Thursday, July 30, 2009

Economic Outlook

It seems likely that the formal end of the recession will be in the current quarter of this year. Thus the question becomes what will follow: stagnation, modest recovery or real growth? The conventional wisdom is that with the continuing turmoil in the housing markets and the terrible problems still facing the banking sector, growth will be tepid at best. So that is what we hear consistently from the MSM....slow growth, stubbornly high unemployment, double-dip recession, etc.

I think it is entirely possible that the recovery will prove to be stronger than expected for several reasons. First, conventional wisdom is usually wrong. Second, we are starting from a level of reduced expectations and dismal consumer psychology which, in an odd way, provides ample room for upside surprises. Third, the US economic system is resilient, and far more flexible than our European and Asian competitors. Fourth, the stimulus spending will really start to kick in next year...which is also an election year. Finally, interest rates are going to remain very low for the foreseeable future.

Of course, the degree of strength in the recovery will be in the eye of the beholder (and with some dramatic geographic variance) and unemployment is going to be remain unacceptably high for too long. But given how close we came to a real crash (or "panic" in the classic sense) last September, it is remarkable that less than a year later we can even be having this discussion.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Health Insurance Redux

Ezra has an interesting piece in the Sunday Wapo Outlook section on the lessons the Obama Administration learned from Clinton's failed health care reform effort in 1994. His central point is that the Obama is trying to avoid Clinton's errors by doing the opposite of what was done 15 years age, for example, don't deliver a pre-written bill to Congress. But he also points out how the health care environment has changed since then, most specifically how insurance has evolved:
In the modern health-care system, there is no higher power than the insurance market. And the insurers who populate that market have grown all the stronger. The Justice Department judges an industry "highly concentrated" if a single company controls more than 42 percent of the market. By that definition, 94 percent of statewide insurance markets are highly concentrated. A recent study by the advocacy organization Health Care for America Now showed that in Indiana, WellPoint controls 60 percent of the insurance market; in Iowa, Wellmark accounts for 71 percent; and in Alabama, Blue Cross/Blue Shield holds 83 percent. In the past 13 years, there have been more than 400 corporate mergers involving health insurers.

Economics textbooks tell us that concentrated markets reduce the competitive behavior that benefits consumers and lead to outsize profits for the dominant firms. Predictably, health-care premiums shot up more than 90 percent between 2000 and 2007, while the profits of the 10 largest insurers increased 428 percent over the same period. Clinton had promised us managed care within managed competition. Instead, the insurers took control of our care and managed to effectively end competition. Neat trick.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Markets and Healthcare

Paul Krugman has an excellent piece on his blog analyzing why markets can't cure healthcare. He zeroes in on the unique nature of healthcare in a market economy and the inherent conflicts of attempting to rely on market forces:
There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don’t know when or whether you’ll need care — but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor’s office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can’t be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can’t just trust insurance companies either — they’re not in business for their health, or yours.

This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers’ point of view — they actually refer to it as “medical costs.” This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems. And since there’s a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need — not everyone agrees, but most do — this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities.

The second thing about health care is that it’s complicated, and you can’t rely on experience or comparison shopping. (”I hear they’ve got a real deal on stents over at St. Mary’s!”) That’s why doctors are supposed to follow an ethical code, why we expect more from them than from bakers or grocery store owners.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Quick Hits

Iran: As reported in The Nation, by a pseudonymous writer in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei is suffering from terminal cancer:
People in the know in Iran report that the hottest subject of discussion among Iranian conservative leaders these days is the issue of who is to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is said to be suffering from leukemia.
New Jersey: The arrest of 44 people on corruption charges in the Garden State (including 3 mayors, 5 rabbis and a host of other elected officials) vaults New Jersey back near the top of the league standings of most corrupt states in the US. The attempted illegal sale of human kidneys as part of the scam adds a particularly piquant touch to the proceedings.

Silvio Berlusconi: Following on his wife's filing for divorce, the Italian Prime Minister and richest man in Italy, has moved from cavorting with 18-year-old starlets to being caught on audiotape with prostitutes. Does not leave him with much time to cope with the financial crisis, but then that only impacts the little people, doesn't it?

The Queen: Of England, that is. FP Passport reports that she has suffered terrible losses in the recent economic downturn, reducing her property portfolio by one-fifth, to a mere $530 million. I guess times are tough all over after all Mr. Prime Minister!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rising Health Costs Linked to Loss of Jobs and Economic Stagnation

Providing confirmation of a key argument supporting the Obama health plan, Business Week reports a new study linking health care cost inflation to slower economic growth and reduced private sector employment:
In a first-of-its-kind study, the non-profit Rand Corp linked the rapid growth in U.S. health care costs to job losses and lower output. The study, published online by the journal Health Services Research, gives weight to President Barack Obama’s dire warnings about the impact of rising costs if Congress does not enact health care reform.

The Rand researchers examined the economic performance of 38 industries from 1987 through 2005, in an attempt to assess the economic impact of “excess” growth in health care costs on U.S. industries. Excess growth is defined as the increase in health care costs that exceeds the overall growth of the nation’s GDP—a yearly occurrence in the U.S. The team compared changes in employment, economic output and the value added to the GDP product for industries that provide health benefits to most workers to those where few workers have job-based health insurance.

After adjusting for other factors, industries that provide insurance had significantly less employment growth than industries where health benefits were not common. Industries with a larger percentage of workers receiving employer-sponsored health insurance also showed lower growth in their contribution to the GDP.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quick Hits

Introducing an occasional feature of my blog...Quick Hits...which will collect brief comments and/or links on items of interest.

Honduras: The aftermath of last month's coup that ousted President Zelaya continues to create the strangest of bedfellows. A bloc of countries opposing the coup includes virtually all of Latin America, as well as the US, thereby linking Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Alvaro Uribe of Colombia along with the US in support of reinstating Zelaya.

Uighurs: The massacre of more than 100 Uighurs in the far Western Chinese province of Xinjiang created an interesting reaction among their fellow Muslims around the world...silence. The only Muslim country to speak out against the actions of the Chinese authorities was Turkey. No other Muslim country or international group has even issued a statement. Imagine if this had occurred in the US or Europe.

F-22 Fighter: The vote in the Senate this week to strip funding for the F-22 fighter plane was a huge victory for common sense and good government. Among the many problems that the $350 million F-22 had was that every hour it flies requires more than 30 hours of maintenance. And the Washington Post recently reported that the plane's exterior is so fragile that it is vulnerable to rain. Remarkable!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And on a Lighter Note

Andy Borowtiz posts that Goldman Sachs is in Talks to Acquire Treasury Department

In what some on Wall Street are calling the biggest blockbuster deal in the history of the financial sector, Goldman Sachs confirmed today that it was in talks to acquire the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

According to Goldman spokesperson Jonathan Hestron, the merger between Goldman and the Treasury Department is "a good fit" because "they're in the business of printing money and so are we."

The Goldman spokesman said that the merger would create efficiencies for both entities: "We already have so many employees and so much money flowing back and forth, this would just streamline things."

Mr. Hestron said the only challenge facing Goldman in completing the merger "is trying to figure out which parts of the Treasury Dept. we don't already own."

Goldman recently celebrated record earnings by roasting a suckling pig over a bonfire of hundred-dollar bills.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

More on the New Dynamic Duo

Picking up on the theme of my last post, Robert Reich comments on the rise of the new gold dust twins, Goldman and Morgan:
The resurgence of JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs gives both banks more financial clout than any other players on the Street -- allowing both firms to lure talent from everywhere else on the Street with multi-million pay packages, giving both firms enough economic power to charge clients whopping fees, and bestowing on both firms even more political heft in Washington.

Where are the anti-trusters when we need them? Alternatively, why isn't the government charging Goldman and JPMorgan a large insurance fee for classifying both firms as "too big to fail" and therefore automatically bailed out if the risks they take turn sour? Instead, we've ended up with two giants that now have most of the casino to themselves, are playing with poker chips backed by taxpayers, and have a big say in what the rules of the game are to be.
For an entertaining view on Goldman's mammoth profits, I highly recommend Matt Taibbi's follow-up to his blockbuster Rolling Stone piece: The real price of Goldman's giganto-profits. The original Rolling Stone article can be found here.

Or for real pyrotechnics, this appearance by Max Keiser on a France24 financial show. He takes it to a whole new level.

Friday, July 17, 2009

And Then There Were 2

With this week's exceptional earnings reports by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, it is now evident that the consolidation of financial power and leadership in American banking is complete.  From the end of the Great Depression, the financial world was balkanized, with commercial banks and investment banks vying for supremacy.  The repeal of Glass-Steagall and the subsequent creation of financial supermarkets like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch presaged a new world.  Last September's panic has eliminated competition, transformed the marketplace and created the new duopoly of Goldman and Morgan.

So we enter an unprecedented time in finance with these surviving behemoths that are not only too big to fail, but may prove to be too big to regulate or control.  Perhaps, in time, competition will appear from foreign banks or sovereign wealth funds.  But for the foreseeable future, to find out what Wall Street thinks you only need to dial the phone twice...and time will tell if Goldman or Morgan will deign to return either call.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sui Genie

From FP Passport...the following item in its entirety:
Forget Aladdin's friendly blue sidekick--a Saudi family has actually sued a genie for theft and harassment. After living in the same house for 15 years, the family recently became aware of the intruder:
The lawsuit filed in Shariah court accuses the genie of leaving them threatening voicemails, stealing their cell phones and hurling rocks at them when they leave their house at night, said Al-Watan newspaper.
An investigation was under way, local court officials said.
"We have to verify the truthfulness of this case despite the difficulty of doing so," Sheikh Amr Al Salmi, the head of the court, told Al-Watan. "What makes this case and complaint more interesting is that it wasn't filed by just one person. Every member of the family is part of this case."
..."We began hearing strange noises," the head of the family, who requested anonymity, told Al-Watan. "In the beginning we didn't take it seriously, but after that, stranger things started happening and the children got really scared when the genie began throwing stones.""
In Islamic theology, genies or 'jinns' can be invisible or take human or animal form, and are often motivated by revenge or jealousy. I'm envious of the investigators of this case, as I'd like to play ghostbuster myself, although I'm not clear on where I would slap a pair of cuffs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

MUSIC/SPORTS: Wilco Goes Minor League

Had the great pleasure of seeing a wonderful concert Monday night at Keyspan Park, the Coney Island home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Class A minor league team in the NY Mets system.  The bill paired Wilco with Yo La Tengo.  Wilco and its leader Jeff Tweedy continue to get better and better as a band.  This was the strongest show I have seen them perform, with 2-1/2 hours of solid rock and roll under a perfect July night sky.  Yo La Tengo opened with a solid hour of their special kind of indie rock.

In addition to the venue, the link to sports is the name of the band Yo La Tengo.  The name is taken from a famous incident in the epochal 1962 debut season of the NY Mets.  Richie Ashburn was the Mets' veteran center fielder, and he had communication problems with the shortstop, Elio Chacon of Venezuela.  After colliding several times attempting to field shallow pop flies, Chacon taught Ashburn how to say "I got it" in Spanish ("Yo la tengo").  At a subsequent game, Ashburn ran toward shallow left field shouting "Yo la tengo," Chacon gave ground, but left fielder Frank Thomas was not on script.  Having missed a meeting that reviewed the Spanish phrase, he plowed into Ashburn as the ball dropped to the field.  Later he was heard to ask, "What is this 'yellow tango'?"

Whatever it is....Wilco got it!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obama Pens an Op-Ed

Pres. Obama posted an op-ed in the Washington Post defending his approach to dealing with the Great Recession and its aftermath. Money quote:
I am confident that the United States of America will weather this economic storm. But once we clear away the wreckage, the real question is what we will build in its place. Even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, I have insisted that we must rebuild it better than before. For if we do not seize this moment to confront the weaknesses that have plagued our economy for decades, we will consign ourselves and our children to future crises, sluggish growth, or both.

There are some who say we must wait to meet our greatest challenges. They favor an incremental approach or believe that doing nothing is somehow an answer. But that is exactly the thinking that led us to this predicament. Ignoring big challenges and deferring tough decisions is what Washington has done for decades, and it's exactly what I sought to change by running for president.

Now is the time to build a firmer, stronger foundation for growth that not only will withstand future economic storms but that helps us thrive and compete in a global economy. To build that foundation, we must lower the health-care costs that are driving us into debt, create the jobs of the future within our borders, give our workers the skills and training they need to compete for those jobs, and make the tough choices necessary to bring down our deficit in the long run.
The challenge will be for the Administration's policies to produce enough short-term progress to allow the long-term programs to be implemented.  The battle is just beginning.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Green Shoots or X Marks the Future

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary and current Berkeley economics professor, writes about the outlook for the economy and questions the validity of the focus on investors, the markets and those fabled "green shoots" of an incipient recovery:
In a recession this deep, recovery doesn't depend on investors. It depends on consumers who, after all, are 70 percent of the U.S. economy. And this time consumers got really whacked. Until consumers start spending again, you can forget any recovery, V or U shaped.

Problem is, consumers won't start spending until they have money in their pockets and feel reasonably secure. But they don't have the money, and it's hard to see where it will come from. They can't borrow. Their homes are worth a fraction of what they were before, so say goodbye to home equity loans and refinancings. One out of ten home owners is under water -- owing more on their homes than their homes are worth. Unemployment continues to rise, and number of hours at work continues to drop. Those who can are saving. Those who can't are hunkering down, as they must.

Eventually consumers will replace cars and appliances and other stuff that wears out, but a recovery can't be built on replacements. Don't expect businesses to invest much more without lots of consumers hankering after lots of new stuff. And don't rely on exports. The global economy is contracting.

My prediction, then? Not a V, not a U. But an X. This economy can't get back on track because the track we were on for years -- featuring flat or declining median wages, mounting consumer debt, and widening insecurity, not to mention increasing carbon in the atmosphere -- simply cannot be sustained.

The X marks a brand new track -- a new economy. What will it look like? Nobody knows. All we know is the current economy can't "recover" because it can't go back to where it was before the crash. So instead of asking when the recovery will start, we should be asking when and how the new economy will begin.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

G8...G20...Gee Whiz

Simon Johnson of Baseline Scenario has an interesting post discussing the overemphasis that is placed on the annual G8 (formerly G7) meetings as compared to the broader G20 (which includes developing countries, not just the 7 major Western economies with Russia and China added in...I know that makes 9, but I do not get to name the groups). While there are good political reasons for the G8 meetings to remain a regular event, I think he is right on the economics.
First, emerging markets have obviously risen in both respectable clout and ability to make trouble. China’s exchange rate policy is a leading example, but think also about Mexico, Brazil, or India. Having a global economic discussion (e.g., on climate change or aid to Africa) without these players fully at the table does not really make sense – particularly as the G20 now operates effectively at the heads of government level. And inviting these countries to a dinner or other event on the fringes of the main meeting just adds insult to injury.

Second, the Europeans are now organized into a loose political union and all of the major economies – except the UK – are in a currency union. What is the point of sitting down with Italy, Germany, France, and the UK separately? It is much more effective when they – and other Europeans – work out common positions and bring those to the table collectively. The European Union belongs to the G20 but not the G7.

Third, the idea that the US and its allies “lead” by any kind of economic policy example is plainly in disarray. The recent crisis focuses our attention, but we’ve seen two or three decades with irresponsible credit and throwing fiscal caution to the winds across these countries. These countries traditionally position themselves as “G7 models” worth emulating; this message needs to be toned down.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Robert McNamara

Vietnam. To anyone who lived through the Vietnam era, the wound has not healed, the pain lingers, and the bill is still being paid. And the chief villain in the horror story was, is and remains Robert McNamara. Eisenhower started us down the path with his popularization of the Domino Theory; JFK kicked it up a notch with the dispatch of over 10,000 "advisors"; and LBJ sealed the deal with the fabricated Tonkin Gulf incident and the commitment of over 500,000 American troops. But the evil genius behind the actions of JFK and LBJ was McNamara.

JFK considered McNamara the smartest man he ever met, and LBJ went so far as to offer him the VP slot for his 1964 reelection bid. Yet the "smartest man" refused to look at the evidence before his eyes, relying instead on the whiz kids around him to present carefully crafted data in support of the theories that enabled the policy disasters that devastated not only America's image, but its very essence.

Only in 1995....28 years after leaving the Defense Dept and 20 years after the war ended (for the US)...did he finally open his eyes and acknowledge how wrong he had been. The war was unwinnable, his analysis of the role of outside forces was misguided, etc, etc, etc. However, for 58,000 dead American soldiers (plus countless veterans and their families doomed to misery or worse from wounds seen and unseen), not to mention the casualties in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1 million, 2 million, who will ever know), this was far too little and far too late.

Robert McNamara, secure on the list of most evil Americans of the 20th century, is dead. He is not to be mourned, but the lessons of his hubris must be remembered as a warning of what he wrought.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

California Here We Come?

Ezra has some thoughts on the economic calamity facing California that capture the serious issues underlying what is being covered as a comedy by much of the press.
There's an occasional tendency to treat California's politics like a joke. And we Californians, I admit, bear some responsibility for that. The recall election was a fiasco. The reality of Gov. Schwarzenegger hasn't made it seem any less like a prank. But Sacramento is not Hollywood. Hollywood is where interesting things happen to fake people. Sacramento is where important things happen to real people. And it needs to be covered as such.

Whatever its entertainment value, California is the largest state in the union. Almost one-in-seven Americans call it home. And a lot of them are suffering now and, absent a fix, more will be suffering soon. Not joke-suffering. Not buddy-comedy suffering. Really suffering. Schools will close. Children will lose their health care. Families will lose their homes. The state will stop helping the mentally ill afford the medicine that lets them live normal lives. The budget cuts will cause 60,000 public employees to lose their jobs.

And as goes California, so might well go the nation.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Palin & Her Lies.....Another View

Paul Rosenberg posts on Open Left a wonderful screed about Palin and her lies:
It was a slow newsday, Friday before a holiday, so why shouldn't Sarah Palin suck up all the oxygen in five continents? If only that stupid Michael Jackson fellah hadn't died the week before, she could have totally pulled it off. As it was, she did pretty damn well for a couple of hours there. Her big secret? Same as it ever was: she lied. Seven ways from Sunday. She lied about being cleared in all the Alaska investigations; she lied about their cost; she lied about wanting to serve the people of Alaska; she lied about fulfilling her goals; she lied about people attacking her son Trig; she lied about being like a point guard; she lied when she said "and" and "the". She spoke, therefore she lied.

Why does Sarah Palin lie? She lies to get out of trouble; she lies to shift blame; she lies to get even; she lies to get ahead; she lies to hurt her enemies; she lies to amuse her friends; she lies to relieve boredom; she lies to have some fun; she lies because truth is bother; she lies as a key to strategy; she lies because she has no plan; she lies to confuse anyone trying to keep track; she lies to make sense to those not keeping track; she lies for power; she lies because lying works for her; she lies just for the hell of it; she lies because she can; she lies because that's how she expresses her freedom--a very libertarian idea of freedom, I might well add.

Liberals and libertarians are both about freedom, but their concepts of freedom are radically different, and Sarah Palin's compulsive, multipurpose lying is as a good a way as any to approach understanding the differences between them.

In sharp contrast, liberals characteristically express their freedom by telling the truth, inconvenient truths, as Al Gore put it. Truths about racism and war, such as Martin Luther King told, when speaking truth to power. Truths about the social order and tradition that are not supposed to be said.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Secrets of the Wall Street Journal

Paul Krugman asks a very simple but heretofore unanswered question, "What is the true agenda of the WSJ?" It is easy to understand Fox or the New York Post, but the WSJ has always been a bit of a mystery.
This morning’s Wall Street Journal opinion section contains a lot of what one expects to see. There’s an opinion piece making a big fuss over the fake scandal at the EPA. There’s an editorial claiming that the latest job figures prove the failure of Obama’s economic plan — something I dealt with in the Times. All of this follows on yesterday’s editorial asserting that the Minnesota senatorial election was stolen.

All of this is par for the course; the WSJ editorial page has been like this for 35 years. Nonetheless, it got me wondering: what do these people really believe? I mean, they’re not stupid — life would be a lot easier if they were. So they know they’re not telling the truth. But they obviously believe that their dishonesty serves a higher truth — one that is, in effect, told only to Inner Party members, while the Outer Party makes do with prolefeed.

The question is, what is that higher truth? What do these people really believe in?
Brad DeLong posits an answer from a conversation he overhead at lunch in DC a number of year's ago. Money quote:
the Journal editorial writers thought that their role was to make not the strongest but rather the most persuasive case for lower taxes and Republican candidates in every circumstance--that they had a duty not to inform their readers, not even to make the truest arguments for the side that they had been hired to support, but rather to make the arguments for the side they had been hired to support that would strengthen that side the most by convincing the most people.

Friday, July 3, 2009

California Budget Blues

Kevin Drum on the current state of affairs in California, where a fiscal meltdown is underway, discusses the dysfunctional political scene out there.
If you ever thought there was a group of lawmakers who could make the U.S. Congress look like a sober, highminded deliberative body, the clowns in Sacramento are them.

In case you're interested, here's the latest. No budget agreement is on the horizon, but on June 29 Dems tried to pass a bill that would have saved a bit of money. It was a technical measure related to how education money is distributed via Proposition 98, but the bottom line is that it would have saved the state about $3 billion. It had to be passed before June 30 or not at all, but Arnold Schwarzenegger flatly refused to consider it. Why? Who knows. No "piecemeal" budgeting, he says. He wants an entire budget all at once that slashes $24 billion without increasing taxes so much as a dime, or nothing at all. Why? Again, who knows? It's like trying to figure out a five year old.

So, anyway, our gargantuan budget deficit, much of it caused by almost lunatic irresponsibility on Schwarzenegger's part in the first place, is now about $3 billion higher because of further lunatic irresponsibility on Schwarzenegger's part. And while Dems may not exactly be heroes in this mess, at least they're doing something. Proposing things. Trying to keep the state from resorting to IOUs for blind people. Hoping to do something to prevent our credit rating from going down the toilet, making our budget problem even worse. Something. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger has no plans at all, and the sullen Republican rump in the Senate and Assembly just sits around and votes no on everything. No proposals, no ideas, no nothing. Just no, no, no.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michele Bachmann & the Census

Bizarro World Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has been on a rampage against the census, recently appearing on several Fox programs ranting about the threat the census poses to Americans and the need to refuse to cooperate with it (which is illegal, of course). Even some of her fellow fringe far-right colleagues are getting a bit antsy about that. Three Republican members of the Census Oversight Subcommittee issued a statement which concluded that "Boycotting the constitutionally-mandated census is illogical, illegal and not in the best interest of our country." This was primarily because the potential impact on redistricting and allocation of Federal spending.

Now Stever Benen at Political Animal adds an interesting footnote:
And as long as we're on the subject, Bachmann talked to Sean Hannity on Fox News last night about her anti-census crusade, and returned to one of her favorite arguments: "Sean, you know the one question they don't ask? They [don't] ask, 'are you an American citizen?' ... [T]hey could at least ask if we're an American citizen? They don't bother to ask for that. That's why I think people need to read this census for themselves. If you go to my website, michelebachmann, you can read it."

Good idea. If you take Bachmann's advice, visit her website, and read the census, you find the American Community Survey put together by the Census Bureau. Question #7 reads: "Where was this person born?" Question #8 reads, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?"

Bachmann probably should have noticed this before repeatedly going on national television, pleading with people to read the census questions, and railing against the absence of a question that's already there.

Palin, Fundamentalism & the Lies That Bind

A reader on Sully's blog posted the following analysis that perfectly sums up an underlying truth about the lies.
Part of Sarah Palin's irresistible appeal to her fundamentalist base is her ability to look at the camera with utter conviction and declare black to be white.

The ability to lie well is a valuable part of the fundamentalist psychology. My son isn't gay, he just hasn't found the right woman! Those rocks aren't 50 million years old, they just look like it as a test of our faith! My sexless marriage isn't foundering, it is filled with God's spirit! The minister isn't molesting little Maria, they're just very close! It isn't torture, it is being tough on terrorists!

Fundamentalists can recognize a truly audacious and talented liar from miles away. Instead of running the other way, as you might expect, they gather around the powerful liar, for they know that their own lies will be respected and protected by a leader who understands the paramount importance of preserving their whole system of denial.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's No Fun...It Fell Right Over

From Shanghai, via Gizmodo, an unoccupied 13-story building that fell over during construction!!

MUSIC: Explosions in the Sky

The rain let up, the band came out, and a wonderful evening of music in Central Park ensued. Explosions in the Sky, the Austin based quartet, brought its rolling, meandering, lyric-free virtuousity to the heart of NYC and held a packed crowd in rapt attention at the Rumsey Playfield. The only surprise is that this band has become so popular. Wordless music is often an acquired taste to an audience with limited attention spans and a multitude of distractions. But the sheer power of this band, with intricate interlocking guitar lines and a brilliant drummer has won over a sizable following. I saw them a few years back at the intimate Bowery Ballroom, but this show in the park even topped last year's sold out and packed show at Terminal 5. Fun indeed!