Daily Archive: 03/30/2012

Mar 30 2012

Winning At Mega Zillions

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Your Bloguero has been busy. He went to town and secured not only his own financial future, but his membership in the (almost) 1%. Yes, your Bloguero joined the teaming, unwashed masses at the Mega Zillions machine. But there is one pertinent exception relevant to your Bloguero. It’s this. Your Bloguero is going to win the prize. It is a done deal. No equivocation. No doubt. Done. Your Bloguero has already won the prize. You and he have to wait a bit for confirmation, but as your Bloguero is so often told, the check, in this case a huge one, is in the mail. And your Bloguero’s belated career as a philanthropist is about to begin. Nobody knows this yet, except for you. But your Bloguero is fully expecting crushing crowds of people seeking his largesse and advice to assemble early tomorrow at his kitchen door right after they find out he won.

How did your Bloguero accomplish this feat? How did he escape the teaming, faceless masses and enter the uberrich?  Well, you might ask. Very well, your Bloguero will tell you. First, your Bloguero donned his clown nose because winning zillions isn’t serious business. Nope. It’s all clowning around. It’s light, it’s easy, it’s joyful. It took a little work for your Bloguero to ferret out the nose from where it was hiding, but voila! He donned his classic, red clown nose. Ready to win. Listo! Second, your Bloguero donned his lucky, fuzzy Elmer Fudd hat. The hat that could be worn only by Ignatius Riley or Elmer Fudd. Or your soon to be Zillionaire Bloguero. Why? Because winning all of the cash is outrageous in the most delightful way. Millions of suckers people think erroneously that they have won, but there will be only one winner. All of those people realize this on some level. What they don’t realize it that the winner is your Bloguero. Your Bloguero is filled with gratitude to all of those who funded his success, especially all of those who will be eating Value Meals and Ramen noodles for the month of April because of their vain efforts to win money destined only for your Bloguero.

Your Bloguero gave his lottery ticket seller a few dollars and explained he wanted the winning ticket. It was that easy. Your Bloguero wondered, “Why am I wasting money? If I put a single, crumpled dollar bill, one I found under a couch cushion, into this event, I would win Zillions with that crumpled dollar.  My pizza change would transform my life. But this isn’t about saving the unnecessary dollars I spent on the extra tickets. No. That $4 is going to be lost in an impending, vast sea of moolah, an ocean of green so wide that the other side has vanished.”

Your Bloguero loves the impending excitement, the breathless excitement that comes just before it is revealed to almost everyone’s complete surprise that your Bloguero is now ridiculously rich.

Your Bloguero is going to give away 90 percent or more of the winnings. He will tithe himself. The rest, the remaining $55million or so, is as good as gone. Your Bloguero is really looking forward to the giveaway. Your Bloguero wishes we could all win, but there you have it.

———-

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

Mar 30 2012

The Generals Strike Back

It would seem the Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) thinks that that he knows more about what the Defense Department needs to spend than the Generals that run the Pentagon:

   House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed skepticism Thursday that U.S. military leaders were being honest in their budget requests to Congress.

   “We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice,” Ryan said during a forum on the budget sponsored by the National Journal. “We don’t think the generals believe their budget is really the right budget….

   He went on to say that while there were certainly inefficiencies that could be reduced in the Pentagon’s budget, fighting wars in the Middle East and a “dangerous world” necessitated keeping defense spending level.

   The comments were in response to a question from National Journal managing editor Kristin Roberts, who asked Ryan why the committee chose “to go against the advice of the generals” in rolling back $487 billion in proposed cuts to the Pentagon’s budget over the next decade.

Ed Kilgore at The Washington Monthly must have been smiling when he noted that the interview got even better:

   After Ryan’s initial remarks, Roberts noted that the budget was something that came from the Defense Department itself, not the Obama administration.

   “You don’t believe the generals?” Roberts asked.

   “What I believe is this budget does hollow out defense,” Ryan responded. “I believe this budget goes beyond where we should go to keep people safe.”

So this “genius” budgeter, whose party is always happy to defer to the generals when the generals say what they want to hear, is putting a couple of stars on his shoulder and dictating what the Pentagon needs to “keep people safe.” That’s particularly amazing since General Ryan is under fire from every direction for failing to offer a credible plan to reach his own arbitrary deficit reduction targets.

The Generals apparently did not take too kindly to Ryan calling them liars. This was Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey response:

“There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus … calling us, collectively, liars,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget.”

Dempsey added that the budget “was a collaborative effort” among top military officers and combat leaders.

The military faces $487 billion in cuts in the next decade as part of a budget deal reached last summer. The cuts reflect ongoing drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The rest, unfortunately, is behind the Wall Street Journal‘s firewall.

David Dayen had a good summery of the “spat” and just how much of a “hawk” Ryan is:

Now, keep in mind that the Obama Administration’s “cuts” to the military budget aren’t cuts. They just slow growth over time. And the Pentagon doesn’t even contemplate the mandated trigger cuts that are coming at the end of the year, which fall in large part on the defense budget. [..]

The proof that the military budgeting represented a collaborative effort, of course, is that it doesn’t cut the military budget all that much.

But it’s worth re-emphasizing that Paul Ryan called the entire military brass a bunch of liars who gave false testimony to Congress. And he will not listen to their calls for even modest trims to their funding. This makes him the very serious budget hawk in Washington.

Man the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! And damn the consequences.

 

Mar 30 2012

Different from a Republican how? Part 3

The Eight Big Mistakes Democrats Made Regarding the Constitutionality of ObamaCare

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Friday March 30, 2012 7:48 am

In the end, the decision about the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the entire Affordable Care Act will come down to the nine members of the Supreme Court. It is ultimately their call, and they will be fully responsible for what they decide. That said, the Democrats had many chances to take steps to prevent the health care law from ever getting to the point where there is even the possibility the Supreme Court could throw it out. The issue only got to this point because Democrats, on multiple occasions, horribly mishandled their job and totally failed to prepare for what was an entirely foreseeable eventuality.

  1. Lack of severability clause in the law
  2. Ignoring Republican promises to challenge the mandate
  3. Ignoring public hatred of the mandate
  4. Dropping the Public Option
  5. Congress refusing to call it a tax
  6. Obama team refusing call it a straight tax
  7. Obama administration’s bizarre severability argument
  8. Failed to articulate a clear limiting principle

Still, overturning the ACA might be the best thing that could happen from a policy standpoint.

Individual Mandates and Unraveling the Great Society

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Thursday March 29, 2012 9:26 am

There are are two main ways for the government to provide universal public goods. The first and normally best way is to have the government raise money through taxes and then use that money to directly provide the service to everyone. The other option is to create an individual mandate forcing everyone to buy the service from private corporations while having the government subsidize some of the cost. These needless middlemen mostly just increase costs for regular people and the government. This is why corporations love this setup and push hard for it.



If the Supreme Court rules against this individual mandate in a way that basically makes it legally impossible to replace most of our current public insurance systems with mandated private systems, that should be seen as a big silver lining for progressives.

A stronger prescription for what ails health care

By Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

Published: March 29

Eventually, however, our health-care system will be restructured. It has to be. The current fee-for-service paradigm, with doctors and hospitals being paid through for-profit insurance companies, is needlessly inefficient and ruinously expensive.

When people talk about out-of-control government spending, they’re really talking about rising medical costs that far outpace any conceivable rate of economic growth. The conservative solution – shift those costs to the consumer – is no solution at all.

Our only choice is to try to hold the costs down. President Obama tried to make a start with a modest approach that works through the current system. If this doesn’t pass constitutional muster, the obvious alternative is to emulate other industrialized nations that deliver equal or better health-care outcomes for half the cost.

I’m talking about a single-payer health-care system. If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, a single-payer system will go from being politically impossible to being, in the long run, fiscally inevitable.

Mar 30 2012

You’ve been slimed.

I’m not a vegetarian, though I don’t eat much meat because I don’t see the point of it.  Some hummus and a nice ciabatta (that’s a Silence of the Lambs reference, but the important thing about my jokes is that they amuse me).

Still, if you are a vegetarian you don’t have to worry about things like this-

The other day my email got hijacked and I had to send a warning to all the people in my contact list.  I was pleasantly surprised that my address for CSI Bentonville (a vegetarian of my online acquaintance) is still good and she seems to be well and happy.

She sent me this link to a documentary which is available today and tomorrow.

And also there is this-

USDA Undersecretary for Pink Slime Hagen refusing to talk to media while defending beef additive

By John Aravosis, Americablog

3/30/2012 11:04:00 AM

Since these GOP governors and the USDA “safety” director are in theory so supportive of the free market, what’s to fear about clearly labeling products that include Pink Slime and letting consumers decide. Surely there’s nothing to fear since it’s such a wonderful product. Right? And why stop at school lunches — the entire administration should be serve 100% pink slime in its cafeterias and lead by example.

Someone please remind me why Dr. Elisabeth Hagen still has a job with this administration? Obama needs to do a lot better than this for a job as important as food safety. But maybe he likes Pink Slime and thinks it’s OK to feed to his family?

Mar 30 2012

Governing By Crisis

While everyone has been focused on the Supreme Court hearings over the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act and the tragic murder of a black teenage boy in Florida by a “gun toting vigilante”, the Republican held House of Representatives has been up to its usual shenanigans threatening not only to shut down any infrastructure construction but now planning to shut down the government entirely. Even though they have vowed to defeat the current resident of the Oval Office, knowing they have a “friend”, the Republicans continue to make themselves more unpopular with the majority of their own constituents. This is what they have been up to while the traditional media focused on SCOTUS and a possible racially motivated murder:

The House voted down the proposed White House budget by a vote of 0 – 414. I suppose one could call that “bipartisan.” Nust up was the annual ritual of the Black Caucus Budget which failed but at least managed to garner 107 votes. Then they rejected the “Bowles-Simpson” Budget proposal, which really wasn’t, giving it only 38 votes.

Thus they finally came to Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, which is a revision of his budget that was passed last year and soundly rejected by both sides of the aisle in the Senate. The current bill passed with a partisan vote of 228-191. All but 10 Republicans voted against the bill mostly because it didn’t cut enough. The bill has no chance of passing the Senate but its passage reignites the same issues of cutting taxes for the rich on the backs of those who can least afford it:

He again proposes tax cuts for the rich at the expense of seniors, the disabled, and children. He would cut taxes by roughly $3 trillion $4.6 trillion (according to a Tax Policy Center analysis just put out), with most of the tax cuts going to people earning more than $200,000. His proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and food assistance would all fall heavily on seniors, the disabled, and children. Ryan’s budget is doubly bad for children because his proposed cuts to public investments (mostly infrastructure and education) would cause children to inherit a country with crumbling roads and bridges and to enter the labor market with fewer skills.

It would also cut non-defense discretionary spending to lows not seen in the 50’s but raise the defense budget that the Pentagon says it doesn’t need:

Because it doles out trillions of dollars in tax cuts to the rich and corporations, the budget approved by House Republicans today – authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) – would increase deficits and drive up the national debt. In fact, under the plan, “deficits would never drop below 4.4 percent of GDP, and would rise to more than 5 percent of GDP by 2022.”

Those increases would come despite the gigantic spending cuts that Ryan has in mind, which would eviscerate the social safety net and non-defense discretionary spending (even while the budget increases defense spending). As the Economic Policy Institute noted today, the plan Republicans adopted would drive discretionary spending down to its lowest level in more than 50 years.

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The House also refused to pass the very bipartisan Senate Transportation bill managing only to pass a stop gap 90 day bill to fund current transportation and construction projects:

Despite several efforts to advance a bipartisan Senate bill championed by (Sen. Barbara) Boxer, House leaders opted for a three-month extension while they try to break a deadlock that has stalled their own proposal to fund transportation by expanding offshore oil drilling.

The extension leaves transportation financing in an increasingly precarious position.

This won’t win them any votes in the Fall

Mar 30 2012

On This Day In History March 30

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.

March 30 is the 89th day of the year (90th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 276 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward signs a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7 million. Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as “Seward’s folly,” “Seward’s icebox,” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.”

Alaska Purchase

Russia was in a difficult financial position and feared losing Russian America without compensation in some future conflict, especially to the British, whom they had fought in the Crimean War (1853-1856). While Alaska attracted little interest at the time, the population of nearby British Columbia started to increase rapidly a few years after hostilities ended, with a large gold rush there prompting the creation of a crown colony on the mainland. The Russians therefore started to believe that in any future conflict with Britain, their hard-to-defend region might become a prime target, and would be easily captured. Therefore the Tsar decided to sell the territory. Perhaps in hopes of starting a bidding war, both the British and the Americans were approached, however the British expressed little interest in buying Alaska. The Russians in 1859 offered to sell the territory to the United States, hoping that its presence in the region would offset the plans of Russia’s greatest regional rival, Great Britain. However, no deal was brokered due to the American Civil War.

Following the Union victory in the Civil War, the Tsar then instructed the Russian minister to the United States, Eduard de Stoeckl, to re-enter into negotiations with Seward in the beginning of March 1867. The negotiations concluded after an all-night session with the signing of the treaty at 4 a.m. on March 30, 1867, with the purchase price set at $7.2 million, or about 2 cents per acre ($4.74/km2).

American public opinion was generally positive, as most editors argued that the U.S. would probably derive great economic benefits from the purchase; friendship of Russia was important; and it would facilitate the acquisition of British Columbia.

Historian Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer summarized the minority opinion of some newspaper editors who opposed the purchase:

   “Already, so it was said, we were burdened with territory we had no population to fill. The Indians within the present boundaries of the republic strained our power to govern aboriginal peoples. Could it be that we would now, with open eyes, seek to add to our difficulties by increasing the number of such peoples under our national care? The purchase price was small; the annual charges for administration, civil and military, would be yet greater, and continuing. The territory included in the proposed cession was not contiguous to the national domain. It lay away at an inconvenient and a dangerous distance. The treaty had been secretly prepared, and signed and foisted upon the country at one o’clock in the morning. It was a dark deed done in the night…. The New York World said that it was a “sucked orange.” It contained nothing of value but furbearing animals, and these had been hunted until they were nearly extinct. Except for the Aleutian Islands and a narrow strip of land extending along the southern coast the country would be not worth taking as a gift…. Unless gold were found in the country much time would elapse before it would be blessed with Hoe printing presses, Methodist chapels and a metropolitan police. It was “a frozen wilderness.

While criticized by some at the time, the financial value of the Alaska Purchase turned out to be many times greater than what the United States had paid for it. The land turned out to be rich in resources (including gold, copper, and oil).

Senate debate

When it became clear that the Senate would not debate the treaty before its adjournment on March 30, Seward persuaded President Andrew Johnson to call the Senate back into special session the next day. Many Republicans scoffed at “Seward’s folly,” although their criticism appears to have been based less on the merits of the purchase than on their hostility to President Johnson and to Seward as Johnson’s political ally. Seward mounted a vigorous campaign, however, and with support from Charles Sumner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, won approval of the treaty on April 9 by a vote of 37-2.

For more than a year, as congressional relations with President Johnson worsened, the House refused to appropriate the necessary funds. But in June 1868, after Johnson’s impeachment trial was over, Stoeckl and Seward revived the campaign for the Alaska purchase. The House finally approved the appropriation in July 1868, by a vote of 113-48.