11/26/2012 archive

Economic Populist: CBO, on the public dime, peddles BS to the public.

Burning the Midnight Oil for Economic Populism

crossposted from Voices on the Square

Yves Smith at the excellent and insightful Naked Capitalism has recently been taking at a close look at the role of the Congressional Budget Office, the vaunted "CBO", in the "fiscal cliff" scam that the corporate aristocracy is attempting to perpetrate on us mere commoners.

On 4 November, 2012, in Fed Budgetary Experts Demolish CBO Health Cost Model, the Lynchpin of Budget Hysteria, Yves looked at how the CBO put its thumb on the scale to exaggerate the magnitude of the fiscal challenge that we face (as I noted just recently, while there is a challenge, there is certainly nothing of the magnitude or urgency to justify treating like a crisis). Yves does this by drawing on the analysis of analysts at the Fed that highlight the questionable and, in at least one case, clearly flawed, assumptions made by the CBO in their modelling. On 14 November, 2012, in The CBO’s Latest Con Job: Disappearing Data to Deter Analysis of its Deficit Scaremongering, Yves looks at how the CBO fudges the numbers, omitting figures it once included in the fine print of CBO analyses … after it has been pointed out that taking those figures into account, the CBO modelling implies debt staying below 80% of GDP through 2020, rather than rising to about 90% of GDP in 2022 as the CBO has been claiming.

However, those two are a bit "wonky", to use a term beloved of the recently losing VP nominee. They bookend a post in which Yves Smith points out the suspect behavior of the CBO in terms that are a bit less "wonky". And that is what I am taking a look at myself, in this essay.

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Fighting Fiscal Phantoms

These are difficult times for the deficit scolds who have dominated policy discussion for almost three years. One could almost feel sorry for them, if it weren’t for their role in diverting attention from the ongoing problem of inadequate recovery, and thereby helping to perpetuate catastrophically high unemployment.

What has changed? For one thing, the crisis they predicted keeps not happening. Far from fleeing U.S. debt, investors have continued to pile in, driving interest rates to historical lows. Beyond that, suddenly the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t that we’ll fail to reduce the deficit enough; it is, instead, that we’ll reduce the deficit too much. For that’s what the “fiscal cliff” – better described as the austerity bomb – is all about: the tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to kick in at the end of this year are precisely not what we want to see happen in a still-depressed economy.

New York Times Editorial: Close Guantánamo Prison

Civil liberties, human rights and religious groups are now urging Mr. Obama to veto the military authorization bill for the 2013 fiscal year if it contains any language that denies the executive branch the authority to transfer Guantánamo detainees for repatriation or settlement in foreign countries or for prosecution in a federal criminal court.

They make a powerful case. Because of the existing restrictions, including an onerous requirement for certification of detainee transfers by the secretary of defense, no detainee identified for release by the task force has been certified for transfer overseas or to the United States in nearly two years. At that rate, the chance of emptying Guantánamo before the end of even a second term is zero.

Vetoing a military budget bill is no small matter, although other recent presidents have done it. Neither is making dozens of long-serving detainees wait even longer in limbo for no good reason, preserving a recruiting tool for America’s enemies.

Robert Kuttner: The Fiscal Myth

As President Obama gets closer to making his deal with the Republicans on the budget, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the fiscal cliff is an artificially contrived trap. Were it not for the two Bush wars and the two Bush tax cuts and the House Republican games of brinksmanship with the routine extension of the debt ceiling, there would be no “fiscal cliff.”

Rather, there would be a normal, relatively short-term increase in the deficit resulting from a deep recession and the drop in government revenues that it produces. When the economy recovered, the deficit would return to sustainable levels. In the meantime, these deficits are necessary and useful to maintain public spending as a tonic to the economy.

In addition, there are two entirely extraneous questions that do not belong in this debate — whether Social Security requires any long-term adjustment to assure its solvency, and if so, what kind; and how to restrain the long-term growth in Medicare spending.

Warren E. Buffett: A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy

SUPPOSE that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”

Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.” Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.

Between 1951 and 1954, when the capital gains rate was 25 percent and marginal rates on dividends reached 91 percent in extreme cases, I sold securities and did pretty well. In the years from 1956 to 1969, the top marginal rate fell modestly, but was still a lofty 70 percent – and the tax rate on capital gains inched up to 27.5 percent. I was managing funds for investors then. Never did anyone mention taxes as a reason to forgo an investment opportunity that I offered.

Leslie Savan: The $250,000 Question: Poll Shows Obama’s Tax Plan Is Widely Misunderstood

For the last four years, President Obama has been pushing his plan to raise tax rates on people’s income over $250,000, but a new poll indicates that most people still don’t understand one of the plan’s most basic concepts. [..]

Here’s the Obama plan in brief. The Bush tax cuts would be extended for households with an annual income under $250,000 (or $200,000 for individuals), but the tax cuts would expire on any income above $250,000. That means, for example, if you make $300,000, your tax rate would rise a few percentage points, to the Clinton-era rates, but only on the portion above $250,000; in this case, only on $50,000. Bottom line: no one-not a billionaire, not someone making $251,000-would have to pay more taxes on that first $250,000.

There’s a widespread misconception, however, and it’s causing a lot of unnecessary fear. It’s the faulty belief that if your income is above $250,000, you’d have to pay the higher rates on all your income, as if you were suddenly being moved entirely into a higher tax bracket. That is wrong.

Benjamin Strauss and Robert Kopp: Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines

The oceans have risen and fallen throughout Earth’s history, following the planet’s natural temperature cycles. Twenty thousand years ago, what is now New York City was at the edge of a giant ice sheet, and the sea was roughly 400 feet lower. But as the last ice age thawed, the sea rose to where it is today.

Now we are in a new warming phase, and the oceans are rising again after thousands of years of stability. As scientists who study sea level change and storm surge, we fear that Hurricane Sandy gave only a modest preview of the dangers to come, as we continue to power our global economy by burning fuels that pollute the air with heat-trapping gases.

On This Day In History November 26

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.

November 26 is the 330th day of the year (331st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 35 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1942, Casablanca, a World War II-era drama starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, premieres in New York City; it will go on to become one of the most beloved Hollywood movies in history.

n the film, Bogart played Rick Blaine, a former freedom fighter and the owner of a swanky North African nightclub, who is reunited with the beautiful, enigmatic Ilsa Lund (Bergman), the woman who loved and left him. Directed by Michael Curtiz, Casablanca opened in theaters across America on January 23, 1943, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Bogart. It took home three Oscars, for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film featured a number of now-iconic quotes, including Rick’s line to Ilsa: “Here’s looking at you, kid,” as well as “Round up the usual suspects,” “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” and “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

But being wrong is right So then you’re good again

Which is the evilest thing of all

They Might Be Giants, Dr. Evil



Evil is his one and only name


In his mind there is no other game

When your name is Evil that is good

Or so you think

But you’re so very wrong

It’s evil

But being wrong is right

So then you’re good again

Which is the evilest thing of all

Do you find his subtle ways invite you

Does he excite you?

If his contradictions should attract you

Should he distract you

Heaven help you then

You’re finished, it’s the end

There’ll be no retrieval

From the evil

The evil he will do

He’s evil

He’s Dr. Evil

His name is Evil

Packers @ Giants

8:30 pm NBC.  A more familiar kind of Throwball.

I’ve often wished these two teams would play in the Super Bowl every year since they are my favorites, but that would make it too hard to root.

Unlike most of my neighbors I’m definitely a New York market fan and have little use for the Sox or Patsies and notwithstanding Broadway Joe, Gang Green has always been flashy feckless collection of not quite good enoughs too lowly for even a Mets fan.

Woody Johnson and Tim Tebow are no improvement.

The Giants on the other hand have very, very occasionally put together a team that actually knows how to run and pass and control the clock so their usually ordinary Defense doesn’t look so bad (I remember LT with great fondness).  As one of the originals it’s a storied franchise that remembers its traditions of greatness.

They are my team of proximity.  The Packers are the team of my heart, The People’s Team.

I defy you to read their story and not get a little misty eyed about much better things could be if we had a system that rewarded its professed values of hard work and sacrifice for the collective good instead of Mammon worship in pursuit of a new feudalism.

I seldom notice Throwball until the last lingering leaf is brown on the ground.  Should, as frequently happens, the Giants not be a part of the post season at that point I sigh a little sigh and say- wait ’til next year.

If the Packers are not in the hunt I am reminded of the wisdom of Moonlight Graham.

(F)or five minutes you came within… y-you came this close. It would KILL some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they’d consider it a tragedy.

Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes… now that would have been a tragedy.

Why President Obama’s drone assassination program must be made accountable

It’s 2020, and unless Mr. Obama has successfully declared himself President-for-life, somebody else is President. Perhaps this time the lesser evil has lost.  Thanks to the groundwork laid by President Obama and the boys at DARPA, the new president has the sort of technology that dystopian fiction is based upon.

In 2020 the president has at his disposal the drone technology to surveil anyone, anywhere on earth.  The technology has the visual resolution to see disturbed dirt from a mile high in the sky and track footprints, to identify individuals using biometric data, even to “see” through walls and ceilings. Drones will also be outfitted with the means to collect electronic communications, phone calls, texts, gps location data, etc., creating a tool that can track individuals in the physical realm as well as their “footprints” in cyberspace to deliver the information needed for lethal actions

In 2020 the Earth will be surrounded by a triple canopy of drones at various heights to surveil us and deliver sudden death and destruction from above, wherever on earth or space the president desires:

At the lowest tier of this emerging U.S. aerospace shield, within striking distance of Earth in the lower stratosphere, the Pentagon is building an armada of 99 Global Hawk drones equipped with high-resolution cameras capable of surveilling all terrain within a 100-mile radius, electronic sensors to intercept communications, efficient engines for continuous 24-hour flights, and eventually Triple Terminator missiles to destroy targets below.


By late 2011, the Air Force and the CIA had already ringed the Eurasian land mass with a network of 60 bases for drones armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs, allowing air strikes against targets just about anywhere in Europe, Africa, or Asia. … If things go according to plan, in this same lower tier at altitudes up to 12 miles unmanned aircraft such as the “Vulture,” with solar panels covering its massive 400-foot wingspan, will be patrolling the globe ceaselessly for up to five years at a time with sensors for “unblinking” surveillance, and possibly missiles for lethal strikes. …

For the next tier above the Earth, in the upper stratosphere, DARPA and the Air Force are collaborating in the development of the Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle.  Flying at an altitude of 20 miles, it is expected to “deliver 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from the continental United States in less than two hours.” …

At the outer level of this triple-tier aerospace canopy, the age of space warfare dawned in April 2010 when the Pentagon quietly launched the X-37B space drone, an unmanned craft just 29 feet long, into an orbit 250 miles above the Earth.

Test Vehicle

By the time its second prototype landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in June 2012 after a 15-month flight, this classified mission represented a successful test of “robotically controlled reusable spacecraft” and established the viability of unmanned space drones in the exosphere.

This drone technology, which is well on its way now, will vest in the president and his minions a great deal of very concentrated power to breach individual privacy and security.  How this power is held will have great implications for its ability to corrupt, or perhaps as Lord Acton would have put it, to corrupt absolutely.  Our machines are extensions of ourselves. They implement our will (at least when we write competent programming). The issue is inequality; the machines that belong to the already powerful are so much more effective than the machines of we regular slobs and the potential for expanding the inequality of power that exists between the regular folks and the privileged elites is daunting.

The 100th Grey Cup

6 pm Vs.Grey Cup, Stampeders v. Argonauts.

La Coupe Grey was conceived as a Hockey Trophy and, like Lord Stanley’s Cup, has the name of each winning team enscribed on it.  It’s been broken several times and stolen twice.  The difference between the date of it’s anniversary (1909) and this year is because the Cup was not awarded during The Great War or the year after.  It’s been won by a US based team, the Baltimore Stallions, exactly once.

Canadian Football is a little different in the details from NFL and Collegiate rules but not as much as Rugby.  It’s recognizably North American Throwball and shouldn’t confuse the casual viewer.  There are 12 Players per side (Offense/Defense) and only 3 downs.

But it is a very different style of play which, like International Ice Hockey, is a function of being played in a much larger area- 110 yards (101m) long by 65 yards (59m) wide.  This extra space as well as the missing down favor wide open passing attacks (just as International Arenas favor a passing game over NHL-style checking).  Notable players who have been successful in both Leagues include Doug Flutie and Warren Moon.

This Centennial contest is being held at the home field of the Toronto Argonauts who are also the Yankees of Canadian Football with 15 Cup victories in 21 appearances (as opposed to the Stampeders who are only 6 of 12).  Still, true fans may have mixed feelings about an Argonaut win since the Cup almost melted to slag while in their care in 1947.

The year after that marked the first official Grey Cup party (also known as Canada’s “Grand National Drunk”).

It is said the two events are unrelated but you couldn’t prove it by me.


Grey Cup: Trophy survives parade from Varsity Stadium to Rogers Centre

Daniel Girard, Toronto Star

Sunday November 25, 2012

For the first time in its century of existence, hundreds of fans were able to carry the Grey Cup through the streets of Toronto.

“It was a feeling that can’t ever be replicated,” Kyle Dunn of Surrey, B.C., said moments after being one of the first fans to carry the CFL’s prized trophy as it made its way from Varsity Stadium, site of many early title games, to the Rogers Centre, site of the 100th.

“It’s like holding the most expensive thing you could,” said Dunn, 30, bedecked in Lions paraphernalia, his face painted orange. “It’s like holding the Canadian crown jewels.”

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon told hundreds of fans at Varsity Stadium he was hoping to make this inaugural parade of the trophy to the stadium on game day a regular event. But he implored those who got hold of the goblet to make that possible.

“It will only become a new tradition if you guys don’t drop it,” Cohon told the crowd. “Treat it with the respect it deserves.”