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Jukin’ the stats

Just another example of why “The Wire” is the best show ever:

The same old, same old

Dave Johnson:

Any time any DC elite complains about “the deficit” remind them that when Clinton left office we had a huge surplus, so big that at the rate it was being paid down the entire US debt was going to be paid off in 10 years. Bush demanded that we give back the people’s money and Greenspan warned of the danger of paying off the debt. Etc. Etc. Etc. Then Bush doubled military spending — and started two wars on top of that!

So we went from big surplus to huge, huge deficits. Bush said it was“incredibly positive news” when we went back into deficit spending. He said it was good news because it continued the plan to use debt to force the government to cut back. He said that. It was the plan. (Don’t take my word for it, click the links.)

The Reagan people said it too, back when they started the massive deficit spending. It was the plan: force the country into massive debt, “starve the beast,” and use that to force the government out of business, or at least to be “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” They forced the tax cuts and Reagan said this was “cutting the government’s allowance.” The point was to use revenue cutbacks to force government to shrink, to get out of the way of the 1%.

Now that government is very much out of the way of the 1% we are seeing how things work out when the 1% dominate everything.

They called it “strategic deficits.” They said it was the plan to force the country into debt, and then they would demand that we cut the things that government does for the 99%, in order to further enrich the 1%. They would scare everyone by saying that the debt will destroy us so we have to cut back. That was the plan. They said that was the plan. And now that the plan is being executed, we should understand that it was the plan and not fall for it!

They said it was the plan. So as the plan unfolds, don’t be so surprised.

Into the site now

My hosting company still claims to be “working on it.”

In the meantime, I read this Lifehacker post, added the Chrome extension, got Chrome to pretend it’s Internet Explorer, and here we are.

Clearly, there’s a bigger problem, since so many of you aren’t using Chrome, but it may help those of you who are.

I wonder if the FBI has seen this?

The Greene County, Virginia Republican Committee publishes a monthly newsletter for members called “The Constitutional Conservatives.” The newsletter is heavy on Tea Party rhetoric about how Obama and liberals are ruining America, and so forth. But even by these standards, an item in the March newsletterstands out.

In the “Whitehouse Watchdog” column, editor Ponch McPhee says that American cannot survive four more years under Obama, a “political socialist ideologue” who is “unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized.” McPhee argues that Americans will have no option “but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November:”

We have before us a challenge to remove an ideologue unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized.

An individual who has come to power within a Nation which yields it’s strength over the entire world.

An elected leader who shuns biblical praise, handicaps economic ability, disrespects the honor of earned military might.

In the coming days and weeks  ~ we the people must come to grasp as a common force, our very soul’s, that our future as a sovereign nation is indeed at risk.

If every single individual that you know, would contact 25 other individuals  ~ we can make a difference that will be heard across the Commonwealth and in Washington.

The ultimate task for the people is to remain vigilant and aware  ~ that the government, their government is out of control, and this moment, this opportunity, must not be forsaken, must not escape us, for we shall not have any coarse but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November ~ This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.

The Greene County GOP apparently realizes that McPhee and the newsletter are a potential liability, judging by the disclaimer on the back page claiming that views expressed are individual only. But that’s a cop-out. They should either stand behind McPhee’s insane views about armed insurrection or find an editor who represents their real views.

Having it both ways

Axelrod complained before the 2010 midterms that Democrats didn’t have the kind of outside money that the Republicans did – even though the Obama campaign told the liberal donors not to support them. Now the issue comes up again. Ha, ha!

WASHINGTON — Senior leaders of the Democratic Partyexpressed alarm on Tuesday that a $100 million plan by liberal donors to increase voter turnout would duplicate a similar effort by President Obama campaign and squander a chance to fend off an advertising onslaught from Republican groups.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, and other officials conveyed concern that Democratic candidates could be at a disadvantage if the contributors, many of whom had stayed on the sidelines of the 2012 campaign until now, decide not to spend money on television ads that push back against a torrent of attacks from conservative “super PACS” in the presidential election and Congressional races.

The views highlighted concerns about being outgunned by outside groups raising huge amounts of money to back Republicans, and suggested a rift between Democratic leaders and some liberal donors.

“The idea that these progressive groups are essentially re-creating the wheel is perplexing and troubling,” said David Krone, the chief of staff to Mr. Reid. “Why go off and build a redundant grass-roots and get-out-the-vote organization that the Obama campaign is clearly invested in?”

Umm, because we don’t trust the Democratic leadership not to piss it away on overpriced ads from their pals instead of supporting progressive candidates?

The Democratic officials were responding to an article in The New York Times on Tuesday that the financier George Soros and other major donors had decided to avoid a head-to-head confrontation in television advertising by pro-Republican groups and would instead spend money registering new voters and building stronger turnout organizations.

Protecting coal ash

Coal ash, the residue left by coal-powered power plants, is some nasty stuff. Thank God we have ALEC trying to prevent the feds from regulating it:

At least 49 coal-fired power plants have acknowledged that one or more of their ash ponds or landfills have exceeded either Safe Drinking Water Act “Maximum Contaminant Limits” or state groundwater protection standards. The information was provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to an information collection request, and obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The data indicates that multiple contaminants at 116 coal ash disposal units at the 49 plants exceed federal or state standards, including arsenic (a potent carcinogen) reported at no fewer than 22 sites; manganese (a metal that can damage the nervous system in high concentrations) at 22; boron (a pollutant that can cause damage to the
stomach, intestines, liver, kidney, and brain when ingested in large amounts) at 12; selenium (a toxic pollutant that causes adverse health effects at high exposures) at 13; and cadmium (a toxic pollutant that can damage the kidneys, lungs, and bones) at 10.

The problem is, there’s no uniform standard for measuring or reporting these contaminants. The EPA is trying to regulate coal ash, but our old friends at ALEC are trying to prevent any attempt to regulate it.

That’s where Rep. David McKinley (WV-1) comes in. He’s a member of the Tea Party caucus, the chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, and also sits on the House Energy and Commerce committee.

McKinley, who’s running against Democrat Sue Thorn, has raised $1.5 million so far in his reelection campaign, the largest single category of contributions come from mining interests. McKinley introduced a bill to that prevents the federal government from regulating coal ash – and coincidentally, I’m sure, the bill also mirrors a coal ash resolution passed by ALEC.

He claims the responsible thing is to recycle the ash as building materials. (Of course! What could possibly go wrong?)

The Department of Homeland Security under Bush refused to release the dump locations, supposedly because an enemy could use the information to contaminate a large area. (Or they were afraid the locals would freak out after a 2008 Tennessee coal ash spill turned into a massive environmental disaster.)

Anyway, if you live in McKinley’s district, Sue Thorn looks like a much better alternative – and certainly better for your health.

From the Wall Street Journal, columnist Justin Lahart takes a look at how state and local job losses drove up the unemployment rate. Let’s remember that the states run by Republican governors insisted on paying for tax cuts by laying over government workers, and that the Republicans in Congress and their Blue Dog enablers who blocked government spending to the states did their part, too. (Remember “jobs, jobs, jobs”? Thanks, Grand Old Piranas!)

One reason the unemployment rate may have remained persistently high: The sharp cuts in state and local government spending in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the layoffs those cuts wrought.

The Labor Department’s establishment survey of employers — the jobs count that it bases its payroll figures on — shows that the government has been steadily shedding workers since the crisis struck, with 586,000 fewer jobs than in December 2008. Friday’s employment report showed the cuts continued in April, with 15,000 government jobs lost.

But the survey of households that the unemployment rate is based on suggests the government job cuts have been much, much worse.

In April the household survey showed that that there were 442,000 fewer people working in government than in March. The household survey has a much smaller sample size than the establishment survey, and so is prone to volatility, but the magnitude of the drop is striking: It marks the largest decline on both an absolute and a percentage basis on record going back to 1948. Moreover, the household survey has consistently showed bigger drops in government employment than the establishment survey has.

The unemployment rate would be far lower if it hadn’t been for those cuts: If there were as many people working in government as there were in December 2008, the unemployment rate in April would have been 7.1%, not 8.1%.

Ceteris is rarely paribus, of course: If there were more government jobs now, for example, it’s likely that not as many people would have left the labor force, and so the actual unemployment rate would be north of 7.1.

Economist Jared Bernstein adds:

A few additional points, if I may:

  • these are real jobs by real people of the type you see everyday when you drop your kid off at school, get a speeding ticket (whoops…bad e.g., but you know what I mean), or pass a firehouse. You see their work when you go to a soccer game at a public field that’s in decent shape or stroll in a public park.
  • there’s a significant multiplier to state and local spending, both in terms of contracting out work to private entities and spending by public workers in their communities (Zandi puts it at 1.4–for a dollar of state fiscal relief, GDP grows $1.4).

Planning a race war

Just another reason Orlando is home to the Happiest Place On Earth!

(Reuters) – Ten alleged members of a white supremacist group training near Orlando and Disney World for a “race war” have been rounded up in a series of arrests in central Florida, authorities said on Tuesday.

The arrests were based on evidence from a confidential informant who infiltrated the neo-Nazi organization known as the American Front 17 months ago, according to an arrest affidavit.

“The American Front (AF) is a military-styled, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, skinhead organization and is known as a domestic terrorist organization,” the affidavit said.

It said the group’s alleged local ringleader, Marcus Faella, 39, had been “planning and preparing the AF for what he believes to be an inevitable race war” and had stated “his intent … to kill Jews, immigrants and other minorities.”

Faella operated a heavily fortified paramilitary training center for the AF on his isolated property in St. Cloud, Florida, 11 miles from the Walt Disney World theme parks, according to the affidavit.

It said he recently had been plotting a disturbance at Orlando City Hall and a confrontation against a rival skinhead group in coastal Melbourne in a bid to garner media attention, but had also been experimenting with the potential manufacture of the biological toxin ricin.

Ed to Obama: Man up on marriage equality

I have to agree with Ed Rendell on this one: Obama’s not going to lose any votes he already has if he comes out in support of marriage equality:

During an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday morning, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) — who supported marriage equality while in office — called on President Obama to back the cause and lead on the issue. “I think he should do exactly what [former RNC chairman] Michael Steele said he should do. He should man up and say, this is what I believe. And I think he doesn’t lose any African-American votes,” he said.

“The people who vote solely on this issue, single issue voter, gay marriage, none of them are voting for Barack Obama now and they’re not going to vote for him whether he says he’s against it.”

Absolutely true. I’d be surprised if anyone decided not to vote for Rendell on this issue — and we live in Pennsyltucky!

As to Obama’s perceived risk in offending black church members, there’s a glimmer of truth – but only a glimmer:

Since the passage of Proposition 8, much has been said about the supposed dramatic opposition to marriage equality among African Americans, fueled by National Election Pool (NEP) figures based on sampling in only a few precincts that erroneously indicated 70 percent of California’s African Americans supported Proposition 8. The study found that when religious service attendance was factored out, however, there was no significant difference between African Americans and other groups.

In other words, people of all races and ethnicities who worship at least once a week overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8, with support among white, Asian and Latino frequent churchgoers actually being greater than among African Americans.

“We clearly need to redouble our work with people of faith to overcome the notion that civil marriage for same-sex couples somehow threatens religious liberties and to convince them that protecting all families equally is the just and moral thing to do,” said the Rev. Mark Wilson, coordinator of African-American minister outreach for And Marriage for All.

Moreover, the study found that the level of support for Proposition 8 among African Americans was nowhere close to the NEP exit poll 70 percent figure. The study looked at pre- and post-election polls and conducted a sophisticated analysis of precinct-level voting data from five California counties with the highest African-American populations (Alameda (Oakland), Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco).* Based on this, it concludes that the level of African-American support for Proposition 8 was in the range of 57-59 percent. Its precinct-level analysis also found that many precincts with few black voters supported Proposition 8 at levels just as high or higher than those with many black voters.

As discussed earlier, the 57-59 percent figure — while higher than white and Asian-American voters — is largely explained by the higher rates of African-American religious service attendance: 57 percent of African Americans attend religious services at least once a week, compared to 42 percent of whites and 40 percent of Asian Americans.

“This study debunks the myth that African Americans overwhelmingly and disproportionately supported Proposition 8. But we clearly have work to do with, within and for African-American communities, particularly the black church,” said Andrea Shorter, director of And Marriage for All.

Besides, pulling the lever to support Prop 8 is still very, very different than pulling the lever for Republican Mitt Romney. I think Rendell’s right: Obama doesn’t have much to lose on this one, and he may gain some votes among those who are disaffected by his waffling on the issue.

Parting words

Go read what Dick Lugar said about his party’s extremists.

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