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“Joe Scarborough Is A Total Hack”: But Don’t Take My Word For It

In his latest salvo in his back-and-forth with Paul Krugman over the significance of the national debt, Joe Scarborough, writing in POLITICO today, displayed such a foul misunderstanding about economics, Krugman must have choked on his oatmeal laughing as he read it.

In “Paul Krugman is wrong – but don’t take my word for it,” the MSNBC host made the following point:

Investors may be growing skittish about U.S. government debt levels and the disordered state of U.S. fiscal policymaking.

From the beginning of 2002, when U.S. government debt was at its most recent minimum as a share of GDP, to the end of 2012, the dollar lost 25 percent of its value, in price-adjusted terms, against a basket of the currencies of major trading partners. This may have been because investors fear that the only way out of the current debt problems will be future inflation.

It also may have been because space aliens raided the Treasury in the dead of night because Nicholas Cage and Chuck Norris were off duty, having been contracted by the Navy to fight a flotilla of krakens in the Caribbean the week before. Scarborough may as well have argued that, because it would have displayed a better understanding of how foreign exchange markets actually work. The value of the dollar is determined by foreign countries’ demand for it and our supply of foreign exchange. And while foreign investors in 2002 may have begun to fear widening debt that was eventually caused by a recession in 2008 — despite the fact that the housing bubble was far from inflated in 2002 and that these investors eventually failed to foresee the crash itself — it’s more likely that the value of the dollar fell because our current account deficit essentially doubled between 2002 and 2006 (but don’t take my word for it).

Scarborough continued to make arguments that could be debunked by a remedial high school economics teacher shortly after:

More troubling for the future is that private domestic investment—the fuel for future economic growth—shows a strong negative correlation with government debt levels over several business cycles dating back to the late 1950s. Continuing high debt does not bode well in this regard.

While it’s true that government borrowing can “crowd out” private investment by bidding up interest rates, it isn’t currently happening — interest rates remain low. Furthermore, investors seem to have more confidence in U.S. Treasuries than they do in the market (but don’t take my word for it, “investors continue to buy U.S. government debt as a refuge against a renewal of turmoil in global financial markets and concern the U.S. recovery may falter”). The real reason that private investment and government debt appear to have an inverse relationship, both now and during any recession, is that economic contraction causes both tax revenue and private investment to fall.

So whose word should we take?

If you believe that I am wrong and Paul Krugman is right…then take it up with the RAND Corporation whose senior economist wrote everything you have read here other than this concluding paragraph. The debt crisis is real and waiting another decade to fix it is not an option. Anyone who suggests it is operates well outside the mainstream of where serious economists reside.

If the recent financial crash has taught us anything, it’s that “the mainstream of where serious economists reside” is less credible than a bootleg DVD salesman convention. But what’s even more troubling about Scarborough’s column — and POLITICO’s decision to publish it — is that he doesn’t even say whose words we should take or what those words actually are. Scarborough names neither the “senior economist” nor the study or studies that he is citing. Nor does the RAND Corporation even have a single “senior economist” — a search for “senior economist” on RAND’s website indicates that the think tank has at least a dozen “senior economists” on staff. So we can’t even debunk the man inspiring Scarborough to spew such noxious filth. At least we can debunk him.


By: Samuel Knight, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 16, 2013

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Budget, Deficits | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Madness Of Wayne LaPierre”: Will NRA Members Suffer The Consequences Of His Racism And Paranoia?

If you’re looking for a sure fire recipe to boost gun sales, there’s nothing like putting a heavy dose of paranoia, along with a large dollop of racist fear mongering, into the atmosphere to get the job done—and NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre has certainly done his part.

In an op-ed published Wednesday by The Daily Caller , LaPierre twisted more than a few facts while arguing that the world is hell and attempting to navigate your way through it without a semi-automatic weapon at your side can only be perceived as sheer madness.

However, the true madness would appear to rest within the mind of Wayne LaPierre.

To make his central point that guns are a must in this terrifying inferno we call America, LaPierre treats us to the following—

“During the second Obama term, however, additional threats are growing. Latin American drug gangs have invaded every city of significant size in the United States. Phoenix is already one of the kidnapping capitals of the world, and though the states on the U.S./Mexico border may be the first places in the nation to suffer from cartel violence, by no means are they the last.”

While there is much in that paragraph to respond to, my attention was particularly grabbed by LaPierre’s effort to raise the specter of kidnapping run amuck, knowing full well that nothing frightens people more than the image of someone coming into their home and taking away a loved one. It is an effective use of imagery—despite being wholly dishonest in its use—that makes a meaningful contribution to both the art of fear mongering and spreading apprehension through the employment of racial stereotyping.

While it is absolutely true that there has been an unusually high number of kidnappings in the city of Phoenix, things are not exactly as LaPierre would have us believe.

In 2008, when Phoenix was experiencing the peak of its kidnapping troubles, Mark Spencer—head of the union that represents more than 2,500 Phoenix police officers—noted, “In the past year, there were 359 kidnappings in Phoenix, and not one was legitimate involving a truly innocent victim…”

In other words, the kidnappings were not the result of a scenario where bad guys were invading the homes of the good guys and stealing away their children. Rather, these were bad guys in a battle with other bad guys—bad guys whom Mr. LaPierre apparently wants to ensure are adequately armed so that they can defend themselves in the internal wars that occur in the business of illegal immigration.

This is like arguing in an op-ed piece that the public has an interest in insuring that the Bugs Moran Gang be better armed so that they can more effectively protect themselves from the attacks of Al Capone.

And then there is this paragraph from Mr. LaPierre’s piece

“After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.”

Pretty scary, yes?

The problem is that LaPierre’s hellish, New York City landscape doesn’t quite jive with the actual data.

From the New York Daily News

“Murders citywide dropped 86% from Monday, when the hurricane hit, to Friday, compared with the same time frame in 2011, NYPD statistics show. The city has also seen a slump in robberies. There were 211 this past week, compared with 303 in the same block of days last year – a 30% decline. Grand larcenies are down 48%, auto thefts are down 24% and felony assaults dropped 31%, department figures show.”

Because there was some looting in certain areas of the city where store fronts were ripped wide open, there were 271 burglaries in the five-day period following the storm compared to 267 the previous year.

Not exactly the scene straight out of hell as described by Wayne LaPierre nor one that warranted New Yorkers locking and loading en masse to deal with the horrors that enveloped them.

The paranoid op-ed piece goes downhill from there in a tone that resembles something more akin to what one might expect to be the manifesto of a madman holed up in a cabin in the woods planning to wreak his revenge on a dangerous world that just doesn’t understand him. It certainly is not the sort of rationally constructed editorial that one would hope to find in a credible publication.

Make no mistake. I fully appreciate and acknowledge the desires and concerns of Americans—and everyone else in the world—when it comes to protecting their homes and families. And if owning a firearm is what an individual believes is required to accomplish that protection, such is his or her right.

I also acknowledge that my own opinion on gun ownership is largely without relevance as it is the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution that gives Americans their rights in this regard, subject to legal and legitimate restrictions that may be placed on such ownership, and most certainly not my thoughts on the topic. The Supreme Court has made the parameters of gun ownership more than clear—and those parameters are fairly expansive.

What I do not appreciate—nor should any American appreciate—is LaPierre’s efforts to spread fear and racism under the guise of protecting the 2nd Amendment when all he is really doing is playing the part the gun manufacturers have assigned him as they seek to perpetuate the gold rush that has produced record-setting gun sales in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

Wayne LaPierre knows that no matter how many times he says it —or what method he may choose to scare the wits out of those who might become customers for the gun makers—there is not a shred of evidence that President Obama—or anyone else in the federal government who has anything to say about it—has any interest in ‘taking away the guns’.

Wayne LaPierre knows that even if there were a glimmer of expectation on the part of anyone with the power to ‘take away the guns’ that they could do so, it is a virtual impossibility given that the Supreme Court has well established an American’s right to own a firearm. The only way this happens is a complete rejection of the law of the land by our government, something LaPierre apparently does not fear as he notes in his op-ed piece, “Gun owners are not buying firearms because they anticipate a confrontation with the government. Rather, we anticipate confrontations where the government isn’t there—or simply doesn’t show up in time.”

Do you know what else Wayne LaPierre knows?

He knows that the only legislation moving through Congress is limited to banning the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons (not taking away any that are currently owned) just as he knows that this legislation has absolutely no chance of passing.

LaPierre also knows that the only possible changes we may see in gun laws will involve increased background checks for potential gun purchasers—a move that is widely supported not only by an overwhelming number of Americans but by a large majority of those who form the membership of the NRA. He knows this because he can read the polls as easily as I can—polls that leave little room for doubt.

A recent Quinnipiac Poll found that 92 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun buyers, including 91 percent of those living in homes with a gun. The January, 2013 Pew survey reports 85 percent of Americans—and 85 percent of gun owners—want all private gun sales and sales at gun shows to be subject to background checks. The CBS/New York Times poll conducted in January, 2013 had similar results, showing that 92 percent of Americans, including 85 percent of those living in a household with an NRA member, are in favor of universal background checks.

But Wayne LaPierre doesn’t care because background checks are bad for business—And Mr. LaPierre is all about the business of selling guns.

Despite knowing all these things, LaPierre could not resist spreading his message of fear with undertones of racism even in the face of knowing that the membership of the NRA will end up having no beef with the likely legislative outcome of our most recent discussion on guns.

Of course, there may be another explanation for LaPierre’s despicable behavior.

Maybe he is no longer capable of grasping these bits of information and demonstrations of reality because he’s been at this so long that he no longer can deal with facts and realities. Maybe all Wayne LaPierre has left is his hellish vision of his country.

Either way, LaPierre has become a liability to the membership of the National Rifle Association.

Gun owners have every interest in protecting the rights granted us all by the 2nd Amendment. But doing so by spreading fear, xenophobia and racial hatred is not going to get the job done and will only serve to hurt the members of the NRA in the long run. While the NRA is today one of the most effective lobbying organizations in America—if not the most effective—they now risk seeing their powers stripped away by LaPierre’s decision to lead the organization down the path of racism and paranoia rather than standing up for what the organization was intended to be—a place for gun owners to come together to sensibly and rationally protect and defend their Second Amendment rights.

While much of the media focus today is centered around the damage LaPierre is doing to the Republicans—the political party long viewed as the primary political ally of the NRA—if I were a NRA member, my concern would not be for the GOP but for the continued viability of my own organization.

If the NRA allows LaPierre to continue as their leader, they may well be writing the script for their own demise.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, February 14, 2013

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Guns, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Than A Footnote Of History”: The Noble Origins Of ‘Black History Month’ Are Now Outdated

Eighty-seven years ago — when about half of households owned an automobile, women’s suffrage was new and black Americans were still terrorized by lynching, especially in the South — black historian Carter G. Woodson had a simple but powerful idea: Designate a week to celebrate the contributions that black Americans had made to their country. Woodson chose the second week of February to commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Negro History Week, as it was known, was an important development for its time. Back then, official history barely acknowledged the presence of black Americans, while popular culture actively diminished their humanity. In such a hostile landscape, black Americans desperately needed an acknowledgement of their patriotism, enterprise and ingenuity to foster self-confidence. Knowledge is power.

Decades later, the landscape has changed in such profound ways that Woodson would hardly recognize it. Automobiles are ubiquitous; women voters usually outnumber men in national elections; and a coalition that included unmarried women and black, Latino and Asian-American voters powered the nation’s first black president to re-election last year.

Despite those tectonic, ground-shaking developments, Woodson’s commemoration — now Black History Month — lingers. Yet it is an artifact that, ironically, works to minimize the myriad ways in which black Americans’ accomplishments are part of the national mosaic. In the age of Obama, do we need such a separate and unequal celebration?

Consider: Twenty years from now, will classroom discussions of President Obama be restricted to February? Or does the first black president belong to the broader pantheon of presidents, his legacy discussed alongside those of others? Will a future Barack Obama Presidential Library be a site of commemorations only during the shortest month of the year?

If it is absurd to imagine confining Obama to Black History Month, then it ought to be apparent that it is equally nonsensical to promote the study of Crispus Attucks, Elijah McCoy, Sojourner Truth, Charles Drew, Dorie Miller and the Tuskegee Airmen for only 28 days. The inventions, the patriotism, the industry and the adventurousness of black Americans — soldiers, cowboys, pioneers, engineers — are part and parcel of American history, not some footnote.

Proponents of Black History Month argue that, while that’s true, mainstream (read “white”) America still has not accepted that argument, and the contributions of black Americans are not readily acknowledged. Neither the classroom nor popular culture, they note, has moved much beyond Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.

Yet continuing to marginalize black Americans with the February set-aside hardly advances the cause. It makes the contributions of a few well-known black men and women seem a historical exception. In thoughtful criticism of Quentin Tarantino’s slave revenge epic Django Unchained, historian William Jelani Cobb argues that the movie’s biggest flaw lies in the message that its title character is the rare enslaved black man who rose up against his oppressors. In fact, white plantation owners lived in fear of slave rebellions, large and small. (Ever heard of Nat Turner?)

Similarly, Black History Month places our history outside its context, separating it from the larger American story. The truth is that blacks participated in every major development in U.S. history. From the bloody Boston Massacre, to the settling of the West, to the World Wars and the labor movement, to the exploration of space, black Americans have been present as footsoldiers and leaders. In other words, black history is American history.

We Americans, regardless of color, are not particularly well versed in our nation’s story; if “black history” isn’t well understood, neither is “white history.” There have long been roiling battles between the realists and the mythmakers who would whitewash the carnage that followed Columbus’ “discovery,” tidy up the Founders and ignore the systemic oppression visited upon blacks for generations.

As for popular culture, it may be an even harder re-write since moviegoers want romance, not the hard truth. That’s why I give Tarantino some credit for Django Unchained, ahistorical though it may be. It gets the cruelty of slavery right. And it wasn’t released during Black History Month.


By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, February 16, 2013

February 17, 2013 Posted by | American History | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Old Grudges”: Why Senate Republicans Confirmed John Kerry But Stalled Chuck Hagel

The Senate Republican vendetta against Chuck Hagel – acted out in the filibuster that has derailed his nomination as Secretary of Defense – seems extraordinarily petty — if John McCain (R-AZ) is telling the truth. The Arizona senator publicly acknowledged that his party’s rejection of Hagel, a fellow Republican and decorated Vietnam veteran, was motivated by old grudges dating from the Bush administration.

“There’s a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover and said the ‘surge’ was the worst blunder since the Vietnam war, which was nonsense,” McCain told Fox News after the vote on Thursday. “He was anti-his own party, and people…don’t forget that. You can disagree but if you’re disagreeable, people don’t forget that.”

So bent on vengeance were the Republicans that they even tolerated the McCarthyite diversions of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), a freshman whose resemblance to the late Wisconsin demagogue emerged in his repeated insinuations that Hagel had secretly accepted money from North Korea and Saudi Arabia. This seemed to disturb McCain, but he admonished Cruz in the mildest terms possible, and without naming him.

When the Cruz smears fell flat, it became plain that the assault on Hagel’s nomination wasn’t based on any concern that rose to the level of Constitutional principle, national defense, or substantive foreign policy. Among the Republican senators who promoted the filibuster against Hagel were several, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX) who had insisted when George W. Bush was president that every single one of his nominees deserved an “up or down vote” – and thus should not be subject, as a matter of presidential authority in Article II of the Constitution, to tactical delay.

But then all the rules are different, now that Barack Obama is (and remains) president.

Worse than their inconsistency over the filibuster — which at least is a bipartisan hypocrisy shared by Democrats — the Republicans have claimed that Hagel’s policy views are so far from the mainstream that he cannot be confirmed.

But the same senators almost unanimously confirmed the nomination of former senator John Kerry (D-MA) as Secretary of State, virtually without questioning any of his positions. Kerry, a superb and highly qualified choice, won that easy approval despite holding positions practically identical to those of Hagel concerning Mideast policy, Israel, Iran, North Korea, nuclear disarmament, and many other critical and controversial issues.

In fact, Kerry has ventured even further than Hagel on certain specific questions, such as the final status of Jerusalem in a potential peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, or the fate of Jewish settlements in occupied territory.

During his senatorial travels abroad over the years, Kerry became an outspoken advocate for international action against climate change – an activist stance that could hardly have endeared him to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and the other mossback climate deniers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who so eagerly rubber-stamped his nomination. Yet Hagel, a climate-change skeptic during his senatorial career, was harangued and vilified for eight hours during his nomination hearing, and then denied a vote on the Senate floor.

The contrast between the swift confirmation of Kerry and the blockading of Hagel also pointed up the phoniness of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). As a condition of permitting a vote on the Hagel nomination, Graham insisted that he must have additional information from the White House about the jihadi attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. But if that information is so essential, why didn’t Graham, McCain, and their fellow Republicans hold up the nomination of Kerry for the same reason? As everyone in Washington knows, the answer is an example of their partisan venality: They hoped that Kerry’s vacated seat might be filled in a special election by their former colleague from Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown.

By the time that the Senate adjourned, it was clear that Hagel was short of only a single vote to achieve cloture – and that the Senate Democrats, determined to win his confirmation, will eventually achieve their goal. They must, not only because Hagel is a qualified nominee selected by the Commander in Chief, but because the Senate cannot accord veto power over the president’s national security nominations to Republican extremists.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, February 15, 2013

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Secretary of Defense, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Misogynist Myth-Making”: The Reality of Domestic Violence Is No Amount Of Story-Telling Will Stop The Killings

Here we go again. Another woman shot dead by her partner, another round of media coverage fawning over the killer. Just over two months ago, it was Jovan Belcher—he was called a “family man” after shooting and killing Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend and mother of his newborn daughter. Today its South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who has been charged with the murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Just one day after shooting Steenkamp four times, Pistorius has been called “calm and positive” and “inspirational.” (Steenkamp? She’s been called “a leggy blonde.”)

One reporter at The New York Times who spent a week with the double-amputee athlete, wrote that Pistorius was “not as cautious as he always should be…but I didn’t see anger in him.” The headline is “The Adrenaline-Fueled Life of Oscar Pistorius.” He was just an impulsive guy!

Give me a break.

Early media reports speculated that Pistorius shot Steenkamp mistakenly, believing she was a burglar. But prosecutors don’t share that view. After all, the police had been called to his home multiple times in the past for domestic altercations. We’ve seen this happen before—many, many times before—yet still we insist on lying to ourselves. This murder may have happened in South Africa, but the misogynist response to the crime has become a familiar theme here in the United States.

The national conversation around domestic violence murders is not a discourse as much as it is a fairy tale—a narrative we create to make sense of the madness. After all, it’s more comforting to believe that Belcher had brain damage than it is to admit that someone people so admired was a controlling, violent abuser. It’s easier to think that Pistorius accidentally shot Steenkamp than realize the murder is a foreseeable end to a violent relationship.

It’s why we blame dead women for the unthinkable violence done against them—mostly because of misogyny, but also because it provides a false sense of safety. In the days after her murder, Perkins was criticized for staying out late (the nerve!), accused of trying to leave him and “take his money.” Given the sexualized descriptions of Steenkamp, I’m sure it won’t be long before someone suggests she somehow brought this on herself—she was making him jealous or flirted too much. We need to believe that these women did something to cause the violence, because then it means the same thing would never happen to us. (We’re not like “those girls!”)

Our culture is so attached to this myth making that some are willing to forgo all logic and ignore all facts. In the wake of Perkins’ murder, and now after Steenkamp’s, conservatives and gun enthusiasts insist that if these women were armed, they would still be alive. Never mind that both women lived in a house where guns were available, and yet they still died.

When I was a volunteer emergency room advocate for victims of rape and domestic violence, the first question we were trained to ask women who had been abused by their partners was whether or not there was a gun in the home. Because we knew that women whose partners had access to a gun were seven times more likely to be killed. In fact, women who are killed by their partners are more likely to be murdered by a gun than all other means combined.

Despite this tower of evidence, people will continue to insist that these women could have somehow stopped the violence. (Inaccuracies aside, the idea that women have a responsibility to keep someone from killing them rather than an abuser not to commit murder is baffling.)

The more we tell ourselves and others these lies, the more cover we give to those who would do violence against women. We create a narrative where victims are to blame and abusers heroized. And perhaps worst of all, we create a culture where we fool ourselves into thinking these murders are something that just happens—unforeseeable tragedies rather than preventable violence.

The reality of domestic violence murders is stark and scary—but it is still the reality. And no amount of story-telling will stop the killings. Only the truth can do that.


By: Jessica Valenti, The Nation, February 15, 2013

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Domestic Violence | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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