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Nate Silver Rumored for Treasury Secretary or OMB Head

By: Scarecrow Wednesday November 7, 2012 7:52 am

Rumors are spreading this a.m. that the reality-based number cruncher at the New York Times, Nate Silver, may soon be appointed to a high position in the Obama Administration.**

Silver successfully humiliated the entire D.C. center-right pundit class and Fox News  by nailing the polling and the high probability of an Obama election victory by looking at and understanding what polling numbers actually mean.  He may now be picked to replace Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner or become head of the White House Office of Management and Budget or some other high advisory position where his skills are sadly missing.

While the White House has made no official announcement, several sources with close ties to the Administration confirmed the matter is under discussion.

“It would vastly improve America’s policies and help restore the economy if the White House began listening to someone with a proven track record and who actually uses and understands facts and numerical relationships, instead of discredited dogma,” a White House adviser who asked for anonymity remarked.   “This would be especially good for the economy and the role actual facts, proven mathematical relationships, economic experience, and a commitment to rationality play in setting policies to improve employment, reduce inequality, which has continued it’s 40 year slide over the last four years, supporting growth and creating fairness in the tax code.

Silver is now acknowledged, even among a few Serious People, to have the ability and courage to use actual facts and numbers to predict the probability of events, and not being afraid to express them.  These are skills several White House friends saw as noticeably missing in Mr. Obama’s first term and lacking among his key economic and political advisers.  They cited several areas in which Silver’s type of reality-based predictions could benefit the country and help frame a more beneficial agenda for the President and Congress over the next few years.  For example:

  • Silver would likely note that a policy of austerity, as currently advocated by both parties and the White House, particularly one focused on significant cuts in government domestic spending when the economy was still recovering, would have a high probability, likely 95.4%, of increasing unemployment and reducing GDP while stripping valuable services and needed investments from the federal budget .
  • Silver could read and understand the relevant, fact-based analyses/studies that show that reducing taxes on the rich would just increase the economic and political power of the extremely wealthy to the detriment of the middle class and poor, thus worsening inequality, slowing growth and undermining democratic principles.  Probability: about 97.3 %.
  • He would also predict, with 84.7% confidence, that raising taxes on the very wealthy would have virtually no adverse effect on the economy, since all the claims they are the “job creators” driving the economy was just dogma.

Romney at Liberty: Which Cult Is He Preaching?

By: Scarecrow Saturday May 12, 2012 10:38 am

Jamie Dimon, America's Cult Prophet

I was struck by the title to CBS reporter Chip Reid’s article, Romney’s address at Liberty University sparks controversy, and because we seem fascinated by a good food fight between ridiculous people, I scurried over to watch, only to be disappointed.  It seems the “controversy” over Mitt being asked to address the good evangelicals stems from the fact that a lot of these we’re-giving-Christians-a-bad name folk think Mitt belongs to a “cult.”   From Chip’s report:

During the Republican primary campaign, Romney struggled to gain the support of evangelical voters, in part because of his Mormon faith, which some evangelical leaders have called a cult.

So it was no surprise that Romney would be facing some skeptics in the Liberty University audience.

“I think there’s a lot of mixed emotions,” says Liberty University student Jamie Goss. “Some people are, like, oh, I wish we would have had, like, a Christian speaker come.”

More than 700 comments, some critical, were posted on the school’s Facebook page after the selection of Romney was announced.

Is that it?  This was a week in which we got confirmation that Mitt Romney, the man who’s already shown himself to be mostly indifferent to suffering by the least of these, my brother, grew up as an intolerant bully, capable of harassing and physically assaulting humans he regarded as too meek.  But never mind that; the folks at Liberty University oppose Mitt’s appearance, because his cult believes stuff their cult doesn’t, or vice versa.

It’s disturbing that these Jesus fans aren’t complaining about the bullying, but they object to anyone whose faith is premised on the divine inspiration of Joseph Smith and God’s visit to the North American continent.  That makes Mitt a cultist who should be shunned by others who believe in the perfectly rational view that after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, he couldn’t have come here without being arrested in Arizona as an undocumented alien and immediately deported to  . . . heaven?

My point is not to start a religious food fight over an institution of “higher learning,” whose implicit purpose is to retard critical thinking in America.  After all, Mitt isn’t going there to convert the Libertines to Mormonism.  He doesn’t give a fig leaf about these cultist differences, because he’s interested in selling a completely different myth.

You can believe whatever you want about Jesus or Smith’s divinity as long as you don’t kill or torture anyone over it, but Romney believes in more dangerous myths that do hurt people.  The reason he’s going to Liberty University is because they believe in the same myth, so it’s a safe harbor.  They’ll love his sermon.

This shared cult consists of those who think that the purpose of the Presidency is to make America safe for looting, even by people who haven’t the slightest regard for anything Jesus actually said.  Mitt’s argument is that Barack Obama doesn’t understand how the economy works — a point I might frame differently — but that Mitt does.  And Mitt’s right to a degree: he understands that part of the economy that allows vulture capitalists to risk other people’s money, loot companies, strip out jobs and pensions; he and his disciples got rich by extracting the rents from the tax treatment of debt.

This is, in fact, how too much of the economy works, and Mitt not only understands that as well as anyone, he worships it.  He’s winning the Republican nomination, because his disciples/bundlers became enormously wealthy this way, and their campaign donations are just a form of tithing, or advance kickbacks.

That anyone would premise a run for the Presidency on this kind of “economic” expertise is appalling enough; that an entire political party would bow down to such corrupt notions is a clear sign of America’s moral collapse.

Of course, even if you’re a devout believer that what’s good for Wall Street Temples of Greed is good for America, your faith must have been shaken this week when Jamie Dimon, regarded as the most righteous of Wall Street’s prophets had to confess that he didn’t have a clue how reckless and stupid his own risk managers were or how they could have lost over $2 billion.  And gosh, maybe it wasn’t even legal, so where were those regulators he bullied into backing off?

Time to haul out your Bibles:  Blind leading the blind?  Beware of false prophets?  Money changers in the Temple?  Golden calf? Rich man and the eye of a needle?  Jonah in the whale?  God help us all, because people are losing faith in God Bless the United States of America.

Joe Biden Is a Better Skier Than His Boss

By: Scarecrow Thursday May 10, 2012 3:43 pm

Bunny rabbit (Wikipedia)

The President of the United States did a good thing when he told Americans he supported same-sex marriage.  It was overdue but the right thing to say.  Whatever the motivations or the circumstances, the statement supported a principled stand that will help make us a better nation.

So let’s hear it for . . . Joe Biden, whose simple, humane statement two days earlier pushed his boss into saying something that needed to be said but that he either didn’t want to say or wasn’t quite ready to say.  In our political culture, Joe just made one of those “gaffes” — something a politician says that’s correct or true when saying it is supposed to be awkward.  More “gaffes,” please, Joe.

The reactions across the political spectrum have been predictable.  People who just can’t deal with human sexuality, let alone its infinite variation, condemned it out of fear, hatred or religious bigotry.  Mitt Romney, now revealed as a spoiled, privileged frat boy who bullied — and physically assaulted — other kids in high school — it fits, doesn’t it? — added to their chorus, because he wants the bully vote.

But if you look at the non-bullying part of America, the response has been strongly favorable, and many are proud that for the first time ever, a President of the United States publicly said same-sex marriage is just fine.

So it seems somewhat strange, though not totally surprising, to see the President and his political advisers unable to understand that the good this might do for the President’s image depends on convincing people that he did it for principled reasons.  Instead, they seem intent on telling us that they did it only because Joe Biden foolishly shot his mouth off and forced the President’s hand, when in fact Mr. Biden just did the country and his boss a big favor and should be praised for his honest, apparently heartfelt “gaffe,” rather than mocked.

A “thanks, Joe, I needed that” is what the President should have said.

Today, however, Mr. Obama condescended to tell us Biden got “a little bit over his skis,” while the White House let the media know that Mr. Biden had apologized to the President.  From the New York Times:

Mr. Obama, in an interview with ABC News, said the vice president had gotten “a little bit over his skis” but had done so “out of generosity of spirit.” The president bore Mr. Biden no lingering ill will, according to several officials, though the episode enraged Mr. Obama’s senior advisers in the White House and on the campaign.

Well, how generous not to bear Joe any “lingering ill will” for having said the right thing.  And once again, Obama’s political advisers show us how incompetent they are in protecting the President’s image, let alone promoting the nation’s interests.

Downhill racer (Wikipedia)

Here we need to talk about the art of skiing.   If you’re just learning on the slightly sloped “bunny slope,” you tend to fall down a lot, mostly on your butt.  You’re so fearful of falling forward while going a teeny bit forward that you tend to lean back, and so you fall on your butt, over and over.

To improve, you need a bit of courage.  You have to stop leaning back and be willing to face forward — downhill — and go that way, staying over your skis.  Of course, if you get too far in front over the skis, you can fall that way too  . . . or go faster.

Joe’s “problem” is that he’s a bit more willing to ski faster and isn’t afraid to lean forward a lot more than Mr. Obama.  But Joe’s statement wasn’t unbalanced; it was principled, timely, pitch perfect.  So the fact that it made Mr. Obama look like a beginner on the bunny slopes is Mr. Obama’s problem — and ours.

Earth to White House: you’ve spent over three years falling on your butt out of fear that you’d fall forward.  You’re still acting like beginners.  You can’t lead the country that way.  Get off your butts and out in front.

Now, about that ENDA Executive Order . . .

Immediate Openings – U.S. Secret Service: STD and Credit Checks Required

By: Scarecrow Wednesday April 18, 2012 5:41 am

Secret Service protect a Mitt Romney rally in San Antonio, Texas. Photo by Kit O'Connell.

As I understand the premise of America’s global military and foreign policy, the United States claims it has the moral right to invade, occupy, bomb, kill, kidnap, imprison and torture anyone, anywhere, at any time, without warning, without civil warrant or any other recognized legal authority. The supposed moral basis for this unilateral right to act globally in what decent humans can only regard as a criminal fashion is that we were attacked by others and they can suck on this. End of argument.

American governments sell this arrogant view to the American people by dressing it up, claiming an inherent moral superiority, relying on a myth sometimes called “American exceptionalism.”  Under this mythology, the nation is told to believe that whatever it is trying to do, it is for the best of reasons, and if that requires us to invade and occupy your country, or bomb your citizens from drones, it’s because we are better than you victims at governing and maintaining civility, fairness, protecting women, preserving the rule of law and economic security.

You would think that after observing the massive fraud of the banking system, the refusal to hold anyone accountable, the conduct of the Tea Party, the US Congress, numerous GOP-led state governments, and bipartisan American conduct and accountability failures in the “war on terror,” that some would begin to question this myth.  We can’t even protect our own women, our poor, our uninsured, our homeless, our jobless, and our system of equal justice under the rule of law has completely broken down.  But we live in an era in which it is unpatriotic to question this myth.

Moreover, from an armed forces drawn from its entire male population during a World War, we have evolved to an all volunteer force, and from that have selected the finest on offer to provide essential security for the most important people and institutions.  Our heroes are Special Forces and other elite military units, or Special Branches of the FBI and unknown CIA agents, and at the very top — the elite of the elite — the U.S. Secret Service.

Atrios’ Lament: America in the Age of Wankers

By: Scarecrow Thursday April 12, 2012 1:11 pm

Atrios on the pain of covering “wankers”:

. . . The ESCHATON DECADE has been a pretty fucked up decade, a time when this country stopped even bothering to pretend to live up to many of its supposed ideals. We go to war and kill lots of people for no good reason, elites have eliminated any accountability for themselves for criminal wrongdoing, we’ve tortured and assassinated people, and the response to massive economic suffering and related criminal fraud has been to give lots of free money to the people who caused it all.

And one premise of his blog is that all of this shit happens, in part, because of the fucking wankers who rule our public discourse. Paying too much attention to it every day can be bad enough sometimes, but reliving it all again is actually a bit painful.

Amen.   He is hardly alone.

As FDL’s David Dayen wrote yesterday, we face seven months of what promises to be a thoroughly dreadful election season.  Many (likely a minority) of us believe neither of the two major parties nor their likely Presidential nominees offers the country even a realistic assessment of the challenges the nation faces, let alone workable solutions or a feasible political strategy for solving them.

That means that on most fronts — those not on some benign auto-pilot — things are likely to get worse for millions of people, their communities, and their environment.  The only certainty is that the election will not improve matters, no matter who wins.  I personally believe letting the crazies grow stronger could make matters inhumanely worse, but I don’t see a pathway for making them better, given the choices before us.

The American people may already have internalized this one-way ratcheting.  That may explain why, when matched against one of the most dishonest, disliked, and unworthy opponents the Republicans could have chosen, Mr. Obama has barely kept ahead of Mr. Romney in the polls.  Indeed, much of his current lead is driven not by Mr. Obama’s accomplishments or his still missing vision for the future, but by women who can recognize the threat the radical Republican right poses for their rights and interests.  Their fight is our fight, but they’re fighting just to stay even.

The bottom line is that the nation faces an election between two men whom Atrios might credibly choose as “wankers of the decade.”  And when the election is over, we will still have every problem we face now, some worse from the neglect and more difficult to solve from lost opportunity, with the election “winner”  having laid no foundation for solving any of them, let alone a mandate.

As a friend frequently reminds me, there are many challenges facing the country that are obscured by the usual right versus left framework.  There are problems whose solutions should, in theory, create unexpected coalitions that transcend or obliterate the conservative/liberal framework.  Confronting the crime wave in the banking/financial/monopoly sectors that are looting the 99%, eliminating corrupt tax shelters and inequities protected by elites, or demanding corporations internalize the harmful health/safety costs their exploitation imposes on everyone regardless of ideology . . . these are possible examples for a broader framing.

But no matter what the framing, it’s clear that the range of accepted political discourse in America is narrowly constrained by much of the media, by corrupt  elites of both parties, and by the narrowing insecurities of the two men now presenting themselves as the only choices.  Both men claim to be “evolving,” but there is little evidence their highly restricted views are improving, let alone adequate to the task.

So we’re left with a highly constrained discourse, while many of the plausible solutions lie outside that restricted range.  And you have to wonder, is this the best America can do?

Good News for Women: Dem Leader Cleaver Says There’s No GOP War on You

By: Scarecrow Sunday April 8, 2012 1:25 pm

Very good news today, coming from the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver.  Mr. Cleaver is concerned about the tone of politics these days, and since it’s unfair for the Republicans to charge the President with waging a war on religion — because he isn’t — it’s only fair that Democrats stop claiming the Tea-Party GOP is waging a war against women — even though they are. [Warning: the video forces you to watch 30 seconds of oil company propaganda.]

This is a great moral victory for the advocates of false equivalency, not to mention the holy mostly-male warriors who have introduced and/or passed hundreds of bills in state legislatures and Congress to repeal or restrict women’s reproductive rights, rights to demand equal pay, and access to the benefits of government programs designed to benefit millions of women that are being systematically defunded by the GOP’s war on government (sorry).

Henceforth, those Tea-GOP efforts affecting women’s rights and benefits will be described more respectfully, using such words as “non-hostile” humanitarian actions.   Please adjust your vocabulary accordingly.

Also, too, those of you who were waiting for the first Democrat to discredit one of the few effective and totally valid frames that might actually help them win elections can stop waiting.  There’s one born every minute. Wonder if he has a mother, wife or daughter to explain this.

Pastor Rick Warren Explains the Financial Crisis

By: Scarecrow Sunday April 8, 2012 12:14 pm

It’s Easter, or the days after everyone lost their first born to a very brutal, blood-thirsty god, or something, so naturally it’s a day when America’s premier Talking Head shows invite America’s unquestioned religious leaders to give us their moral views on the meaning of it all.

For some reason that is not apparent, they are then asked to give us their opinions on matters they know nothing about, while not mentioning that some of them exclude women and suppress their rights, some try to criminalize or humiliate immigrants or gay people, some cover up hundreds of cases of child abuse and others just soak their congregations to get rich and pretend to be pious as they deny funding to other worthwhile organizations that don’t share their discriminatory beliefs.

Yet I’m still astounded that anyone — even ABC’s Jake Tapper — would ask Rick Warren why the economy is not recovering as well as it should, though I’m not surprised that Warren thinks he knows.  It turns out that the financial crisis and the nation’s economic doldrums are mostly your fault:

WARREN: But regardless of all the problems that we see out there, I think they all have at their root a spiritual cause. And we have overspent… We have not been a responsible — we’ve bought things we didn’t need with money we didn’t have to impress people we didn’t even like. And now we’re paying the piper. And you cannot ignore the principles of finance that are in God’s word, and they are in the Book of Proverbs. It’s quite clear, they’re principles of business, principles of economics that are actually in the Bible.

WARREN: And when you ignore these things, then we’re going to get deeper and deeper into debt, and then we can’t blame God for that… The biggest problem for all of our economic problems is our inability to delay gratification. I want it and I want it now, and I’m going to buy it even if I can’t afford it. And not only have people done that, the government’s done it…

TAPPER: You said in December that no American could say that they’re better off than they were four years ago. You still think that that’s true?

WARREN:  Well, I don’t think so, not economically. There may be a portion. But I have my ear to the ground. I’m on a lot of social media, and I do a lot of speaking nationally, and of course I have a congregation that’s very large. It talks to me all the time. Most people would not think they’re better off economically than they were four years ago.

TAPPER:  And who do you hold responsible for that?

WARREN:  I hold everybody responsible for that. I hold the people who got themselves in debt. I hold the government that got themselves in debt. I hold multiple administrations. It’s not the fault of any one person. There’s plenty enough blame to be passed around.

So, just as the President told us, both families and the government need to balance their budgets, right? That pretty much absolves Wall Street and the financial sector, the banks’ and mortgage lenders’ massive fraud on home buyers and investors and the courts, the Bush tax cuts, two unfunded wars, the Greenspan Fed’s incompetence, and the federal government’s total abdication of regulatory responsibility from Clinton to the present.

Warren’s take is much easier to understand, so I’m going to send my copy of the Old Testament, with Proverbs bookmarked and underlined, to Fed Chairman Bernanke and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.  Because whatever sacred text they’re using isn’t enough.  Paul Ryan will be so pleased when one charlatan helps another.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

How We’re Winning the War in Afghanistan

By: Scarecrow Sunday April 8, 2012 11:44 am

On patrol in the village of Paspajak, Logar province, Afghanistan (photo: The U. S. Army/flickr)

After months of arguing over who should control the practice of American troops performing armed raids of the homes of Afghanistan’s citizens, the US Government and the Afghan government have apparently agreed on how such intrusions on peoples’ homes may continue.  Via the New York Times:

The agreement gives Afghan forces a lead role in the operations, and also brings the raids under Afghan legal jurisdiction by requiring a court warrant within 48 hours of a raid in order to continue detention of any suspects.

What a relief.  I’m sure that the people of Afghanistan will be reassured to know that when armed soldiers crash through their doors in the middle of the night, arrest anyone they choose and detain them at some unknown location for at least 48 hours, that the bewildered and intimidated family — assuming they weren’t shot up during the break in because they thought their homes were under assault from armed criminals — will be allowed to ask without fear about where their family members are being held.

Then, if they can figure out how, they’ll be able to plead for their release in front a non-existent Afghan judiciary paid by the US and fully conversant with and respectful of the law of probable cause.  Finally, assuming there is such a court and they can find it and aren’t intimidated about using it, the families can wait with full confidence as the US and/or its bought and paid for Afghan military think about releasing someone after the troops, the Afghan intelligence services, the CIA and whoever else is involved are done questioning them in the usual humane manner.

That should win their hearts and minds.

This is such a great solution, I propose we bring it to America.  From now on, joint US and Afghan forces should be allowed to break down the doors to American homes in the middle of the night and haul away anyone they want and not worry about answering for it for a couple of days or so, if ever.  And all that Stand Your Ground stuff when people carrying assault rifles are knocking down your front door?  Why, that only applies when it’s convenient for Americans.  The Afghans don’t understand such niceties.