Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rand Paul=quack

The GOP field is looking like another round of the circus. Wow, they have some real losers on their side, but I guess that's all they have. Can't have anyone too smart or the Tea Partiers will go insane. Further insane.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Freethought of the Day

Happy Birthday to Jack Germond, a noted writer and political commentator and Saul Alinsky, the guy every conservative loves to hate. If you ask a conservative what it is about Alinksy that is so bad, they won't be able to tell you. They know they hate him, because Fox Noise told them to.

 Jack Germond

On this date in 1928, journalist Jack Germond was born in Newton, Massachusetts. Germond has written several books, mainly focusing on politics. After serving in the United States Army from 1946 to 1947, he went on to earn a B.A. and B.S. from the University of Missouri. He graduated in 1951 and began writing for the Evening News, where he reported on sports and city news, and later to write political news. He began reporting in 1953 for the Rochester Times-Union and eventually headed the publication's owner's Washington Bureau. He became Washington Star's political editor in 1974 until 1981. He co-wrote a five-a-week column on national politics with fellow political author and journalist Jules Witcover. The column, "Politics Today," was syndicated across the nation for 24 years. He regularly appears on CNN, PBS, Meet the Press and the Today Show. Germond tends to be liberal when it comes to politics, and is seen as in touch with the average American and as a traditional "old-school" newspaper reporter.

His books include "Fat Man Fed Up: How American Politics Went Bad" (2005), "Fat Man in the Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics" (2002),"Mad as Hell: Revolt at the Ballot Box, 1992" (1994), "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars?" (1989) and "Blue Smoke and Mirrors" (1981). He co-wrote his earlier books with Witcover. He has two children from a previous marriage, Mandy and Jessica. His daughter Mandy died at age 14 after battling leukemia. Germond is currently married to Alice Travis Germond, the secretary of the Democratic National Committee, whom he has been with since 1988.
"I must note that although I was brought up as a Protestant, I have been an atheist my entire adult life. I do not proselytize, however. Nor do I question the faith of others. I just don't want to be obliged to accept someone else's faith as a factor in my government."

—--Jack Germond in his book, “Why I'm Fed Up,” Pg. 203.

Saul Alinsky

On this date in 1909, the great 20th-century community organizer Saul David Alinsky was born in a Chicago slum to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. Alinsky said in an interview that his parents "were strict orthodox; their whole life revolved around work and synagogue." When asked if he was a devout Jew as a boy, Alinsky responded: "I suppose I was — until I was about 12. I was brainwashed, really hooked. But then I got afraid my folks were going to try to turn me into a rabbi, so I went through some pretty rapid withdrawal symptoms and kicked the habit" (Playboy, 1972). Alinsky majored in archaeology at the University of Chicago, but after two years of graduate study he dropped out to work as a criminologist for the state of Illinois. In the mid-1930s, he started working with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and became a close friend of John L. Lewis. Alinsky shifted from labor to community organizing in 1939, focusing first on improving the impoverished slums he grew up in. In 1940, millionaire Marshall Field III provided Alinsky funds to start the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), which grew into a prominent training institute for radical community organizers across the country. Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez were connected to the IAF, along with numerous other leading community organizers and movements. Alinsky's "street-smart tactics influenced generations of community organizers," including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who wrote her senior honors thesis at Wellesley College on Alinsky (The New York Times, "Know Thine Enemy," by Noam Cohen, Aug. 22, 2009). The New York Times said Alinsky was "hated and feared in high places from coast to coast" for being "a major force in the revolution of powerless people... "

Though Alinsky said he always told people he was Jewish (Playboy, 1972), his political philosophy was very nonconformist, and this carried over into his personal life. When asked if he had ever considered joining the Communist party, he replied: "Not at any time. I've never joined any organization — not even ones I've organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it's Christianity or Marxism" (Playboy). The goal of the radical, Alinsky explained in his final book, Rules for Radicals(1971), must be to bring about “the destruction of the roots of all fears, frustrations, and insecurity of man, whether they be material or spiritual." Enemies of the poor "can no more live up to their own rules than the Christian Church can live up to Christianity. . . . No organization, including organized religion, can live up to the letter of its own book. You can club them to death with their ‘book’ of rules and regulations" (Rules for Radicals, p. 128 & 152). In a move that horrifies the religious right to this day, Alinsky dedicated his final book to "Lucifer": "Lest we forget at least an over the shoulder acknowledgement of the very first radical, from all our legends, mythology, and history . . . the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer." In the opening paragraph of Rules for Radicals, Alinsky wrote: "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be." Alinsky died of a heart attack at the age of 63. D. 1972.
"If you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics."

—Saul Alinsky in an interview with Playboy Magazine, 1972

Thursday, January 29, 2015

six weeks?!

One of the proposals in Obama's recent State of the Union address was that all employees should get six weeks of paid vacation time. Needless to say, Congress didn't like the idea. Has Congress EVER liked ANY idea Obama has come up with?

Six Weeks’ Paid Leave Opposed By People With Thirty-Three Weeks’ Paid Leave


WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—President Obama’s proposal to give workers six weeks of paid leave is meeting strong opposition from a group of people who annually receive thirty-three weeks of paid leave.
Members of the group heard the President’s proposal on Tuesday night, one of the few nights of the year when they are required to report to their workplace.
The opponents of paid leave, who show up for work a hundred and thirty-seven days per year and receive paid leave for the other two hundred and twenty-eight, were baffled by other moments in the President’s speech.
For example, they were confused by Obama’s challenge to try to survive on a full-time job that pays fifteen thousand dollars, since they all currently hold a part-time job that pays a hundred and seventy-four thousand dollars.
Original. (I'm glad Borowitz is on our side).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Google translator

I have used the Google Translator program many times with quite good luck. And now it's getting better and better. Too bad it doesn't do too well with "Spanglish" or whatever language they ostensibly speak in Cuba. It sorta sounds like Spanish, but it's nearly impossible for me to grasp. 

Google Translate App Gets an Upgrade

The idea of a universal translator — a device that can seamlessly translate between languages — has been a longtime fixture in science fiction.
Technology hasn’t quite gotten there, even on Earth, but Google has come one step closer with an upgrade of the Google Translate application, which is being released on Wednesday.
The first part of the upgrade is a voice tool that makes it easier to have something resembling a natural conversation with a person using a different language by translating between two languages, using the microphone on a smartphone. Google Translate has had voice controls for a few years, but the latest version works more seamlessly.
In this version, the app is supposed to pick up who is talking based on the language being spoken. So, say you wanted to order a slice of chicken pizza in Spanish. Using the app, you could walk into a pizza parlor, and, with your lips at an awkward proximity to the phone’s microphone, make your request, after which a robotic voice would spit out the question in Spanish.
Then let’s say the guy behind the counter asks if you want extra cheese. He could ask you that question in Spanish, and the phone would relay it in English. Respond “Yes” or “No” in English, and out comes Spanish again.
The app isn’t quite as natural or seamless as science fiction just yet. In tests, it worked best with short, jargon-free sentences and required a healthy pause between translations. But it’s certainly a step forward, taking one more brick out of the language barrier. After all, even a personal translator would require a few seconds.
The second tool is a visual translator. People can place signs or other text in a phone’s viewfinder, similar to the way they take a picture, then receive an instantaneous translation on the screen. We tested it on Tuesday’s New York Times, as well as a pizza menu.
The tool allows users to place signs or other text in a phone’s viewfinder, similar to the way they take a picture, then receive an instantaneous translation on the phone’s screen.
If the idea of a visual scanner sounds familiar, it’s because the technology comes from Word Lens, an app developed by Quest Visual. Google acquired the company in May, with the intention of putting the technology into its own Translate app. Now that has happened.
Google is one of a number of companies trying to fulfill the promise of translation technology. Skype, Microsoft’s video calling service, recently announced a new feature that simultaneously translates calls between English and Spanish speakers.
Google has been doing some form of translation since 2001. The Google Translate app now has 90 languages and some 500 million monthly users. Barak Turovsky, the product leader for Google Translate, said that the app doled out about one billion translations a day and that 95 percent of the people who use Google’s translation technology — whether on a phone or desktop — live outside the United States. (Mr. Turovsky is a native Russian speaker who also speaks fluent Hebrew and English — his worst language, he said.)
Technologically speaking, Google Translate works similar to Google’s famous search engine. First it uses software to “crawl” the web in search of documents that have been translated between languages, then it performs a statistical analysis of likely translations.
For instance, if computer sees that the Spanish word perro has been translated to dog on millions of occasions and in varying contexts, it reasons that perro probably means dog, and in the process “learns” that word.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Boko Haram

I'm thinking that, perhaps we should take a more active role in combating this violent religious group, Boko Haram. The term "Boko Haram" has been interpreted several ways: "books forbidden" or "Western education is forbidden," or "books from Hell", etc.

Whatever, these guys do NOT like "Western" education and life. If not for religion, we would not be dealing with these mutant faith retards. But since it exists, what could or should be done about them?  I don't think we can just sit by as if there is nothing to worry about or think about.

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram
Boko Haram ("Western education is forbidden"), officially called Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad ("People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad"), is a terrorist, militant and Islamist movement based in northeast Nigeria with additional activities in ChadNiger and Cameroon.[9] The group is led by Abubakar Shekau, and estimates of its strength vary between 500 and 9000. They have been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.[1][2][3] [14]
The group is designated as a terrorist organization by New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and the United Nations Security Council, which declared it an al-Qaeda affiliate and imposed the al-Qaeda sanctions regime on the group.[9][15][16]
but what about Nigeria, Chad, Niger or Cameroon?
Boko Haram killed more than 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014, including at least 2,000 in the first half of 2014, in attacks occurring mainly in northeast, north-central and central Nigeria.[17][18][19]Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by them have hampered efforts to counter the unrest.[20][21] Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 men,[22][23] women and children, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.[24] 650,000 people had fled the conflict zone by August 2014, an increase of 200,000 since May; by the end of the year 1.5 million had fled.[25][26]

They kidnapped girls and I heard that they "sold them into slavery." I wondered if that is general slavery or sex slavery? Either is disgusting. And how totally inconsistent with a "religion of peace." 

After its founding in 2002, Boko Haram's increasing radicalisation led to a violent uprising in July 2009 in which its leader was executed. Its unexpected resurgence, following a mass prison break in September 2010, was accompanied by increasingly sophisticated attacks, initially against soft targets, and progressing in 2011 to include suicide bombings on police buildings and the United Nations office in Abuja. The government's establishment of a state of emergency at the beginning of 2012, extended in the following year to cover the entire northeast of the country, resulted in a marked increase in both security force abuses and militant attacks. The Nigerian military proved ineffective in countering the insurgency, hampered by an entrenched culture of official corruption. Since mid-2014, the militants have been in control of swathes of territory in and around their home state of Borno, but have not captured the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri, where the group was originally based.
The official name is جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد Jamā‘atu Ahli is-Sunnah lid-Da‘wati wal-Jihād, meaning "People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad."[28] The group was also originally known informally as 'Yusifiyya', after its first leader, Mohammed Yusuf.[29]
The name 'Boko Haram' is usually translated as 'Western education is forbidden'. Haram is from the Arabic حَرَام ḥarām, 'forbidden'; and the Hausa word boko [the first vowel is long, the second pronounced in a low tone], originally meaning 'fake' but has come to mean[30] and is widely translated as "Western education" and thought to possibly be a corruption of the English word 'book'.[31][32] Boko Haram has also been translated as "Western influence is a sin"[33] and "Westernization is sacrilege."[19]
Some Nigerians dismiss Western education as ilimin boko ("education fake") and draw a distinction between makaranta alkorani (religious school), based on the Qur'an where students learn to write and recite Arabic, and makaranta boko — government schools imparting secular education in the colonial English (official) language.[34] [31][32][35]


According to Borno Sufi Imam Sheik Fatahi, Yusuf was trained by Kano Salafi Izala Sheik Ja'afar Mahmud Adamu, who called him the "leader of young people"; the two split some time in 2002–4. They both preached inMaiduguri's Indimi Mosque, which was attended by the deputy governor of Borno.[29][51] Many of the group were reportedly inspired by Mohammed Marwa, known as Maitatsine ('He who curses others'), a self-proclaimed prophet (annabi, a Hausa word usually used only to describe the founder of Islam), born in Northern Cameroon, who condemned the reading of books other than the Quran.[31][52][53][54] 
In a 2009 BBC interview, Yusuf, described by analysts as being well-educated, reaffirmed his opposition to Western education. He rejected the theory of evolution, and said that rain is not "an evaporation caused by the sun", and that the Earth is not a sphere.[55]
Boko Haram was founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect advocating a strict form of Sharia Law and developed into a Salafist-jihadi group in 2009, influenced by the Wahhabi movement. The movement is so diffuse that fighters associated with it do not necessarily follow Salafi doctrine.[16][36][37][38][39][40][41] 
Boko Haram seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria. It opposes the Westernization of Nigerian society and the concentration of the wealth of the country among members of a small political elite, mainly in the Christian south of the country.[42][43] 
Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy, but 60% of its population of 173 million (2013) live on less than $1 a day.[44][45][46] 
The sharia law imposed by local authorities, beginning with Zamfara in January 2000 and covering 12 northern states by late 2002, may have promoted links between Boko Haram and political leaders, but was considered by the group to have been corrupted.[47]:101[48][49][50]

Most info above from Wikipedia.

Look at the type of garbage that offshoots from Islam.  Is it Islam's fault?  Would Boko Haram exist without Islam? Toss in ISIS and the Taliban and Islam starts to look like a cancer upon humanity. But that's basically what religion is, Christianity included.

Monday, January 26, 2015

dirty air

Fascinating video from the NASA and the National Resources Defense Council.

Borders don’t stop dirty air. This NASA video shows how air pollution from Asia changes weather and climate around the world.

Click here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Miami airport

For a long time now, people have been bitching about how horrible it is to fly through the Miami airport. Never having flown through it, I had no personal experience, and you know how people are. They often will, uh, embellish a bit.

Well, now I understand.

The wife and I had to travel through Miami while returning to the states from our St. Lucia vacation, and it was basically a nightmare.

The crew of our flight from St. Lucia didn't say anything about what to do and where to go when we got to the airport.  There were no agents meeting us after debarking.  The signage was either confusing or nonexistent.

So large clumps of passengers began wandering after getting off the plane and eventually found our way to the first of several lines we had to endure.

First, we all had to wait in line to obtain an electronic receipt after a machine scanned our passports and took a photo of us. But to get to that machine, we had to wait in a line that was easily 10,000 people and stretched as far as the eye could see. No one really knew why they were standing in line. You know how peeople are.

While we were more or less in line, there were multiple announcements of the public address system of the airport, and these were totally unintelligible. It sounded like English, sort of. A heavy Cuban-accented English. I could not understand one single announcement.

When we finally got to the front of the line and were herded to one of about 20 machines, there were no instructions on the machine. Ours appeared stuck on a previous screen. We touched here, there, nothing. After a minute or so, it finally started working. 

After obtaining this precious receipt, we were herded to a new line where we would have to pass by two humans stamping passports. Fortunately, our receipts did not have an X on them, so we went to the shorter lines (only about 1,000 people). The lines of people with an X and without an X were hard to distinguish.

Once finally past these two guys, we were told to go claim our bags to get them re-checked for the connecting flight to Houston. All around us people were missing their connecting flights. Some of them were just outright cancelled, because no one was going to get into Boston, where a blizzard was underway.

We wandered to a luggage carousel and there was a sea of bags already pulled off the belt and just stacked in piles. Almost all of them looked the same. Miraculously, we found our two bags (finally!!) and took them onward to another line where we gave them to baggage handlers to put back on planes.

Now we had to go through security again, as if we could have built a bomb at some point after we got off the plane and were making our way through the airport.  Two lines for hundreds of people; two machines shut down. Uh, hello!!

One agent tells us we don't have to take off our shoes. When we get to the front of the line, of course another agent tells us we have to take off our shoes.  Scramble, rush, rush, scramble.  I hate going through security with a ton of angry passengers breathing down my neck.

After all those lines, we finally made it to our gate just a few minutes before they began boarding our flight, and we had a 3 hr 30 minute layover!!  

No doubt thousands of people missed their connecting flights this evening. 

So, avoid Miami if at all possible, especially if you are going through customs and immigration. Horrible signage; inadequate airport personnel; a labyrinthine maze to navigate. Just absurd. And this is how they treat their own citizens!!

So, avoid American Airlines and Miami airport. I think we're going to Hawaii next. No customs or immirgation, non-stop flights, don't need American. Next?!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Samson da Barbarian

How about another dose of absurdity from the Bible? As if we need any more.

Honestly, why anyone still takes this book seriously is rather beyond me.  At this point, when I hear "a person of faith" I simply think, this person is a gullible fool.  Really.

This Dark Matter series focuses on Samson and Delilah, another truly absurd and unbelievable story in the Judges book of the Bible. 

It's no wonder that a large number of seminary students end up as atheists. This shit just does not hold up under scrutiny.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Friday, January 23, 2015

American Airlines

We are now vowing to never fly American Airlines again.

We recently traveled to St. Lucia in the Caribbean for a vacation.  St. Lucia was awesome. Unfortunately, there appeared to be only one way to get there from Houston, via American Airlines, so I booked them.

The first knock on them is that we had to catch a 5:20am flight out of Houston on Saturday morning to connect to Miami, change planes and then catch another plane to St. Lucia, but still on American.

I will also never fly that early in the morning again.  We hate to travel the Houston freeways early in the morning, because that's when all the drunks are driving and many end up going the wrong way on the freeway because they're so drunk. In the two weeks leading up to our departure, there were FIVE wrong-way crashes on Houston freeways.

So, we decided to stay at the Marriott Hotel at the Houston Intercontinental Airport (I refuse to call it "Bush".)

It was really no problem boarding the 5:20am flight. In fact, I was able to secure an upgrade to Business Class, so the flight to Miami was fine, with food and whatever else we wanted. 

Landing in Miami was smooth and we had only about a 75-minute layover.  Fortunately we were able to check our two bags all the way thru to St. Lucia, and they actually did arrive correctly in St. Lucia.

The problem began with the flight from Miami to St. Lucia.  On this leg, we were unable to upgrade, so we ended up on the 24th row, and by now we were getting hungry.

When the American flight attendant reached us with the snack and beverage cart, she was out of all the regular food. All she had left was potato chips.  She told us that she ran out of food at about the 20th row, and there were another 20 rows to the back of the plane!

The kicker was when she said, "THIS HAPPENS EVERY TIME!"  In other words, American intentionally does not pack enough food on their planes to feed every passenger. And let's not forget, the era of FREE meals is long gone. Now everyone (in Coach) has to PAY for food. But, even if you are willing to pay, if you sit beyond the 20th row or so, THERE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH FOOD FOR YOU TO PURCHASE ANY.

The flight attendant was visibly upset.  Passengers were visibly upset. It was basically the lunch hour, with another two hours to fly, and no food left. It's rather unbelievable to me that American would do this on purpose, EVERY SINGLE TIME. 

But I guess the thing is, WE HAVE  LITTLE OTHER CHOICE. The conglomeration of airlines has decreased our options, so you take what you get, or just don't go.

Lesson learned: if you want to have some food on an American Airlines flight, either:
1) pack your own food in your bags;
2) pay for Business Class (right);
3) get a seat in Coach higher than the 20th row.

Another cute move on the part of the airlines is that, after paying for your regular fare, if you want a couple of inches of extra leg room, or if you want to move towards the front of the cabin, YOU HAVE TO PAY ANOTHER FEE, anywhere from $30 to $100. This is not just American Airlines pulling this. All the majors are doing this.

Is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) paying any attention?  Is there still an FAA?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rude on SOTU

When I don't know where to turn for concise insight into the issues and events of the day, I turn to the Rude Pundit. 

He almost never disappoints. So, while I am out of pocket, Rude has a few rude things to say about the State of the Union speech.

The State of the Union Is "Shove Your Midterm Victory" 

Prior to the release of the speech, you know that most Republicans were fantasizing about President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. They wanted him to hungrily gobble their cocks. They wanted that Negro on his knees, eagerly sucking off all the Republicans to show that he knows his place after the 2014 midterm elections. "He can even spit on my dick, if he wants," Lindsey Graham thought. How could Obama not acknowledge his masters after Democratic losses that wrested control of the Senate away from them? Unless he's the most arrogant, uppity sumbitch ever, it was obvious, they believed, that deep-throated hummers were required. Obama needed to ask them what they wanted. He needed to say that he'd do anything to please and pleasure them. Their flies were unzipped, pricks of many shapes and sizes, half-tumescent, ready for purchase in the President's mouth. - See more at: 

And then Obama sauntered out, slapped all the dicks like Moe with a bunch of Curlies, and told them to shove their fellatio dreams up their pathetic asses. 

Look, almost nothing Obama proposed in his ambitious agenda is going to pass a Congress filled with more scoundrels, criminals, perverts, and rats than a pirate ship named "The Thieving Buggerer." Taxes aren't going to rise for the wealthy, even if it's through loophole-closing. Child care won't get funded. The minimum wage won't go up. And climate change? No. And Gitmo? Just forget it. For that matter, it doesn't matter that Obama didn't mention poverty, except in the most general sense. Because no matter what he proposed to help people in poverty, the Republican-controlled Congress was going to laugh in his face. And, let's be honest, a good many Democrats would be giggling, too. So the substance of the speech was fine, great, aspirational, and pretty damn safe. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

fuck the Pope

To all of those who have been saying that they really like this pope, I would agree with Brian Keith Dalton in the posted video and say, FUCK THE POPE!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

spectacularly wrong

Speaking of Republicans being wrong about everything, here's just another example. Makes you wonder how good of a businessman this guy actually is.

from the New York Times
The C.E.O. of Westgate Resorts, a Florida-based timeshare company, told his employees in 2012 that if President Obama were re-elected, that would mean “fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.” Two years in to the president’s second term, that same C.E.O. is giving raises.

In the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, David Siegel, billionaire chief of Florida timeshare company Westgate Resorts, sent an email to all employees. “Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for,” Siegel wrote, but offered “a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.” These included that re-electing Obama would “threaten your job” and result in “less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.” 
Just over two years after penning that company-wide email, Siegel informed Westgate employees that instead of layoffs, he would boost their minimum wage to $10 per hour beginning in 2015. 
In fact, according to Siegel, 2014 was a banner year. “We’re experiencing the best year in our history and I wanted to do something to show my gratitude for the employees who make that possible,” Siegel said in announcing the wage hike. He also recently told the Orlando Business Journal that “things have never been better.”

Original.  I'll bet it just kills Siegel that he feels like he needs to give raises.  You think it will stop him from being a stupid Republican?  Ha! Fat chance!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Paul Krugman

How do the Republicans deal with being so consistently wrong? Why, they simply persist.  They are unfazed, and they never admit they were wrong. I think they figure that eventually, odds are that they will be right about SOMEthing.  

Presidents and the Economy
by Paul Krugman

Suddenly, or so it seems, the U.S. economy is looking better. Things have been looking up for a while, but at this point the signs of improvement — job gains, rapidly growing G.D.P., rising public confidence — are unmistakable.

The improving economy is surely one factor in President Obama’s rising approval rating. And there’s a palpable sense of panic among Republicans, despite their victory in the midterms. They expected to run in 2016 against a record of failure; what do they do if the economy is looking pretty good?

Well, that’s their problem. What I want to ask instead is whether any of this makes sense. How much influence does the occupant of the White House have on the economy, anyway? The standard answer among economists, at least when they aren’t being political hacks, is: not much. But is this time different?

To understand why economists usually downplay the economic role of presidents, let’s revisit a much-mythologized episode in U.S. economic history: the recession and recovery of the 1980s.

On the right, of course, the 1980s are remembered as an age of miracles wrought by the blessed Reagan, who cut taxes, conjured up the magic of the marketplace and led the nation to job gains never matched before or since. In reality, the 16 million jobs America added during the Reagan years were only slightly more than the 14 million added over the previous eight years. And a later president — Bill something-or-other — presided over the creation of 22 million jobs. But who’s counting?

In any case, however, serious analyses of the Reagan-era business cycle place very little weight on Reagan, and emphasize instead the role of the Federal Reserve, which sets monetary policy and is largely independent of the political process. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Fed, under the leadership of Paul Volcker, was determined to bring inflation down, even at a heavy price; it tightened policy, sending interest rates sky high, with mortgage rates going above 18 percent. What followed was a severe recession that drove unemployment to double digits but also broke the wage-price spiral.

Then the Fed decided that America had suffered enough. It loosened the reins, sending interest rates plummeting and housing starts soaring. And the economy bounced back. Reagan got the political credit for “morning in America,” but Mr. Volcker was actually responsible for both the slump and the boom.

The point is that normally the Fed, not the White House, rules the economy. Should we apply the same rule to the Obama years?

Not quite.

For one thing, the Fed has had a hard time gaining traction in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, because the aftermath of a huge housing and mortgage bubble has left private spending relatively unresponsive to interest rates. This time around, monetary policy really needed help from a temporary increase in government spending, which meant that the president could have made a big difference. And he did, for a while; politically, the Obama stimulus may have been a failure, but an overwhelming majority of economists believe that it helped mitigate the slump.

Since then, however, scorched-earth Republican opposition has more than reversed that initial effort. In fact, federal spending adjusted for inflation and population growth is lower now than it was when Mr. Obama took office; at the same point in the Reagan years, it was up more than 20 percent. So much, then, for fiscal policy.

There is, however, another sense in which Mr. Obama has arguably made a big difference. The Fed has had a hard time getting traction, but it has at least made an effort to boost the economy — and it has done so despite ferocious attacks from conservatives, who have accused it again and again of “debasing the dollar” and setting the stage for runaway inflation. Without Mr. Obama to shield its independence, the Fed might well have been bullied into raising interest rates, which would have been disastrous. So the president has indirectly aided the economy by helping to fend off the hard-money mob.

Last but not least, even if you think Mr. Obama deserves little or no credit for good economic news, the fact is his opponents have spent years claiming that his bad attitude — he has been known to suggest, now and then, that some bankers have behaved badly — is somehow responsible for the economy’s weakness. Now that he’s presiding over unexpected economic strength, they can’t just turn around and assert his irrelevance.

So is the president responsible for the accelerating recovery? No. Can we nonetheless say that we’re doing better than we would be if the other party held the White House? Yes. Do those who were blaming Mr. Obama for all our economic ills now look like knaves and fools? Yes, they do. And that’s because they are.