December 21, 2012 archive

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On This Day In History December 21

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 21 is the 355th day of the year (356th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 10 days remaining until the end of the year. This is a frequent day for the winter solstice to occur in the northern hemisphere and summer solstice to occur in the southern hemisphere.

On this day in 1968, Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr., and William Anders aboard.

Apollo 8 was the first human spaceflight to leave Earth orbit; the first to be captured by and escape from the gravitational field of another celestial body; and the first crewed voyage to return to planet Earth from another celestial body-Earth’s Moon. The three-man American crew of mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to directly see the far side of the Moon, as well as the first humans to see planet Earth from beyond low Earth orbit. The 1968 mission was accomplished with the first manned launch of a Saturn V rocket. Apollo 8 was the second manned mission of the Apollo program and the first manned launch from the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Originally planned as a second Lunar Module/Command Module test in an elliptical medium Earth orbit in early 1969, the mission profile was changed in August 1968 to a more ambitious Command Module-only lunar orbital flight to be flown in December, because the Lunar Module was not ready to make its first flight then. This meant Borman’s crew was scheduled to fly two to three months sooner than originally planned, leaving them a shorter time for training and preparation, thus placing more demands than usual on their time and discipline.

After launching on December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 took three days to travel to the Moon. It orbited ten times over the course of 20 hours, during which the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast in which they read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever. Apollo 8’s successful mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to fulfill U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.


Originally posted September 27, 2011.

Out and Out Rout

The Five Austerities of Obama

As we enter this joyous season let us remember that austerity means stealing from the poor and the middle class so that the richest become relatively richer by comparison even though their absolute standard of living declines.

Because how can you tell who’s the King if everyone else isn’t covered in shit?

Let’s Celebrate the Failure of the July 2011 Great Betrayal

Bill Black, Naked Capitalism

Friday, December 21, 2012

On the First Try At Austerity, here’s what Obama did-

In July 2011, President Obama and Speaker Boehner reached an agreement in principle on a deal crafted to inflict $4 trillion in austerity by raising taxes modestly, slashing social spending, and beginning to unravel the safety net. The deal would have been a disaster for America. Unemployment was 9.1%. The deal would have thrown us back into a recession and caused unemployment to surge. Recessions and increased unemployment cause tax revenues to fall and increase demand for social services (e.g., for unemployment compensation) – they produce large deficits. Austerity kills jobs and frequently increases deficits. The Eurozone is the latest demonstration of this fact.

Obama is the person in the world who benefitted most from the failure of the July 2011 austerity deal he reached in principle with Boehner. If the austerity deal had been finalized the nation would have be forced back into recession. Unemployment was 9.1% in July 2011. It would have risen sharply above 10% and it would have gone up every month in 2012 as the election approached. Obama would have been crushed by Governor Romney. The irony is that Obama tried five times in 2011 to inflict austerity on America. Had he succeeded, he would have caused grave damage to our nation. Had he succeeded in inflicting austerity he would have also destroyed his re-election chances, given the Republicans control of the U.S. Senate, slashed public services when they were most needed, and begun the process of destroying the safety net. He would have gone down in history as a grotesque failure.

On the Second Try At Austerity, here’s what Obama did-

Obama’s second effort to inflict austerity was the creation of the “fiscal cliff” austerity deal in August 2011. The premise of the August deal was that austerity needed to be inflicted on America.

(T)hese statements by Obama strike many Americans as sensible, but they betray a basic misunderstanding of economics and explain why he embraces austerity. We are a nation with a sovereign currency. Our national government is nothing like a household. “Balancing the budget” (“live within our means”) in response to the Great Recession is austerity. Austerity is a disastrous policy in such circumstances because it causes nations to fall back into recession or depression.

The issue is not “fair[ness]” through joint sacrifice. If “everyone” “chip[s] in” through austerity it still produces a gratuitous recession or depression. That is not “fair” – it is insane – there is no such thing as a “fair” recession. “Fighting” for “fair” austerity so that everyone suffers equally through a “fair” recession is impossible because recessions cause increased unemployment, which is inherently unfair. But the more essential point is that it is insane to cause recessions through austerity.

On the Third Try At Austerity, here’s what Obama did-

Obama’s stated policy was to cut federal spending in 2011, but not “too abruptly.” Cutting overall spending in response to a Great Recession causes gratuitous recessions, even if you make “key investments.”

Obama intended the prospect of the fiscal cliff’s dramatic mandatory cuts in social programs to extort progressive Congressional Democrats into agreeing to inflict severe austerity by voting in favor of what Obama hoped would be massive cuts in social programs and the safety net adopted by the Congressional “super committee” created by the same bipartisan austerity deal that created the “fiscal cliff.” Obama encouraged the “super committee” to inflict massive spending cuts and tax increases (super-sized austerity).

On the Fourth Try At Austerity, here’s what Obama did-

Obama’s fourth effort occurred during the super committee negotiations. Some members of Congress opposed the imposition of the “fiscal cliff” austerity provisions and sought to remove, delay, or reduce them. Obama intervened to block any effort to avoid or reduce the austerity inflicted by the “fiscal cliff.”

Yes, President Obama “urged” the infliction of severe austerity through cuts in the safety net, massive cuts in social programs, and deliberately created and used the “fiscal cliff’s” self-destructive austerity threat to extort these betrayals of the American people. His surrogates (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson – the co-chairs of Obama’s austerity commission) pushed the “super committee” to “go big” and inflict $4 trillion in austerity. (Simpson predicted that the markets would “tank” absent such an austerity deal.)

Obama urged austerity under the “logic” that a national government with a sovereign currency is “just” like a household – the most basic and common economic error in this field. The President of the United States thinks that the U.S. government is “just” like a household and should try to balance the budget (“live within our means”) through austerity in response to the Great Recession. He also thinks we should seize the political opportunity, even if it had nothing to do with the budget deficit, to begin to unravel the safety net. It is this sad record that led me (and many others) to warn before the election that Obama’s effort to secure a “Grand Bargain” constituted a “Great Betrayal” motivated by his desire to create his legacy. Obama’s self-portrait is that he was willing to agree to sacrifice his Party’s greatest accomplishments (the safety net) in order to secure a bipartisan agreement imposing austerity. The actual sacrifices, however, will be made by the elderly, the poor, and the working class, the victims of his betrayal. If Obama succeeds in producing another recession through austerity you can add the nation to the list of sacrificial victims.

On the Fifth Try At Austerity, here’s what Obama did-

When the super committee failed to reach a bipartisan austerity deal in November 2011, members of Congress sought to pass legislation removing the fiscal cliff’s austerity provisions. Obama’s fifth effort to inflict austerity occurred when he threatened to veto any reduction in fiscal cliff austerity.

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree-

Fortunately for the nation (and Obama), fate conspired to cause four of Obama’s efforts to inflict austerity to fail while the fifth (the “fiscal cliff”) does not begin to kick in until 2013. For opposite reasons, the Tea Party and progressive Democrats have interacted in a manner that blocked Obama’s efforts to inflict austerity on the nation. (The Tea Party loves austerity, but hates even modest tax increases for the wealthy.)

Obama was not an outlier in repeatedly seeking to inflict austerity on the nation in 2011: “about 100 members of Congress from both parties are urging the [super committee] to go big on the reductions, to the tune of $4 trillion.”

The general media did not warn about the insanity of inflicting the “fiscal cliff” austerity program on the nation. Instead, it fed the hysteria about the deficit and urged even greater austerity. The New York Times exemplifies the general response. The title of their article about the August 2011 austerity deal that created the “fiscal cliff” set the pro-austerity tone.

The thrust of the article was that the proponents of the August 2011 bipartisan austerity deal had to defend it against charges that it imposed too little austerity. The article also claimed that while economists were divided on the issue, most economists favored austerity. Our national debt was about to cause interest rates to surge, causing a disastrous feedback loop.

All of this was economically illiterate. Interest rates fell, as my colleagues and economists like Paul Krugman predicted. Inflicting austerity in response to a Great Recession is a superb strategy for increasing unemployment, the deficit, inequality, and debt because it reduces already inadequate private and public sector demand and causes recessions and depressions. Even the modest stimulus policy the U.S. followed despite Obama’s and Boehner’s best efforts to inflict austerity, proved vastly superior to the Eurozone’s austerity policy that forced the Eurozone into recession and much of the periphery into Great Depression levels of unemployment. The U.S. budget deficit has fallen at the fastest rate in modern history due to the success of even the greatly inadequate stimulus program that Obama adopted before he turned against stimulus under Geithner and Daley’s influence. America’s problem is jobs, not the deficit.

Beware of anyone who uses phrases like “down payment” when it comes to the federal deficit for they have no meaning and are designed to mislead. Reducing social spending in response to the Great Recession is austerity – not a “down payment on … deficit reduction.” Indeed, it is likely to increase the deficit by causing a recession.

Gifts in ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ Cost $107,000 This Year, Thanks to Rising Feed Prices

By Nick Carbone, Time Magazine

Nov. 26, 2012

According to PNC, the past year’s underlying inflation of about two percent was only part of the price hike. The largest increase among the “12 Days” gifts was for the six geese a-laying, the price of which shot up 29.6% over the past year due to high feed costs prompted by this summer’s Midwest drought. The price of gold also rose, making those golden rings pricier; meanwhile the market for those seven swans a-swimming is considered by PNC to be “most volatile.”

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Holiday Adornment 8

Late Night Karaoke

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

A New Twist on a Hanukkah Staple

Red Cabbage, Carrot and Broccoli Stem Latkes

For those of us who are celebrating Hanukkah this week that is both good news and bad. The frying in oil is not so bad, but the starchy potatoes that make the best latkes are not so great. So I decided to experiment with other vegetables for my latkes, combining carrots and spinach, cabbage and kale, sweet potatoes and apples. I even used up the broccoli stems that were lingering in my refrigerator bin in one batch, mixing them with red cabbage and carrots. I used exotic spices like nigella seeds, cumin, and caraway, as well sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. My vegetable latkes were not as crispy as potato latkes but nobody seemed to mind; they were still delicious.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Red Cabbage, Carrot and Broccoli Stem Latkes With Caraway and Sesame

A surprising use for broccoli stems in a favorite holiday dish.

Spicy Carrot and Spinach Latkes

I think it is the nutty flavor of the nigella seeds that makes these so addictive.

Sweet Potato and Apple Latkes With Ginger and Sweet Spices

A sweeter version of a Hanukkah staple.

Butternut Squash and Sage Latkes

A favorite flavor combination makes for a delicious latke.

Spicy Carrot and Spinach Latkes

I think it is the nutty flavor of the nigella seeds that makes these so addictive.

The Great Prevaricator

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Barack Obama’s presidential legacy will most likely be that he was the Great Prevaricator. His plan has always been to protect the 1% and sell out the rest of us. So far he succeeded quite nicely, with just a few minor bumps in the road that were possibly preplanned.

Two important points that Jane Hamsher and Jon Walker at FDL Action makes about Barack Obama, that even Marcos Moulitsas gets wrong, is:

1st, Ms. Hamshire writes that Pres. Obama did not capitulate on Social Security cuts and we should stop pretending that he did:

Everywhere you look, the media narrative is that President Obama is “capitulating” to Republicans by agreeing to cuts in Social Security benefits.

And I have to ask, where is this collective political amnesia coming from?

Obama has made a deliberate and concerted effort to cut Social Security benefits since the time he took office.  FDL reported on February 12, 2009 that the White House was meeting behind closed doors to consider ways to cut Social Security benefits, and that the framework they were using was the Diamond-Orszag plan, which was co-authored by OMB Director Peter Orszag when he was at the Brookings Institute.

The birth of the now-ubiquitous “catfood” meme came on February 18, 2009 with this FDL headline:

   Hedge Fund Billionaire Pete Peterson Key Speaker At Obama “Fiscal Responsibility Summit,” Will Tell Us All Why Little Old Ladies Must Eat Cat Food


The administration backed off its immediate plans for reforming Social Security. The New York Times reported that they were “running into opposition from his party’s left” who are “vehement in opposing any reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees.” But NYT columnist David Brooks reported that shortly after the summit, “four senior members of the administration” called him to say that Obama “is extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways to reduce Social Security.” [..]

In January of 2010, a bill sponsored by committed Social Security slashers Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad which would have created an official commission to make recommendations about the nation’s deficit was defeated by the Senate on a bipartisan vote – 22 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no.

After the Senate defeat, on February 18, President Obama issued an executive order creating what subsequently became known as the “Catfood Commission” anyway. [..]

The composition of the Commission was conveniently stacked with 14 of the 18 members committed deficit hawks looking to start balancing the federal budget on the backs of old people.

And who supplied the staff to the commission? Why, Pete Peterson.

Are we to believe that the President was blissfully ignorant of the agendas of the people he appointed to this commission, created with the goal of bypassing Congressional process? [..]

The President has been very forthcoming about the fact that cutting Social Security benefits is something he wants to do.  When he said during the debate that he didn’t differ from Mitt Romney on entitlement reform, he meant it.   It’s time for people to remove the rose-colored glasses and stop projecting their own feelings on to the man.  It’s time to take him at his word.

This is what he has always wanted. Ignore it if you choose but the facts and Obama’s actions and words bear it out.

2nd, John Walker points out that Pres. Obama lied about not raising taxes on the middle class. By using the chained CPI, a lower measure of inflation, no only are SS benefits cut, it winds up being it would end up being a significant tax increase on the middle class by causing tax brackets to raise more slowly. While the tax increase would be very small at first, over the next decade it would mean the middle class will pay ten of billions more in taxes. John calls this the “Lie of the Year

For five years Obama repeatedly and unequivocal promised not the raise taxes by one penny on anyone making less than $250,000. He did so in ads, campaign stops, emails, and interviews. There is probably no other single policy proposal that was more central to both of Obama’s presidential campaigns. Millions likely voted for Obama based on this firm promise.

Yet even before Obama’s second term begins, he has rushed to break this campaign promise. [..]

Obama was not forced by some extraordinary unforeseen event to accept this tax increase. Obama include this middle class tax increase in his counter offer. Obama didn’t need to do this, he chose to do it.

Right after Obama was re-elected, based on a promise not to raise taxes on the middle class, his first major action was to push for a middle class tax increase. This is a pathological level of dishonesty. The only thing more disturbing is the weak shoulder-shrugging response by most of the media to such a profound act of deception.

So whether the Bush tax cuts expire on Dec 31 or the rate of inflation is calculated by the chained CPI, middle class taxes are going up and SS recipients will be eating cat food.

There are those of us who knew this all along but everyone was focused  on the prospects of a Democratic resurgence that would govern from the left. They were blinded by the bright shiny object that was this man who gave a great speech and had an attractive family. But he came from the roots of Chicago Democratic politics and had an agenda that really wasn’t so hidden. He just lied and everyone believed him even though the facts were right in front of them that Pres. Obama is a right wing, corporatist, Republican and has been flat out lying to us all.