Archive for May, 2009

Janet Napolitano Hates Conservative People

May 31, 2009

A couple months ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued an alert to the nation’s law enforcement entities to be on the lookout for a possible uptick in violence by right-wing extremists; in particular, people who “are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion.”

Conservatives of every stripe howled with rage.  O, the bigotry! O, the prejudice! O, the criminalization of political dissent!

Today, Dr. George Tiller, an ob-gyn who performs abortions, was murdered on his way into church in Wichita, Kansas — the first such violence since a series of murders, assaults, and bombings in 1998.

God save us from anti-conservative bigotry.

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Deep Stupid 2

May 29, 2009

Here’s one that’s more in the usual Deep Stupid mold.  Actor Craig T. Nelson appeared today on Glenn Beck’s teevee show on the Fox.  He doesn’t like all these taxpayer-funded bailouts:

They should be allowed to go bankrupt! What happened — we are a capitalistic society. OK, I go into business, I don’t make it, I go bankrupt. They’re not going to bail me out.

I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No. No.

Nobody tell him the Food-Stamps-and-Welfare Fairy isn’t real, mkay?

Deep Stupid

May 29, 2009

Today’s winner is Rush Limbaugh.  I have little to say about this one.  It’s not amusing.  It’s not a blatant factual error, like saying FDR wrote the “Hoot-Smawley” Act.  It’s just unforgivably irresponsible, even for Limbaugh:

How do you get promoted in the Obama administration?  By hating white people!

The thing itself is stupid.  The saying of it is deep stupid of the vilest kind.

Given his audience, in what way is this not like running into a crowded theater and falsely shouting “Fire!”?

She turned me into a newt!

May 29, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor has turned Newt Gingrich back into the Newt who used to lob firebombs from the back bench of the House in the 1980s.

Yesterday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (no moderate or shrinking violet, he) said Newt and Rush went over the top when they accused Sotomayor of racism; he didn’t think such rhetoric was appropriate.  Cornyn, of course, is still trying to win elections — both his own and, as chairman of the Republican campaign committee for the senate, lots of other senate races around the country.  Rush and [probably] Newt don’t have to worry about such trivialities.

So Rush is still spewing the racism charge (despite its having been debunked by any number of news outlets and even conservative bloggers), and Newt went Newt-cular in an email blast:

If Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything, we cannot accept [Sotomayor on the Supreme Court, basically].

It seems to me Newt has lost his bearings a bit.  He needs to remember who his base is.  If he did, he wouldn’t be perpetuating the myth that the Civil War War of Northern Aggression had anything whatsoever to do with race.

You’d think a Georgia boy could keep that straight, but I guess it goes to show just how addle-pated he is by the sheer un-Americanositudinous judicial activism of this Affirmative Action harpy.  I mean, gosh, her very nomination “threatens the Republic.”  Who wouldn’t be a bit rattled?  (How long before somebody pulls out “existential threat” to describe her?  Or maybe they already have.  Anybody know?)

More on Newt’s email, later.

Knights Who Say…

May 28, 2009

Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf catches up with meBernanke, Yglesias, Paulson, Spitzer, Klein, Volcker, Johnson, Bair, Kwak, Marshall, A New Way Forward, and the Wall Street Journal.

Wolf, writing about the UK, says the financial sector has become a dangerously large piece of the nation’s economy, and must be shrunk.  It imposes too many negative externalities on the rest of society.  He offers an interesting conceptual framework for thinking about the problem:

So how should one manage a sector that produces such “bads”? The answer is: in the same way as any polluting activity.

Pollution is, in economic terms, exactly the same as taxpayer bailouts: a large negative externality; a cost created by an industry that isn’t borne by that industry, but instead imposed on someone or something outside.  As Wolf points out, if the financial sector’s negative externalities were internalized — that is, born by the financial sector that created them — the whole industry would probably be insolvent.

That puts us in a bind.  Nobody likes externalities.  They’re economically inefficient, distort  incentives, and are unjust.  When we find them, it’s best to fix them.  But we do need a financial sector of some kind, to move capital around efficiently; we don’t want them reduced to insolvency.

What do we do when we want to discourage pollution?  Yes, we write regulations and put regulatory agencies in place to enforce them, but gradually and inevitably, the regulators fall behind the regulatees and the externalities return.

What to do?

Well, often, we tax them.  If we can’t maintain a regulatory system that effectively limits the externalities, we put a tax in place to recover at least some of the social costs of those externalities.  A tax usually also has the effect of keeping the industry from getting very large.

And that’s what Wolf proposes for the financial sector.  A tax to recover the cost of their externalities, and to shrink the industry so that it can no longer create such enormous externalities in the first place.

No more too big to fail.

h/t Ezra Klein

No Country for White Men

May 28, 2009

Karl Rove, among others on the right, is setting up a false equivalence between Democrats’ 2003 opposition to Miguel Estrada, a Bush nominee to the appellate bench, and the GOP’s opposition to Sonia Sotomayor.

Rove says opposing Sotomayor won’t hurt the GOP with Hispanics, just like the Dems’ opposition to Estrada didn’t hurt them.  The problem, Yglesias rightly points out, is that the nature of the opposition in the 2 cases is completely different.  The Dems opposed Estrada on the grounds that he was too far right, too far out of the legal mainstream.  Whether or not that’s accurate or even a valid argument to make, it’s certainly a very different argument from the one the GOP is making against Sotomayor.

The GOP is saying Sotomayor is too liberal, of course, but they’re also going after her on the grounds that she’s too Hispanic: she likes Puerto Rican food; she pronounces her name the same way her parents and grandparents did; she supports the Hispanic civil rights group La Raza (which is equivalent to criticizing an African-American for supporting the NAACP, or a Jewish American for supporting B’nai Brith); since her educational resume is almost identical to Justice Samuel Alito’s — went to Princeton and excelled, went to Yale Law and excelled — she must have been an Affirmative Action token all along the way.

To my knowledge, no Democrat ever made such arguments against Miguel Estrada.

I mean, seriously.  How dumb do you have to be to think opposing a Hispanic nominee because he’s too conservative is equivalent — in the logical, moral, political, or any other sense — to opposing a Hispanic nominee because she’s too Hispanic?

Can Rove seriously think Hispanics will react to the two the same way, or is he just appealing to and propagating the sense of white male grievance that keeps the GOP’s base fired up?

Deep Stupid

May 27, 2009

We launch the wayback machine to retrieve today’s Deep Stupid.

Much is being made on the right about Obama’s remark, earlier this year, that he wanted SCOTUS nominees who were capable of empathy.  So, TPM responds with this description of Clarence Thomas by Pres. George H.W. Bush in 1991:

I have followed this man’s career for some time. He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor.

I don’t much care about the empathy gotcha game, but, good lord, how wrong can a man be about another man’s personality?

Every report I’ve seen or heard about Thomas since he joined the court says his colleagues find him surly, cold, and taciturn.  Basically, nobody likes the man, and nobody thinks him much of an intellectual.  So while the first Pres. Bush’s remark isn’t possessed of especially deep stupid, being wrong on all counts does give it tremendous breadth.  Today’s winner.

Most Unfortunate Sentence of the Day

May 27, 2009

“Like Bush’s package, Obama’s will likely slow the bleeding for a while.” — Daniel Indiviglio, on the two presidents’ economic stimulus bills.

Blue Sonia

May 27, 2009

Lotsa chatter today about the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be a Supreme.  Mostly it’s about the politics.  This or that special interest group gearing up to run commercials for/against her and raise money off the whole deal.  More interesting: how in the world the GOP can come out of the process with anything but a net loss.

This Yglesias post does a good job of capturing the main points, in my opinion.  Basically, if they go after her hammer-and-tongs, they [further] alienate the fastest growing segment of the American electorate — Hispanics — and compound their problems with women voters.  If they don’t try to eviscerate her, their base is going to be unspeakably peeved.

Quoth Yglesias:

Senators who don’t fight and scrape against Sotomayor’s confirmation will take some crap from their base. But Senators who do fight and scrape to derail her nomination are going to become the villains in a story that a lot of kids are going to hear from their parents and teachers [i.e., the story of the first Latina SCOTUS justice’s rise from the barrios of the Bronx].

So which way will they go?  I think hammer-and-tongs, and here’s why: misallocated incentives.

The remaining GOP senators and representatives are all from states/districts where the GOP’s base rules the roost.  Those are the only voters those senators and representatives need to please.  So yes, if they go scorched earth on Sotomayor, they’re going to alienate large slices of the national electorate; but, as non-national candidates, they have no incentive, strictly speaking, to care about the national electorate.  Their incentive is all local, it is base voters, and it demands scorched earth.

The GOP’s next presidential nominee will have hell to pay for it, sure, but that’s his (or Sarah’s) problem.

The Future of GM and Chrysler?

May 27, 2009

Terry’s comment about the possible closure of a taciturn local Chevy dealership reminded me of an idea I had over the weekend: maybe GM and/or Chrysler should shift from being primarily car manufacturers to being providers of ZipCar-type car sharing services.

They’ve got loads of the main thing ZipCar lacks: nationwide infrastructure.  Instead of shuttering a ton of dealerships, convert some of them to car sharing centers.  They’ve got loads of cars (which all suddenly become depreciable capital assets, rather than sunk costs).  Loads of space to park them.  Loads of expert personnel on site to maintain them.

Now, they’re not going to be able to make a living just on car sharing services for a while, obviously.  But they just as obviously can’t make a living just on car manufacturing.  So keep manufacturing.  Use some of your output for your car-sharing cars, [try to] sell the rest.

If, as time goes on, you discover you’re just not going to make it as a manufacturer at all, at least you’ve got another business model in place — one that’s consistent with the likely greening of the economy over the coming decades.  Beats having to go completely out of business.