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Still on the table

Earlier today I wrote about how the GOP is moving Democrats to the left on Medicare and how hopeful that could turn out to be. Well, never let it be said that the wingnut Trojan horses in the Democratic Party would go along with playing any sort of hardball politics that might benefit the left wing:

At his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed what aides in both parties have been telling reporters: Cuts to Medicare will be on the table in deficit and debt limit negotiations, led by Vice President Joe Biden.

After arguing that Democrats made significant headway toward extending Medicare's solvency with the health care law, Hoyer said, "Do I believe that there are other things we can do related to Medicare? The answer is I do. I'm not going to get into articulating each one, but my expectation is they will be under discussion by the Biden group."
If a grand bargain on spending includes Medicare benefit cuts that both parties buy into, it will further expose the shambolic nature of the last two years' politics. But more to the point, it will blunt Democrats' ability to run against the House Republican vote to privatize, and, yes slash Medicare. And it will hurt Senate Democrats, many more of whom will be up for re-election in 2012 than will their Republicans colleagues. Their opponents won't have Paul Ryan's budget to answer for -- but they will have the Dems' vote for the deficit grand bargain, and the Medicare cuts therein.

And people wonder why liberals are cynical. Here you have the Democrats with a clear advantage in these Biden talks and Steny is out there publicly undermining them by saying "oh no, don't worry Republicans. We won't even bluff if that means we might win."

Let's suppose that the Dems truly believe they need to "do something" about medicare because they held a focus group once in which people said they were worried about it. (Yes, that's how Democrats do these things.) Is there even the slightest hope that this group of lunatic Republicans would agree to anything remotely sane? It's impossible.

Steny Hoyer may not care about winning on this issue --- his job, obviously, is not to serve the people but rather his donors. But some of the other Democrats may still have the illusion that winning re-election is important. I wonder if they'll be so willing to follow Steny over the cliff.

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How’s that austerity working out for you, mates?

A funny thing happened on the way to deficit reduction:

The UK saw its worst April public sector net borrowing on record last month as tax receipts fell, the Office for National Statistics said.

Public borrowing, excluding financial interventions such as bank bail-outs, hit £10bn, compared with £7.3bn the previous year.

The ONS said tax receipts in April last year were boosted by a one-off bank payroll tax which raised £3.5bn.

April's figure was higher than many analysts' expectations of about £6.5bn.

Economists said the figures were a surprising disappointment.

"The public finances have got off to a pretty bad start this year," said Hetal Mehta, at Daiwa Capital Markets. She warned that the position could worsen if economic growth was weaker than expected.

Samuel Tombs, at Capital Economics, said he believed the government would struggle to meet its borrowing forecasts this year.

However, he added: "Nonetheless, these are just one set of figures and the trend in borrowing should improve as more of the spending cuts kick in later this year."

A spokesman for the Treasury said: "One-off factors affected borrowing, but it is clear from the downward revision to last year's borrowing figures that the government's deficit reduction strategy is making headway in dealing with our unsustainable deficit."

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said it was clear that the government's plans to reduce the deficit by more than £20bn over the year was proving difficult.

But he said the government must press on with its plans. "The fragility of the economic recovery is creating a difficult backdrop, but the government must not deviate from its strategy to restore stability in the UK's public finances," he said.

"Businesses support the measures being taken to reduce the deficit, and the emphasis should be on spending cuts rather than tax increases," Mr Kern said.

Clearly, the problem is that they just haven't cut enough. It's probably time to think about another round.

As Krugman wrote yesterday in his column about the failure of austerity in Europe:

My guess is that it’s just not willing to face up to the failure of its fantasies. And if this sounds incredibly foolish, well, who ever said that wisdom rules the world?

Not me.

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One step to the left

Greg Sargent has a very interesting analysis today which I hope is being read by the Democrats. If Greg is right, the Republicans may end up pushing the Democrats to the left on "entitlements". I can't remember the last time that the actual center of gravity moved in my direction on this issue and I'm almost afraid to believe it.

Democrats would do themselves a favor if they paid close attention to this report from Ben Smith, which says that Republicans will respond to the Dem offensive on Medicare by going hard at Dems from the left:

Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed yesterday to make the Medicare changes in Paul Ryan’s budget a defining campaign issue for Senate Republicans in 2012 — but Republicans plan to respond by reviving criticism of cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that were built into the 2010 health care bill...

“He and every other Senate Democrat went on to vote for it.” one Republican staffer emails. “We’d agree with Schumer that in races such as this Medicare will be a key issue.”

Republicans ran hard on the issue of Medicare cuts during the 2010 campaign — and it was part of the reason that senior citizens swung so hard towards GOP candidates.

Of course, Republicans are already pursuing this strategy. In the special House election in New York’s 26th district, where the GOP candidate is in trouble over her support for Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it, Republicans are fighting back by accusing the Democrat of wanting Medicare cuts because she said Medicare should be on the table.

This strategy — attacking Dems from the left on Medicare, just as Dems are doing to Republicans — amounts to an admission that Dems are winning the argument over Ryancare. It’s an effort to muddy the waters by persuading the public that both parties agree on the need to cut Medicare and even change it in a fundamental way — and that the only argument is over the details.

They can try that. But the Democrats have 60 years of built up credibility on this -- and the elderly are the most aware of that of any demographic in the country. If the Dems don't lose their nerve and start frantically negotiating for no reason they are in the driver's seat. As Greg concludes:

Putting aside the argument over the merits of the GOP and Pelosi policy approaches, the political dynamic here could not be clearer. Dems, you have now been put on notice: If you agree to deep cuts in Medicare in the Biden-led talks, Republicans will see to it that you lose the political advantage you have built up by attacking Ryan’s plan. You may even lose the general advantage you have built up over the generations by positioning yourselves as defenders of signature Democratic policy achievements on entitlements. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

They have been warned. From the sound of Pelosi's rhetoric, she gets this: "we have a plan, it's called Medicare." This is how to do it. Seniors are old enough to remember which party signed it into law --- and which one has been fighting it for decades. It's a Democratic plan and they know it.

And what's the downside in terms of policy? The Republicans have been backed into a wall and are now in the process of negotiating with senior citizens about how they are the better protectors of Medicare. True, they are completely disingenuous --- they don't believe in any government safety net programs. But the more they have to pander to seniors for votes, the more they're finding out that seniors will not stand for any cuts to these programs. This is good news for the safety net. It is already pushing the Democrats away from the precipice (if they value their own hides at all) and could eventually lead to sane reforms such as raising the cap on social security and overall cost controls in health care generally.


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20 Reasons Why Your Website Design Sucks Part 1

We all have or have heard about those clients from hell, those that really love pink pages with red text. Even worse, what about those people who call themselves “web designers” with expensive prices and services listed on their really messy, horrible and amateur portfolios, just because they made their uncle’s business page and they liked it.

Unfortunately, many people believe that web design is all about personal style and smart IDE’s with pre-built buttons. Let me tell you something – they are wrong. I love to play football, but that doesn’t make me a professional player, and Dreamweaver does not make you a professional web developer. Web Design and development demands knowledge, practice, daily effort to learn and study, and passion, like professional football players.

(Design conventions: Necessary guidelines in order to improve a specific design.)

No matter how good or bad personal style is, the truth is that everyone has one. However, when design conventions are left out of a project, the result will be a bad or uninteresting design. That is exactly what happens with those terrible clients, when they try to implement their personal style without knowing anything about design conventions.

1) Balance

Balance is a basic principle in design. It is directly connected to every element, and helps you control the design flow of your page. There are two important concepts in balance – symmetrical and asymmetrical balance. With Symmetrical Balance, elements have equal weight on both sides, leading to a formal and traditional web site, however, with asymmetrical balance, elements have a different weight which leads to a different and unique layout.

I decided to include this topic because its importance is major in layout design. If incorrectly used, it can lead to the total ruin of your layout.

Above is a good example of asymmetrical balance. Did you notice the “DECO Windshield Repair” text on the right, and the background map image on the left? Although those elements do not have the same weight, it feels perfectly balanced. However, if you hide the text on the right, the page will lose its balance very quickly. Now take a look at the white bottom section, those three columns don’t have the same weight, but it’s perfectly balanced because the left text (“You can’t be everywhere…”) has equal weight as the top right text on the red background.

Balance

The result is a “cross balance”, meaning that the weaker and strong elements create a balance between them. I consider this to be of huge importance in asymmetric balance.

The website above fails in so many ways that I could use it as example in the remaining nine topics below, but let’s stay focused on this one. Do you feel the balance? Yes, you are correct, there is no balance. The left side has plenty of images plus a video of the person standing, which results in the left side having more weight than the image on the right.

2) Bevel and Emboss

I had to include this one. It’s really annoying to see the misuse of this layer style. For those who are starting, I understand that you think bevel and emboss is a nice effect and it should be everywhere on your page, but it’s not. Bevel effects should be used sparingly. There are plenty of tutorials on how to transform bevel and emboss into a powerful technique, but if you don’t know how to use it, don’t use it at all.

Bevel and Emboss

3) Distracting Backgrounds

Implementing a busy background distracts the user’s attention, hides important information, and disrespects visual hierarchy. If your background image has a higher visual impact than everything else, users won’t catch the message of your website and will leave quickly.

Background

John Kavanagh’s website makes good use of background images, respecting visual hierarchy and also content information. Reading is left to right, and in this case, the user’s attention follows the buildings on the left towards the Eiffel Tower and London Bridge on the right, consequently leading to navigation (which is not visible in the image). This is a perfect example of how background can be used as a “tool” for design flow.

Distracting background

Above is a perfect example of what not to do with your background.

4) Lack of Detail

If your website sucks, it’s probably because you didn’t care about the minor things. When you think your design is complete, you need to start from the beginning and try to apply detail on every single element. As soon as you finish with detail, you need to start again and consider where it can be improved. A single stroke, light effect, or shadow makes the difference between a good and a great design.

Detail

Blackberry’s website is a good example of what you can achieve by spending time with details.

Detail

Detail, detail, detail.

Lack of detail

For a company with the size and impact of Microsoft, their website is far from great. It’s definitely a good example of lack of attention and detail.

5) White Space

White space refers to the space between elements, and it does have nothing to do with the color. If you don’t know what I am talking about, stop your design projects and read about this subject – How to Actually Use Negative Space As Design Element. White space defines the space/distance between your site elements, providing good readability, focus, and design flow. It also gives your website a clean and professional look. Clean layout is not the same as minimalist, think about clean as the opposite of cluttered where content is all over the place.

One other thing you should consider is to use the same height between elements, so if you have three divs vertically aligned, and the middle div is 50px from the top div, it should also be 50px from the bottom div. This is not mandatory, but helps you achieve a good balance between elements.

White-space

Uberspace’s website makes good use of white-space.

White-space

Just looking at the image above, gives me a headache. The quantity of information is overwhelming, but the way it is displayed is even worse. Cluttered information makes the user feel lost and unhappy. Avoid it!

6) Flash Intros

Once upon a time, having a flash intro in your website would make you a web design ninja. There are plenty of great intros out there, and plenty more of really bad attempts. Nowadays, most visitors want quick access to information and when you demand them to wait, they leave. If you want an intro in your website, make sure it has a point, it adds value and that it is well made.

Flash intros

7) Music

So I have my headphones on, I open several tabs, and suddenly I jump from the chair because irritating music starts playing. I then search for the correct tab and when I find it, I search for the mute button and guess what, there isn’t one. I don’t want to mute my speakers so I close the page and I won’t return to that loud place. Loud and boring music coming from your website is really annoying, but not having a way to shut it down, is an exit ticket from your website.

Music

8) Tables

This is a controversial topic, some people defend the use of tables and others not so much.  This topic is not meant to convince you not to use tables, but to use tables when and where you should. Personally, I do not remember the last time I’ve used tables, I simply don’t like it. However, for tabular data, tables are the best choice, since it increases readability and organization.

Tables

Shopify’s pricing page is a good example of how great the use of tables can be for tabular data.

Tables

Never use tables to style your layout!

9) Colors

The wrong choice of colors can ruin an entire website. Contrast, saturation, types of colors, target audience, style, etc. There are many factors you need to consider when choosing the right colors for your website. If you don’t know where to start, Tina wrote a great article about this subject – Colors in Web Design: Choosing a right combination for your Website. Using too many bright colors, or a similar contrast for your background and foreground elements, or even warm colors along with cool colors, you are basically forcing your visitors to leave.

Colors

Color needs to fit perfectly, according to your target audience, style and personality.

If you enter the website above, please be sure to use sunglasses.

10) Overflow

Unless you’re building a website with horizontal layout, showing a horizontal scroll bar is a mistake and looks bad. Make sure your layout is optimized for a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, this way 98% of your visitors will be able to visit your website without problems. If you really want to use a bigger background image, be sure you hide the horizontal scroll bar, using the CSS property overflow-x: hidden.


Notes

I hope you have found this article useful. I’m preparing part two, so if you have any suggestions, feel free to make them.

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How to Drive Your Visitors Away with Annoying.js

Kilian Valkhof came across a website that had a whole slew of JavaScript that attempted to prevent you from selecting text, right clicking or dragging any content onto your desktop.

So he decided to copy the JavaScript and create a library with examples of JavaScript techniques you can use if you want to scare your visitors away, or want to piss them off. Annoying.js is the result.

As you can see, you can do some pretty bad things with Annoying.js that will certainly drive your visitors away. However, some functions is actually very useful if you’re writing complex “html5″ web applications. By disabling text-selection on interface elements you can make the application easier to use, and you can re-implement the right click menu using your own options.

annoyingjs

Requirements: Javascript Enabled Browser
Demo: http://kilianvalkhof.com/2011/javascript/annoying-js…
License: MIT License

Sponsors

Using What Font is you can identify the font you are looking for!

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Supreme Court Calls BS on California

I suppose someone should write about today's 5-4 US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Plata, where the court ruled that California must release 33,000 prisoners to relieve overcrowding in state prisons. So I'll take a shot at it.

The ruling is basically the Supreme Court calling bullshit on 30 years of "law and order" politics in California. Since George Deukmejian became governor in 1982 - and enabled, it should be noted, by stiffer sentences Jerry Brown approved the first time he was governor in the 1970s - California has gone on a prison-building binge. Nearly 25 new prisons were built in the last 30 years. In contrast, only 3 CSU campuses were opened (two of which, CSUCI and CSU Monterey Bay, were reuses of existing facilities) and only 1 new UC campus, Merced, was built. This is despite the fact that the cost of building prisons and colleges is about the same, the fact that prison guards make more money than most professors, and the fact that students at least pay for their room and board, whereas prisoners don't. Oh, and the fact that educating is preferable to jailing them.

California built all these prisons and kept passing tougher and tougher sentencing laws, most of which were absurd or unnecessarily harsh. But California didn't seem to realize you actually have to pay for the costs of operating all those prisons. And as prisoners age, their health care needs increase, and you have to pay for those things too.

But California legislators thought they could have it both ways - they could score points with a late 20th century electorate by filling the prisons, and score points with the same electorate by not paying to maintain those prisons or care for the prisoners. This was an untenable situation, and it has finally blown up in Sacramento's face.

Legislators may complain about mass release of prisoners, but they have had plenty of time to avoid doing so, and at every turn have chosen to ignore the underlying problems. The Supreme Court has finally, and rightly, said that this situation is nonsense and cannot continue.

Now a mass release doesn't have to happen. There are still alternatives. California could actually do some sensible things to deal with the issue. First off, they could stop adding to the overcrowding by finally passing some sentencing reform. They could start by legalizing marijuana - 47% of voters indicated their support for it by voting for Prop 19 last year. Eventually, and soon, legalization will become a majority position. The state could simply speed that up by a couple years and save money in the process.

California could also help end the cycle of recidivism by actually funding parole and rehabilitation programs. Once someone leaves prison, it would make sense for them to not have to return. Investing in programs to get ex-cons back into society and ensure they stay out of trouble is smart - and it frees resources to ensure that parole officers can do a better job tracking people likely to reoffend.

Jerry Brown appears to be learning his lesson. He used today's ruling to call for tax increase (and can I stop for a moment and point out how awesome it is that finally, Democrats are using moments of crisis to advance a progressive agenda?). That's a necessary part of the answer.

But it's incomplete unless Brown adopts some sort of sentencing reform. He needs to recognize his error, that the increased sentences and mandatory minimums of the 1970s were an unwise act of political expediency and need to be replaced with something more sensible. It would be good if the Legislature followed that path too.

The Supreme Court has given California the chance to do something sensible on prisons for the first time in many decades. Let's hope Sacramento follows through.


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The Real Deal

So I've been hearing that conservatives can't be racists because some of their best candidates are black. I wonder how this fits into that thesis. Here we have a major social conservative on the subject of Obama's trip to Ireland:

He can't talk enough about how white he is and how white his heritage is. And you compare that to, say, Herman Cain - you know, Herman Cain was just joking around about being the real Black man in the presidential race and President Obama kind of helping reinforce what Herman Cain has said in jest.

President Obama is half-white, and half-black; Herman Cain is all black; he's authentically black; he is the real black man in the race.

So we'll see how all of that plays out. I mean, President Obama celebrating his Irish heritage, I mean there is just something about that I just find, I just find that comical, frankly.

That's an interesting twist.

Here's the thing. Racist types always like the "good ones", the ones who "know how to behave" and do all the right things. They always have. Unfortunately "most of them" aren't "good ones." (You know how "they" are.) Nothing racist about that at all.


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“Don’t worry honey, we won’t touch *your* Medicare” - Believe ‘Em?

This is some great GOP messaging from strategist John Feehery today on Hardball:

Feehery: This is the same program that was put out by John Breaux and Bill Thomas back in the 1990s. We have to fix Medicare for the long term. Obviously competition has to be involved with it. Obviously what Paul Ryan has said is, "if you're under 55 this is something you might have to deal with, if you're over 55 it's not gonna touch you." That's something that polls very well with seniors. This is a beginning of a conversation. This is a beginning of a conversation and it has to happen.

Matthews; You sound desperate. You're skirting and saying it doesn't matter if you're over 55.

Feehery: That's what the plan says, if you're over 55 it's not going to impact you. And that's an important talking point. All the members of congress that I've talked to when they go back to their constituents over 55 that sells. Now I don't happen to think that's fair. I'm under 55 and if there's going to be reform I think the old guys have to pay as well, but I'm not running for office so ...

There's only one answer for Democratic opponents if the Republicans try this:

"So you believe 'em? If they're willing to screw your kids and grandkids what makes you think they aren't going to screw you too?"

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Jefferson Doesn’t Count

Am I really supposed to be respectful of people who believe drivel like this?

Are U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal natural-born citizens of the United States, and thus eligible for the presidency?
It's a simple question, but the answer may not be so easy.

While the Constitution does not define "natural-born citizen," there is strong evidence that the Founding Fathers understood it to mean someone born of two American citizens.

Really? Was Thomas Jefferson, the author of the declaration of Independence and America's third President a founder. I think he was.

This is from the Monticello cemetery:



Here's what it says if you can't read it:

Jane Randolph
Wife of Peter Jefferson
Mother of Thomas Jefferson
Born in London
1720
Died at Monticello
1776

Here's her story.

Of course, it's possible that David Barton or other right wing pseudo-historians forgot to tell them that if there was one country of origin which might have given them some pause in terms of loyalty it was England, so they think there was some sort of British exception to the rule.

On the other hand, Jefferson did plant the seeds for the Democratic Party so they may actually believe he was an illegitimate president. Aren't they all?

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He Is Not A Witch!

Odonnell_Newt
As Newt "Big Adjective" Gingrich approaches his Christine O'Donnell Moment at 90 mph.

From "The Hill":

Michael O’Brien at The Hill: Gingrich: ‘I’m not a Washington figure’

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he doesn’t view himself as a “Washington figure,” positioning himself as an anti-D.C. candidate in his campaign for president.

Gingrich railed against the Washington establishment in a breakfast Monday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, claiming the mantle of the “change” candidate in the field of GOP presidential aspirants.

“I’m not a Washington figure, despite the years I’ve been here,” Gingrich said. “I’m essentially an American whose ties are across the country and is interested in how you change Washington, not how you make Washington happy.”
...

Soooo...not a witch then.

Except he kinda is.

Not a real, live Wiccan "witch" witch, of course, but definitely one of his generation's greatest innovators in the dark arts of strategic Orwellian lying, slander and the meticulous cultivation of the Pig People's greatest hatreds and fears to advance the Right's grotesque agenda.

And he succeeded! Succeeded, possibly beyond his wildest dreams, in creating terrible Conservative potions and powerful Conservative conjure words that have now irreversibly polluted our cultural air and groundwater.

Elsewhere, many of Newt's running buddies from the Old Wingnut Neighborhood may be freaking out over the results --

Andrew Sullivan:

"Maybe [Roger Ailes] should have thought of that before he created a propaganda channel that rewards and continues the reward the extremes"

Byron York:

Run amok: World Net Daily suggests Bobby Jindal, born in LA, & Marco Rubio, born in FL, are not natural-born US citizens.

-- but as always with these fucking "Awakenings" Conservatives

(who almost uniformly act as if they had spent their entire adult lives in some blissfully unaware political coma, waking only sporadically to endorse an illegal war, defend a little home-grown fascism or pick up a paycheck for flattering bigots and kicking Liberals in the throat) it is all far too little and far too late, so excuse me while I wash my balls with their deathbed conversion tears.

While these Useful Idiots were busy fellating a Giant Fictional Reagan and wallowing in the wonderfulness of a Glorious Conservative Past that never was, Gingrich, Murdoch, Ailes, Limbaugh, Rove and all the rest were busy running the Real Conservative Movement: throwing the full, dreadful power of mass media production and endless, mindless repetition behind the Southern Strategy to create an immersive, all-encompassing alternate Conservative Universe from whence truth, logic, facts, causality and history have been forever banished.

For the sake of grabbing and holding power, the Right gleefully scorched the Earth, destroyed any possibility of civil public discourse, and taught an entire generation of Republican political grifters that virtually any level of fraud, hypocrisy and treason could be forgiven, forgotten, and even reversed and turned to your political favor as long as you --
  1. Remain dog-loyal to The Cause, and;
  2. Remember to repeat a few, simple, magical phrases like "The Liberal gotcha media..." and "The Liberal elite..." that Wingnut Weird Sisters like Newt had crafted for them.
Over the frantic warnings of those who knew better, scum like Gingrich kicked the locks off the gates of Hell because thought he could harness the monsters that would come roaring out and ride them all the way to the White House.

But as any child who has ever seen "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" knows

when fools play with primal forces, the mindless monsters they unleash quickly run out of their control.

And as Newt is learning, the specific Monster that he, Murdoch, Ailes, Limbaugh, Rove and all the rest conspired to set loose to blitzkrieg American democracy has now come for His due.






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