Saturday, June 1, 2013

Will they listen . . . now?" #2

[As an aside, ShrinkRap's absence for the past couple of days is due to a computer monitor problem.    I ended up researching, obsessing about which replacement to get, and then buying and installing a new monitor.   Working fine now.]

As to the austerity measure and its debunking, as I wrote in my last post, this has been further debunked by a new academic study that both confirms the graduate student's discovery of methodological errors and also shows a negative effect.

That is, it shows not only that austerity doesn't help the economy in such times, it actually makes it worse.  We've known that, but it helps to have it documented.

So I repeat my question:   "Will they listen . . . now?"    And I repeat my answer:  "Probably not."


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Now . . . will they listen?

Republicans are obsessed with their ideology of small government, cutting taxes, and austerity in spending.   Never mind the data that show this is exactly the wrong way to go in a recession.   Because anything that smacks of Keynesian economics (stimulus, deficit spending) undercuts their ideology.

Their budget darling, Paul Ryan, was a disciple of Ayn Rand until it was pointed out that she was also a militant atheist;  so he had to disavow her in name, but he kept her economic philosophy.

Public opinion polls show that the American people are more concerned about jobs (an argument for stimulus spending) much more than they are about the deficit (the reason given for austerity).   That didn't make a dent in their adherence to ideology.

Then a few weeks ago, a bright graduate student cut the legs out from under the principle academic book that preached austerity, pointing out glaring methodological errors that made their whole conclusion wrong.    Still they didn't retract and turn around.

Now, the latest figures of a declining Gross Domestic Product, a measure of economic growth, show a declining GDP even lower than anticipated for the first quarter.   This correlates with decrease in government spending, which comes from the austerity measures Republicans insisted on.

Now will they listen?   I doubt it.   Probably nothing short of electoral defeat in 2014 will make them listen.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bye, bye, Michele

Michele Bachmann announced today that she will not run for re-election in 2014.

This is a good thing.   She has been useless as a legislator (see her record below).  The amount of media-attention she garnered was directly proportional to the outrageousness of her statements, not her accomplishments.  Here's a partial list:

1.  Conspiracy theories:   She once accused "top State Department officials" of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.   Another time she said that the government was going to use the Census to round people up to put in interment camps.  Even Glenn Beck thought that was a bit nutty.

2.  Speaking for God:   Various storms were claimed by her as God speaking to politicians.  Both 9/11 and the Benghazi attack were God's judgment on us.

3.  Crazy links:   Financial regulatory reform was like "Mussolini style fascism."   Health care reform was "the crown jewel of socialism," while tax reform was "a weapon of mass destruction."   Remember, she claims to be a tax lawyer.   She also claimed that health care reform would lead to "sex clinics," whatever that might mean.  And then there was the one about the HPV vaccine, warning parents not to have their children vaccinated because it could lead to brain damage.

4.  Anti-intellectualism:   She once claimed that "a sizable portion" of the scientific community discredits the theory of evolution.   And:  "There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design."

What of her accomplishments as a legislator?   Here's the record, compiled by a service that tracks and records governmental actions in the interest of transparency:

Bachmann signed on as a sponsor to 58 bills;  53 of them were referred to committee.  Most of them (48) died in committee.   Of the remaining five, three were simple dime-a-dozen resolutions (recognizing Minnesota's 150 anniversary;  recognizing September as "Hydrocephalus Awareness Month," and honoring public service organizations for foster children).   One was a local river project in MN, which apparently got nowhere.

The sole bill that she co-sponsored that was passed by the House was the repeal of Obamacare -- which the House has now voted on and passed 37 times.    And, of course, it died in the Senate.

So in her six years in Congress, she was completely unsuccessful in passing any that became a law.  She made a lot of noise, and create plenty of heat;  but it was really much ado about nothing.

Perhaps Michele misheard God when she thought it was his will that she run for President.  Surely God must have better judgment than that.

Bye, bye, Michele.   It'll be good to have you gone.


John McCain Goes to Syria #2

At least on MSNBC last night, not everyone is happy with John McCain's (possible) rogue trip to meet with rebels in Syria.   Especially his renewed call for giving them arms.

There were two experts on that region interviewed last night who said this just undermines everything the Obama administration has been trying to do to get some peace process started there.

One said, vehemently, the only way to stop the violence is to stop sending more arms to the country -- both to the Assad regime, as Iran and Hezbollah are doing, and to the rebels.   We're just engaging in an arms race by proxy.

The other problem with arming rebels is that there is no clarity about who would be getting the arms and whether they are ones who could govern if they gain power -- or whether the arms would just be fueling sectarian inter-fighting and brutality.

Also the other said, Secretary of State John Kerry "must be pulling out his hair" in exasperation at McCain's undermining tactic.


Monday, May 27, 2013

John McCain goes to Syria

So John McCain "sneaked into Syria," as the Huffington Post headlined the story, to meet with the rebel commander.

McCain has been a sharp critic of the Obama administration's policy toward Syria;  so what I want to know isdid McCain make this trip with the president's blessing -- perhaps even at his request?    Or is McCain playing rogue foreign policy maker?

So far, media reports have not mentioned any official sanction for the trip -- either way.   My guess is that it was with permission, if not outright request.   But we'll know in time, I suppose.


Does social change influence SCOTUS?

It's an ongoing argument: How much do public opinion and social change influence U. S. Supreme Court decision-making?    I argue that justices live in the real world and must be affected, as anyone else is, by the people they know, the books and articles they read, and by the general cultural makeup.

Justice Scalia (and presumably Thomas) insist that decisions are made solely on the law and the constitution.

So, as we await their decisions on the two gay marriage cases, will they be influenced by the fact that -- just since they held the hearings in March -- three more U. S. states and three other countries have approved same-sex marriages?


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Krugman: "Maybe I'm actually right . . "

Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, is a favorite target for conservatives who preach austerity.   Despite mounting evidence that austerity is the wrong policy for today's problems -- stimulus and job creation is the answer -- critics continue to deny the obvious and to look for more ways to discredit Krugman.

I like his simple, succinct response:   "Maybe I'm actually right."

But Krugman, being a bit combative himself, didn't let it rest there.    He said something else that's true:
“There remains essentially no room for independent thinking within the conservative movement. . . . Being a good liberal doesn’t require that you believe, or pretend to believe, lots of things that almost certainly aren’t true; being a good conservative does.”
He has written before about issues in which the evidence is overwhelming for one side of an argument, and yet conservatives continue to argue the opposite.   Austerity in time of recession is one of those.

They just will not deviate from their dogma that "cutting taxes" is the solution to every economic problem.  And yet both conservatiove icons Ronald Reagen and Margaret Thatcher raised taxes.   Ask most conservatives about this, and they simply refuse to believe it.

Paul Krugman is right.