Q of the day: gastronomic delights you miss

I posted this one status entry on Facebook and lo and behold the comments flowed in at a rapid clip:

I have a craving for one of those nice hot, crispy, chewy, charcoal-y pretzels from a NYC vendor cart. Nothing like it down here in NC.

Of course it made me think about other yummy things I don’t have access to here that I love about NYC:

  1. decent bagels (sesame, cinnamon raisin and “everything” are my faves), A local chain in NC, Breuggers, makes a pale imitation of the NY bagel; but it’s the best option we’ve got.
  2. pizza (Randy’s here in Durham comes the closest to authentic NY style)
  3. cheesecake: Junior’s in Brooklyn has the best by far.
  4. burgers: Junior’s in Brooklyn wins again; nice and chargrilled (and you can get them cooked to order including rare).
  5. fries: I don’t know what Nathan’s Famous puts on its fries but they are like crack.

Good thing those foods aren’t accessible! All bad for you.

So what are the foods that you get a craving for that aren’t available to you in your current location? (more…)

The One About Not Only Can’t You Handle The Truth But You Don’t Even Really Want It

Hiding from truth

I want the truth!
You can’t handle the truth!

From the movie A Few Good Men

Truth. Everyone claims to want it. But in fact precious few do.  Most people are more often than not searching to have their opinions, illusions, and deeply cherished beliefs re-enforced, rather than challenged. To hear someone speak truths that are contrary to our views is very difficult. (more…)

CO: Civil Unions bill dies in committee

After 8 and a half hours of heart felt testimony, SB 172 failed on a party line vote.

Final vote:

Sonnenberg (R-65): No
Kagan (D-3): Yes
Nikkel (R-49): No
Lee (D-18): Yes
Levy (D-13): Yes
Barker (R-17): No
Gardner (R-21): No
Duran (D-5): Yes
Ryden (D-36): Yes
DelGrosso (R-51): No
Waller (R-15): No

 

I'm happy to say, my own Colorado Springs Rep. Lee vote in favor of the bill, as did my Senator. Based on some final comments at the close of the committee, it sounds like the Dems may try to bring it to a vote on the floor anyway.

(more…)

Basic Rights Oregon launches a major marriage equality ad campaign

Basic Rights Oregon has launched a 3-week television campaign that is blanketing the state with these two ads.  

The goal is simple: reach out to people who haven’t yet formed strong opinions about marriage equality and encourage them to consider the issue in perhaps a new way.

People who have talked to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) folks and straight allies about marriage equality are twice as likely to support it.  But not everyone has someone in their lives to ask them to consider the issue.  That’s where the ads come in, Jeana Frazzini told me in an interview earlier this week.  Ms. Frazzini is Executive Director at Basic Rights Oregon.

We’ve set out to build a campaign to get folks talking, get out of the head and into the heart.  Get people connecting on the values that we all share.  Whether you’re a same-sex couple, opposite-sex couple, straight or gay, Oregonians can agree that we believe in fundamental fairness.  

We believe in treating others as we want to be treated, and we have a shared understanding of what marriage is.  It’s about love and commitment and taking care of one another in good times and bad.  This ad campaign is about bringing that conversation to a much broader audience.

It’s terrific to be at a point now where we’ve laid such a solid foundation and been able to build so much enthusiasm for the effort that we were able to raise the resources to run a statewide ad campaign like this.  It expands the scope of this conversation in ways that outside of t.v. advertising you really can’t reach such a large number of people.

It’s really exciting to think about the kind of change that that makes both in terms of building support on the issue of marriage equality but I think fundamentally in shifting how people view their gay and lesbian neighbors.  These are real families, real people who live, work, play and love right alongside folks all across Oregon, and they’re sharing their stories of why marriage matters to them.  I think it’s really lovely.

If the ads and other aspects of BRO’s education campaign (door-to-door canvassing, phone banks, community meetings, etc.) are successful in creating a pro-equality majority in Oregon, BRO will take marriage equality to the ballot.  Most of us are adamant about not putting the rights of a minority up for a popular vote.  But in Oregon there is no other choice. (more…)

Why Obama Was Never the Most Liberal Senator in the United States

A common charge of Republicans during the 2008 presidential campaign was at Senator Barack Obama’s perceived liberalism. Republicans often stated that Mr. Obama was the most liberal senator in the United States, according to a ranking by the National Journal. The attack against Mr. Obama’s liberalism has continued during his time in office.

The ranking by the National Journal, however, seems to be flawed in several ways. Take the 2004 rankings, for instance. Guess who was ranked the most liberal Senator in 2004.

If you answered John Kerry, that’s right. The exact same claim was made against Mr. Kerry in 2004, based upon the exact same ranking. And check out how highly their Vice Presidential picks ranked: Senator Joe Biden was ranked the 3rd most liberal senator when he ran for Vice President, and Senator John Edwards was ranked the 4th most liberal senator during his campaign for the spot.

The high ranking of Mr. Edwards is particularly hard to believe. John Edwards, after all, represented North Carolina – certainly not the most liberal of states. He was elected senator with a less-than-five percent margin. Indeed, in the year before 2003 Mr. Edwards was ranked the 31st most liberal senator.

In reality, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry were far from the most liberal senators in the United States. The reason they were ranked so is due to the many votes they missed while campaigning for president.

And there are certainly senators who are far more liberal than either Mr. Obama or Mr. Kerry. Take Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Sanders is not just your typical liberal – he’s actually a bona-fide socialist. Republicans often attack Mr. Obama as espousing socialism, attacks which the Obama administration usually responds are ridiculous. But Mr. Sanders actually is a socialist, and a proud one at that.

There are other quite liberal senators out there. It is hard to believe that either Mr. Obama was more liberal than Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, or Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Then there’s recently defeated Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, the only senator to vote against the initial Patriot Act.

There are about a dozen other Democratic senators who also were probably more liberal than Mr. Obama. Some of these are the people who hold the levers of power in the Democratic Party, like Senator Charles Schumer of New York or Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Others are lesser-known senators who come from very liberal states, like Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island or Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama was a liberal senator. He was, as a liberal-minded man representing a liberal-minded state. But to believe the conservative claim that Mr. Obama was the most liberal senator would be to believe that he was more to the left than an actual socialist. And, despite what some conservatives might believe, Mr. Obama certainly hasn’t imposed socialism upon the United States

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

US Intelligence Operatives in Libya, Before a Finding, Sounds Like JSOC

Mark Hosenball, who yesterday broke the news that Obama had issued a Finding authorizing the CIA to operate covertly in Libya in the last 2-3 weeks, today says “intelligence operatives” were on the ground before Obama signed that Finding.

U.S. intelligence operatives were on the ground in Libya before President Barack Obama signed a secret order authorizing covert support for anti-Gaddafi rebels, U.S. government sources told Reuters.The CIA personnel were sent in to contact opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and assess their capabilities, two U.S. officials said.

[snip]

The president — who said in a speech on Monday “that we would not put ground troops into Libya” — has legal authority to send U.S. intelligence personnel without having to sign a covert action order, current and former U.S. officials said.

Within the last two or three weeks, Obama did sign a secret “finding” authorizing the CIA to pursue a broad range of covert activities in support of the rebels.

Congressional intelligence committees would have been informed of the order, which the officials said came after some CIA personnel were already inside Libya.

Now, one explanation for this is simply that Obama sent JSOC–under the guise of preparing the battlefield–rather than CIA. It sounds like the practice–first exploited by Cheney–that the government has used frequently in the last decade of ever-expanding Presidential authority.

Indeed, House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers’ claims he must authorize covert action, but hasn’t, sounds like the kind of complaint we’ve frequently gotten when the President bypassed the intelligence committees by claiming DOD was simply preparing the battlefield.

And Hosenball’s nuanced language about “boots,” that is, military, on the ground, may support that view.

Furthermore, we know there are a slew of British Special Forces on the ground in Libya. So why not Americans, too?

Hosenball is not saying this explicitly, yet. And he does refer to “CIA operatives” (who could be in Libya to simply collect information). But all the subtext of this article suggests that our special forces have been on the ground since before any Finding, which in turn suggests they may have been there longer than 2-3 weeks (the timeframe given for the Finding).

This is all a wildarsed overreading of Hosenball at this point. But if I’m right, then it would mean Obama would be using the shell game he adopted from Cheney to engage in war without Congressional oversight.

Neo-Liberalism Can’t Beat the Tea Party: But MMT Can

In the big budget fight going on right now in Congress, the Tea Party conservatives rightly point out that $61 Billion in spending cuts is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.6 Trillion predicted deficit, and they react with a great deal of moral fervor to the suggestion that they ought to compromise on $33 Billion in cuts in order to avoid shutting down the Government. That moral fervor sounds perfectly reasonable to me as long as one agrees that Government spending causes inflation, that we now have a huge deficit, debt problem in the United States that we must solve, or face national insolvency in the not too distant future, and also if the people afire with moral fervor would also apply that to the issue of the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes.

Neo-liberal believers in the power of the bond markets, the idea that Government money must come from taxing or borrowing, and the need for Government to avoid exploding interest rates on the national debt, can try to oppose tea-partiers by saying that it’s better economics not to cut public spending while unemployment is as high as it is right now; but when you agree with the tea party that we have a long-term deficit/debt problem that can destroy the credit of the United States and its access to the bond markets, you’re then on very thin ice, when you oppose this “small down payment” on coping with a very serious problem that both you and the tea party agree we have.

So, when you’re very committed to austerity to solve the long-term problem, are the neo-liberal deficit doves, all you can do in opposition to the goal of drastically cutting Government sending over a period of years, is to argue about the details of discretionary spending cuts, and to find a place to compromise, rather than simply saying that the current tea party campaign to cut deficit spending is just silly, because there is no deficit/debt problem, and so there is no economic need to cut any Government program whose outcomes are accomplishing public purposes.

A big, big advantage of adopting the MMT approach to economics, is that it provides a political basis for going straight at the tea partiers, Hooverites, Peterson cohorts, and deficit hawks. Michelle Bachmann and Mike Pence may stand up in front of a pitiful tea party rally of 100 people in Washington, DC and thunder about how the United States is about to fall off a fiscal cliff and ruin the lives of our children and grandchildren by imposing an intolerable of burden of debt of $45,000 on each of them; and that to forestall that catastrophe, the Government has to stop spending money we don’t have. But an MMT-informed politician can just come right back and say:

I hate to have to tell you this, but you folks don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re talking about. Where do you think money comes from? It comes from the Federal Government. The Federal Government has the constitutional authority to supply as much money to the private sector as is necessary to see to it that our economy is performing well. The Federal Government cannot run out of money unless silly Congressmen become powerful enough to prevent the Government from spending. Then and only then will we see the financial collapse you tea partiers are afraid of.

If the American public listens to your insanity, and the Government does what you want it to do to avoid a financial crisis, that very thing will cause what you fear most – a collapse in the value of the American currency to happen.

So, I, as someone who does understand that the Government is the source of all American Dollars, and always has the capability to create more simply by spending, hereby pledge that I will not vote for one $1 Dollar in spending cuts to programs on grounds that there is a Government deficit, or that the national debt is something we cannot afford. Since the Government can always add money to the private sector by spending, if it chooses to do so, these are nonsense reasons to vote for cuts, and I was not elected to compromise with, or vote for, nonsense. And I will not allow you to continue to hold the voters I represent hostage to your idiocy and inability to understand our fiat currency system and our national monetary sovereignty.

On the other hand, I will be happy to vote for eliminating programs that worsen the condition of the American people, or that kill people for no reason, or that loot the Treasury for the benefit of a few wealthy people. So, if you tea partiers want to cut out some of those programs, I’ll vote with you.

But otherwise, I’ll vote no on your proposals, and if you and your Republican colleagues continue to try to cut programs that I think a majority of the American public want, and this results in the shutdown of our American Government, then f__k the Republican Party, because it will be on you. You will suffer the wrath of the American people in 2012, and no amount of money or propaganda will protect you from it. You’ll be lucky to escape the fate of the Whigs. Oops! I’ll guess you’ll have to explain who the Whigs were to Bachmann, Palin, and the other tea partiers.

Yes, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) can be a powerful political weapon against tea partiers, Republicans and deficit hawks in both parties, and also deficit dove Democrats who think the Government can become insolvent. This isn’t a reason to believe in MMT. The only reason to believe in it is if you think it’s the best approach to economics available today.

But, conversely, it is a reason to question other economic approaches. It is a reason to question neo-liberalism. It is a reason to refuse to accept it without thoroughly testing it against the evidence and alternative approaches to neo-liberal economics like MMT. And, if you are a progressive, it also is a reason to take the trouble to learn MMT, and to decide for yourself how it compares to other approaches to economics.

In some of the replies to recent posts criticizing Paul Krugman’s remarks on MMT, some have asked what all the fuss is about. They’ve pointed to the areas of agreement between MMT and Krugman’s brand of deficit dove economics, and have noted that both sides seem to agree that more economic stimulus is necessary now and that measures to contain inflation may be needed later.

This is true, but as I’ve pointed out in previous posts and comments I’ve made on this subject, the fuss is about the difference in the world views of deficit hawks and deficit owls, their analyses of whether a risk of insolvency exists, and whether there’s a long-term deficit/debt problem; what this difference means in terms of how fiscal policy should be managed by the Federal Government, what fiscal sustainability means, what fiscal responsibility means, and also, as I’ve emphasized here the content of political communications and appeals that can be used to advocate for progressive economic policies.

Deficit dovism is all about defense against the modern know-nothings and Hooverites. Deficit owlism or MMT is all about a political offense against them relating to what we ought to about the economy and America’s future.

As a real progressive, I’ll take a good offense, anytime! How about you?

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

Basic Rights Oregon launches a major marriage equality ad campaign

Basic Rights Oregon has launched a 3-week television campaign that is blanketing the state with these two ads.  

The goal is simple: reach out to people who haven’t yet formed strong opinions about marriage equality and encourage them to consider the issue in perhaps a new way.

People who have talked to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) folks and straight allies about marriage equality are twice as likely to support it.  But not everyone has someone in their lives to ask them to consider the issue.  That’s where the ads come in, Jeana Frazzini told me in an interview earlier this week.  Ms. Frazzini is Executive Director at Basic Rights Oregon.

We’ve set out to build a campaign to get folks talking, get out of the head and into the heart.  Get people connecting on the values that we all share.  Whether you’re a same-sex couple, opposite-sex couple, straight or gay, Oregonians can agree that we believe in fundamental fairness.  

We believe in treating others as we want to be treated, and we have a shared understanding of what marriage is.  It’s about love and commitment and taking care of one another in good times and bad.  This ad campaign is about bringing that conversation to a much broader audience.

It’s terrific to be at a point now where we’ve laid such a solid foundation and been able to build so much enthusiasm for the effort that we were able to raise the resources to run a statewide ad campaign like this.  It expands the scope of this conversation in ways that outside of t.v. advertising you really can’t reach such a large number of people.

It’s really exciting to think about the kind of change that that makes both in terms of building support on the issue of marriage equality but I think fundamentally in shifting how people view their gay and lesbian neighbors.  These are real families, real people who live, work, play and love right alongside folks all across Oregon, and they’re sharing their stories of why marriage matters to them.  I think it’s really lovely.

If the ads and other aspects of BRO’s education campaign (door-to-door canvassing, phone banks, community meetings, etc.) are successful in creating a pro-equality majority in Oregon, BRO will take marriage equality to the ballot.  Most of us are adamant about not putting the rights of a minority up for a popular vote.  But in Oregon there is no other choice. (more…)

Late Night: Pouting Baby Doesn’t Understand Why Little Melting Jeff Won’t Let GE Pay Taxes

Pouting Baby doesn't understand why Little Melting Jeff won't let GE pay taxes. (photo courtesy of Jim White)

It looks like Pouting Baby is talking to us again. — JW

I don’t understand why Little Melting Jeff is so mean to our government. His company made $14 billion last year, but they won’t give any of that money to the government. Companies like Little Melting Jeff’s are a big reason why our government doesn’t have enough money. Even the Carnie Guy who is supposed to make things look good for Mr. O can’t explain this one:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged once more on Thursday that average Americans would be confused, if not appalled, by the fact that General Electric Co. did not pay any federal income taxes in 2010 despite more than $5 billion in profits.

One “might say, ‘what the heck, I don’t get this,’ ” Carney said during his daily briefing, adding that, “the president shares that opinion. … He believes our corporate tax structure needs to be reformed.”

The Carnie Guy needed to make this look good because Little Melting Jeff runs Mr. O’s jobs council:

President Barack Obama named 22 people to his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, whose estimable task, according to the White House, is to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our global competitors in order to win the future.”

Whew.

The panel is led by General Electric Chief Executive Jeff Immelt.

I don’t know about winning the future, but Little Melting Jeff sure seems to have won the present if his company can keep all that money it made. He is feeling a little heat for it:

The chief of General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) on Thursday defended the conglomerate’s zero tax rate in 2010, and called for reform of the U.S. tax code.

In his first public speaking engagement since a barrage of criticism about not having to pay taxes in 2010, GE chief executive Jeff Immelt told the Economic Club in Washington that his company did nothing wrong.

“At GE, we do like to keep our tax rate low, but we do it in a compliant way, and there are no exceptions,” Immelt said. “Our tax rate will be much higher in 2011 as GE Capital recovers.”

Mr. Jake asked Little Melting Jeff about it today, too (more…)