Friday, April 27, 2012

Is the media fastly becoming furious?

Don't count on it.

The "Fast and Furious" gun running scandal that should be plaguing the Obama administration on a daily basis is languishing behind dog eating stories and 7-11 cookies. Try to imagine if this had been the Bush administration's Justice Department. It would be pounded out every day on the TV news until Attorney General Gonzalez resigned in disgrace. Not so much with Eric Holder.

The program essentially allowed a massive amount of firepower walk across the Mexican border presumably to be tracked by ATF officials with the goal of leading them to drug cartel strongholds. What happened was a tragedy that has left hundreds of innocents dead, slaughtered with American guns as the program went wildly off the rails.

Holder has been playing dumb on this subject even after documents came to light showing that the “Fast and Furious” program came up several times during Holder’s extensive weekly reports on ongoing developments in the Justice Department and its components in July 2010 and again in October 2010. He had testified on May 3 2011 that he was “not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

It's not that Eric Holder is a liar, he is, then so was Gonzalez and every partisan appointee that ever served in a town that peddles lies like a toddler pedals a trike. It's that the media makes so little of it because it could hurt President Obama's re-election bid. Besides it's just so darn complicated - the American people just won't get it. Simpletons...

At least CBS has made an attempt. NBC is so far up Obama's... Um, sorry. Let's just say NBC and ABC aren't going to try too hard.

CBS News requested numerous public documents through the Freedom of Information Act.

So far, all of the requests that have been answered have been denied in part or in full.

This week, we received a partial response to a request made more than a year ago. It asked for communications involving "Project Gunrunner," the umbrella program for Fast and Furious, from 2010 through April 2011. Specifically, it sought any communications to which any of the following top Justice officials were a party: Attorney General Eric Holder; Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division; Kevin Carwile, chief of the Capital Case Unit; and Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals Bruce Schwarz and Kenneth Blanco.

The response includes mostly-blank pages.
See the nearly-blank provided to CBS News (PDF)
Federal agencies can legally claim exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act for a number of reasons including attorney-client privilege, law enforcement purposes, and personal privacy. However, they've fallen under sharp criticism from the media and public interest groups in the past decade as a large number of FOIA requests have languished, sometimes for years.
FOIA was originally intended to expedite the release of public materials to the public and media. However, in practice, FOIA requests are often not even marginally effective at obtaining documents for news reporting. To be most effective and helpful, the requests would often need to be filled in a matter of days or at least weeks.

Few requests filed by this reporter are answered within a year. When and if documents are ever produced, they are often heavily redacted and the timeliness of the information relative to the public interest has long since subsided.

Separately the FBI has denied CBS News all information requested regarding the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Two Fast and Furious weapons were found at his murder scene in December 2010. The FBI stated that the information was withheld because the murder investigation is ongoing. That investigation has now entered its second year.

It was the death of Brian Terry that put this in front of the American people and yet the FBI and the Justice Department is stonewalling the entire independent media investigation.CBS News should be applauded in this case. All the complaining I tend to do about the selective interest of the major media I have to give CBS it's due this time.

Then again don't count on CBS to raise the roof over this one. They're for Obama too.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tug of War

I rarely talk about religion in a public forum. It gets you no where unless the ears and hearts of those listening in are receptive. I know this is the eternal paradox facing evangelism which we as Christians are all called to do. Essentially you can't turn hearts and minds unless you talk about it, however, nothing turns hearts and minds away faster than some self-righteous bloviator lecturing to the unreceptive. It's a gift to be able to convey the good news of personal salvation through the grace of Jesus, faith and scripture. Some have the gift, and some do not.

The other main obstacle is that Christianity, Christ himself, is not about harmony and playing nice with the culture in which we find ourselves. Jesus was a reactionary, a radical if you will. Our human nature fights to go along, get along - it's easier - rather than questioning and challenging the status quo.

Born and raised Catholic I had all my life continued "being" Catholic well after most my family and friends had given it up. Partly because I loved the tradition and because I don't change very easily. After the kids grew up we stopped being as regular with our attendance and particularly after all the priest sex abuse cases and coverups came to light. We were disgusted. Still, I maintained that I was Catholic. I would always reconcile the issues within the Roman Catholic Church by convincing myself (rightly so) that evil exists in any institution run by human beings.

Today I find myself in a bit of a tug of war. For a few years I have been following a scholar and a Catholic convert (Othodox), one Mr. Bruce Charlton of the UK. Regulars here have probably seen my many references to his work. His words have made me stop in my tracks more than once. He has a way of making things I never considered suddenly become foundational in my worldview. I am so impressed with his mind.

Lately I've been attending services at a local "mega church" called Woodland Hills in Maplewood Minnesota - a suburb of St. Paul. The founder and pastor, Greg Boyd is what I would consider a Protestant corollary to Mr. Charlton. I have thoroughly enjoyed his messages/lectures. Boyd, like all Reformation based pastors teaches from the Bible exclusively. Like Charlton he has a way of boiling things down to the essence making clear what was once clouded.

While these men would not see eye to eye on everything they are both Christian reactionaries. Both are convincing when they declare that the predominant culture of our time is not in league with our faith. In most cases it's in direct conflict with Christian faith. Charlton struggles out-loud with us over the power of the culture and the Political Correctness that now rules the Western world. Boyd warns us to be careful where we put our allegiance when we feel called by the same culture. If it makes us place faith in anything other than in the grace of Jesus Christ we can cause ourselves great harm. I do not think following both of these thinkers and teachers is in any way detrimental to my own faith. For now I am learning so much.

Am I still Catholic? Good question.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mr. Kettle and Mr. Pot

Undoubtedly I will be commenting on the 2012 Presidential race as the campaigns move along. I will not be voting for Barack Obama, since I find not one single redeeming value in his person or his Presidency (other than he appears to be a good husband and father, kudos for that). So, Mitt Romney will get my enthusiastic support. At this time I just wanted to add a quick comment on a narrative I see forming that just smacks of transparent hypocrisy.

Hearing liberal commentators coaching Mitt Romney on genuineness, stating that he should embrace his wealth and success instead of pretending to be an 'every man' wearing jeans and flannel shirts and talking to factory workers and housewives. By stooping to this obvious ploy when he can't possibly relate to the peon's he comes off as a fake - or so they say. I would say to Mitt don't take advice from a used car salesman on good character.

(and if he embraces his wealth he will be crucified, of course)

These people support a man who will not come clean on any aspect of his life. To this day 6 years under the spotlight the media has still not vetted Barack Obama. Only after numerous lawsuits and pressure from a famous billionaire icon did he release a birth certificate, a certificate many believe to be fake anyway. He won't release his educational transcripts, he won't explain his relationships with communist sympathizers or domestic terrorists. His Social Security number is in question. His passport and travel as a young man is in question. His student funding as a foreign student is not being examined. His associations with socialist (and communist) organizations are swept under the rug. But what's worse is that a genuine scandal that reaches to the upper ranks of his administration is being largely ignored - the gun running Fast and Furious scandal.

Almost nothing he has done is examined with a fine tooth comb by this adoring media - as has been the case with every administration since Nixon's.

Yet, it's Mitt Romney who is the fake? Romney has been successful at everything he's done. He is a man who fixes things. From what I've read he is a roll up the sleeves, take charge kind of guy. His character is not in question. He is rich and that's the problem. How dare he be rich and successful. John Kerry was rich, John Edwards was rich, but that didn't matter they were Democrats, they understand the little guy when Romney can never hope to.

Talk about the pot and kettle...


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Where Intellectual Leftism Lives

Bruce Charlton hit on something I instinctively knew but could not put my finger on when it comes to leftist thought. In his post this Sunday Clever Sillies and transcendental leapfrogging he explains how intellectual leftist's jump over the obvious point (of any subject) and dive into the esoteric in order to display their high brow superiority.

Thus Leftism ignores and leapfrogs the problem of economic production (making stuff, doing stuff) in favor of the remote problem of distribution (moving stuff around); Leftism ignores education (learning stuff) and focuses on access to educational institutions and credentials; Leftism ignores duties and harps upon rights; ignores truth in favor of process - and so on. --end quote--

When you read and digest this consider any left leaning cable news opinion talk show or your favorite left leaning opinion columnist. If they cite the obvious point, the common sense point, it's only to ridicule those that stop right there and don't explore the nuance or deeper meaning.

Consider how leftists love to point out all the dirt behind our modern creature comforts yet they don't seem to mind using them. Driving past a rolling pantheon of leftist, anti-capitalist bumper stickers on the highway it's just amazing to see them steering their ultra modern car while talking on the latest smart phone on the way to their well equipped, well lit office in the big city. How do they think any of those wonders of modernity came to them if not through the miracle of capitalism?

For example they will rave on and on about oil while pushing for electric cars, conveniently ignoring the fact that the electricity has to come from somewhere. They will piously point to wind and solar, again ignoring the fact that those energy sources would leave us all dead on the side of the road. It's not intellectual to solve a "problem" with a half-baked scheme.

Intellectuals are trained - especially by the highbrow mass media, but also by educational institutions, to ignore the obvious conclusions and seek behind them.

Only by ignoring the obvious and moving behind it, can intellectuals demonstrate to themselves and others their superiority. This is
the strategy of the modern elite mass media - indeed that is pretty much all that it does now.

The mass media takes an event, leapfrogs over the obvious and traditional interpretations (often without mentioning them) and reframes the issue for the elites. To favor the obvious interpretation is therefore to lack the intelligence to make this move, or deliberately to refuse to make it.
--end quote--

We are told that the experts and the intellectual are our betters and that we must defer to their analysis since they are educated and we presumably are not. Instinctively we know more and understand better than to succumb to any nuance that does not begin and end with money. There is so much truth in the old adage 'follow the money'. Most leftist causes are bullshit regardless of the selflessness and so-called humanity they claim for themselves. It's so easy to be selfless and charitable with other peoples money.

Charlton attributes evil intent on the part of the intellectuals. I would say in some cases that's obviously true. In others it is actually ignorance of, and disdain for genuine humanity. They assign worth to book smarts and emotion and not the truth of common sense and the obvious.



Sunday, April 08, 2012

Media Bias:They can't help themselves

Media bias is a tired, old story. It's only news when it's about Fox News. How dare they have a conservative bent, I know, right, it's unconscionable. They are kind to Mitt Romney, how crazy is that? Let's put aside Fox News for a moment and try to be honest about the rest of the regular mainstream media. It's pretty clear they have so much at stake with President Obama that they can't even see how unbelievably biased every ounce of their reporting is. Remember, I asked you to be honest.

Every single economic report good or bad is wrapped in the cocoon of Obama's re-election chances. These reports are conveyed without any regard to the real stake holders - the unemployed and those actually hurt by these horrendous economic circumstances. But those people are mere statistics, unimportant really, all that really matters is how it will affect the polls. To a certain extent that is what is "news" since we all know that the economy stinks and that millions are out of work and millions more have given up even trying to find a job.

I guess it really got to me listening to NPR the other day when the March employment numbers came out. By every measure is was a terrible report. After seeing 200,000+ jobs created in Jan. and Feb. the experts had been expecting something similar or even better for March. When the numbers came in at 120,000, or half what was expected, the news that the (official) unemployment rate was reduced to 8.2% from 8.3% fell flat. The truth that a million plus people were removed from the labor force was the reason the overall rate went down. On top of that the day before the number of new unemployment claims climbed 6,000 to 380,000. In addition several major employers announced future layoffs and store closings. There was no good news all week.

NPR had adequately reported all these key points and statistics citing the expected new jobs and comparing it to the actual number, even reporting the bittersweet news of the why the unemployment number "inched" down to 8.2%. For a moment I thought 'jeez even NPR is sobered by this bad news'. Alas, I spoke too soon. In her very next breath the reporter said despite the "upbeat" economic news the President told an audience at - blah blah blah - that there was "still a long way to go, we can't stop now"...

What aspect of March's job picture was UPBEAT??? She was not going to lead into a story about Obama without painting a positive picture. It was truly unbelievable. I turned the radio back to some nauseating right-wing rant. At least there I found honesty.


(disclaimer:  yes, I occasionally listen to NPR. Yes, occasionally they present informative content. What I really appreciate is not being assaulted by commercials every five minutes - seriously must commercial radio assault my senses and my intelligence with endless terribly produced commercials?)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

We can have our cake and eat it too

For a few years I've been following a movement that argues for the acceptance of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as the basis for fiscal policy at the Federal level. Every time I examine it I come away with two thoughts - the first being it's too good to be true, and second, why isn't this being accepted by the body politic of the day? It should easily appeal to the polar opposites on the moonbat side (leftists) and on the wingnut side (right-wingers) since it seems to grant that the major tenets of liberalism and conservatism are both right. Essentially in tough times high government spending is good, necessary even and low taxes (at the Federal level) is even better.

MMT was born when Nixon switched the U.S. from the gold standard to a fiat currency. That subject in and of itself is a fascinating thought exercise, but clearly for another day. The switch off the gold standard changed the nature of our government’s relationship to the economy. It is, as with all economics, a complicated set of accounting logic and relationships between the Federal Reserve, member banks and the Treasury Dept. When discussed it makes certain amount of sense (and maybe that's why it faces such and uphill battle) but it seems to be completely out of sync with the arguments coming out of the high taxing liberal types as well as the small government conservative types.

Warren Mosler, one of the principal proponents of MMT declares: Taxes function to regulate aggregate demand, and not to raise revenue per se.

In Mosler's book SEVEN DEADLY INNOCENT FRAUDS OF ECONOMIC POLICY the first two simply fly in the face of everything we hear every single day.

So in an economy where the number one problem is low demand it makes zero sense to raise taxes on anyone. Logic according to MMT says lower taxes drastically. On the other hand demand is demand whether it be government or private sector demand. Aggregate demand is combination of both and it's aggregate demand that is weak. It doesn't matter which side generates demand, in a slow economy where the private sector is not generating demand then government has to, hence high Federal government spending.

These things fly in the face of everything you hear out of politicians and pundits on both sides. The President is going to run on the fact that we have deficit problems because the "rich" don't pay high enough taxes. The Republicans, Mitt Romney for example, says the deficit is a result of too much government spending. MMT says deficits don't matter, period.

Under a fiat currency system taxes and deficits matter when the economy is running too hot. Right now high deficits aren't leading to hyper inflation, they didn't in Reagan's days either. However, higher taxes as the President is calling for will reduce demand, and instead of filling government coffers it will depress the economy and lead to even higher deficits.

All that said according to MMT the Federal government doesn't have to borrow or tax to pay the it's bills since it is the issuer of the currency. There is no need for us to continually wring our hands over the Chinese buying all our debt etc etc. The Chinese will get their return when the bonds come due from the same Treasury appratus as Social Security reciepents get their checks. On the tax side it is aurgued that taxes create demand for the currency and therefore are completely necessary. MMT says we have plenty of demand for the currency with state and local governments who actually do have to tax and borrow for revenue.

So when we see the lower and middle class demanding deficit reduction and the wealthy goading them on through the media while lobbying for lower taxes for themselves we come to realize that this is backwards. The lower and middle class are demanding cuts in the very things they need, right? Well, according to MMT, yes...

Rodger Mitchell in a 2010 blogpost laments that the lower and middle class  - the very folks that have been screwed by the shenanigans in Washington and on Wall Street - are demanding:
1. Cuts in Social Security
2. Cuts in Medicare
3. Cuts in  Medicaid
4. Cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aka “food stamps”
5. Cut support for community health centers
6. Cut support for job re-training
7. Cut support for affordable housing programs
8. Cut funding for the Administration for Children and Families
9. Reduce the number, pay and retirement benefits of federal employees
10. Eliminate subsidies of student loans

All this in the name of deficit reduction. Goaded on by conservatives and Tea Partyers they demand cuts in the programs that level the playing field for them. It's not to say that reforms and efficiencies aren't needed for one or all of these "programs", but these people have been paying for these things with their taxes for decades. So now when they're needed the most they want them gone because the deficit is too high according to the prevailing attitudes of market economics. Free Markets are great things, but there is the simple truth that markets are basically amoral, and amoral entities generally don't care for anything but raw numbers, fact and figures, and the real needs of real people are not so cut and dried. There is a place for (good) government programs. What we don't need is more sweetheart deals for politically connected cronies and bailouts for the very wealthy.

Mitchell explains on the other hand that liberals constant demand for more taxes is just as damaging, in fact both he and Warren Mosler call for the elimination of FICA taxes altogether:

Then we have FICA, that tax that doesn’t pay for Medicare, doesn’t pay for Social Security, and in fact, doesn’t pay for anything. It is the most useless, destructive, ignorant, regressive tax ever invented – a masterpiece of screw-the-poor.

For salaried folks, it usually is the biggest tax they pay. For the rich, it barely is noticeable, since it cuts off at $107K, and who needs salary, when you have capital gains at the lowest tax rate? Though the pretense is that business pays half, FICA functionally is a 15% payroll tax on the great unwashed.

I have been told 10's of billions of dollars a month would pour into the economy if FICA went away. The economic impact of this money floating about productively in the private sector is incalculable, but it's safe to say it would be good for everyone. 

What are we to make of this? Those of us on the center/right are programed to believe that government spending is a necessary evil and should be kept to the bare minimum. Those on the left are just as convinced that the evil rich have been basking in ill-gotten gains and it is the government's role is to play Robin Hood. MMT tells us we are being lied to or at least willfully mislead into supporting the very things that keep us poor. MMT says we can have our cake and eat it too.

What's not to like about that?