Friday, July 29, 2011

The Profoundly Unserioius

The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives uses a talk radio program to vet his plan to save us from financial ruin.

The acolytes continue to spin the tale that even if the debt ceiling is not raised, we will have plenty of money to keep the "important" things solvent.

Now, today, the usual suspects are cackling all over twitter about Apple having more cash on hand than the entity that represents all 300 million of us.

Up to this point, the lunacy that infects the GOP has been inside baseball or the navel gazing of the teevee hairdos. Now, it is starting to affect the entire economy - from the cats om the "Street" to the payroll of soldiers in the field to the young couple considering buying a new house.

And the Republican intelligentsia is laughing all the way.

Outside the deafening echoes of the re-affirming radio, television, social media chambers, regular folks are starting to notice.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quote Of The Day

From Megan McArdle, who recently spoke to some finance people about why the stock market was not reacting badly to the news out of Washington:
No, they're relatively calm because they simply cannot bring themselves to believe that we're not, in the end, going to raise the ceiling.  It's too outlandish that we would, through the collective action of our congressmen, suddenly and for no apparent reason shoot ourselves in the head.
 The Dow is currently down for the fourth straight day but still relatively modest in its downturn. Right now it's the annoying cat scratching your leg to wake you up. Next Tuesday, it could a tiger eating us all alive.

Advice For Life

Do not speak ill of the dead. No matter how right you are, your only accomplishment.will be the lessening of yourself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chart Of The Day

Some will dismiss it because of the source (Center for American Progress), but I believe it's difficult to argue with the numbers.

The President is now to the right of Bowles-Simpson.

We are on the brink of fiscal disaster, but it is the President who is creating job stifling "uncertainty" and it is the President who is engaging in "class warfare".

But most importantly, it is all his fault because he steadfastly refuses to put anything on paper.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Speed At Will In Dekalb?

The quiet war between the Dekalb PD, their own command and the county commissioners is heating up again. Nothing official, but Dekalb Officers Speak is calling for another "ticket strike":
Even though we ended the ticket furlough, the commissioners followed through with their threats anyway. For ending the ticket furlough, what did we receive in return? 5 precinct reduction in promotional pay, increase in pension contribution of 66 percent, reduction in vacation time, reduction of vacation roll over to sick time, thus increasing the years of serve before retirement. And now they reduced 10-hour employees (us) holiday time. We now are only paid 8 of the 10 hours. We will be forced to take vacation or comp time to make the difference...Time to hit them where it hurts! Let the share in our misery. The only way we can fight back is through a ticket strike. They heard us loud and clear last time, time for them to hear from us again....Call it what it is, a ticket strike....and now!
Speed at your own risk. However, if you normally travel between Spaghetti Junction and I-20, that's already par for the course.

Quote Of The Day

I'm not going to go on another new media rant. Been there, done that, a thousand times. My days of being the wild preacher in the wilderness, forcibly dunking people in the new media waters are behind me.

But the following quote by Forbes' Timothy B. Lee is too good to pass up. Lee is responding to John Rauch's pointed poking at us all, proposing that new media is worthless and will not stand the test of time.
I’d love to have a job at a publication that gave me weeks to work on a story, but so far none of them has offered me a job. And indeed, no conceivable economic system could offer that kind of job to everyone who wants one. The great thing about the Internet is that you don’t need a job at one of those publications to write about topics of public concern. This is understandably irritating to longtime members of the profession that used to hold a lucrative monopoly on soapboxes. But in my view the increase in freedom for everyone else is an overwhelmingly positive development.
The entire piece is worth reading.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What About The Bookkeepers?

The Atlantic's Megan McArdle, coming at it sideways, has the best explanation how all the financial trickery in the world won't keep "critical" programs from being affected.if we do not raise the debt ceiling

My favorite:
You just cut the IRS and all the accountants at Treasury, which means that the actual revenue you have to spend is $0.
 Doesn't matter how much money is being deposited if no one can sign a withdrawal slip.

Question Of The Day - Teachers

At Peach Pundit, Rep. Buzz Brockway presents a provocative thesis. We have very low teacher turnover in this state, less than 2% per year. Given the shocking APS scandal and interim Superintendent Errol Morris' continued struggle to rid the rickety system of the rot, that incredibly low number seems to indicate the root problem lies in the contortions required to rid ourselves of bad teachers..

What if the answer lies in the other direction? Is that low number due to too many protections for public school teachers or could it be because it's difficult to find replacements for bad teachers? Do administrators keep below average educators because they know they can't find anyone better?

I do not know the answer but I suspect my hypothesis has some weight. We've all heard the difficulties in finding new teachers - low pay, stress, few rewards. Doesn't it follow that these factors would limit the labor pool thereby limiting turnover?

Perhaps, we should start looking at the front end of this pig instead of always looking at the back end.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Will Democrats Ever Get Over Voter ID?

Just came across the social media wire - Democratic Party of Georgia is crowing about a John Lewis speech on voter ID. First from the scribes at the DPG:
This notion is not foreign to the people of Georgia who have struggled against the imposition of voter photo ID laws, unusual use of Social Security checks in the last election by the Georgia Secretary of State, and the convenient malfunctioning of voting machines in certain jurisdictions.
 Lewis in a floor speech quoted in the release:
But make no mistake, Voter ID laws are a poll tax.  People who struggle to pay for basic necessities cannot afford a voter ID.
Only one problem. In Georgia, ID cards are free.

Time to let the hyperbole go and move on.

If It's Not On Paper, It's Not Real

You know how deeply a meme has penetrated when it is repeated in blog comments. It's a sure sign that something, probably not based in reality, has gained traction in the common mind; therefore making its own reality.

From Jay Bookman's blog this morning:
Jay, I have never seen any details regarding this “proposal.” Do you have a link?

Even Speak Boehner began parroting the line this morning. And they are right. The one thing President Obama has not done is roll out flowcharts, power points or even Paul Ryan like fancy commercials with scary spiraling graphs.

He has done nothing at all! All those meetings! All those negotiations! And nothing! What disdain our President shows for the process.

Except he has.

Press conference - July 11, 2011
President Obama said the Republicans need to come to the plate and work to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over ten years.
Washington Post Report - July 10, 2011
Two of President Obama’s top advisers said he will continue to press for a far-reaching, $4 trillion deal to cut the deficit when he meets with congressional leaders on Sunday evening, despite new opposition from Republican leaders to such a compromise.
Obama Speech - April 13th
So today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years.  It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission that I appointed last year, and it builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget.  It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table -- but one that protects the middle class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.
Also from the April 13th speech
But like the commission, the White House estimates that spending would account for the bulk of deficit reduction. Obama says he wants $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in additional tax revenue

He also said he supports a "debt failsafe" trigger that would be activated if Congress fails to enact fiscally sound budgets. His target: Annual deficits that are no more than 2.8% of GDP, on average, starting in the second half of this decade. Of late, annual deficits have been close to 10%

Cut non-security spending over the next decade in a manner recommended by his debt commission. The commission set 2012 non-security spending at 2011 levels, and by 2020, would allocate only slightly more than the 2012 amount.

 The April 13th speech in particular was heavy on specifics and called for $4 trillion in deficit reduction, primarily through spending cuts. In any other setting this would be seen as an austerity plan similar to the one implemented recently by the British Tory government.

But because it isn't on paper, it isn't "real". And these people expect us to continue to take them seriously?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Herman Cain And Bigotry

Forget the strange mixing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. As I've said many times, any politician can flub a line. Forget the "wise crack" about a moat filled with alligators guarding our border. Taking hyperbole too far is bread and butter for a politician.

Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, presidential candidate Herman Cain decided to double down on naked bigotry.

Rightly so, local Republican Charlie Harper calls him on it.

The concept that the federal government would get involved into a local building and zoning dispute is difficult enough to swallow. The fact that a person who thinks he is material to be Commander in Chief believes that he should decide which religions are acceptable and which are not goes beyond troubling. This should not only disqualify him from consideration from anyone who values freedom of religion, but demands that party leaders renounce this deliberate act of religious bigotry.
 I can't disagree with any part of Charlie's column. Although, I'm always a little bemused at the seeming surprise of many when a loon starts squawking. It doesn't take long hours of listening to talk radio or trolling the "conservative" blogs to discover this type of nuttiness is seething just beneath the surface.

And Republicans have ignored it for too long. Democrats do to, but lately it seems the Republicans are intent on cornering the crazy market

The only way to disabuse this notion is to do as Charlie requests - prominent leaders need to call out this mess for what it is. No spin. No carefully crafted statement. No elides. Say it's wrong, because it is. Nothing more.

The Balanced Budget Amendment Is Not Conservative

In my mind, conservative politics rest on two ideological poles - the present is guided by the past and the world should be managed as it is, not as it should be.

In the current financial crisis, the Republican party's favorite zombie legislation has risen again - the balanced budget amendment. It has been lurking since the 80s and like any good monster seems to pop out of the shadows just as things seem the scariest.

But is it a conservative idea? Modern politics would say, yes. Certainly, you could make the argument that the only way to deal with the world as it is would be to control spending and due to the lack of fiscal fortitude in the nation's Capitol, the only sure method is to put it in black and white in the U.S. Constitution.

However, if we take my thesis at the beginning and apply the two poles of conservatism, we arrive at a very different answer.

Practicality first. Does a balanced budget amendment actually deal with the world as it is or does it attempt to mold the world into a vision of what we want.

Steven Taylor of Outside The Beltway dives deep into the idea of a federal balanced budget and concludes it is practically impossible.Everyone wants the federal government to work like a household budget. Although it is a nice analogy and makes an easy talking point, it in no way is reality. Unlike your budget which is based on a paycheck where the amount remains virtually the same and arrives on a regular basis, federal revenue gyrates wildly based on many external factors. The Feds have a general idea of how much money is coming, but no real idea until it actually arrives. And let's not even venture down the rabbit hole of what happens if the ledger doesn't balance at the end of the year (here's a hint, the courts would get involved, what fun!)

That's one pole knocked from the tent. Perhaps it can stand on the remaining support.

Here's a fun way to win a drink in a bar bet. Ask someone how many times the U.S. has been debt free*. If they answer in any way except "exactly once", drink up!

The year was 1835. The nation was led by a man who hated debt and despised the central U.S. Bank. He proceeded to slash the Federal government, sold Federal holdings such as public lands and refused to re-authorize the central bank.

Sound familiar?

It worked. By the end of 1835, President Andrew Jackson managed for the first and only time to completely balance the budget. No debt. None.

Two years later, following financial chaos as state banks issued there own specie and speculation went wild., the country plunged into a depression, the panic of 1837, and federal debt returned but at 10 times the previous level.

The depression was not directly the result of the leveling of the debt but there is little doubt it exacerbated the crisis.

So, the one time we actually balanced the ledger, instead of jubilee, we had disaster. Does this sound like using the past to guide the present?

The U.S. has always had debt (except for those two unfortunate years in the 1830s). We had it under Washington on day one, we had it through Presidents, bad, good or indifferent. We have it under Obama today and I guarantee we'll have it under his successor.

Debt is not a good thing, but it is not a bad thing either. Modern financial systems, from the small business that depends on a line of credit to maintain payroll, up to the massive federal government, depend on debt to function. To remove it would be akin to removing all the oil from an engine. The wiser course would be to manage the level so it neither overfills to spatter everything nor falls to low, causing parts to seize.

Instead of advocating such a course of management and practicality, modern Republicans want to place debt in stark binary terms, then codify that cold equation in the fabric of our greatest law. They desire to do this despite the lessons of history and despite the great unknowns of the future.

This is not conservatism. This is radicalism.

* I understand that you could technically have a balanced budget amendment and still carry debt, however that does not reflect the context of what is promoting the current version of the BBA

Friday, July 15, 2011

Comments Are Busto

If you came in via the griftdrift url, you can't view or write comments at the moment. I'm working on it. In the meantime, if you feel utterly compelled to view the opinions of your neighbors, view the comments at

You would not believe the clutter around this place.

UPDATE: I believe I've got a temporary fix in place. Although it opens them at the bottom of the post which I find a little annoying.

In The Trenches Of Public Service

No one pulls the heart strings like Doug Monroe.

For the past three years, he has been doing God's work in one of the toughest schools in New York City. His stories of Ann, the bright kid limited by a poor test score, and the "peanut butter kid" will bring many a tear to many an eye. And I'm sure that's partly what Doug intended.

They also expose an oft neglected standard for judging the performance of our children and how they are taught - context. As Doug notes, we have become seduced by the hard numbers. The only results we accept are those that place our most precious resources in silos of data points.

Data does not always tell the story and context matters.

However, as much as we want to empathize with these two wandering souls, context doesn't scale.

We cannot judge our schools on the individual stories of every child whose talents do not fit neatly in a box.We still need some firm way to judge thousands of students spread across patchworks of school yards and districts.

Between the obvious failures of the cold hard numbers mill of the Atlanta Public School system and the poor child quietly munching a PB&J, the solution must lay. It is time to explore that unknown territory and discover if we can bridge the two.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Reassessment

Rebirth requires reassessment.

When last I haunted these halls, I was an angry man with little hope for the future. I wouldn't be here, dusting the furniture, if things had not changed.

Let's take a look at how the larger world has faired.

The Blogs

The market works as it wants. Most of the garbage floated away or was marked as irrelevant. There is still flotsam and jetsam out there. It occasionally brushes by, leaving a slick film, but they are now few. What is left are those who have found their niche and survived the onslaught of Facebook, twitter and whatever is the latest social media flavor of the week.

A year ago, Peach Pundit teetered on the brink of fringe lunacy. Instead of pushing the conversation of in the halls of power, it pushed waves of sludge.. New editor Charlie Harper recruited a stable of writers who understood provocative does not need to be outrageous. It is again the nexus of political talk in the state of Georgia.

As expected, local reporting flourished. The patches have popped up everywhere. In Virginia Highland, the Va Hi patch reported on a neighborhood shooting and a coffee shop stick up before the television stations could start their trucks. Up in Dunwoody, John Heneghan's blog remained a critical resource for the citizens of the young city.

If Decatur Metro weren't still around, I may not have come back. If a model for blogging that well conceived could not survive, then none could. Instead it thrived, expanded and even brought on a wandering wit from the former halls of Creative Loafing.

And Doug Monroe is back. That says it all.

The blogs are in good hands.

The Press

More of a mixed bag here but, oh, the changes our professional brothers and sisters have made.

Five years ago, newspaper people bluntly told me, the editorial process would never be removed from the production of news. Never. No one could conceive such a strange thing.

Now, a mysterious troop has free rein on the Atlanta Journal Constitution's twitter feed. They are snarky. They are clever. They are freewheeling. They make mistakes and make no effort to cover them up. Most importantly. they create interest where there once was none.

Jay Bookman once approached blogging as if were a deadly snake. Now, he uses pictures from A Clockwork Orange to make satirical points.

It was as if the road from Marietta Street to Dunwoody were the road to Tarsus and the editorial staff were populated by hundreds of prostrate Sauls.

Speaking of that noted move to Dunwoody, not all in the media is light from above.

A few weeks ago, a shooting went down on Trinity and I commented on Twitter about how it would be nice if a major media outlet was nearby to cover the story. Political writer Aaron Gould Sheinin replied "Ouch". Nothing more needs to be said about the AJC's lack of presence in downtown.

Since the move to Perimeter Center, many have noted the tone of the paper has grown more "suburban". The ultimate slap came in the form of an article which skewed the purpose of the Edgewood Ave streetcar so far, a reader might have believed it was the mythical Shelbyville monorail from The Simpsons. The article was bad enough, but the backslapping full page ad quoting surburbanite praise for the expose' of the folly of the "boondoggle" was beyond insulting.

The paper still has a long way to go. But they've come a hell of a long way already. They should be praised when deserved, but switched back into line when it strays.


Like Fast Eddie Felson, I'm older. Grayer. The eyes don't work quite as well. There have been many changes and we will speak of those later.

But like the old hustler, I still know the game.

Hey, I'm back.

Break's Over

What's next.