Europe rejects austerity–how about the USA?

The countries of the European Union are voting out the leaders who had been pushing austerity measures to reduce debt, cut back the welfare states, and get their economies on a more solid footing.  French President Sarkozy was ousted in favor of  socialist Francois Hollande.  Greece, the nation in the worst shape of all, has voted out the coalition of center-left and center-right parties that accepted the tough conditions of Germany’s bailout.  In fact, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel is herself facing political setbacks.  And so is Great Britain’s David Cameron.

Now is all of this just the political dynamic of voters turning against the incumbents when the economy is a mess?  In that case, the trend might seem positive for American conservatives.  Or is it, as most commentators are saying, a reaction against the austerity measures, with voters not wanting their benefits cut, to the point of embracing politicians who promise to spend even more in order to help the economy grow.  In that case, it would herald well for American progressives.

Not that America has experienced much austerity from the current administration.  But do you think the general public would support a serious attempt to cut the budget any more than the Europeans would?

via After voters reject austerity, Europe ponders future of grand project – The Washington Post.

A week without this blog

Hello.  Test. Test. Is this thing on?  I think so, now.  After a week!

So the hosting company’s server went down, but then they had trouble transferring the files to a new one, and then they gave me an alphabet soup of technical gibberish in an effort to help me understand what was happening.  . . .

Let’s see if this time the blog stays up for more than minutes at a time.  Try to get on several times during the course of the day and if you can, help spread the word that Cranach is back.

I do appreciate the numerous expressions of concern that I received from many of you.  Some suspected something sinister, that we were being blocked or hacked.  (As someone observed, that post about Islam and Mormonism surely offended both Democrats and Republicans!)  I’m pretty sure, though, that the only sinister force at work is with my hosting company.

I’ve put up a couple of posts, below, that I tried in vain to post all last week.  I don’t think they are too dated.  But we’ll get caught up.

I just hope you didn’t break your habit with this blog.  I hope I didn’t break my habit with this blog.  It was kind of nice not doing it.  I read.  Watched TV.  Went to bed early.  Went to a movie to see “The Avengers.”  But I realize that I need it.  It made surfing the web frustrating when I found something that I couldn’t tell you guys about.

The People’s Rights Amendment

House Democrats have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would specify that the rights guaranteed by that document apply only to individuals and not to “corporate” entities.  The intention is to undo the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows organizations to spend unlimited money on political campaigns since they have free speech.  But a “corporation” is not just a business organization.  The Amendment–introduced by Jim McGovern (D-Mass) and co-sponsored by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 26 other Democrats, and one Republican–would have far-reaching consequences, as George Will points out:

[McGovern's]  “People’s Rights Amendment” declares that the Constitution protects only the rights of “natural persons,” not such persons organized in corporations, and that Congress can impose on corporations whatever restrictions Congress deems “reasonable.” His amendment says that it shall not be construed “to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.” But the amendment is explicitly designed to deny such rights to natural persons who, exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of association, come together in corporate entities to speak in concert.

McGovern stresses that his amendment decrees that “all corporate entities — for-profit and nonprofit alike” — have no constitutional rights. So Congress — and state legislatures and local governments — could regulate to the point of proscription political speech, or any other speech, by the Sierra Club, the National Rifle Association, NARAL Pro-Choice America or any of the other tens of thousands of nonprofit corporate advocacy groups, including political parties and campaign committees.

Newspapers, magazines, broadcasting entities, online journalism operations — and most religious institutions — are corporate entities. McGovern’s amendment would strip them of all constitutional rights. By doing so, the amendment would empower the government to do much more than proscribe speech. Ilya Somin of George Mason University Law School, writing for the Volokh Conspiracy blog, notes that government, unleashed by McGovern’s amendment, could regulate religious practices at most houses of worship, conduct whatever searches it wants, reasonable or not, of corporate entities, and seize corporate-owned property for whatever it deems public uses — without paying compensation. Yes, McGovern’s scythe would mow down the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, as well as the First.

The proposed amendment is intended to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which affirmed the right of persons to associate in corporate entities for the purpose of unrestricted collective speech independent of candidates’ campaigns. The court’s decision was foreshadowed when, in oral argument, the government’s lawyer insisted that the government could ban a 500-page book that contained one sentence that said “vote for” a particular candidate. McGovern’s amendment would confer upon Congress the power to ban publishing corporations from producing books containing political advocacy, when Congress considers a ban reasonable — never mind the amendment’s rhetoric about the “inalienable” rights people enjoy until they band together to act in corporate entities.

via Taking a scythe to the Bill of Rights – The Washington Post.

Energy boom & revival of manufacturing in our future?

David Ignatius brings up what could be heralds of good economic prospects ahead.  (Or is it just a pipe dream?)

First, the case that America is entering a new era of energy security: My expert here is Robin West, a friend who is chairman of PFC Energy, a Washington-based advisory group. He argues in a series of recent reports to clients that, because of the rapid expansion of oil and gas production from shale, America is likely to become by 2020 the world’s No. 1 producer of oil, gas and biofuels — eclipsing even the energy superpowers, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

West explains that the natural-gas boom will mean a dramatic change in energy imports and, thus, the security of U.S. energy supplies. He forecasts that combined imports of oil and natural gas will fall from about 52 percent of total demand in 2010 to 22 percent by 2020. The totals are even more impressive if supplies from Canada are included.

“This is the energy equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down,” contends West. “Just as the trauma of the Cold War ended in Berlin, so the trauma of the 1973 oil embargo is ending now.” The geopolitical implications of this change are striking: “We will no longer rely on the Middle East, or compete with such nations as China or India for resources.”

Energy security would be one building block of a new prosperity. The other would be the revival of U.S. manufacturing and other industries. This would be driven in part by the low cost of electricity in the United States, which West forecasts will be relatively flat through the rest of this decade, and one-half to one-third that of economic competitors such as Spain, France or Germany.

The coming manufacturing recovery is the subject of several studies by the Boston Consulting Group. I’ll focus here on the most recent one, “U.S. Manufacturing Nears the Tipping Point,” which appeared in March.

What’s happening, according to BCG, is a “reshoring” back to America of manufacturing that previously migrated offshore, especially to China. The analysts estimate that by 2015, China’s cost advantage will have shrunk to the point that many manufacturers will prefer to open plants in the United States. In the vast manufacturing region surrounding Shanghai, total compensation packages will be about 25 percent of those for comparable workers in low-cost U.S. manufacturing states. But given higher American productivity, effective labor costs will be about 60 percent of those in America — not low enough to compensate U.S. manufacturers for the risks and volatility of operating in China.

In about five years, argue the BCG economists, the cost-risk balance will reach an inflection point in seven key industries where manufacturers had been moving to China: computers and electronics, appliances and electrical equipment, machinery, furniture, fabricated metals, plastics and rubber, and transportation goods. The industries together amounted to a nearly $2 trillion market in the United States in 2010, with China producing about $200 billion of that total.

As manufacturers in these “tipping point” industries move back to America, BCG estimates, the U.S. economy will add $80 billion to $120 billion in annual output, and 2 million to 3 million new jobs, in direct manufacturing and spin-off employment. To complete this rosy picture, the analysts forecast that in about five years, U.S. exports will increase by at least $65 billion annually.

via An economic boom ahead? – The Washington Post.

If, that is, the government doesn’t do what many environmentalists are calling for, banning fracking as well as other new technologies, blocking new pipelines, and preventing drilling where new reserves have been discovered.  And if the government does not stand in the way of  building of new plants and factories

Add these words to your vocabulary

The new volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English is out, and here are some good words that need to be adopted by the rest of the country (as chosen by Kevin Lamarque at Reuters):

1. whoopensocker (n.), Wisconsin You know when something’s wonderfully unique, but the words “wonderful” and “unique” don’t quite cut it? That’s why the Wisconsinites invented whoopensocker, which can refer to anything extraordinary of its kind—from a sweet dance move to a knee-melting kiss.

2. snirt (n.), Upper Midwest A gem of a portmanteau, this word means exactly what it sounds like: a mixture of windblown snow and dirt. Also, for your linguistic pleasure, try out the adjective version: snirty.

3. slug (n. or v.), Washington, D.C. In addition to describing that shell-less snail-looking creature, a “slug” describes a traveler who hitches a ride with someone who needs passengers in order to use a High Occupancy Vehicle lane. The verb form, “to slug,” refers to the act of commuting in that manner. In New Hampshire, to gee-buck means something similar: to hitch a ride on the back of someone else’s sleigh.

4. wapatuli, (n.), Wisconsin Nearly everyone who has been to college in America has either concocted, or been an unfortunate victim of, wapatuli: a homemade alcoholic drink with any combination of hard liquors or other beverages—Mountain Dew, white wine and vodka, anyone? A wapatuli can also refer to the occasion at which that jungle juice is consumed.

In Kentucky, the (perhaps more onomatopoeically correct) word for terrible liquor is splo, while in the mid-Atlantic, whiskey—especially the moonshine variety—is ratgut.

5. arsle (v.), Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Arkansas Depending on the state, this word can mean a few things—to fidget, to back out of a place or situation, or to loaf around restlessly—pretty much all of which describe my activities on an average Sunday afternoon. (In Maine, instead of arsling, I might putty around, and in Vermont, I’d pestle around, but either way, it still means not a whole lot is getting done.)

6. jabble (v.), Virginia You know when you’re standing at your front door rifling through your purse for fifteen minutes because you can’t find your keys again? That’s because all the stuff in your purse got all jabbled up. This fantastic little word means “to shake up or mix,” but it can also be used less literally, meaning “to confuse or to befuddle.”

7. sneetered (v.), Kentucky If you’ve ever been hoodwinked, duped, swindled, fleeced or scammed, you done been sneetered. The noun version, sniter, refers to that treacherous person responsible for your unfortunate sneetering. Also see snollygoster, a shameless, unscrupulous person, especially a politician.

8. slatchy (adj.), Nantucket This lovely little word describes the sky during a fleeting moment of sunshine or blue sky in the middle of a storm. The noun version, slatch, refers to that moment itself.

9. snoopy (adj.), Maryland, Pennsylvania A more interesting way of saying someone’s picky, especially with regards to food.

10. arky (adj.), Virginia This word refers to Noah’s Ark, not to Arkansas, so if someone calls your style arky—old-fashioned, or out of style—you can accuse them of being an anti-antediluvianite. (Which, full disclosure, is not technically a word, but should you ever actually employ such a comeback, you will win like a million gold stars in Nerdland.)

11. faunch (v.), South Midlands, West Meaning to rant, rave or rage, this fairly well describes what many Americans have been doing while watching cable news. (Also, try out the phrase, faunching angry, when describing the guy whose parking spot you just snaked.)

12. chinchy (adj.), South, South Midlands Not as direct as “cheap,” and less erudite than “parsimonious,” this useful word perfectly describes your stingy friend who never chips in for gas.

13. larruping (adv.), Oklahoma, South Midlands You know when food tastes so freakin’ delicious, but “yummy,” “scrumptious” and “tasty” just don’t do it justice? That’d be a good time to break out this fabulous word, used most often in the phrase “larruping good.”

14. mizzle-witted (adj.), South This satisfyingly Dickensian word means “mentally dull,” but depending on where you are in the country, mizzle can also be used as a verb meaning “to confuse,” “to depart in haste” or “to abscond,” or as a noun meaning, “a very fine or misty rain.“ So, if you were a mizzle-witted burglar, you might break into a house, get mizzled, trip the alarm, and then mizzle with your loot into the mizzle. Sans raincoat.

15. burk (v.), Georgia, South More fun than the word “vomit” and more polite than the word “fart,” this utilitarian verb describes both activities. Just be happy that if you’re in West Virginia, you don’t get the skitters—an Appalachian version of Montezuma’s revenge.

16. snuggy (n.) Iowa, Midlands Those of us who grew up with older brothers are intimately familiar with what it is to suffer from a snuggy—a friendlier word for a wedgie.

17. jasm (n.), Connecticut Meaning “intense energy or vitality,” the sentence provided in the dictionary was so good, I wanted to share it with you all, too: “If you’ll take thunder and lightening, and a steamboat and a buzz-saw, and mix ‘em up, and out ‘em into a woman, that’s jasm.”

18. mug-up (n.), Alaska When Alaskans take a break from work, grab a pastry or a cup of joe, and gaze out at Russia, they’re enjoying a “mug-up”—their version of a coffee break.

19. bufflehead (n.), Pennsylvania (mountains) You would have to be a real bufflehead if you didn’t think this word, meaning a fool or idiot, is not an awesome insult. Also, for your consideration, the related adjective buffle-brained.

HT:  Bror Erickson
What are some other good words from regional dialects, slang, or other sources that fit some “semantic space” that needs naming?

Reform conservatives vs. Rejectionist conservatives

Michael Gerson says that there are currently two kinds of conservatives:

On one side there are Rejectionist Conservatives, who come in a variety of forms. There are libertarians who view federal taxation, except to fund a few night-watchman roles, as theft. There are tea party activists who believe that any federal power must be specifically enumerated in the Constitution — and then interpret the Constitution as if it were the Articles of Confederation. And then there is Ron Paul, who seeks to overturn the Lincoln and Hamilton revolutions.

But Obama’s overreach has also produced another conservative reaction — a Reform Conservatism. The key figure here is Paul Ryan, the main author of two House Republican budgets. The movement’s intellectual headquarters is National Affairs, a journal of small but potent distribution. Its brain trust includes thinkers such as Yuval Levin, James Capretta and Peter Wehner.

The reform movement — being prone to long, self-reflective policy articles — is not hard to summarize.

First, it asserts that America’s massive fiscal crisis is a result of public-sector inefficiency. So it looks for ways to achieve the ends of the welfare state both through more private means and more efficient public means.

Second, it asserts that America’s economic challenge is also a function of public-sector inefficiency and seeks above all to encourage growth — by streamlining the tax code, reducing burdens on competitiveness and showing confidence in market mechanisms and consumer pressure.

Third, Reform Conservatism argues that America’s social problem is largely a function of the collapse of social capital among the poor and seeks to transform the safety net — encouraging responsibility and providing training toward integration in the broader stream of American life.

Reform Conservatism is less ideologically ambitious than Rejectionist Conservatism. It would replace Obamacare, for example, rather than simply abolish it. Similarly, it focuses on education reform — school accountability, parental empowerment and teacher quality — rather than on the demolition of the Education Department. Reform Conservatism tends to be politically pragmatic. In exchange for serious Medicare reform, for example, it would certainly accept a higher portion of gross domestic product taken in taxes to ease cuts in discretionary spending — if those taxes are designed in a way that doesn’t undermine economic growth.

via The GOP’s conservative reformers win out – The Washington Post.

OK, but I thought Paul Ryan was a hero of the “rejectionist” Tea partiers.  And are any conservatives really committed to achieving the ends of the welfare state?   But still, perhaps there is something to this.  Clearly different Republicans have different priorities.  Then again, Is “reform conservative” just another name for “moderate”?  Are the “rejectionists” so extreme that they cannot anything done, as Mr. Gerson suggests?  Are there any other ways forward?  At any rate, according to Mr. Gerson’s taxonomy, Mitt Romney is of the reform party.