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Thursday, December 30, 2010

CNN: A News Junkie's YouTube

It occurred to me today.  I don't go to for serious news about the world.  I go there for wackie videos or stories about the man eating elvis impersonator who was actually a cat on human growth hormone, particularly when I'm feeling bored or looking for a bit of cheap entertainment.  Did you check the link?  Did you?  Totally fooled you didn't I?  But you checked, not because of the improbability of seing a cat on HGH impersonating Elvis and eating a human, you checked because you thought you might actually see such a thing on CNN.  Today they've posted videos about Leopard attacks, yesterday, the top ten deer attacks of 2010.  Is it worse that I go to this site to get this information, or worse that this once credible news source uses these inane come-ons to drive up site traffic.

My post will prop up site circulation for CNN.  So will the fact that I will have used CNN, a total of 10 times.  Such is the magic (CNN) of search engine engineering (CNN rocks!)  Honestly, I'm not really disappointed with CNN.  The news network that I grew up with is gone, but then again, I preferred Dan Rather at CBS anyway, he was the anchor of my youth, and the only newsman for whom I ever felt any real connection to (CNN sucks!)  It's really just a sad commentary on (CNN) squandered intellectual capital.  Good luck and goodbye CNN, and if a man eating Elvis impersonator ever shows up, you can bet I'll post the link ASAP.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Shoelace by Charles Bukowski

The Shoelace

a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
disease, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there -
licence plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
lightswitch broken, mattress like a
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
sears roebuck;
and the phone bill’s up and the, market’s
and the toilet chain is
and the light has burned out -
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
your friends;
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
and purple

or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.

2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your

with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
enters a

so be careful
when you
bend over.

----it's been one of those months.

The American People

I'm so damn sick of this.  Disclosure:  This is a rant.

Can we please stop talking about The American People?  It's such bullpuckey.  There is no American People, there are 280 million completely different people, who poll differently every month on a variety of issues, and in polls that are poorly or leadingly worded to begin with.  And that doesn't even begin to address the sample.

No one.  Not me.  Not you.  Not Sean Hannity, not Bill Maher, not Chris Mathews, not Tucker Carlson, not Keith Olbermann, not Rush Limbaugh, not Rachel Maddow, not Sarah Palin.  Not the President, not the former president, or any former president.

Anytime someone uses this term your ears should perk up and your bullshit bell should start ringing.  It's a rhetorical trick and it's completely meaningless.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tax Cuts: Apologists in Full Swing

So the first day was anger, and then we skipped two stages of grief and went right to acceptance?  The real tragedy here is that there was never any evidence on the other side of the debate.  The two main arguments for keeping the tax cuts were that they would hurt employment, and that it would decrease overall investment.

The first point was picked apart by Andrew Leonard at Salon yesterday, "that, at best, extending all the tax cuts would lower the U.S. unemployment rate by an additional 0.1 percent by the end of 2012" Add to that the fact that American's tax burden is the lowest its been in 60 years.  American's corporate tax burden is the lowest it's been in 60 years by A LOT.  See the gap between the middle blue hue and the darkest blue, see how it gradually disappears?

The second point is defrayed by the simple fact that corporations are getting the highest profits ever recorded (link to Department of Commerce press release), and are getting the largest pay checks ever reported, and it doesn't matter if 10% of the country is unemployed, because they're obviously the ones who deserve to be, because corporate income taxes are just 11% of 2010's Federal budget receipts, whereas individual and social insurance count for another 82%.  And with all of that money, the Fed still has to grease the wheels with quantitative easing because corporations are hoarding they dolla bills instead of spending them!

And now they're framing this as a New Stimulus bill (link to David Leonhardt's Op-Ed in the NYTimes.)  Right, good frame Democrats, it's not like the Stimulus plan is the most hated American program in the past decade when only 29% of the people think it accomplished anything.  How?  Well, because of the unemployment benefits for starters.  How else?  Because of the 2% cut in the payroll tax.  My prof spoke about this last night, and was completely mystified, couldn't think of any stimulative effect this was going to have.  And in fact, since the payroll tax pays into Social Security is more likely to reduce American's retirement funds than anything else.  My favorite line:  "In exchange, Republicans agreed to extend unemployment benefits, cut payroll taxes and business taxes, and extend a grab bag of tax credits for college tuition and other items." Oh, I'm sure Obama had to suck a couple to get the Republicans to agree to a cut in business taxes.  Puhleeease!

One last point.  I've soliloquised before on why I think tax cuts are the worst kind of stimulus.  I won't belabor the point.  Standard economic theory has proven that the multiplier is much higher for direct government spending than it is for tax cuts.  While stimulus was always a terrible a word, weak, pitiful, indirect, and bureaucratic, this only qualifies as a stimulus in the most threadbare sense of the term.

For the record, I'm told my vernacular is somewhat offensive here.  I have the highest esteem for the President, and there's no shame in "sucking a couple" of lollipops.

Also, I'd like to add a correction to yesterday's post.  I indicated that the expiry of the tax cuts would have an immediate effect come April.  I asked my tax professor about this.  He said that the effects would occur immediately, bringing higher government revenues to bear immediately.  Remember that pay-as-you-go means just that.  Tax Day is just when you find out what, how much, if anything, you may have overpaid.  Also, even if taxes were to go up, if the Republican Congress were to revisit the issue and get a bill passed, it could take effect more or less immediately, and at least all of us would be able to file an amended return.  No harm, no foul.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Symbolic Victory

Short post today:  So Mr. Obama caved again on the Bush tax-cuts.  I'm not surprised.  My main comment came from two quotes in the New York Times, from the President.

“I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can’t reach a compromise,” Mr. Obama said in announcing the bipartisan agreement on tax cuts and unemployment benefits. “But I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington.”


“Sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do,” he said. “The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories.”
How, Mr. President, are the taxcuts symbolic?  This will have immediate effects in your income, your tax revenue, and you'll feel it in five months.  That's just about the opposite from symbolic, that's real and immediate, and a major problem.  Don't try to bamboozle me with your fancy, empty, words.

What would the world have been like if Obama had just let this one through?  Simple, if debate had continued, the tax cuts would be finished.  Oh sure, the Republican congress would force him to reinstate the cuts, but they would be for 2012, not 2011.  And unemployment benefits, again the president has ceded the ground to the Republicans.  He had a great playing card to use against them, now the 99ers won'y have any electoral will or capacity to for 18 months.  True, that makes it a campaign issue, but surviving for half a year without benefits is much easier than surviving two whole years without benefits.  That's some political football right there.  And the Republicans would never have let it gone on for that long anyway.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mid Term Thoughts, Tax cuts and Quantitative Easing

Sorry for the absence.  My new job is a major stress, and grad school is kicking my ass.

Ok.  Disappointment.  Given that the Republicans will not add ANYTHING to the debate for the next two years owing to a strategic necessity to get a Republican into office in 2012, I despair.  Not for partisan reasons, but that means that the suffering of the middle class and the poor will continue for at least another six years, if not worsen.  Already displays of racism, and calls for insurrection, and secession abound, what else is in store?

Tax Cuts.  We've discussed this a great deal in my tax class, and even though my tax professor has argued against letting them expire, the only argument he can offer in support is that "you don't raise taxes in a bad economy."  Which is exactly the opposite of the truth.  Taxes are predominantly raised during bad economic times.  Why else?  Government revenues are up when people are employed and making money.  And government automatic stabilizers need funds during the down times.  That said, I think the best graphic I've seen yet on this was in the Rachel Maddow show (god bless her).  Deficit concerns aide, do 98% of Americans really want to underwrite that massive bloat, for rich arseholes who did more to contribute to the recession than any other demographic?

Quantitative Easing.  I love this term.  I want to write a song about it.  Or a poem.  We keep a bottle of Quantitative Easing under the nightstand.  There's a lot of on air blather about this out there, but there a couple of things you should know.  The main concerns are inflation, capital flight, and deficits.  The fears of inflation are irrelevant right now, inflation is at all time lows.  One of the commentators linked to above insists that the Fed can directly increase inflation by creating money in bonds.  This is the Fed's job, they do it everyday, and the fed uses the same metrics to calculate inflation regardless of how they choose to do it.  If inflation gets too high, the Fed can simply retire the debt.  This is ordinary monetary policy, what's unordinary is the fantastic amount of money they're planning on creating.  Capital flight fears are more interesting.  They suggest that the new money coming into the system won't be used in this country at all, it will be used in growth markets like China and India, where GDP is going up 10% a year.  This seems a more reasonable critique to me, but to be fair, investment in developing markets helps us too.  As the standard of living rises in the developing world, labor prices increase.  There are huge rumblings of this occurring in China and India already. Which means the gross export inequities between East and West will eventually have to end.

Anyway, I have one simple argument for Quantitative Easing.  The Fed doesn't need Congress to do it, and the economy needs something, now.  And given the disastrous midterms, Obi One Bernanke, you're our only hope.

Fyi:  You need to watch this video: