Obama’s accomplishments

Fact Check does its thing (non-partisan)

Paul Krugman, an early critic of Obama, gives an excellent defense of his record, thereby refuting much LIBERAL criticism. Seriously people: did you think that a “different” Obama could have gotten a more liberal agenda past Republican obstructionism? And yes, the deficit is DOWN, not that anyone knows or cares.

Yes, I know: any deficit adds to the national debt, whether it is down or up.

October 10, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, economy, politics, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Bustos hits back; religion and state and economics….

IL-17 race: Bobby Schilling is running dishonest ads; Cheri Bustos hits back.

Presidents and the economy What do the metrics themselves say about the modern Presidents? You might be surprised at what the numbers say.

Religion and State
No, Reza Asian didn’t “take down” Bill Maher.

Our church and state issues are not as serious, but we do have them nevertheless.

October 5, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, Cheri Bustos, economy, Political Ad, politics, religion, social/political | , | 1 Comment

Climate change, creationism, jobs, and race

Talk about a sticky situation. A white lesbian couple paid a sperm bank for sperm from a white male…and ended up with sperm from a black male. Now they have a half-black daughter…and they are suing.

Oh sure, one can say that they entered a business transaction and didn’t get what they paid for. But what effect will this have on the kid? Ah, they’ll probably blame it on the racism of others. ;-)

Jobs report

248K new jobs last month; the good is that this is better than losing jobs. The bad: the new jobs aren’t paying well.

The Aral Sea was once the 4’th largest lake in the world. By 2000 it had shrunk a great deal, and now it is almost gone.



Reasons: many; one of them is irrigation. One consequence is that nearby areas no longer have the lake to moderate the extremes; so it is hotter in the summer and colder in the winter.

Creationism: Why Evolution is True has an interesting take on a non-Sequitur cartoon.

October 4, 2014 Posted by | creationism, economy, politics, politics/social, racism, science, Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Reporting, poverty, charity, minimum wage and all that….

Here is one reason that discussion on sensitive issues is so difficult: often the headlines are very misleading.

Consider this:

Fox host: Living wage supporters think workers were born with ‘deficiencies’

Now, that isn’t quite what he said:

Hosts of Fox News and Fox Business on Monday lashed out at workers who compared their struggle for higher pay to the civil rights movement, arguing that anyone who chose to work a minimum wage job was saying that they were born with “deficiencies” that kept them from getting higher pay.

Over the weekend, fast food workers in Illinois voted to use civil disobedience to fight for $15-an-hour pay, and for the right to unionize.

“To compare it to the Civil Rights Movement seems insulting,” Fox News host Steve Doocy opined on Monday.

It really is insulting,” Fox Business host Charles Payne agreed. “It’s beyond the pale. Here’s one of those things that insults almost everybody. Obviously, it would insult anyone who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and also the workers.”

“Because essentially, I guess, what you are saying to these workers is, you were born this way, in a position where you can never better yourself, you can never get an education, you can never work on the side, you can never have the knowledge, you can never go out there and pool your money together and start a business,” Payne continued. “You are stuck in this because somehow you were born with deficiencies that you’ll only have a certain skill set, the minimum skill set.”

Strictly speaking, he is arguing against equating the civil rights struggles with the minimum wage debate. He is really attacking a particular argument instead of attacking *all* arguments in favor of raising the minimum wage.

Note: I too have attacked arguments made by the “no minimum wage” people which is not the same as attacking the idea that there shouldn’t be one.

Of course, proponents of a higher minimum wage have a variety of reasons; mine is that a higher minimum wage could stimulate demand and perhaps better position someone to be able to move up by, say, furthering their education on the side (instead of getting a second job) and the like. I sued the world “could” as I haven’t seen data supporting that this actually happens. I HAVE heard that municipalities and states that have raised their minimum wage have NOT seen significant job losses.

This is an interesting study about charitable giving:

But there are complicated factors at work in helping us determine who should get our money. In a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers pick apart what makes us tighten our purse strings. And what it finds may have implications not only for people’s charitable giving but also how they feel about how Washington spends their tax dollars.

What they studied

Several studies have found that people with a high moral identity — that is, who think of themselves as moral — tend to also give more money. Saerom Lee, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas-San Antonio; Karen Winterich, associate professor of marketing at Penn State; and William Ross, professor of marketing at the University of Connecticut set out to see whether moral identity always increases charitable giving, and if not, what might get in the way.


Surf to the article to see how the test was done. They found:

The scientists found that people take aid recipients’ responsibility into account when they give money. People with high moral identities were more likely to give if they perceived people were not responsible for their own problems but less likely if the potential recipients appeared to be victims of their own decisions. Having a high moral identity increased likelihood of giving because it meant higher senses of empathy toward people who were perceived to not be responsible for their problems. Meanwhile, a stronger sense of justice got in the way when it came to recipients perceived to be responsible for their problems.

However, people tended to increase their donations when they were prompted to recall their own past moral failings, because they also had boosted senses of empathy.

I suppose that I lack compassion for the outrageously irresponsible. Sure we’ve all made mistakes; no one has lived an optimal life. But this is a bit silly:

But detractors said the Wisconsin Rep. missed the point entirely because he assumed people were to blame for their conditions.

“[I]t presupposes that the poor somehow want to be poor; that they don’t have the skills to plan and achieve and grow their way out of poverty,” wrote New York’s Annie Lowrey.

Of course, no one WANTS to be poor, but there are many who are adverse to set aside the “have fun now and don’t worry about the future” compulsion in order to have a better tomorrow. Example: I know of a brother and sister who inherited about 250K each from an estate. I KNEW, ahead of time, that the brother wouldn’t have any of it left in 2 years time whereas the sister would invest it and do well. It turns out that it took the brother 6 months to lose all of the money.

So, there is a difference between “wanting to be poor” and “making bad decision after bad decision”, being lazy (and many are), being stupid, and lacking the capacity to develop skills that would enable one to sustain themselves (extreme example: the mentally and intellectually handicapped).

To deny that there are a LOT of people in this category is to be delusional.

Of course, opportunities are unequal and the government (IMHO) has a role to play in getting the disadvantaged a shot to move up.
But there are people who will blow it no matter what society does.

July 28, 2014 Posted by | economy, politics/social, poverty, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Republicans: overly wedded to what they want to believe

This first thing from Bill Maher caught my eye. He was interviewing Neil Degrasse Tyson and mentioned that there was a National Review article about him. There were the usual “they don’t like you because you are a smart black guy” comments (strictly speaking, not true; Ben Carson and Professor Thomas Sowell are smart, black and are popular with conservatives). But later he gets to the real issue of what disturbs them about Dr. Tyson (about 1:10 to 2:00): fundamentally, they can’t stomach that humans aren’t “special” in a way that the rest of the universe isn’t; the idea that this universe was NOT created with US in mind (or FOR us) just disturbs the hell out of them.

This is an old clip, but this would make many a Bible Believer’s head explode:

Conservatives aren’t above just making stuff up either. The Republican supply side experiment in Kansas just blew up in their faces. So, the Republicans point to Texas and try to compare it to California…and the latter has rebounded quite nicely. That is too much for Republicans to bear, so their economists just make stuff up. This time, they got caught.

They also love to grab a headline which maybe misrepresents a program and then claim: “we KNEW what those liberals were up to!”

This is from an article about higher education in The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller references a right wing blog which references a concern from a professor at the University of Wisconsin. Here is what is going on: the Board of Regents signed off on a plan that has a goal of equalizing minority representation in the more desirable majors as well as grade distribution: one could read that as “we want minority students to do as well as anyone else.” A professor expressed a concern that professors would be under pressure to inflate the grades of minority students in these fields.

I can understand the concern that the professor has; stuff like this has happened in grade schools.

But that is only a concern; there is nothing in this plan that tells people to give any student a grade that they didn’t earn.

Think of it this way: suppose one was concerned with the physical fitness of, say, urban students. So one comes up with a plan that says, say, that male urban 9’th grade students be brought up to the same standards met by, say, male 9’th grade suburban students. Suppose the metrics used is, say, the 2 mile run and the number of pull ups that can be done in 1 minute.

The goal would be clear, right? No one would expect the urban students to get a 1 minute handicap or, say, a 2 pull up handicap. The idea would be, say to introduce physical fitness activities that are more physically demanding and the like.

Yes, I know, there have been times, at SOME schools, where professors were required to weight, say, participation to a certain percentage so as to encourage student effort. And no, I don’t approve of that type of program.

July 26, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, education, religion, Republican, republicans, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Tough issues: transportation for the poor and responding to a criminal…

Some time ago, I read the book When Work Disappears by William Julius Wilson. It was excellent; it predicted that many of the social pathologies that affected the working class (or formerly working class) African American community would stat affecting the white working class community. And guess what?

One of the problems about work and the poor is that often, the poor lack the transportation to get to where the jobs are. This continues to be a problem, and Vox recently published a good article by Danielle Kurtzleben that further explores this and provides some data.

Criminal and the victim’s response
I am not convinced that all of the facts are out. But according to this article and to a statement: some burglars broke into an old man’s house and were looting it. The old man caught them; there was a scuffle and the burglars fled on foot. While they were running away and off of his property, the old man shot and killed one of them.

On one hand: I have zero sympathy for the burglars. If they didn’t break into his house, this would not have happened.

On the other hand: shooting is really only justified (IMHO) when you are defending yourself; in this case they were getting away. The old man admits that he shot one of the burglars to teach the surviving one (the faster runner) a lesson. And no, our society does NOT have the death penalty for burglary and, prior to punishment, the defendant is entitled to a fair trial.

And we don’t need untrained yahoos firing weapons into public areas!

I am not sure how I feel about this; I am glad that I am not the judge, prosecuting attorney or on a jury deciding this.

July 24, 2014 Posted by | economy, political/social, poverty, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Big box stores and D’Souza’s whine…..

Dinesh D’Souza has the sadz…not because he is a convicted felon but because Costco made a business decision to not sell his book. Oh, google is out to get him too.

Guess what Mr. D’Souza: a Richard Dawkins book probably wouldn’t sell well in church bookstores either.

Big Box stores: there is some evidence that workers are paid better and treated better by these chains than by the mom-and-pops. I do wonder if part of the reason is that the mom-and-pops have higher non-labor expenses due to not having as much buying power.

I honestly don’t know; illumination from those who do would be welcome.

July 23, 2014 Posted by | economy, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Poverty, statistics, sexual harassment and weight loss surgery

Weight loss surgery
That is one of the things that strikes me as “icky”; it sure looks like mutilation to me. But it can help and, surprisingly bring changes to gut bacteria and improves diabetic conditions. Yes, there are several kinds (e. g. bypass, lap band, etc.) and these are discussed in this article.

This is an interesting video story about a 52 year old guy who delivers pizzas for a living…via a bicycle. He has done this for 30 years; it is not an easy life.

I remember being more clueless in the mid 1980’s. One of my lifting buddies at the Austin YMCA used to throw shot for Texas State (then Southwest Texas); I played football with his brothers.

He then had a job with the Austin Park District; he worked outdoors keeping the parks in shape. I said “how cool is that; you get to be outside all day!”. He reminded me: “you know, that job doesn’t pay very much.” That helped me keep some perspective.

The effects of poverty are felt in education as well. This is a long story in the New Yorker about a middle school mathematics teacher who helped his students cheat on a standardized exam; the idea is that schools would be closed and teachers fired if students didn’t meet a certain score on a standardized exam.

Yeah, I know; we all love the movies where some firebrand comes in and “believes in” the poor students and gets them to meet some standard that everyone else said “couldn’t be met”.

But student performance is a product of many factors including the environment in which they are raised, the health care and nutrition that they got while growing up and individual genetic factors.

Administrators who bellow about “meet these standards; no excuses” don’t do any good, especially if the standards to be met aren’t set in a realistic manner.

Sexual harassment in science
This is a survey about sexual harassment and sexual assault “in the field” among scientists.

The questions were:

1) ‘‘Have you ever personally experienced inappropriate or sexual remarks, comments about physical beauty, cognitive sex differences, or other jokes, at a field site? (If you have had more than one experience, the most notable to you).’’

2) ‘‘Have you ever experienced physical sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact, or sexual contact in which you could not or did not give consent or felt it would be unsafe to fight back or not give your consent at a field site? (If you have had more than one experience, the most notable to you).’’

Note: sexual assault could include something as benign as getting your butt slapped.

The results:

Of the women who responded to the survey, 71 percent reported having experienced inappropriate sexual comments while doing scientific fieldwork and 26 percent said they had experienced sexual assault.

Of the men who responded, 41 percent reported inappropriate sexual comments and 6 percent reported sexual assault.

The wording is interesting. I suppose that if I were to answer the question honestly, I could say that *I* was sexually assaulted at a running race; one time I was trying to kick it in at a small town 10K as the clock was almost at 50 minutes. I sprinted (or what passed for a sprint), stumbled across the finish line and got a hearty butt slap from one of the women at the finish line.

No, she wasn’t a friend; this was at a small race in rural Wisconsin.
No, I didn’t care; in fact I was almost comatose at the time…when I walked away I turned around, looked at her and thought “oh, she is cute; pity I wasn’t more aware at the time” and chuckled.

But I had not given consent….but I tend to answer questions very literally.

July 17, 2014 Posted by | economy, education, poverty, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Why rational discussion with conservatives is often difficult to impossible….

Yes, I sometimes get in heated discussions with other liberals. And yes, we have some zealots that you can say nothing to.

BUT, if you present them with solid evidence from a credible source, many will look at it and consider it. They might still find the evidence wanting or insufficient to overturn an opinion in the light of other evidence. But they will consider it.

Many liberals put a high premium on…well…being correct.

Conservatives: from the ones I’ve seen: not so much. To them, a position is more or less like a non-falsifiable tenet of religious dogma.

Paul Krugman presents a couple of examples. Here is the one on the Affordable Care Act (which was based on an old Heritage Foundation plan, but never mind that)

Many simply can’t accept that the ACA isn’t a disaster:

The good news about Obamacare so far shouldn’t be considered disputable. Enrollments really are above target; multiple independent surveys show a sharp drop in the uninsured population; health care cost growth really has slowed dramatically, whatever the reason; the newly insured are generally satisfied with their coverage. If you want to insist that big problems lie ahead, fine (but please explain), but the facts so far are pretty good.

But what I’m getting — and what you get whenever you suggest that things are going OK — is an outpouring, not so much of disagreement, as of fury. People get red-in-the-face angry, practically to the point of incoherence, over the suggestion that it’s not a disaster.

What’s that about? Partly it may be Obama derangement syndrome. I was struck by mail I received after my last column accusing me of shilling for Obama and refusing to admit what a disaster he’s been — when the column didn’t so much as mention the guy. Obamacare was a label stuck on the Affordable Care Act by its opponents, to tie the president to the disaster to come; now they’re livid that it, and he, are turning out OK.

Partly it may be general hatred for any kind of program that helps the less fortunate, especially if they happen to be, you know, not white. Such programs must be disasters — don’t bother me with evidence.

And partly, I suspect, there’s now an element of shame. If this thing is actually working, everyone who yelled about how it would be a disaster ends up looking fairly stupid.

But, you know, sometimes looks don’t deceive.

That last line (emphasis mine) is awesome.

But being wrong doesn’t mean ANYTHING to them….(21 to 33 seconds is the relevant part….”you can go through all of the scientific gobbledygook you like…I don’t believe it”..THAT is what it means to be a conservative)

And this inability to correct based on past mistakes extends to other areas as well:

Krugman explains:

So, there was a fun moment on CNBC: Rick Santelli went on a rant about inflation and the Fed, and CNBC analyst Steve Liesman went medieval on him:

It’s impossible for you to have been more wrong, Rick. Your call for inflation, the destruction of the dollar, the failure of the US economy to rebound. Rick, it’s impossible for you to have been more wrong. Every single bit of advice you gave would have lost people money, Rick. Lost people money, Rick. Every single bit of advice. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. Not a single one. Not a single one, Rick. The higher interest rates never came, the inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened, the dollar never crashed, Rick. There isn’t a single one that’s worked for you.


But here’s the thing: before Liesman started, Santelli yelled that he had been right all along — and some of the traders started applauding.

Think about that: Liesman is of course right about Santelli’s record, and as I’ve pointed out many times this goes for all the inflationistas. So any trader who believed him would have lost money hand over fist. So why the applause?

Basically, I think, it’s because Santelli is their kind of guy; he hates the poors, he hates people who want to help the poors, he was trashing Janet Yellen for suggesting that she actually cares about the plight of the unemployed. And the traders feel the same way. So they like Santelli even though he’s been wrong about everything.

This is a bit like fundamentalists cheering a preacher for “sticking up for what they believe” even though the preacher has never actually been right about a single thing.

Conservatives judge policy not by the spreadsheet but by how closely it aligns with what they BELIEVE to be true.

July 15, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Robert Reich’s Film: Inequality for All

Note: this film was better than I had expected. This wasn’t some loud anti-capitalist screed nor was it even partisan. It was NOT Michael Moore style entertainment for liberals nor was it dry and technical, though it did have quite a bit of intellectual content.

Its thesis: while any capitalist system will have *some* inherit inequality (e. g. brain surgeons will earn more than sanitation workers), our level of inequality is too high and favors those who really don’t add that much (if any) value to the economy. This is a long term threat to our economy (demand might drop dangerously low) and to our democracy (too much power to the super wealthy).

Reich gives some time to the Occupy Wall Street movement AND to certain parts of the Tea Party movement (e. g. those against “crony capitalism”) and interviews natural Democrats AND natural Republicans.

It was much less partisan that I had anticipated.

As a film: it was more entertaining than I had expected. (*) Democrats will like it, but I can recommend it to open-minded Republicans too, though they might be more skeptical than I am of some of the arguments. I admit that some arguments that say “before the 1929 crash, metrics were x, y, z and now they are at x, y, z again” are less than convincing..if taken alone.

Still, I think we’ve gone too far in the current direction.

(*) Right now I am reading a book about inequality called The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz and while I like the content, the writing isn’t the most engaging. Like Paul Krugman, Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize winner in economics, but IMHO he doesn’t write as well as Krugman, even if his intellectual content is at the same level.

July 10, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, social/political | , | Leave a comment


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