Friday, February 24, 2012

From The Daily Show (Bruce Bartlett)

Bruce Bartlett 

Economist Bruce Bartlett weighs in on Barack Obama's proposals for cutting America's corporate tax rate and examines Ronald Reagan's tax increases.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The President Sings "Sweet Home Chicago"

Last night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted an incredible group of performers for a night of blues music as part of the PBS "In Performance at the White House" series. After a little encouragement from the legendary B.B. King, the President took the mic from Mick Jagger, and sang a few lines from, "Sweet Home Chicago." Watch:

A Few Thoughts from a Good Old Southern Boy

by Dee Newman

I’m a good old southern boy – born and bred in the mountains of east Tennessee. Though I have traveled extensively all over the world, I have lived most of my life here – in the buckle of the Bible-belt.

My relatives (on both sides of my family) were born and bred in the South (Georgia and Alabama) as well. Some of them became enlighten human beings. Others, remained ignorant fundamentalists.

In 1948 after President Truman ordered an end to discrimination in the military and the Democratic National Convention adopted a civil rights plank proposed by Hubert Humphrey and supported by Northern liberals many southern Democrats walked out of the convention and formed the States' Rights Democratic Party, nominating Strom Thurmond as their presidential candidate.

Humphrey’s amendment to the Democratic platform to strengthen the civil rights language simply read:
We call upon the Congress to support our President in guaranteeing these basic and fundamental American Principles: (1) the right to full and equal political participation; (2) the right to equal opportunity of employment; (3) the right to security of person; (4) and the right of equal treatment in the service and defense of our nation.
On election day, Thurmond and his vice-presidential running mate, Fielding Wright (Gov. of Mississippi), carried the previously solid Democratic states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Though the Dixiecrats, as they were known, did not succeed in defeating President Truman, their effort did begin the weakening of the Democratic Party’s complete control of southern politics.

However, it was not until President Johnson’s passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that the Democrats irrevocably lost the ‘Solid South’ to an increasingly socially conservative Republican Party.

A number of my relatives and childhood friends (then and now) fervently believe in the old Dixiecrats’ platform that supported ‘states rights’ (the unchecked power of ‘Jim Crow’ over the lawful authority of the Federal Constitution), which stated in part:
We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one's associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to earn one's living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.
Some of them (then and now) are evangelical Southern Baptists – self-righteous hypocrites, religiously espousing one thing and doing the opposite. In their ignorance they believe the Bible condemns all of us as dirty, rotten, hell-deserving sinners. And that, only through accepting Christ as our savior will we ever see the ‘Promised Land’.

They have a propensity for quoting scripture, most frequently from the Old Testament and rarely from the words of the Nazarene.

The most recent of their Biblical citation has come not only from select pulpits, but via email and bumper stickers. Psalm 109:8 is being increasingly promoted by these professed Christians as the “Imprecatory Prayer” for President Obama. It ‘lovingly’ reads – “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership” and “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”

Perhaps, they should consider the words of their so-called savior who said in Matthew 7:12 – 23:
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets . . . the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it . . . the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it . . . Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits . . .  Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven . . . On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Morality vs Religious Faith

by Dee Newman

We are told that without religion we are no more than egocentric two-legged beasts – that without a belief in a monotheistic all-knowing Creator and Supreme Being everything is permitted, that life is pointless and human values worthless: In short, morality and religious faith are one in the same.

In reality, the supposition is blatantly false; it could not be more inaccurate. Aside from the fact, that “Believers” (as direct instruments of their faith) believe they are allowed to do practically anything on “His” behalf, including blowing up thousands of innocent men, women and children – a belief in God (I submit) renders one’s motives and moral integrity severely impaired, if not morally corrupt.

I once wrote:
Though they may be sufficient to keep you in line,
Reward and punishment are never divine.
For there's nothing more deceitful or insincere
Than honor or favor based upon profit or fear.

So, if you adhere to a straight and narrow path
Simply because you fear the fate of pharaoh's wrath,
Or worship a deity so that you might live in
Some celestial city for the freely forgiven,

You might as well sell the devil your soul
For all his apparel, his revel and gold.
For if fear's your motive or gain's your aim,
However you so live, the verdict's the same.

For in truth, the only truth there is to live by,
Isn't a tooth for a tooth or an eye for an eye.
It's never let your fear, your desire, or your greed
Ever interfere with another's dire need.

Although actions, for sure, speak louder than words,
If your motives aren't pure nothing else will be heard.
So, whatever your fate, your reward, or your plight,
Choose love over hate, never wrong over right.

A belief in God cannot avoid distorting our motives. It prevents us from acting selflessly (morally) by compelling us to consider how we may be judged by our Creator and what prize or penalty we may receive,  rather than, simply “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us” no matter what our consequences may or may not be.

In short, morality and religious faith are antithetical.

Redemption from Hypocrisy


When U.S. Health and Human Services directed religious-affiliated employers which provide health insurance to include contraception, conservative Catholics and Protestants objected.

They claim it imposes values contrary to their faith and violates separation of church and state.

Based on my belief and values, the fact that my taxes buy bullets and bombs to kill people in Afghanistan and Iraq is equivalent and wrong. Call it sin.

A human embryo is sacred. Killing humans is saluted.

This contradiction is often rationalized, even theologically.

This is why humans need redemption.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

From Addicting Info

Reagan Would Envy Obama’s Economic Record

February 17, 2012

If there are two things that Republicans want us to believe, it would be these:
1. Barack Obama’s economic policies are a failure which made the recession worse.
2. Ronald Reagan was an economic genius who should serve as an example of how to improve the economy.
The best way to examine both of these statements is to compare how these 2 presidents handled the economy during their first 3 years as president.

It’s fair to say that when any new president takes office, it takes a few months for their economic policies to have an effect on the economy. So you have to look at the condition of the economy when they took office and how it responded after the new president’s policies have had time to take effect.

The graph accompanying this article uses unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to compare the monthly unemployment rates for the first 3 years under Presidents Reagan and Obama.

Both Reagan and Obama took office when unemployment was considered fairly high. In February, 1981, Reagan’s first full month as president, unemployment was at 7.4% and was slowly improving. It dropped down to 7.2% by April, his third month in office.

In February, 2009, Obama’s first full month in office, unemployment was at 8.2% and rising rapidly. The economy was already losing 750,000 jobs per month before Obama was sworn in.
Look closely at what happened during each president’s first 2 years in office. By October, 2009, Obama’s 9th month in office, unemployment peaked at 10.1%. After that, we started to see job growth and the unemployment rate declined over the next 2 years. The longer his policies were in effect, the more the economy improved.

Compare that to what happened during Reagan’s first two years. Although unemployment was stable when he first took office, after about 7 months, it started rising. After his first full year, unemployment climbed to 8.5% and it continued to rise throughout his 2nd year. Nearly two full years after Reagan took office, unemployment was at 10.8%, higher than it ever reached under Obama. It wasn’t until nearly 2 ½ years into Reagan’s presidency that unemployment finally dropped below 10%.

There is a stark contrast between what happened with Reagan and what happened with Obama. Under Obama, unemployment briefly topped 10% during his first year and then began to go down. Under Reagan, unemployment remained above 10% for the better part of a year.

Most of the job losses that occurred during Obama’s presidency happened during the first few months as a result of the deep recession that began a year before he took office. Less than a year into his term, the economy showed steady improvement. By contrast, the job losses under Reagan didn’t begin until about six months after he became president and continued to get worse for the next 18 months.

The severity of the economic crisis that Obama inherited cannot be over-emphasized. Not since the Great Depression had we seen such massive job losses as were occurring at the time Obama was sworn in. It would be difficult to find any other time in our country’s history when 750,000 jobs were lost in a single month. Economists predicted that we would have 20% unemployment within a year. It is remarkable that unemployment peaked at only 10.1% and that the economy began improving as quickly as it did.

Obama clearly inherited a far worse economic situation than Reagan did. Yet he managed to turn around the economy in less than half the time it took Reagan. Obama’s policies resulted in a measurable improvement within a year of taking office, while Reagan’s policies resulted in a worsening of the unemployment situation for two years.

In reviewing Obama’s accomplishment, there are other factors that need to be considered in this comparison. When Reagan was president, Democrats in the House of Representatives who opposed him were willing to make compromises and to work with him in creating jobs. They didn’t see their role as simply to obstruct everything he did.

The Republicans who oppose President Obama have tried to prevent anything from getting done at all with regard to the economy. During the first 2 years, Republicans in the Senate filibustered virtually everything they could; including bills they previously supported, in order to prevent any legislation from coming up for a vote. After gaining control of the House of Representatives, Republicans refused to pass any job creation bills at all, even rejecting proposals that they had supported in previous years.

Despite Republican attempts to stifle job creation, President Obama has managed to have far greater success at pulling the country out of a recession than the sainted Ronald Reagan did during his first 3 years in office.

From Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers Essay: Freedom of and From Religion
Bill Moyers Essay: Freedom of and From Religion from on Vimeo.

From The News Hours (Whitney Houston)

Friday, February 17, 2012

From The New York Times (Pulitzer-Prize Winning Reporter Dies)

At Work in Syria, Times Correspondent Dies

Ed Ou for The New York Times / Anthony Shadid, center, with residents of Cairo last February.


Published: February 16, 2012

Anthony Shadid, a gifted foreign correspondent whose graceful dispatches for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Associated Press covered nearly two decades of Middle East conflict and turmoil, died, apparently of an asthma attack, on Thursday while on a reporting assignment in Syria. Tyler Hicks, a Times photographer who was with Mr. Shadid, carried his body across the border to Turkey. 

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

From The New York Times (Krugman)

Severe Conservative Syndrome


Published: February 12, 2012

Mitt Romney has a gift for words — self-destructive words. On Friday he did it again, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that he was a “severely conservative governor.” 

As Molly Ball of The Atlantic pointed out, Mr. Romney “described conservatism as if it were a disease.” Indeed. Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, provided a list of words that most commonly follow the adverb “severely”; the top five, in frequency of use, are disabled, depressed, ill, limited and injured. 

That’s clearly not what Mr. Romney meant to convey. Yet if you look at the race for the G.O.P. presidential nomination, you have to wonder whether it was a Freudian slip. For something has clearly gone very wrong with modern American conservatism. 

Start with Rick Santorum, who, according to Public Policy Polling, is the clear current favorite among usual Republican primary voters, running 15 points ahead of Mr. Romney. Anyone with an Internet connection is aware that Mr. Santorum is best known for 2003 remarks about homosexuality, incest and bestiality. But his strangeness runs deeper than that. 

For example, last year Mr. Santorum made a point of defending the medieval Crusades against the “American left who hates Christendom.” Historical issues aside (hey, what are a few massacres of infidels and Jews among friends?), what was this doing in a 21st-century campaign? 

Nor is this only about sex and religion: he has also declared that climate change is a hoax, part of a “beautifully concocted scheme” on the part of “the left” to provide “an excuse for more government control of your life.” You may say that such conspiracy-theorizing is hardly unique to Mr. Santorum, but that’s the point: tinfoil hats have become a common, if not mandatory, G.O.P. fashion accessory. 

Then there’s Ron Paul, who came in a strong second in Maine’s caucuses despite widespread publicity over such matters as the racist (and conspiracy-minded) newsletters published under his name in the 1990s and his declarations that both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act were mistakes. Clearly, a large segment of his party’s base is comfortable with views one might have thought were on the extreme fringe. 

Finally, there’s Mr. Romney, who will probably get the nomination despite his evident failure to make an emotional connection with, well, anyone. The truth, of course, is that he was not a “severely conservative” governor. His signature achievement was a health reform identical in all important respects to the national reform signed into law by President Obama four years later. And in a rational political world, his campaign would be centered on that achievement. 

But Mr. Romney is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and whatever his personal beliefs may really be — if, indeed, he believes anything other than that he should be president — he needs to win over primary voters who really are severely conservative in both his intended and unintended senses. 

So he can’t run on his record in office. Nor was he trying very hard to run on his business career even before people began asking hard (and appropriate) questions about the nature of that career. 

Instead, his stump speeches rely almost entirely on fantasies and fabrications designed to appeal to the delusions of the conservative base. No, President Obama isn’t someone who “began his presidency by apologizing for America,” as Mr. Romney declared, yet again, a week ago. But this “Four-Pinocchio Falsehood,” as the Washington Post Fact Checker puts it, is at the heart of the Romney campaign. 

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation! 

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. 

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control. 

The point is that today’s dismal G.O.P. field — is there anyone who doesn’t consider it dismal? — is no accident. Economic conservatives played a cynical game, and now they’re facing the blowback, a party that suffers from “severe” conservatism in the worst way. And the malady may take many years to cure. 

Another Morning Walk at the Narrows (Photos)

Norman Finkelstein on Gandhi

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Francoise Hardy - Mon amie la rose (1963)

Fran├žoise Hardy- Message personnel (2007)

From The

birther billboard
A billboard put up by a ‘birther' campaigner convinced that President Obama was not born in the United States. Photograph: Bob Daemmrich/Alamy

The right's stupidity spreads, enabled by a too-polite left

by George Monbiot

Conservativism may be the refuge of the dim. But the room for rightwing ideas is made by those too timid to properly object.

Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today's progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.

Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.

It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly "different" others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.

But, drawing on a sample size of several thousand, correcting for both education and socioeconomic status, the new study looks embarrassingly robust. Importantly, it shows that prejudice tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the "critical pathway" from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to "rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order" and "emphasise the maintenance of the status quo". Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.

This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies.

But what we now see among their parties – however intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won't drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that man-made climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that "conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics". The result is a "shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology" which has "ominous real-world consequences for American society".

Lofgren complains that "the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital centre today". The Republican party, with its "prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science" is appealing to what he calls the "low-information voter", or the "misinformation voter". While most office holders probably don't believe the "reactionary and paranoid claptrap" they peddle, "they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base".

The madness hasn't gone as far in the UK, but the effects of the Conservative appeal to stupidity are making themselves felt. This week the Guardian reported that recipients of disability benefits, scapegoated by the government as scroungers, blamed for the deficit, now find themselves subject to a new level of hostility and threats from other people.

These are the perfect conditions for a billionaires' feeding frenzy. Any party elected by misinformed, suggestible voters becomes a vehicle for undisclosed interests. A tax break for the 1% is dressed up as freedom for the 99%. The regulation that prevents big banks and corporations exploiting us becomes an assault on the working man and woman. Those of us who discuss man-made climate change are cast as elitists by people who happily embrace the claims of Lord Monckton, Lord Lawson or thinktanks funded by ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers: now the authentic voices of the working class.

But when I survey this wreckage I wonder who the real idiots are. Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties, as Thomas Frank laments in his latest book Pity the Billionaire, triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls "terminal niceness". They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism.

Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It's turkeys all the way down.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter Trilogy2.avi

This is a must see . . .

Thanks Mr. President

So many of us have not taken the time to remember and consider what this man took on when he came to office and have given him no credit for what he has done and tried to do since he has been in office. 

Thanks Mr. President
. . .the "room-lighting" smile:


The mind that always thinks.

preventing a second Great Depression:
the humor:

bringing the number of women in the Supreme Court to 3
making the White House the "people's" house:
1.1 million jobs created in 2010 alone, more than the entire 8 years of George W. Bush:
the love of people:

the love of family:

America's First Lady:

Health Care reform:

leaving the past behind:

the world having respect for America , again:

quietly and calmly dealing with crisis after crisis, after crisis, after crisis, even if not being responsible for any of them:

being so "cool":

being fierce - when need be:

having the intellect to be curious:
the capacity to know that you are, as we are, imperfect..

having the sense to not let it destroy you.

the capacity to be compassionate:

being an inspiration to so many:

saving the auto industry and at least 1.4 million jobs:

loving the troops:

understanding the horrible price of war:

For bringing 100,000 men and women back from Iraq :*
facing the most difficult and loneliest job in the world with grace, dignity, honesty and guts in spite of so many "Haters":

being, in spite of all the hate, pettiness, racism, corruption and immaturity around, the most progressive and 'for the people' president in decades:* And simply for this: 

For Being....................