07/15/2011 archive

Why Is This Being Ignored?

From Steve Benen at the Political Animal:

CBO and Fed agree: cuts would weaken economy

Yesterday, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, explored in some detail the effects of a deficit-reduction package. His comments generated almost no media attention, which is a shame because they seem rather important.

Elmendorf argued that, in the medium and long term, small deficits could improve economic output. But what about now, in the short term, when the economy is struggling badly?

   In the short term, while the economy is relatively weak and economic growth is restrained primarily by a shortfall in demand for goods and services, the policy would decrease the demand for goods and services even further and thus reduce economic output and income. [emphasis added]

The CBO director’s comments came the same afternoon as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reminded Congress that the recovery is still fragile, and that “sharp and excessive cuts in the very short term would be potentially damaging to that recovery.”

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: Getting to Crazy

There aren’t many positive aspects to the looming possibility of a U.S. debt default. But there has been, I have to admit, an element of comic relief – of the black-humor variety – in the spectacle of so many people who have been in denial suddenly waking up and smelling the crazy.

A number of commentators seem shocked at how unreasonable Republicans are being. “Has the G.O.P. gone insane?” they ask.

Why, yes, it has. But this isn’t something that just happened, it’s the culmination of a process that has been going on for decades. Anyone surprised by the extremism and irresponsibility now on display either hasn’t been paying attention, or has been deliberately turning a blind eye.

Jon Walker Calling Obama’s Bluff

Last night the Republicans offered to do a short term increase of the debt ceiling to prevent default and President Obama angrily dismissed it according to the Huffington Post:

   At issue was Cantor’s repeated push to do a short-term resolution and Obama’s insistence that he would not accept one.

   “Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people on this,” the president said, according to both Cantor and another attendee. “This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington: that everyone is more interested in posturing, political positioning, and protecting their base, than in resolving real problems.”

At this point though I don’t see why Eric Cantor won’t try to call President Obama bluff over threatening to veto a short term deal.

As I have explain in more detail Obama threat to veto any short term increase has created a serious credibility problem for the President. You can’t both say default would be a huge problem and that you will single-handily cause a default simply because you won’t grant the GOP request for a short term increase so they can have a few more days to negotiate.

Dean Baker: Stealing from Social Security Is NOT a Debt Solution — Why Do the Media Promote This Dangerous Myth?

Pursuing a plan to kill social security, politicians are relying on a credulous public and compliant media to ramp up debt panic.

The conventional wisdom among the current generation of school reformers is that bad teachers are to blame for the failure of many of our children to learn. Applying this logic to the current debates over the budget and the economy, we should be pointing a big finger of blame at the media.

The conventional wisdom among the current generation of school reformers is that bad teachers are to blame for the failure of many of our children to learn. Applying this logic to the current debates over the budget and the economy, we should be pointing a big finger of blame at the media.

As survey after survey shows, the vast majority of the public are incredibly ignorant of the most basic facts about the budget and the economy. If we treated their teachers in the media the way the educational reformers treat public school teachers, few economics and budget reporters would have jobs.

New York Times Editorial: The Debt Alarm Is Heard

As negotiators in the debt-ceiling talks sputtered and raged, the chill reality of an imminent government default crept up Wednesday and made a mockery of their gamesmanship. Two major rating agencies warned that a once-unthinkable downgrade of the nation’s credit rating would be at hand if this crisis was not immediately defused.

That finally punctured the careless notion, popularized by Tea Party lawmakers like Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert, that default would be a minor inconvenience. Standard & Poor’s said a downgrade could occur if any required payments were missed, even if bondholders were paid first. Moody’s said a new process for dealing with the debt ceiling was needed. Although the bond markets have yet to be roiled, there are fresh indications that China and other investors are beginning to get nervous.

The alarms could not be much louder, but myth-making is still impeding the desperately needed deal.

Matt Taibbi: Greed, Excess and America’s Gaping Class Divide

Courtesy of good friend and Supreme Court of Assholedom justice David Sirota comes this revolting list of Marie Antoinettoid moments from recent years, in an article called “The New ‘Let Them Eat Cake!'”

Some of the moments on the list are easily recalled – Berkshire Hathaway gazillionaire Charlie Munger’s famous “suck it up and cope” quote, coming from a guy whose company was heavily invested in bailed-out banks, was an obvious inclusion – but others are quite shocking.

For instance, I was completely floored by the New York Times‘ pseudo-ironic take on the government’s response to the financial crisis, a piece entitled “You Try to Live on $500K in This Town.”

This came at a time when President Obama was considering curtailing compensation for bailed-out bankers at $500,000. The piece was sort of meant to be taken half as a joke, but it is not hard to detect an element of demented earnestness in the fashion section article, an honest argument that with mortgages and private school tuition and co-op fees and taxes, it really was very hard for a certain kind of New Yorker to get by on half a million a year.

Laura Carlsen: The Audacity of “Free Trade” Agreements

Congress could vote any day now to strike a new blow against already-battered U.S. workers and the unemployed

Committees in the House and Senate recently marked up the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The Obama administration is urging passage of all three relics of the Bush administration before the summer recess.

The full-court press on the FTAs represents a reversal for a president elected on a trade reform platform. During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama proclaimed his opposition to the NAFTA-style FTAs and boasted of his stance against the devastating North American and Central American agreements. As candidate Obama, he carefully distanced himself from the open-market, pro-corporate policies of his predecessor, calling for significant changes to the NAFTA model, including enforceable labor and environmental standards, and consumer protections.

Bill Boyarsky: ‘Entitlement’ Is a Republican Word

At his news conference this week, President Barack Obama seized on a misleading Washington word-“entitlements”-to describe the badly needed aid programs that are likely to be cut because of his compromises with the Republicans.

“Entitlement” is a misleading word because it masks the ugly reality of reducing medical aid for the poor, the disabled and anyone over 65 as well as cutting Social Security. Calling such programs entitlements is much more comfortable than describing them as what they are-Medicare, Social Security and money for good schools, unemployment insurance, medical research and public works construction that would put many thousands to work.

It’s also a Republican word. It implies that those receiving government aid have a sense of entitlement, that they’re getting something for nothing. And now it’s an Obama word as he moves toward the center and away from the progressives who powered his 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination over centrist Hillary Clinton.

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Iran

Why is anyone listening to these people? The Wall Street Journal editorial board made it clear that they are all for more war. In an editorial, the board advocated for not only maintaining troops in Iraq for years, as we have in Japan and Korea, but keeping troops in Iraq for decades, as well. Their reasoning is security in the region without any understanding of the consequences of the destabilizing factor of the presence of the US military. The real eye popper was further down in the article:

The U.S. has chosen not to go after the militias directly to shield the government of Nouri al-Maliki from the domestic political fallout of unilateral American military action. Such considerations are cold comfort to soldiers under attack. The U.S. has a legal and moral responsibility to respond. We ought to go after the militias in Iraq as well as their backers in Iran who’ve decided to make Iraq a proxy war.

Seriously? Did they even think about what would happen if the US sent troops into Iran? Iran is not Afghanistan. It is a relatively modern country with a standing army and navy. Former Bush administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley described the disastrous effect of an attack on Iran which would most likely result the closing of the Straits of Hormuz which would cut off access to the oil producing states in the Persian Gulf.

While omitting the elephant in the room, Hadley effectively outlined one of the likely disastrous effects of an attack on Iran. In town for a war game organized by an advocacy group that emphasizes energy insecurity, Hadley told Fox’s Eric Bolling:

   HADLEY: [I]f you think about it, most of our oil comes from states that are unstable and in the Middle East or states like Venezuela and Libya and Iran that bear is no good will.

   BOLLING: Sir, I have pointed this out in the past, a scenario that could happen. They tried it in the past. Iran could close off the Strait of Hormuz, that very, very short world oil choke-point, cutting off not one or two million barrels a day but 17 million barrels a day. A very easy put them to do. What would happen to the price of oil and the American economy?

   HADLEY: The price of oil would skyrocket. I am sure you would see more than 200 barrels – dollars a barrel for oil. The economy would be in severe straits. Our military will tell you that in time there will be able to reopen the Strait of Hormuz, but it wouldn’t have to be closed very long to have a devastating impact on our economy and the global economy. It’s not just the United States. But the United States is particularly vulnerable because we are struggling and it is of course where we live so we care about it.

If these war hawks want to destabilize not just the US economy but the world’s economy, as well, then by all means let’s “Bomb.bomb, bomb Iran.

Just an aside, Dean Baker @ Center for Economic and Policy Research said that just ending the wars in Afghanistan & Iraq would pay for the shortfall in Medicare over the next 75 years.

h/t Think Progress

Le Tour- Stage 13

Pau to Lourdes 95 miles

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Yesterday’s first Stage in the Pyrenees was not as dominant a day for Contador as might have been predicted on paper.  He was awfully lonely at the finish and gave up time to his main rivals in front of the home crowd.

Now 30 Seconds is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, a margin like that over a single rival can be easily made up by a bit of bad luck like a flat, but the truth is that Saxo Bank looked totally feckless in the face of a strong Leopard Trek effort from the first serious climb.

Contador’s problem is that it’s not just the :30 and it’s not just one rider he has to beat.

In the General Classification the standings look like this after the first High Mountain Stage-

Rank Name Team ET delta
1 Thomas Voeckler Europcar 51h 54′ 44″
2 Frank Schleck Leopard Trek 51h 56′ 33″ + 01′ 49″
3 Cadel Evans BMC 51h 56′ 50″ + 02′ 06″
4 Andy Schleck Leopard Trek 51h 57′ 01″ + 02′ 17″
5 Ivan Basso Cannondale 51h 58′ 00″ + 03′ 16″
6 Damiano Cunego Lampre 51h 58′ 06″ + 03′ 22″
7 Alberto Contador Saxo Bank 51h 58′ 44″ + 04′ 00″
8 Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel 51h 58′ 55″ + 04′ 11″
9 Tom Danielson Garmin 51h 59′ 19″ + 04′ 35″
10 Nicolas Roche AG2R 51h 59′ 41″ + 04′ 57″

Don’t be deceived by that even 4 Minutes, while it was a great thing for France to have a Frenchman lead Le Tour de France on Bastille Day, Voeckler is not expected to retain the maillot jaune past Saturday if he can hang onto it that long.

The people to watch are the two Schlecks, Evans, and Basso.  Sammy Sanchez is only 11 Seconds behind and could sneak up.

This Stage ramps up with a Category 3 and a category 4 climb before the Sprint checkpoint and then heads for the unclassified Col d’Aubisque and steeply down to the finish.  I think team management is going to be a real issue because it will be very difficult to stick together and help your contenders over the Col and after that a serious gap could develop as the back markers struggle up and the leaders zoom to the finish.

Coverage on Vs. starts at 8 am.

On This Day In History July 15

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 15 is the 196th day of the year (197th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 169 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day 1789, Lafayette selected colonel-general of the National Guard of Paris

Only one day after the fall of the Bastille marked the beginning of a new revolutionary regime in France, the French aristocrat and hero of the American War for Independence, Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, becomes the colonel-general of the National Guard of Paris by acclamation. Lafayette served as a human link between America and France in what is sometimes known as The Age of Revolutions.

National Guard, Versailles, and Day of Daggers

On 15 July, Lafayette was acclaimed commander-in-chief of the National Guard of France, an armed force established to maintain order under the control of the Assembly. Lafayette proposed the name and the symbol of the group: a blue, white and red cockade. On 5 October 1789, a Parisian crowd, composed mostly of rough women working in the markets selling fish, marched to Versailles in response to the scarcity of bread. Members of the National Guard followed the march, and when Lafayette said that this march is non-sense, the National Guard’s men openly defied his power and according to some sources, they said “We are going with you, or over you”, then Lafayette reluctantly led the National Guard army to Versaille. At Versailles, the king accepted the Assembly’s votes but refused requests to return to Paris. That evening, Lafayette replaced most of the royal bodyguards with National Guardsmen. At dawn, the crowd broke into the palace. Before it succeeded in entering the queen’s bedroom, Marie Antoinette fled to the king’s apartments. Lafayette took the royal family onto the palace balcony and attempted to restore order. The crowd insisted that the king and his family move to Paris where they were installed in the Tuileries Palace. At the balcony, King Louis simply appeared, and everyone started chanting “Vive le Roi!”. Then when Maria Antoinette appeared with her children, she was told to send the children back, afterwards, when she came out alone, people shouted to shoot her, but when she stood her ground facing almost certain death, no one opened fire. After several seconds and the lowering of rifles, people started to chant “Vive la Reine!” (“Long live the Queen”, now the crowd is including the Queen)As leader of the National Guard, Lafayette attempted to maintain order. On 12 May 1790, he instituted, along with Jean Sylvain Bailly (mayor of Paris), a political club called the “Society of 1789” . The club’s intention was to provide balance to the influence of the Jacobins. On 14 July 1790, Lafayette took the civic oath on the Champs de Mars, vowing to “be ever faithful to the nation, to the law, and to the king; to support with our utmost power the constitution decreed by the National Assembly, and accepted by the king.”

He continued to work for order in the coming months. On 20 February 1791, the Day of Daggers, Lafayette traveled to Vincennes in response to an attempt to liberate a local prison. Meanwhile, armed nobles converged around the Tuileries, afraid the unprotected king would be attacked. Lafayette returned to Paris to disarm the nobles.[89] On 18 April, the National Guard disobeyed Lafayette and stopped the King from leaving for Saint-Cloud over Easter.

La Marseillaise

Arise, children of the Fatherland,

The day of glory has arrived!

Against us of the tyranny

The bloody banner is raised,

The bloody banner is raised,

Do you hear, in the countryside,

The roar of those ferocious soldiers?

They’re coming right into your arms

To slit the throats your sons and your companions!


To arms, citizens,

Form your battalions,

Let’s march, let’s march!

That tainted blood

Water our furrows!

What does this horde of slaves,

Of traitors and conjured kings want?

For whom are these vile chains,

These long-prepared irons?

These long-prepared irons?

Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage

What fury it must arouse!

It is us they dare plan

To return to the old slavery!

Aux armes, citoyens…

What! Foreign cohorts

Would make the law in our homes!

What! These mercenary phalanxes

Would strike down our proud warriors!

Would strike down our proud warriors!

Great God ! By chained hands

Our brows would yield under the yoke

Vile despots would have themselves

The masters of our destinies!

Aux armes, citoyens…

Tremble, tyrants and you traitors

The shame of all parties,

Tremble! Your parricidal schemes

Will finally receive their reward!

Will finally receive their reward!

Everyone is a soldier to combat you

If they fall, our young heroes,

The earth will produce new ones,

Ready to fight against you!

Aux armes, citoyens…

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,

You bear or hold back your blows!

You spare those sorry victims,

Who arm against us with regret.

Who arm against us with regret.

But not these bloodthirsty despots,

These accomplices of Bouillé,

All these tigers who, mercilessly,

Rip their mother’s breast!

Aux armes, citoyens…

Sacred love of the Fatherland,

Lead, support our avenging arms

Liberty, cherished Liberty,

Fight with thy defenders!

Fight with thy defenders!

Under our flags, shall victory

Hurry to thy manly accents,

That thy expiring enemies,

See thy triumph and our glory!

Aux armes, citoyens…

(Children’s Verse)

We shall enter in the (military) career

When our elders are no longer there,

There we shall find their dust

And the trace of their virtues

And the trace of their virtues

Much less jealous to survive them

Than to share their coffins,

We shall have the sublime pride

Of avenging or following them

Aux armes, citoyens…

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 More than 40 injured in Pamplona bull-run festival

By Daniel Silva, AFP

3 hrs ago

Fighting bulls wounded three thrill-seekers in the final bull-run of Spain’s San Fermin festival on Thursday, bringing the overall tally to more than 40 injured.

The half-tonne beasts sped through cobbled streets of the northern city of Pamplona on the eighth and last daily bull-run of a festival expected to have drawn more than a million tourists.

The six bulls and six steers charged 846.6 metres from a pen to the bullring in a quick two minutes 20 seconds, organisers said.

Good for them.