Monday, February 17, 2014

Washington's Birthday / Presidents Day 2014 -OR- The World As Seen From Mount Rushmore and My Dusty Little D.C. Apartment

Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln gaze from their Mount Rushmore perch on a bright, clear day across the miles and centuries of America.

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President's Day, or rather, Washington's Birthday, as OPM calls it. It's a sunny, chilly day but a significant warm-up is forecasted by Thursday / Friday with highs reaching about 60F. However, in the meantime, there is a fast-moving system that should swing through Tuesday morning with wintry precipitation.

The view from my apartment to the west / southwest overlooking the intersection of 16th and U Streets and New Hampshire Avenue on a bright winter day in Washington, D.C., 12:10PM February 17, 2014.

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The models (today's 12Z NAM and GFS runs) currently show a colder solution with snow, but they have had a cold bias lately, so it is possible it may be a wintry mix and turn to rain. QPF amounts are in the 0.2 to 0.4 range, which if all snow would warrant a winter weather advisory. (Updated -- Before I even posted this, Sterling put us under an advisory including here in the District of Columbia.)

The view from my apartment to the north / northwest toward the nearby condominium buildings and Meridian Hill Park on a bright winter day in Washington, D.C., 12:10PM February 17, 2014.

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KDCA is at 15.2 inches of snow for the season or 0.2 inches shy of its 15.4 seasonal average (for the 1981 - 2010 base period), and I really want an additional 0.3 inches to have Washington, D.C., "officially" have an "above average" snowfall season. Of note, KIAD is just over double this amount at 30.5 inches while KBWI is at 24.8 inches. Both are already above their seasonal averages (22.0 inches and 20.1 inches, respectively), so both will have an above-normal season.*

*Unless Sterling LWX manages to find some way to say the numbers were wrong and have to be "corrected" after the fact.

I'm trying to get a start on my day here but I'm still groggy and hung-over from excess at Larry's Lounge last night, although it was quite a fun time. Last night, I met up with my friend Damon. We first had a nice dinner at Trio and then went to Larry's Lounge.

I don't get to see Damon too often as he is married and has a very young son. Damon is one of my few straight, married with children friends who makes an effort to see me at times.


As I've written before, most of the guys who fall in this category, especially crowd around Wall-P, have long since been turned into buccal-pumping frogs astride their suburban lily pads who need their wives' permission just to use the bathroom, much less hang out with a gay guy at a bar. The wives view the gay guys (or at least some of us) with deep suspicion because the latter's existence runs antithetical to their world view and their endless needs, including tending to sticky, poopy children.

The only way around this is to get Special Approval, which usually requires being grandfathered in or in some way getting into their special graces.

Wall-P's Staff, a.k.a., She Who Must Be Obeyed, has cornered the market on these Special Approvals and Dispensations.

Not only do gay guys need this approval but so do certain spinsters (since they are also a potential threat, but from a different angle).

Once received, one must still be careful not to fall afoul of She Who Must Be Obeyed, since She Who Must Be Obeyed can revoke these Special Approvals and Dispensations at any time.

As a result, you have a situation in which it's quite alright if (on certain nights) you pass out drunk in a downstairs bathroom at 2AM but you may not bring consternation or ANY questioning of Officially Adopted Positions.

The worst thing you could do is threaten the Established Order with Unapproved and Suspect Ideas.

As for little Wall-P himself, he is probably in awe of the proposed Frankensteinian absorption of Time Warner into the Comcast Hydra. He lives for stuff like that.

"Eh. Eh. Eh. This merger clearly maximizes shareholder value, and the top talent of this CEO justifies whatever level of compensation for him the market naturally sets. Because money is the measure of all value in society, we therefore conclude this merger is ideal. Furthermore, rational business cycle theory tells us that consumer choice -- "

Ohhh, shut up Wall-P.

Wall-P probably even believes the nonsense spouted by Comcast Chief Executive Morgoth Brian Roberts about how it's just dandy because the two companies "do not operate in any of the same ZIP codes."


As for this proposed Comcast / Time Warner merger, I'll let the great Paul Krugman handle the case for not approving this merger.

Were it to reach it, I would fully expect the Supremely Whore Court to rule that because corporations are more human than actual human beings, it is unconstitutional to deprive them of their "right" to merge. The 5-4 decision -- Decency v. Billionaire Oligarchs United To Obliterate All Life Forms on Planet Earth -- would deeply impress Benjamin Wittes.

This is because the legal doggerel would involve the "tough choices" that some poor person needs to make upon which he and his cohort can expound at Brookings' panel discussions, and that gets the Washington Consensus crowd all tingly all over.

"At last week's Brookings Panel which I chaired, it was decided that among the Tough Choices to be made, the Constitution should only apply to people earning at least five times the median income."

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BTW, Paul Krugman continues to be on a role, and I can't recommend enough both his twice-weekly New York Times op-ed columns and his New York Times website-hosted blog. I worship that man.


I do want to call special attention to his Feb. 16th blog entry where he calls out Defender of Empire and Oligarchy, N. Gregory Mankiw, for the latter's most recent piece defending the entitlements of the ultra-ultra rich 0.1% overclass on the grounds that they actually reflect genuine talent who are perfectly "allocating the economy’s investment resources ... in a decentralized and competitive way."

Professor Krugman writes:

"Has Greg been living in a cave since 2006? We're now in the seventh year of a slump brought on by Wall Street excess; the wizardly job of 'allocating the economy's investment resources' consisted, we now know, largely of funneling money into a real estate bubble, using fancy financial engineering to create the illusion of sound, safe investment. We also know that there is a real question whether hedge funds, in particular, actually destroy value for their investors."

It takes a special kind of stupid and/or malfeasance to buy into such a world view.

"Hi, I'm Nicholas Gregory Mankiw. I'm a Harvard Professor of Corporate Oligarchy. My studies reveal that the life of one billionaire is actually worth that of three billion poor people. In the name of the free market and maximizing efficiencies, I therefore, propose we set up a system of camps to concentrate all poor people ..."

What follows are some links that I had intended to post from nearly two weeks ago, so the context may be a bit old.


What follows are three pieces by Josh Barro discussing the effects of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., "Obamacare," or in rightwing parlance, "ObamaCare" -- you have to capitalize the "C".

(For reasons that aren't clear to me, the GOP media / entertainment Agit-Prop Machine always capitalizes the "C." It's possible that it's some sort of code in the way that dropping the "ic" in "Democratic" was for years a GOP code when referring to the Democratic Party, since the emphasis was on "RAT" to remove any good connotation.)


Almost three week ago we witnessed one of the periodic outbursts of true awfulness on the part of the D.C. court scribe / pundit class when a grotesque and seemingly intentional misunderstanding of an appendix in an CBO report prompted much shrieking and hysteria that "Obamacare" would "destroy 2.5 million jobs." This point instantly became gospel inside the Fox News / VRWC Bubble despite the fact it is an absurd lie. It occurred because of the CBO interpretation that the ACA will allow some people to quit jobs into which they were locked -- specifically, CBO estimates a reduction of 2.5 million full-time equivalent workers.


Paul Krugman's Feb. 7th, 2014 regular NYT op-ed column developed themes in his blog entries that week to discuss the absurdness of this claim.

As for Josh Barro, he had the following three pieces on his Business Insider blog (links embedded):

How Obamacare Discourages Work -- And Why That Could Be A Good Thing

This piece gets into a somewhat involved discussion of the concept of income versus substitution effects that will result from the subsidies in the ACA, especially for lower income people. Barro writes that the substitution effects of discouraging lower income people from looking from work is "clearly bad," although I'm not sure it is so straightforward.



This piece gets to the heart of the matter of why the reduction of 2.5 million full-time equivalent workers -- which is NOT the same as "2.5 million jobs lost" -- will actually help lower income workers get hirer wages than they would have otherwise.



This is about the assumptions CBO economists had to make for assessing whether the risk corridor feature in the ACA will be a net expense or not for the Federal Government.


Next, I wanted to link to this Richard Eskow piece on AlterNet and carried by Salon.com (link embedded):


It's worth a read.

Ha ha

Lastly, I would like to direct you to Michael Lind's excellent piece in Salon from Feb. 4th. The title of the piece is somewhat misleading -- likely because the Salon editor(s) didn't understand what he was saying. The piece is about how the structure and characteristics of the superrich / overclass in different countries today are such that massive change is not possible, and instead those in Western societies including the United States should be content with piecemeal reform. He explains both why this situation exists, and why it isn't as dire as it seems.

Excerpt:

"To begin with, the divide between rich and poor at both local and global levels is nothing new in history.

The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt and ancient Chinese emperors were vastly richer than their subjects -- who, in turn, were sometimes much better off than barbarian pastoralists and primitive hunter-gatherers beyond their borders.

On paper, it may well be that today's rich own far more than those of the past. And when it comes to access to amenities like good toilets and dentistry, Thomas Jefferson may have even been closer to his slaves than today’s rich are to today’s poor.

But today's rich are far more constrained by laws and customs than the monarchs, aristocrats and merchant princes of the premodern past. Sir Walter Raleigh had far more freedom in dealing with his revenues from his Cornish tin monopoly than Bill Gates has with the disposition of his billions.

And speaking of premodern Europe, Britain’s Cardinal Wolsey and France’s Cardinal Richelieu -- to name only two chief ministers -- enjoyed personal armies and retinues of servants in the hundreds and lavish lifestyles, even if they lacked indoor plumbing and cellphones."

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OK, that's all for now.

As for today, I'm not really sure what to do. It's already 4:37PM, so it's not like there is a lot of daylight left. I'm not going to the gym as I went both yesterday and the day before. I need to retrieve my bicycle from Larry's Lounge (Gary drove me and Damon home).

My next planned update won't be until Wednesday.

--Regulus

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