Friday, November 23, 2012

The Primary Culprit: Global Economic Failure Edition

Economist John Quiggin:

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Global Financial Crisis and the subsequent depression, and the Bush Administration deserves only a small share. Bush’s main contribution was to introduce unfunded tax cuts at a time when the budget should have been in surplus, thereby reducing the fiscal space available for stimulus when the crisis came. But, given the weakness of the stimulus and the ferocity of the political response, it’s not clear that was a binding constraint in any case. 
The primary culprit is market liberal economics, which may be considered both as a set of ideas with its own internal logic and as an expression of the class interests of those who benefit from the finance-dominated form of capitalism that produced the crisis and has prevented any recovery. My book Zombie Economics is a critique of market liberalism considered as an economic theory, showing how market liberalism produced the crisis.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"You Might be a Keynesian if..."

If you believe that the looming cuts in government spending will drag us down into another recession.  

That, my friends, is exactly what Keynes is talking about when he describes his Grand Experiment: The coming war with Germany will produce a massive government expenditure on arms and armaments which in turn will have a big impact on the unemployed, by providing them with jobs, and on others by the rising demand for goods and services throughout the economy.
When I hear Republicans, politicians who have espoused the failed policies of Reagan and the supply siders, talk about the perils of the "Fiscal Cliff," I can't help but laugh...

We are, indeed, all Keynesians now.

Mittens Gonna' Pump It!

How the mighty have fallen.
Totally brought this to mind!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Paul Krugman FTOW! (For The OBVIOUS Win!)

Reflecting on Ross Douthat's column today, Paul Krugman observes

Every time you read someone extolling the dynamism of the modern economy, the virtues of risk-taking, declaring that everyone has to expect to have multiple jobs in his or her life and that you can never stop learning, etc,, etc., bear in mind that this is a portrait of an economy with no stability, no guarantees that hard work will provide a consistent living, and a constant possibility of being thrown aside simply because you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
And nothing people can do in their personal lives or behavior can change this. Your church and your traditional marriage won’t guarantee the value of your 401(k), or make insurance affordable on the individual market. 
So here’s the question: isn’t this exactly the kind of economy that should have a strong welfare state? Isn’t it much better to have guaranteed health care and a basic pension from Social Security rather than simply hanker for the corporate safety net that no longer exists? Might one not even argue that a bit of basic economic security would make our dynamic economy work better, by reducing the fear factor?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

ZOMG KARL ROVE TRIED TO STEAL TEH ELECTION!!!1! -or- The Left has Loonies Too!

Yes, my fellow lefties, we have loonies in our camp as well.  Not nearly as many as our colleagues on the right, mind you, but we do have our share.  The current incarnation of the left-wing version of "FEMA death camps" is the "Anonymous thwarted Karl Rove from stealing the election."  Yes, that's right.  Sites and people that I respect are actually spreading this tripe far and wide.  It all stems from a video and letter supposedly released by Anonymous claiming to have thwarted the Turd Blossom's minions from changing election results (by magic, I suppose...).
And that, along with a video, represents the sum of the evidence that is being presented to "prove" that Rove and the GOP attempted to perpetrate electoral fraud.  If you believe this, then you're as dumb as the wingnuts who believed in "death panels."  Read the inferences some are making:
The skeptics among us might be quick to dismiss this story, but I say not so fast.  We do know that Anonymous exists, and they have been adept at penetrating servers.  They have revealed gaping security holes, disabled websites in the name of a free and open internet, and even launched cyber attacks against the Pentagon. They stole NYPD surveillance video of OWS protesters. Though unconfirmed, they claim to have stolen one million Apple UDIDs from an FBI laptop.  There is no doubt that Anonymous, however ambiguous or loosely affiliated it may be, is real. And frankly they have proven themselves to be less bullshit prone than our politicians and broadcast media outlets.
I'll bet an advanced civilization from Alpha Centauri could manage the task too.  Why not just attribute it to them?  It's just as possible.  This is a classic example of an Appeal to Probability fallacy.  Just because something could happen means it must happen.

Even Thom Hartman gets in on the act.
Pending further "evidence," this will remain in the loony bucket.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lee Atwater's Southern Strategy: NEW AUDIO

From the man who brought you Mitt Romney's "47%" comments, James Carter IV, comes the actual audio track of Lee Atwater's famous Southern Strategy interview.
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
It's chilling to hear Atwater describe the transformation and obfuscation of the use of racism to ensure electoral victory for the Republican party.  Win at any cost.

The full 42 minute interview is available from The Nation.

Luke, I AM Your Father! And I am PISSED OFF!!!

Why, oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Listen as rumored "journalist" Luke Russert, son of the late (and most excellent) Tim Russert, asks Nancy Pelosi if she's too old to be Minority Leader of the House.
It's appalling.  I'm appalled.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Grand Bargain Barn!


The Electoral College Must Die

The electoral college does nothing but distort electoral outcomes.
Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota have 16 votes for 4.6 million people, and New York State has 20 votes for 19.4 million people. It takes 287,500 people in the aforementioned red states to get one electoral vote, whereas in New York State it takes 668, 965 people to get one electoral vote — that’s more than double the amount of New Yorkers needed for a single vote in the Electoral College.
That's seriously screwed up.  When these tiny western-state tails continue to wag the big-state dog, we're not living in a real democracy*.

*The first person who opines "We don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic" get's punched in the nose.

Who's Ready for 2016???

Kill me... Kill me now...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

God Help Me but I Agree with S.E. Cupp

At about the 5:40 mark, S.E. Cupp, irritating and shrill conservative commentator from MSNBC, makes the very legitimate point that the distance between the Bush foreign policy and the Obama foreign policy is not much and that the left have not held Obama to account for the drone war that's killed thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Fox News has a Moment of Clarity

It was remarkable that, on election night, Fox News actually acted like a real news organization.

[O]n Tuesday night, the people in charge of Fox News were confronted with a stark choice after it became clear that Mr. Romney had fallen short: was Fox, first and foremost, a place for advocacy or a place for news? 
In this moment, at least, Fox chose news.
Despite Karl Rove's tantrum, the journalistic instincts of the Fox team broke through the bubble that Fox itself had such a big hand in creating and they reported that, indeed, Ohio had gone to President Obama.
The best journalistic instincts of Fox’s news people kicked in and the hard reality of Mr. Obama’s triumph was allowed to land as it occurred. In doing so, the network avoided marginalizing itself and ended, at least for a night, its war on the president.
So while the GOP goes through it's internal convulsions, perhaps Fox can take a good, hard look at their strategy and help the Republicans break out of their bubble.

Friday, November 9, 2012

PSA: The Universal Conservative Translator

This is a public service announcement:  When conservatives say "We have to save Social Security," what they really mean is this:
Big Money has been gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for decades – since the beginning of Social Security in 1935. The motives are partly financial: As one scholar once put it to me, the payroll tax is the “Mississippi of cash flows.” Anything that diverts part of it into private funds and insurance premiums is a meal ticket for the elite of the predator state
And the campaign is also partly political. The fact is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the main way ordinary Americans connect to their federal government, except in wars and disasters.  They have made a vast change in family life, unburdening the young of their parents and ensuring that every working person contributes whether they have parents, dependents, survivors or disabled of their own to look after. These programs do this work seamlessly, for next to nothing; their managers earn civil service salaries and the checks arrive on time. For the private competition, this is intolerable; the model is a threat to free markets and must be destroyed.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled program already in progress.

Double-Dutch Double-Down at RedState

Erick Erickson at RedState calls for a double-double-down on GOP strategy.  After running the list of the now-official excuses for why Romney did poorly,

  1. Romney was a "deeply flawed" candidate (that our own primary process created)
  2. It's not demographics but the GOTV efforts of Republicans (because there are more angry white men out there we just didn't reach)
  3. Wait, it is a demographics problem but the Democrats have one too (because, after all, hispanics are just yearning to vote for "self deportation")
Erickson notes that recent arrivals to America have not ben sufficiently indoctrinated.
Frankly, as I noted yesterday, if you are going out to speak to the unconverted, you don’t talk about the trinity, communion, and what not. You speak in language the unconverted understand. Immigrants to this country know they are here for freedom and opportunity they did not have in their native land. But they may not really understand what “free markets” mean.
Of course, Erick, it could be that they know exactly what your ideology of the "free market" is all about and they simply reject it.  I know that that's hard to accept, but if you ignore this possibility, you're always and forever going to lose.

But that's clearly beyond Erickson's cognitive reckoning.  Instead, he goes for the full-double-double-down, a universe where he and his friends are ever and always right if only "you people" could see it.
So what should Republicans do? Fight on. Don’t listen to those who say we must moderate, we must abandon values, we must abandon principles, etc. They are wrong. We must reach out, but that does not mean surrender. 
For those of you who think we’ve lost the country, well then you have nothing left to lose. If I’m right and Obama’s base won’t turn out in 2014 like it did not turn out in 2010, you might as well swing for the fences because you’ll either get all or nothing. Right now all you’ve got is nothing. 
So fight on, my friends, fight on. When the Democrats mock us for not changing, remind them we did the same to them after 2004 and then 2006 showed up. And let’s start finding candidates now and prepare them to primary those Republicans who go wobbly. Heck, those groups who keep score cards should score the GOP leadership votes and score against anybody who supports McConnell or Boehner, just to drive the point home we aim to fight — even them.
Carry on.  I'm sure this strategy will work out well for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Twilight of the Romneverse

That fateful night Romney lost...
Aides taking cabs home late that night got rude awakenings when they found the credit cards linked to the campaign no longer worked. 
"Fiscally conservative," sighed one aide the next day.

Your Moment of Victory

This victory dance brought to you by Minnesota Marriage Equality!

Ignorance is a Competitive Disadvantage

I believe the phrase you're looking for here is... NO DUH!

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because Romney supporters like Jennifer Rubin and Hugh Hewitt saw it as their duty to spin constantly for their favored candidate rather than being frank about his strengths and weaknesses. What conservative Washington Post readers got, when they traded in Dave Weigel for Rubin, was a lot more hackery and a lot less informed about the presidential election. 
Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense. WorldNetDaily brought you birtherism. Forbes brought you Kenyan anti-colonialism. National Review obsessed about an imaginary rejection of American exceptionalism, misrepresenting an Obama quote in the process, and Andy McCarthy was interviewed widely about his theory that Obama, aka the Drone Warrior in Chief, allied himself with our Islamist enemies in a "Grand Jihad" against America. Seriously? 
Conservatives were at a disadvantage because their information elites pandered in the most cynical, self-defeating ways, treating would-be candidates like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain as if they were plausible presidents rather than national jokes who'd lose worse than George McGovern.
The left does this occasionally, but rarely to this degree.  Nobody on the left would mistake ThinkProgress for The New York Times.  But conservatives frequently cite opinion sites like or Hot Air as if they were "news."  They're not.  Until you figure that out, your competitive disadvantage will endure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Anthropology of Modern Conservatives

French sociologist Ă‰mile Durkheim
Paul Krugman articulates my thoughts about conservative rage better than I can so I'll just outsource it to him.
[W]hat we’ve just seen [in the recent Rage Against the Pollsters] is a peek into the modern right-wing psyche, which is obsessed — more than anything else — with power. Policy is one thing; but equally or even more important is the sense of being with the winners, of being part of the team that will stamp its boots on the faces of the other guys. And while conservatives of that ilk would probably concede if pressed on it that there’s a difference between the perception of being on top and the reality determined in an election, emotionally they can’t separate the two: they perceive anyone suggesting that maybe they aren’t going to smash their opponents as a threat.
Krugman's paraphrase of O'Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.  
is entirely appropriate.  The world for modern conservatives is made entirely of winners and losers (makers and takers).  There is nothing better than being a winner and nothing worse than being a loser.  And as the captain of the German bobsled team is rumored to have said,
Second place is just first loser!
There is no compromise, there is only victory.  And that human face under the iron boot?  Well, it's the generic face of all liberals and apostate conservatives (now, apparently, including Chris Christie).

It's all about that fleeting thrill of being a winner... That momentary high of Durkheimian "collective effervescence" that being on the winning team brings to the individual participant is a powerful drug.  But it becomes pathological to the modern conservative.

As Durkeim wrote in his masterwork The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, a Study in Religious Sociology, the transcendent emotions brought forth by the collective feeling (in this case, of winning) are very, very strong especially when you consider the context of that feeling as a religious one.

Feeling himself dominated and carried away by some sort of an external power which makes him think and act differently than in normal times, he naturally has the impression of being himself no longer.  It seems to him that he has become a new being: the decorations  he puts on and the masks that cover his face figure materially in this interior transformation, and to a still greater extent, they aid in determining its nature. And as at the same time all  his companions feel themselves transformed in the same way and express this sentiment by their cries, their gestures and their general attitude, everything is just as though he really were transported into a special world, entirely different from the one where he ordinarily lives, and into an environment filled with exceptionally intense forces that take hold of him and metamorphose him. How could such experiences as these, especially when they are repeated every day for weeks, fail to leave in him the conviction that there really exist two heterogeneous and mutually incomparable worlds? One is that where his daily life drags wearily along; but he cannot penetrate into the other without at once entering into relations with extraordinary powers that excite him to the point of frenzy.  The first is the profane world, the second, that of sacred things.
While all political systems, like religious systems, embody this form to one degree or another, it is particularly strong and overtly pathological in American conservatism these days.  We crave that collective feeling of power, of frenzy and, ultimately for the political conservative, of winning.  Take that away and you've literally taken away a powerful force that their psyche craves.

The Real Winner Last Night?

This guy...  Oh, and statistics...  My dad would be so happy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A George Plimpton Documentary

As a long-time reader of The Paris Review, I'm really looking forward to this film about the life of one of America's most interesting literary figures.  He was an "experiential journalist" who participated in sports just to be able to write about it.  He also founded and edited America's premier literary journal and published such giants as Jack Kerouac, Philip Roth, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Let Them Eat Private Security Services!"

Detroit's Fictional Answer to Police Budget Cutbacks
A disturbing piece in today's New York Times describes the chaotic decay of the Sacramento Police Department under intense budget pressures.
In 2011, faced with the biggest budget cuts yet — $12.2 million — Chief Rick Braziel was forced to take drastic action: he laid off sworn officers and civilian employees; eliminated the vice, narcotics, financial crimes and undercover gang squads, sending many detectives back to patrol; and thinned the auto theft, forensics and canine units. Police officers no longer responded to burglaries, misdemeanors or minor traffic accidents.
It would be interesting to see the socioeconomic distribution of these non-responses and how much more unresponsive the department is to poor and minority neighborhoods than it is to affluent "taxpayer" neighborhoods.

In 2011, Chief Braziel said, the cuts, in his opinion, went past the tipping point. While homicides have remained steady, shootings — a more reliable indicator of gun violence — are up 48 percent this year. Rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and vehicle thefts have also increased, though in smaller increments. 
Complicating matters, the cutbacks have coincided with a flow of convicted offenders back into the city as California, heeding a Supreme Court ruling, has reduced its prison population. Once released, former inmates have less supervision — the county’s probation department also suffered cuts.

Much like the obscene growth in the prison-industrial complex, how much do you want to bet that the private security firms in Sacramento will soon be prospering in response to these cutbacks as wealthy citizens ensure that they remain safe in their gated havens while the rest of the city decays into anarchy?  I'm willing to wager that it's already underway.

This is all, of course, the plot of the film RoboCop... Another win for America!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I'll Take James Bond Theme Songs for $200, Alex!

Sure he's a tool of British imperialism.  But he's sooooo cool...

A few days ago, my niece posted on her Facebook page how much she liked the theme for the latest James Bond film, Skyfall by the flash-in-the-pan Adele.  I listened to the song and it's alright, certainly not the best (or even nearly the best) Bond theme.  So I figured I'd create a quick post of my 5 favorite James Bond themes (none of which are by Adele).  A complete list is available here.

#5:Carley Simon: The Spy who Loved Me

#4: Tina Turner: Goldeneye (Music and Lyrics by Bono & The Edge)

#3: Duran Duran: A View to a Kill

#2: Paul McCartney & Wings: Live and Let Die

#1: Shirley Bassey: Goldfinger