Monday, March 12, 2012

Most misleading headline ever (or just today)

I admit it, I'm a junkie for news about Greece's economic travails. I've devoured just about everything I could find on the just-completed, laughingly-named "debt-swap" including this insightful piece by Bloomberg that opines on the kind of precedent this deal sets for other similarly bombed-out economies.

So you can imagine my delight when The Old Grey Lady tapped the estimable Paul Krugman to tell us "What Greece Means."

Now, I know sometimes editors draft the headlines for op-eds and other times the author gets to write it. Given the evident self-worth of both parties either is possible here. Regardless of who is responsible, it no more tells the reader what the Greek bailout means in any sense than it does how to make spanakopita.

For seven paragraphs, Krugman tells tales of woe from Greece and other similarly economically situated European nations: negative economic growth, astronomical unemployment, plummeting standards of living. He throws a few valid jabs at Republicans who use Greece as a cautionary tale for the U.S. on deficit spending. I nodded. Well sure, Greece's current political and economic system is roughly as old as disco and in no way resembles the U.S. We won't likely suffer a crisis of insolvency (because the fed can print money to give to big banks who can then buy U.S. debt but that's a different story) like Greece so comparisons to them are really silly.

Surprisingly, however, he barely references the massive amount of public debt and the historic write-down of privately-held Greek bonds. Instead, Krugman's economy crushing villains are the austerity measures that were preconditions for Greece and others to receive Euro bailout funds. He gave the briefest of nods to the fact that countries required historic bailouts because they have debts they can't possibly hope to repay but he clearly sees the austerity measures as the wrong medicine for what ails Greece.

As if reading my mind, Krugman opens paragraph eight with, "You may ask what alternative countries like Greece and Ireland had." Yes, Paul, I might. "[T]he answer is that they had and have no good alternatives short of leaving the euro."


And by the way, nobody thinks leaving the euro is a good option. Just another bad one.

Not exactly the payoff I expected or, frankly, deserved for being told how wrong austerity measures were but if he could finally get to WHAT GREECE MEANS then I could, perhaps, find my time reading this column well-spent.

Unfortunately, the next two paragraphs deliver nothing more than a mishmash of Krugman beliefs on government spending during a recession with nonsensical Greek comparisons:
Germany and the European Central Bank could take action to make that extreme step less necessary, both by demanding less austerity and doing more to boost the European economy as a whole. But the main point is that America does have an alternative: we have our own currency, and we can borrow long-term at historically low interest rates, so we don’t need to enter a downward spiral of austerity and economic contraction. 
So it is time to stop invoking Greece as a cautionary tale about the dangers of deficits; from an American point of view, Greece should instead be seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of trying to reduce deficits too quickly, while the economy is still deeply depressed. (And yes, despite some better news lately, our economy is still deeply depressed.) (emphasis mine)
So, according to Krugman, WHAT GREECE MEANS is that, first, the European Central Bank should do, um, stuff, to make things, you know, better.  And, second, the U.S. can do stuff Greece can't because we are the world's largest economy and we didn't do something enormously stupid like give up monetary sovereignty.

Finally, because we don't face the same economic constraints as Greece, we should continue to deficit spend because we can and if we don't we might end up like Greece even though Greece's problems were the direct result of economic constraints that don't apply to the U.S.

Thanks, Paul. Any good recipes for baklava?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Stop the "war"

The "war on women." Is this really what our political discourse has sunk to? The use of war-like imagery has long been used in many arenas (politics and sports just to name two) as rhetorical tools but the latest dust up with Rush Limbaugh shows just how far in the wrong direction we have gone.

Rush Limbaugh's comments regarding Sandra Fluke were totally out of bounds. His entire argument was nonsensical, in fact. But the professional left's escalation of ignorant, insulting comments by one person to a "war on women" is equally insulting and deserves condemnation.

Last night, I watched an HBO documentary called Saving Face. It highlights the gruesome practice of Pakistani husbands throwing acid and gasoline on their wives and then setting them on fire as punishment. The documentary shines a spotlight on the bravery and courage of several victims and their advocates (who face the real possibility of violent retribution) in forcing Pakistani society and government to recognize this atrocity and punish perpetrators.

Honor killings, forced female circumcision and other denial of basic dignity and freedom for women in societies around the globe constitute an actual war on women.

Those seeking to exploit Limbaugh's insults for short-term political gain by making outrageous analogies to violence and war live relatively comfortable lives of equality and prosperity. We have the ability to engage in civil discourse in this country and change policy without risk to our very lives. We should honor those who aspire to those freedoms by doing just that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Conventional Wisdom Isn't

Mitt Romney is best positioned of the Republican candidates to beat President Obama in November. That is the conventional wisdom among the politically literate class. He has money and organization to compete, they say. Mitt can attract the all-important independents, we are told. He's a solid family man with no whiff of personal scandal. He'll win by making this election a referendum on the failed policies of the last three plus years.

It's a fine narrative. It's also wrong. Why? Nobody wants to vote for Mitt.

Need proof? Newt Gingrich won by double digits in South Carolina and is going to win handily in Florida. Newt Gingrich with his U-Haul full of personal and professional baggage, his holier-than-thou pronouncements, his, well, Mitt-like ability to be on every side of an issue. He's Silvio Berlusconi without the charm.

Browse the polls at Real Clear Politics and see how many show Romney favored by more than a third of Republican voters. Ever. He's been running for six years and he has faced, arguably, one of the weakest primary fields in modern politics. Still, more than two-thirds of Republican voters have been desperately seeking someone other than Romney to be the nominee. Herman Cain enjoyed a frightening lengthy ride at the top of the polls, for goodness sake. Is it logical to believe that a candidate who can't attract more than a third of his own party's voters after years of pandering to them is suddenly going to be able to command a majority of the entire electorate?

In the excellent movie adaptation of Michael Lewis' Moneyball, Brad Pitt's Billy Beane repeatedly asked a room full of scouts, "What's the problem?" The scouts in that room are like the political chattering class. They talk about Romney in the same way the scouts talk about players. He looks presidential, his resume is impressive, he's manageable. Great. But those attributes don't address the problem.

The problem is: people don't want to vote for Mitt Romney.

There are a minority of voters for whom anyone but Obama will do just fine. At some point, however, Romney would have to convince millions more that they need him in the White House. It won't happen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Re: Erin Andrews: Get a life, losers

So as a life-long sports fan, I've known who Erin Andrews is for quite some time. I'm not sure why ESPN and others hire mostly attractive women to roam the sidelines during sporting contests (I'm not sure I pay any more attention to what Erin has to say than what Jack Arute says) but they do. And of course, being on the upper end of the attractiveness scale, they attract heightened interest from a nearly total male viewership while off the playing field as well. Wait, maybe ESPN is on to something here...

So it shouldn't be too surprising that, in this voyeuristic age where nearly anyone, anywhere and at any time can be filmed or photographed and that image can be seen by millions in a matter of hours, someone should succumb to their inner douchebaggery and surreptitiously videotape Erin in the buff. Whether for personal gratification (ewww, yes, I said it) or for profit, this is the lowest of the low and I hope the perpetrator gets the legal system equivalent of a hydrochloric acid enema for their crime.

I applaud TMZ and others for giving the Heisman to whomever is trying to peddle this video for cash. And to those of you out there who have managed to find the video virus-free and watch it over the last several days, you suck. You have no more right to see it than did the asshat who made it have the right to film it. Just because you are able to view the video anonymously at your computer makes it no different than if you filmed it yourself. If you are that desperate to see a woman naked, buy porn.

Finally, to those that justify viewing it by claiming it could be some publicity stunt: shut the hell up. Are you kidding me? What on earth could she possibly gain by doing this? If you believe she did this on purpose, you are an idiot. She would be much more likely to ruin a thriving (and lucrative) career as a sports personality than to gain anything by knowingly taking part in something this stupid. Get a life.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Should Sanford resign?

Yes. He should have done it yesterday. To even think that he can be an effective governor going forward is ridiculous. He lost the confidence of other Republican leaders long ago and his little disappearing act should be the death knell of his political career.

To be clear, he should not resign for infidelity alone. I have opinions that I will expand upon later relative to cheating but for now, the fact he vanished for days without telling anyone where he was going or how he could be reached is easlity reason enough. And all the other questions about whether he used state funds to carry on his affair or whether he asked his staff to lie are all pretty irrelevant (complete aside: Pat Caddell? Can't Fox find a Democrat who has actually worked in the last 30 years?). I don't care if he was leaf-peeping in Vermont or just couldn't wait any longer to visit famed Cadillac Ranch. A governor cannot simply just disappear. He is clearly going through a personal crisis that makes him utterly and completely unfit to be governor.

We recalled a governor in California for being just your run-of-the-mill bad governor. However, he, like Sanford, also had a tenuous relationship with other leaders in his own party that became his ultimate undoing. Mark "Bottom-Line Guy" Sanford should quit before he drags his state, his party and his family through an official process that will only delay the inevitable. And he should do it now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Are more debates really better?

If Keith Olbermann is within spitting distance, the answer is clearly "no." This self-important douche nozzle certainly isn't going to make anyone forget Walter Cronkite anytime soon with his performance at the AFL-CIO sponsored Democratic debate in Chicago last night. For starters, he chided the audience for cheering too much. Asking 17,000 steam fitters and HVAC installers to pipe down is like asking Britney Spears to stay home with her kids, it simply isn't in the DNA, know what I mean?

Having been the lesser half of an ESPN super-duo, however, he couldn't stop himself from injecting the cheater into the debate. The result was the following:

MODERATOR KEITH OLBERMANN: Senator Obama, were you president of the United States today, would you honor Barry Bonds at the White House?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, he’s still got to hit one more, and it’s been taking a while. And I had the opportunity to meet Hank Aaron just this past weekend. It reminded me of what sports should be, and that is something that young people can look up to. Now, Barry Bonds has been a remarkable baseball player, and I honor his achievements. But I hope that all of us are focused on making sure that sports is something that kids can look up to, not something that they start feeling cynical about. We’ve got cynicism in politics without having cynicism in our sports teams as well.

OLBERMANN: Is that a no, sir, or a yes?

OBAMA: Well, like I said, he hasn’t done it yet, so we’ll answer the question when it comes.

Huh wha??? Where do I start?

Let's start with douche nozzle's question. Hmmm, which one of these is not like the other: war, terrorism, NAFTA, honest government and, um, baseball. This questions screams, "Look at me! I'm the important question-asking douche nozzle guy who wants to remind everyone how clever I think I am!"

Not to be outdone, however, a charismatic, articulate, intelligent Barack Obama dropped a verbal deuce right there on the stage. My dog's farts smell more pleasant than that answer. I mean, really Barack? That's the best you can do? Who in the world are you afraid of offending? At a minimum I would expect someone vying to be the leader of the free world to not be scared to answer this simple question.

Ideally, however, the following answer would have been most appropriate and made him the hands-down winner of the debate:

OBAMA: Keith, let me start by saying that might be the worst question in a presidential debate since Bernie Shaw made us endure the mental image of a raped and murdered Kitty Dukakis. There are 17,000 people here tonight. When they leave here, they go home and worry about their job security, maybe they worry about keeping their health insurance or are struggling with saving for retirement. They have kids in overcrowded or unsafe schools or maybe they have sons and daughters fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan and pray every day their child comes home safe. They came here tonight because they wanted to know how we are going to make America better, safer and perhaps provide some real security in their lives. These people here tonight and their families are my first, second, third, fourth and fifth priorities. In fact, I'm not sure Barry Bonds makes my top 10 priorities and I feel safe in saying it's not a priority for these folks here tonight either.

BOOM! Soldier Field would have erupted as if Brian Urlacher had just delceated Brett Favre. Instead we were treated to the equivalent of a Rex Grossman 4 interception performance.

Is this the best we can do?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Steroids 1, Baseball 0

Anyone who has ever been a real baseball fan should wear a black armband and make a toast to the official end of Major League Baseball. It's been dying for years thanks to unbridled greed by players, owners and agents, strikes and threatened strikes, and guaranteed contracts (is Baltimore still paying Albert Belle?).

But any sports fan with a shred of conscience, after tonight's massacre of an honorable man's record by a cheater who coincidentally happens to be a lifetime colossal prick, should take their turn heaping a shovelful of dirt on this dead mockery of a pastime. The same hypocritical assholes that say Pete Rose is forever unwelcome to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot despite the fact that his all-time hit record is undoubtedly authentic are the same jerkoffs who want the voters to be on the hook for deciding Bonds' fate.

Anyone who buys an MLB jersey, t-shirt or hat or who spends one thin dime supporting this racket should be declared unfit to do anything beyond bludgeoning themselves with frozen cod.


Someday, I'll get some stuff posted. Probably.