Slate

My God. It’s Full of Black Holes.

My God. It’s Full of Black Holes.:

The scientists estimate that roughly 70 percent of the objects in that image are supermassive black holes, and in the whole image there are about 5,000 sources. Imagine: Thousands of black holes in just that one tiny part of the sky! Extrapolating to the whole sky, astronomers estimate there must be more than 1 billion supermassive black holes out in the deep Universe that Chandra could see. A billion.

That’s a lot of black holes. And it’s actually only a tiny percentage of what’s out there; there are hundreds of billions or even trillions of galaxies in the Universe. Each may have its own central black hole, but we just don’t see them (because they’re quiet, or feeding but still too faint to see at large distances).

And that’s just the supermassive black holes. Ones with lower mass, formed when stars explode, probably number in the many millions per galaxy. Extrapolating that means there are quadrillions of black holes in the visible Universe.

A Conservative Group Made a “Professor Watch List,” and the Timing Is Grotesque

A Conservative Group Made a “Professor Watch List,” and the Timing Is Grotesque:

This Monday, an organization called Turning Point USA launched a website called the Professor Watchlist, which provides the full names, locations, offenses—and sometimes photographs—of liberal academics it has singled out for ignominy.

This is what the right claims political correctness is doing to our campuses.

Trump Wants Son-in-Law to Get Presidential Briefing Too Just for an Extra Pair of Real Estate Developer Eyes

Trump Wants Son-in-Law to Get Presidential Briefing Too Just for an Extra Pair of Real Estate Developer Eyes:

I am confident that those who were concerned about the potential mishandling of confidential material because of Hillary’s email server will hold Trump to the same high standard and demand that his kids and son-in-law be fully vetted before having access to confidential material.

The DNC’s Leaked Emails Show It Had No Idea How to Rig an Election

The DNC’s Leaked Emails Show It Had No Idea How to Rig an Election:

Rather than proving that the primary was deviously rigged by Clinton’s cronies—as many Sandernistas clearly believe—the WikiLeaks emails suggest the opposite. The party didn’t seem to have very many ideas at all for meddling with Sanders’ candidacy. And the ones they cooked up were weak and quickly forgotten.

The People Donald Trump Allegedly Ripped Off Through Trump University Look a Lot Like Trump Voters

The People Donald Trump Allegedly Ripped Off Through Trump University Look a Lot Like Trump Voters:

A quick look at the people suing Trump reveals, well, people who might otherwise have been inclined to be Trump voters. They’re people like Tarla Makaeff, a former model and would-be fashion entrepreneur—and currently a yoga instructor—who filed suit against Trump in 2010. She’s now, according to Yahoo, asking to be removed as a named plaintiff in the class-action case, claiming Trump is threatening to financially ruin her.

Worth a read.

E.T. Call Waiting

E.T. Call Waiting:

Some media were very quick to jump on the idea that it might be aliens—the idea being that an advanced civilization might be building huge (really huge, like hundreds of thousands of kilometers across huge) solar arrays to collect starlight for power, and it was these that were blocking the star from our view, causing the dips.

The headline it might be aliens was everywhere. The correction no, it’s not likely aliens was no where near as viral. A lie travels at warp speed while the truth is still fixing it’s hyperdrive motivator.

New York wage board approves $15 minimum wage for fast food workers: The plan makes no sense.

Economists often judge the appropriateness of a minimum wage by comparing it with the local median wage—the theory being that, in cities with higher pay across the board, a higher minimum will be less of a burden….In New York City, $15 in 2018 would still amount to more than 60 percent of the metro area’s median wage, which is high. In cities like Buffalo and Binghamton, $15 by 2021 would be worth more than 70 percent of the area median, which is extremely high.

(via New York wage board approves $15 minimum wage for fast food workers: The plan makes no sense.)

One of the disingenuous debate tactics you see when people discuss the minimum wage is to suggest “why not a million dollars an hour?” as if proposed minimum wage levels are just pulled out of air based on what feels good. Levels like 10.10 and 12.60 are based on looking at median wages as well as other factors in the market. When you do the math, $15 is too high. Unless the goal is to cap the size of fast food chains at 30 locations.

A Woman Tweets #KillAllWhiteMen and the Internet Explodes

A Woman Tweets #KillAllWhiteMen and the Internet Explodes:

Mustafa is not the first to have her reputation raked across the Web on account of some lousy tweets. But she may be the first to crumble over a case of ironic misandry, a tongue-in-cheek form of discourse favored by the young feminist Internet natives. You may have spied them on Twitter or Tumblr, working on their “KILL ALL MEN” cross-stitch or sipping from a mug labeled “MALE TEARS.” Ironic misandrists say they’re poking fun at long-standing stereotypes about militant feminist man-haters. That seems to fit Mustafa’s tweets. In a statement to Goldsmiths students, she owned up to using the hashtags, calling them “in-jokes” between herself and other members of “the queer feminist community.” If some people failed to get the joke, well, that was kind of the point.

I think many people would recognize this overreaction to a bad joke as political correctness. Chalk this up as yet another underreported case of right wing political correctness given a pass.

The Jade Helm Conspiracy Theories Are Moronic, but They’re Still Right About One Thing

The Jade Helm Conspiracy Theories Are Moronic, but They’re Still Right About One Thing:

Worth a read. Alex Jones is like pure, uncut, pharmaceutical grade Glenn Beck. His involvement in making the whole thing comedy gold. And before you warn me that he might be right, broken clocks and all, he is wrong way to often about way to much to view as anything other than a nutter.

Climate change deniers are not skeptics.

Climate change deniers are not skeptics.:

Skepticism is all about critical examination, evidence-based scientific inquiry, and the use of reason in examining controversial claims. Those who flatly deny the results of climate science do not partake in any of the above. They base their conclusions on a priori convictions. Theirs is an ideological conviction—the opposite of skepticism.

The key words being flatly deny. Its fine to be critical of climate science where there are gaps or issues with the models. That’s skepticism. But to conflate weather and climate. Or argue that it isn’t happening because something-something, that’s denial.

Why Poor People Stay Poor

Why Poor People Stay Poor:

I once lost a whole truck over a few hundred bucks. It had been towed, and when I called the company they told me they’d need a few hundred dollars for the fee. I didn’t have a few hundred dollars. So I told them when I got paid next and that I’d call back then. It was a huge pain in the ass for those days. It was the rainy season, and I wound up walking to work, adding another six miles or so a day to my imaginary pedometer. It was my own fault that I’d been towed, really, and I spent more than a couple hours ruing myself. I finally made it to payday, and when I went to get the truck, they told me that I now owed over a thousand dollars, nearly triple my paycheck. They charged a couple hundred dollars a day in storage fees. I explained that I didn’t have that kind of money, couldn’t even get it. They told me that I had some few months to get it together, including the storage for however long it took me to get it back, or that they’d simply sell it. They would, of course, give me any money above and beyond their fees if they recovered that much. I was working two jobs at the time. Both were part time. Neither paid a hundred bucks a day, much less two. I wound up losing my jobs. So did my husband. We couldn’t get from point A to point B quickly enough, and we showed up to work, late, either soaked to the skin or sweating like pigs one too many times. And with no work, we wound up losing our apartment. It’s amazing what things that are absolute crises for me are simple annoyances for people with money. Anything can make you lose your apartment, because any unexpected problem that pops up, like they do, can set off that Rube Goldberg device.

Talking white: Black people’s disdain for proper English and academic achievement is a myth.

Talking white: Black people’s disdain for proper English and academic achievement is a myth.:

By contrast, “acting white” accusations were least common at the most segregated schools, a finding echoed by a 2006 study from Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who found “no evidence at all that getting good grades adversely affects students’ popularity” in predominantly black schools. Across schools, the general pattern was this: “Acting white” accusations weren’t attached to academic performance and rather were a function of specific behaviors. If you hung out with white kids and adopted white fashions, you were accused of “acting white.” Smart kids were teased, but no more than you’d see in any other group.

Worth a read.

William Deresiewicz, Ivy League: The persistent, misguided belief that universities can transform students into better, less-entitled people.

William Deresiewicz, Ivy League: The persistent, misguided belief that universities can transform students into better, less-entitled people.:

n truth, Deresiewicz doesn’t actually have a problem with out-of-touch, entitled students. He merely prefers that they learn to think in the right ways. Spending vast sums of money to purchase an education that will secure you a position at a hedge fund is bad. Spending vast sums of money on, as Deresiewicz puts it, “building a self,” is noble. The fact that pursuing a self-building education might be worthwhile doesn’t change the fact that such an education is as much of a luxury good as a yacht. In fairness, though, Deresiewicz would prefer it if more elite students opted to purchase intellect and insight at a discount. Avoiding the Ivies and going to a public school, he says, is how to prevent yourself from being an out-of-touch, entitled little shit.

I laughed too hard at this.

Sweden school choice: The country’s disastrous experiment with Milton Friedman and vouchers.

Sweden school choice: The country’s disastrous experiment with Milton Friedman and vouchers.:

Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at what’s happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their country’s steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for America’s middling but consistent results. What’s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.

The argument from the right will be that it wasn’t free market enough. That if there had been less government it would have worked.

Clearly, this reform didn’t work in Sweden. Maybe there was some basic flaw in the implementation. Maybe its just a flawed idea.

Taxation of carried interest: The loophole for hedge fund managers could end tomorrow.

Taxation of carried interest: The loophole for hedge fund managers could end tomorrow.:

the income of a hedge fund manager is taxed at only 20 percent, which is the highest long-range capital gains rate—even though the hedge fund manager is deriving income that’s as directly earned as the wages of a steelworker.

This loophole will never close. No tax bill that closes it will ever leave the house.

The paranoid libertarian and his enemy, the angry liberal.

The paranoid libertarian and his enemy, the angry liberal.:

A paranoid libertarian is someone who distrusts the government to an unreasonable extent. Sunstein believes that many people who oppose gun control, health care reform, and progressive taxation fit the description. For example, a paranoid libertarian might not object to modest gun licensing requirements or background checks in principle but opposes these policies because he believes that the government will deny licenses to people who deserve them, or that a licensing rule will accustom people to gun control, paving the way to confiscation of all handguns. Sunstein argues that these beliefs are unreasonable, and because they often reflect an exaggerated sense of victimization, “paranoid” (rather than merely “unreasonable”) is the right term for them.

Interesting article. I don’t really buy the argument but it is a pretty good read.

Basic Economics Has a Liberal Bias

Basic Economics Has a Liberal Bias:

People to the left of econ 101 will typically invoke the phrase “political economy” to explain why, for example, econ 101 underrates labor unions. Conversely those to the right of econ 101 will instead invoke the phrase “public choice” to explain why, for example, econ 101 overrates utility regulation. But in both cases the critics are saying the same thing, namely that the moderately liberal policies advocated by introduction to economics textbooks are ignoring certain realities of institutional design, practical politics, power dynamics, etc.

That is 100% spot on. I just do not see how it fits in with his title. Maybe I am missing something but it reads like Yglesias is making the mistake of confusing economics with a morality play.

Dennis Rodman arrives in North Korea for strange basketball themed visit.

Dennis Rodman arrives in North Korea for strange basketball themed visit.:

Adding to what is already, objectively, a pretty ludicrous situation, Rodman’s trip is being sponsored by the online bookmaker Paddy Power. Executives from the company told the New York Times they struck up the relationship with Rodman after hiring him to help recruit bets on whether a black Pope would succeed Pope Benedict when he stepped down in February.

I’m glad Dennis Rodman is representing American and the interests of the American people, said no one ever.

Obamacare part-timism: A myth debunked.

Obamacare part-timism: A myth debunked.:

My strong suspicion is that if the ACA has an impact on the labor force (which it probably will) it will be through a different mechanism. Right now “in order to qualify for health benefits” is a very good reason to work full-time, even if you’d rather have more free time and less money at your current wage level. The Affordable Care Act will make this benefit qualification rationale less compelling,


The changes to part time employment in the past few years has almost nothing to do with Obamacare and everything to do with improved scheduling and time management systems in retail, hospitality and fast food sectors.

Edward Snowden and asylum: He is a terrible candidate.

Edward Snowden and asylum: He is a terrible candidate.

On the merits, Snowden's claim for asylum would not count for much in any country. Applicants for asylum typically must prove they are the victims of persecution on account of their race, ethnicity, religion, or membership in a social or political group. Frequently, these are political dissidents who are fleeing government oppression, or members of the wrong group in a civil war or ethnic conflict. They have been tortured, their families have been massacred. Snowden could be regarded as a political dissenter, but the United States is attempting to arrest him not because he holds dissenting views, but because he violated the law by disclosing information that he had sworn to keep secret. All countries have such laws; they could hardly grant asylum to an American for committing acts that they themselves would regard as crimes if committed by their own nationals.

Well written and fair article.

Generic vs. brand-name pills: Research shows billions of dollars are wasted on over-the-counter medicine.

Generic vs. brand-name pills: Research shows billions of dollars are wasted on over-the-counter medicine.

Registered nurses have more modest incomes than doctors, but are shown to be far more likely to buy generic pain relievers than other people with similar incomes. Most strikingly of all, professional pharmacists-the people who know which pills are which-are even less likely to buy name brand than are doctors and nurses. This all strongly suggests that rich people avoid generics not because the pills are inferior, or even because they're showing off, but simply because they're careless. … Nobody I know thinks advertising works on them or on anyone else. But it's clear that even when marketers don't have any meaningful information to convey about why you should buy their product, investments in branding nonetheless move purchasing decisions.

War on coal: A pretty good idea.

War on coal: A pretty good idea.

the only way to consider new coal-fired plants a remotely plausible undertaking is to completely ignore the social costs of burning the coal. By the same token, simply throwing all my garbage into my neighbor’s back yard could look like a cheap and appealing alternative to proper trash disposal if I were allowed to completely ignore the costs to my neighbor.

Getting rid of direct subsidies and then attacking indirect subsides is all that is need to make wind and solar competitive.

Keith Hennessy on Bush and the financial crisis.

Keith Hennessy on Bush and the financial crisis.

One of my students asked "How involved was President Bush with what was going on?" I smiled and responded, "What you really mean is, 'Was President Bush smart enough to understand what was going on,' right?" The class went dead silent. Everyone knew that this was the true meaning of the question.

I used to joke about someone explaining the collapse of Lehman to Bush and him asking how big a tax cut do we need to save Lehman?

Yglesias: Obama's Five Percent Pay Cut Is Absurd

Yglesias: Obama's Five Percent Pay Cut Is Absurd

This business of President Obama giving himself a five percent pay cut in solidarity with sequester-ravaged federal agencies seems totally absurd to me. Who is better off thanks to this? It doesn’t seem to free up any budgetary funds for anything.

I usually refrain form calling out politicians for grand standing. It’s part of the job. As long as it isn’t too bad, you have to let it slide. But this is such silly grandstanding that it needs to be mocked. How exactly will Obama’s life be different after this 5% cut? Will he have to bring a brown bag lunch on Air Force one?

What Problem Are DC's New Food Truck Regulations Trying To Solve?

What Problem Are DC's New Food Truck Regulations Trying To Solve?

I know some people of a market urbanist persuasion take the view that trucks’ very existence is a sign of the failure of zoning codes and regulations, but I actually think trucks are an important lunch solution on the merits.

I would not be surprised if these regulations are being pushed by the fast food industry.

Prices out of Park Slope: America needs more filtering and less gentrification.

Prices out of Park Slope: America needs more filtering and less gentrification.

it’s still possible to step back from the distributive conflict, and say that as long as we’re parceling out a fixed supply of Park Slope someone is going to get stuck with that longer subway ride. But if you can actually make more Park Slope-either by building more houses there or improving the quality of subway access to other parts of Brooklyn-then you’re making progress on a more fundamental level.

Drones don't target U.S. citizens. They kill them overseas as collateral damage.

Drones don't target U.S. citizens. They kill them overseas as collateral damage.

For months, members of Congress have asked to see memos from Obama's Office of Legal Counsel that outline the lawfulness of the administration's targeting policies. The White House has been stonewalling them. Why? One reason may be that some of the memos are defective early drafts. The Times says that after Obama's lawyers wrote their first memo, they discovered by reading a blog that they hadn't taken into account a federal law that seemed to prohibit drone strikes on American citizens abroad.

Worth a read.

Yglesias: the case for a higher minimum wage doesn't strictly require that there be no disemployment effect

Yglesias: the case for a higher minimum wage doesn't strictly require that there be no disemployment effect

the case for a higher minimum wage doesn’t strictly require that there be no disemployment effect. After all, if you can boost earnings for a huge swathe of low-income Americans at the cost of one guy losing his job that seems like an acceptable price to pay. Two guys? Still acceptable. And so on.

Yglesias: The American economy is simultaneously overregulated and underregulated

Yglesias: The American economy is simultaneously overregulated and underregulated

The way I would put this is that the American economy is simultaneously overregulated and underregulated. It is much too difficult to get business and occupational licenses…Business licensing is different. “This city has too many restaurants to choose from” is not a real public policy problem, it’s only a problem for incumbent restauranteurs who don’t want to face competition.

In a nutshell, regulations can make sense in the case of information asymmetry and in cases of negative externality. They usually don’t make sense as price controls. And in many cases, business and occupational licenses, taxi medallions, street vendor quotas and the like act as defacto price controls.

Climate Change Deniers Write Another Fact-Free Op-Ed

Climate Change Deniers Write Another Fact-Free Op-Ed

The letter itself is based on a single claim. So let's be clear: If that claim is wrong, so is the rest of the letter. Guess what? That claim is wrong. So blatantly wrong, in fact, it's hard to imagine anyone could write it with a straight face. It says: "The U.K. Met Office recently released data showing that there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years." This is simply, completely, and utterly false.

Worth a read.

Remember the famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones faces off against a guy who unsheathes a scimitar and wows the audience with his fancy swordsmanship-only to get shot in the chest by Indy? The swordsman-that's House Speaker John Boehner right now on the Bush tax cuts.

Remember the famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones faces off against a guy who unsheathes a scimitar and wows the audience with his fancy swordsmanship—only to get shot in the chest by Indy? The swordsman-that's House Speaker John Boehner right now on the Bush tax cuts.
—Boehner Is Bluffing Boehner and the fiscal cliff: The House Speaker is bluffing about the Bush tax cuts. - Slate Magazine

Paul Ryan used inside info to profit from the financial crisis

Paul Ryan used inside info to profit from the financial crisis

Ryan attended a closed meeting with congressional leaders, Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on September 18, 2008. The purpose of the meeting was to disclose the coming economic meltdown and beg Congress to pass legislation to help collapsing banks. Instead of doing anything to help, Ryan left the meeting and on that very same day Paul Ryan sold shares of stock he owned in several troubled banks and reinvested the proceeds in Goldman Sachs, a bank that the meeting had disclosed was not in trouble.

What is the Libor scandal?

What is the Libor scandal?

growing evidence that Libor numbers have been deliberately manipulated by banks for years means that millions of people have been paying the wrong interest rate on all manner of financial products. Vast sums of money have been wrongly snatched from innocent people and created equally vast undeserved windfalls for others. The basic structure of the world's financial system has once again been exposed as fundamentally broken.

And once again, the right says nothing about it, or claims it isn’t a problem because there is no way to fix the problem via tax cuts and deregulation. And if there is no way to fix it via tax cuts and deregulation, it can’t possibly be a real problem.

"The people who are the engine of the economy."

"The people who are the engine of the economy."

I’m not much of a car guy, but the way I understand this metaphor to work is that if you want to give rich people credit for being “the engine of the economy” then if the economy is performing subpar it follows that something’s wrong with your engine. And yet I suspect Zambrelli wouldn’t take kindly to that diagnosis.

If something good happens, praise me. If something bad happens, blame yourself. And if you disagree you’re a Marxist from Kenya.

Devaluation Is Austerity Done Right

Devaluation Is Austerity Done Right

Currency devaluation is best understood not as an alternative to austerity, but as the correct way for a debt-burdened society to implement austerity.

Why did Iceland recover and Ireland get worse? Iceland had a currency to debase. And they debased their currency enough to reset the economy and grow again. Three cheers for currency debasement. Ireland on the other hand, couldn’t debase the Euro. Like a nation on a gold standard, they had no way to make monetary policy changes to get the economy moving.

So if austerity works, shouldn’t it be the other way around? A stagnant Iceland and a booming Ireland?

Economic Theory Doesn't Say That Small Business Owners Maximize Profits

Economic Theory Doesn't Say That Small Business Owners Maximize Profits

to the best of my knowledge there is no economic theory that says small business owners maximize profits. Think about it from a workers’ perspective. People who work on commercial fishing operations earn a lot more money than most people with comparable levels of education. But nobody thinks it defies economic theory that America’s retail clerks don’t quit their jobs en masse to go fishing. Commercial fishing is dangerous and you have to live on a boat. All else being equal, people prefer to earn more money but they also prefer to do safe work and have the opportunity to socialize. What economic theory says is that workers maximize utility and therefore employers who want to get workers to do something that’s unusually dangerous or unusually unpleasant will have to pay a premium. A small business operator is in the same situation. She’s balancing income against other lifestyle factors, including the hours put in on the job, the pleasantness of the work, the sense of self-esteem that comes from having something to do, possibly a sentimental attachment to a particular location or certain employees. What economic theory says is that a profit maximizing small business person has to be someone with a very unusual utility function.

This can not be repeated enough. Small businesses rarely behave the way politicians describe.

Taxi Medallions How New York's terrible taxi system makes fares higher and drivers poorer

Taxi Medallions: How New York's terrible taxi system makes fares higher and drivers poorer

When New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission held a public hearing last week to consider whether to raise taxi fares by 20 percent, cabdrivers pled poverty and passengers argued that fares are too high. Paradoxically, both groups were right. This lose-lose scenario is only possible under the taxi medallion system, a regulatory scheme in which the right to operate a taxi is thoroughly divorced from the actual work of driving one. It's a classic example of the perils of financialization, the process through which economic potential is turned into a liquid and leveraged asset. By converting a portion of cabbies' future revenue into a freely tradable asset, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and a host of other cities have created a powerful investor class, medallion owners and financiers, whose interests routinely compete with those of drivers and passengers.

Financialization also makes what should be a trivial deregulation nearly impossible as it would make the Medallion owners very upset. They would be willing to spend big bucks to prevent any attempt at deregulation.

The Real Source of Corruption in Congress: Members' Good-Faith Efforts To Help People

The Real Source of Corruption in Congress: Members' Good-Faith Efforts To Help People

But why does Rogers care so much about Phoenix Products that he wants to send all this business his way? What Phoenix Products has is something unique. It’s based in Kentucky, just like Harold Rogers. Its employees live in Harold Rogers’ district, they shop in stores that are in Harold Rogers’ district, their spouses and siblings live in Harold Rogers’ district, their incomes bolster the tax base for municipalities in Harold Rogers’ district. So if Harold Rogers wants to do the right thing for Harold Rogers’ constituents, he needs to do the right thing for Phoenix Products.

Hayek differentiated between an welfare state of Law versus one of administration. The former would function based on a set of rules in openness and transparency. The latter would be run by bureaucrats who distributed favors for their own political gain. The former would be compatible with a free democratic society, the later would subvert it.

I think we need to start looking at the defense industry as favor distributing patronage system that no longer serves its defined public purpose.

Nouriel Roubini: Greece will leave the eurozone sooner or later. Sooner is better.

Nouriel Roubini: Greece will leave the eurozone sooner or later. Sooner is better.

The first option, a sharp weakening of the euro, is unlikely, as Germany is strong and the ECB is not aggressively easing monetary policy. A rapid reduction in unit labor costs, through structural reforms that increased productivity growth in excess of wages, is just as unlikely. It took Germany 10 years to restore its competitiveness this way; Greece cannot remain in a depression for a decade. Likewise, a rapid deflation in prices and wages, known as an "internal devaluation," would lead to five years of ever-deepening depression. If none of those three options is feasible, the only path left is to leave the eurozone. A return to a national currency and a sharp depreciation would quickly restore competitiveness and growth.

This is a must read. Nouriel Roubini on why Greece must leave the Eurozone.

In 47 of America's fine states, if you want to accept people's money in order to give them advice on decorating and other people want to pay you to give advice on decorating, then congratulations-you're an interior decorator. In the other three states, and the District of Columbia, you need undergo 2,190 hours of training and apprenticeship and pass an exam before practicing. This, of course, is why homes in DC are wildly better-decorated than the homes in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs or in other large American cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, and Philadelphia. Except of course that's not true.

In 47 of America’s fine states, if you want to accept people’s money in order to give them advice on decorating and other people want to pay you to give advice on decorating, then congratulations-you’re an interior decorator. In the other three states, and the District of Columbia, you need undergo 2,190 hours of training and apprenticeship and pass an exam before practicing. This, of course, is why homes in DC are wildly better-decorated than the homes in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs or in other large American cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, and Philadelphia. Except of course that’s not true.
Licensed To Decorate

Scott Walker to campaign on made-up jobs data.

Scott Walker to campaign on made-up jobs data.

Wisconsin lost 23,900 jobs between March 2011 and 2012, according to the bureau, which will release fresh estimates tomorrow. Walker, who promised to create 250,000 jobs by the end of his first term in 2014, says the state is performing better than that. He said while campaigning this week that he would release his own figures as early as today, the Associated Press reported.

The numbers show my policy isn’t working so I will change the numbers we use so I can still promote my policy as a success. Wow.

America's Helium Privatization Fiasco

America's Helium Privatization Fiasco

in 1996 when Congress decided that the United States did not need a giant strategic helium reserve, Chris Cox, R.-Calif., and his colleagues passed a Helium Privatization Act that ordered the helium supplies to be sold down at a formula-driven price rather than auctioned. That price has turned out to be way below the market rate. That’s encouraging overconsumption of helium, discouraging new helium production, and all-in-all creating a big helium shortage.

I’ve asked this question before and I will ask it again. If you think government can not run anything right, why do you think it can run a privatization program? Second, it looked like the state run helium system worked better (the fact that it was set up by people who actually think the public center can run things might have something to do with it) would you consider going back?

Tourism: America should make it much easier for foreign visitors to come here.

Tourism: America should make it much easier for foreign visitors to come here.

Talk of exports normally conjures up images of factories and container ships, but many of America's exports are services. The nation's biggest service export is in some sense not an export at all-it's travel and tourism

So can we now start arguing that the national security state is hurting exports?

Taxes Are Austerity

Taxes Are Austerity

A confusing new argument I’m seeing from the right is that European austerity programs aren’t really austerity because some of the deficit reduction has come from tax increases. All that shows is that European politicians favor fiscal austerity, which is a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts-i.e., exactly what European countries have been implementing.

This is the defense of austerity by claiming it wasn’t enough austere enough. If it were just done by massive service cuts then it would have worked.

District 12 is a quintessential extractive economy. It's oriented around a coal mine, the kind of facility where unskilled labor can be highly productive in light of the value of the underlying commodity. In a free society, market competition for labor and union organizing would drive wages up. But instead the Capitol imposes a single purchaser of mine labor and offers subsistence wages. Emigration to other districts in search of better opportunities is banned, as is exploitation of the apparently bountiful resources of the surrounding forest. With the mass of Seam workers unable to earn a decent wage, even relatively privileged townsfolk have modest living standards. If mineworkers earned more money, the Mellark family bakery would have more customers and more incentive to invest in expanded operations. A growing service economy would grow up around the mine. But the extractive institutions keep the entire District in a state of poverty, despite the availability of advanced technology in the Capitol.

District 12 is a quintessential extractive economy. It's oriented around a coal mine, the kind of facility where unskilled labor can be highly productive in light of the value of the underlying commodity. In a free society, market competition for labor and union organizing would drive wages up. But instead the Capitol imposes a single purchaser of mine labor and offers subsistence wages. Emigration to other districts in search of better opportunities is banned, as is exploitation of the apparently bountiful resources of the surrounding forest. With the mass of Seam workers unable to earn a decent wage, even relatively privileged townsfolk have modest living standards. If mineworkers earned more money, the Mellark family bakery would have more customers and more incentive to invest in expanded operations. A growing service economy would grow up around the mine. But the extractive institutions keep the entire District in a state of poverty, despite the availability of advanced technology in the Capitol.
The Hunger Games: Could a real country have an economy like Panem's? - Slate Magazine

The Spanish government, fearful of the bond markets, enacted tough austerity budget measures that decreased Spanish people's incomes and therefore demand for the products of Spanish firms. This has pushed the country deeper into recession, so it should come as little surprise that their bond sales are now going poorly. That's counterproductive austerity at work.

The Spanish government, fearful of the bond markets, enacted tough austerity budget measures that decreased Spanish people’s incomes and therefore demand for the products of Spanish firms. This has pushed the country deeper into recession, so it should come as little surprise that their bond sales are now going poorly. That’s counterproductive austerity at work.

Counterproductive Austerity in Spain

Contraction isn’t expansion.

When lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, a fellow Republican, called for suspending the state's 23.5 cent gas tax during a price spike in May 2006, Romney rejected the idea, saying it would only further drive up gasoline consumption. "I don't think that now is the time, and I'm not sure there will be the right time, for us to encourage the use of more gasoline," Romney said, according to the Quincy Patriot Ledger's report at the time. "I'm very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay.

When lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, a fellow Republican, called for suspending the state's 23.5 cent gas tax during a price spike in May 2006, Romney rejected the idea, saying it would only further drive up gasoline consumption. "I don't think that now is the time, and I'm not sure there will be the right time, for us to encourage the use of more gasoline," Romney said, according to the Quincy Patriot Ledger's report at the time. "I'm very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay.

Mitt Romney Talking Sense On Gas Prices In 2006

I wish that Mitt Romney was running for office. Sounds like a sensible fiscal conservative with a solid understanding of markets.

If you want to grow slightly alarmed about the American future, contemplate not just the scale of our trade deficit with China but the fact that our largest export to them by a wide margin is soybeans.

If you want to grow slightly alarmed about the American future, contemplate not just the scale of our trade deficit with China but the fact that our largest export to them by a wide margin is soybeans.
America’s Customers Are Mostly Nearby

Opposition to the bailout was driven, in part, by the recognition that nationalization of an industrial enterprise is an open invitation to mismanagement and bad public policy. You could easily imagine a scenario in which the Obama administration made its partisan political objectives a key management priority at Government Motors. Alternatively, you could easily imagine a scenario in which Obama administration trade policy became dominated by the narrow interests of Government Motors rather than the broad interests of the American public. There's a good reason why sensible people don't normally recommend that the government own manufacturing companies. But these bad things didn't happen, and given the total lack of private financing for anything at the time the alternative was liquidation rather than reorganization. I think it's very understandable that Obama's political foes were not prepared at the time to simply assume that the administration was handle a post-nationalization auto industry in a responsible way.

Opposition to the bailout was driven, in part, by the recognition that nationalization of an industrial enterprise is an open invitation to mismanagement and bad public policy. You could easily imagine a scenario in which the Obama administration made its partisan political objectives a key management priority at Government Motors. Alternatively, you could easily imagine a scenario in which Obama administration trade policy became dominated by the narrow interests of Government Motors rather than the broad interests of the American public. There’s a good reason why sensible people don’t normally recommend that the government own manufacturing companies. But these bad things didn’t happen, and given the total lack of private financing for anything at the time the alternative was liquidation rather than reorganization. I think it’s very understandable that Obama’s political foes were not prepared at the time to simply assume that the administration was handle a post-nationalization auto industry in a responsible way.
Economist Devastates Romney On The Auto Bailout

Racial Education Gap Narrowing, Income Education Gap Growing

Racial Education Gap Narrowing, Income Education Gap Growing

pure income inequality has become much bigger and on a variety of different fronts income-linked stratification has become a bigger deal. One way in which this reflects itself is that the “achievement gap” in school between white kids and black kids used to be bigger than the gap between rich and poor.

I remember someone on Bill Maher’s old show making a joke about this. Conservatives looked at the problem of poor black kids having fewer opportunities to get an education than poor white kids and decided to solve the problem by making sure that poor white kids don’t have any opportunities for a good education either.

The real workforce of Facebook is all the people who are creating Facebook content. That's closer to 800 million people (roughly their user base) than to 3,000 people (roughly their number of employees). There's nothing new about medica companies getting people to produce content for free (that's what the letters to the editor page or comments section is) but Facebook has built the most amazing vehicle for the appropriation of surplus value that the world has ever known. Ergo its stunning profits and amazing ratio of market capitalization to formal employees.

The real workforce of Facebook is all the people who are creating Facebook content. That’s closer to 800 million people (roughly their user base) than to 3,000 people (roughly their number of employees). There’s nothing new about medica companies getting people to produce content for free (that’s what the letters to the editor page or comments section is) but Facebook has built the most amazing vehicle for the appropriation of surplus value that the world has ever known. Ergo its stunning profits and amazing ratio of market capitalization to formal employees.

Facebook Has The World’s Largest Workforce

I’ve been working on the model that the difference between internet media companies and social networking is content creation. If you create content for your users (like Slate) you’re in publishing. If your users create and share content, you’re a social network. And Usenet was the first large scale social network.

When businesspeople complain about regulations, you should generally be skeptical. The regulations, after all, are there precisely because some businesses can make more money by despoiling the environment, endangering public health and safety, and threatening the financial system. A regulation that's not annoying someone by wrecking his money-making scheme would be completely pointless.

When businesspeople complain about regulations, you should generally be skeptical. The regulations, after all, are there precisely because some businesses can make more money by despoiling the environment, endangering public health and safety, and threatening the financial system. A regulation that's not annoying someone by wrecking his money-making scheme would be completely pointless.
Bruce Braley's Plain Regulations Act: Can the Iowa Democrat force the government to write in clear English? - Slate Magazine

President Obama's muddled plan to boost employment by hindering trade

President Obama's muddled plan to boost employment by hindering trade

When Obama brags that "over 1,000 Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires," he's implementing a small-scale version of a similar idea. Blocking an influx of cheap Chinese tires does, indeed, preserve jobs for tire-makers. But tire-buyers pay higher prices and presumably curtail their purchases of some other goods or services in exchange. Meanwhile, Chinese tire-makers have lost jobs and are now less likely to buy American soybeans or DVDs of our movies. … This line of thinking swiftly stumbles into self-contradiction. After lambasting companies that "ship jobs overseas," Obama launched into a feel-good anecdote about how "Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College." Is a politician in Germany giving a speech lambasting Siemens for shipping jobs to the U.S. and complaining, as Obama did, that it's "not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they're heavily subsidized," perhaps through partnerships with community colleges.

This is where Obama gets things wrong. You can compete by having poorly paid workers living in dorms working 60 hour weeks with no concern about the health and safety of those workers or you can compete by having workers produce much more value per hour worked. The former is the developing nations model, the later is the developed nation model. Why I think the later is a better idea for the US should be obvious in the same why it is obvious why China picked the former.

Deadweight loss exists any time the profit-maximizing price of a unit of something exceeds the cost of producing an extra unit. In a highly competitive market in which many sellers are offering largely undifferentiated goods, profit margins are low and deadweight loss is tiny. But the whole point of copyright is that the owner of the rights to, say, Breaking Bad has a monopoly on sales of new episodes of the show. At the same time, producing an extra copy of a Breaking Bad episode is nearly free. So when the powers that be decide that the profit-maximizing strategy is to charge more than $100 to download all four seasons of Breaking Bad from iTunes, they're creating a situation in which lots of people who'd gain $15 or $85 worth of enjoyment from watching the show can't watch it. This is "deadweight loss," and to the extent that copyright infringement reduces it, infringement is a boon to society.

Deadweight loss exists any time the profit-maximizing price of a unit of something exceeds the cost of producing an extra unit. In a highly competitive market in which many sellers are offering largely undifferentiated goods, profit margins are low and deadweight loss is tiny. But the whole point of copyright is that the owner of the rights to, say, Breaking Bad has a monopoly on sales of new episodes of the show. At the same time, producing an extra copy of a Breaking Bad episode is nearly free. So when the powers that be decide that the profit-maximizing strategy is to charge more than $100 to download all four seasons of Breaking Bad from iTunes, they're creating a situation in which lots of people who'd gain $15 or $85 worth of enjoyment from watching the show can't watch it. This is "deadweight loss," and to the extent that copyright infringement reduces it, infringement is a boon to society.
SOPA: Stopping online piracy would be a social and economic disaster. - Slate Magazine

things like public libraries, used bookstores, and the widespread practice of lending books to friends all cost publishers money. But nobody (I hope) is going to introduce the Stop Used Bookstores Now Act purely on these grounds. The public policy question is not whether the libraries are bad for publishers, but whether libraries are beneficial on balance.

things like public libraries, used bookstores, and the widespread practice of lending books to friends all cost publishers money. But nobody (I hope) is going to introduce the Stop Used Bookstores Now Act purely on these grounds. The public policy question is not whether the libraries are bad for publishers, but whether libraries are beneficial on balance.
SOPA: Stopping online piracy would be a social and economic disaster. - Slate Magazine

One difficulty in fighting against son-of-SOPA legislative efforts is going to be that anti-SOPA campaigning has focused very heavily on the most extreme elements of the bill and not quite aimed at the core of the underlying dubious economic and public policy arguments driving the legislation

One difficulty in fighting against son-of-SOPA legislative efforts is going to be that anti-SOPA campaigning has focused very heavily on the most extreme elements of the bill and not quite aimed at the core of the underlying dubious economic and public policy arguments driving the legislation
What’s Still In Play In SOPA

Leaving the payroll tax intact and reducing Social Security benefits for higher-income seniors is, in effect, an increase in marginal tax rates but it was clear from the discussion at this morning's GOP Presidential debate that few Republicans see it this way. Still, it's true. The way Social Security works is that you pay taxes when you're working and you collect benefits when you retire, with the benefits proportional to what you paid.

Leaving the payroll tax intact and reducing Social Security benefits for higher-income seniors is, in effect, an increase in marginal tax rates but it was clear from the discussion at this morning’s GOP Presidential debate that few Republicans see it this way. Still, it’s true. The way Social Security works is that you pay taxes when you’re working and you collect benefits when you retire, with the benefits proportional to what you paid.
Means Testing Social Security Is A Kind of Tax Increase

Maybe Fair Trade Cotton Isn't Growth By Child Slaves After All

Maybe Fair Trade Cotton Isn't Growth By Child Slaves After All

If you think about an agricultural economy centered around a cash crop for export-it could be cotton, coffee, or whatever else you like-then realistically locally focused food production is also going to be part of the picture. The cotton farmers need food after all. So you could easily have a situation in which a bunch of farmers are clustered in a village, partially growing vegetables for basically their own consumption and partially growing cotton. In the unfair trade paradigm, children and adults alike grow both cotton and vegetables. Then when you switch to a fair trade paradigm, what you get is labor market segmentation. Maybe children stop working in the export-oriented cotton fields, but now children are doing all the vegetable farming. The household- and village-level economies, however, are still dependent on child labor. This is all just very tricky to deal with unless the country where it’s happening has the state capacity to enact mandatory free public schooling rules and enforce them effectively as a matter of policy.

Loser liberalism, by implying that all fortunes are created equal, alternately goes too easy on scoundrels and comes down too hard on people who are merely prosperous. Chris Paul is in the one percent, but he's also a kid from a working class background who's spent his entire career being structurally underpaid and victimized by cartels. By contrast, even substantially lower-paid (and there's lots of room to be both lower-paid than Chris Paul and very highly paid) folks working on Wall Street are making a living in an industry that's systematically dependent on implicit and explicit government guarantees. Making a living as a patent troll is totally different from making a living as a genuine innovator.

Loser liberalism, by implying that all fortunes are created equal, alternately goes too easy on scoundrels and comes down too hard on people who are merely prosperous. Chris Paul is in the one percent, but he’s also a kid from a working class background who’s spent his entire career being structurally underpaid and victimized by cartels. By contrast, even substantially lower-paid (and there’s lots of room to be both lower-paid than Chris Paul and very highly paid) folks working on Wall Street are making a living in an industry that’s systematically dependent on implicit and explicit government guarantees. Making a living as a patent troll is totally different from making a living as a genuine innovator.
Barack Obama’s Loser Liberalism

If the problem is years of "living beyond our means" the solution dictated by cosmic justice is years of laboring in auto plants building cars for South Koreans to drive. If the question is "why are we consuming so much less than we produced" the answer may be "it's because in the past we consumed more than we produced." But right now the question facing America is "why are so many millions of people producing nothing at all." The answer can't be simply that we had too much debt in the past or that we lived beyond our means.

If the problem is years of “living beyond our means” the solution dictated by cosmic justice is years of laboring in auto plants building cars for South Koreans to drive. If the question is “why are we consuming so much less than we produced” the answer may be “it’s because in the past we consumed more than we produced.” But right now the question facing America is “why are so many millions of people producing nothing at all.” The answer can’t be simply that we had too much debt in the past or that we lived beyond our means.
"Japanese" Cars, Made in America and Ready for Export to South Korea

a study from Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier finds that defense spending does indeed create jobs under recession conditions but that "$1 billion spent on each of the domestic spending priorities will create substantially more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military" with "investments in clean energy, health care and education.

a study from Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier finds that defense spending does indeed create jobs under recession conditions but that “$1 billion spent on each of the domestic spending priorities will create substantially more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military” with “investments in clean energy, health care and education.
Armed Keynesianism Assessed

People tell a lot of tall tales about the Shaolin Temple," the abbot says with the composed demeanor of the deeply religious. "They are not familiar with and don't represent the real history of Shaolin, the Shaolin culture, or the inherited essence of Shaolin." - Shi Yongxin, Abbot of the Shaolin Temple discussing the Wu-Tang Clan

People tell a lot of tall tales about the Shaolin Temple," the abbot says with the composed demeanor of the deeply religious. "They are not familiar with and don’t represent the real history of Shaolin, the Shaolin culture, or the inherited essence of Shaolin."
- Shi Yongxin, Abbot of the Shaolin Temple discussing the Wu-Tang Clan
Lunch with Shi Yongxin, the abbot of the Shaolin Temple. - By Jamil Anderlini - Slate Magazine

The point is that the supply-siders were absolutely sure that his policies would produce disaster

It should go without saying that the supply-side idea—which is that tax cuts have such a positive effect on the economy that one need not worry about paying for them with spending cuts—does not persist because of any actual evidence in its favor. If you want, any nonpartisan economist can explain to you at length what really happened during the Reagan years, and why you can’t seriously claim his record as an advertisement for supply-side policies. But surely it is enough to look at the extraordinary recent record of the supply-siders as economic forecasters. In 1993, after the Clinton administration had pushed through an increase in taxes on upper-income families, the very same people who have persuaded Dole to run on a tax-cut platform were very sure about what would happen. Newt Gingrich confidently predicted a severe recession. Articles in Forbes magazine urged readers to get out of the stock market to avoid the inevitable crash. The Wall Street Journal editorial page had no doubts that the tax increase would sharply increase the deficit instead of reducing it. Well here we are, three years later: The economy has created 10 million new jobs, the market is up by 1500 points, and the deficit has been cut in half. I’m not saying that Clinton’s policies led to that result—they account for only part of the good news about the deficit, and hardly any of the rest. But the point is that the supply-siders were absolutely sure that his policies would produce disaster—and indeed, if their doctrine had any truth to it, they would have.

Supply-Side Virus Strikes Again - By Paul Krugman - Slate Magazine

15 Years later and the debate still rages on, facts be damned.

Hitchens: Does the Texas governor believe his idiotic God talk, or is he just pandering for votes?

Perry did not, of course, suffer politically for making an idiot of himself in this way. Not even the true believers really expect that prayers for precipitation will be answered, or believe that a failed rainmaker is a false prophet. And, had Perry’s entreaties actually been followed by a moistening of the clouds and the coming of the healing showers, it is unlikely that anybody would really have claimed a connection between post hoc and propter hoc. No, religion in politics is more like an insurance policy than a true act of faith. Professing allegiance to it seldom does you any harm, at least in Republican primary season, and can do you some good. It’s a question of prudence.

From Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

That a climate science denier would lead a prayer for rain is just too funny.

Bush tax cuts 10th anniversary: They've been a failure in every conceivable way.

The massive Bush tax cuts mark their 10th birthday this week. Sadly, despite my best efforts to find something redeeming about them-honest!-there is little to celebrate. By nearly all of the metrics set out by President Bush himself, the cuts were a colossal failure.

From Bush tax cuts 10th anniversary: They’ve been a failure in every conceivable way.

So no one would be crazy enough to suggest even more tax cuts, right?

EarthTainer

'The system is called the EarthTainer, and it was developed four years ago by Ray Newstead, an executive at the semiconductor company SMSC. The EarthTainer is a "self-watering container," which isn't a novel concept to most gardeners. It's essentially a big pot with two chambers-the top one, containing soil, is where you put your plants, and the bottom one is where you add water. As you can see in the picture below, the two chambers are connected by a central "wicking basket"; throughcapillary action, water is absorbed from the bottom chamber through the wicking basket and into the top. It's impossible to overwater your plants in the EarthTainer, and it's almost impossible to underwater them, too: You fill it with water every few days, and your plants drink up only as much as they need.'

GOP's Continuing Resolution Cuts Funding for National Weather Service, FEMA

Back in February 2009, Republicans found a lot of risible spending in the stimulus bill. In his response to the State of the Union, Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., derided the stimulus for including “$140 million for something called volcano monitoring.” The gripe was mostly that the funding, mostly for U.S. Geological Survey upkeep, wasn’t stimulative. (This is a pretty good argument.) But Democrats honed in on that comment to decide that Republicans were going to try to cut funding for natural disaster monitoring.


From Weigel : GOP’s Continuing Resolution Cuts Funding for National Weather Service, FEMA

Yeah, Tsunami/Earthquake/Hurricane warning systems are a total waste of money. Let the free market provide personal disaster prevention domes.

Ulysses S Grant on the Founding Fathers

The framers were wise in their generation and wanted to do the very best possible to secure their own liberty and independence, and that also of their descendants to the latest days. It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies. At the time of the framing of our constitution the only physical forces that had been subdued and made to serve man and do his labor, were the currents in the streams and in the air we breathe. Rude machinery, propelled by water power, had been invented; sails to propel ships upon the waters had been set to catch the passing breeze-but the application of stream to propel vessels against both wind and current, and machinery to do all manner of work had not been thought of. The instantaneous transmission of messages around the world by means of electricity would probably at that day have been attributed to witchcraft or a league with the Devil. Immaterial circumstances had changed as greatly as material ones. We could not and ought not to be rigidly bound by the rules laid down under circumstances so different for emergencies so utterly unanticipated. The fathers themselves would have been the first to declare that their prerogatives were not irrevocable. They would surely have resisted secession could they have lived to see the shape it assumed.

From Chapter XVI. Grant, Ulysses S. 1885-86. Personal Memoirs

Tip of the hat to Slate political gabfest for this.

What do anarchists want from us?

What, exactly, do anarchists want?

It’s easier to say what they don’t want. Unlike other political movements that define themselves by what they support-like republicanism, fascism, or monarchism-anarchism is defined by what it rejects. Namely, any authority that’s imposed from above. Instead of a formal state with police and laws, anarchists envision a society in which small groups govern themselves by consensus. The functions that we now associate with the government, like mail, defense, and education, would be handled on a cooperative basis. The anarchist paradise would look very much like a set of independently run communes.

From What do anarchists want from us? - By Brian Palmer - Slate Magazine

Small independently running communes. How is that different from a collection of villages in the 3rd world?

If Democrats are the big spenders, why do Republican states get the money?

states with the highest anti-spending sentiment appear to be the largest beneficiaries of government spending. Not only do red states swallow the lion’s share of government spending, but Richardson found a linear relationship between the extent of GOP support in a state-and, by implication, the fervor of its anti-government sentiment-and the amount of federal largesse the state receives.

Alaska, home to Sarah Palin, and where two fiscally conservative Republican candidates for Senate recently mopped up 75 percent of the vote between them, received $1.64 in federal benefits for every $1 the state contributed to the national kitty. Massachusetts, Richardson found last year, received 82 cents for every dollar it paid into the national pool. No doubt as compensation, liberals in Massachusetts and other “blue” states also received lots of vitriol for being such out-of-control spenders.

The 28 states where George W. Bush won more than 50 percent of the vote in 2004 received an average of $1.32 for every dollar contributed. The 19 states where Bush received less than 50 percent of the vote collected 93 cents on the dollar.

"Voting Republican paid large dividends," Richardson wrote in a piece published in the Economist’s Voice. “For each 1 percent of the population voting in favor of the Republican presidential candidate, the state received an additional 1.7 cents in benefits for each dollar in taxes.”


From Slate

None of this is surprising. If you hide the true cost of government, people will demand services more while expecting to pay less for them.

People who are serious about the size of government and subscribe to fact based rather than faith based economics are asking that the cost of government (taxes) match the goods provided by government (spending). Raise taxes, and keep raising them until the laws of supply and demand return to normal.

Why do Tea Partiers capitalize their nouns?

If he becomes governor of Colorado, Tea Partier Dan Maes will remind citizens that “freedom originates in a Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” according to his Web site. In her campaign materials, New Jersey congressional candidate and Tea Partier Anna C. Little rhapsodizes the “inalienable rights by our Creator, among them Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” and touts strict border control as “the first step in the process of regaining control of our Republic.” As you read these sentences, your first question is surely: Why do these and other Tea Party candidates hold the rules of capitalization in such contempt?

From Why do Tea Partiers capitalize their nouns?

Hmm? Teabonics has a punctuation equivalent?

Why liberals will be glad to see Rahm Emanuel go. - By David Weigel - Slate Magazine

Why liberals will be glad to see Rahm Emanuel go. - By David Weigel - Slate Magazine

Emanuel’s arrival at the White House was, for progressives, an original sin. It was compounded by the way he made sure that Dean would stay outside of the White House. “There was never any intention to hire Dean,” says one Democrat who talked to Berman, “and in fact there was a great deal of satisfaction in dissing him.” That, according to the professional left, just proved what they thought about Emanuel. He thought the left was so overzealous and useless that he relished in ignoring it. Proving the left wrong was synonymous with having the right policy.

Both the GOP and the Dems are afraid of their bases. How they react to those fears is what distinguishes the policy arms of the parties.

Friday Oct 29th is Don't Pray for Hitchens Day

Stricken with cancer and fragile from chemotherapy, author and Slate columnist Christopher Hitchens is standing by his atheist beliefs: He will not take part in a prayer day devoted to him.

From Video: Christopher Hitchens won’t attend a prayer day in his honor. - - Slate Magazine

I’m declaring Friday Oct 29th to be Don’t Pray for Hitchens Day. I am calling on non-believers and believers alike to not pray for him.

The only thing Americans hate more than big government is the absence of government protection

middle-class Americans of the right, left, and center have now come to expect a level of personal financial security that despite the stereotypes most people would never demand from their governments. In a review he wrote earlier this month, Brink Lindsey, the vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute a man who knows what he is up against pulled up some extraordinary statistics. Most Americans, it turns out, are suspicious of the free market. And most American also approve of high government spending. The majority of Americans are wary of global trade, don’t trust free markets, and also think “the benefits from … Social Security or Medicare are worth the costs of those programs.” And when the sample is restricted to people who support the Tea Party movement? The number is still 62 percent.

From The only thing Americans hate more than big government is the absence of government protection. - By Anne Applebaum - Slate Magazine

One would think that when faced with suspicion of free market by the public at large, libertarians would be willing put up with more regulation, even more government regulation if it were to restore faith in markets.

How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon

In her 70s Rand found herself dying of lung cancer, after insisting that her followers smoke because it symbolized “man’s victory over fire” and the studies showing it caused lung cancer were Communist propaganda.

Rand was broken by the Bolsheviks as a girl, and she never left their bootprint behind. She believed her philosophy was Bolshevism’s opposite, when in reality it was its twin. Both she and the Soviets insisted a small revolutionary elite in possession of absolute rationality must seize power and impose its vision on a malleable, imbecilic mass. The only difference was that Lenin thought the parasites to be stomped on were the rich, while Rand thought they were the poor.
From Slate

Excellent dissection or Rand’s life and work. He life demonstrates the danger of replacing empiricism with ideology.

TARP could have cost taxpayers $700 billion. Now it looks like it might break even

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Panic of 2008, it’s clear that the actual cost of the TARP will be a fraction of the original $700 billion estimate and that taxpayers are even turning a profit from the central component of the package.
From Slate: TARP could have cost taxpayers $700 billion

I can’t wait until the GOP arguments that TARP’s successes are due to W start. And I fully expect to hear spin that it would have failed if Obama got his way. I’m also looking forward to the random libertarian spit-balls on how TARP actually made things worse.

A special court rejects autism-vaccine theories

In the case of autism and vaccines, we’ve made the same decision. The debate has aroused intense feelings: On one side are physicians and medical groups, convinced that vaccines are safe and effective, perhaps the most lifesaving breakthrough in medical history. On the other side are parents, like Estepp, who struggle every day to raise a child with autism. Painfully watching their children become autistic after receiving vaccines is their lasting proof. It’s the answer when doctors and medicine can’t answer why. For them, the emotion of the issue can’t be quieted by science’s hypotheses.
A special court rejects autism-vaccine theories. - By Arthur Allen - Slate Magazine

Great article detailing how the emotional arguments are bumping up against the science and vice-versa.

Hitchens Unjumps Shark

It therefore seems to me that the Republican Party has invited not just defeat but discredit this year, and that both its nominees for the highest offices in the land should be decisively repudiated, along with any senators, congressmen, and governors who endorse them.
From Vote Obama - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

Hitchens’ well written take down of McCain reminds me of why I read him the first place.

stem-cell research breakthrough

Stemming the controversy: Scientists announced Tuesday that they’ve discovered a way to cultivate stem cells using skin cells instead of embryos. This could mean that potential cures for everything from Parkinson’s disease to Alzheimer’s might circumvent the morally fraught debate over whether stem-cell research is a handmaid to infanticide, as many critics have claimed.
From Bloggers on the stem-cell research breakthrough. - By Michael Weiss - Slate Magazine

Now that the need for embryos for stem cell research may be obsolete, why is it that I am the only guy with a blog that sees this as a five year set-back for Stem Cell research caused by the President’s allegiance to the Texas Taliban.

Why Bush stands by his incompetents

The more radioactive his aides become, the more Bush embraces them. With Gonzales, the president was particularly alone in this stance. Conservatives who might otherwise defend Bush against Democrats were appalled by Gonzales’ incompetence and the utter waste of time and energy devoted to cleaning up his messy department. Why does Bush hang on until his mistakes are glowing?
From: Why Bush stands by his incompetents. - By John Dickerson - Slate Magazine

My pet theory on this is that the president doesn’t see a difference between I think and I know. Since he thinks that someone is a good man; that should be the same as knowing that person is a good man. It is common for some parts of the faith based community to view opinions; when held strongly enough, magically become equal to any facts someone else may have. So it really doesn’t matter to him how poorly a person performs so long as it doesn’t effect what he personally thinks about that person’s performance.

The Al Qaeda Reader

These are not real grievances for al-Qaida (it does not bear mentioning that Bin Laden is probably not very concerned with campaign finance reform). They are a means of weaving local and global resentments into a single anti-American narrative, the overarching aim of which is to form a collective identity across borders and nationalities, and to convince the world that it is locked in a cosmic contest between the forces of Truth and Falsehood, Belief and Unbelief, Good and Evil, Us and Them.
From The Al Qaeda Reader. - By Reza Aslan - Slate Magazine

This is a must read article on Al Qaeda. I will continue to follow Reza Aslan’s writing on the subject as it provides a well written counter weight to Slate’s bombastic Mr Hitchens.

why she banned Paris

A prominent and rich family. A drunk-driving arrest. Serious doubts about intelligence. A misspent youth. Sudden inspiration through the Bible. It’s interesting how two of the most unpopular and divisive figures in America today-George W. Bush and Paris Hilton-have so much in common. And on Wednesday, June 27, they found themselves in an unusual competition: Whose legal crisis would dominate the news cycle?
The editor of Us Weekly explains why she banned Paris Hilton from its pages. - By Janice Min - Slate Magazine

The less Paris the better.

It's only illegal when the president agrees it's illegal

We now know that in 2004 Gonzales and Andy Card raced to the hospital to try to get a very sick John Ashcroft to certify the legality of the president’s secret NSA surveillance program going over the head of Comey, the acting attorney general while Ashcroft was ill. When Ashcroft refused to override Comey, the White House reauthorized the program without DoJ certification. The question now is whether in so doing, the White House did something illegal, improper, neither, or both.
From Slate Magazine

AG Ashcroft and Acting AG Comey deserve a lot of respect for refusing to go along with the Whitehouse. Doubly so when you put it in the context of Ashcroft in a hospital bed and Comey rushing to his side to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice.

The successful Iraq

Interestingly, many of the same issues that have dogged the current American campaign in Iraq dogged American efforts in the Philippines. These include the inability to recognize that the war was not over simply because we thought it should be over, the difficulty in adjusting to a new kind of war, the constant interaction of domestic politics and military affairs, and the divided command structure in the Philippines. And yet, the United States in the Philippines won not only the conventional war but the insurgency. Why?
From The successful Iraq. - By David Silbey - Slate Magazine

An interesting discussion of the US experience in the Philippines and how it compares to Iraq. In short, Mr. Silbey argues that the Roosevelt administration understood the difference between political and military goals early on; in contrast to the debacle in Iraq.

The 40-year-old secondary virgin

For the past 40 years, the conservative movement has welcomed only one kind of person: the true believer. Iconoclasm in the pursuit of moderation was no virtue; orthodoxy in the name of conservatism was no vice. But this weekend, Grover Norquist-the leading bouncer at the conservative club-announced a more relaxed entrance policy. In light of the movement’s current struggles, the far right will now welcome a second type of conservative: the false believer.
From The 40-year-old secondary virgin - By Bruce Reed - Slate Magazine

With the Neocons and Theocons unable to find their man, this just might be the opportunity for the remaining real Republicans to take their party back. Why not draft one of the many actual conservatives that haven’t flip-flopped on reality, actually stand for conservatism and heartland values; and has a long distinguished career. I’m going to suggest Jim Leach or Paul Gillmor as moderates and Lindsey Graham and Dick Lugar as more conservative options.

To all those who are mourning the loss of Lincoln Chaffee’s seat and John McCain’s soul, maybe this is the time to find a GOP member who isn’t beholden to the pro-war, anti-science wing of the party. You have nothing to lose but your 30% approval ratings.

A New Yorker's case against Rudy Giulian

the presidential bid Rudy announced last week is staked on more than that Churchillian moment. It is also based on the notion that he is an effective manager who tamed an out-of-control metropolis and ran it efficiently. The real picture is somewhat more complicated. Giuliani was a frustrated and not very popular mayor on Sept. 10, 2001. Today, most New Yorkers do see him as a hero, but also as a self-sabotaging, thin-skinned bully. To put it more bluntly, we know he’s a bit of a dictator
From A New Yorker’s case against Rudy Giuliani. - By Jacob Weisberg - Slate Magazine

A well written article on Giuliani. I doubt this is going to influence his base; moderate Republicans that are fed up with McCain and who wish to limit the influence of the Neo-Cons and Theo-Cons on the GOP. And while Giuliani doesn’t have a chance for the top of the ticket, his entrance and early poll lead help demonstrate the essential difference between the Democratic and Republican primaries. The Dems want a CEO. The Republicans what a Chairman of the Board. The Dems are looking for nuts-and-bolts policies to solve a set of problems. The Republicans are looking for an overarching vision and direction that an alleged natural leader would provide.

There's trouble brewing in Tunisia

If you wanted to support democracy in the Arab world, why did you begin with your enemies instead of your friends? Why Iraq and Iran? Why not us?
From Slate Magazine

A must read. As a progressive and a fan of Karl Popper, I’ve long felt that the right way to spread freedom is by binding US trade policy to economic and social reforms. Any and all free trade agreements with the US should include demands for government openness, human rights and labor rights. Sadly, this has not been the case. From Tunisia to Russia to China, we’ve favored cheap labor, tax dodges and easy access to oil above all foreign policy goals.

It is painful to think of what we could have done to promote democracy if we didn’t go to Iraq.

The Masons make a bid for NASCAR

By appearing on the hood of Conz’s car, the Rite will reach millions of viewers during ESPN’s race coverage. (Up to 30 million “impressions” per race-a figure that calculates the number of people watching, and the number of times a portion of the car appears on screen.) “The NASCAR demographics fit our demographics,” says Dodd. When I ask him to be more specific, he just says, “Men.”
From The Masons make a bid for NASCAR. - By Seth Stevenson - Slate Magazine

Besides wondering it the Illuminati will sponsor Formula 1, this article made me think that that maybe some rouge Onion editor managed to sneak into the Slate office and get access to the server.

Dinesh D'Souza's Mullah Envy

The heart of D’Souza’s book isn’t his libeling of the American left, but rather his libeling of the American right. D’Souza notes, correctly, that al-Qaida’s hatred toward the West in general, and the United States in particular, is animated to a great extent by America’s permissive culture.
From Dinesh D’Souza’s Mullah Envy - By Timothy Noah - Slate Magazine

D'Souza contends that the cultural left is responsible for 9/11 in two ways: by fostering a decadent and depraved American culture that angers and repulses other societies-especially traditional and religious ones- and by promoting, at home and abroad, an anti-American attitude that blames America for all the problems of the world.

The thing about D’Souza’s book that strikes me is its near blatant call for the appeasement of violent religious fanatics. His willingness to accept intolerance as a justification for violence is nothing short of shocking. Where should this end? Should we ban pork in the west? Adopt strict dress codes?

The second thing that comes to mind is OBL’s declaration of war and how much time he spends on American military actions and US oil interests and how he seems indifferent to western culture. Yet, D’Souza thinks that Osama’s genocidal aspirations are somehow linked to western acceptance of women’s rights.

Bushenfreude

And yet Bushenfreude-the phenomenon whereby high-income beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts use their windfalls to fund Democratic candidates-is still raging this election season. If anything, it’s more intense than in 2004. Around the country, high earners with million-dollar homes, foreign cars, and fancy jobs, people who have won the meritocratic race, are furious at what’s happening to their country. You’ve seen the Pissed-Off Yuppies, weighing $5-per-pound heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market in one hand while gesticulating wildly against the government with the other.
From Slate

This sounds like my neighborhood. One thing that comes to mind is that many of the Yupwardly mobile just dislike the incompetence of this administration. They are used to working in environments where poor performance has negative consciences. That seems not to be the case in the current administration.

Kissinger's back in the White House

Bob Woodward’s disclosure of the influence of Henry Kissinger on the Bush administration’s Iraq policy both is and is not a surprise. After all, we have known for a long time that the bungling old war criminal has his admirers within the White House.
From Slate Magazine

Hitchens called Kissinger a gargoyle. I couldn’t agree more. You know how some people have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? As an Agnostic I have Henry gargoyle Kissinger on one shoulder and Albert Schweitzer on the other. Henry is the one convincing me of the importance of liberating office supplies from the company while Albert suggests that I should just take what I need.

Why is Washington exaggerating the pirate threat?

Despite their impressive exploits of late-seizing oil platforms off the coast of Nigeria and, memorably, firing rockets at a cruise ship off Somalia-modern maritime pirates have been robbed of the mystique that once made them stars of the criminal underworld. A steady increase over the last decade in the number of thefts, hijackings, and killings at sea, along with a disingenuous PR campaign led by the United States, have put pirates in company with al-Qaida. It’s a bum rap.
From Slate Magazine

GWOP. The Global War on Pirates. Argh. I guess Pirates are the new Mobsters much how Belly dancing is the new Yoga and smart phones are the new iPods.

network television in its underpants

The fascination of raw feeds-the useless video stream bounced off satellites before and after the “real” video stream appears on live programming-is an old story. As long ago as 1985, the writer David Owen marveled in the Atlantic about a phenomenon he called “network television in its underpants,” wherein owners of home satellite dishes could eavesdrop on, say, an unsuspecting Max Robinson-now deceased, but until 1983 the Chicago anchor for ABC’s World News Tonight-as he yelled at colleagues, told dirty jokes, and purchased consumer goods by phone.
From Slate

Interesting look into the secret world of the TV talking heads. I’m reminded of this Kurt Vonnegut quote. I imagine seeing the taking heads in their real day-to-day mundane glory would be like running into your 8th grade teacher in street clothes. You almost forget that they actually live in the real world.

the tip of the freakberg

On a projection screen at Stanford Law School, an auditorium full of nerds stared at a picture of a guy who’d done himself up like a cat-not with makeup, but with tattoos and surgery. The guy’s whiskers were implanted. His nose had been converted to a cat nose. His teeth had been filed into the shape of cat teeth. His head has been flattened, and he was looking for a doctor to implant a tail. And that’s just the tip of the freakberg.
From Cyborgs, self-mutilators, and the future of our race. By William Saletan

Not sure I agree with the term freakberg. But this really seems odd. Why would a doctor do something like this? This isn’t like Lasik or even something more radical like sexual reassignment. The result of a cat-person’s surgery isn’t a human with better eyesight or alternate plumbing. It is a person that isn’t quite human anymore. One would think that a doctor would stick to the principal of first doing no harm.

John McCain's unique gift for politics. By Michael Kinsley

In a presidential run, he would have the votes of millions who disagree with him on major issues but like him anyway. His challenge is to get the votes of more people who agree with him. The fact that his base of support is people who disagree with him explains both why so many ideological soul mates dislike him, and why they may support him anyway. It’s because they think he is their best shot at winning. Thus if McCain becomes president, it will be the result of a cynical calculation by people who don’t like him even though they agree with him, on top of support by people who disagree with him but admire his lack of cynicism.
From Slate

Michael Kinsley plays McCain a series of backhanded complements in this must read article from Slate. Must read unless you’re a big McCain fan, in which case you shouldn’t read it.

2005's most appalling corporate tax giveaway

“It basically gave money to corporations in return for corporate contributions,” says Bob McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice. As for the law’s name, McIntyre says that Congress was “just kidding.”
From Slate

Notice how the GOP can’t think of a single way to stimulate the economy that doesn’t involve handing money out to the same corporate interests that fund their election campaigns?

Hitchens Jumps Shark

It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein’s long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious.
From Wowie Zahawie By Christopher Hitchens

I think Mr. Hitchens needs to re-read Wilson’s Op-Ed.

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger’s uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there’s simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.
The question shouldn’t be, Did Saddam want atomic weapons?. Of course he did. I’m sure he wanted Stealth Bombers, Cyberdyne T-800 Terminator Cyborgs and a Death Star too. But he was in no position to acquire any of those weapons. Second, Wilson's mission was to determine whether the memorandum claiming there was a bill of sale between Niger and Iraq for yellowcake was true. And it was neither true nor likely. So if Mr Hitchens wants us all to admit that Saddam wanted atomic weapons, I’m willing to concede that point. I’m sure there is a long list of despots that same point can be made about.

Neo-Feudalism and Katrina

The newly released footage of officials briefing George Bush before Hurricane Katrina shows Michael Brown sitting at a laptop computer. Given the caricature of Incapability Brown, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the ex-FEMA director was playing solitaire: “Mr. President, I just can’t find a place for this king of hearts.” Instead, Brown is clear about the hurricane threat. He even anticipates the chaos that would later hit at the Superdome. “I’m concerned about … their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe,” Brown told his bosses.
From John Dickerson at Slate

Why is anyone surprised that Bush sat there totally indifferent to the calls to action? GOPers have a fundamental belief that Government is the problem. They have expressed the desire drown it in the bathtub. Why would this decisive inaction be any different?

It comes down to the real Bush world view, Neo-Feudalism.

There is nothing conservative about what BushCo are trying to pull off—he’s trying to radically alter the structure of our government and society, in the process cynically capitalizing on conservative moral values while violating those values himself. And BushCo doesn’t aspire to anything so impermanent as a movement. (Though I do wonder whether they cling to the word “movement” in deference to Michael Ledeen’s belief that the Italian fascist movement was all good, it was just the regime that went bad.) We on the left would do well to avoid accepting this frame for their efforts. And the true conservatives really deserve to have their word “conservative” back, without the taint that it has acquired from its Movement and Neo appendages.
And in search for a term that more accurately describes their plan, I’m settling on Neo-Feudalist.
The Next Hurrah: Neo-Feudalists

I’ve been referring to Bushism as Feudalism for a while now. Under this view, Government should be modified to do the following.

  • Replace loyalty to values, ethics and rule of law with loyalty to party and party leadership.
  • Strengthen the executive, reduce or eliminate any accountability or transparency and replace career positions with political appointments.
  • Privatize the commons via subsidies and exclusive contracts to remove them from democratic process and into the hands of corporate Vassals loyal only to the executive.
  • Eliminate social insurance and social goods with targeted private ownership programs under the stewardship of appointed Corporate Vassals.
  • Weaken bottom-up social institutions such as Labor Unions while strengthening top-down social institutions such as Churches.
  • Reduce the role of the State to Police and Military with the goal of keeping property in its place, and people in theirs.

So I am not shocked that Bush didn’t care to ask questions. Under that world view, doing nothing is exactly what he should have done. What was done in the weeks following Katrina was also in keeping with his Neo-Feudalist world view. Riot police were sent out to prevent looting in the wealthy areas. Grand plans to bull-doze the homes of the poor were discussed. Money was handed out to corporate Vassals. Exemptions for Labor laws were passed. Churches were reimbursed for their expenses even when city and state governments were not. This is exactly what you would expect.

the Neo-Con two step

The only thing better than watching Neo-Con Francis Fukuyama flip, is watching other Neo-Cons like Christopher Hitchens attack them for it.You can always count on Hitchens to be infuriatingly delightful. But this time he is way off. The Neo-Con failure is breaking them up into three camps.

  • Neo-Cons like Fukuyama that now think the war was a bad idea and that Neo-Conservationism is failing.
  • Neo-Cons that still think the was was a good idea, and blame the problems either on Bush, Rumsfeld or The Liberal Media. Case in point, William Kristol of the Weekly Standard
  • Neo-Cons that think everything is going well and the media is mis-reporting it

Right now it looks like the real conservatives like William F. Buckley agree with the reality that the War in Iraq is lost. A position they declared defeatism just a few months ago. Not to mention this Zogby pool U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006. So the only people left supporting the war are a dwindling number of GOPers with Fox News colored glasses.

Bush Critics You Should Trust

It’s hard to keep up with all the anti-George Bush books. Next to the fiction and nonfiction book tables at Barnes & Noble, they will soon have to add one labeled: “Ugh, Bush.” But how to choose among the Bush-haters? From
Slate:Bush Critics You Should Trust

John Dickerson does a great job of running down the most credible critics of the Bush junta. No tinfoil hats. No name calling. Just clearly laid out cases for this administration being incompetent, arrogant and corrupt.

Al-Qaida Is Losing says Hitchens

The conditions for this latest truce are of course impossible as well. All one needs, in order to earn Bin Laden’s mercy, is to give up Afghanistan and Iraq. But this raises a more intriguing question. Why are formerly triumphalist jihadists using the language of “truce” at all? Not very long ago, God was claimed to be on their side and victory certain.
From Slate

While Mr. Hitchens makes a number of really good points, I have two retorts. First, just because things may be going bad for the jihadists; that doesn’t mean things are going well for us. Secondly, considering point one; there is no reason why things going poorly for either the US and/or the jihadists couldn’t translate into things going very well for Iran or Hammas. And that would be also be bad for us.

Abramoff spin

Now that the corruption scandal has fully metathesized, the GOP spin machine is busy with the talking points, acting as if everything is just fine and there isn’t actually a problem with the GOP. Here is my counter-point by point.

Spin 1: The problem isn’t that bad.

With that, Abramoff turned states’ evidence. He completed his two-year transformation from Republican golden boy, congressional gatekeeper and millionaire glad-hander to disgraced snitch, a man positioned to bring down the political machine he helped create. As part of his guilty plea, Abramoff faces a recommended prison sentence of between nine and 11 years. He will likely pay at least $25 million in restitution, and another $1.7 million in back taxes.
From salon

"Mr. Abramoff says he has information that could implicate 60 lawmakers," the WSJ reports.
From Think Progress

Counterpoint: Abramoff took a deal where he will have to pay back $25 million and then spend almost a decade in jail. That is the deal he worked out for full cooperation with the prosecution. It also involved 60 lawmakers. That is over 10% of total number of members of the House plus Senate. If that isn’t bad, what would be?

Spin 2: Abramoff isn’t a Republican

Since watching the news last night and this morning, I’ve heard Jack Abramoff referred to as a “Republican lobbyist” countless times. This is a blatant attempt to attribute his corruption to the GOP. Lobbyists are not partisan: they whore themselves out to any politician, regardless of party affiliation. As noagenda.org and gopbloggers.org point out, Abramoff is not solely a “Republican lobbyist”, but is linked to many Dems as well.
From rightofftheshore blog

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees and nothing to Democrats, federal records show. At the same time, his Indian clients were the only ones among the top 10 tribal donors in the U.S. to donate more money to Republicans than Democrats.
From bloomberg

Counterpoint: Abramoff was a Bush Pioneer. If that doesn’t make you a Republican, what does? Second, he only gave money to Republicans.

Abramoff raised at least $100,000 for President Bush’s 2004 re-election effort, earning the honorary title “pioneer” from the campaign. It was unclear how much exactly the campaign would be giving to charity since McClellan referred questions about the matter to the Republican National Committee, which did not immediately return phone calls about it.
From AP

Spin 3: This is a bi-partisan problem.

For the record, here’s a list of everybody Abramoff gave hard money to in 2002 and 2004:
From apshort blog

Notice a lack of dems? I did.

Abramoff has reportedly agreed to testify against several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients. Over the past several weeks, the Justice Department has been debriefing him and combing through thousands of e-mails he kept (he was also a pack rat) from his most productive and illegal period. Investigators are reportedly focusing on as many as 20 lawmakers and aides. Like the Enron scandal and others, this one is likely to affect some who didn’t do anything illegal but were associated with the discredited and vulgar lobbyist.
From slate

Counterpoint: On that list, a single Democrat is listed, Senator Byron Dorgan. So if 8 Republicans to one Democrat counts as bi-partisan then by all means, call it as such. Call it copped liver if you wish. That doesn’t change the fact that this problem is a GOP problem. While it is true that some of his clients gave to Democrats, he is the one on trial, not them. Second, the issue isn’t who he donated money to, but who he bribed. So even if you can produce a list of democrats that have accepted money from Abramoff connected sources, it still isn’t a Democratic problem.

With that said, the GOP doesn’t have a monopoly on corruption. This whole mess makes me think that power; whether political, financial or even social; is like radiation. Prolonged exposure somehow warps your genetic makeup.

Starbucks Economics

Here’s a little secret that Starbucks doesn’t want you to know: They will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barista will comply without batting an eye. The puzzle is to work out why.
From Slate: Starbucks Economics

I’ve always thought that Starbucks over sized portions of coffee drinks that managed to be both overly bitter and watery at the same time. I’m going to have to try ordering the 8oz short size and see if it is any good.

pundit payola

It came out last week that a couple of conservative pundits have been on the take from lobbyist extraordinaire Jack Abramoff. He would pay them up to $2,000 for columns and op-ed pieces that advanced the interests of his clients.
From: Pundit Payola - Money talks. It writes, too. By Michael Kinsley

This is just as bad as the Armstrong Williams stories from earlier this year. If you are getting paid to promote an idea, and do not disclose this fact; you are not a journalist. You are a publicist. What you are writing isn’t an article, it is a press release. And if you do not disclose your relationships relating to that opinion, you are not an advocate; you are a shill.

It’s disappointing that the CATO Institute lacks the brio to defend all this as the free market at work. We talk grandly about the “marketplace of ideas.” Why should that marketplace, unlike all others, ban money? Won’t Adam Smith’s famous invisible hand guarantee a good result?
Mr. Kinsley has a point there. Why don’t the people on the right just defend the idea of bribery as part of the free market? Why not fight for the deregulation of elections as to make payments (even secret payments) perfectly legal? Why not extend this to simply auction off the rights to legislation? I say this with tongue in cheek, but I find the lack of coverage of these scandals really upsetting. I realize it isn’t as sexy as the Monica affair, but this is really big news. As much as people on the right might protest, this is a clear example of the Republican culture of corruption in Washington.

this time, someone really does have to be fired.

This time, someone really does have to be fired. The revelation that Defense Department money, not even authorized by Congress for the purpose, has been outsourced to private interests and then used to plant stories in the Iraqi press is much more of a disgrace and a scandal than anyone seems so far to have said.
Well said.
It is, anyway, not so much a matter of fooling people as of insulting them. The prostitute journalist is a familiar and well-understood figure in the Middle East, and Saddam Hussein’s regime made lavish use of the buyability of the regional press.
Today, Hitchens reminds me why I read his work. I still disagree with him on almost everything else about Iraq, but he is dead on about this.