sign language makes its way around the Facebook intertube thingy. And while there are plenty who would suggest that gang violence is serious business that should not be taken so lightly, it might be more useful to point out that the guide is incomplete.

GangSignChart-bwNote that one notorious (ahem!) “gang sign” is omitted, and that is the one-fingered point oft-known as the “fingerbang”. This is a well-known gesture that indicates, “Hey! Look at me! I’m standing next to a black dude!” and is the most dangerous of all gang signs known to Minnesota.

Or … something like that.

#PointerGate!

____________________

Mack, David. “TV Report Accusing Mayor Of Gang Signs Prompts Online Ridicule In The Form Of #Pointergate”. BuzzFeed. 7 November 2014.

Hayes, Mike. “Minneapolis Mayor Explains Why Pointing Is Not A Gang Sign In #Pointergate Response”. BuzzFeed. 14 November 2014.

Puti-Toots on a Roll

Vladimir Putin's closet eyes.

The New York Times characterized this as a “rare diplomatic defeat” for Putin, though I’m not sure why. Indeed, diplomatic defeats appear to be the only thing the Russian president has accomplished lately.

Steve Benen

Sometimes I think the problem is that news organizations have stripped down the news so much that reporters are often left not calculating which words they can strike in order to fit within the column allocation without wrecking the writing, but, rather, how to fill electronic column space with words that nobody pays that much attention to.

The thing is that generations of writers are now raised to believe that every sentence must be vivid and dynamic and active. Then again, the thing would also seem to be some sort of disconnection between words and their meanings. We might borrow from Lemony Snicket and, saying nothing of watermelons, suggest that “The New York Times called the defeat ‘rare’, a word which here means ‘frequently occurring’.” Or maybe we should just run with Andrew Roth of the New York Times:

President Vladimir V. Putin said Monday that he would scrap Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West.

It was a rare diplomatic defeat for Mr. Putin, who said Russia would redirect the pipeline to Turkey. He painted the failure to build the pipeline as a loss for Europe and blamed Brussels for its intransigence.

The decision also seemed to be a rare victory for the European Union and the Obama administration, which have appeared largely impotent this year as Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and stirred rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Russia had long presented the $22 billion South Stream project as a sound business move. But Washington and Brussels had dismissed it as a thinly veiled attempt by the Kremlin to cement its position as the dominant supplier in Europe while sidestepping Ukraine, where price disputes with Moscow twice interrupted supplies in recent years.

There was a time, not so long ago, when American conservatives fell in love with Puti-Toots. This was not so hard to understand, given their memory problems. (No, seriously, have you checked in on the Republicans who wax macho about how President Bush wouldn’t have taken shit from Putin, but also forget how the Administration stood by and allowed Russia to invade Georgia?) After all, here we have a closet homosexual running a pogrom against gays in Russia, clodhopping his way through the Ukraine, and absolutely burying the state he leads under its own economic detritus while chasing down the Manichaean hole of glory days gone by when the KGB had free rein in a useless dualistic struggle.

(more…)

How To Blame Women for Anything

Left: A protester throws a smoke bomb back at police in Ferguson, Missouri, August 2014 (photo: Reuters).  Right: Dr. Ben Carson at CPAC, 8 March 2014 (photo: Susan Walsh/AP).

Every once in a while, the question of conservatives and racism arises, and in most cases such inquiries are at least a little sickening. For instance, former RNC chairman Michael Steele is a lot more tolerable as an individual on the television screen now that he’s been booted from the gig and no longer has to pander to other black people by wearing his hat sideways and explaining that this is just how conservatives roll. Still, though, there is almost always reason to wonder. For years, conservatives kept Alan Keyes around, and there really are no polite analogues from literature or history; it is as if his role was to say things that made white supremacists feel better about themselves.

The latest right-wing champion of color is Dr. Ben Carson, who recently explained to American Family Radio, a broadcast arm of the premiere hate organization American Family Association, that racism in these United States is to be blamed squarely on women:

“Certainly in a lot of our inner cities, in particular the black inner cities, where 73 percent of the young people are born out of wedlock, the majority of them have no father figure in their life. Usually the father figure is where you learn how to respond to authority. So now you become a teenager, you’re out there, you really have no idea how to respond to authority, you eventually run into the police or you run into somebody else in the neighborhood who also doesn’t know how to respond but is badder than you are, and you get killed or you end up in the penal system,” Carson said.

“If the so-called leaders were really interested in the community, they would be trying to deal with that problem, because that’s happening every single day,” he added.

When host Lauren Kitchen Stewards broke in to tie his remarks to young people’s “sense of entitlement,” Carson traced it all back to the women’s liberation movement.

“I think a lot of it really got started in the ’60s with the ‘me generation.’ ‘What’s in it for me?’ I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement. You know, ‘I’ve been taking care of my family, I’ve been doing that, what about me?’ You know, it really should be about us,” he said.

(Blue)

This is a point that cannot be understated: Black people are not going to vote for a black politician simply because that politician is black.

One would think it obvious, but the steady stream of Obamanoia from the right wing is enough to make a prima facie argument that Republicans do need reminding from time to time.

(more…)

An Example There Being No Such Thing as Bad News

Detail of 'Mary Death' by Matt Tarpley, 2 December 2014.

One might note that it is getting to the point that one needs no longer watch the actual advert in order to know how the movie goes.

Or is that joke too obscure by a generation?

(Detail of Mary Death by Matt Tarpley, 2 December 2014.)