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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spain is more ... 'urgent' than Egypt

MADRID (AFP) – Spain announced Friday its jobless rate surged to a 13-year record above 20 percent at the end of 2010, the highest level in the industrialised world, as the economy gasped for air.

It was more bad news for an economy fighting to regain the trust of financial markets and avoid being trapped in a debt quagmire that has engulfed Greece and Ireland and now menaces Portugal.

Another 121,900 people joined Spain's unemployment queues in the final quarter of the year, pushing the total to 4.697 million people, said the national statistics institute INE.

Have you noticed?

Once was that 'hard times' was when, despite slack job markets, political power shifted to workers and labor and progressive ideas.

Have you noticed that the current perception, based in reality, is that the opposite is somehow occurring?

Anyway, last week's update on the coming fight over State budgets. EJ McMahon in the WSJ (link).

Of course, without some metric to suggest that public sector unions are somehow getting sweet deals, this is a bit thinly supported.

The I-P Conflict: Why are negotitations "secrets"?

From a historical perspective the ultimate loser from the Al Jazeera leaks is Ehud Barak: he now has a legitimate claim to have been one of the most destructive leaders Israel has ever had. He invented the slogan “there is no partner” that has shaped Israel’s collective consciousness for the last decade. His center-left credentials, that he has now officially forgone, gave this slogan enormous weight. To explain away his historic failure to achieve an agreement with the Palestinians, he has repeated this slogan time and again and turned himself into the fig-leaf for Israel’s most extreme right-wing government ever.

The entire analysis is worth the read.

The Perniciousness of Glen Beck

Who wouldn't agree with Piven's assessment in this clip?

Now, the Right got its way, in spades, on ACORN. We know that part of that was pressuring lawmakers and even a concerted disinformation campaign.

So, what does the Left - what does the Nation - do about this stuff from Beck and FOX? Is it sufficient to simply remark outrage and move on to the next day's outrage?

Friday, January 21, 2011

I love Bob Cesca

I don't usually just link a story, but Bob just has a way with putting things, including the made-of-sand part, if you get the reference (that maybe he didn't even intend):

Dick Cheney's Heart Device Was Developed With Taxpayer Money

The political fight to make sure that the pensioners pay

It's true.

Bankruptcy court is dangerous, apparently, so there has to be another avenue.

What's the bet that "other avenue" is stacked? In GOPTea-logic, if someone is going to be welched on, it would be the holders of pension liabilities, the pensioners, not the people who bought the bonds, right?

One does sense the odor of another bailout of the wealthiest, although it is a bit early to say.

Angelo Mozilo Good For Another $4.0 Billion...

It appears that former Countrywide CEO and "friend" of congrisscritters is good for another $4.0 billion writedown.


leading to infamous quotes surrounding 'it's a liquidity problem, not a solvency problem'.

Where's the mash-up of the CNBC people who said that for weeks and weeks and called it 'business reporting'?

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Texas-size Boondoggle


So, "comprehensive immigration reform", i.e. actually doing something sensible about the millions of people who are already here illegally, had to wait, according to GOP logic, until we had secured the borders. Fine.

Now, it turns out that Bush-41 rushed the legislation, put up a totally daft billion dollars to a contractor (Boeing) for the super-amazing 'virtual fence' and have delivered nothing, including in the past two years, until Napolitano finally canceled the project, putting a note of the same in this week's Friday trash.

Because all of that looks like a politically self-serving failure, it's more than just the regular-way boondoggle, notwithstanding the millions of lives who really deserve better from us all. And, of course, this blog predicted that the GOP Senators were either lying to the electorate or fooling themselves about the ultimate cost, when they voted a paltry sum in the first round. There have been many rounds of funding, since...

In case you wanted to get angry:

Last night, the CBO released the long-awaited cost estimate of S. 3992, the latest version of the DREAM Act. The CBO found that putting thousands of young, undocumented immigrants on a path to legalization would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over ten years


Friday, January 14, 2011

About "Escape Velocity"

To all those hipsters who were impressed with "escape velocity" and, you know, this or that Wall Street economist who upped their 2011 GDP forecast (as if ...):

"U.S. states will contend with about $140 billion in deficits in the next fiscal year, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington research group, said in a report issued Dec. 16."

How much was that social security tax cut, $120B?, maybe half of which will go to pay down debt and keep pace with rising energy prices?

"I think we need a bigger boat."

And, in case that doesn't make the case, consider these "headwinds", which suggest that even fewer are going to have additional cash to spend because of the 'tax holiday':

Employers can expect to pay 8.8 percent more for their employees’ healthcare premiums in 2011, the highest increase in five years, according to an analysis by Hewitt Associates. Employers’ healthcare premium costs increased 6.9 percent in 2010 and 6.0 percent in 2009. The 2011 increase is attributed to recent higher medical claim costs, an aging population, and changes resulting from healthcare reform.

The average healthcare premium per employee for large companies will be $9,821 in 2011, up from $9,028 in 2010, according to the Hewitt analysis. Employees will be asked to contribute 22.5 percent of the total healthcare premium, or $2,209, in 2011, up from 21.8 percent ($1,966) in 2010. Average employee out-of-pocket costs—such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles—are expected to be $2,177 in 2011, a 12.5 percent increase from 2010.

These projections mean that in a decade, total healthcare premiums will have more than doubled, from $4,083 in 2001 to $9,821 in 2011, and employees’ share of medical costs, including employee contributions and out-of-pocket costs, will have more than tripled, according to Hewitt.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The GOP-Tea's Cynical Politics of Paralysis

The Obama memorial speech in Arizona was Presidential.

There is no criticism, except that, in times of crisis, America (like others?) falls back on American exceptionalism, which is fine and bogus at the same time.

The President told a nation weary of the cynical politics of paralysis of the past two years, in which the GOP attempted to slow-down, hold-back, and delay an energetic, engaging new President, that everyone should remain hopeful.

Next week, the GOP will be back to do-nothing strategies like repealing the Health Care Affordability act and, no doubt, launching an investigation into "the Clintons", and pushing the bogus, saying-nothing phrase, "comprehensive tax reform".

Afterall, those financing the GOP will only give up so much paid "vacation".

In memorial service in Arizona, husband of Gabby Giffords thanks the openly-gay intern whose quick actions on scene probably saved the life of his wife.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Are you afraid of what is complex?


We're told that the tax code is too complex, so we need to simplify it, and call doing so "Comprehensive Tax Reform".

But simple is not efficient, is it? I mean, you can do great harm with solutions that are too simple and, thereby, insufficient to their corresponding problems.

Would you say that a three-gear shift is better than a five-gear shift, just because it is simpler? No. Why are three tax brackets better, then?

I would expect the tax law of any developed, diversified economy to be complex, to be just. Human activity is varied and complex and I can't see how you can deny that or pretend that there is a simple solution.

Smart regulation and smart taxation doesn't have to do with simplification, per se.

Rachel Maddow is wrong

Like so many, she keeps forgetting that it is money that makes the world go round.

So, on gun control, if there is a tax cut in it, then something could be done.

Otherwise, the issue suits the politics of money, by dividing the electorate so that some vote against their economic interest. (Although the new dog whistle for the same is 'Comprehensive Tax Reform').

Almost all the rest is noise. Almost. Sad, but true.

[If you doubt me, consider that 'Big Tobacco' killed more people, perhaps even more gruesomely, and it was a struggle to change it for how long? It was mostly when other fortunes were made that the old ones could be challenged. The role of science, public health (including socialized health cost) was arguably of minimal impact on the long trajectory of 'the right to smoke'.]

The endless duplicity and 'have your cake and eat it'

...of the GOP-Tea is astounding on so many topics, but, given the recent frothing over the first amendment, especially for Christians, consider this note on the "free speech" of the Westboro Baptist group's intention to exercise free speech at the upcoming Tucson memorial(s):

“Such despicable acts of emotional terrorism will not be tolerated in the State of Arizona,” Ms. Brewer said in a statement

It's a welcome statement, but as a position for the current crop of GOP-Tea, how much more two-faced can you get on the first amendment?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pathetic Political Leadership of John Boehner

With millions - millions - facing an employment situation that will remain anemic for years, according to testimony given by Fed Chief Bernanke this week and with American soldiers dying daily in Afghanistan's "surge", it was a horror to watch Republicans stage a smug show that there was some urgency associated with reading the Constitution on the floor of the House.

But, today, is worse.

Just a day after declining to say whether the President of the United States is a legitimate official because the new Speaker of the House didn't want to dictate what people believe, he releases a statement about violence in America.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fired for Historical Fiction Blogging

I don't know what "historical fiction" might be, exactly; but, it can get you fired.

Yes, I'm not exaggerating.