Letter to Barbara Boxer

Barbara BoxerDear Senator Boxer:

I am a big supporter of yours. However, it has been hinted that you are one of the senators who blocked filibuster reform. I’ve written to you about this before: at minimum, we need serious filibuster reform.

I’m not a one issue voter. Anyway, you would have to lose half your mind and three-quarters of your soul to be as bad Carly Fiorina would have been. But this is very important to me. I’m still smarting over what happened in 2009.[1]

I want to know your position on filibuster reform. What do you support and what do you not? Are you for the elimination of the filibuster? And if you are not, do you believe that the Republicans will not eliminate it once they are in power.

Otherwise, continue to make us proud and grateful that you aren’t Dianne Feinstein. (Not that she’s at all worse than Elizabeth Emken!)

Frank Moraes


It is easy to write your representatives and so effective. Or if you prefer, you can call them. This is a great way to have a big influence on politics. I’m all for voting, but contacting politicians on specific issues is really powerful. Make a habit of it!

[1] What happened is that we had a 78 seat advantage in the House (59%) and up to a 10 seat advantage in the Senate (60%) and control of the White House. Nonetheless, we got very little progressive legislation because of the Republican use of the filibuster in the Senate. We will have to go through another Republican caused catastrophe before we again have those kinds of numbers in Washington. What’s it going to take to get anything good done? 65 Democrats in the Senate (a few extra to make up for the “blue dog” Democrats)?

Harry Reid Can’t Fool Me Twice

Fuck You Harry ReidEarlier today, Talking Points Memo reported that Harry Reid is upset about the state of the filibuster. He reportedly said, “These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn’t. And they were right. The rest of us were wrong—or most of us, anyway. What a shame… If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it’s the filibuster rule, because it’s been abused, abused and abused.”

Oh wait! Reid said that early last year. This year Reid is whining about the stopgap budget deal that is being delayed for no good reason by the filibuster. To this, Reid said, “It is things like that that will cause the Senate to have to reassess all the rules because right now they accomplish so little. I’m disappointed.”

How can this be?! Reid and Mitch McConnell shook hands about this! Could it be that Harry Reid was fooled? You know what they say: “Fool me once with a handshake deal, shame on you; Fool me twice with a handshake deal, the Majority leader in the Senate is an idiot.”

In all seriousness, I don’t see what Reid gets out of his repeated threats to “reassess.” Unlike Hary Reid himself, we liberals don’t get fooled a second time. He should just keep repeating, “I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold.” If he says that three times, he gets a pony.

Our Pathetic Federal Spending

Jared BernsteinAs regular readers of this site know: government spending as a percent of GDP has gone down each year the last three years. This, in fact, is the reason that we are very slowly crawling our way to economic recovery. It is an indictment of not just the Republicans but also the Democrats, who managed to get themselves completely diverted from our unemployment crisis to the supposed debt crisis when we can borrow for less than the rate of inflation. It is very sad.

Jared Bernstein provided the following graph a few days ago. It shows the decrease in the fractional GDP deficit with the red line. What may come as a bit of a surprise is the blue line that shows the deficit in actual dollars. It is up by 0.6%. I don’t yet know if those are inflation adjusted dollars. If they aren’t, then we haven’t even seen this small rise.

[Update: I contacted Jared Bernstein and he tells me that the numbers are nominal. So in fact, spending in inflation adjusted dollars has also decreased. Assuming 2% inflation in 2009 and 1% for the following years (it has been higher than this, so this is a lower bound) total federal spending is roughly 4.5% less than it was in 2009. Assuming the more reasonable 2% throughout would make it roughly 7.6% less. That’s three Sequesters! -FM]

Bernstein comments on the graph:

And no, I’m not bragging about this—I think those two lines partially explain why this recovery has been such a slog: we hit back hard against the recession in 2009 and GDP started growing in real terms shortly thereafter. But we stopped too soon, certainly before the recovery reached most households.
Federal Spending Time Series

B. F. Skinner Thinks You’re a Terrible Parent

B. F. SkinnerHenrik Ibsen was born on this day in 1828. If it weren’t for him being generally a jerk, I would have given the day to him. He was a hell of a playwright though. I really appreciate Russian painter Illarion Pryanishnikov, who was born in 1840. Most people won’t care, but I have an unnatural love of the Nixon White House: John Ehrlichman was born in 1925. And Fred Rogers was born in 1928. What a group of people!

There are a lot of old people who are still alive. Vera Lynn is 96 today! Carl Reiner is 91! Hal Linden is 82. And there are other birthdays. William Hurt is 63. Spike Lee is 56. Holly Hunter is 55.

But I have to give this day to B. F. Skinner. It isn’t that I don’t think that he wasn’t largely a creepy guy. But he is the only major psychological thinker of the 20th century whose ideas were basically right. And more important: his ideas are actually helpful in a therapeutic setting. I know: most of it is like the Henny Youngman joke, “I went to the doctor and said, ‘Doc, it hurts when I do this!’ So he said, ‘Then don’t do that!'” But it is a hell of a lot better than the Freudian ideas of childhood sexuality or the Jungian ideas of cross generational haunting. (Note: I like Jung, I just don’t find him all that useful.)

So a big “Happy birthday!” to the strange Dr. Skinner.


I will use any opportunity to listen to this song:

No comments about the teeth!