Top Ten Myths about the Arab Spring of 2011

1. The upheavals of 2011 were provoked by the Bush administration’s overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq

2. President Obama was wrong to ask Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

3. Muslim radicalism benefited from the revolutions in the Arab world. 

4. Muslim religious groups spear-headed the revolutions.

5. The uprising in Bahrain was merely a manifestation of sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shiite

6. Iran was behind the uprising in Bahrain.

7. The Arab Spring is a Western plot.

8. The intervention of NATO in Libya was driven primarily by oil.

9. The Arab dictatorships now overthrown or tottering were better for women than their likely Islamist successors

10. The Arab upheavals are an unmitigated disaster for Israel.

Top Ten Myths about the Arab Spring of 2011 | Informed Comment.

Juan Cole, as per, offers sound reasoning for why each of these is considered a myth.   The Arab Spring has been an amazing thing to watch, and brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion for more than one reason.   Overall, we here at RPN consider it a *VERY GOOD* thing, and believe a (more) free and (more) open society is the best way to inoculate against violent radicals.

The more people feel a part of their country/community/culture the more likely they are to work to make it better.  Only those who feel apart from everything feel justified in destroying it.

 

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Smashing the Laffer Curve

This might very well be a long post (if not a series of posts turned into a quick book).

The target of this post is something called the “Laffer Curve”.   There’s a few different things this might refer to.  Let me lay out a basic level of understanding of this concept now, straight from the source…

If the existing tax rate is too high–in the “prohibitive range” shown above–then a tax-rate cut would result in increased tax revenues. The economic effect of the tax cut would outweigh the arithmetic effect of the tax cut.

Because tax cuts create an incentive to increase output, employment, and production, they also help balance the budget by reducing means-tested government expenditures. A faster-growing economy means lower unemployment and higher incomes, resulting in reduced unemployment benefits and other social welfare programs [hence lower spending -RPN].

[source…which will be referred to again]

If you would like, wikipedia is a good source of info on this as well as further reading.  The analysis you are about to read is not concerned so much with the theory, but the application and the results.

Over time, the idea of the Laffer Curve has evolved into a notion that “tax cuts pay for the themselves” and “raising taxes will only decrease revenue”.   There are a number of other popular myths and misconceptions dealing with taxes in the 21st Century United States, far too many to deal with today in this post.    One we will deal with in part two of this series is who is paying those taxes and how the application of the Laffer Curve has changed that dynamic.  However, that is beyond the scope of this initial piece.

Section I : The Perfect Lab

In the year 2000 (que Conan…)…the United States of America had a balanced budget.  I know, I know…this is hard to believe.   Hard to even conceive of at this point.  However, it was true.

Q: During the Clinton administration was the federal budget balanced? Was the federal deficit erased?

A: Yes to both questions, whether you count Social Security or not.

[source]

A couple terms to deal with real quick, “deficit” which is a yearly negative difference between revenue and spending, and “debt” which is  accumulated, usually counted on a per year basis as we’ll do below.  While it doesn’t seem particularly relevant as this point, such a thing as a “surplus” also exists.  A surplus is when revenue exceeds spending.  Surpluses are the only thing that can be used to pay down “debt”.

So in the United States, circa 2000, there existed the perfect “test case” for an economic theory dealing with the direct and raw stimulative power of tax cuts directed mainly at top earners.  We would be able to see, very clearly, whether or not “the economic effect of the tax cut would outweigh the arithmetic effect of the tax cut.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: For simplification purposes, the charts below DO NOT INCLUDE debt accumulated prior to 2000.  Back in the 20th Century (mostly the 80’s) the U.S. racked up $10,000,000,000,000 in debt.  We’re going to ignore that for the next little while (it became a custom in the 90’s, and for not horrible reasons).   In part 3 of this series we’ll tie the whole thing  together with unemployment [here’s a taste].

As math tends to do, the “arithmetic effect” on revenues was immediate.   Our next section will deal with the math that goes into the “arithmetic effect” (which BTW, is a euphemism for saying, “Duh, it’s obvious if you cut taxes you get less revenue.”)

So let’s start small and build from there.

Section II : The Little Equation

To be honest, there are many “equations” which figure into public accounting.  In this case the equations we’re talking about are the ones that governs the graphs below.  The first can be described simply as this…

A deficit (and it’s alter ego the “surplus”) is simply the difference (negative for deficits, positive for surplus) between the amount of revenue the government takes in and the amount of spending it puts out.

Part of the disconnect that is happening right now is we are seeing huge deficits, focusing solely on the “spending” side of the equation, and don’t seem to be largely aware how badly *revenues* have dropped off during the recession.

To simplify:  Revenues [R] – Spending [S]= Deficit(-)/Surplus(+) [I]

Those are the only numbers driving this first graph, spending, revenue and deficits.  In addition to the straight spending, revenue and deficit surplus numbers, we’ve also added to lines for change over time (in this case % per year), and one section for accumulated gross debt.

Here’s how the numbers came out.   In a moment we’ll looks a few choice events in the timeline, and the corresponding (general) effects in the graph.

Graph of Revenues, Spending, and Debt 2000-2010

Revenues, Spending, and Debt 2000-2010

What we see here is a *very* basic look at the economic situation in the United States in the 21st Century.   As indicated in the legend, we’ve set up Revenue as positive income, Spending as negative, and graphed the *cumulative* difference, in the this case “debt” in the black-fading-to-bright-red.

One thing which is on this chart you will not see quite so often on other charts are the wavy lines.   The blue wavy line is the Year 0ver Year (YoY) percent change in revenue.  That is…compared to the previous year, how much did it change?  Understanding the reason this line is so important brings us back to the definition of the Laffer Curve.  Recall:

If the existing tax rate is too high–in the “prohibitive range” shown above–then a tax-rate cut would result in increased tax revenues. The economic effect of the tax cut would outweigh the arithmetic effect of the tax cut.

The reason this stands as such a perfect lab example for testing this theory is that we had both a balanced budget (with a surplus, no less) in 2000, and then has massive tax cuts in both 2001 and and in 2003 (note: both these included specifically in their titles that they would create jobs and economic growth.  Their titles, however, have little to do with their effects).

What this graph indicates, and we’ll do a close-up below, is that tax cuts decimated revenue in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

Bush Tax Cuts Immediately Reduced Government Revenue

Bush Tax Cuts Immediately Reduced Government Revenue

As we’ll indicate in a moment, there is no larger contextual reason for this reduction outside of tax rate.  During each of these years, GDP went up.   The above chart indicates the “arithmetic effect” of tax cuts.  This is the basic idea that if you tax a smaller percentage of something, you get a smaller amount of that something (i.e. it’s “duh” math).

When many* point to as the “economic effect”  of tax cuts, they use the following cut out.

Coming up from the Bottom

Coming up from the Bottom

* who are trying to selectively use data to prove a point that doesn’t exist in the larger data set.

The problem with the above data is that it is *very* selective about what data it is representing.  We can’t even count the number of times we at RPN have seen opinion columns that claims “the Bush Cuts worked” and then selectively use the period 2003/4-2007.   When you pick the year with the *lowest revenue* and then start going from there, even if it’s a number of years *after* the tax cuts took revenue to that lowest point, there’s some honesty issues with those numbers.

Luckily we have another way to look at these numbers (as Ratios of GDP), and we get to measure the “arithmetic effect” of the tax cuts vs the “economic effect”.

 Section III : The Big Equation

Now that we have a base set of data, we are going to expand it back into the big equation.   In order to give it context, and not just freak everyone out with big numbers, we are going to show both revenue and spending as a % of GPD.   Here’s how that looks.

The Full Equation

Here we see both Spending and Revenue as a % of GDP

What this shows is a slow and somewhat steady growth in the overall U.S. economy over the last decade.  However, as the tax cuts are implemented, not even that level of steady economic growth is enough to slow the quick decline in revenue.

Revenue plummets due to tax cuts

Revenue plummets due to tax cuts.

Those next years, from 2003/4 through 2007/8 are the ones cited by supporters of this method of spurring economic growth.  Indeed, we do see a return to revenue growth (purple line), and it begins to catch up to steady spending (orange line).

Revenue begins to recover at a faster rate than spending

Revenue begins to recover at a faster rate than spending

The problem with this is that even with the favorable economic growth, steady spending patterns, and the “favorable tax rates” revenue still never quite manages to catch up.  And we still see that quickly reddening debt line.

So for the third time we look at the question, the data, and reach the conclusion.

The question:   Does the economic effect of the tax cut would outweigh the arithmetic effect of the tax cut?

The data: See graphs that should both have opened in new windows. 

The conclusion: As alluded to in the title and the next subject heading.

Section IV: Smashing the Laffer Curve

So now we bring the whole thing together, and point out what our analysis just indicated.

The revenues never catch up after falling so far behind, it didn't work

The revenues never catch up after falling so far behind, the Laffer Curve didn't work

The revenues never catch up after falling so far behind, even in our perfect laboratory, the Laffer Curve didn’t work.

Previous analysis has shown that taking into consideration *even more* favorable, longer term, economic conditions, the revenue will never catch up.

What we have here is a situation where the reality has match up to the basic math quite nicely.  Except for one thing…what happens when long term public policy is based on an economic fallacy?

Section V: The Second Great Economic Collapse.

We are going to try and wrap this up shortly.  Examining the reactions to, and the results of, the economic collapse that happened in September/October of 2008 are going to take another decade at least.   Hindsight, such as we’ve employed throughout this analysis, is incredibly accurate…one is simply looking at what happened and doing the math.

Foresight, on the other hand, and even shall we say “current sight” are much more fickle beasts.  One thing that can be very easily said, when looking at either graph, is that spending is less than half our problem.   Revenue, both in real terms and as a % of GPD, has hallen through the floor.

You’ll noticed that the only year, in all of those posted, where we had a real and actual reduction in spending was from 2009 to 2010, our current President’s first full fiscal year in office.  An office taken amidst a literal plethora of crises.  To claim this is indicative of anything beyond that simple fact is a tough argument to make.

We’ll see how that works out when more data is available.  There is more hindsight to consider at the moment.

Section VI: What the Laffer Curve Really Does

This part, for now, we’ll let Art Laffer answer himself.

From the original Heritage Foundation link.

The most controversial portion of Reagan’s tax revolution was reducing the highest marginal income tax rate from 70 percent (when he took office in 1981) to 28 percent in 1988. However, Internal Revenue Service data reveal that tax collections from the wealthy, as measured by personal income taxes paid by top percentile earners, increased between 1980 and 1988–despite significantly lower tax rates (See Table 8).

Table 8

Table 8 Which shows how the rich got richer

Table 8 Which shows how the rich got richer by paying a higher percentage of total income taxes

Here’s the thing that has misguided nearly 30 years of public policy.  Table 8.   What Art Laffer neglects to mention in that description of this chart are the following words, “as a percentage of total income.”

That is, what the data indicates (and has for nearly 30 years of this policy) is that “tax collections from the wealthy, when measured as a ratio of all income taxes paid, by top percentile earners, increased between 1980 and 1988–despite significantly lower tax rates (See Table 8).”

So despite having lower tax rates, the highest income earners still took in a higher percentage of all income, hence paying a higher percentage of total taxes.  The above graph is doubly misleading, as it consistently recounts the same people, over and over again, to give the impression that more actual money is being paid, not a higher ratio.   Indeed, in many of these years, much like after the Bush tax cuts, overall revenue went down.

What went up was how much, as a ratio, was earned by the top X %.

Final note on Art Laffer’s Table 8….it doesn’t include, anywhere, the bottom 50% of AGI.  Each one of those columns recounts the top 1%, with the final column recounting every single one to the left of it.  Were I to grade the chart on intellectual honesty, it would fail.   It is not saying what he is saying it says.  [NOTE: Illustrating this graphically is going to be the focus of Part II]

Quick note on where the Laffer Curve came from…

As recounted by Wanniski (associate editor of The Wall Street Journal at the time), in December 1974, he had dinner with me [Arthur Laffer] (then professor at the University of Chicago), Donald Rumsfeld (Chief of Staff to President Gerald Ford), and Dick Cheney (Rumsfeld’s deputy and my former classmate at Yale) at the Two Continents Restaurant at the Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. While discussing President Ford’s “WIN” (Whip Inflation Now) proposal for tax increases, I supposedly grabbed my napkin and a pen and sketched a curve on the napkin illustrating the trade-off between tax rates and tax revenues. Wanniski named the trade-off “The Laffer Curve.”

At the time this happened, RPN was one month old.  This concept, sketched on a napkin, has been driving public policy in my country MY ENTIRE LIFE.

We guarantee you, we swear on it, Excel is faaaaaaaaar better at graphing numbers and doing economic analysis than any bar napkin.   Especially in hindsight.

CONCLUSION:

TL:DR, Applying “the Laffer Curve” cannot increase revenue unless current tax rates are north of 70-80%.  Oh, and it’s why we’ve run up 13 of the 15 trillion $ we owe.

—-


What Happens When I Get Really Angry

This is probably just a coincidence, but I realized my frustration with the current debt ceiling debate, which had been building for months and finally bubbled over the past week or so, has had some severe consequences.  Sorry about that.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has put together this animation of the phenomenon with their quickly dwindling funds.   There will come a time where we remember, as Americans, when our government was capable of doing such things (and back when we had, I shit you not, “space shuttles”.  This was all back before the Tea Party bankrupted the country…my…those were the days) routinely.

Here’s the gist of what’s going on in response to my annoyance. (and check out the animation, it’s integral to my argument presented below). 

 

Heat Wave Sweeps Across the U.S.
A shroud of high pressure has taken a foot-hold over the U.S. from the Plains to the Northeast, and with it has brought temperatures well into the 90’s and 100’s for half of the country. This animation shows the predicted daily high temperatures from NOAA’s high resolution North American Model (NAM) from July 13-21, 2011.

As evidence that it’s me causing this, well, I offer to you the same amount of evidence as is currently required for a “solid, fact-based argument” in an Idiocracy like mine…coincidence.

I am angry.  I live in Dallas, TX.  It looks like, if you watch the animation….the heat is centered on, and perhaps even emanating from, Dallas.

‘Course, could be all the bullshit around here…which the proximate cause of my anger….and the heat ain’t helpin’ neither…

I dunno…it’s hot…not stopping…cool animation.  Figured I’d link it both figuratively and literally to my personal interpretation of reality, that’s what blogs are for, after all.

Stay frosty, my friends.

And pass the damn debt ceiling.   I’ll cool it off if you do.  Promise.

UPDATE: Videoe evidence…

* and on a 100 point scale no less.

Moderate Debt Ceiling Rant

I’ll let this guy speak for his own self.

Couple other links on the topic…these are largely the symptoms of the above phenomenon.

Here’s some general background reading on the changes happening during the period ranted about.

Remember how Wisconsin was broke and teachers needed to take a pay and rights cut to balance the budget?   Yea…turns out that money was just needed by folks more supportive of the Governor.

Remember how people used to take vacations?   Yea, me neither.  But it turns out they do, in other countries.

Working more makes Americans happier than Europeans, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Happiness Studies. That may be because Americans believe more than Europeans do that hard work is associated with success, wrote Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, the study’s author and an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“Americans maximize their… [happiness] by working, and Europeans maximize their [happiness] through leisure,” he found.

So despite research documenting the health and productivity benefits of taking time off, a long vacation can be undesirable, scary, unrealistic or just plain impossible for many U.S. workers.

[full story]

BTW, that concept that hard work is what it takes to change your stars and it’s easier to do in the U.S. that anywhere else?     Yea…not so much.  

The results are quite spectacular. Figure 3 shows that while in the Nordic countries and the UK, men born in the lowest income quintile (the income quintile of the father) have a probability of 25-30% to stay in this lowest quintile; in the US, this probability is more than 40%. Figure 4 shows that the probability of US men born in the lowest quintile to move to the top quintile is less than 8%, while in the Nordic countries and the UK, this percentage is around 12%.

[full paper]

Sarah Palin Reveals the Real Victim of Tucson : Sarah Palin (bonus: Krauthammer supplies the glue, Brooks the solution)

I hope not to have to spend too much time on this topic.   I’ve already said my piece, the data stands on its own.

I am going to point out some of the inadvertent arguments a few pundits have brought up to disavow any responsibility for this tragedy, and how they make a really strong for argument taking some.

First up, the real victim in all of this: Sarah Palin

After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.
“Irresponsible statements”…why does that phrase ring a bell?  Oh yeah.  Getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar does usually lead to concern, and then sadness.  It is also usually accompanied by quick deflection and accusation of others.  To wit…
If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There’s two things that jump out of this statement, both very revealing and hopefully enough people will see how dangerously hypocritical this woman is.

First up…the explicit acknowledgement that “blood libel” serves only to incite hatred and violent, and that it is reprehensible.    Think on this for a moment, in Palin’s dismissal of any responsibility for the violence associated  with her own heated rhetoric, she cites the hatred and violence that might be directed at her by heated rhetoric.

For her point to hold any water here, it would have to have been her, not Giffords who was the actual victim of violence.

Second, and to understand how absurd Sarah Palin’s claim is here, you need to understand a few things.  One, Gabrielle Giffords was Jewish.  Two, Sarah Palin targeted Giffords in the campaign, both with fiery rhetoric and images.  Three, Giffords, and not Sarah Palin, was shot.   That last bit is important.  Sarah doesn’t seem to have quite yet processed that essential piece of information.

The jewish lady being the target of the physical violence after repeated irresponsible statements is not nearly as a big a victim of “blood libel” as the Christian lady who repeatedly directed that heated rhetoric that way (and who now is afraid of attacks inspired by people pointing out her history of vitriolic rhetoric….can you taste it?   The hypocrisy is so thick here I am choking on it).

KRAUTHAMMER’S LINK

How much blame should Palin take?  Charles Krauthammer (noted Republican apologist and general douchebag) makes it very clear here (after you wade though a bunch of half-statements and accusations against liberals).

Furthermore, the available evidence dates Loughner’s fixation on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to at least 2007, when he attended a town hall of hers and felt slighted by her response. In 2007, no one had heard of Sarah Palin. Glenn Beck was still toiling on Headline News. There was no Tea Party or health-care reform.

I see…so Loughner is fixated on Giffords since 2007, but doesn’t get the gumption to reload and use a second amendment solution until 3 years later in 2010 after Palin takes her bulldog act to the national stage, and the Tea Party storms the Capital (unarmed…this time)…at the urging of Glenn Beck, and the political discourse in this country descends below the sewer, largely driven by the continued irresponsible statements of one Sarah Palin.

Thanks Chuck.  I know you didn’t mean to, but you have layed out the most concise reasoning possible for why Palin should, at the very least, quit attacking others verbally after they’ve been attacked physically.  And for once, just once, admit that maybe, just maybe, she’s a bit over the top and should take it upon herself to try and tone down the volume.

But no.  None of that.  She’s the victim here of the those vicious liberals who, BTW…ect.., etc.., etc..

BROOK’S SOLUTION

David Brooks, on the hand, while still dismissing any sort of responsibility for anyone or anything in this, appears to have completely forgotten recent history when he offers some solutions…

If the evidence continues as it has, the obvious questions are these: 1) How can we more aggressively treat mentally ill people who are becoming increasingly disruptive? 2) How can we prevent them from getting guns? 3) Do we need to make involuntary treatment easier for authorities to invoke?

1) Universal Health Care

2) Sane Gun Control

3) Expand state power and control?  Really?!

This wouldn’t be such a bad list of suggestions (except for that last one), David, if the response to them wasn’t already known and goes thus;

1) DEATH PANELS COMING TO GET YOU!!!

2) OBAMA IS COMING FOR YOUR GUNS!!!!

3) SOCIALISM, SOCIALISM, SOCIALISM!!!

In conclusion, I’m going to re-iterate Krauthammer’s inadvertent point with Palin’s text

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated?
Back before you showed up.   There was a time in this country, not so long ago (back before September 2008 to be precise), when one Presidential candidate accusing another of finding common cause with terrorists would have been beyond the pale.  Instead it became your bread and butter, and one of your more tame themes.
If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for for all of us. Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country?”
The sad thing…I don’t expect Palin to stop, or even slow down.  Her own delusions have her sitting in the Oval Office someday, fightin’ terrorists and keepin’ Putin in his place.    Fortunately that is never going to happen, unless we amend the Constitution again and change the Presdent’s military rank to Victim-in-Chief.
If we do that, I’ll deal with the Palin question again, until then, I’m pretty much done with her.
UPDATE: Fox News, Palin’s only current employer, agrees, she is the real victim here.  BTW, if you read the details on this one…you see how obvious it is that Fox is the one pushing this…

A four-minute video montage of the the “tweets” — apparently sent after Saturday’s massacre in Arizona that left six people dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — was posted to YouTube on Tuesday.

The video montage, set to the tune of The Beatles‘ “Imagine,” had nearly 400 views of as Thursday afternoon.

Wow, nearly 400 views….that’s huge.   Definitely worthy of national coverage.   Especially when, after getting into the details of who was making the  threats, it gets even dumber.

Attempts to reach some of the Twitter users who posted the messages were unsuccessful, but one claimed she is a “Reagan conservative” whose intent was taken out of context.

BTW, this is going to be used as another one of those examples on how “both sides are bad”, even though only one side keeps getting shot.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. For whatsoever one soweth, that shall she also reap

*long exhale*

I’ve been thinking about where to go with this one.  As pretty much everyone is aware by now, over this last weekend a U.S. Congresswoman was gunned down during her first public event with constituents after a hotly contested election.

Since then….well…it’s been a cavalcade of finger-pointing, deflection, protesting too much, more blame, more accusations, and more crap.

Personally, having watched the rhetorical scale creep up over the last couple years, and having predicted an event just like this would likely follow, I can only shake my head and quote the Bible (kinda…had to clean it up a bit).    Great. Right again.  Awesome.  This feels about as good as being right about Iraq.  Bunch of people dead, the prime motivator being lies and fear, coupled with arrogance and ignorance.   

The way it has played out since has been sadly predictable [modified from a comment]…

RIGHTIES:  They’re destroying our way of life! Vote from the rooftops! We need a Second Amendment solution!  Obama’s not a real American!  Death panels are coming!
LEFTIES: Hey, knock that crap off! Sooner or later, the wrong person’s gonna take you seriously and start shooting.
RIGHTIES: STFU, you anti-American communist nazi terrorist-coddlers! Here, here’s a list of 20 congresspeople to target! Don’t retreat, reload!
JLL: *bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*,*bang*
LEFTIES: Look, now one of them got shot. Are you happy now?
RIGHTIES: How dare you link us to this! That’s disgusting! You monsters! And besides, it’s the left’s fault! Send us money!

And it’s not even like the whole political atmosphere doesn’t have precedence.  1992, Democrat elected,  Limbaugh goes ballistic, anti-government rhetoric spews from every corner of the dial.  Two and a half years later…anti-government nujtob takes it upon himself to solve the problem.   2008, Democrat elected, Limbaugh goes ballistic, anti-government rhetoric spews from every corner of the dial and the net.  Two and a half years later…anti-government nutjob takes it upon himself to solve the problem.

“Some” might say this is a bit of cherry-picking on events.  Or that Palin’s contribution is insignificant, and that cause/blame and correlation are impossible to say.   I would say “some” are focusing only on this latest sprout and missing the growing forest.   

While I do agree that direct culpability is an illogical stretch, there is no question in my mind that the political atmosphere directly contributes to the likelihood of extreme political action.   Nor is there any question in the minds or datasets of the Secret Service.

The Republican vice presidential candidate attracted criticism for accusing Mr Obama of “palling around with terrorists”, citing his association with the sixties radical William Ayers.

The attacks provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling “terrorist” and “kill him” until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric.

The Secret Service warned the Obama family in mid October that they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, coinciding with Mrs Palin’s attacks.

It should be noted that this is an old article and did absolutely nothing to alter Palin’s behaviour.    Being a vicious attack bulldog was how she made her bones on the national stage, it’s her bread and butter, and it finally bit her in the ass.

 Those who try to remove politics and political considerations from a political assassination attempt are fooling themselves, IMHO, and trying to fool you.   Those who think political rhetoric is just sent out into the ether, with no effect or repercussions are fooling themselves.    There are crazies in the world, and some of them, if you hammer away hard enough, will see this…..

….as this….

…when surrounded by this…

As a good friend of mine is fond of saying….”Sow bitter seeds, reap a bitter harvest”.

In you sow seeds of anti-Government doubt, secret associations, impending societal destruction, and violent revolution, don’t be surprised when what grows tastes the same.

And don’t blame me for pointing it out.

UPDATE:  A bit more insight into the crazy….

Since hearing of the rampage, Tierney has been trying to figure out why Loughner did what he allegedly did. “More chaos, maybe,” he says. “I think the reason he did it was mainly to just promote chaos. He wanted the media to freak out about this whole thing. He wanted exactly what’s happening. He wants all of that.” Tierney thinks that Loughner’s mindset was like the Joker in the most recent Batman movie: “He fucks things up to fuck shit up, there’s no rhyme or reason, he wants to watch the world burn. He probably wanted to take everyone out of their monotonous lives: ‘Another Saturday, going to go get groceries’—to take people out of these norms that he thought society had trapped us in.”

When one’s goal is to pour gasoline on a fire, is it wrong to think the existence of that fire is a motivating factor?

The Short History of False Rumors and Those Who Believe Them

This little lie has been fun to watch worm it’s way around the world.  I’ve seen this happen before, and since I’m sure it will happen again, I’d like to point out exactly how this stuff happens, and what exactly it results in (well, we saw that last Tuesday, but I digress a wee bit early).

First up, the seed, in this case coming from an anonymous Indian government beauracrat

An Indian government source told the NDTV channel: ‘The huge amount of around $200 million would be spent on security, stay and other aspects of the Presidential visit.’

 That’s it.  That’s all it takes for one of these things to take off.   This is then reported as “news reports” in other stories…

President Obama’s trip to India will cost the U.S. $200m-a-day, it was reported today.

The visit – part of a 10-trip to Asia – will take place amid unprecedented levels of security in the city of Mumbai, where terrorists killed at least 173 people two years ago.

Then the story goes to Drudge, and the torrent is on.  Fox, of course, gets in on the action early.  They do this with the same “other people are saying” b.s. they use to introduce a lot of disinformation.

The details on the trip, extensively reported in the Indian media but strongly disputed by U.S. officials, read like lyrics for a hawkish version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” 

The president will be accompanied by 40 aircraft, 3,000 people, a fleet of cars and 34 warships, according to a string of blow-by-blow news updates. The Press Trust of India quoted an official in the state of Maharashtra pegging the cost at $200 million a day. 

Read the full Fox story here.

The lie also gets play on their other TV networks.   At this point, it has now been reported as outrageous fact all over AM radio, News Corpse various networks, etc.  *AND* more importantly, the Secret Super-Patriot Warning System, also known as your crazy uncle/aunt/cousin forwarding emails fill with wild rumors and baseless rants by the thousands very night.  This is actually one of the biggest factors in spreading this kind of disinfo.

We know this story is making the email rounds because A) it is taylor-made for this kind of conspiracy nutjobbery and B) someone who gets a lot of her information from email forwards mentioned it publicly.

“Republican Paul Ryan has suggested sharp cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Are you willing to make cuts there?” Cooper asked. But [Michelle] Bachmann [R-MN] wasn’t initially interested in discussing Medicare and Social Security. Instead, she responded to Cooper by arguing about a much more pressing matter: the cost of President Obama’s upcoming trip to India.

“Well I think we know that just within a day or so the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann said. “He’s taking two thousand people with him. He’ll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending, it’s a very small example, Anderson.”

But wait: $200 million a day? Snopes.com says that the $200 million figure, which has been picked up by right-wing blogs, is “probably false.” Snopes traced the rumor back to an anonymous Indian government official, quoted in a Press Trust of India article published on Tuesday. Factcheck.org calls the claim “highly doubtful,” and points out that the entire war in Afghanistan currently costs about $190 million a day (h/t AJC).

So now the lie has made it halfway around the world before the truth can put its boots on.

Not only that, and I’ll get another post of this, but when asked what the cut from the budget, it’s crap like this the Republicans brings up.  They want to cut myths from the budget.  That’s the plan to balance it, make up crap and then cut it.

At this point the lie has become the “truth” and anyone who questions it is on the conspiracy.  In this part of the play, we have dupes like CNN coming in and “de-bunking.”

(CNN) — It’s a story that originated from a single, unnamed sourced in India — but it quickly gained momentum, spreading like wildfire among critics of the Obama administration in the United States and eventually, the airwaves.

The claim: The United States will be “spending a whopping $200 million per day” on President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia.

That’s roughly the amount the federal government spends each day on the war in Afghanistan. The figure has been dismissed by the White House as “wildly inflated.”

What’s more, the claim doesn’t appear to hold water.

There’s a couple standard response to this de-bunking.  First up is “Oh, it’s CNN they’ll say anything.” or, in this particular case, “They didn’t debunk it because they didn’t give the real number (which is assumed to be astronomical)”.    In this case that is difficult because spending on security is not something that is normally publicly divulged (quick sidenote:  Obama’s is the first administration *ever* to voluntarily release comprehensive spending figures on intelligence, they were quickly attacked for it.)

So on the one hand you have a wildly inflated figure (probably a mis-translation of rupees to dollars, $200M rupees is about $4.5M dollars, which sounds close to what similar trips have cost) and on the other hand you have the (Big Bad Evil) Government saying they can’t tell you the real number.

So the rumor keeps alive and, in fact, grows.    Note all those right-wing blogs and the echo chamber.  Less than 1% will ever post a retraction or clarification.  Those blogs get archived.  And then, two years later, we’ll hear this spending come up as a whisper campaign issue, like Obama being a Muslim, and being a Socialist and Obamacare raising the deficit, all rumors, all false, and all believed by the same group of people.

Luckily, after a pattern shows up, and keeps showing up, it can be studied.  Here it turns out that the results are not surprising, but it is good to know, precisely, how much bullshit your average Fox Viewer believes…

Those who rely on Fox News are more inclined to believe rumours, a study looking at the behavioral patterns of viewers of reports pertaining to the Ground Zero mosque in has concluded.
According to the study, a typical viewer who reported a low reliance on Fox News believed 0.9 rumors on average, while a similar respondent with a high reliance on Fox believed 1.5 rumors – an increase of 66 percent. On the contrary, people who relied heavily on CNN or NPR believed fewer false rumors. High reliance on CNN reduced the number of rumors believed by 23 percent, while heavy use of NPR reduced belief by 25 percent.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/298969#ixzz14iFLSgHg

You can also see, from the study, *why* it is that Fox viewers are so prone to believing in, and voting according to, rumors and lie.   It is not only their faith in a bad actor (Fox) but their hatred of less biased news sources like CNN and NPR, both of which have showed consistently and over time, to do a better job informing their viewers/readers of the real world  (which is why they are evil to the Fox afficianado, they are just like the older neighborhood kid who told you Santa Claus wasn’t real.  Fox News would never do that.)

So you can add one more lie/rumor to the big list of them.   This is how it happens.  I’m sure you’ll see it on comment boards and chain mails, rants and raves, and other racist rationalizations.  It’ll keep coming up.  

It’s a lie, a big one, and as last Tuesday proved, the Big Lie works.  You just have to keep saying it, over and over again.

Taking on the Myths of the RWEC and the Derp of its Citizens

So we’re going to bust a few RWEC* myths real quick-like.

Consider, in particular, one fact that might surprise you: The total number of government workers in America has been falling, not rising, under Mr. Obama. A small increase in federal employment was swamped by sharp declines at the state and local level — most notably, by layoffs of schoolteachers. Total government payrolls have fallen by more than 350,000 since January 2009.
 
So, Myth #1 : Obama, the socialist/communist, has vastly expanded the size of BIG GOVERNMENT….gone.
 
Krugman also gets at Myth #2: The stimulus was a total waste of money, what we needed was tax cuts.

So as I said, the big government expansion everyone talks about never happened. This fact, however, raises two questions. First, we know that Congress enacted a stimulus bill in early 2009; why didn’t that translate into a big rise in government spending? Second, if the expansion never happened, why does everyone think it did?

Part of the answer to the first question is that the stimulus wasn’t actually all that big compared with the size of the economy. Furthermore, it wasn’t mainly focused on increasing government spending. Of the roughly $600 billion cost of the Recovery Act in 2009 and 2010, more than 40 percent came from tax cuts, while another large chunk consisted of aid to state and local governments. Only the remainder involved direct federal spending.

This is one of those weird facts that tends to get lost in the OMGSOCIALIZM!! rhetoric of the right.   After being pared down enough to get past the unprecedented number of filibusters in the Senate, the “Stimulus” became more of a “Stop-Gap”, and indeed, that’s what it did, stopped the hemmoraging job losses that Bush scurried away from and left as a testament to his governing prowess.
 
Myth #3: TARP was a huge waste of money that we’ll never recover from.
 
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – The total final cost to taxpayers of the much-maligned $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program will be around $50 billion, the Treasury Department estimated on Tuesday. The two-year TARP program, which officially expired on Sunday, initially used government money to make capital injections into large and small financial institutions to stabilize the financial system. Eventually it expanded into other programs including a spending endeavor seeking to help lenders and borrowers modify mortgages and avoid foreclosures. According to a recent Treasury transactions report, earlier this week, roughly $255 billion is still outstanding.
Turns out that investing in our own country was actually a pretty good idea.  $50,000,000,000 to keep our entire financial system from imploding and unemployment from jumping to 25%?**  That’s a deal pretty much anyone would take, and it’s less than a month’s worth of the Pentagon’s yearly budget.
 
Myth #4: Obama has left the border wide open and refuses to enforce U.S. immigration law.
 

WASHINGTON — The United States deported a record 392,000 illegal immigrants over the past year, nearly half of them people with criminal convictions, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

The number deported during the 2010 fiscal year ending September 30 surpassed the record of 389,000 deportations set the previous year.

More than 195,000 of those deported were convicted criminals, according to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“This administration has focused on enforcing our immigration laws in a smart, effective manner that prioritizes public safety and national security and holds employers accountable who knowingly and repeatedly break the law,” Napolitano said.

Immigration agents have audited 3,200 employers suspected of hiring illegal immigrants, debarred 225 companies and individuals, and levied 50 million dollars in penalties — more than during the entire Bush administration, ICE said.

Deportations of convicted criminals were up 70 percent in 2010 compared to 2008, the final year of the Bush administration, the agency said. 

And there’s an even better aspect to this, they aren’t going after the low-hanging fruit.  This isn’t some b.s. enforcement deal where they are instructing people to go to grade schools to pick up ESL kids and heading to Home Depot parking lots to pick up day laborers, this is actually kicking criminals out of the country. 
 
Not people who want to work for a better life for them and their kids, or those who were brought to this country as children and know no other home, but those who violate our criminal laws through violent acts and theft.  They are going after the demand for ultra-cheap labor by enforcing laws on the high end (employers).   This, to me, is the right way to deal with problem (this and comprehensive Immigration Reform, which I seriously doubt a split Congress will be able to pass, but at least we’ve made progress.)
 
The thing about this is whole excercise of pointing out how these persistent myths are just that is that it’s a waste of time for the most part (on my part).  This is why I mentioned that DERP IS ON THE RISE.
 
“Derp” is, to put it bluntly, the response I generally get from those who can’t accept that Obama is an American, enforcing our laws, making pragmatic decisions about the future of our country, and doing so effectively.   In response to these facts I’ll get something about him not being an American, being a Muslim, being a devoted Socialist or Communist, and the fact that we have a pragamtic, educated, eloquent, progressive leader gets lost in the noise.  
 
The fact that it turns out he’s a rather centrist pragmatic is met with guffaws.   So stands the situation today.   Should be more interesting in a month or so… 
* Right Wing Echo Chamber, wherein Fox/WSJ/News Corp picks up a story from Drudge/blogs, which is recycled across various AM radio/TV shows/columns and across the blogs, then Fox reports how no one else is covering it, how it has become a “controversy“.  Rinse-recycle-repeat.  With “repeat” being the operative word.  All four misconceptions dealt with above have one core similarity; in the echo-chamber to even question their veracity is grounds for dismissal from the body politic.
 
** For those that don’t recall, after the first failed vote on TARP, this happened.  Had it not passed later, the resulting crash would have redefined “epic fail”.

That cinches it, we totally need waaay bigger tax cuts for the rich

Here’s the news, unsurprising to those who follow this sort of stuff… 

WASHINGTON — The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession. 

The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968. 

A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations. 

At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, census data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower. 

And the “money” quote… 

Rea Hederman Jr., a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, agreed that census data show families of all income levels had tepid earnings in 2009, with poorer Americans taking a larger hit. “It’s certainly going to take a while for people to recover,” he said

Yes, it’s going to take a while, especially if we extend Bush’s tax-cut giveaway to the rich while pililng debt on everyone else.   And his “a while to recover” is actually more accurately phrased as “never”.  There isn’t going to be a recovery, in this sense, given the current environment. 

And what is the current environment, you ask?   Here’s a hint… 

More people are getting their news about the upcoming election from cable television than any other source, and from Fox News more than any other cable channel, according to a POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll released Monday. 

The poll found that 81 percent of those polled get their news about the midterm elections from cable channels, like Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, or their websites, compared with 71 percent from national network news channels, such as ABC, NBC or CBS, and their websites. 

Among cable news channels, Fox was the clear winner, with 42 percent of respondents saying it is their main source, compared with 30 percent who cited CNN and 12 percent who rely on MSNBC

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42738.html#ixzz10ptAiPJ4 

You know the sad part?  The most popular news outlet is the one claiming to be the least popular, continuously.   It’s become a cliche even, with the most powerful player and victimizer claiming to be the weakest and the victimized.   Sure, study after study shows that Fox News viewers have a faulty view of reality (death panels, illegals covered under HCR, WMD in Iraq, Saddam and 9/11, Obama’s a socialist who the world hates, etc, etc…) but that doesn’t even slow them down.  After all, studies and learnin’ are liberal, and therefore evil, ideas.

Heck, even today Mr. Murdoch has one of his minions arguing that his taxes need to be cut even lower (BTW, that article is filled with the usual Fox wharrgarbl, damned lies and statistics [compare]).   It’s also an argument for how News Corpse taxes should be cut…again.  This picture seems somewhat appropriate…. 

 
…especially when we look at the rest of the data from that first link. 

_The poorest poor are at record highs. The share of Americans below half the poverty line — $10,977 for a family of four — rose from 5.7 percent in 2008 to 6.3 percent. It was the highest level since the government began tracking that group in 1975. 

_The poverty gap between young and old has doubled since 2000, due partly to the strength of Social Security in helping buoy Americans 65 and over. Child poverty is now 21 percent compared with 9 percent for older Americans. In 2000, when child poverty was at 16 percent, elderly poverty stood at 10 percent. 

_Safety nets are helping fill health gaps. The percentage of children covered by government-sponsored health insurance such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program jumped to 37 percent, or 27.6 million, from 24 percent in 2000. That helped offset steady losses in employer-sponsored insurance. 

And so it goes… 

BTW, this angle of analysis (income disparity) was probably the strongest indicator that we were headed for a collapse.  Previous to the recent economic troubles, the last time the U.S. had diverged so far between the haves and have nots was right before the Great Depression.   

When the labor force of a country realizes that no matter how hard they work they won’t make any progress, and the real money is being made by people who do no real work, it has far-reaching consequences. 

UPDATE:  Oh, and I missed this horribleness…. 

Fox’s opinionated personalities were also rated as having the greatest positive impact on the political debate in the country. Bill O’Reilly was rated as having, by far, the greatest positive impact, with 49 percent of respondents rating him positively, and 32 percent negatively. 

Glenn Beck was the second most-positively rated personality, with 38 percent of respondents saying he had a positive impact, and 32 percent saying he had a negative impact. 

..
 
MSNBC’s personalities were largely ranked as unknown by respondents: 70 percent said they had never heard of Ed Schultz, 55 percent said they had never heard of Rachel Maddow and 42 percent said they had never heard of Keith Olbermann.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42738_Page2.html#ixzz10q0UG2Wn

Again, this demonstrates rather forcefully that those referencing the “lamestream media” (you know, people who use those terms, like girls in junior high school) are talking about Fox.

This poll seemed somewhat off, and I finally saw the bright spot and the explanation…

This result might, to some extent, be explained by the age of those polled. The largest segment of respondents, 21 percent, were between 55 years old and 64 years old, with 20 percent between 45 and 54. Only 5 percent were between 18 and 24, and 7 percent were between 25 and 29.

Other recent polls have shown that the largest segment of “The Daily Show’s” audience is under 30, while the largest segment of Fox News’s audience is over 60.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42738_Page2.html#ixzz10q0UG2Wn

This is something of a side note and a bit of positive news for the future.  Once the Boomers die off, we might actually have a chance of having an informed  (rather than faux outraged) electorate again.   Unfortunately they’ll be so cynical and snarky anyone endeavoring to actually fix the huge mess the Boomers will leave us with will face constant ridicule.   Hmmm, maybe we already live in the  future…

Link Dump….

Working…can’t write…dumping link…

This is why they should. (I got sick of this nontroversy a couple days ago)

When Pat Buchanan calls your Nazi analogy over the edge, it is.

Read the comments to see why I call them nutjobs.  (note the comment and reactions to the comment that explains this away rationally.  Rationality is like the rage virus to these people, turns them crazy).’

Thanks, Rupert, for making this so obvious.  Fox News is *directly* funding the Republicans now, and not just donating 20 hours a day to free advocacy and attack ads.

Top 10 Right Wing Conspiracy theories. With the news that 40% of Republicans and 20% of Americans think Obama is a muslim, these fit right in.

Media companies stealing customer data. More definitive proof of their hypocrisy.

The Making of a Nontroversy.

Roger Ebert continues to do good stuff.

Franklin Graham makes up stuff about the President’s Dad to explain American’s ignorance re: Obama’s religion.   For some reason I think he’s doing it wrong.

We recently gave Israel $3,000,000,000 to buy $2,7500,000,000 worth of F-35s. This would be more of an actual issue if this story (and those like it) got more play.  That’s how the Military Industrial Complex works, BTW.  We borrow from China to give to Israel to buy from Us.   And a few people make out like bandits selling stuff to kill, well, bandits.  It does keep us at #1, I guess.

RIAA wants to force electronic manufacturers to include FM radios in all phones, ipods, etc.  Yes, it is that stupid, and yes, they actually are saying this is good for you.  I side with the concept of the free market on this one.

Happy Birther Day, Mr. President!

And an oy and a vey directed right at the heart of America…

Forty-two percent of those questioned say they have absolutely no doubts that the president was born in the U.S., while 29-percent say he “probably” was.

“Not surprisingly, there are big partisan differences, although a majority of Republicans thinks Obama was definitely or probably born here,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Eighty-five percent of Democrats say that Obama was definitely or probably born in the U.S., compared to 68 percent of independents and 57 percent of Republicans. Twenty-seven percent of Republicans say he was probably not born here, and another 14 percent of Republicans say he was definitely not born in the U.S.”

I love how CNN included a copy of his birth certificate and birth announcement in a Hawaii newspaper on the article.  And included this quote…

On Tuesday, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh quipped on his program, “They tell us August 4th is the birthday. We haven’t seen any proof of that!”

Yet there is ample evidence that defies Limbaugh’s statement and the beliefs of the 27-percent of Americans that, according to the poll, doubt the president’s birthplace. CNN and other news organizations have thoroughly debunked the rumors.

Hawaii has released a copy of the president’s birth certificate – officially called a “certificate of live birth.” And in 1961 the hospital where the president was born placed announcements in two Hawaiian newspapers regarding Obama’s birth.

The funny thing is, for birthers and the like, CNN debunking the rumors simply means they are in on the conspiracy (as is the State of Hawaii, the Secret Service, the Passport Office, and presumable the CIA and FBI…and they all have been for over four decades…I know…the crazy, it burns).

Aaah, but at least the Republicans are keeping it classy…

Washington (CNN) – On President Obama’s 49th birthday, the Republican National Committee is out with a new website full of electronic greetings intended to slam the president and national Democrats. The Democratic National Committee is hitting back, referring to the RNC’s move as “tired, childish, political games that do nothing to help anyone.”

The new site, baracksbirthdaycards.com, hosts 11 digital birthday cards from which users can choose. All of the cards are mock greetings from various political or governmental figures to the president.

Keeping it Classy

UPDATE:  Saw this comment on the nets, sums it up nicely…

GAT_00

27% of Americans say he ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ was born in another country.
23% of Americans still approved of Bush when he left office.

Just saying.