Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The More Things Change #53012

As most of you know by now, I'm in the middle of reading Robert Caro's latest book on Lyndon Johnson -- The Passage of Power . I read page 396 last night.

"Liberals wanted a larger role for government, wanted bigger, and new, government social welfare programs and therefore a larger budget. They believed the $11 billion tax cut would, by putting more money into people's pockets, stimulate the economy and thereby increase tax revenues, and the money the government would have available for these programs. Conservatives, uneasy about an expansion of government's role and about the proposed new programs, were opposed to the deficits that would be produced by the higher spending, and believed the deficits would be increased by the tax cuts. So Johnson, in starting to deal with the budget, would immediately find himself plunged into the middle of the intense ideological warfare between conservatives and liberals."

History is enlightening, no?

Liberals and conservatives haven't switched sides but they aren't afraid to use each other's talking points. And, I'll point out, these people that are oh-so-concerned about the budget don't mind staring another 10+ year land war in Asia shortly after this period under discussion.

Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?!!

(By the way, I believe that brings this blog full circle. Yes, Virginia, you have to follow the links to keep up.)

We didn't watch Iraq or Afghanistan on TV at the supper table like we did Vietnam. The military learned its lesson. It kept reporters as far away as possible. It also got rid of the draft. Don't kid yourself about it kids. If you knew you were going to get drafted for Afghanistan -- just knew it -- you'd be a lot more involved in your government's affairs. The thought of losing your leg, your life or your son will do that. Especially if you're reminded of it every single night on the TV as you sit down to dinner.

I'll also mention that our interest in our wars has lessened because our wars have been privatized. The vast majority of Americans that were drafted didn't serve in combat. They were cooks, clerks and mechanics. But they served. And they knew at any time they could wind up cooking in Khe Sanh instead of California. Now we hire all that out to private contractors.

History calls them mercenaries.

Don Brown
May 30, 2012

Luck Counts #53012

Luck Counts #53012 by Get The Flick
Luck Counts #53012, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

What can I say? Taking pictures is more fun than writing. Well, most of the time anyway.

Don Brown
May 30, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Green Shadows

Green Shadows by Get The Flick
Green Shadows, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Yeah, I'm working on it. I can't seem to stop reading "The Passage of Power" (Caro's book on LBJ) long enough to write.

Don Brown
May 29, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's Wrong. Period

I couldn't believe this "debate" I was listening to (for 17 minutes no less) on NPR.

'Stop And Frisk' Works, But It's Problematic

"The New York City police reported that its officers stopped and frisked almost 700,000 people last year, which prompted a fresh round of protests over the controversial policy. In today's Washington Post, Richard Cohen writes that these questionable tactics have to be measured against their effects. New York City is heaven on earth, he wrote, possibly because it is a certain kind of hell for young black and Hispanic men. Do results justify questionable police tactics?"

It's wrong. End of debate. What's the matter with you people? It's been wrong for over 200 years.

"Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Don Brown
May 22, 2012

Space Stupid

After, all this time, have we learned nothing?

SpaceX rocket lifts off for space station trial run

"An analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that a similar program under traditional NASA procurement would have cost four to 10 times as much, said NASA's Alan Lindenmoyer, who manages the agency's commercial spaceflight initiatives."

Right. Let's see Space X build Cape Canaveral, do their own basic R&D and factor in the cost of financing it all for decades. Then tell me how cheap they can do things.

"Separately, NASA contributed nearly $400 million to SpaceX's $1.2 billion commercial space program, which includes development and up to three test flights of Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules."

Okay, the taxpayers provided 1/3 of the budget and all of the infrastructure.

"NASA is counting on companies like Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to take over the task of flying cargo - and eventually astronauts - to the $100 billion space station, which orbits about 240 miles (390 km) above Earth."

Are these numbers computing for you? A 100-billion-dollar space station vs. a $1.2 billion $0.8 billion "commercial" space program. So we're talking 80 cents vs. a $100 bill. And the only "market" is from a government-owned launching pad to a government-owned space station. A "market" of one customer for one place of business.

Get real.

Look, I don't mind that we're letting private industry into the space business. But the words matter. The imagery matters. Space exploration -- the investment, the R&D, the shear human drama -- is government at its best. To let private concerns cheapen it all is just wrong. Not to mention stupid.

And in case it hasn't dawned on you yet, you can bet your bottom dollar that the FAA is angling to be the regulatory body for space flight and that industry visionaries are busy trying to " capture " whatever agency (space ICAO if you will) winds up with the regulatory authority. And yes, the military will be the 500-pound gorilla. Sound familiar ?

Don Brown
May 22, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012


ColorStorm by Get The Flick
ColorStorm, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

Good Golly Miss Molly, what a sunrise.

It's a tough job but somebody has to do it.

Don Brown
May 21, 2012

Purple Rain

Purple Rain by Get The Flick
Purple Rain, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

You guys would have understood "Purple Virga". Of course, half of you would have thought it said Viagra.

(I guess we all know what Google will be advertising on my searches for days.)

BTW, check back again later. You'll want to see what it looked like as all this cleared out at sunrise.

Don Brown
May 21, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Space Aliens vs. Tsunamis

You might remember what I wrote right about a year ago (or maybe not.) No worries. I'll remind you.

The Title Says It All

"Speaking of which, another idea that I’ve been too chicken to go out on a limb and write about...Japan’s triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, radiation leaks) may be what winds up turning Japan around. Japan will be forced to spend huge sums on infrastructure -- even if it has to borrow the money. The status quo will change."

For those that forgot the back story, Japan has suffered an economic "lost decade" where they haven't grown -- leading to chronic unemployment and the attendant social problems. Sort of like where we are headed if we don't change and inject the economic stimulus we need to spur growth.

Did you happen see Krugman's blog yesterday? You should.

Spending and Growth

"Wait, what? Japan as star performer? What’s that about?"

You really have to go see the graph .

And in case you don't get the space alien reference....

 Watch GPS: Krugman calls for space aliens to fix U.S. economy ...

It looks as if a tsunami will do the job too.

Don Brown
May 18, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Symbology Matters

On August 3rd (how's that for irony ?) 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan gave a speech mentioning "States' Rights" in Neshoba County, Mississippi. The only thing Neshoba County, Mississippi is famous for is the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964 . (If you haven't ever read an account of that case, please do so.) You might want to listen to that speech so you can get a feel for the emotion in it. I hope you'll notice that Ronald Reagan demonizes two groups -- government workers and welfare recipients -- right before he mentions "States' Rights".

All of that is context. It's a history lesson. So you can know when history repeats itself. Four days ago, Mitt Romney spoke at Liberty University -- the college founded by Jerry Falwell. He too used the code words of the day to embolden the bigotry of our time.

"Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."

The issue isn't marriage. It isn't your belief or mine on the issue -- which one of us is closer to being right. The issue isn't religious freedom. The issue is emboldening hatred.

"“(re: 9/11 attacks) "...throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."”"

Those are a few words from the founder of Liberty University. In fairness, Reverend Falwell apologized for them a short time later. Also in fairness, it's not real hard to find other instances where he expressed the same type of sentiments.

I've already pointed out how Mitt Romney wouldn't be good for air traffic controllers. I also know many of you think you should put your country before yourself. Again, a noble thought. But Mitt Romney isn't going to be good for America either.

We have a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in this county -- a day to celebrate a man that drug many of us (kicking and screaming) into a better future. We will never have a George Wallace Day. We aren't going to have a Jerry Falwell Day either. But, hopefully, we will see a day when we don't hate so much that we are willing to kill somebody just because they are different than we are.

Don Brown
May 16, 2012

Glass & Stone

Glass & Stone by Get The Flick
Glass & Stone, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

I'm writing, even as I'm posting this. Swear.

It will be up soon. Swear.

Don Brown
May 16, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

With Your Saints in Light

I might find some time to write sometime soon. But I'm traveling tomorrow.

Don Brown
May 12, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Misty Morning Fishing

Misty Morning Fishing by Get The Flick
Misty Morning Fishing, a photo by Get The Flick on Flickr.

The fishing and photography finally agreed on a good spot.

Don Brown
May 11, 2012

Sunday, May 06, 2012

We Really Are Doomed

To get the title, you have to read Krugman's blog entry. But that is the thought that occurred to me today as I was watching Global Public Square with Fareed Zakaria. He had Martin Wolf -- the chief economics commentator with the Financial Times on as a guest. (Rana Foroohar with Time was also in on the discussion.) (You'll have to find the video on your own. I don't believe it's up on the site yet.)


"WOLF: So Germany has now insisted, extraordinarily foolishly, that everybody else in Europe -- and remember the rest of Europe is still far and away its biggest market, it's well over half its trade. So, of course, German which is hugely export dependent then immediately slows down itself. It's completely self-defeating.

It makes impossible adjustment in the rest of Europe and it actually slows down growth dramatically in Germany. I think it's an extraordinarily short-sighted and foolish policy and it's having exactly the consequences you would expect.

And the U.S. will, I think, without doubt, unless they go crazy in the end of this year on this ludicrous fiscal cliff the U.S. has planned for itself -- unless something crazy happens, I expect the U.S. to be the strongest large developed country over the next several years."

It's best if you read (or hear) all that in context but here's my take on it. Germany is the economic strongman in Europe. Germany is paranoid about inflation. So the countries in Europe that have run into economic troubles have been bailed out with cheap loans from Germany. But the price Germany has extracted for those loans is austerity. Germany insisted that those governments cut their budgets and balance their books. In other words, stop spending. And that is what Mr. Wolf is calling "extraordinarily foolish". Germany has told its best customers to stop spending money. And, of course, that means Germany is making less money on exports -- the chief source of its economic health.

The point is -- sane, rational, well-run governments are capable of making "extraordinarily foolish" policies. Jump to the next part of his comment.

"And the U.S. will, I think, without doubt, unless they go crazy in the end of this year on this ludicrous fiscal cliff the U.S. has planned for itself..."

That "cliff" is the automatic budget cuts and taxes everyone agreed to to get the wholly-manufactured debt ceiling crisis resolved. ( See the New York Times if you need a refresher or summation.)

"Then at the end of the year comes the prospect of what some are calling “Taxmaggedon,’' or what Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, has referred to  as “a massive fiscal cliff.” "

So, we have set ourselves another time bomb to go off after the elections and we can only defuse it if we don't "go crazy". Where will we need rational, careful analysis the most? In the public sphere. We will need to educate the Public on the choices facing us. Massive budget cuts and the raising of taxes will put us in the same situation as the United Kingdom -- assuring a "double-dip" recession . And who will provide much of the public with the information they need to make these clear, rational choices? Why, the man that owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal of course. This man. Rupert Murdoch.

We're doomed.

Don Brown
May 6, 2012

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Reich on Austerity

I heard Robert Reich on Marketplace yesterday. You should listen too.

"What I call "austerical" policy makers also overlook the social costs. Cutting spending when unemployment is high doesn't just worsen unemployment; it also removes the public services and safety nets people depend on when times are tough.

This can lead to political upheaval. Last week, the Dutch prime minister was forced out. In the upcoming French election, Nicolas Sarkozy could well be unseated by a socialist. Across Europe, fringe parties on the left and the right are gaining ground."

You might also want to visit his blog (remember, it's always in the blog roll). He says tomorrow might be really bad news.

Why the Economy is Heading for a Stall

"We’ll know more tomorrow when the jobs report is announced, but today’s report on America’s massive service sector – which make up about 90 percent of the economy – is sobering to say the least."

And the last part will really get you thinking.

"Paranoid double-conspiracy theorists might come to the opposite conclusion: Democrats are allowing Republicans to do this because they want Romney elected and Republicans in charge next year as the economy slides into a terrible recession due to far larger spending cuts already scheduled to kick in then, as well as increased taxes on the middle class."

I wasn't kidding, back in February.

"Do you see how history repeats itself? Look for the next Mussolini in Greece. The people there are desperate for a way out of their crisis. Krugman has already warned us about Hungary. This is not over. Not by a long shot."

Don Brown
May 3, 2012

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Krugman on Maddow

It has to be good, right? (Only sort of actually.) Be sure to note the discussion on the return of feudalism. Yes, you did hear me mention that before.

"Cutting the tax rates of the wealthy has not only created the social havoc of income disparity, it has indebted the nation. The gutting of “the death tax” -- more properly defined as the Estate Tax (emphasis on “estate”) -- has allowed a modern-day feudalism to take root in America. Not unsurprisingly, the inheritors of great wealth have used that wealth to buy political power to protect their wealth -- at the expense of the rest of the country’s citizens and the country itself."

Enjoy the show.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(By the way, I don't know which commercial played for you but I got the Goldman Sachs' commercial. On Rachel Maddow's show. Think about it.)

Don Brown
May 2, 2012