Politics and Philosophy

Who: Zach Weiner
What: "Exigology", Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
When: December 14, 2011

Oh, just click on the picture.

Exigology (noun): A statement whose converse is its own explanation.


Well ... Right. Yeah. Exactly. Sort Of.

Who: Mark Steel
What: "Hands off our greedy bankers", The Independent
When: December 14, 2011

They shall never surrender their island ....

You can see why, after 50 years of putting up with Europe, this was finally the issue where we couldn't take any more. Because the bastards were insisting we impose a vague regulation or two on our bankers and speculators, those brave and tireless souls who invest round the clock to keep us safe with not a thought for themselves. Well, the French had the audacity to suggest someone kept an eye on them from time to time. Haven't bankers suffered enough?

So, just like in 1940, we stand alone, and hopefully at every bus stop, you'll hear the plucky British saying: "Blooming Krauts, who do they think they are telling us our bankers aren't allowed to rob us blind? That's the right of every Englishman, to have his country robbed blind by bankers. Now Frau Merkel wants to make them only rob me nine-tenths blind until they get themselves straight. Well, we fought off the Luftwaffe, so we'll see off this lot an' all."


Recognizing the Obvious

What: "Let's ask florists for a credit rating ", The Independent
When: December 7, 2011

If you resent someone stating the obvious, you're probably more intelligent than the general public, which apparently doesn't recognize the obvious.

Here's my question about economic—why should it send countries into panic when the bankers make pronouncements about countries' credit ratings, as they did yesterday? You could choose any layer of society at random and most people would trust them more than bankers, so it would make more sense if the BBC News started, "Private sector growth must be the priority for Europe, said the scouts today, although canoeists and wrestlers disagreed, and there was strong opposition from people with fetishes that involve celery. Robert Peston, what does this mean for the Government's inflation target?"

And banks aren't neutral observers, they're banks If you resent someone stating the obvious, you're probably more intelligent than the general public, which apparently doesn't recognize the obvious. the people who caused the mess. It's like someone who's wet themselves in a public building insisting they choose which mop the librarian fetches to clear up the puddle.

No, really. If you're wondering why anyone needs to tell you this, you've probably figured out what the rest of your neighbors can't seem to figure out for themselves, and God help anyone inclined to explain it to them.

A Conspiracy, or, What Else Could It Be?

Who: David Horsey
What: "Herman Cain and the liberal media conspiracy", SeattlePI.com
When: November 30, 2011

Because it's always a liberal conspiracy, you know ....

This conspiracy goes back much farther than the brief months of Cain's campaign, of course. It began back in the 1960s when the liberal media elites identified a Kenyan-born baby with an American mother; a child they could groom in secret to become their tool to destroy Christian America. They arranged a fake birth announcement in Honolulu's newspapers, indoctrinated the boy in the Muslim cesspool of Indonesia and, when the time was right, brought him to the exotic, multiracial pleasure garden of Hawaii where he could easily fit in and begin his surreptitious climb to power ....

.... Why, you may ask, would media companies that are deeply enmeshed in the capitalist system and run by rich families and Wall Street investors be so devoted to replacing American free enterprise with Kenyan anti-colonial socialism? And how, you may also wonder, could they be so prescient, so forward thinking that they could plot the rise of a Kenyan baby to the White House, yet not notice until it was too late that Craig's List and Google were stealing all their business?


All the Subtlety of a Newtron Bomb

What: To the Point
When: December 5, 2011

Figuring the subtleties of Newt Gingrich is a bit like getting beaten by an angry Pillsbury Doughboy. That is, for all it might hurt, it is hard not to laugh at the absurdity of the proposition; and it is probably something one ought not undertake without first ingesting some sort of hallucinogen.

Still, though, Warren Olney and his panel of guests put in a pretty good effort at trying to explain the Newtron Bomber:


Something About Truth and Power

Who: Bob Engelhart
What: "Who???", Hartford Courant
When: November 21, 2011

If you'll recall, W, in a typically moron Republican move, cut taxes without cutting spending and then waged two, count 'em, two wars. It happened on his watch, and don't forget it. The corporate bailouts happened on his watch, too. I know the GOP doesn't like us to remember that, but unlike their brain-dead elephant and constituents to match, we remember.


NASCAR: When Stupidity is Your Defense

One Lee Owens makes a point worth considering about why some idiotic NASCAR fans booed Michelle Obama and Jill Biden during a veterans-related appearance at the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway: "It is not racial," Owens explains. "Michelle Obama is scorned by Nascar fans because her husband is a job-killer socialist."

Now, the question here isn't whether or not NASCAR fans are racist. Rather, it is whether NASCAR fans are idiots.

And as it seems hard to reconcile the idea of Obama as a socialist in any context remotely connected to fact, Ms. Owens, the trodabumsoutgrl, seems to be asserting that yes, NASCAR fans are idiots.


Famous Last Words?

In June, I offered up for friends and associates an analysis of the Republican presidential field in the context of Newt Gingrich:

When Democrats compete to challenge an incumbent Republican president, liberals tend to regard seemingly hopeless candidacies, such as the Rev. Al Sharpton's 2004 run, or even the respectable but wildly unsuccessful effort by former Sen. Caron Moseley Braun, as issue advocacy campaigns.

With the GOP field this year so presently disorganized, it is hard to figure who falls where. In some cases, such as former Sen. Rick Santorum, it is easy enough to figure; he is playing to and for the social conservatives—clearly, barring some apocalyptic collapse of the American political structure, Santorum cannot win. One might suggest the same of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, if she declares as expected.

Some consider Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty the foremost "serious" candidate, with the adjective taken to mean someone who actually can compete in the general election.

Which leaves a tier of candidates like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, who bring leagues of devoted fans and followers to the contest, and certainly have a penchant for headlines—thus posturing them as significant players in the early rounds—who cannot win the general election.

One could easily suggest that these will be relegated to the advocacy tier, but American politics is also so chaotic that Palin or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich could seriously unsettle a candidate like Pawlenty as the Republican Party moves toward its convention in Tampa at the end of August, 2012.

It is astounding how wrong I was. Tim Pawlenty is out. Newt Gingrich is running third.

It would be best, I figure, if I don't try to revise that analysis, and simply remind that anyone trying to tell you what conventional wisdom says is probably wrong. We'll see what the New Year brings, but come on ... really? Newt Gingrich is running in third place? Behind a book tour, and the guy Republicans seem determined to avoid?

Yeah, we'll see how they feel about Romney when the calendar turns to 2012 and the primary season kicks off. But the preseason so far has been an exercise in confusion.


The Obvious Question

Who: Steve Benen
What: "The growing acceptance of the 'sabotage' question", Political Animal
When: November 7, 2011

At first glance, it is just one of those things. Everybody has a certain line they won't cross. It is a line of human decency. And it's not that they won't commit this or that atrocity but, rather, a point beyond which they cannot believe "normal"—a highly subjective word, especially in this context—people would tread. It is a point which other people's cynicism can encompass, but no, one says, not me: I cannot believe that other people should behave that way, or that respectable folk would let them get away with it.

But it's been a question in the back of political observers' minds since the midterm election, if not before.

The New York Times editorial board had a piece today on the importance of unemployment benefits, and made an observation in passing that stood out for me.

"Tragically," the editorial said, "the more entrenched the jobs shortage becomes, the more paralyzed Congress becomes, with Republicans committed to doing nothing in the hopes that the faltering economy will cost President Obama his job in 2012."

The point was made in passing, but it's nevertheless striking. As far as the editorial board of the nation's most important newspaper is concerned, it's simply accepted as fact that congressional Republicans want to hold back the economy, on purpose, to undermine the Obama presidency.

Benen's analysis of the question shows such attitudes are a minority, to be certain, but only barely. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll put Obama up against Congressional Republicans, with the result that 50% sided with Obama.

This comes less than a week after a poll in Florida found that 49% of voters statewide believe congressional Republicans “are intentionally hindering efforts to boost the economy so that President Barack Obama will not be reelected.” The WaPo/ABC poll is, as best as I can tell, the first national poll to consider the same issue.

To be sure, the wording of this new poll isn’t ideal, and is far less direct than the poll conducted in Florida. But the takeaway is still pretty clear: half the country is inclined to believe GOP officials are killing efforts to boost the economy for purely political reasons.

Still, though, such a cynical gamble might work. Albeit with some minor exceptions, the American political system is a two-party arrangement.

A conservative associate recently pointed out to me that in 2010, the Republican margin was actually closer to fifteen percent, because the GOP one 14.77% more votes than Democrats. And it's true: the difference does equal 14.77% of the Democratic vote total. But what, really, does this half-witted fluffing of the margin really say? One would think the similarly-calculated 15.88% margin for President Obama, and the 20.66% congressional numbers (peaking at 25% in the Senate) would say even more in those terms. Yet what it has earned the nation is stonewall obstructionism from the GOP. Were those 14.77% more voters than Democrats hoping to duck out on the national debt? Were they hoping state houses would start tinkering with their zoning regulations to close specific medical facilities? Were they really voting for another round of the culture war as we see coming from the right?

What, really, is the likelihood of that 14.77% more voters than the Democrats won actually got what they were hoping for out of the deal?

Still, though, my associate's determination to convince me that all this obstructionism spells doom for Obama is not unfounded. There is a strong likelihood that it could work:

Though in theory, it should, this won’t necessarily give President Obama a boost. The degree of national cynicism is so intense, many Americans may simply assume Republicans are sabotaging the national economy, but take their frustrations out on the president anyway. As Greg noted, “The number who see Obama as a strong leader is now upside down (48-51), suggesting yet again that even if Americans understand that Republicans are deliberately blocking Obama’s policies, they may conclude that his failure to get around them just shows he’s weak or ineffectual.”

Voters’ understanding of the political process is severely limited, and many Americans likely fail to appreciate the role Congress must play in policymaking. There are no doubt plenty of voters thinking, “Sure, Republicans are sabotaging the economy, but why can’t Obama just go around them?” unaware of the fact that, on a grand scale, this isn’t an option.

Still, it is telling, at the very least, that the question of whether Republicans are deliberately stonewalling the economy in hopes that voters will punish Democrats should even be something we might have to take seriously.


The SimCity Plan

"Presumably, under the Cain plan, disasters would be turned off." (Amanda Terkel)

By the way, have you seen this graph yet?

(Graph by Brian Highsmith, via Jared Bernstein.)

Terms of Payment

Who: David Horsey
What: "Separating the truly scary from the bogus frights", SeattlePI.com
When: October 27, 2011

The last time America picked a president without resorting to a campaign filled with false accusations and trumped up crises was probably in 1796 when an unopposed George Washington won a second term.

By 1800, the compulsion to do battle over bogus issues had kicked in and, since then, many a campaign has been built on manufactured fear. Campaign 2012 is no different.

Watching the Republicans' serial presidential debates, one would think the most fearsome problems confronting Americans are high taxes that are killing economic activity, onerous regulations that keep businessmen from creating jobs, illegal immigration, gay marriage and a president who is too weak to confront Islamic terrorists and dictators.

Well, if you say something often enough and loud enough, people may begin to think it's important, but, outside the realm of boilerplate conservative applause lines, there are far more worrisome threats facing the country.

Halloween is a year-roud enterprise for some. While many criticize the American political circus for its histrionics, and plenty will attempt to sound sage while pointing out that it happens on both sides of the aisle, there is a fundamental process at work that often goes unnoticed for its subtlety.

And it is true that subtlety in politics can be counted as anything short of a twenty-five mile crack in the ice shelf. One sometimes wonders at the psychological processes governing voter perceptions, and whether the phrase cognitive dissonance has not actually been beaten to death in recent years.


Because Their Blacks ... er ... um ... Right

Who: Karl Frisch
What: "Less Vetting Than the Average Godfather's Pizza Delivery Boy", The Cagle Post
When: November 3, 2011

Democratic strategist Karl Frisch sort of states the obvious, and it's hard to know where to start. Of course, the obvious ought to be pretty much ... well ... blatantly obvious to begin with. So let's go with this:

... [Y]es, I realize conservatives assume facts have an intrinsic liberal bias just like the media, science, weather, letters, numbers, and shapes.

At 11:20am on Monday morning, Cain told Fox News, "If the restaurant did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it." That is essentially the same thing he told the National Press Club not two hours later when he said, "I am unaware of any settlement. I hope it wasn't for much, because I didn't do anything" indicating that he not only had no knowledge of any agreements but that he also had no knowledge of the amount of any agreements if they actually existed.

By 6pm that evening, Cain's story was beginning to change. This time he told PBS, "I was aware that an agreement was reached."

Before calling it a night, Cain appeared on Fox News again at 10pm to completely contradict himself saying, "We ended up settling for what would have been a termination settlement, quite frankly … Maybe three months' salary or something like that."

In less than twelve hours, Cain went from being clueless about the whole affair — pardon the pun — to knowing quite a bit more than he'd let on about.

Don't for a second assume that Cain and his team first heard about these accusations when they read them in Politico — they had been contacted several times over the course of nearly two weeks in advance of the publication of the story by reporters requesting comment in writing and in person.

Since the story broke, a third woman has come forward, telling the Associated Press that she had received "a private invitation to [Cain's] corporate apartment" and that the future presidential candidate had made "sexually suggestive remarks or gestures" towards her.

Few people know exactly what happened between Cain and his female employees and only one person has been free to discuss the story openly: Herman Cain.

Since Cain has proven himself unreliable, perhaps the National Restaurant Association should free these women from their confidentiality agreements so they can tell their side of the story.

Then, and only then, can this blame game end.

Life and Art, or, Something About Truth and Fiction

Who: Gail Collins
What: "Day of the Armadillo", The New York Times
When: November 2, 2011

First, the obvious: Regardless of whether or not one likes Gail Collins—and she seems likable, to judge by a scant few television appearances I've witnessed—it is very easy to make fun of her.

Second, though—

Also in the frozen armadillo category: Anything about Herman Cain. Does he want to feed illegal immigrants to alligators or electrocute them? Did he sexually harass women when he was chief of the National Restaurant Association? Did he ever notice that being chief of the National Restaurant Association was just a highfalutin way of saying "lobbyist?"

The one thing we've learned for sure is that Herman Cain's staff has no idea what Herman Cain has been up to. Really, by now they're probably so numb, you could come up to them and say: "Is it true your candidate was once a pirate?" and they'd just promise to look into it.

—that is perhaps the strangest pile of sentences you're going to read this week.

The article also contains the sentence, "Brian Tillerson, a manager at the Taco Bell/KFC restaurant, told The San Antonio Express-News that the man was angry the Beefy Crunch Burrito had gone from 99 cents to $1.49 each."

And there is any number of points one might try to make from there.


A Stimulating Question

Who: Ted Kaufman
What: "Government Stimulus is the Way Forward", Cagle Post
When: October 31, 2011

Most of the media coverage has been about the stalemate between the 236 of the 242 Republican members of the House of Representatives who have taken an oath to never, under any circumstances, raise taxes and Democratic members who refuse to negotiate on entitlement spending until new revenue is part of the solution.

The even bigger, more fundamental argument between the two sides, however, is whether or not the government has any role at all in moving the country out of the recession.

One side says the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—the stimulus bill—was a complete failure.

Yet, as I have pointed out in previous columns, in the quarter the ARRA passed, the Dow Jones average started to climb and has never looked back. The precipitous decline in jobs—a loss of over 700,000 a month when the bill was passed—was turned around. Although the numbers have never been high enough, we have seen positive job growth. GDP, which was falling, also moved into positive ground.

The truth is that the ARRA helped, but the economy is still in trouble because we were in even worse shape back in early 2009 than we thought at the time. The size of the stimulus—the largest that could pass Congress—was simply not ambitious enough.

My question for those who believe otherwise is this: If there is no government action, why will the economy recover? Because of the private sector?

Ted Kaufman is a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, and was appointed to complete the term when the senator accepted the opportunity to run as vice president. He also served as the second chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel—succeeding Elizabeth Warren—assembled under the Bush-era Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, more widely known as TARP.


Robert Reich states the obvious

Who: Robert Reich
What: "Why This is Exactly the Time to Rebuild America's Infrastructure"
When: September 26, 2011

In fact, it's cheaper than ever for the United States to borrow. That's because global investors desperately want the safety of dollars. Almost everywhere else on the globe is riskier. Europe is in a debt crisis, many developing nations are gripped by fears the contagion will spread to them, Japan remains in critical condition, China's growth is slowing.

Put this together with two other facts:

Unemployment in America remains sky-high. 14 million Americans are out of work and 25 million are looking for full-time jobs.

The nation's infrastructure is crumbling. Our roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, subways, gas pipelines, ports, airports, and school buildings are desperately in need of repair. Deferred maintenance is taking a huge toll.

Now connect the dots. Anyone with half a brain will see this is the ideal time to borrow money from the rest of the world to put Americans to work rebuilding the nation's infrastructure.

Problem is, too many in Washington have less than half a brain.

Remember this in the days to come. Or, to put it simply, anyone want to lay odds that between beltway media and the usual punditry suspects, Reich is an outlier?


Boiling Oil

Who: Eugene Robinson
What: "The GOP is fed up with its choices", The Washington Post
When: August 22, 2011

In theory, Democrats should be nervous about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's decision to enter the presidential race. In practice, though, it's Republicans who have zoomed up the anxiety ladder into freak-out mode.

To clarify, not all Republicans are reaching for the Xanax, just those who believe the party has to appeal to centrist independents if it hopes to defeat President Obama next year. Also, those who believe that calling Social Security "an illegal Ponzi scheme" and suggesting that Medicare is unconstitutional might not be the best way to win the votes of senior citizens.

Perhaps it seems a curious test of the nation, or, at least, the Republican Party. As ideological extremists battle for control of the GOP, there is an emerging sense that the party's presidential field is pandering so hard to the right wing that independent and moderate voters will find them inaccessible.

This argument, though, presumes an abstract political center, and that might be an error.


Cold Tea

Who: David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam
What: "Crashing the Tea Party", The New York Times
When: August 16, 2011

Beginning in 2006 we interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans as part of our continuing research into national political attitudes, and we returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant.

Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party's "origin story." Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party's supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

What's more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek "deeply religious" elected officials, approve of religious leaders' engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party's generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann's lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry's prayer rally in Houston.

Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.

Campbell and Putnam actually open with a consideration of numbers; the Tea Party tide is waning right now, with approval numbers over the last fourteen months holding more or less steady, and opposition to the movement more than doubling.

The paragraphs quoted above are their answer to a proposition: "... the trends would seem to favor the Tea Party. So why are its negatives so high? To find out, we need to examine what kinds of people actually support it."

And they may have a point.

(Photo by Pargon.)


Meanwhile, Across the Pond

Who: Mark Steel
What: "Flogging is too good for them", The Independent
When: August 17, 2011

There's the call to evict families if one of their kids has been arrested, because once they're all homeless they'll be much less likely to steal things, won't they. On one phone-in a caller yelled, "These parents don't pay any attention to their own kids." So the presenter asked what age the caller's son was and he said, "Either seven or eight, I think."

Horsey on Perry: "Twice the Texan"

Who: David Horsey
What: "Rick Perry is George W. Bush on steroids", SeattlePI.com
When: August 16, 2011

Rick Perry is the perfect man for this moment. Executive experience, a fine head of hair, a handsome jaw line, a Bible under his arm, a flag on his lapel, a take-no-prisoners campaign machine and a political philosophy that would comfort Jefferson Davis—how can today's Republican Party not fall in line behind this man from Texas?


Lemon Sour on Bachmann

Who: Don Lemon
What: "Don Lemon: Shoved by Bachmann Camp", CNN
When: August 12, 2011

Disturbing, indeed. Don Lemon explains:

Something very disturbing happened: Michele Bachmann was supposed to show up about five o'clock and speak for twenty minutes as all the candidates have done. She showed up at about five-thirty and spoke for about three minutes, and then on the way out ... reporters started asking her some questions. And I asked her very respectful questions about her performance last night, where does she think she's going to end up in the straw poll.

Two of her staff members—two blond women ... started elbowing me and pushing me through the crowd. And her husband, Marcus, did the same thing. He even pushed me—elbowed me—into a golf cart, where I hit my head and caused people to start spilling stuff.

One of our political reporters, Shannon Travis, has been covering her campaign and says he's never seen anything like this before. Clearly, his was an embarrassing display on their part. I don't know why all of this happened, but, it was embarrassing and unfitting.

No, really, this is what it comes to?

The aforementioned Shannon Travis has the detail.

There are a thousand things one might say of the incident, rest assured. We should spare ourselves the litany.


The Long, Long Trail A-Windin'

Who: Nate Silver
What: "G.O.P. House Majority at Risk", FiveThirtyEight
When: August 12, 2011

There has been various circumstantial evidence that the public's dissatisfaction with the performance of Congress, particularly during the debt ceiling debate, could threaten the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Disapproval ratings for the Congress are at record highs, as are disapproval ratings for the Republican Party. Other polls show record numbers of Americans saying that their representative should not be re-elected, that most members of Congress should not be re-elected, or both.

What we haven't had, however, are polls comparing Democrats against Republicans in a direct way. That's why the poll that Gallup published Friday ought to concern Republicans. It shows a 7-point Democratic advantage on the generic Congressional ballot — meaning simply that more Americans told Gallup they plan to vote for a Democrat for Congress next year. Although the generic ballot is a crude measure, it is probably the best macro-level indicator of the direction that the House is headed in.

Last year, Republicans won the popular vote for the U.S. House — essentially what the generic ballot is trying to measure — by 7 percentage points. So a poll showing Democrats 7 points ahead instead is a pretty significant swing.

But does it mean that Democrats are now favorites to take over the Congress next year?

No, not exactly. Instead, it points toward control of the House being more or less a toss-up. There are three structural issues that Democrats will have to contend with that take a little bit of the sheen off this poll ....

While it is true that the polls savaged Congress, and battered Republicans far worse than Democrats, the question of whether or not a generic ballot poll over a year before the election really tells us anything is a dubious inquiry. Largely, the problem is that American voters are notoriously fickle, and, furthermore, the way scandals break, spread, and reshuffle public opinion is dangerously unpredictable.

PIMCO Boss on American Debt

Who: Bill Gross
What: "America's debt is not its biggest problem", Washington Post
When: August 10, 2011

Remember, this is from the founder of an investment firm with a trillion-dolar portfolio:

Revenue increases may be part of the solution, but even then, at some imbalanced ratio of spending cuts — such as three or four dollars of spending cuts to one dollar of tax hikes — the thesis assumes that markets and economic growth require what in essence is a fiscally contractionary step, reminiscent of International Monetary Fund policies in emerging markets during past decades. We must, the consensus goes, become like Argentina, Brazil and Mexico from the 1980s: Tighten the budget via spending cuts, reduce the deficit and voilá — economic growth will blossom.

But while our debt crisis is real and promises to grow to Frankenstein proportions in future years, debt is not the disease — it is a symptom. Lack of aggregate demand or, to put it simply, insufficient consumption and investment is the disease. Debt has been simply an abused sovereign and private market antidote to sustain it. We and our global market competitors are and have been experiencing a lack of aggregate demand for several decades. It is now only visibly coming to a head, as the magic elixir of leverage is drained and exhausted. This potentially fatal disease of capitalism is a result of several long-term secular phenomena:

(1) Aging demographics, where boomers everywhere spend less, in contrast to their youth, as they approach retirement; babies, houses and second cars shift to the scrapbook of memories as opposed to future spending power.

(2) Globalization, where 2 billion new competitive workers from Asia and elsewhere take jobs and paychecks from complacent and ill-trained 40-somethings in developed markets.

(3) Technological innovation, where machines and robots displace human labor, resulting in corporate profits but declining wages.

Ironic Indoctrination

It is a strange axiom in American politics that all things are, eventually, the same. To wit, a certain degree of corruption and dishonesty is expected of politicians, but does the fact that "all politicians lie" insofar as campaign promises are rarely fulfilled really justify escalation? That is, if one advocates unflinchingly a false assertion of fact in the face of evidence to the contrary, is it really the same as a failed campaign promise?

This, of course, is very general, but our history is littered with examples.

Is pointing out that a politician says one thing and does another really an equally offensive act as character assassination? That is, would someone pointing out the inconsistencies of Mitt Romney discussing Massachusetts' credit rating during his tenure as governor compared to the fact that he advocated that improved rating with higher taxes really the same as what Karl Rove and the Republicans did to Max Cleeland in 2002? After all, it seems only logical doesn't it? A guy who gave three limbs to the Vietnam war, who then opposes the blind and irresponsible war-cry after 9/11 must necessarily be a traitor, right? That's the only explanation. If only we could understand that, we would also recognize that the Republicans weren't really being sleazy, they were just being honest.

But it goes on, over and over again. Sometimes it's a bit subtle. Or maybe not. Three items worth considering:
  1. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a presidential candidate, apparently explained in 2002 that public education will lead to genocide. "It's already here," Bachmann warned, "and it's something that we have to deal with."
  2. Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) argued recently that public education wants to twist children's minds according to some sinister plot: "Of course, the government wants their hands on your children as fast as they can .... They want your children from the womb so they can indoctrinate your children as to what they want them to be."
  3. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has demanded an investigation into whether the Obama administration cooperated with director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, both acclaimed for their work in the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker in the scripting of a film about the assassination of Osama bin Laden. "The movie is scheduled for release by Sony Pictures Entertainment in October 2012," explains Larry Margasak, "which also has caused conservative media outlets to claim the film is being timed to help Mr. Obama's re-election bid."
  4. Really Big Coloring Books, Inc. has published a coloring book for children, about 9/11 and the assassination of Osama bin laden. "In a world of constant motion and instant media," the company explains, "this coloring book will focus an individual, no matter the age, directly onto the events of September 11th, 2001, also known as 9/11, depicting, lest we never forget, the facts of that day and beyond, including the basics of freedom." A page transcript is included below.
Being the elusive character that he was, and after hiding out with his terrorist buddies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, American soldiers finally locate the terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. Many people had helped secure his safety for nearly 10 years.

Dubbed code name Neptune Spear, the operation lasted 88 minutes, included some 23 Navy SEALs and a dog named "Cairo", no one wanted detainees. Once athe American military confirmed and identified Bin Laden, President Barack H. Obama had previously issued a kill order to SEAL Team Six to shoot him. In Bin Laden's house in Afghanistan, Osama used his wives and children as shields as he tried to get away from the American Military. But the coward Bin Laden could not escape. He was killed hiding behind the dress tail of a young woman. On May 1, 2011, Bin Laden was shot dead, and the American Military wrapped him in a white blanket and buried him at sea by throwing his body overboard. Throwing his body into the sea showed him more respect than he showed to the people who died on 9/11.

Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists. These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE. We must be prepared to know and understand the truth. America is FREE. Ask your mother and father, your teacher, your preacher, what this really means. What does it mean to be FREE? Why are we a FREE people?

We are free to think, free to be honest, free to write, free to live as we wish. We are America. America does not hate other people in the world, but we love the world in which we live and will defend our way of life. On the remaining pages of this book we talk about our freedoms and our way of life.

While Michele Bachmann worries about the politics of mathematics, it seems few if any on the right wing are distressed at the prospect of indoctrinating children into conservative political history.

Some call this irony. Others might use harder words, like hypocrisy. In the end, though, all one really needs to say is that it is, after all, Republicans.


Fine 'Tooning: Republicans and Jobs

This week's 'toon comes from Jim Morin, of the Miami Herald:

The Quixotic Right Wing

Who: David Harsanyi
What: "Sorry, Guys, There Are No More Kings", RealClearPolitics
When: August 10, 2011

Right wing ranter David Harsanyi raises an interesting question:

The sight of a crumbling Cult of Obama—and with it the end of the progressive presidency—has many on the left so frustrated that they simply dismiss the very idea of ideological debate. To challenge the morality and rationality of Obamanomics only means you're bought, too stupid to know any better or, most likely, both. A slack-jawed hostage-taking saboteur.

What in the world is he talking about?

The thing is that we are supposed to treat everyone involved in the political discourse with an certain measure of respect. In this case, we are for some reason obliged to regard Harsanyi's delusion as real.

We hear this from conservatives all the time, disparaging talk of "Obamassiah" or "The One". The so called "Cult of Obama" has throughout been a conservative fantasy.

The idea that conservatives should tilt windmills is hardly new. However, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves how long we are obliged to take this kind of behavior seriously. Perhaps it is impolite, but at some point it becomes necessary to tell the right wing to hush and let the grown-ups talk.

Michele Bachmann Stimulates Minnesota

Who: Steve Benen
What: "How about a Bachmann-inspired stimulus?", Washington Monthly
When: August 10, 2011

Nothing to see here, folks. Go on about your business.

In public, Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann spends much of her time railing against government spending. In private, Bachmann spends quite a bit of time requesting government spending.
    A Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Huffington Post with three separate federal agencies reveals that on at least 16 separate occasions, Bachmann petitioned the federal government for direct financial help or aid. A large chunk of those requests were for funds set aside through President Obama's stimulus program, which Bachmann once labeled "fantasy economics." Bachmann made two more of those requests to the Environmental Protection Agency, an institution that she has suggested she would eliminate if she were in the White House. Taken as a whole, the letters underscore what Bachmann's critics describe as a glaring distance between her campaign oratory and her actual conduct as a lawmaker. Combined with previous revelations that Bachmann personally relied on a federally subsidized home loan while her husband's business benefited from Medicaid payments, it appears that one of the Tea Party's most cherished members has demonstrated that the government does, in fact, play a constructive role — at least in her life and district ....
.... What's more, the phenomenon certainly isn't limited to Bachmann — all kinds of right-wing lawmakers who swear public investments are fundamentally evil, including plenty of this year's radical freshman class, have spent a fair amount of time pleading for more public investment in their states and districts, insisting the spending would be good for the economy ....


If Only ....

Who: Pat Garofalo
What: "Boehner Claims S&P Downgrade Happened Because Democrats Blocked The GOP's Attempt To Eliminate Medicare", ThinkProgress
When: August 10, 2011

If only those dirty, lowdown Democrats would have let the GOP destroy Medicare ....

Ever since the credit rating agency S&P downgraded U.S. credit to AA+ on Friday night, Republicans have desperately trying to pin the blame on President Obama, even though, as National Journal put it, "it's hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans." S&P called out the GOP for using the debt ceiling as a political football and for its flat refusal to consider new revenue as part of any plan to reduce long-term deficits.

Earlier this week Rep. Allen West (R-FL) claimed that the S&P downgrade "has nothing to do with increasing revenues," while some Republicans have said that passing a Balanced Budget Amendment would have prevented the downgrade, both of which S&P disagreed with. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) yesterday jumped into the same pool, saying that the downgrade could have been avoided if only Democrats had embraced the House Republican budget and its plan to eliminate Medicare:
    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blamed President Obama and the Democrats Tuesday for the recent downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, saying that if Democrats had joined with Republicans in passing the GOP budget, which the House passed in April, "it's unlikely anyone would be talking about the United States being downgraded today." [...] "S&P said in its own report Friday that entitlement reform is the key to long-term financial stability. We passed a budget through the House in April that includes entitlement reform, and cuts more than $6 trillion. The Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama have prevented most of those reforms from happening. And that's why we have a downgrade, Boehner said in an excerpt of his prepared remarks obtained by The Hill. [...] "The President and the Democratic leadership in Washington are trying to blame the tea party, because they know this downgrade is on [the Democrats]. When we took the bold step of proposing entitlement reforms, they reacted not by embracing them and joining us, but by demonizing those proposals for political gain," Boehner said.


Across the Pond: Mark Steel on London Riots

Who: Mark Steel
What: "Imagine the Bastille with BlackBerrys", The Independent
When: August 10, 2011

A glimpse, of sorts, into the London riots:
But whatever else they are, the riots can't just be driven by criminality. Professional shoplifters are probably furious, as there's nothing left to steal. Nick de Bois, MP for Enfield North, insists criminal gangs organised the riots, "stashing the stolen goods in their Volkswagen GTIs". So that explains it; it's a mass robbery planned in advance by thousands of people across Britain, with help from the Volkswagen GTI owners' club.

It's more likely that he doesn't know, just as most of us don't know, why exactly this is happening. But everyone likes to have a guess. Some people are blaming BlackBerry phones, as if throughout history it's not been possible to organise a riot without a BlackBerry. Before the storming of the Bastille there must have been criminals across Paris sending messages such as "C u by drawbridge 2 mash da Kng shd b gr8."

One thing that's probably true is that the more stable and secure your life is, the less likely you are to smash windows and set fire to an assortment of buildings. For example, it's unlikely the managing director of an investment bank would announce to the shareholders: "Our strategy for increasing profits in the third quarter is to decrease investment in oil futures, and instead do in the windows of Foot Locker in Ealing and shove hundreds of trainers in a Volkswagen GTI."


How Far Right, Mr. President?

It is still only sixteen percent, but as Glenn Greenwald notes, the number of Obama's critics complaining that the president is not liberal enough has doubled in recent months.

Reich Sounds Off on S&P

Who: Robert Reich
What: "Why S&P Has No Business Downgrading the U.S."
When: August 5, 2011

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich reiterates his inquiry of Standard & Poor's:

S&P's intrusion into American politics is also ironic because, as I pointed out recently, much of our current debt is directly or indirectly due to S&P's failures (along with the failures of the two other major credit-rating agencies — Fitch and Moody's) to do their jobs before the financial meltdown. Until the eve of the collapse S&P gave triple-A ratings to some of the Street's riskiest packages of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

Had S&P done its job and warned investors how much risk Wall Street was taking on, the housing and debt bubbles wouldn't have become so large – and their bursts wouldn't have brought down much of the economy. You and I and other taxpayers wouldn't have had to bail out Wall Street; millions of Americans would now be working now instead of collecting unemployment insurance; the government wouldn't have had to inject the economy with a massive stimulus to save millions of other jobs; and far more tax revenue would now be pouring into the Treasury from individuals and businesses doing better than they are now.

In other words, had Standard & Poor's done its job over the last decade, today's budget deficit would be far smaller and the nation's future debt wouldn't look so menacing.

The problem, of course, being that while many would suggest Reich is simply pressing sour grapes, the question of political implications does seem valid.

Light Reading: Emma Goldman

Who: Emma Goldman
What: "What Is There in Anarchy for Woman?", via Jewish Women's Archive
When: October 24, 1897

Entertaining, enlightening; perhaps a touch of mockery—it's a far different Emma Goldman than we are accustomed to considering.

"Do you believe in marriage?" I asked.

"I do not," answered the fair little Anarchist, as promptly as before. "I believe that when two people love each other that no judge, minister or court, or body of people, have anything to do with it. They themselves are the ones to determine the relations which they shall hold with one another. When that relation becomes irksome to either party, or one of the parties, then it can be as quietly terminated as it was formed."

Miss Goldman gave a little nod of her head to emphasize her words, and quite a pretty head it was, crowned with soft brown hair, combed with a bang and brushed to one side. Her eyes are the honest blue, her complexion clear and white. Her nose tough rather broad and of a Teutonic type, was well formed. She is short of stature, with a well-rounded figure. Her whole type is more German than Russian. The only serious physical failing that she has is in her eyes. She is so extremely nearsighted that with glasses she can scarcely distinguish print.

"The alliance should be formed," she continued, "not as it is now, to give the woman a support and home, but because the love is there, and that state of affairs can only be brought about by an internal revolution, in short, Anarchy."


Republicans and Jobs

Who: Arin Karimian
What: "Employment during the economic recovery", Economic Policy Institute
When: July 6, 2011

The next time you hear a Republican complaining about jobs, asking the president where are the jobs, prattling on about the "job creators", or accusing the Obama administration of destroying jobs—essentially, whatever—remember this:

Or, as Steve Benen explained this week:

Layoffs at the state and local level were mitigated in 2009 by the Recovery Act, which saved thousands of jobs that would have otherwise been eliminated. Those funds have since been exhausted, and the public sector is back to making severe layoffs.

This is what David Leonhardt recently described as "an unforced economic error" — with all of the problems we can't control, this is one problem we know exactly how to prevent. We just choose not to, thanks to the Republicans' ideology.

Indeed, it's important to remember that these job losses are, in the eyes of Republicans, a positive development. Under the GOP economic model, the public sector is supposed to lose jobs, and as part of the party's austerity agenda, this is a problem that must get worse on purpose.

Earlier this year, for example, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked about his spending-cut plans and the fact that the cuts would force thousands of public-sector workers from their jobs. "So be it," the Republican said.

In other words, deliberately making unemployment worse wasn't seen as a problem. This is a feature of the GOP model, not a bug

The conventional wisdom is obvious: If the jobs outlook is poor on Election Day, Obama is in for a difficult run.

But the corollary, that the Republicans thus have an interest in keeping unemployment high seems somewhat severe, does it not, in the context of accusation?

But what is it that we see? Policies Republicans are fighting for that have the effect of hurting the employment outlook.

It's okay to tell yourself this is not really happening, but keep it in mind the next time you hear a Republican say anything about jobs.


Quote This: Will Durst on the Debt Ceiling Resolution

Who: Will Durst
What: "The Great Concessionaire", Cagle Post
When: August 5, 2011

The Tea Baggers won, confusing both Democrats and Republicans by refusing to act like politicians, eschewing all the usual motivations such as their own self-interest or party affinity or even the general welfare of the country. You can't negotiate with cement. Giving proof to the old adage: "Never get in a fight with an ugly person, they got nothing to lose."


Brevik? Hitler? Geller? Can anyone tell them apart? (Oh, right. Hitler was occasionally coherent.)

Who: Charles Johnson
What: "Perfect Timing: Pamela Geller's New WND Book Echoes Oslo Terrorist's Book", Little Green Footballs
When: August 2, 2011

In the wake of each new isolated incident, the American right wing continues its desperate scramble for cover. After years of telling us how movies and television and books and music can transform normal people into complete psychopaths, American conservatives now want to convince us that there is no possible way the incendiary rhetoric of the right wing could possibly ever contribute in any way whatsoever to a political atrocity.

And then they all take a breath, and the right wing opens its mouth again. Charles Johnson checks in from the Little Green Football front:

With impeccable timing, today Pamela Geller is hyping the release of her new book, published by the far right’s craziest pseudo-news and Birther site, World Net Daily: Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance ....

.... It's impossible to miss the similarity to another book: the manifesto of Oslo mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, with the same themes, the same over-the-top paranoia, the same mindless hatred, bigotry, and conspiracy theorizing.

In the synopsis at Amazon, if you substituted "Anders Breivik" for "Pamela Geller," and "Norway" for "America," it would describe Breivik’s book exactly.

It is worth noting that Norwegian right-wing mass murderer Anders Brevik cited Geller twelve times in his manifesto.

And Geller, for her part, allegedly posted on her blog in 2007 an email from Brevik himself. She denies it, and has also apparently scrubbed the original post of violent rhetoric ("We are stockpiling and caching weapons, ammunition and equipment. This is going to happen fast.") Still, though, her update is incredible insofar as it attacks Muslims and leftist shills for connecting her to Brevik, despite the fact that the very same addendum expressing sympathy with the shooter as her motivation for reposting the note: "After the monstrous massacre in Norway on July 22,2011, I re-ran this post as evidence of the deteriorating conditions in Norway. Clearly it had been decaying for sometime ...."

In defense of Geller specifically, and the right wing in general, one might plausibly argue that there is no way they can be so stupid. And on its face, that point seems to carry weight. But this is also the same right that thinks music can turn children into mass murderers. How can they possibly argue with a straight face that violent rhetoric normalized in the political culture has absolutely no effect on the mentally ill?

The point there, of course, being that they should either ditch the influence argument entirely, or admit their contribution to the state of things.

In the case of Geller's latest book, which Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic compares to Nazi anti-Semitism, perhaps the question of Geller's credibility in anything depends on whether we look at her actions in the context of a string of isolated incidents, or a sum effect of interrelated processes.


Hardly Unexpected: Accusations of Right Wing Voter Suppression Attempts

Who: Paige Lavender
What: "Americans For Prosperity Accused Of Voter Suppression In Wisconsin Recall Elections", The Huffington Post
When: August 3, 2011

Right. Like nobody saw this coming.

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, has been accused of attempting to suppress Democratic voter turnout in the Wisconsin Senate recall elections.

Patch.com reported that Charles Shultz, a Democrat who lives in the 10th Senate District, received an absentee ballot application form last week from AFP that contained incorrect information on it. The form instructed him to mail it back to the wrong location by Aug. 11 -- two days after the recall election in his district between Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R) and Shelly Moore (D) is set to take place, on Aug. 9.

Politico obtained a copy of the AFP mailer, which was also distributed to voters in the 2nd District.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party filed a formal complaint Tuesday with the state's Government Accountability Board over the issue, accusing AFP of "falsely representing the time frame" for the upcoming August 9 recall election. Shultz filed his own complaint with the GAB on Saturday.

No, seriously. Is there anything about this that is surprising?


Tipples and Tw@ts

Who: Mark Steel
What: "Alcohol can be a problem, as can doctors", The Independent
When: August 3, 2011

A front-line report from inside the "nanny state":

But the campaign against drunkenness doesn't seem to have learned from the "Just say no" anti-drugs campaign, which connects with hardly anyone as it insists drugs lead rapidly to disaster and aren't fun. But if they weren't fun there'd be no need to tell people not to take them, just as there's no need to tell people "Just say no" to sticking your bare arse into a nest of wasps because no one does it anyway because it's not fun.

Always remember: The "nanny state" needs people who need a nanny state. Without the need, the abstraction disappears. Kind of like God, that way.


This Seems Like Something That Shouldn't Be Surprising

The lede on this is priceless:

According to the latest statement from the U.S. Treasury, the government had an operating cash balance Wednesday of $73.8 billion. That's still a lot of money, but it's less than what Steve Jobs has lying around.

Tech juggernaut Apple had a whopping $76.2 billion in cash and marketable securities at the end of June, according to its last earnings report. Unlike the U.S. government, which is scrambling to avoid defaulting on its debt, Apple takes in more money than it spends.

This symbolic feat—the world's most highly valued tech company surpassing the fiscal strength of the world's most powerful nation—is just the latest pinnacle for Apple, which has been on an unprecedented roll ....

Anyway, carry on. Nothing to see here. Go about your business.


Right-Wing Priorities

In this terrorized age of wild-eyed Muslim demons, Norwegian Hitler Youth, and an elective American debt crisis, Ben Smith reports for politico Politico about the National Republican Senatorial Campaign's latest bogey-man—a sex advice columnist:

With the Massachusetts Democratic Party attacking Senator Scott Brown for refusing to film a video for the "It Gets Better Project," which offers moral support to gay teens, the National Republican Senatorial Committee came to Brown's defense today with a shot at the project's founder, Dan Savage.

Savage, who edits the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, is best known as an often-raunchy syndicated sex columnist.

Emails NRSC communications director Brian Walsh:
    If, as the old saying goes, you’re known by the company you keep, than the voters of Massachusetts deserve to know who Democrat Party operatives are teaming up with to spread outrageous attacks on Scott Brown’s character. It’s truly reached a new level of desperation in their efforts to tear down Scott Brown, but we look forward to hearing whether state and national Democrat leaders agree with Dan Savage’s long history of lewd, violent and anti-Christian rhetoric. Given their press conference call today, one has to presume at this point that they do.

Mr. Savage should be honored. Like MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, it seems his very name is now a fundraising cue for American conservatives.

Is that one of those, "You know you've made it when ...", moments?

At any rate, yeah. War on Terror. Debt ceiling. Youth abroad with political consciences. Yet the appeal for support apparently demands that the GOP make Dan Savage a top priority.

Too bad the stakes are so high. The GOP is a perpetual-motion machine otherwise known by the cliché, the gift that keeps on giving.

Notes on the Debt Ceiling Debate

Notes on the debt ceiling debate:

Some market observers speculate that a downgrade would be a non-event: Japan, for example, went from a rating of AAA to AA without much drama. Others suggest that a downgrade would increase Treasury’s borrowing costs by $100 billion a year or more, making our already unsustainable deficit trajectory even worse.

There are no rules to define what is systemic and what isn’t — or to accurately predict the consequences of an economic shock. Each crisis is unique. How exactly it will affect financial markets, companies and our economy is impossible to know. Nonetheless, recent examples offer guidance.

In 2008, a number of once-cherished beliefs were turned upside down: (1) that home prices in America would never fall; (2) that AAA-rated subprime securities are money-good; (3) that a major investment bank would never fail. Consumers, investors and companies allocated capital according to these truths. When the beliefs were revealed to be false, massive shocks were inflicted on the economy as financial markets rapidly adjusted to account for these new risks.

Neel Kashkari's analysis of potential impacts for The Washington Post is worth a read. And as long as we're pausing to think about credit ratings, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich offers up his own opinion thereof:

... Standard & Poor's has gone a step further: It says even if the debt ceiling is raised next week, it might still lower the nation's credit rating -- unless the deal also contains a credible, bipartisan plan to reduce the long-term budget deficit by $4 trillion. This is something neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's nor House Speaker John Boehner's plans would accomplish.

Now I don't mean to be impertinent, but as long as America pays its debts on time, who is Standard & Poor's to tell America how much debt it has to shed and by when?

Until the eve of Wall Street's collapse in late 2007, S&P gave triple-A ratings to what turned out to be some of the Street's riskiest packages of mortgage-backed securities.

Had S&P done its job, we wouldn't have had the debt and housing bubbles to begin with. That means taxpayers wouldn't have had to bail out Wall Street. We probably wouldn't have had a Great Recession. Millions of Americans wouldn't be jobless and collecting unemployment benefits. There'd be no need for the stimulus that saved 3 million other jobs. And far more tax revenue would have been pouring into the Treasury.

In other words, had S&P done its job, the federal budget deficit would likely be far smaller than it is today -- and S&P wouldn't be threatening the United States with a downgrade if we didn't come up with a plan for shrinking it.

And why has S&P decided to get into public policy now anyway? Where was it when President George W. Bush turned a $5 trillion budget surplus bequeathed to him by Bill Clinton into a gaping deficit?

Of course, this is what happens when we play by marketplace rules intended not for the benefit of the marketplace, but, rather, those who wish to control it.