Friday, August 5, 2011

I was in the process of working on an absolutely brilliant post about the debt ceiling debate and the lack of progressive voice in the discussion but someone beat me to it. It's really a shame too, I had found wonderful graphics to illustrate my points and there is a great chance that it may have become an over-night sensation and changed the entire tone of discourse in the United States.

Shame on you, Dan Froomkin,
for depriving the world of this genius.
I may wind up writing more about the subject but Dan hit many of the important points I intended to address, mainly that the discussion was between a conservative group of politicians who wanted to cut federal spending in an attempt to lower the deficit and a group of more conservative politicians who wanted to cut federal spending more in an attempt to lower the deficit. Missing entirely from the discussion was the voice asking why we're trying to cut spending during a recovery that is looking more and more like a recession every day.

Look at this creepy socialist.
He's such a tax and spend liberal.
In a discussion with someone about this topic I mentioned that domestic federal spending, with the recent budget deal, has returned to the level as a percentage of the GDP that it was at in the 1950s when Eisenhower was president. I was then asked why I wanted the government to take more money from the economy than it did when Ike was president. I'll put aside the fact that the top tax rate when Ike was elected was 92% and 91% when he left office while the highest burden of federal tax today is 35%. I will rather make an appeal to reason.

All I want is economic policy that is based upon facts rather than fear-mongering, flawed ideology and feelings. I want it to be based upon things we know, facts. For example:

1. We know that markets hate uncertainty. Uncertainty is almost always a major indicator of a flailing economy, I haven't made a stringent effort to look for one but I've never known of an economist who would argue against this.

2. We know that battles over raising/lowering taxes, cutting/growing government and deficits create uncertainty within markets.

3. We know that raising taxes certainly has an effect on business owners, corporations, ie. everyone who hires anyone. We can argue over how much of an effect but to deny that taxation affects business is ludicrous.

4. We also know that cutting government spending has an economic effect, namely raising unemployment and removing from the economy the money that those government employees, now unemployed, would have made as pay. Again, we can argue about how much effect this has on an economy but it is impossible to argue that it doesn't have an effect.

It only makes sense, then, that we avoid these things that we know will hurt the economy and do something instead that we know will improve it, to create jobs. The government only has two means of creating jobs, cutting taxes or creating government jobs. The first has already been tried with little to no positive effect on the economy in the Bush tax cuts. It only makes sense then to get unemployed people working again, and imagine that, there's plenty for them to do. Our roads, parks and electrical infrastructure are in a catastrophic state of disrepair, public transportation in the form of high-speed rail is looking to be an efficient and relatively inexpensive way to get people where they want to be fast and that is only a small part of what work there is needing to be done.

It's a good thing we're not trying to find
work for plastic surgeons, no more
work needs to be done on this.
A temporary public works program would get money in people's pockets, lessen the unemployment problem and pump much-needed cash back into the economy. It helped the last time it was tried, we've little reason to think that it won't work again some 75 years later.

I suppose it'll also be necessary to explain why the budget deficit and national debt are unimportant distractions in our current situation but that is for another time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's in a name?

The title of an article in sources of news can be very telling as to the point of view from which that news establishment is coming at with each story that they publish. This was made very clear to me today in seeing the different ways in which different news organizations have covered the recent information brought forward about Guantanamo Bay.

Perhaps I'm strange in feeling this way but to me the most important aspect of the story was the large number of detainees who were completely innocent of any charges for which they were being held and apparently the only actual news organization that agrees is Al Jazeera, with their video segment titled, "Most Guantanamo Prisoners Were No Threat."

Contrast that against the Sydney Morning Herald who decided instead to go with, "Guantanamo 'freed many high-risk inmates'." This is still an important aspect of the story though I don't understand how letting high-risk people go is worse than unconstitutionally jailing innocent people without any kind of rights to due process. It is definitely coming from a different ideological perspective than the Al Jazeera story.

The most bizarre one was the Fox News title for their story on the situation, "U.S. Officials Condemn Release of Secret Guantanamo Files." So according to Fox News the important story isn't the unconstitutional holding of innocent people or the release of people who have gone back to commit terrorist acts from Guantanamo, the story is instead that Wikileaks has the gall to tell us that these things are happening.

We live in strange times here in the states.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Obama & I are Ineligible to be President

I had thought that this debate had ended long ago and that the birthers had finally been driven back to their darkened conspiracy-ridden holes where they belong, but a conversation I had recently with an important person in my life made it abundantly clear that this is not the case. Otherwise normal people still remain convinced that our President is a foreign born Muslim, a belief that is troubling to me, not because people hold it, but rather because it remains so widespread. Apparently this myth still needs debunking, so here is an abundance of proof to put it to rest, at least among those who are acquainted with me, but first, how the eff did this come up?

I recently needed a copy of my birth certificate for completely unrelated reasons and, in a dinner conversation talking about it, made an off-hand joke about how I can't be a presidential candidate in Arizona. The bill there won't go anywhere but it's still unsettling that there is a group of people out there attempting to make it impossible for Americans born in many states other than Arizona to be put on the presidential ballot. As there is no witness or physician signature on my own birth certificate, though I assure you I was born in the United States and not in Kenya (unlike Luke Skywalker), I would not be able to appear as a candidate for President on an Arizona ballot if Republicans had their way. Shockingly (to me anyway) one of my dinner companions announced that Obama wasn't born in the United States, that the birth certificate listed on Obama's campaign website was a fake, the Governor of Hawaii had discovered that Obama was foreign born and covered it up, and that the President was even willing to call himself a Muslim. Until this point I had thought that birthers were all some sort of sufferers from a bizarre mental illness but this conversation shattered that notion, this is a person I respect and admire who had been taken in by this ridiculous myth. So here I am, back to attempting to beat back this lunacy once again.

The birth certificate that Obama's campaign put on the internet was indeed a verified certificate of birth, as verified by,, and the Hawaii Department of Health just to name a few. You can see for yourself here or here. As Politifact noted, "If this document is forged, a U.S. senator and his presidential campaign have perpetrated a vast, long-term fraud. They have done it with conspiring officials at the Hawaii Department of Health, the Cook County (Ill.) Bureau of Vital Statistics, the Illinois Secretary of State's office, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois and many other government agencies."
Not only would they have had to conspire among all of those agencies, they would have had to travel back in time to notify two Hawaii newspapers of the fake Hawaiian birth of our future President. Either that or his parents would have to be part of a conspiracy to, for some reason, foresee that their son would one day be President and commit this fraud so that he may, over 40 years later, perpetrate their evil intentions to change the United States healthcare system and ...not raise taxes.

Any rational person can see that this whole idea is ridiculous, but the reasons behind it aren't so clear. There have been challenges to other Presidents' eligibility before but there's one looming reason why this particular President would have both his nationality and religion questioned, completely disregarding all available evidence to the contrary, and that is his race.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Is everyone really entitled to their own opinion?

Tobold posted an interesting blog post today about the everlasting controversy over whether or not bloggers are considered journalists and to what standards bloggers should be held, I highly suggest reading it to anyone interested in blogging. I'm more interested in something he mentioned offhandedly in his blog, in which he was able to put into words a concept which I've had a hard time explaining recently. He said, "By definition for opinions there is no absolute truth, an opinion can't be right or wrong (although the arguments supporting an opinion can be)."

Many people, when I tell them that their opinion is wrong, attempt to make the argument as stated in the first part of Tobold's statement, that an opinion by definition cannot be right or wrong. The problem with this thinking is exactly as he so eloquently put it in the second part, if the arguments supporting an opinion are false that invalidates that opinion as something that should taken for consideration. Someone may hold the opinion that automobiles are operated by hard-working gnomes under the hood that take directions from the driver's interaction with the steering wheel and pedals but the premises for that opinion are demonstrably false, invalidating the opinion as well. Well, what is my point?

My point is that oftentimes the media treats two sides of an argument equally because both sides are "just opinions" and opinions cannot be false. The problem with this kind of reporting is that, in many instances, one or both of the opinions are based on premises that can be proven false beyond any doubt and yet they are still often reported on as if the opinion remains valid in some way; as if a rational person with evidence may hold that point of view without contradicting reality. This kind of reporting is passed off in every major media outlet as well-balanced and accurate, however never addresses the factual problems inherent in the opinions at the base of the argument. The media needs to acknowledge when there are factual contradictions behind an opinion and stop reporting it versus an opposing idea as if they were equals. They are not and treating them so is as dishonest as the people coming up with these opinions.