The National Debt and the GDP

Being a little behind in reading my email, I just saw this from Ezra Klein.  He suggests you keep this in mind while you watch the Republicans try to push the debt onto the President and the Democrats.

Notice that you can barely see TARP.  It is that dark blue streak that is separating the other two blue parts of the graph.  Even the stimulus is pretty small.

The deficit is pretty easy to understand when you look at it in a graph.  If you reduced the Bush tax cuts for income over &250,000 and worked on the costs of the wars – and didn’t start any new ones – you can really begin to reduce the debt.  Maybe the huge number of people who think the tax breaks for the wealthy should be eliminated understand this better than Mitt and Paul and the rest of their gang.  Certainly they understand this better than Grover Nordquist.

So when you are watching the Republicans in Tampa, remember this chart and thank Ezra Klein.

Palindromes and Palin-dromes

Yesterday was a palindrome date: 01/02/2010. 

According to the Boston Globe

Jan. 2, 2010, is the second such date out of 36 that occurs this millennium. The first was 10/02/2001.

Aziz Inan, a University of Portland electrical engineering professor, has been studying this phenomenon and speaks with great enthusiasm as he describes the history of palindrome dates.

Before 2001, he excitedly pointed out in an interview yesterday, the most recent was in 1380, since days of the month never exceed 31. The next date comes next year: 11/02/2011.

This reminded me of the contest that Alex Beam (Globe columnist) ran during the 2008 Presidential election.  Beam asked readers to send it Palin-dromes.  And, this being Boston, many did.  Here are some excerpts from various columns.

Serial palindromist George Lovely chips in, “Woe! Dawns Sarah harassn’ Wade. Ow!” where Wade refers to Roe v. Wade, of course. Alison Merrill sent in a serious candidate for world’s longest Palin-drome: ” ‘Ah! I made veep.’ – S.P. Moody? Baby? Doom? P.S. Peeved am I, ha!” In contrast, brevity is the soul of Ira Richler’s wit: “Peeve: Babe veep.”Bob Treitman sent me ” ‘Hey, did I harass?’ Sarah: ‘I did, yeh.’ ” From Hastings, in the United Kingdom, Paul Barlow put down the podger long enough to send in eight, repeat eight, vice-presidential palindromes! On McCain’s vice-presidential announcement, he writes, “Avid dog delivers reviled god-diva.” On Palin’s election as Alaska’a governor, “Hara! She won snow eh? Sarah?”

The Sarah Palin-dromes are still pouring in, so I haven’t chosen a contest winner yet. (A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backward or forward, the classic example being “Madam, I’m Adam.”) Barry Duncan of Somerville, who has the word “palindromist” in his e-dress, sent in 11 Palin-dromes – “a reversible number,” as he points out. I certainly like, “Ha! Rash Sarah!” and “Media harass Sarah? Aid ’em!” Duncan invokes the palindromist’s motto – length isn’t everything – and then submits the astonishing: “Put up SP? Won’t I. Reviled to no. two? Veto VP, I. True! So Palin (a tundra-hard nut, a nil, a poseur) tip vote? Vow to not deliver it now. P.S. Put up!”Professor Stephen Morillo of Wabash College in Indiana co-authored a seemingly endless Palin-drome with Bob Binstock of Cambridge that rivals Duncan’s for length, but I can’t understand it. I get the beginning and the ending (“OK, now I rep U.S. . . . I’m super! I won! K.O.!”), but the middle seems opaque to me. Their shorter submission, which I do understand, has a major wire service passing judgment on McCain’s nominee: “Palin nil! – A.P.” Cindy Kumin sent me “P.S. Do go, ‘NO!’ on (O, God) S.P.” and John Cabot kicked in, “All I saw? Wasilla . . .” and “Party animal, am I? Nay, trap!”

As promised, I have chosen the winner of the Sarah Palin-drome contest. (A palindrome is a phrase that makes sense read forward and backward – e.g., “Madam, I’m Adam.”) Thanks to the music of the blogospheres, I received well over a hundred submissions from around the globe. Yet, much like those phony “nationwide” job searches, I found the winners close to home.

First runner-up: “Party boobytrap,” which is both brief and clever. Second runner-up: “Women veep’s peev’n ’em, ow,” from Northeastern University student Eric Greenberg. The winner of a used copy of “Huckleberry Finn” – a book that many have tried to ban from our nation’s libraries – George Lovely of Milton, for “Yo, sure hot, top spot to her? U.S. Oy!” Congratulations!

We end with an Obama palindrome – the only one that Beam published and probably the only one he got.

In a touching gesture of bipartisanship, Carl Saras, whose last name is a palindrome, offered up a piece of Latin erudition: “Obama amabo,” or “I will love Obama.”

I have a feeling that we will still be having fun with Sarah in 2010.

Some Reasons for Hope

Yesterday I was feeling a little discouraged about health care reform, but this morning there are a few things that make me believe that the Democrats , in particular, the progressives, are pushing back.

The first story that caught my eye in the New York Times this morning was about advertisers cancelling ads on the Glenn Beck Show on Fox News.

ABOUT a dozen companies have withdrawn their commercials from “Glenn Beck,” the Fox News Channel program, after Glenn Beck, the person, said late last month that President Obama was a racist with a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

The companies that have moved their ads elsewhere in recent days included ConAgra, Geico, Procter & Gamble and the insurance company Progressive. In a statement that echoed the comments of other companies, ConAgra said on Thursday that “we are firmly committed to diversity, and we would like to prevent the potential perception that advertising during this program was an endorsement of the viewpoints shared.”

The companies that have moved their ads elsewhere in recent days included ConAgra, Geico, Procter & Gamble and the insurance company Progressive. In a statement that echoed the comments of other companies, ConAgra said on Thursday that “we are firmly committed to diversity, and we would like to prevent the potential perception that advertising during this program was an endorsement of the viewpoints shared.”

The companies may still be advertising on Fox, but not on Glenn Beck’s shows.  A small victory. 

Then there is the still optimistic Eugene Robinson reminding us this morning what thing would have been like if Obama had lost.

We’re told the economy is on the mend, but we still see six-figure job losses every month. The health-care debate has become so polarized that even if it ends in breakthrough legislation, chances are that opponents will still be irate and supporters more exhausted than overjoyed. The deficit is gargantuan, bipartisanship is nonexistent, the prison at Guantanamo is still open, and the war in Afghanistan looks like a potential quagmire. The summer has become a bummer.

But anyone sliding into a slough of despond should keep things in perspective. Almost every day, there’s some reminder of how far we’ve come since President Obama’s inauguration — and how much worse things could be.

On Thursday, there were two such aide-mémoires. The first was a report in The Post that Dick Cheney, in his upcoming book, plans to detail his behind-closed-doors clashes with George W. Bush. The story, by Post reporter Barton Gellman — whose book “Angler” is the definitive account of how Cheney, as vice president, basically tried to rule the world — quotes a source as saying that Cheney believes Bush went all soft on him during the second term.

That was when Bush ordered a halt to the waterboarding of terrorism suspects, closed the secret overseas CIA prisons, made diplomatic overtures to hostile states such as North Korea and Iran, and generally started to behave in ways that Cheney apparently deemed entirely too reasonable.

Othere recent revelations (not by Mr. Cheney) include his wanting a pardon for Scooter Libby (and not getting it) and his campaign to build secret prisons.  If this is true, more places than the Brattleboro, Vermont need to be indicting Dick Cheney for war crimes.  And does this mean that Cheney was no longer President during the second W term? 

Robinson continues

I know that I’m not alone in wishing that Obama were moving more quickly to erase the stain that the Bush-Cheney excesses left on our national honor. I wish Guantanamo were already closed — but Obama did set a date certain for shutting the place down and pledges to follow through. I’m troubled that he hasn’t flatly rejected the concept of indefinite detention — but he at least recognizes that some kind of due process needs to be involved.

I’m most troubled by Obama’s resistance to a full-bore investigation of the Bush-Cheney transgressions. I can only hope that the president sees the error of his ways — or at least that the probe of CIA interrogation abuses that Attorney General Eric Holder might launch is allowed to follow the evidentiary trail to whatever crimes it may reveal.

We are then reminded that Sarah Palin could have replaced Dick Cheney as Vice President.

But witness Sarah Palin’s weird near-daily eruptions — about imaginary death panels and the like — and reflect on what the summer would have been like if she were serving as vice president of the United States.I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling much better about everything.

I’m seeing some signs of hope too, Gene.  I never believed that the election of Barack Obama was a magic bullet that was going to instantaeously cure all our ills, but it sure does make a difference in lots of intangible ways.  The biggest being the need to confront our continued racism.

Sign of Al

Is this press overkill or what?    This picture is from the New York Times Caucus blog.

 

A maintenance worker hung a name plate outside the new office of Al Franken on Monday in Washington.

Mark Leibovich blogs

The big fuss awaiting Al Franken on his first day on Capitol Hill was underscored by the 30-or-so reporters and photographers who gathered on the third floor of the Hart Office Building to watch a maintenance guy hang a silver- and brass-rimmed “Al Franken, Minnesota” plaque outside the incoming Democratic senator’s new office (and Norm Coleman’s old office).

Then, at precisely 10:30 a.m., the momentarily-famous maintenance guy — later identified as James Pogue, of the superintendent’s office — pulled up on a motorized wheelchair and slapped the pristine plaque on the designated space while cameras clicked. He ignored a shouted question (”What’s your name, sir?”) and carted off into the fluorescent-tinted sunlight.

Only I think it was one of those scooters that people use to get around, not a wheelchair.

Where is Al?

Have you forgotten aobut the Minnesota Senate election?  I admit that I can go days without remembering that it is still not decided. 

A guy named Al Franken, a Democrat, is still leading Norman Coleman, a Republican and the incumbant, and they are still counting ballots under the direction of the Minnesota Supreme Court.  The Court has ruled that Franken cannot be seated until all the ballots have been counted.  They have also refused to issue, or allow to be issued, a certificate of election saying that the U.S. Senate has the authority to seat a senator should they choose to do so.  Of course, the Democrats have already screwed themselves because they insisted on a certificate from the Secretary of State of Illinois before they would seat Roland Burris.  So Harry Reid can’t now decide to seat Al.

As I understand it, there are now about 1500 absentee ballots that are being examined to see if they can be counted.  They are looking at things like is a registration form included (Minnesota has same day registratiion), are the forms completed correctly and are the ballots marked property.  So far, there are 89 such ballots that will be examined further before being counted.

Eric Kleefeld is blogging about the Minnesota Election on TPM daily.  His most recent entry

In order to win, Coleman needs to expand the universe of countable ballots. But this expansion was much smaller than some expected, out of the 1,500 ballots that were searched. At his post-court press conference, Coleman legal spokesman Ginsberg boasted that the search “found between 100 and 150 that were wrongly rejected and should be put in. so that gives you an increasing idea that the universe of ballots with which we’re dealing continues to fluctuate.”

What Ginsberg is relying on is the addition of 72 more envelopes that had incomplete registration cards, and are unlikely to be included under the court’s strict standards for letting in new ballots — a point that the Coleman camp seems sure to appeal.

Two-thirds of the 89 came from pro-Coleman counties, but the sample of votes is by itself too small to provide much of a swing for him — and that’s assuming they do break for Coleman. It’s also likely that some of these envelopes will have other flaws with them, thus shrinking the pool even further.

I should also point out that even if Coleman gets all 89 votes which is not likely as some will be found to be flawed and some votes for Franken, he still cannot overcome the Franken lead of around 225 votes.

So eventually, it seems, the Senate Democrats will get their 59th vote.  And the drama of Minnesota will finally be over.  This saga could only happen to someone who used to be on Saturday Night Live.

President Barack Obama

It still sounds very strange.  President Obama.  I started writing this yesterday, the day after the election, but couldn’t really find the words.

I was sixteen when I sat with my feet in the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial listening to the speeches.  I’ve said before that I remember John Lewis a lot more clearly than I remember Martin Luther King, Jr.  Maybe that’s because Rep. Lewis was the young guy of the all the speakers, the one closest to my age and someone I identified with.  The other night when he was being interviewed on MSNBC was when I began to lose it. 

I also thought about the night Douglas Wilder was elected Governor of Virginia.  My family has known him for many years and I still remember him cruising around Richmond in his powder blue Mercedes convertible. I worked hard for his election and felt a similar anxiety until all the votes had been counted.  And now Virginia has, as I’ve been predicting, gone blue.

Eugene Robinson  said it this way in the Washington Post this morning:

Yet something changed on Tuesday when Americans — white, black, Latino, Asian — entrusted a black man with the power and responsibility of the presidency. I always meant it when I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I always meant it when I sang the national anthem at ball games and shot off fireworks on the Fourth of July. But now there’s more meaning in my expressions of patriotism, because there’s more meaning in the stirring ideals that the pledge and the anthem and the fireworks represent.

For me, the emotion of this moment has less to do with Obama than with the nation. Now I know how some people must have felt when they heard Ronald Reagan say “it’s morning again in America.” The new sunshine feels warm on my face.

Voting for Obama

Bob and I got up this morning and left the house earlier than we usually do.  There was a line at the voting place.  It was like a gathering of neighbors, 99% of whom were voting for Obama.  It was really a thrill.  I haven’t stood in a line like that to vote since the first Clinton election when my Republican precinct in Richmond went Democratic.

…In my gut, I know there’s a chance that the first African American to make a serious run for the presidency will lose. But that is precisely what’s new and, in a sense, unsettling: I’m talking about possibility, not inevitability.

For African Americans, at least those of us old enough to have lived through the civil rights movement, this is nothing short of mind-blowing. It’s disorienting, and it makes me see this nation in a different light.

I’m with Eugene Robinson (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/03/AR2008110302660.html?hpid=opinionsbox1)