Recent Posts


We may have passed peak trumper

by Eric Ferguson on May 11, 2017 · 0 comments

europeWhen I say we may have passed peak trumper, of course I know that it’s still early days for the Trump administration and he may get a second term. At the risk of being overpessimistic, it’s tough to beat incumbent presidents: maybe not as tough as beating incumbent congressmen, but still tough. Likewise the other big extreme right electoral win last year, Britain’s brexit, hasn’t even taken place yet (though the effects showing up so far are pretty much as the excoriated “experts” predicted).
So sure, in policy terms, the worst of the extreme right, alt-right, authoritarian right, nativist right or, to use the euphemism, “populist” right, is yet to happen. The corruption and vandalizing of our democratic institutions is just getting going. Yet, in electoral terms, it seems like the worst has passed. Trump won the GOP nomination and a big minority of the vote riding the same electoral wave that passed brexit, and before that put conservative conspiracy theorists in charge in Poland, and outright proto-fascists in charge of Hungary. Now it appears the fever broke even before it got to France, where a nativist FOP (Friend of Putin) ran a campaign indistinguishable from Trump except in the country she was going to make white, err, great, again.



Bad Actors and Big Wars

by Eric Ferguson on April 3, 2017 · 1 comment

coat of arms of Hapsburg empire of AustriaApril 6th marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I. If there’s one metaphor you’ve read in every history of World War I, it was probably “tinderbox”. That’s how the pre-war world is frequently described: “Europe was a tinderbox”, or “rival alliances were a tinderbox”. If someone had asked me about WWI before recently, I probably would have said “something something tinderbox” too. Not now, in a change Trump has already wrought. I occurred to me that it was in a way something worse: two bad actors started the war. There was nothing unavoidable about it. Two people could have stopped it. Yes, two, and how this relates to Trumpworld will likely be guessed by readers before I spell it out, but let’s spell it out anyway.
That’s not to dispute that the European empires weren’t a metaphorical tinderbox, but when weren’t they? Was a balance of power that could crash down in a major war an invention of the early 20th century? We’ve had balances of power between rival states going back to at least the invention of states, and I suspect it goes back to whenever groups of pre-historic humans noticed there were other groups of humans, and found themselves asking how strong everyone was and who were likely enemies or allies. Point being, it’s wrong to think there was something unique in the early 20th century and it had to result in a big war inevitably. Maybe it was inevitable, no way to know, but it didn’t have to happen right then, the way it did. So why did it? What caused such a massive breakdown of global order and the world’s biggest war (pending the next world war, of course)? What went wrong?
What went wrong was two bad actors: Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.

{ 1 comment }

The austerity disaster needs to end

by Dan Burns on February 17, 2015 · 0 comments

europeMuch of Europe is essentially being kept in a long-term economic depression due to the boneheaded application of “austerity” ideology. A few items; the first two are primarily about Greece and Germany.

Since the crash, which incredibly caught all the economic “experts” by surprise, we have seen one myth after another destroyed by the evidence. Deficit reduction did not lead to a surge in investment due to increased confidence. Printing money in a badly depressed economy did not lead to runaway inflation or plunging currency values.
The time has come for the European Union to stop running economic policy based on silly myths. If German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders in the European Union cannot accept reality then Greece and southern Europe would be far better off breaking free of the euro and leave Germany to wallow in its 19th century economic fairy tales.

American voters, everywhere, would do well to leave conservative austerity proponents in this country to wallow in their 19th century economic fairy tales. This, from Calculated Risk, has numbers supporting the above.

And this is about austerity everywhere.

In the introduction, you say austerity is an offensive canard. Can you tell me what you meant by that?
Canard, trope, truism, call it what you will. It’s one of those wonderful “well, it stands to reason that,” common-sense sort of tropes. The problem is, it fails because it’s not a common-sense argument. If there is a single insight that deserves the title of the key insight of macroeconomics, it’s the one that the whole is different from the sum of its parts. While it makes sense for anyone, family or firm or even state, to try and reduce its debts in order to grow better, if everybody tries it at the same time it becomes self-defeating. You need income from which to save, so if everybody tries to save at once nobody’s generating any income and therefore the project becomes self-defeating…
The common sense is, well, the more you cut the more you’ll be rewarded. No, I say the more you cut the more debt you end up with. That’s what I mean by being a canard, a trope. It’s one of those commonsensical things that seems to be true but just look at the evidence and you’ll find that the reverse is actually true.


European Union flag with question marks in place of the starsThere’s a good reason to care about what’s happening in Europe. I mean a practical reason, beyond humanitarian concern for poor and middle class people having utterly pointless suffering inflicted on them by the austerians who control most European governments and seem unable to learn economics from either a textbook or from the effects of their policies. The economy of the European Union is big enough to drag down ours when it’s caught in a recession as it is now, and in some countries it’s an out and out depression (by “depression” I mean unemployment over 20%, nothing getting better even if it doesn’t get worse). In fact, I fully expect European austerity is as much a drag on our economy as the austerity practiced by our state and local governments.

So if we want our economy to improve faster, we need the the Europeans to suddenly become keynesians.

Politically, the sad irony is that the economically destructive effects of conservative policies is damaging to the Democrats who pushed for economic stimulus policies, especially President Obama. The economy is still struggling, and Obama is the incumbent, so end of story for many voters. It’s why some people who agree with Mitt Romney on nothing and think he’s an empty jacket will still vote for him, just as they voted for crazy people in 2010 just because they weren’t Democrats.
I take some comfort from recent electoral results in Europe. There’s clearly a groundswell of opposition to austerity policies, though don’t assume Europeans can explain those policies any better than Americans. Don’t assume they can explain “austerity” or “stimulus” or “keynsian” any more than any American. People know the policies being pursued are called “austerity”, and that these policies aren’t working. They’re turning against the incumbents because what they’re doing isn’t working, not because they’re conservative. That’s normal electoral behavior. Conservatives just got elected in Spain because the liberal party was in charge as the economy collapsed. They weren’t in charge when Spain built a housing bubble, but they were in charge when it popped, so that’s that. The Irish replaced a long-dominant conservative party with an even more conservative party, doing more of the wrong things, because they were a different party. Still austerians though.

So we care because we’re human beings who can sympathize with Greek or Irish pensioners living on little to solve a problem they didn’t cause, but also for our own economy and, let’s face it, because it would be insult to injury if conservatives get full control of the US government because conservative policies failed.

Why won’t they learn? Partly it’s the same denialism rampant among modern conservatives. If they deny what’s ideologically or theologically inconvenient about physical sciences and history, might as well deny economics too. That’s only part of it though. Listen to arguments for austerity, and we hear a moral argument: debt is a sign of sin, and must be punished. The punishment isn’t visited upon the wealthy elite that caused the problem and prescribe the solution, but upon people conservatives despise anyway, like public school teachers, pensioners, and government workers. Look past the hypocrisy and callousness though, and that’s what we see: debt and deficits as moral issues, not economic issues, and that’s why they must be reduced even if doing so causes greater harm.

Yes I know, they keep pushing for tax cuts that make deficits worse, but that seems to be mostly an American phenomenon. European conservatives haven’t bought in to taxophobia yet, and have had anti-stimulative tax hikes.

What can we do? We have to push back against austerity. Something we learned from Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street is that protest doesn’t stay confined within national borders. No, Angela Merkel isn’t taking my calls, but we can help make “austerity” a dirty word. The Republicans showed us how when the made “stimulus”, which is merely economic jargon, a political swear word. Maybe we demand to know from the Obama administration why Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman aren’t their top economic advisers. Maybe they’d be ignored like Krugman says is already the case, but it would sure send a signal to the EU austerians.

Just to clarify something, this isn’t a trend of two, just France and Greece. Britain simultaneously had local elections where the Conservative Party took a drubbing. Merkel’s party lost big in a regional election, and the Dutch government just fell over objections to its austerity policies. The prime minister of Italy is talking about growth over austerity. So two years of utter failure and a crisis putting the very existence of the EU into doubt hasn’t made conservatives rethink their orthodoxy, but popular protest and the actual loss of power is having its effect.

Now we need to replicate that in the American states. Our state and local governments have to balance their budgets, but there are ways to do that which are more or less harmful to vulnerable people and the overall economy. A renewed stimulus in the form of federal aid to the states, which covered many budget shortfalls in 2009, would be a quick way to juice the economy, if only we can make our own austerians see reason.


A Word About Immigration and Fences

by Mark My Words on May 17, 2010 · 3 comments

A few weeks ago, Michele Bachmann (R MN 6th) appeared on KSTP’s Sunday morning political gab-fest with Tom Hauser.  Arizona it seems, is on the fast-track to being the “Alabama  of 1963” with their new found racist laws against illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico.  (Apparently, illegal immigration from Canadians are still allowed.  Or perhaps, so not as those Canadians aren’t as “browned-skinned” as Mexican people are.)  During that interview, Hauser asked Congresswoman Bachmann on her views about the new Arizona laws.  And it was her reply that surprised me.

Lest I paraphrase, because I can’t find ANY video or transcript out there that recorded the piece:

“You know Tom, for about a million dollars per mile, we could build a fence and stop all of this illegal immigration going on down there.”

Now I have to tell you; I was stunned by that.  I thought; “What is she talking about?!  A million dollars per mile spent on a fence between the United States and Mexico?!”

But this isn’t something unique to “Crazyville” known as Congresswoman Bachmann!  US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has gone full-bore with the idea in a campaign ad that talks about “Building the Danged Fence”. Although, I don’t think Senator McCain believes that his “Danged Fence” will cost a mere one million dollars per mile.  The Congresswoman’s budgeting fantasies we can chalk up along with her belief that the Pope is the Anti-Christ.  The Congresswoman clearly suffers from self-esteem issues and an over-indulgence of cheap wine and abusing her dog’s pain killer medicine with some of stuff she comes up with these days.See full size image

I just gotta ask;  “What kind of fence are these Republicans talking about?!  A barbed wire fence? Chain link perhaps?  A pretty white picket fence?” My husband partner bought  “liquid fence” to keep out the bunny rabbits and the tree rats out of his tulip beds in the back yard.  Do you think Congresswoman Bachmann and the Republican party believes the American tax-payers should buy gallons of fox urine for a liquid fence along that border?

…Those Mexicans; Stealthily sneaking along the cover of night, ponchos pulled over their heads, until they finally arrive at the Arizona border and…


 Peee-yewwww!!  This country stinks!  It smells like fox pee!  Let’s head on back to Guadalajara for a Piña colada and cervesa.  At least we don’t have to hang out here where it stinks like pee!

For a million dollars per mile, that’s an awful lot of very relieved foxes!

Now see, it’s that fence that has me puzzled as well.  I mean: When you consider the fact that those Russians and those Germans built a freaking Iron Curtain to keep “Western Germans from sneaking in and enjoying the good life of Communism is East Germany”.  

We’re talking the Germans, Baby.  Those Krauts build everything better than anybody else does.  Have you ever owned a VW Bug?  People who’ve owned a VW Bug will tell you… “Germans know how to build good stuff!  

…And it was those same Germans who built

A Freaking Iron Curtain!

And yet, to this day, there are plenty of museums in Germany, London and the United States displaying the most amazing and creative ways Easter Germans were smuggling OUT of their country and into West Germany.

They didn’t waste their time with Western Civilization “trying to break in” with a white picket fence or with fox urine.  They built

A Freaking Iron Curtain!!

Michele Bachmann, as a stellar trophy for the crazy Tea Party movement who are screaming for accountability in federal government spending, should be front and center on stopping the idea of spending tax payer monies on urine – and more time on anything that might benefit the good people of the 6th Dist of Minnesota.

Perhaps the real problem with the Republican Party isn’t nearly as complex as we tend to think it is: Republicans need to simply stop electing people who are dumber than me.