John Kerry on Russia:
“it is not appropriate to invade a country, and at the end of the barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not 21st-century, G-8, major nation behavior.”
John Kerry on Russia:
“it is not appropriate to invade a country, and at the end of the barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not 21st-century, G-8, major nation behavior.”
Paul Krugman writes about Paul Ryan's latest flim-flam, replacing magic asterisks with mis-citations:
Give Ryan some points for originality. In his various budgets, he relied mainly on magic asterisks — unspecified savings and revenue sources to be determined later; he was able to convince many pundits that he had a grand fiscal plan when the reality was that he was just assuming his conclusions, and that the assumptions were fundamentally ridiculous. But this time he uses a quite different technique.
What he offers is a report making some strong assertions, and citing an impressive array of research papers. What you aren’t supposed to notice is that the research papers don’t actually support the assertions.
In some cases we’re talking about artful misrepresentation of what the papers say, drawing angry protests from the authors. In other cases the misdirection is more subtle.
Take the treatment of Medicaid and work incentives. I’m going to teach the best available survey on these issues tonight, which looks at the research and finds little evidence of significant disincentive effects from Medicaid (or food stamps). That’s not at all the impression you get from the Ryan report. So I looked at the Medicaid section, and found that it contains a more or less unstructured listing of lots of papers; if you read that list carefully, you find that there really isn’t anything in there making a strong case for large incentive effects.
In other words, the research citations are just there to make the report sound well-informed; they aren’t actually used to derive the conclusions, which more or less come out of thin air.
Well, this sounded familiar to me. It brought to mind Ann Coulter's defense of her own work, in which she also makes things up. According to Ann, the numerous footnotes proved beyond doubt that her arguments were sound. But, not so much:
On July 7, Media Matters for America asked Random House Inc. whether it would investigate charges of plagiarism lodged against right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's latest book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, June 2006). Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of Crown Publishing Group and publisher of the Crown Forum imprint – divisions of Random House Inc. – responded to Media Matters by stating that charges of plagiarism against Coulter were “trivial,” “meritless,” and “irresponsible,” and defended Coulter's scholarship by stating that she “knows when attribution is appropriate, as underscored by the nineteen pages of hundreds of endnotes contained in Godless.”
This was hardly the first time Coulter and her defenders have offered the large number of footnotes contained in her book as “evidence” of the quality of her scholarship. Also on July 7, Terence Jeffrey, editor of conservative weekly Human Events, defended Coulter's book on CNN's The Situation Room by citing her “19 pages of footnotes.” And when similar questions were raised about her 2002 book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (Crown, June 2002), Coulter repeatedly cited her “35 pages of footnotes” as evidence that her claims were accurate.
In response, Media Matters decided to investigate each of the endnotes in Godless. We found a plethora of problems.
Among other things, Coulter:
misrepresented and distorted the statements of her sources;
omitted information in those sources that refuted the claims in her book;
misrepresented news coverage to allege bias;
relied upon outdated and unreliable sources;
and invented “facts.”
What follows is documentation of some of the most problematic endnotes in Godless.
via Media Matters
That's from way back in 2006. You can read on at the link if you really care to read Media Matter's refutation. Maybe they need to do the same exhaustive job on Ryan. The problem is that it takes more time and effort to refute bullshit assertions than to make them; it's a problem I come up against in legal work all the time. This reminds me of another manipulative technique that I've run up against, and,in part, it's something Ryan is relying on here, at least insofar as the treatment he expects from the regular media. If you've ever been on a Town Council, Board of Education or other governmental body, you know it is not unusual for town officials to send board members giant packages of written materials shortly before a meeting. One can hardly complain about getting all relevant information, but the fact is that the members, most of whom have jobs and lives, don't have the time to read through what they're given to find the hidden gems the bureaucrats don't want them to notice. Ryan is pulling the same thing here; he knows that other than a few wonks like Krugman, the media will simply accept the thing (after all, there are footnotes); not bother to examine it; and report it in just the way Ryan wants.
Seven score and ten years ago, an American president delivered the finest inaugural address in history, and perhaps the greatest political speech in that same time span. A bit heavy on the god, but we can over look that. Well worth reading. Still has the power to evoke strong feelings.
Every morning I check my RSS feeds. This morning I was struck by the fact that two unrelated posts sort of fed into one another.
The first was a story about hedge funds that are looking to get a retroactive get out of jail free card from the SEC for blatantly violating rules requiring them to register as broker-dealers in order to collect the massive fees they impose for losing other people's money.
The Bloomberg story acknowledges that the billions in fees collected by the PE industry over decades appear to have been illegal, noting that an SEC official “…signaled in a speech last year that transaction fees the private-equity industry had been taking for decades may have been improper because the firms weren’t registered as broker-dealers.” This official, the chief counsel of the Division of Trading and Markets, now appears to have been thrown under the bus, as his colleagues scramble to find a way to accommodate their PE overlords. Bloomberg makes no bones about the reason for the about-face, titling an entire section of the article “Powerful and Successful Lobby.”
The article quotes industry mouthpieces making the usual intelligence-insulting arguments, including the claim that registering as broker-dealers would be too expensive and that the broker-dealer regime would provide no additional investor protections beyond the status quo, where PE firms are already registered as investment advisers. This latter claim is outright false. Customers who have been harmed by the bad acts of broker-dealers have much stronger rights than investment adviser clients because broker-dealer clients can sue to recover for investment losses. Similarly-situated customers of investment advisers can only seek recovery of fees paid to the adviser, but not recovery of investment losses.
via Naked Capitalism
So here's an example of the top .01% buying its way out of criminal liability and, potentially, into a position to siphon more money out of the economy without, of course, doing anything of value for the economy or society.
Next up was Dean Baker's latest, in which he takes on Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, who tell us that we should stop being jealous of our betters and just suck it up while they impoverish us.
Brooks tells us that people who are unhappy about the enormous upward redistribution of the last three decades are guilty of the sin of envy. Let's try an alternative hypothesis, large segments of the public are angry because the wealthy are rigging the rules so that an ever larger share of the pie gets redistributed to their pockets.
via Beat the Press
Also see Krugman, who makes the same point.
Loop back to the Naked Capitalism post: a perfect example of what Baker is talking about. How many people in the bottom 99.9 get to retroactively legalize criminal behavior and keep their ill gotten gains to boot?
The usual Congressional suspects are beating the drums of war regarding the Ukraine. I have an absolutely absurd suggestion, which I nonetheless advance in all seriousness.
Were I Obama, I would point out that Article I, Section 8 of an obscure document called the United States Constitution vests the power to declare war in the United States Congress. You laugh, but it's true-look it up. So my suggestion is that Obama should tell Huckleberry and his cohorts that if they want him to start a war with Russia, they should exercise their Congressional authority to make him do it.
In other contexts this is called “calling their bluff”. It's easy enough to urge action in a situation where no conceivable action could be successful (at least no military action), when you know that you will never be blamed for the outcome. (After all, Huckleberry has not suffered for drumbeating Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran–have I missed any?) But if Congress demands a war, then it takes reponsibility for getting us into what will no doubt be a morass. Huckleberry and his cohorts can ride the crest of the non-existent wave of public sentiment for war with Russia. I'd give the chances for that war resolution passing Congress at exactly zero.
A few days ago I noted that CPAC was allowing the American Atheists to have a booth at its upcoming convention, but not GOProud, a group of Gay Republicans. (That term should be an oxymoron, but oddly enough, it's not). l expressed some reservations about whether the Atheists had indeed gotten a booth, it being so hard to believe that the whackos running CPAC would do such a thing.
Well, my reluctance to believe my usually very reliable source was somewhat justified. The Atheists were given a booth, but CPAC giveth, and CPAC taketh away:
Yesterday, CPAC organizers announced that they had changed their mind about inviting American Atheists to set up a booth at this year's conference, which will be held March 6-8 at National Harbor. The group's president said he was “really disappointed, but … not at all surprised” by the reverse of their fortunes. “We were going to CPAC specifically to combat the notion that one must be Christian in order to be conservative. We wanted to bring that to the forefront.”
via The Fix
Actually, I very much doubt that these particular atheists are all that conservative, but be that as it may. I don't claim to be a Christian, but I know what Christ is purported to have preached, and I absolutely agree that you don't have to be a Christian to be a conservative. In fact, you can't be a Christian and a conservative in this country at this time. There is only one thing one must be to be a conservative: a hypocrite.
But, as an afterthought, I would really urge the CPACers to reconsider. After all, shouldn't atheists be most likely to not only be conservative but act like conservatives? Christians, after all, are (supposedly) under an injunction to do good to their fellow man (putting predestination aside for the moment) They are constrained in their selfishness by their fear of what comes after; the “undiscovered country ” of which Hamlet spoke. Atheists are under no such constraint, and by the logic of conservative thought, they should be totally self interested and and act that way, there being no heaven unto which they might aspire. And isn't that what the prophet Ayn teaches? Why surely it is easier for an atheist to get into the kingdom of Rand than either a camel or a (real) Christian.
A few days ago they reported at Kos that a bunch of gay Republicans were absolutely delighted that they were going to be allowed to attend the next CPAC conference.
The dispute with GOProud dates back to 2011, when a number of socially conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council, objected to the group's involvement and declined to participate. Insults were traded between GOProud leaders and ACU board members, culminating in the group's exclusion.
Two former GOProud summer interns, Ross Hemminger and Matt Bechstein, took over last summer and sought to repair the bitterly frayed relationship. Under a compromise reached last week, they will attend the March 6-8 gathering as guests, without sponsorship or a booth. GOProud sees the lower-profile role as an important first step. (Emphasis mine)
via Daily Kos
Well, that seems fair. Well, really it doesn’t, but in the alternate reality that is Republican thought (an oxymoron, I know) it passes for fairness.
But, if this is true, doesn't it send just a tiny message about where conservatives put gays in the scheme of things:
David Silverman, Amanda Knief, and Dave Muscato are going to be at an American Atheists booth at CPAC, that radical Conservative Political Action Committee meeting all the wingnuts attend.
It’s a cunning trick. If they survive, they know we’re all going to have another reason to attend the convention in Salt Lake City — so that we can take them to a bar and ply them with beverages and get them to tell us all the stories.
That's right. If this is true, then the modern day right wing is willing to give a booth to a bunch of godless atheists who are neither conservative nor Republican, but not to self professed Republican conservatives who happen to be gay. There is a lesson to be learned here, but my guess is that Ross and Matt will not learn it. None so blind as those who will not see.
Now this is how it’s supposed to work. Plucky young entrepreneur finds a need and fills it.
The New York Times expressed some reservations about the Comcast-Times Warner deal, which in any sane country would be illegal, and probably is, though no one will do anything about it. Among other things, the Times worried that Comcast might make use of its market position to extract money from services such as Netflix, destroying net neutrality in the bargain. But in a letter in today's Times, industry shill Chad Gutstein says not to worry:
Your concern that Comcast as an Internet provider will discriminate against unaffiliated content companies like Netflix now that the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” rules have been overturned is also misplaced. Comcast agreed to a version of those rules during federal review of its acquisition of NBC Universal and now stands as the only Internet service provider that must adhere to them — something the merger review could actually extend.
via New York Times
That was this morning. Today we learn that Comcast and Netflix have struck a deal. Netflix will pay extra to get its content streamed more quickly by Comcast. Well, there goes net neutrality. You can quibble about legal technicalities, but if this stands, that's the end of the open internet. The truly infuriating thing about this is that Netflix did it not because they necessarily wanted to one up the competition, but because Comcast's service sucks so bad that they needed to do something to satisfy their own customers, for you see, in this country we pay more and get less when in comes to internet speeds.
Netflix certainly has plenty of incentive to pony up. Comcast falls near the bottom of Netflix’s rankings for which ISPs deliver the best streaming experience to its subscribers, and less than a week ago, Netflix groused that streaming performance for its service on major ISP networks was getting worse.
One reason for the shitty service may be (why do I say "may") the lack of real regulation in this country. Why improve service when you can simply milk a monopoly? And why not take advantage of that monopoly to favor the big guys who can pay over the small guys who can't? The big guys don't really mind; in the end they just pass the costs along.
There's nothing new under the sun. Once again I'm reminded of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Bully Pulpit, in which she describes the long and bitter fight to regulate the railways, who did exactly the same thing Comcast is doing today. The railroads made deals similar to the Netflix/Comcast deal with the big guys and charged prohibitive rates to their small competitors (if they were willing to transport their stuff at all). It helped that the same guys who controlled the railroads often controlled the companies whose products were being shipped, just as Comcast controls some content providers. It only stopped when the Federal government stepped in and imposed "railway neutrality", if I might coin a term. In a measure of how far we've come, while Roosevelt and Taft managed to get that reform through a recalcitrant Congress, it is impossible to even conceive of our Congress doing anything to protect us from the new monopolists.
It's been a while since the subject of grifting has come up on this blog, but the practice is still alive and well out there. And truly I say unto you, this may be the greatest grift of them all. Ken Ham, who just lost a science vs. creationism debate to Bill Nye, is building a new amusement park to compete with his already failing Creation Museum. This one will feature a full scale replica of Noah's Ark and a petting zoo, though apparently no attempt will be made to cram “two of every kind into the ark”. But this is a grift on a massive scale, for it requires a “boatload (or is that busload?) of faith to get by” Ham is trying to raise 55.5 million dollars for his fantasy park, and who knows how much of that money will find its way into his pockets. But to do it, he has to issue bonds, and to issue bonds, you have to make disclosures about risk, meaning you have to tell people the truth, more or less:
Underneath all of this Biblical interpretation, though, buying Ham’s Ark Encounter bonds is a high-risk proposition. The offering lists 39 potential risks to investors, including the possibility that animals in the petting zoo could contract infectious diseases, potential lawsuits by civil liberties and animal rights activists, and the fact that the bond relies almost completely on a competent, good-faith effort by Answers in Genesis. Ultimately, the park “may never achieve positive cash flow,” which the documents note could lead to a default on the bonds.
Most alarmingly, the bonds are not rated by a ratings agency—an indication that they are extremely risky. AiG has no obligation to pay the bonds, which means that the park will have to be up and running before investors see any returns. And if the project collapses, bond buyers risk losing their entire investment.
So, it's out there for anyone to see that this is a scam, but Ham is counting on the beliefs he shares with his marks that people can't evolve (and that their not likely to read the prospectus). Most of all, he's counting on good old religious and political bigotry, “to which he has never yet appealed in vain” to pull him through.
Basically, Ham is hawking Creationist junk bonds—a fact that he has tried to mask with fire-and-brimstone evangelism and apocalyptic warnings about the “immense spiritual battle” for America. In a fundraising letter sent last month, Ham suggested that the project is being sabotaged by secularists and asked believers to “step out in faith” to support the project.
And step out they will, at least some of them. Whether he can soak another 29.5 million, the amount he needs to actually build the thing (does he really care about that) is another matter, but whether he reaches his goal or not, the amount he has raised so far is a tribute to the grifter profession.
And we non-crazies can take comfort from the fact that every dime he grifts is one less dime available for more nefarious and more effective political purposes. Bless you, grifters, bless you all.