Monday, December 19, 2011

Mr Ballance Himself Has an interesting column

The Ballance balance pun which I flog relentlessly is due to Chris Cillizza who is not to be blamed for the fact that an editor ignored the rules he chose for a corruption scorecard and added Jack Ballance for balance.

He wrote a very odd column about the House Republicans blocking the payroll tax cut extension ostensibly because they like the payroll tax cut so much.

It is (as usual) a column about the political debate, but Cillizza waits till the second to last paragraph to quote a Democrat (a quote which includes as few words as, and no more words than, are this parenthetical comment includes).

This is actually non ballance. Cillizza doesn't quote Democrats because he argues with the Republicans himself. Still it is odd to read so much nonsense without reading anyone noting that it is nonsense.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Watch this arabic language McDonalds ad. To understand Arabic views of US capitalism, gender relations, Big Macs and Meat Loaf, ... oh hell just watch

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Presidential Campaign has Been Going on too Long

I read "MIT" as "Mitt" here "MIT’s Light Speed Camera Captures Photons Moving" then I immediately thought that, maybe with this new miracle technology they can freeze Romney's policy positions and capture him mid flip flop.

And it's 2011.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

All evidence from the debates notwithstanding, there is a Republican with a brain.

Asif Mandvi, reporter for the "Daily Show," tried to prank Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, asking for a sample of her urine. She immediately forked it over, though it was only apple juice -- yazakchattiest.

I want a brokered convention.

the plan added up to an actual elimination of Medicare even though Ryan planned to spray-paint "Medicare" on an old railroad bridge in Janesville and point to it and say, "See? Medicare is still there."

Oh hell, to save pixels, the quote of every day is just whatever Charles Pierce wrote that day.

How does he write that well ? Did he sell his soul to the devil ? If yes, did he make a good bargain ?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Kinsley gaffe to top all Kinsley gaffes

Michael Kinsley noted that politician's gaffes occur when they accidentally say something which is true, universally known to be true, and damaging to themselves.

Ex Senator Rick Santorum just said "Science should get out of politics." I am willing to bet that his aids told him to say "politics should get out of science" and argue that schools only teach about Darwin because of politically correct affirmative action for 19th century rich English gentlemen.

But ooops little Ricky said what he really thinks. Science should not mess with his political program or his religion (of course in his mind there is no distinction).

By the way, I have long been a huge fan of Michael Kinsley (including back when I only knew of him as the new anonymous author of TRB). So writing the post below was painful.
Brad is right. I was wrong. Michael Kinsley has become a reflexively contrarian twit who can't manage to avoid contradicting himself.

Kinsley wrote a blog post here

"For every group Obama takes to task, he also has a “to be sure” passage in which he tries to make clear that he’s not talking about you. But if you listen to the music, not the words, you might well think otherwise."

So Kinsley feels free to ignore the words. After sneering at Obama for "to be sure" he dares to write

"this distinction is hard to maintain if you’re simultaneously suggesting that there is something ill-gotten about most rich people’s gains."

Note the weasel word "suggesting." Kinsley has just noted that Obama said the opposite of what he writes Obama was "suggesting." Positive proof that a claim is false doesn't matter, because as a pundit, he can always ignore what Obama said and write about what he thinks unattentive listeners might have thought he said. So ignoring the text when interpreting is a form of sophistication, because the really hard challenge is to figure out how people who don't pay attention to the facts hear things.

Then at length Kinsley plagiarizes while pretending he is criticizing

"conflating actual crooks and the innocent affluent makes it hard to claim that raising their taxes isn’t punishment for some form of misbehavior. Taxes are not a punishment; they are a source of necessary revenue. But if you tie them to the financial scandal, they sound pretty punitive."

Notice that he has gone from discussing what some might think Obama said if one ignored what he actually said, to ignoring what Obama said. Having admitted that the claim immediately above is totally false, Kinsley asserts that Obama suggested it. Read down a few lines, and it becomes something Obama did with no qualifications. In a few sentences black has become white and up has become down.

Does Kinsley really think Washington Monthly readers are dumb enough to fall for that ?

He goes on to say that the middle class must be hammered. He pretends to forget that Obama proposed doing so this summer. The claim that this must be done is just something that everyone who is anyone accepts. There is no need to present evidence.

Also it is outrageous to say that a family with income of $250,000 is borderline rich, because Kinsley has totally lost touch with the vast majority of people in the USA (and don't even think of the world).

update: I just realized that Kinsley criticized Obama on the grounds that an income of $250,000 does not make a family rich and for not asking (in this speech as opposed to his policy proposals) for sacrifices from the middle class. Again, the two criticisms contradict each other. No matter what Obama said, Kinsley must be wrong, just based on logic.

update 2: Welcome Thomaites. I didn't like the Kinsley post, but it is criticism at its best compared to the work of the title, abstract and illustrations guy at The Washington Monthly.

"To be sure" Kinsley's conclusion isn't harsh. He concludes that the speech was not "a really great speech" but now the illustration and teaser suggests that Obama is the reincarnation of Robespierre.

Chrome's automatic URL completer often has trouble deciding if I want to go to The Washington Post or The Washington Monthly. Today, I have trouble deciding to which organ of the absolute faith in Ballance and cutting social security it sent me.

I commented. Much below is redundant.

I have long defended you from criticism at my friend Brad DeLong's blog, but I think I will now give up and admit that he was right.

First income of $250,000 makes one incredibly rich by any reasonable standard. The fact that you are spoiled doesn't mean that the top 3% isn't rich.

Second Obama has described extremely painful spending cuts and significant tax increases in great detail. You earn a place with T Friedman by insisting that Obama do what he has already done.

You may have forgotten everything that happened last summer, but a responsible columnist would have googled it.

Finally, you agree with Obama's policy proposals. You note that he always adds a "to be sure" to explain that he is not lumping honest people together with crooks. Indeed you snear at him for doing exactly that. You also snear at him for not doing that.

Put the criticism from the sentence including "to be sure" along with the criticism that Obama didn't make the distinctions you make and you find that logic alone proves that you are wrong.

Basically your problem is you know a banker whose feelings are hurt. You admit that it is absurd, ridiculous and nonsensical to critice Obama because of this tragic event,then go on to do so.

I think your fundamental problem is that you are envious. Obama is President. He clearly knows more than you do. He makes serious policy proposals which I can't remember the last you made. He writes better than you do. He has carisma. That is soooo unfair.

I admit, in advance, that I envy you, partly because you write infinitely better than I do.

Also, of course, you must be contrarian.

So now I have to admit (to Brad) that he was right and I was wrong. And I hate that.
An inside the inside of insider baseball post

I have noticed some people claiming on the web that those who jokingly pretend to believe the Mickey Kaus has sex with goats have had our comeuppance, since the accusation began when he speculation that John Edwards had had sex with someone other than Elisabeth Edwards and, lo and behold, Kaus was right.

This history of the goat sex joke is innaccurate. It was started by Duncan Black with this post

Kaus - Sleeps With Goats

In my eyes, I have to say, it's likely that it's true. Any claims by Kaus to not have carnal knowledge of goats will just be more evidence that the man is a liar.

posted April 29 2004 when Black learned that Kaus made unfounded accusations against John Kerry, that's Kerry with a K not Edwards with an E (the one without the great hair who windsurfed).
He just can't help himself.

Dana Milbank fires both barrels at Newt Gingrich in this column. He doesn's speculate about erotic activities with pigs*, but I'm sure that's only because of the 700 word limit.

But even here, he just has to throw in a bit of Ballance

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones recently dug up a 1978 Gingrich quotation lamenting that “one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.”

Thanks to Gingrich, this is no longer a problem, in either party.

Milbank presents no evidence that Democrats are sufficiently nasty. In fact he doesn't quote a single Democrat. He doesn't argue that they have gotten nastier since 1994. There is no need to present evidence that Obama is nastier than Johnson, because the phrase "in either party" is automatically valid and need not be supported by any evidence.

I almost suspect that it is an unconscious tic. It could be that Milbank wrote and wrote, then realized that he had criticized only a Republican and added the totally unsupported swipe at the Democrats. But it is also possible that he claims that both sides share a fault as automatically and unconsciously as he breaths.

* pigs not goats as I am discussing the nastiness of Johnson and not Mickey Kaus's approach to journalism.
A Better Press Corps

Mary Ann Milbourn writing about extended unemployment insurance in the Orange County Register shows how it's done.

Meanwhile, the proposed unemployment extension would continue the current 99 weeks of benefits now available to the long-term unemployed. There would be no additional benefits for the so-called 99ers, who have exhausted their 99 weeks.

Not everyone understands this. Some people (sorry no links just memories) clearly think further extension means extension to a 100th week. The actual fact isn't a deep dark secret (I knew it) but it is usually not reported in articles about the latest twists and turns in Congress.

I sure didn't know any of the following and wonder why I don't get information like this in The Washington Post

Congress faces a Dec. 31 deadline for extending the benefits. If they are not extended, California Employment Development Department officials estimate 95,000 unemployed workers who are collecting benefits on their last tier of so-called FedEd aid would face an immediate cutoff.

Benefits for others who are on one of the four other federal unemployment extensions would end as soon as they complete the tier they currently are on, said Loree Levy, an EDD spokeswoman.

As of October, 970,000 unemployed workers in California had been out of work more than 26 weeks and were collecting on one of the five tiers of extended benefits.

Levy said that ultimately 1.5 million unemployed Californians will be affected. Without the federal extensions, the newly unemployed will only eligible for the standard 26 weeks of state benefits.

That's 132 words of solid information. Not a lot of trees killed. Why am I amazed ?
Now I know the effect of the bill on people in California. To find out about the other 49 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam I will have to find other serious newspapers.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

There she goes again. This is my second post on an article by Rosalind S. Helderman on the payroll tax.

This time, she doesn't mention the totally false argument that the payroll tax holiday reduces the balance of the Social Security trust fund. I guess this is an improvement compared to mentioning it and failing to note that it is absolutely false, but I still think a correction of the false claim which she repeated (neither in her own name nor for attribution) without noting its falsehood is in order.

My complaint this time is with this paragraph

Democrats believe the tax cut could help stimulate the economy by giving consumers more of their paychecks to spend. But many Republicans believe it’s a short-term gimmick that will not spur economic development and would complicate efforts to do a total rewrite of the tax code that would result in lower rates.

She does not have ESP. She can't know what Democrats or many Republicans *believe* but only what they claim.

Personally, I suspect that some of those Republicans oppose the bill, because they think it could help stimulate the economy. The cited arguments (after the removal of the one which is based on a false claim of fact which she noted earlier) make no sense. To call something a gimmick is not to argue against it. To argue that short term policy must be bad is to assume that the current economic situation is normal. And there is no chance of said total rewrite and everyone knows it.

But, if I were a reporter, not a blogger, I would not feel free to speculate about what is in peoples' minds and, unlike Helderman stick to reporting what comes out of their mouths.
Fiction In the Washington Post

I don't want to make this a daily feature but Anthony Faiola and Michael Birnbaum made it hard for me to get past The Washington Post (my home page) without an angry blog post. In what is supposed to be a news article, they make a false claim of fact. They do not point to any supporting evidence (nor could they as their claim is plainly false) nor do they quote even a self appointed expert.

Their claim that "Europe’s crisis now is as much political as economic. It stems from a legacy of overspending and overborrowing, but ..." is false. Spain and Ireland were running budget surpluses and had a debt to GDP ratio lower than Germany's. Italy had a primary surplus and declining debt to GDP ratio. Germany happens to be the one and only country allowed to adopt the Euro in spite of not meeting the Maastricht conditions (which shows how stupid those rules were).

Now, I suppose that the claim is vague enough to be not proven false -- they didn't write public "overspending and over borrowing." Indeed the root cause of most of the crisis, here in Europe as well as in the USA, ws a combination of banking deregulation and banker's errors.

Here I think the problem is that they consider the sentence which I truncated to be a claim that the problem isn't just over public spending and under taxing by Greece and Portugal. They go on to criticize Germany "but ... it also reflects a lack of investor faith in the will of financially solid nations such as Germany to unite behind their troubled neighbors to shore up the currency union." so they can't say that the German position is total nonsense. That would be unBallancelicht.

But the German claims are false.

update: I posted before finishing the article. They go on to write "That plan called for treaty changes to set a limit for budget deficits at 3 percent of gross domestic product and a cap on debt of 60 percent of GDP — effectively mandating good fiscal governance." I submit that the word "good" should not appear in an article presented as news not opinion. I also happen to think that, right now, the "good" fiscal governance would cause a severe recession and would be "good" to exactly the extent that "good" means "horrible" and "idiotic." The demands of Ballance make it simply impossible to cover the debate without accepting the assumption that austerity is always good.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ballance in the Washington Post part way too many.

Facts have a known liberal bias. Therefore, a ballanced political reporter must not mention facts which undermine arguments made by politicians, at least not if the politicians are Republicans

In this article Rosilind Helderman twice mentions the claim made by conservative Republicans that the payroll tax holiday undermines social securities finances. She never mentions that it has no effect on the social security trust fund. The change is that instead of the Social Security Administration collecting taxes and using the money to buy Treasury securities, the Treasury gives the same securities to the Social Security Administration.

I remember this and found proof here in the second url returned by my first google search. This is not an obscure fact. It makes nonsense of the following from the article:

What might normally be a no-brainer for most congressional Republicans is being resisted by many tea-party-conscious members who oppose what they consider a short-term gimmick that would worsen the federal deficit and siphon money from Social Security.


Many conservatives argue the tax cut will undermine Social Security — which is funded through payroll taxes paid by workers and employers —

To prevent Social Security from losing tax revenue, Congress mandated that revenues be transferred from the general fund to the Social Security trust funds to make up for the tax reduction. This is provided for in section 601 of the Tax Relief Act, which reads in part, "There are hereby appropriated to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund established under section 201 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 401) amounts equal to the reduction in revenues to the Treasury by reason of the application of subsection (a). Amounts appropriated by the preceding sentence shall be transferred from the general fund at such times and in such manner as to replicate to the extent possible the transfers which would have occurred to such Trust Fund had such amendments not been enacted."

Now the Conservative Republicans might (and have) argued that the trust fund is meaningless. In that case, a payroll tax can't undermine the finances of Social Security. Also the when the trust fund reaches zero, nothing will change, so it is nonsense to call that bankruptcy of Social Security.

Also, furthermore and besides, dog bites man and Mitch McConnell lies (in the same article).

“I think most Americans, most Republicans, are very reluctant to raise taxes on anyone during this economic crisis that we find ourselves in,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saidTuesday.

The polls prove that this claim is false. Also note how he equates Americans and Republicans. Again, the inconvenient massive polling data can't be mentioned, because it is unprofessional to note facts which contradict politicians' claims. I really don't know if Democrats are offered the same courtesy of hiding their lies. They don't lie as often.