Free Forum Friday March 18 Edition

The Untied Nations voted to enact a no-fly zone in Libya

Yet another tumultuous week. Radiation scares in Japan, leading to significant market sell-offs. Gadhafi appears ready to finish off the revolt in his country, just in time for a UN vote on a no-fly zone. Meanwhile, in Yemen and Bahrain, the battles between populist uprisings and the established government continue. And back in the US, the budget battle is quietly heading toward its climax.

But today is Friday, so the floor is open to you, our esteemed guests. What would you like to talk about?

Free Forum Fridays are an open discussion where commenters are invited to bring up topics that may not have been covered in the previous week. Got something on your mind? Throw your opinion out there.


About Michael Weiss

Michael is now located at http://www.logarchism.com, along with Monotreme, filistro, and dcpetterson. Please make note of the new location.
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106 Responses to Free Forum Friday March 18 Edition

  1. mclever says:

    On a previous thread, we discussed whether or not someone could decline to do business with another person for religious reasons. (In that case, we were talking about pharmacists declining to fill prescriptions.) I had assumed this question was restricted to communities south of the 45th parallel.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2011/03/16/nb-riverview-florist-1009.html

    The New Brunswick florist canceled the order for wedding arrangements after she realized the intended couple was gay, citing her religious objection to homosexuality as the reason. (Note that gay marriage has been legal in this province since June 2005, and nationwide in Canada since July 2005.) To their credit, the New Brunswick Human Rights Act already makes it explicitly illegal to refuse customers based on race, religion or sexual orientation.

  2. mclever says:

    Considering the prior discussion of the reasons for the recent rapid rise of oil prices, I would be interested in Mule Rider’s take on this column from the Daily Beast:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-03-17/high-oil-prices-are-wall-streets-fault/

    From the article:

    So civil unrest can’t explain the price increases today. Neither can supply and demand. U.S. gasoline supplies are at an 18-year high. OPEC says worldwide demand is low. So what’s causing the $100-plus price of oil? Two words: Wall Street.

    The article explains that ~70% of oil contracts are held by speculators who are gambling on a long term rise in prices. The Dodd-Frank bill passed through Congress last year to try to limit speculative activity in the markets. The enforcement of this bill is currently under debate by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

  3. filistro says:

    @Mac… Canada is, generally speaking, an uncomfortable place for bigots :-)

    Meanwhile, Libya announces a ceasefire “to protect civilians” just hours after Ghadaffi threatened to “fight to the death” and make “blood flow in the streets of those who would oppose their country.”

    “If the world is crazy, we will be crazy too,” he promised, charming as always.

    So what’s happening in Libya? Personally, I think somebody is speaking sternly to Ghadaffi (perhaps while he is confined in a padded room with restraints).

    Incidentally, I’ve never seen an issue that so divides the Freepers as Libya does. Half of them think Obama is a weenie for not going in with ground troops to help the rebels. Another half thinks those filthy Muzzies are not our problem and should be left alone to kill each other, and Obama is a weenie for treating them with respect for human life (since they are not human.) And a third half want to drop a nuke and “turn the desert to glass” (one of their very favorite phrases) but weenie Obama will never do this because he’s a Muslim too.

  4. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    So, fili, are you telling us that “Obama” is Swahili for “frankfurter”?

  5. filistro says:

    It looks to me (as I study the globe here on my desk) that Japan is about the size of Kentucky and Alabama combined (with maybe a bit of Tennessee thrown in.) And it has 129 million people crowded into that little space. And it’s an island. And half of it is destroyed. And it has six nuclear reactors in various stages of meltdown.

    How hard would it be to evacuate Japan?

  6. filistro says:

    @Max… So, fili, are you telling us that “Obama” is Swahili for “frankfurter”?

    Since I speak fluent Freeper, I can tell you with some confidence that “Obama” is Swahili for a word that no lady would ever say aloud ;-)

  7. mclever says:

    @filistro

    I thought the reference to Canada might catch your attention! ;-)

    With regard to Libya, I can empathize with those Freepers, because I think I’m of at least three minds about it myself. At least they all agree that Obama is a Muslim weenie, so they’ve got that going for them…

    I’m anxious about the UN decision to enforce a no-fly zone, but I also think the situation in Libya has become severe enough that it merits outside intervention, for containment if nothing else. If Gadhafi is killing his citizens at the rate implied in the news, the rest of the world can’t just sit back and watch it become another Rwanda. It looks like those in charge are being smart about it and involving the air forces of the neighboring countries rather than just going in USA-lone-ranger style.

    The whole situation just makes me sick, because I don’t see any easy ways out of it. All of the hard ways involve bloodshed and violence. I always feel like there should be some other way, but sometimes there just isn’t.

  8. GROG says:

    Shortchain made this comment yesterday in the “How Did It Come To This?” thread:

    So one of the factors that is driving the divisiveness is the increasing imbalance in wealth.

    This is a common claim among the left. Historical data does not to back up the claim that there is an increasing imbalance of wealth.

    Share of wealth held by the Bottom 99% and Top 1% in the United States, 1922-2007

    Bottom 99 percent Top 1 percent
    1922 63.3% 36.7%
    1929 55.8% 44.2%
    1933 66.7% 33.3%
    1939 63.6% 36.4%
    1945 70.2% 29.8%
    1949 72.9% 27.1%
    1953 68.8% 31.2%
    1962 68.2% 31.8%
    1965 65.6% 34.4%
    1969 68.9% 31.1%
    1972 70.9% 29.1%
    1976 80.1% 19.9%
    1979 79.5% 20.5%
    1981 75.2% 24.8%
    1983 69.1% 30.9%
    1986 68.1% 31.9%
    1989 64.3% 35.7%
    1992 62.8% 37.2%
    1995 61.5% 38.5%
    1998 61.9% 38.1%
    2001 66.6% 33.4%
    2004 65.7% 34.3%
    2007 65.4% 34.6%

    Notice the year with the highest concentration of wealth among the top 1% is 1995, the heart of the Clinton years.

    The nation with the highest concentration of wealth in the top 10% among industrialized democracies? Socialist Switzerland.

  9. filistro says:

    Speaking of Freepers, they are completely bent out of shape this morning over Rob Bell’s interview with Martin Bashir in which he argues against the existence of a literal heaven and hell.

    The idea that anybody prominent in the church would deny the most cherished tenet and promise of their faith… the fact that their enemies are going to burn in hell for eternity… is apparently just too much for the faitful to bear.

    Without the concept of a “loving God” casting his disobedient children into a fiery torture chamber to writhe in agony forever… well, life just doesn’t seem worth living, somehow.

  10. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Let unnoticed is what is going on in Bahrain, where they are getting assistance from the Saudis to overrun protesters.

    I’ve only heard one protest from the US State dept.

  11. mclever says:

    @filistro

    Don’t let the flat representation of spherical bodies distort your perspective. Japan is bigger than it looks on most maps. It’s somewhere between the size of Montana and California. (Japan is about ~150k sq miles, compared to California’s ~155k sq miles and Montana’s ~145k sq miles.) Kentucky + Alabama would only be about 90k sq miles. To get to the size of Japan, you’d have also include all of Tennessee plus a couple of NE states, such as Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, or New Jersey.

    My numbers of square miles might be off by a smidge since I’m going from memory, but I distinctly remember my geography teacher in school drawing the comparison between Japan and California, because most maps of the globe make it look like it’s the size of Hawaii instead.

    With that minor clarification, your larger point still is quite salient. With 129 million people on an island nation, even an island the size of California, evacuation is not a simple prospect to consider.

  12. filistro says:

    And finally (because I haven’t even had my COFFEE yet!) speaking of writhing in agony…. poor poor John Boehner.

    Remember when the wingers were all crowing over the election results last fall, and we warned that it was going to be a rocky road when this fractured and fractious party started trying to run the House? And that by embracing the Tea Party, they’d taken a viper to their bosom?

    Poor, poor John Boehner.

    Cleopatra had nothing on this guy ;-)

  13. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    I also notices that gds’ Jefferson quote is a non-existent one. “Democracy will cease to exist . . .”

    See the TJ folks on that one:

    http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/democracy-will-cease-to-exist-quotation

    Shame how, when there’s a crack in one mirror in the Hall, the information gets so garbled after bouncing around.

  14. mclever says:

    Ah, filistro, your sympathy for Mr. Boehner knows no bounds!

    I am amazed how the Tea Party author of the link you posted cites things like NPR and Planned Parenthood as budget cuts that would have made a significant difference. The only sizable cut they mention is defunding “Obamacare” for $105B, which would be counterproductive.

    It’s difficult to reason with people who accept as a basic fact that Obama isn’t serious about spending cuts because “he wants to crash the economy.”

  15. filistro says:

    I just realized that anti-Boehner Tea Party guy whose blog I linked to is suddenly going to get four hundred hits from us and think.. I’m FAMOUS!!! I’ve gone MAINSTREAM!!!

    LOL…

  16. shortchain says:

    GROG,

    It’s truly an odd thing, but for some reason your results cut off at 2007, just before the economy tanked, largely cutting the rug out from under the middle class (and pulling the floorboards out from under the people in the “working poor”).

    Is there any reason to believe that the figures today do not represent a more uneven distribution of wealth than in 2007 — or 1993?

    Anyone tempted to trust your numbers would be well-advised to go to the source (thanks, BTW, for providing it), as the definition of wealth here is an artful one. For example, as a part of my “wealth” the home I live in is counted — and yet, oddly, I cannot sell my home today for anything like what it is worth, and, if I did, I would have nowhere to live.

    The author is honest about this, unlike GROG, who simply cherry-picks the data for one metric to support his straw-man argument. Just because there was a small uptick in the curve back in 1995, with the “wealth” of the bottom 99 percent of the population going up a few percent, that does not falsify the assertion that wealth, in general, has been more and more highly concentrated into the hands of the wealthy.

    I don’t recall anybody here making the argument that “the wealth of the nation, by every metric and in every percentile and every year, getting more concentrated into the top.” Of course, if you looked at the top .1 percent, the top 10 percent, the top 2 percent, and so on, you might see a completely different result in each of those questions — but that’s not the issue. It’s also not the issue that we aren’t first in wealth inequality behind Switzerland — way to present a meaningless factoid there. Do we really want to be the most unequal society on the face of the planet (or at least among the northern hemisphere nations)?

    Finally, while “wealth” may not be the most lopsided in history at the particular instant in time we happen to be at, it does appear to be getting more lopsided. This is simple, so stay with me: look at the “income” inequality. The income of this nation is overwhelmingly going to the top. Now, if you have a certain “wealth” distribution, but an “income” distribution which is lopsided in one direction (and getting worse every decade), then in the long run, that income inequality is going to make the wealth distribution even more lopsided.

    This is trivial calculus.

  17. mclever says:

    @filistro

    LOL! Totally viral!

    I have a very difficult time taking seriously anyone who has a tag for “LIBTARD LIES” on their blog post…

  18. filistro says:

    Libya must have been really shaken by the UN resolution. They just announced they’re going to release the 4 kidnapped NYT journalists…

    I honestly didn’t think Ghadaffi was smart enough to be scared. I thought he was probably just going to channel Charlie Sheen right to the end.

    Which reminds me… Independent voters choose Charlie Sheen over Sarah Palin by 5 points.

  19. Mr. Universe says:

    @filistro

    You really should consider writing a book as the Mary Leakey or Jane Goodall of Freeper behaviour.

  20. filistro says:

    Nate Silver applies his analytical genius to beating the salad bar.

  21. mclever says:

    Worth noting:

    http://www.npr.org/2011/03/17/134604533/army-revising-purple-heart-rules-for-soldiers

    The army is revising/clarifying its rules for purple hearts to ensure that soldiers with concussions due to explosions are recognized. The Army’s official list of wounds that qualify already included concussions, but many senior officers didn’t consider those injuries to be “serious enough” for a purple heart. Soldiers who’d lost consciousness and suffered lingering cognitive impairment were being denied Purple Hearts because of the bias against invisible injuries. The new guidelines provide a checklist to make it clear that if the soldier suffers a concussion that requires medical treatment (including short bed-rest or OTC pain killers), then that qualifies.

    General Chiarelli said, “It is very important if we’re going to get at this stigma issue. [The Purple Heart] shows to everyone that these hidden injuries are truly injuries that affect folks.”

    Perhaps I should also note that this review and revision occurred because of an NPR investigative report that found soldiers who suffered cognitive impairments were denied Purple Hearts by their commanders. And Congress wants to defund NPR?

    (Copied from the excellent thread on brain injuries, because I think this issue is important and those injured soldiers deserve recognition.)

  22. dcpetterson says:

    I don’t have much time this morning … but in passing … Rachel Maddow made a great point last night. The Republicans have handed the Democrats a gift for 2012. They’ve fired up the Democratic base in a way we haven’t seen in decades. And I’m not talking about the loony far-far-far left (equivalent to the Teaper base that is today’s Republican Party).

    No. I’m talking about the working people of America.

    Republicans are trying to gut worker protections in the workplace. They’re trying to repeal the Federal minimum wage (!). They’re destroying unions. They’re out to kill Big Bird.

    In 2006 in Missouri of all places, there was a measure on the ballot to increase the minimum wage. It passed, 74% to 26%. It was a great factor in bringing to the polls the people who elected Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill who unseated the Republican incumbent. Today, the Republicans in Missouri are trying to roll back that minimum wage. Get ready for a backlash against Republican overreach.

    That scenario is playing out all over America. The Republicans are throwing themselves into a frenzy of ideologically-based gutting of worker rights and worker protections, which is going to bring people to the polls who don’t want those mean-spirited anti-middle-class rollbacks. When the issues revolve around protecting the workers, Democrats win. Watch for 2012 to be a LOT different from 2010.

    (By the way — I was saying this back in the lead-up to the 2010 elections — the right wing was crowing about the “tsunami of epic proportions” that was about to descend upon us. I tried to suggest that might not be the best or most positive image; a “tsunami” is not a good thing. Recent events seem to bear me out on that…)

  23. Monotreme says:

    Thanks for that, mclever. I was going to work up an article on closed head injuries sometime soon, using that report as a springboard.

    Maybe I will write up something for next week.

  24. Mr. Universe says:

    Man, what is up with Nate? I mean there’s plenty of March Madness going on other than Basketball (disclaimer: which I care nothing about), but salad bar? Plus Nate does not factor into the equation the price of the labour for prepping and maintaining the salad bar.

  25. mclever says:

    @dcpetterson

    Time will tell if Rachel is right or if the energy on the left burns out prematurely. I’m hopeful but not overly expectant yet, because I don’t have high expectations of the electorate’s attention span.

  26. filistro says:

    This is a HUGE news day! (Good thing it’s also FFF, or I would be going nuts :-))

    Apropos mac’s opening post, just look at this… newly-released ABC-WaPo poll says a majority of Americans now support gay marriage.>

  27. mclever says:

    @Mr. Universe,

    As a consumer, I really don’t care about the costs of prep and maintenance, I just want to get the best lunch for my money. If the spinach is $8.99/lb on the produce shelves and $7.99/lb at the salad bar, then that’s an even better deal if I account for prep time! Paying attention to not overload on “cheap” vegetables and instead to grab the mushrooms, cran-raisins, almonds, and bacon bits… Putting oil/vinegar and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan instead of ranch dressing… Things like that can knock $2-$3 off the price of your salad while increasing the value per dollar spent, and that’s what Nate was saying.

    If you really pay attention to what you put on your salad, you can even come away from a salad bar paying less than you would have trying to assemble the ingredients from the produce shelves. I tend to spoil that by adding a bit of carrot or a couple of tomatoes, but the convenience is worth sacrificing a little bit of cost on my otherwise pennywise salad.

  28. GROG says:

    @Mr. U: You’re doing nothing but lobbing lie bombs in here to stir up crap. You’re beginning to remind me of those who wish to disrupt town hall meetings rather than contribute something meaningful. Stop it.

    Firstly, I was referring to shortchain’s comment which regarded wealth, not income.

    Secondly, is this not Free Forum Friday? I thought this was an appropriate time to discuss the topic.

    Thirdly, where’s the “lie bomb”? I was quoting information directly from the source I provided. If you dispute the information from the site, then say why.

    Like I said the other day, it’s becoming clear I’m wasting my time and your time on here.

  29. Mule Rider says:

    “I would be interested in Mule Rider’s take on this column from the Daily Beast”

    Sorry to be so cavalier, but that column is an ignorant fluff piece by a know-nothing with little-to-no connection to the Real World.

    He’s basically using the fact that speculators are holding a lot of long contracts and some off-handed statements by OPEC about “worldwide demand being low” as the basis of his assertions, which are weak at best.

    He fails to mention that speculators were all over the market when it crashed to $30/bbl a couple of years ago nor does he go to any length to use supporting evidence to actually quantify demand (because he knows he can’t) to back up this heresay from OPEC – the world’s largest oil cartel – who has every reason to deflect the blame of high prices away from themselves and onto an arbitrary scapegoat such as “Wall Street.”

    Go ahead and eliminate the futures market entirely and completely break the connection between speculators and oil prices, and I can guarantee you’ll still wind up paying a price you don’t like and one likely very similar to what we’re paying now.

    I get sick of know-nothing morons at an outfit like the Daily Beast putting out opinion pieces like that as fact. It’s one thing when people do it in an off-handed way on a blog such as this one in a private/casual discussion, but that crap gets passed around like the Gospel to some people, and it’s patently false.

  30. mclever says:

    I’ll just say that I (for one) appreciated GROG’s post and the numbers that he included from his source. It shows that there’s more than one way to represent the information, which helps to explain why some people have such differing views of the actual income/wealth distribution in our country.

    I don’t think it was an intentional “lie bomb” but rather an attempt to engage on a particular point where people on different ends of the political spectrum are interpreting the data differently. If GROG’s interpretation is wrong, then show him so. (As the links posted by dcpetterson attempt to do.) Just because some fact seems obvious or straightforward to you doesn’t mean that others without your background will see it the same way.

    With very few exceptions, it seems to me that everyone who contributes here is sincerely interested in the exchange and not just blowing partisan, ideological smoke for the hell of it. I think we all benefit if we respect that in each other. I find it very helpful when smart people engage honestly with one another, because I find my own assumptions are challenged from time to time. And that’s a good thing.

  31. mclever says:

    @Mule

    I thought you might think something like that! :-)

    The author of the Daily Beast article obviously glossed over certain details and oversimplified things to make his point, but the piece provided a good example how reasonably intelligent people can honestly have different views on how the commodities markets work. (The markets, especially the futures markets, are complex and confounding even for experts.) Dodd isn’t a financial idiot, so if he sponsored a bill to address an issue in the futures markets, then the issue probably isn’t completely meritless.

    Personally, my *guess* is that the speculators exacerbate the swings, but they are not the primary drivers of the price fluctuations.

  32. filistro says:

    @mac.. I find it very helpful when smart people engage honestly with one another, because I find my own assumptions are challenged from time to time. And that’s a good thing.

    Mac, you are just an absolute peach. We’re SO lucky to have you here :-)

    As for GROG… he’s a solid family man and a smart, sincere and decent guy. I may often disagree with him but I always like him. And in all the time I’ve been reading his comments, I don’t think I’ve ever seen GROG call names or openly insult another commenter… which indicates a level of courtesy and self-control we should all aspire to (myself included…)

  33. filistro says:

    Well, this is just getting ridiculous.

    MORE breaking news!

    The Corner

    Subscribe to National Review and Save 49%!

    Breaking: Judge Halts Wisconsin Bargaining Law
    March 18, 2011 11:53 A.M.
    By Daniel Foster

    A judge in Wisconsin has issued a temporary halt to implemenation of the collective-bargaining bill recently signed by Gov. Scott Walker. The order seems to be related to the question of whether Republicans in the legislature violated the state’s open meetings law to get the bill to a vote more quickly. This leaves open the possibility that the Republicans could re-pass the bill using standard legislative procedures.

    E-mail Author | Archive

  34. GROG says:

    Thanks mclever.

    I think there’s some value in giving the other side of issues. But I just shake my head at some of the responses I get.

  35. dcpetterson says:

    @mclever
    Time will tell if Rachel is right or if the energy on the left burns out prematurely. I’m hopeful but not overly expectant yet, because I don’t have high expectations of the electorate’s attention span.

    You’re correct, of course. But if the Republican bills do actually go into effect, they’ll be hitting people right where they live just in time for next year’s campaigns.

    These aren’t distant, esoteric issues. They’re pocketbook and safety issues, questions about vacation time and hourly wages and sick leave and cost-of-living increases. We’ll start hearing stories about how someone was injured on the job and had no recourse. And we’ll have the unions reminding us about how the plutocrats are screwing the workers.

    True, the corporations and “US Chamber of Commerce” will have a lot more money to spend on their megaphone. But the workers have the ground game.

    I don’t think these bills will be forgotten. I really don’t. Of course, I’ve been wrong before — but that’s mostly been times when I thought I was mistaken about something :)

  36. mclever says:

    @dcpetterson

    If these Republican-sponsored bills do go through and have the impact we expect, then the public’s reaction will be largely dependent upon how people interpret the causes, which gets back messaging. Sadly, that is often contingent upon who has the biggest microphone. (Well, best amplifiers, but you know what I mean.) Of course, the new social media somewhat lessen the ability of a single voice to monopolize the message, too…

    I think it will be another interesting campaign season.

  37. dcpetterson says:

    @mclever
    I think it will be another interesting campaign season.

    A gift for understatement, you have.

  38. mclever says:

    @GROG

    And I’m sure the rest of us here just shake our heads sometimes at some of your posts, too. :-)

    That’s where it gets back to trust. If you say something that I find absurd, I don’t think you’re purposefully blowing smoke, so I treat your opinions as sincere even if I sometimes disagree vehemently with your conclusions.

  39. mclever says:

    I’m still digesting all of the numbers that filistro posted regarding the rising support for gay marriage in just the past few years.

    For the first time, a strict majority support gay marriage, and the shift is dramatic! In 2004, a scant 7 years ago, only 32% of registered voters supported gay marriage, and now the same survey shows support at 53%. Now, 44% remain opposed in comparison to 62% from 2004.

    Looking through the numbers, the only ones without double-digit increases in approval were conservatives, Republicans and 50-64 year-olds, and those groups all showed approval increases of 8 or 9 points. Broken down by age, most demographics showed a 10-15 point increase in support, but the biggest boost in support was among adults in their thirties at a whopping 23-point increase in support. Along the political spectrum, the biggest jump was among Moderates who increased their support from 42% to 63%, a 21-point increase. In 2004, anti-gay rhetoric may have won those independent/moderate swing voters. Now, the same rhetoric may have the opposite effect. That sort of swing in opinion in less than 10 years is stunning to me.

  40. dcpetterson says:

    @mclever

    I agree with what you said about the same-sex marriage numbers. Stunning.

    It seems to me (we’ll see if I’m right) that the Republicans will be running next year mostly on social issues. They won’t want to run on economic issues because a) they haven’t (and won’t) have a good effect on the economy, and b) they’re using “economic issues” today as a cover for a social agenda (cutting funds for Planned Parenthood, NPR, and Public Television, union-busting, more restrictions on abortion, etc.).

    I think the public is catching on that none of these are actually economic issues, because they don’t do a thing to create jobs or to bring down the deficit. The loudest forces in the Republican Party today are really all about the staples of Gays, Guns, and God — and tax cuts for the immensely wealthy — and I think that’s going to turn off the Indies, probably more than ever before. And, judging from polls like the one you’re looking at, it may actually turn off a bunch of Republican voters, too.

  41. filistro says:

    @mac… yet more demographic news to absorb today… just-released census data shows a HUGE increase in Hispanics. (Can anybody find a link? I saw this on MSNBC, can’t find anything but local data.)

    The commentator said analysts now believe that whoever wins 2 out of 3 of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico will win the presidency… and Harry Reid is a cautionary tale for the GOP, where Hispanics put him at 55% of the vote when nobody had expected him to break 50%.

    The problem for Republicans is that none of them can court Hispanics and win the primary… but without them, nobody can win the general.

    As one of my favorite Freepers is fond of saying.. “Hoist, meet petard.” ;-)

  42. DC,
    I sense that the union issue is polarizing, but not a uniform positive for Democrats or negative for Republicans. The other issues are more likely to increase support for Democrats in 2012, though, if played right.

  43. Mule,
    In fairness, there is a nugget of truth to the article, even if it’s buried in a lot of pointed accusations. Market speculation does tend to exaggerate the highs and lows. It’s “news” now because we’re in a high, and not really “news” when the market hits its lows…but that has more to do with selling digital newspapers than anything else.

    Today, given the paucity of excess capacity, I doubt that even a dissolution of OPEC would do much to lower upstream oil prices. It’s not 1979 anymore.

  44. mclever,

    Dodd isn’t a financial idiot, so if he sponsored a bill to address an issue in the futures markets, then the issue probably isn’t completely meritless.

    More to the point, Dodd isn’t a political idiot, so I wouldn’t put it past him to sponsor a bill with a scapegoat in it in order to garner support from constituents.

  45. filistro,
    Clearly, Ms. Coulter needs to immediately spend some time near the northeastern shores of Japan. It should immensely improve her health.

    Hmmm…so why isn’t she going?

  46. mclever,

    That sort of swing in opinion in less than 10 years is stunning to me.

    To me, too. I’m blown away by the speed of public opinion change on this one.

  47. mclever says:

    @Michael Weiss

    Dodd isn’t a political idiot

    Some might argue that point. ;-)

    But you’re right that one can never put it past a politician to pander…

  48. Mule Rider says:

    @mclever and Michael,

    Agreed. And there is good reason to have a measure of regulation on the speculative community and have fairly strict position limits that prevent the “on paper” commodity or resource being traded from far exceeding the actual world supply. You both nailed it when you said they aren’t the primary driver of high (or low) prices but can certainly exacerbate the swing.

    “Today, given the paucity of excess capacity, I doubt that even a dissolution of OPEC would do much to lower upstream oil prices.”

    Also agreed.

    “It’s not 1979 anymore.”

    Good thing too….because I really don’t want to go back to my mother’s womb or wear diapers again.

  49. Mule Rider says:

    “That sort of swing in opinion in less than 10 years is stunning to me.”

    I think it’s simply more adoption of the libertarian angle of not letting the government control too much about our personal lives rather than any heartfelt support for or endorsement of same-sex marriage. The end result may be the same – i.e. growing acceptance in our nation’s laws – but the means to the end may not be as rosy as some portray and I wouldn’t go around thinking that vast numbers of people are now suddently warm to and supportive of the LGBT community and what they do.

  50. mclever says:

    @Michael Weiss

    In fairness, there is a nugget of truth to the article, even if it’s buried in a lot of pointed accusations. Market speculation does tend to exaggerate the highs and lows. It’s “news” now because we’re in a high, and not really “news” when the market hits its lows…but that has more to do with selling digital newspapers than anything else.

    Once again, you and I have a similar interpretation… We both see the speculation as exaggerating the underlying trends.

  51. mclever says:

    @Mule Rider

    You are (of course) correct that tacit support for the legalization of gay marriage does not necessarily translate into open endorsement and embrasure of all things gay. I don’t think anyone here (except maybe the most ebulliently optimistic) would make that leap. Even if it’s just a libertarian-style recognition that the government shouldn’t be deciding who anyone can marry, the shift from majority outright disapproval to approval is quite dramatic in so short a timespan.

  52. Mule,

    Good thing too….because I really don’t want to go back to my mother’s womb

    That was one of those statements that makes me feel very old. Thanks. :-(

    or wear diapers again.

    Hey, that may still be in your future… :-P

  53. mclever says:

    Poor Michael.

    We younguns wouldn’t want to remind you old farts of your advanced age!

    Just teasing! I’m not *that* young, and I suspect you aren’t *that* old. It just feels like it sometimes here. My spouse is a couple of years younger and so are most of our friends, so I’m often the oldest person in the room in “real” life.

  54. dcpetterson says:

    Gad. So I’ve been married longer than Mule has been alive. He could be my kid.

    Hmmm… gotta wonder how much I got around back then….

  55. filistro says:

    It’s like old times again!

    “One of these things is not like the others,
    One of these things just isn’t the same…”

  56. Brian says:

    Damn, Muley’s statement makes me feel young. My parents weren’t even dating in 1979. Hell, my momma was still in college then.

  57. mclever says:

    @Brian

    I’m just so glad to find out I’m not the youngest one here. It certainly feels like it sometimes!

  58. Mule Rider says:

    “Hey, that may still be in your future…”

    Yeah, no kidding :)

    “Hmmm… gotta wonder how much I got around back then….”

    Egads! Daddy DC??? :)

  59. Monotreme says:

    @Brian:

    I’m the same age as yer momma. Graduated 1980.

    Time to go change my Depends.

  60. Mainer says:

    1979………..gawd…..I had been married 10 years by then to wife…….well one of them. Dang I’m hanging around with a bunch of wipper snappers. DC maybe we need to start an AARP chapter of 538.

  61. mclever says:

    @Monotreme

    My parents are a few years older than you (old enough to be subject to the 69/70 draft), but unlike many of their peers, they waited until they were in their thirties to start having kids…

  62. mclever says:

    Ya know, there’s such a perception out there that the Internet is some newfangled thing that “kids these days” are doing, but folks on here prove that age doesn’t limit Internet savvy or political acumen!
    :-)

  63. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    1979

    Married 8 years, two kids, one career, just about to embark on 2nd career with another degree.

    My how time flies when you’re having fun!

  64. DC maybe we need to start an AARP chapter of 538.

    I’m beginning to think that “538″ refers to the average age of the members of this community…

  65. filistro says:

    538 is (average age of posters) squared minus (average IQ X 8… )

    I thought everybody knew that…

  66. shortchain says:

    Average age 538? Hey, I’ve always been precocious (and obnoxious, as well as just plain noxious), but I’m not that precocious.

    As for me, I’m well into the second half-century in my grand plan: just keep getting older and meaner until they are forced to pay me to leave. Preferably on a starship. It’s generally acknowledged that I’ve mastered the part about getting meaner.

  67. dcpetterson says:

    Okay, okay, okay, if you want to know how stooopid FOX “News” is, take a look at this.

    Is there nothing more important to talk about?

  68. GROG says:

    DC said: Is there nothing more important to talk about?

    A couple things here.

    First, the story was in the Entertainment section of Foxnews.com. It wasn’t a front page story. So no, there are not many real important things to talk about in the Entertainment section of any website or newspaper.

    Second, I’m wondering why the “The Hollywood Reporter” story made it sound like the Fox News article was a recent story. It’s not.

    “FoxNews.com featured a piece Friday which took issue with the loss of Wonder Woman’s stars and stripes.”

    It wasn’t featured on Friday. It was featured on a Thursday…….in July of 2010.

  69. filistro says:

    GROG… the issue isn’t where or when the story appeared… it’s that FOX is worrying about the stars and stripes being removed from Wonder Woman’s outfit!

    It’s so deliciously typical of the things that Republicans are obsessed over. They got elected last fall on the promise of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and what are they concentrating on?…. all this paranoid, divisive, jingoistic, platitudinous crap. Defunding NPR and saving the prairies from the evils of Sharia law.

    Bill Maher had a funny riff on this very issue last night, summarized at TPM:

    “He rattled off a list of what he called the “useless distractions that make up the Republican Party agenda” – they included public unions, Sharia law, anchor babies, the “Ground Zero mosque,” NPR, and the “war on Christmas,” among others. So bad is this problem, Maher said, that trying to govern with Republicans “is like rooming with a meth addict” who, instead of rent, is worrying that police bugged the air conditioner.”

  70. GROG says:

    Take a look at Huffington Posts Entertainment section this morning and let me know what real important news stories you find there.

  71. shortchain says:

    GROG,

    So Fox is the equivalent of the Huffington Post? All righty, if you say so. I’ve always been under the impression that HuffPo was more “celebrity XXXX does YYYY — with pictures!”

    I only go to the HuffPo for Froomkin, so maybe my impression is skewed.

  72. GROG says:

    Fili,

    I don’t know that Republicans (you seem to be making a generalization about an entire group of people) are “obsessed” with Wonder Woman’s costume. It was a story in the Entertainment section almost a year ago.

    It’s the leftwing blogs who are digging up the issue now because the real costume was just revealed (which looks nothing like the black, red, and gold one in the artists rendering, btw).

  73. filistro says:

    GROG, sweetie, you just don’t get it.

    The issue is not Wonder woman’s costume. The costume is a SYMBOL of the kind of empty, dog-whistle crap the Republicans concentrate on to keep their base fired up by making them constantly feel under attack..

    Sharia Law, NPR, ACORN, Black Panthers, the “war on Christmas”, illegal immigrants, the “Ground Zero Mosque,”… all are presented as THREATS TO AMERICA.

    This is how they seek to motivate their voters… not by good, sensible, level-headed governance but by keeping them scared silly that ” America as we know it” is being washed down the tubes by evil lib’ruls and other scary scum.

    It used to work on an ignorant electorate. But nowadays, even Republicans are too smart to fall for it anymore. The GOP is gonna need a new schtick if it wants to gain any traction with a younger, hipper populace.

  74. shortchain says:

    filistro,

    It’s just the Republicans living up to their proper name: Grand Old Party.

  75. GROG says:

    fili,

    I get exactly what you mean and I’ll make one last comment on this before Mr. U comes on and tells me to “stop barking”.

    DC was taking a shot at Fox News calling them stooopid and asking if they have nothing more important to talk about then Wonder Woman. I simply pointed out that his link was intentionally untruthful and that the Fox News article was in their Entertainment section, not their news section.

    You then likened Fox’s Wonder Woman article to Republicans being obsessed with Sharia Law, NPR, ACORN, Black Panthers, the “war on Christmas”, illegal immigrants, the “Ground Zero Mosque,”…

    DC seemed to have an issue with Fox News and that’s what I was commenting on. I don’t know of any Republicans who are pushing legislation to stop the Wonder Woman costume.

  76. Mainer says:

    Come on Grog you are better than that. I suggest you gofind the fux news piece on this and then check out the comments. That bunch of slime net does nothing by chance. This is just one more excuse for the ignorant to get themselves all spun around the axel. Fux whistles and they bark. Get with the game damn it. That congress isn’t involved or that it was in the entertainment section is meaningless they did it for a reasonand it is working like a charm. Gin that base up and keep it ginned less they have time to stop and think if that is even still an option for them.

  77. filistro says:

    The Freepers have now unified around a single policy position on Libya. It is pretty much distilled in this post:

    To: Strategy

    Any U.S. citizen, civilian or military, who kills a Libyan, should be charged with first degree murder.

    17 posted on March 19, 2011 8:50:47 AM by [redacted]

    [ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

    And my question is… at what point do the irony levels become dangerous to my health?

  78. GROG says:

    Take a minute and read the Fox article. The author doesn’t give his opinion one way or the other on the matter. He seems to be very fair, offering vaious quotes from people on both sides, ending the article with a Lynda Carter quote saying “Get over it”, to those who have a problem with the costume.

    I just don’t see that the author had some conspiracy in mind where he thought “I’m going to write this article to motivate Republican voters by keeping them scared silly that ” America as we know it” is being washed down the tubes by evil lib’ruls and other scary scum.

    Okay, I’m done.

  79. dcpetterson says:

    Hey GROG, thanks for proving my point! Can’t let the Wonder Woman costume go, can ya? :) (Well, I think it’s pretty hot too…)

    Honestly, you coulda just shook your head and said to yourself, “There’s DC goin’ off on some dumb tangent again,” and just let my comment die, unnoticed. But no, you had to make a point about how much the Republicans and FOX are unfairly under attack, and how HuffPo does it too!!! and worse!!! (seriously, can conservatives defend themselves any way other than you too, meanie!)

    You coulda said, “DC, that’s dumb. Here, let’s talk about how we’re gonna get $1.7 trillion in cuts out of a discretionary non-defense budget of $400 billion” or maybe “Here’s my idea for creating jobs!” or maybe “We can solve the problem of importing oil by …..”

    But you had to comment on Wonder Woman, right? :)

  80. dcpetterson says:

    @filistro –

    You mean the Freepers have found a war they don’t like?

  81. GROG says:

    Good point, DC. But how could I not comment on Wonder Woman. I mean, come on.

  82. dcpetterson says:

    GROG, I hear ya. I couldn’t resist either. Wonder Woman rocks. Seriously.

  83. filistro says:

    @dc… You mean the Freepers have found a war they don’t like?

    I know. Mind-blowing, but.. there it is.

    Go figure, eh? ;-)

  84. filistro says:

    @GROG.. how could I not comment on Wonder Woman. I mean, come on.
    @DC.. I hear ya. Wonder Woman rocks. Seriously.

    Oh Jeez. (insert eyeroll…) We’ve found the ONE THING that can unite the right and the left!

    If Congress was just smart enough to hold the budget debate at Hooters, the whole issue would be resolved in no time.

  85. Mainer says:

    This has nothing to do with it being a good war or a bad war and you all know it. I have concerns with this whole Lybian thing as well and I’m sure most thinking people do but with the Freepers it is all about if Obama is for it then they are again it. Hells bells we could have landing craft hitting the beaches of California right now and if the president wished to declare war on the invaders they would be even more beside themselves. We have seen the creation of a monster in this country. A genie has been let out of the bottle and we shall not soon put it back in. Every town used to have a couple of malcontents that were a rectal migraine to every one and every thing but they were always a super minority and tollerated as just a part of our system. But today we have the internet and they have all seemed to find each other and our screwed up media and manipulative politicians have given the creedence. They are for the most part the same a’holes and malcontents they have always been but now with a megaphone. Oh for the days when they might get taken out back of the town hall, Grange hall or what ever during town meeting time, get the crap beaten out of them and the business of actually running some thing continue. I know I know free speech….well as my dad used to say. “Yup you had a right run your mouth and the other guy had a right to beat you up side the head for doing it.” Dad as a philosopher had his blunt moments.

  86. GROG says:

    I should have commented about how the world is falling apart around us with the Tsunami in Japan, nuclear power plants in danger of melting down, budget crisis, threats of Libyan genocide, conflict in Bahrain, US inflation on the rise, the possibility of $5 gas prices etc, and the President is playing golf, fundraising, taking a trip to Rio, and announcing trips to Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day.

    He’s showing no leadership on the budget and debt crisis, sat silent for weeks on Libya. There’s been terrorist attacks in Isreal, problems in Yemen, and Egypt, problems between Saudis and Iran, problems in Tunisia, and there’s been no leadership from the White House.

    And all the left wants to do is attack Republicans about silliness like the Wonder Woman costume.

    You’re right DC. I missed the boat with my first comment.

  87. filistro says:

    Mainer, you are my hero.

    (And “rectal migraine” is the official Phrase of the Week :-))

  88. filistro says:

    GROG… you’ve been peeking behind the curtain!

    He’s showing no leadership on the budget and debt crisis, sat silent for weeks on Libya. There’s been terrorist attacks in Isreal, problems in Yemen, and Egypt, problems between Saudis and Iran, problems in Tunisia, and there’s been no leadership from the White House.

    I have an article on that very topic (“Where’s Waldo?”) set to run in day or two. Stay tuned.

  89. dcpetterson says:

    @filistro
    If Congress was just smart enough to hold the budget debate at Hooters, the whole issue would be resolved in no time.

    You say that as if it’s a bad thing.

  90. dcpetterson says:

    GROG, yeah, see how easy it is to make a non sequitur argument if you put your mind to it? One of the many lessons to draw about the Wonder Woman costume thing is that, to many on the right, appearances are far more important than substance. So they made a thing out of how Wonder Woman’s costume has dropped all the “Americana” stuff, we are losing our patriotism! Oh no! rather than talk about actual issues.

    As a demonstration of that tendency, you advance an argument that we should be paying attention to various non-panicked activities of the President (which, of course, all presidents engage in) instead of the quiet behind-the-scenes work he spends most of his time doing.

    It’s on a par with Republican efforts to gut Planned Parenthood and NPR rather than actually tackle problems with the budget. The distractions about ACORN. Inventing reasons to make it harder to vote in the name of protecting us from the non-existent threat of voter fraud. And to defend themselves when it’s pointed out that conservatives ignore the real issues that face us, your argument is, “Well, Obama does that too! And worse!” Meanwhile, the Freepers are all up in arms that Obama does too much.

    I’m far more concerned with results than with optics. You say Obama “sat silent for weeks on Libya”? Nonsense. He got the whole world behind a UN resolution to take action. Sometimes you can’t get a thing done in the fifteen minutes between commercial breaks. Did you expect him to unilaterally open a third war like Cowboy George? Come on.

  91. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    (A) I love these people who keep talking about how the President shows no leadership on the budget. Their ignorance of the Constitution is underwhelming:

    “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives. . . ” and ” Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States”. Art. I, Sec 7. This gives the President only the power to veto appropriations bills.

    A full review of Article II, The Executive, of the Constitution DOES NOT address or designate ANY power to the Executive for originating Appropriations.

    For those who like to expound on literal interpretation of the Constitution there is a lesson: The Congress is the branch responsible for proposing and passing Bills for Appropriations. The President is responsible for the approval thereof. BOTH have equal responsibility for the annual budget, but the Congress, and the House specifically, is responsible for the ORIGINATION of said budget.

    If any can demonstrate a fallacy in this observation, I welcome the Constitutional correction.

    (B) Perhaps fili shall address the matter of the President’s “lack of leadership”, so we’ll save arguments for then. But let me say, the same comment was whined a few weeks ago concerning Egypt. Guess that one turned out pretty good when all was said and done. The same one’s seeming to whine the loudest are those same one’s crying about overreach the rest of the time.

  92. filistro says:

    How DO you spell the guy’s name? Apparently, however you want.

    Trust a Mainer to get down to the nitty-gritty on this important question.

    “ABC News — which spells it “Moammar Gaddaf” — has reportedly posted a list of 112 variations on the English spelling of the Libyan strongman’s name.”

    112. Wow.

  93. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    @ fili:
    “How DO you spell the guy’s name?

    Reminds me of the story here in Texas on how to pronounce Refugio.

    Two guys were debating. One saying: “Re-fu-gio. One saying Re-fu-rio. So they decide to settle it by driving there, stopping at the first place they came to in town and asking a native.

    So they do. It happens to be a restaurant so they ask the waitress, “Please, very slowly tell us how do you pronounce the name of where we’re at? So she says:

    Day

    ry

    Queen!

  94. Number Seven says:

    Concerning Libya.

    First, I think it was a bad move but am happy to see our allies taking the first steps there. France shot down a Libyan plane over Benghazi.

    Maybe we can get lucky and pull off another Bosnia. Minus the genocide, of course. If so, then I would have to submit that Democratic presidents are better at waging wars. That is to say, win it, don’t try to profit off of it.

  95. GROG says:

    @Max: I love these people who keep talking about how the President shows no leadership on the budget. Their ignorance of the Constitution is underwhelming:

    Dictionary.com defines leadership as:

    1. a person or thing that leads.
    2. a guiding or directing head

    Where again in the constitution does it say the President shall not be a leader in regards to the budget?

  96. dcpetterson says:

    Gotta love the double-think.

    I hear often from conservatives that the Reagan deficit was not Reagan’s fault, because Congress passes the budget, not the President. Same with the Clinton surplus — that was Newt Gringrich’s doing, because Congress passes the budget, not the President. I’m not sure why the Republican Congress was not to blame for the Bush 2 budgets — but somehow I think that was Clinton’s fault.

    But Obama is to blame for the current state of the economy — even though it was created by the Bush economic crash. And in the current budget, it is Obama’s fault because he’s not showing “leadership.” Gotta love it.

  97. Jean says:

    Gadaffi is floating the “we’re only fighting Al Qaeda” defense of his actions, that same justification of brutal treatment of their own citizens which appears to have helped keep dictators in the middle-east in power for years. Al-Jazeera posted text of the speeches that Gaddafi’s spokesman read out:

    The first letter to brother leader to Barack Obama:

    “To our son, his excellency, Mr Barack Hussein Obama. I have said to you before, that even if Libya and the United States of America enter into a war, god forbid, you will always remain a son. Your picture will not be changed. I want you to remain in the same image. I have all the people of Libya with me, and I’m prepared to die and we have all the men, children and women with me. Nothing more. Al Qaeda is an armed organisation, passing through Algeria, Mauritania and Mali. What would you do if you found them controlling American cities with the power of weapons? What would you do, so I can follow your example.”

    Letter to Ban Ki Moon, Sarkozy and Cameron:

    “Libya is not yours, Libya is for the Libyans. The security council, their resolution is void because it is not according to the charter to interfere with the internal affairs of the country. … You have no right. ou will regret if you get involved in this, our country. We can never shoot a single bullet on our people, it is Al Qaeda organisation.”

  98. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    deflection, avoiding the question

    Dictionary.com defines:

    con·sti·tu·tion·al   
    [kon-sti-too-shuh-nl, -tyoo-]
    –adjective
    1. of or pertaining to the constitution of a state, organization, etc.
    2. subject to the provisions of such a constitution: a constitutional monarchy.
    3. provided by, in accordance with, or not prohibited by, such a constitution: the constitutional powers of the president; a constitutional law.

    Excellent point, Jean. The budget that is submitted by a President is irrelevant by the Constitution. The GOPers have told us this about the Reagan budgets; that it was the one passed by Congress that mattered. But they forget the second half of the equation, that the President must sign the budget into law. No signature, no budget.

    Same is true for the Clinton years.

    Neither side can claim innocence or blame.

  99. GROG says:

    @DC,
    No one is saying Obama needs to set and personally pass the budget. He just needs to act like a leader in getting something passed.

    Here’s an interesting article on HuffPo today:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-shapiro/obama-japan-response_b_837823.html

    “Domestically, the United States faces a budget crisis. Our government may be shut down because of a lack of agreement on how much and what to cut in the budget. President Obama wisely saw it coming and created a bipartisan deficit commission, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission nobly produced strong recommendations supported by most of its members. But from the State of the Union address and beyond, President Obama has dropped the ball. Not only has he ignored the commission proposals, but also, as many Democrats in Congress complain, he has been absent in any meaningful ways from congressional budget talks.”

    This is what a lack of leadership is.

    “The President needs to play a much greater role in these negotiations,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told TPM. “The President doesn’t want to engage in this fight because it’s really, really hard, because we’re up against a government shutdown and we can’t keep funding the government with these stop-gap measures.”

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/03/senior-democratic-senators-to-obama-please-engage-in-budget-talks.php

    There is nothing in the constitution that prevents the POTUS from being engaged in the budget debate.

  100. Monotreme says:

    GROG,

    It seems like a lose-lose for him. If he takes too active a role in pushing a budget, he’ll get the blame for the impending government shutdown.

    If a shutdown occurs, and he mediates a resolution, then he looks like the only adult in the room.

    If the Congressional Democrats and Republicans actually come to some sort of agreement to make a budget and avoid a shutdown, then he avoids getting any of the dirt on himself.

    His “leadership” on the health care issue only got the enabling legislation branded with his name. Why should he repeat that experience?

  101. filistro says:

    @Treme… Why should he repeat that experience?

    Because Boehner and the Teapers have painted themselves into opposing corners and they desperately need somebody to bail them out while taking the blame for the big mess they’ve made.

    And they want it to be Obama, because if he continues to sail along above the fray and let them dig the hole deeper and deeper… how will they ever beat him?

  102. dcpetterson says:

    GROG,

    I’m not obligated to agree with Gary Shapiro. I think he’s wrong.

    Personally, I think the proper thing would be to push a big jobs bill, invest in massive public works — but that’s not gonna happen. Since Congress isn’t going to enact the spending we need, I’m perfectly happy to let them take the blame for their useless and counterproductive orgy of eliminating jobs. I think Obama is smart to stay out of it.

    When Obama struck a deal on extending the Bush tax cuts last December, he was roundly criticized for stepping in. Now he’s being criticized for allowing Congress to do its Constitutional duty. The anti-Obama voices are going to make noise no matter what, and the Democrats have seldom been united on much of anything. Obama has enough on his plate already with the scale of international issues going on right now. He doesn’t need to get into the mud of Congressional business.

  103. dcpetterson says:

    Wonderful article on HuffPo by Dylan Ratigan on how screwed up the priorities of the Tea Party are.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dylan-ratigan/rescue-choppers-or-corpor_b_835496.html

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