Friday, July 29, 2011

Debt notes

The Washington Post, certainly no more of an unbiased source than most media outlets, published these notes on how the United States government debt was accumulated.

*Projected federal government surplus in 2001 $2 trillion.

*Projected federal government debt in 2011 $10 trillion.

*50% of this swing is caused by tax revenue decreases (tax cuts) of $6.3 trillion.

*Federal tax collection is at its lowest level as a percentage of the economy in 60 years.

*The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have added $1.3 trillion in new debt.

*Obama's economic stimulus package added $719 billion in new debt.

*The TARP bailout program added only $16 billion in new debt.

*Overall King George the II and his follies added over $7 trillion to the government's debt.

*Obama has added $1.7 trillion to the government's debt.

They didn't note, but we read elsewhere, the debt ceiling was raised by Congress seven times during the eight year reign of Bush II.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Found him

Got their man...

Life as a fugitive is always looking over your shoulder. Or so they tell ya. You know, dear readers, how the Clarion Content feels about the reverberation, between truth and fiction, reality and Art; constant high speed turbulent bi-directional flow.

Do they stop looking for you? Arthur G. Jones disappeared from Chicago in 1979 amidst allegations of gambling debts and ties to organized crime. His silver Buick was found at O’Hare International Airport, but Jones wasn't. Authorities suspected foul play. Even though there was no body ever found, Jones was declared legally dead in 1986, and his wife collected his Social Security benefits.

But the government doesn't quit. It functions like a Leviathan glacier, slowly inching across all the terrain, aka, all the data, within its purview, grinding down all, gulping down the unruly and unwary. And the interconnections between the computers at the nodes of information are getting better all the time. Mr. Jones was arrested Tuesday in Las Vegas and charged with four felonies including identity theft and fraud.

How? Started after the man who's Social Security number had been printed on Jones's fake Nevada driver's license in 1988 kept complaining and fighting the Social Security Administration over requests to pay taxes on money he swore hadn’t earned. So that guy, no shit, named Clifton Goodenough, has a story too.

The government kept coming after him for money, demanding he pay taxes on his earnings in Nevada. Wages which Jones was collecting working for a legal bookmaking operation under the name he put on that license back in 1988, Richard Sandelli. According to Fox News, Jones says he purchased a fake Illinois driver's license, birth certificate and Social Security card for $800 in Chicago in 1979, then moved to Florida, before eventually obtaining a Nevada driver's license.

Goodenough is telling the government man, 'I never earned any money in Nevada..." Social Security Administration is saying somebody is cashing a paycheck with that Social in Nevada.

Thirty-two years after he skipped town, cross-checking between the Social Security Administration's and Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles's computers caught up with Arthur G. Jones. The Leviathan glacier of government sweeps up a man... gulp.

No telling what the guilt, complicity, life story, twists and turns composite, the man, sum total, life laid out as narrative, looks like. The Clarion Content is not defending his innocence. Nor are we prima facie indicting the government for picking him up and charging him.

The vector, the arc, the tale and its place within the archetypal tales they will tell about our era, that is what interests us. Surely the story of Mr. Arthur Gerald Jones, is at least as strange as any we might make up.

Norway grapples: Mitt lille land

Mitt lille land---My little country

Domestic terrorism is crime, do not give it legitimacy by politicizing it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Two rights

If two wrongs don't make a right, what to do two rights make? In a practical sense, try to imagine a world where President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner enact a compromise that both cuts entitlement spending and eliminates the Bush II tax cuts for the super rich. Heck, they could even eliminate the alternative minimum tax as part of the same compromise. At that point, all Obama would have to do would be ease off the crackdown against job seeking immigrants, and bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and it would be 1995 all over again economically.

A dream? More than likely, knowing Washington, D.C., it is a mirage. The devil is in the details. The Clarion Content favors cuts in entitlement benefits (especially for prescription drugs), gradually raising the minimum age for Social Security benefits, reinstating the estate tax on estates worth more than $5 million, higher marginal tax rates on the highest income brackets, lowering and simplifying corporate taxes, along with a libertarian immigration policy.

In backwards order, no one in Washington D.C. has the guts or the political capital to address immigration policy. Obama would have been far better served to start there rather than with health care policy. Bush II was going to produce a benevolent immigration policy towards Latinos before 9/11. His failure to do so afterward is one of the great tragedies of his administration.

Lowering and simplifying corporate taxes, lots of folks in D.C. claim to support this one, yet somehow it never happens. This is the second biggest factor, after structural adjustment, for the current unemployment malaise. Lowering corporate taxes incentivizes job creation.

Higher marginal taxes on the richest of Richie Rich's and bringing back the estate tax for the very wealthy. Somehow the upper crust and their lobbyists always manage to turn this into a populist issue. At first amazing, the narrative of American capitalism has now absorbed this myth so completely and seen it defended so assiduously that to tax the rich is to attack the very basis of freedom.

Social Security is the 3rd rail and entitlement benefits are the next-door neighbors. Is anyone in D.C., even President Obama, brave enough to touch the 3rd rail of American politics? Has anyone heard from Representative Paul Ryan since he mentioned cutting Social Security and other entitlement benefits?

We know that no politician who falls anywhere on the political spectrum between Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich has the guts to say that Bush II's wars of choice have been colossal wastes that have devoured American blood and treasure, but now are sunk costs. Osama is dead. No one can force Afghanistan to cohere without a totalitarian government.1 Withdraw already.

But much like the "big" budget deal itself, that is probably just a dream that will disappear into the daily grind of realpolitik.

1 In Iraq, America has fucked up so badly that the best play now may be to be to keep the troops there lest Iran station its tank divisions on the border of Saudi Arabia. So even though the Clarion has long advocated withdrawal from Iraq, and three, separate, new, nation-states, we may be beginning to lose faith in the viability of that option.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Durham City Hall construction

Durham's City Hall is not exactly putting its best foot forward. Amid renovation, its sign hidden by shrubs, the site strewn with dumpsters and construction debris, it is not much to look at right now.

Photo courtesy of BWPW.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pretty much Amazing

We must admit, here at the Clarion Content, the idea of a Palin/Bachmann super ladies ticket has crossed our mind. Our only question is, who's on top?

So when we heard there was Sarah Palin documentary coming out in theaters, we were like, "Do tell!"

Here is the scoop.

The biopic, about former governor Palin, modestly titled, "The Undefeated," premiered this weekend in ten select U.S. cities. We were unable to determine the full list. It did include Dallas, Texas, Pella, Iowa and an unnamed town in the sprawl that is Orange County, California. While struggling to find the full list of cities, we did did uncover this enlightening side-by-side comparison in The Guardian of the UK.
Quoting a New York Post critic, "Its tone is an excruciating combination of bombast and whining, it's so outlandishly partisan that it makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln and its febrile rush of images – not excluding earthquakes, car wrecks, volcanic eruption and attacking Rottweilers – reminded me of the brainwash movie Alex is forced to sit through in "A Clockwork Orange." Except no one came along to refresh my pupils with eyedrops."
Quoting former governor Palin, "It will blow you away. It was awesome. It's all about American values.

To be fair, as the Post notes, Palin did not participate in the making of this film. She was its subject, but it was made by a fan not connected to her campaign.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bush II's failures

Bush and Rummy alone in the Oval Office

The litany of King George the II's failures is colossal. However, as the brilliant policy analysts over at George Friedman's Stratfor point out, any list of the impacts of Bush II's disastrous blunders would be incomplete without mentioning how his pointless, self-indulgent, avenge my father's failures, war in Iraq led America to ignore developments in Russia.

During the reign of King George the II, as American blood and treasure were being thrown overboard directly into the Persian Gulf, when Saddam was being replaced with civil war and instability, and the price of oil (read: unleaded gasoline) was shooting into the stratosphere, Russia took a turn for the worse. Bush the II, clown prince that he was, rather than being focused on global political stability or the global economy, wanted an easy triumph, thus, an offensive war against what was perceived to be the most topple-able of his ludicrous axis of evil.1

What did that cost strategically in Russia and its sphere of influence?

Statfor says, "This gave Russia a window of opportunity with which to accelerate its crackdown inside (and later outside) Russia without fear of a Western response. During this time, the Kremlin ejected foreign firms, nationalized strategic economic assets, shut down nongovernmental organizations, purged anti-Kremlin journalists, banned many anti-Kremlin political parties and launched a second intense war in Chechnya."

This loss of focus on the big geostrategic picture cost reformers and potential democrats behind former Iron Curtain dearly. While King George the II was making Faustian bargains with the dictators of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, to support his was war of choice, Putin was able to claim he was doing the same with the vile dictator of Belarus and a range of puppets in the Ukraine, Georgia and Chechnya.2 The loss of United States credibility made it tremendously difficult for America to have any leverage to resist Putin's Machiavellian scheming.

Ahhhh, King George the II... Will America ever recover from your reign? Sadly, it is debatable.

1Grouping Iraq, Iran and North Korea demonstrated Bush II and his policymakers had the foreign policy vision of a five year-old on the playground. "We are the good guys. You are the bad guys. Now it's war..."

2The United States's resources and credibility to support political reformers in Ukraine and Georgia was badly hampered by war in Iraq. In Chechnya, Bush the II's lumping of all nominally Muslim freedom fighters under the label of terrorist, put America on the side of the dictator against the freedom of the people.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bachmann confuses John Wayne's

Perhaps you have already heard this story. Ultimately, we are not all that interested in its substance. It happens, candidates make verbal missteps and this one wasn't policy related. It was a doozy. Presidential candidate, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, got her John Wayne's confused the other day in Iowa.

While speaking in the hometown of notorious clown serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Waterloo, Iowa, Representative Bachmann was clearly thinking of the other John Wayne from Iowa. John Wayne, the movie star, who was born 140 miles southwest in Winterset, Iowa. Unless one of her staffers is a saboteur because speaking in Waterloo, Bachmann came out with, "What I want them to know is that, just like John Wayne is from Waterloo, Iowa, that's the kind of spirit that I have too."

Whoops, wrong John Wayne, wrong small Iowa town that starts with W.

It happens.

The reason we posted this note about it is, you have to see the unbelievable Bachmann photoshop attached to this article about the story in New York magazine. Terrifyingly superb.