Friday, February 27, 2009

Persian Letters

A New York Times article on the sad demise of the Chrysler P.T. Cruiser includes this interesting nugget about how the car came into being:

The PT Cruiser grew out of a collaboration among Robert A. Lutz, who was an executive at Chrysler at the time, Bryan Nesbitt, a designer, and Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, a French-born medical anthropologist and psychiatrist, who is hired by corporations to tell them what Americans like. Dr. Rapaille interviewed customers lying back in a dark room about their automotive psychological associations, seeking the primal appeal to the part of the mind and brain he called the “reptilian.” He also advised other companies, such as Kraft — on American perceptions of cheese — and grew into a corporate prophet. “The Wizard of Lizard” one headline called him.
And to think there was a time in America when we ridiculed Gallic post-structuralism.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Give Me That Old Time Religion Any Time!

Just so there's no doubt that the GOP plays host to some of the most despicable human beings to ever walk the planet, consider the case of Colorado State Senator Dave Schultheis. Recently, Schultheis caused quite a stir when he voted against a bill that would have mandated AIDS testing for pregnant women in Colorado. His reasoning? AIDS is punishment for promiscuous behavior, and the state should not be in the business of mitigating that punishment.

I woke up the next morning — Thursday morning — at 5 a.m. and I wrestled with this bill for another hour from 5 to 6 and finally came to the conclusion I’m going to be a no vote on this. I’m trying to think through what the role of government is here. And I am not convinced that part of the role of government should be to protect individuals from the negative consequences of their actions.
Now, this is despicable enough as it is, but hold on to your hats folks. It gets worse. When it was pointed out to Schultheis that the reason for AIDS testing of pregnant women is to ensure that proper steps are taken to prevent the fetus from contracting AIDS, Schultheis reiterated his opposition and added that bringing an AIDS infected baby into this world was also a part of the punishment for promiscuity, and the government had no business trying to prevent that:
“What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that,”
That's some serious Old Time Religion for you, there, boddy... some real, Old Testament angry God, old time religion.

I wonder how soon before we learn this guy's been arrested having gay sex with his Meth dealer?

Christian Right Divided on Obama

The Christian Right is still divided on Barack Obama. Is he the Antichrist, or is he Hitler?

Quote for the day

In critiquing Bobby Jindall's State of the Union response, Paul Krugman nails it:

Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny.

The only thing I'd add to this is that the GOP has been doing this for ages. All you need do is remember the way in which United Nations critic Jesse Helms savored speaking the name of then UN Secretary-General "Boutros Boutros-Ghali" back on the 1990s. One had a sense that Helms and his allies reasoned taht any organization run by a guy with such a funny name must, perforce, be a ridiculous proposition. And the GOP's penchant for ridiculing scientific studies that they don't understand is long standing and can be seen as recently as John McCain's criticism of DNA sampling studies of endangered Grizzly bear populations, undertaken for the purpose of ascertaining genetic diversity and determining just how endangered the species really was. McCain caricatured these necessary studies as "paternity tests."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fox News "Fact Checks" Obama's Speech

In the wake of Barack Obama's spectacularly well received State of the Union Address, the nice folks over at Fox News decided to do a completely neutral and scientific "fact check" of Obama's Speech that's completely free of bias and totally objective because they're all fair and balanced, for god's sake. So what did Fox discover? IT WAS ALL A LIE, EVRY WORD OF IT... LIES, LIES, LIES!!!!

Here's a brief summary of the Fox Piece:

Obama Claim: His housing plan won't help speculators or people who could have never afforded the homes they bought.

The Facts: Barack Obama hasn't said how his plan will do this, so it must be A LIE!!!!

Obama Claim: "I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it."

The Facts: The US didn't invent the automobile, depending on what you mean by "invented" so it's totally cool if we let GM, Ford and Chrysler fail. So, ANOTHER LIE!!!!

Obama Claim: "We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before."

The Facts: Actually, because the economy is going to Hell we're importing slightly less oil today than in 2005. LIAR, LIAR, LIAR!!!!

Obama Claim: "We have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade."

The Facts: Obama is sooo going to be a 1 term president, and with a Republican likely to succeed him it's ridiculous to suggest that spending is actually going to go down ten years from now. LIE!!!!

Obama Claim: "Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. "

The Facts: Yeah, but Democrats let it happen, so this is A TOTAL LIE... even though it isn't.

And it goes on like that, pretty much. I must say, though, that I'm surprised that a "news" network as Fair and Balanced as Fox would do a "fact check" piece that by mere chance and coincidence was composed exclusively of claims that could be spun as false depending on your assumptions and how you chose to read what the President was saying.

In a nutshell 2

How bad was Bobby Jindall's speech? This bad:

But Democratic leaders in Congress -- they rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history, with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a "magnetic levitation" line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called "volcano monitoring." Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.
Seriously, it was awful. I mean, do you really respond to President Obama's hopeful State of the Union address and celebration of America's can-do spirit by implying that MAGLEV technolgy trains (the first of which ran commercially in England in 1984) are some sort of hocus pocus science-fictiony pie-in-the-sky witchcraft? Should the governor of a state that was recently devastated by a natural disaster really be criticizing the government for spending money to prevent, or at least mitigate, further natural disasters in other states? With the US auto industry teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, is it really a good idea to trash Washington for helping see the automakers through this crisis by deciding that now would be a good time to renew the government's transportation fleet?

In a nutshell...

The President's State of the Union Address to congress and the Republican response in one sentence:

The President:

"Hi, my name is Barack Obama, and I'm a hopeaholic."

The Republican Response (delivered by LA gov. Bibby Jindall):

"The Democrats seem to think that government can help in times like these, yet how quickly they forget just how terribly Bill Clinton bungled the government's response to Hurricane Katrina."

The End.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Scandal in Academia!

A few days ago The Politico published an eyebrow raising "exposé" of the salaries of a number of high-profile academics who've attached themselves to or are in some way connected with the Obama administration. Presumably, We The People are to be scandalized that, as The Politico puts it, these academics enjoy: "lifestyles [that are] out of reach for the majority of Americans." Here are a few scandalous examples from the piece in question:

(Note from the Editor: I have no idea why the spacing is so screwed up on this)

Unworthy Academic

Cecilia Rouse
Elena Kagan
Steven Chu
subsidized mortgage
see below
Cecilia Rouse$300kPrinceton econ prof.
Elena Kagan$437kDean, Harvard Law
Steven Chu$412kBerkeley Physic prof., Nobel Laureate
Daniel Tarullo$218kGeorgetown Law prof.
Daniel TarulloTwo weeks in fabulous SwitzerlandWheel of Fortune
Visting professor, U. Basel.
John Holdren$93kEnvironmental policy prof., Harvard U.
John Holdren$250.00Apperance on David Letterman show

So I did a little comparison shopping to find out what our poor, unrecognized college football coaches are making in contrast:

Superstar Coach
2008 Record

Les Miles, LSU$3+ million8-5
Bob Stoops, U. of OK$6+ million12-2
Nick Saban, U. of Alabama$4+ million12-2
Urban Mayer, U. of Florida
$3+ million13-1
Kirk Ferentz, U. of Iowa$3+ millon9-4

Now, ordinarily I'd be shocked by the disparity in salary beween a college professor and a college football coach, but... well... you've gotta admit... a 13-1 record beats a Nobel Prize in Physics any day of the week.

The Road to Damascus

The road to Damascus is crowded this year... with Republicans:

Deep public worry about the federal budget deficit has jumped since December, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, upping the ante on the White House's fiscal responsibility summit that kicks off later this morning.


...74 percent of Republicans in the new poll expressed grave worry about the deficit, 29 points higher than in December when George W. Bush held the reins.

This poll certainly does lend credence to my belief that concern over deficit spending among Republicans is largely a political ploy rather than a deeply held respect for fiscal responsibility. It's also worth noting that the same poll found a fall in concern among Democrats, but only by 4 points. Oddly, the Washington Post does not provide a margin of error for the poll. So it's even possible that the drop in concern among Democrats falls within the poll's margin of error.

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Judge a post by its title

I love the title of this post of Mathew Yglesias: Bobby Jindal's Hostages.

It sums up nicely the way in which GOP governors are treating their own citizens: as hostages to be bartered and abused in the furtherance of their own political ambitions.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rick Santelli: Piece of Human Garbage

Here's an eye opening video. Chris Matthews interviews CNBC's Rick Santelli not long after his now famous hissy fit on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange:

Now, there are a few interesting facts one takes away from this wonderful interview. First: Santelli concedes that (as White House press secretary Robert Gibbs suspected) he had not even read the Obama housing plan before trashing it at length on CNBC. Second: the guy is (surprise, surprise) a partisan Republican. Third: the guy is an outrageous hipocryte, claiming that his opposition to the housing plan under discussion is predicated by his refusal to leave trillions of dollars of debt for his daughter to pay off. Fourth: the guy clearly sees every problem through the warped lens of Wall Street priorities. His solution to the housing crisis: put a lien on your house equal to the value that needs to be reduced in order for you to be able to make your mortgage payments, then securitize those liens and sell them to investors.

Let's expand upon these observations one by one:

Santelli has not read Obama's plan before trashing it: what more needs be said, here? This guy's no different from the crooked congressional GOP that marched lock-step in following orders from John Boehener to vote against Obama's stimulus bill --orders that were issued even as Obama was on his way to meet with the GOP leadership and discuss and address their objections.

The guy's an outrageous hypocrite: this is where the "human garbage" label can be fairly applied to Santelli. Anyone who voted for a Republican presidential candidate again in the wake of the fetid, putrid, malodorous, diseased, fiscal-bowel-movement of the past eight years has no right to complain about the stimulus plan burdening his daughter with debt. Unfortunately, this seems to be the favorite argument and modus operandi of the pathetic right-wing commentariat that, even now, insults our collective intelligence by staring us in the face and shamelessly uttering such nonsense. These over-stuffed sacks of week-old refuse seriously want us to believe that they've suddenly awoken from an eight year slumber to discover that deficits are bad? Honestly: I'd feel less insulted if they just came out and called my mother a whore, or something. For God's sakes, Santelli: offer me $10.00 to sleep with my sister if you want, but don't act as if I'm even stupider than you are. That's just inexcusable.

Santelli's rescue plan: they say that when you're a hammer all your problems look like a nail. Apparently when you're a securities trader, all your problems look like a toy-box full of Lincoln Logs, because honestly I can't imagine a third grader coming up with a plan as ludicrous as this one. The housing market is waaay over built. Prices were driven to absurdly artificial highs by unscrupulous traders like Santelli and his boys at the Chicago Mercantile and will never get back to where they were (nor should they: that's why they were artificial highs). Nobody is lending. And Santelli's solution is to put a lien on people's houses and securitize the value of the lien and sell these securities to investors? Honestly, this idiot plan of his reminds me of hangover remedies that begin by advising the sufferer to down a few shots of bourbon. Might as well treat hair loss by shaving your head.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Party of Marie Antoinettes

You really have to marvel at the way the GOP have decided to pull out all the stops and go Hell for broke into political irrelevancy. It was bad enough watching conservative CNBC commentator Rick Santellli telling struggling homeowners (or in his parlance "losers") to just go f*ck themselves while a crowd of Chicago mercantile exchange brokers, fat from the recent $700 billion Federal financial industry bailout, cheered in the background. But to have this guy's throughts seconded by conservative commentators who'd actually had time to read, digest and mull over the execrable essence and reprehensible hipocrisy of Santelli's rant was just astonishing. Perhaps conservatives are still wandering around in a fog after the thorough whopping they got in November, but their loss of political clout seems to have left them tin eared and politically blind. As the Columbia Journalism Review noted in commenting on Santelli's deranged Phillipic:

...there’s this startling bit from his rant from the trading floor:
SANTELLI: These guys are pretty straightforward and my guess is a pretty good statistical cross-section of America—the silent majority.

If you think the makeup of the trading floor is representative of America, you’re just delusional. But a country of financial-services professionals does fit CNBC’s worldview.

And now we have word that the National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez is going gaga over the thought of a Sara Palin/Rick Santelli presidential ticket in 2012. It's almsot as insane as South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford threatening to turn down Federal stimulus money in a state that's .5% away from double digit unemployment.

These people are living in a fantasy world if they think their ideas appeal to anyone other than a hardcore base of survivalist nutjobs handling snakes at a backwater revival, watching the world collapse around them with glee, secure in the knowledge that our travails are a sign that the Second Coming is nigh. Really, these crazies make G. W. Bush's fabled bubble-habitat seem positively cosmopolitan in contrast. Marie Antoinette was guillotined for less.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Please, do watch this video of Wall Street stock brokers --many of whom still have jobs largely because the Federal Government bailed out the financial services industry to the tune of $700 billion-- booing the Obama Administration for planning to spend a few billion more helping middle class Americans stay in their homes:

I had almost forgotten how despicable these Wall Street types can be.

Someone Let This Woman Know About Vonage.

Q: How much does one phone call from The Alaska Governor's mansion to Elizabeth Dole's office in North Carolina Cost?

A: About $60.00.

Let's give another round of applause to those fiscally responsible Republicans.

GOP Governs stand on principle!

Shocker: According to the Huffington Post, a number of GOP governors may well stand on principle and REJECT Federal stimulus money! There's only one teeny tiny caveat, that is... well... hardly even worth mentioning. They know they're going to get it anyway:

In fact, governors who reject some of the stimulus aid may find themselves overridden by their own legislatures because of language Clyburn included in the bill that allows lawmakers to accept the federal money even if their governors object.

He inserted the provision based on the early and vocal opposition to the stimulus plan by South Carolina's Republican governor, Mark Sanford. But it also means governors like Sanford and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal _ a GOP up-and-comer often mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate _ can burnish their conservative credentials, knowing all the while that their legislatures can accept the money anyway.

Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain, folks!

8.5 in 10 Economists Agree: Republicans are fools.

Greg Mankiw has a list of propositions that are broadly agreed upon by economists (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan). I'm sure everyone has their favorite (depending on ideology). For my part, I'd like to highlight and comment upon the following item:

8. If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
If I'm reading this correctly, what this principle means is that the government should pay down the national debt when times are good, and go into deficit spending when times are bad.

This is an important principle worth remembering, and one that, unfortunately, politicians of a certain political stripe are none to fond of following. You will recall that when Bill Clinton left office, he left George W. Bush with a significant budget surplus (over $200 billion) and from the start George W. Bush eyed that surplus greedily, like the prodigal son desperate to get his hands on his generous inheritance. So instead of doing the proper thing and continuing to pay down a 5 trillion dollar debt (that Bill Clinton had largely inherited from Ronald Reagan and G. W. Bush's own father) candidate George W. Bush announced in the presidential debates of 2000 that he had plans for every last nickel of that surplus, none of which involved paying off any debt:
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, we do come from different places. I come from West Texas. I have been a governor. The governor is the chief executive officer and learns how to set agendas. I want to take one half of the surplus and dedicate it to Social Security, one-quarter of the surplus for important projects. And I want to send one-quarter of the surplus back to the people who pay the bills.
So as the GOP furiously pounds the table and loudly protests the necessary spending that is contained in the Obama stimulus package, it is worth reminding the party of recklessness that the last time they were handed an opportunity to put a dent in the Federal debt, they squandered that opportinuty with shameless glee and a grin on their faces.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote for the day.

"It may be necessary to temporarily nationalise some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring," he said. "I understand that once in a hundred years this is what you do."

Alan Greenspan may be acting a bit disingenuously in attempting to disavow his role in the current financial crisis, but the one thing you can say for him is that unlike the GOP, he's changed his tune on the role of government regulation in the economy. And furthermore, unlike the GOP Greenspan clearly sees that this is not a crisis that the markets left to their won devices will be able to dig themselves out of. Indeed, for a disciple of Ayn Rand to speak to the possible necessity of nationalizing the banks is quite stunning.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

George Soros is the Devil

I've always known that onetime GOP congressman and Rush Limbaugh clone J. D. Hayworth was borderline insane, but it's never been clearer than on yesterday's Hardball.

When Rep. Harold Ford reminds viewers that Bill Clinton's 1993 budget was passed on a party line vote with no Republican support and preceded the largest peacetime expansion of the economy in American History, Hayworth counters that it was in fact his election that casued the economic expansion. Then, when Chris Matthews asks Hayworth if the country would be better off continuing with the economic policies under which we've been operating over the past 8 years, Hayworth lets loose with some peculiar conspiracy theory about George Soros ambushing the U.S. economy and precipitating the current financial meltdown.

Hayworth's explanation of the roots of the current crisis is so peculiar, and so at odds with empirical reality, that host Chris Matthews is forced to brush him off the way one might ignore the cryptic ramblings of a homeless street person who walks by muttering barely intelligible jibberish about how the illuminati is after his shopping cart.

(Via Crooks and Liars).

Slim GM

Some time ago I proposed on this blog that the US auto makers emulate the Japanese in trimming their brands to just a consumer brand (i.e. Toyota) and a luxury brand (i.e. Lexus). It looks like GM is proposing just such a plan:

The plan will outline in considerable detail, over as many as 900 pages, how G.M. will further cut its work force, shutter more factories in North America and reduce its lineup of brands to just four, from eight, according to executives knowledgeable about its contents. The remaining core brands will be Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick.
Holding on to GMC makes sense, since it's basically a commercial truck division of the company, but holding on to Buick, at first sight doesn't seem to make sense. There's the old joke about Oldsmobuicks being, at best, a nostalgic throwback to a 1950's America long since gone. Your dad remembers going for a Sunday drive in his dad's Buick, but even he never actually owned one (his first car, he tells you fondly, was a '67 Mustang). Buicks are basically retiree vehicles for folks whose retirement account isn't generous enough to justify a Cadillac. So why hold on to Buick? Well, as it happens, Buicks are huge in China, the world's largest emerging market.
Buick’s sizzling sales have driven General Motors — even as it closes plants and lays off workers at home — to the top of the pack in China, the world’s fastest-growing automobile market. GM sold 665,000 cars and trucks in China last year. For now, only 1 in 100 Chinese own a car, compared to 9 in 10 in the United States. But the Chinese expect 130 million vehicles to be sold by 2020.

The Buick has always had a bit of allure here. The last emperor was the proud owner of two Buicks, but now, the Buick is making a new generation of Chinese feel at least like kings of the road.
Maybe there's just something about China in the 2000's that resembles America in the 1950's... hopefully only the good parts.

Justifications and collective amnesia.

How are the GOP trying to regain the deficit-hawk, good-housekeeping seal of approval after eight years of fiscal diarrhea? Jonah Goldberg quotes approvingly an e-mail he got to the effect that:

There is a BIG difference between the 8 years of Republican deficit spending and the current stimulus bill. I sometimes drive 85mph when the speed limit is 75mph - that doesn't mean I can't legitimately criticize the guy who passes me doing 150mph. One is pushing the envelope - the other is reckless driving!
The analogy is absurd, but the numbers are also way off base. The GOP wasn't "pushing the envelope" doing 85 in a 75. They were adding about a trillion dollars to the national debt every 18 months without a compelling reason to do so. That's a felony, son. I don't care how you try to justify yourself.

Then this morning Joe Scarborough noted that it took the nation 240 years to accumulate a one trillion dollar deficit and Obama is on course to double that figure in one year. Scarborough's numbers are also suspect at best. First off, it is worth noting that the national debt reached 1 trillion dollars under Saint Ronald of Reaganshire, and by the time his Holiness the Reagan left office in 1988 the debt stood at nearly $3 trillion. It is also worth noting that $1 trillion in today's dollars is only about $500 billion in 1988 dollars. Furthermore, as a percentage of US GDP it's only about 1/3 of the 1988 figure. $1 trillion in 1988 represented 1/5th of US GDP. 1 trillion in 2009 represents about 1/14th of GDP. So making the claim that Obama is creating as much debt in one year as it took the US to create in 240 years is plausible only if you're speaking to an audience of mildly retarded innumerates (the GOP base).

Oh, should I also note that the US had only been around for 212 years in 1988? Why bother.

Why does the GOP want America to fail?

It's no secret that the GOP in Congress and the Senate are rooting for the American economy to get worse in the next few years, for more banks to collapse, for you, dear reader, to lose your job and perhaps your house: after all, they see America's failure as their meal ticket. If things get worse for you, they hope that things will get better for them. And so they tried desperately to torpedo Obama's stimulus package last week, to characterize it as "wasteful spending" and press for a counter-productive package that substituted non-stimulative tax cuts for the government spending that is needed to stem the tide of job losses and get the nation working again. The national GOP presented a unified front, save for three pragmatic GOP Senators... who just coincidentally hail from the largely Democratic Northeast and will be facing their constituents in Senatorial elections come 2010.

But as the New York Times reports, as soon as you focus on people who are actually affected by the economy, whose jobs depend on a recovery, things change. Republican governors, for instance, are far more pragmatic and far more supportive of the bill than their Congressional counterparts:

Governors, unlike members of Congress, have to balance their budgets each year. And that requires compromise with state legislators, including Democrats, as well as more openness to the occasional state tax increase and to deficit-spending from Washington.

Across the country, from California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger to Florida’s Charlie Crist and New England’s Jim Douglas in Vermont and M. Jodi Rell in Connecticut, Republican governors showed in the stimulus debate that they could be allies with Mr. Obama even as Congressional Republicans spurned him.
GOP governors in many ways find themselves in the same position as President Obama: they are responsible for shepherding a frightened population in a time of economic turmoil. They don't have the luxury of working to further undermine our economy in the hopes that voters will forget that it is they who brought us to the point where we are today, and in their collective amnesia, put them back in office in retaliation.

The shamelessness and hypocrisy of Congressional Republicans knows no bounds. After eight years of reckless deficits totaling some five trillion dollars, they want us to believe that they oppose a needed stimulus bill because it spends one sixth as much trying to dig us out of the economic mess they left us in.

Verily I say unto you: Congressional Republicans are the pedophile priests of government spending.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Manufactured Scandals...

The thing I like most about the National Review's "The Corner" blog is that when you're scratching your head, searching in vain for a good story to write up, all you've got to do is pop on over to "The Corner" and you're bound to find a convenient treasure trove of lies and other such misleading bullshit just waiting to be debunked.

So it was in perusing "The Corner" that I stumbled across the following post by Kathleen Jean Parker who's basically insane, but no more so than your average Cornerite.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Momma Mia!: The Case of Candace Parker [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

A married 22-year-old is subject to scorn for embracing motherhood.

Oh my, a married 22 year old scorned for embracing motherhood?!?!?! What's the world coming to when a married, adult woman isn't allowed to have children any more? Is this Gattaca or something? Have we as a society suddenly awakened into Logan's Run? So I hurriedly clicked the link to the article that Lopez had so helpfully brought to my attention, and devoured the following article by a little known conservative pundit named Colleeen Carrol Cambpbell. It was all about Candace Parker, a WNBA star at the top of her game who is taking some time off to become a mother, and encountering fierce resistance as a result:

...Parker's pregnancy was not greeted with the same approval and tolerance that many of today's child-bearing sexagenarians and single mothers by choice enjoy when they form their families. Instead, Parker was blasted by fans and pundits for becoming a mother at age 22. Critics bemoaned her selfishness in putting maternal ambitions ahead of her team's 2009 season prospects. Others lamented her foolishness for starting a family when she should be living a strings-free existence oriented around her glamorous career.

Not long ago, a 22-year-old woman was considered plenty old enough to marry and bear children. But in today's era of prolonged adolescence and commitment phobia, high-achieving women like Parker often face ridicule and scorn for defying the feminist conventional wisdom that marriage and motherhood are second-rate pursuits best delayed until middle age. Young mothers frequently are accused of forfeiting a hard-won feminist privilege: the right to spend their 20s single-mindedly pursuing sexual license, success and self-fulfillment without the hassles of a husband and children.
Now, I knew pretty much immediately that what I was reading was bullshit. How did I know? Well, years of listening to right-wing crusaders on radio and TV has trained me to spot the subtle signs. Let me give you an example. When a right-wing blowhard screams at the top of his lungs that there's this young woman who's BEING PERSECUTED BY FEMINIST MONSTERS FOR REFUSING TO ABORT HER 8 1/2 MONTH OLD BABY, and yet this same blowhard conveniently omits any information that might allow us to identify the feminist monsters in question... well, that's a pretty good indication that what you're hearing is bullshit.

And this article followed the same pattern. You'll notice that Campbell never identifies the fans and pundits who savaged Parker for wanting a baby at 22, not once. She just wants us to take her on her word that this happened... that the RADICAL FEMINISTS want Parker's head on a platter alongside that of her baby.

So I ran a Google search, to see if I could dig up some of those nasty articles Campbell alludes to. Now, it's really, really, really difficult to prove a negative. You've basically got to hunt down every word ever written about Parker and ensure that it's not a criticism of the type Campbell is claiming. I didn't do that. And of course, ensuring that no such article exists is far easier than polling every Parker fan to ensure that none of them despises her for setting aside her career to have a child. So I didn't do that either. What I did do instead was read a few articles that were written about Parker and see what the tone was like. And would you know it... even those articles that appeared in the scandalously liberal New York Times and outright communistic Los Angeles Times were unapologetically supportive of Parker's decision. Here's The New York Times:

W.N.B.A. Commissioner Donna Orender said her initial reaction to Parker’s pregnancy was a quiet sigh of resignation. Then she thought of all the women in the more traditional workplace struggling with the issue of when or if to start a family, and she realized that Parker’s pregnancy provided a perfect modeling moment.

“Here she is, front and center, and people are discussing the timing of her reproductive life,” Orender said Friday in a telephone interview. “That’s a very public discussion that hasn’t happened before. I do think that’s a good thing for women who go through these issues often in silence or alone.”

She added, “Candace can be a very usable symbol of how you can have a family and a career.”

Women who cannot imagine dunking a basketball can relate to being tugged by the seemingly competing dreams of pursuing a family and a career.
Oh, the nerve of those New York Times people, exploring the issue of career and motherhood in all its manifold dimensions, while ending their piece on a decidedly supportive note! And here's the L.A. Times:
For someone who's just 22, Candace Parker of the L.A. Sparks pro basketball team has been collecting accolades at a furious pace. College national championship? Check. Olympic gold medal? Check. League MVP and rookie of the year in the same WNBA season? Double-check.

What worlds are left to conquer? Perhaps Madison Avenue. On Sunday, Adidas is rolling out a massive ad campaign and contest with the 6-foot-4 Parker as point person. It's called "Me, Myself," and unless you live in a cave, you'll soon be hearing all the details on how to take part.

There's one more project worth mentioning: Parker and husband Shelden Williams (of the NBA's Sacramento Kings) will soon welcome their first child into the world, or more specifically, Marina del Rey. That kid's going to be some ballplayer.
Oooh, the censure is driving me mad! And the Chicago Daily Herlad opines:

Fortunately for Parker, she's in a business in which it is possible for her to dictate her own success and advancement, whether she's a mother or not.

That's the way it should be for all of us.

But until society stops penalizing women for a part of biology we can't control, or for making choices about parenthood that a man can make without thinking twice, this country isn't nearly as progressive as we think it is.

And so it goes, on and on from baby-hating Feminisocialist pundit to pundit. The simple truth is that Parker's decision was reviled mostly in the fervid imagination of right-wing pundits. I can't say that no editorial was ever published chiding Parker for her decision or that no fan ever grew upset as a result. But the tone of most major media coverage is one of supportive understanding for the special challenges that a working mother faces in balancing family and career.

So the right-wing pundits are manufacturing a scandal out of whole cloth? Well isn't that a suprise... again.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Waaaay Smarter than Einsten

Back in the day... I remember it well. It was at the height of the Clinton presidency. The hallways of Wall Street firms might as well have been the streets of Pamplona what with the sea rampaging bulls trampling anyone and anything that dared get in their way. Every other day the DOW set a different record: on the even days it rose to a new high, on the odd days it closed at a new high. I was in grad school at the time, and I remember sitting back in a smelly, old overstuffed couch watching CNBC when the DOW first broke 10,000. The traders on the floor went crazy. One million and one champagne corks popped in boardrooms across the nation. Maria Bartiromo arched her back, savored the moment three times and then relaxed and lit a cigarette.

And there was one man we all thanked for this financial miracle. It wasn't of course president Clinton. Good Lord, no. A Democrat responsible for all this? Hello no. He was too busy covering up the Vince Foster murder (along with all those other guys he and his wife murdered that Jerry Falwell was brave enough to tell us about). No, the Midas hand that touched the markets and turned them to gold could be none other than Alan Greenspan. He was the "maestro" of Wall Street, conducting the orchestra to to a rousing crescendo of diamond studded profits. The New Yorker printed cartoons of children directing their bedtime prayers to Greenspan. Every time he spoke the nation grew silent as professional and non-professional traders alike (and everyone was a trader back then) leaned forward in an attempt to intuit and interpret the oracle's latest opaque and quizzical pronouncement. For when it came to the economy, Alan Greenspan was smarter than Einstein... waaay smarter. He was, for all intents and purposes, our new god.

Flash forward fifteen years. The markets are down... way down. The economy is on the verge of collapse. A Republican president has left office in disgrace, leaving behind a doubling of the national debt and a nation mired in military quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. The entire investment banking sector has collapsed. Many of of the largest, most venerable names in traditional banking have disappeared, and those that are still left are busy foreclosing on the American dream. And Alan Greenspan presided over most of it.

So it's puzzling to hear the onetime maestro admit that he kinda sorta really had no idea what was happening on Wall Street during the last few years of his tenure. Not because he wasn't paying attention, but because it was all just so mystifying:

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, told CNBC in a documentary to be shown Thursday night that he did not fully understand the scope of the subprime mortgage market until well into 2005 and could not make sense of the complex derivative products created out of mortgages.

“So everybody in retrospect now knows that that boom was developing under the markets for quite a period of time, but nobody knew it,” Mr. Greenspan told CNBC’s David Faber. “In 2004, there was just no credible information on that. It wasn’t until we got well into 2005 that the first inklings that that was developing was emerging,” he said.

It's all a little hard to swallow, of course. The disciple of Ayn Rand who teamed up with Bill Clinton to help slay the deficit beast, then promoted irresponsible tax cuts once a Republican president came into office tells us he just didn't know what was happening on Wall Street. The man who briefly warned us of the markets' "irrational exhuberance" during the Tech Sector boom (and witnessed its collapse in 2000 along with the rest of us) then turned around and began promoting complex non-traditional mortgage instruments to financially naive home buyers tells us that he was worried that stemming the housing boom would have "generated a 10 percent unemployment rate."

In retrospect, I think Greenspan's change of heart on economic policy was part of a bigger picture that helped lead the US down this sorry path. In 2000 the nation sailed into a perfect storm of Republican governance. Every branch of government was or would soon be controlled by the Republicans. The GOP held the presidency and a majority in both houses of congress. And, of course, they held the Supreme Court, too, and with the fourth estate long since cowed and no real alternative to right-wing radio and the emergence of the Fox News propaganda juggernaut, there was really nothing to stand in their way. The entire apparatus of government controlled by people who held two beliefs with absolute certainty: First, that government was the problem and could do little but stand in the way of progress; and second, that greed is good. Greed is the motor that drives all of human progress, and while greed itself can have destructive consequences, the greed of others, paradoxically enough, keeps our own greed in check and for the most part prevents these consequences from growing into something that winds up corrupting our culture.

Taken together these two beliefs have brought us to where we are today. If Alan Greenspan truly didn't understand the complexities what was going on in the market, as he claims, it was only his blind faith in those two principles that allowed him to assume that such opaqueness was nothing to get worked up about. Because while the exotic financial instruments that investment bankers were trading in may have been complex, even impenetrable to an outsider, Greenspan should easily have been able to predict where we'd end up by glancing at the other side of the coin; the unsustainable boom in real-estate prices, fueled by a wave of mortgages that even the most novice of analysts couldn't not help but conclude would end up in foreclosure sometime in the next five years. If you can't afford a particular home on your salary, then financing that home with a teaser-rate, negative-amortization, variable ARM balloon mortgage doesn't make it any more affordable. It just turns the property into a ticking foreclosure time-bomb. Greenspan should have known that. He should have warned against that. Instead he promoted the scam because it was the market's latest financial "innovation" and the market surely knows best.

No one could have forseen 9/11. No one could have foreseen the New Orleans levees breaking during hurricane Katrina. No one could have foreseen the financial meltdown of 2008.

But of course they could have... every one of them... had they only opened their eyes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sore losers?

Obama's stimulus plan passes the House of Representatives, and not a single Republican congressman votes for it. This is plan that contained the single largest tax cut in US history. The tax cuts in this plan are bigger than the Reagan tax cut... bigger than the Bush tax cut. Many of these cuts were offered as an olive branch and an outstretched hand to the GOP to encourage them to support the package, and yet and not a single Republican Congressman voted for it, ostensibly because it didn't contain enough tax cuts to satisfy them. Think about that for a moment. Mull it over. Consider the implications.

Really, the GOP is coming out looking like nothing more than a bunch of sore losers who are still angry over the election. You can expect their poll numbers to sink even further while the House Democrats' numbers go up.

Sell the house, sell the kids, privatize EVERYTHING!!!!

You know how conservatives and libertarians like to remind us that privatization is the panacea that will cure society of all its ills because the private sector is so much more efficient in everything it does?

Well read this story of a pair of judges who have recently pled guilty to charges of wire fraud and income tax evasion for imprisoning teenaged defendants who should never have received jail terms in exchange for kickbacks from a privately run prison in Pennsylvania. Then come back andtell me you still think subjecting EVERYTHING to the profit motive is such a great idea:

At worst, Hillary Transue thought she might get a stern lecture when she appeared before a judge for building a spoof MySpace page mocking the assistant principal at her high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She was a stellar student who had never been in trouble, and the page stated clearly at the bottom that it was just a joke.

Instead, the judge sentenced her to three months at a juvenile detention center on a charge of harassment.

She was handcuffed and taken away as her stunned parents stood by.

“I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare,” said Hillary, 17, who was sentenced in 2007. “All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing.”
The private sector hasn't shown itself to be a model of good citizenship over the past 8 years, has it? Staring with Enron, Worldcom et. al. and ending with the mortgage backed financial collapse of the last few months, you wonder why anyone has any faith in private industry to do anything right.

Judd Gregg Fallout

Andy Sullivan loses it:

The GOP Has Declared War On Obama

This much is now clear. Their clear and open intent is to do all they can, however they can, to sabotage the new administration (and the economy to boot). They want failure. Even now. Even after the last eight years. Even in a recession as steeply dangerous as this one. There are legitimate debates to be had; and then there is the cynicism and surrealism of total political war. We now should have even less doubt about what kind of people they are. And the mountain of partisan vitriol Obama will have to climb every day of the next four or eight years.

And there are a half dozen other blog posts on his site just like it. And you know what? He's right. For those of us who've suspected this was the case from the beginning the question is: has the Obama team anticipated this also? Let's hope they've got a plan for dealing with an obstructionist opposition that openly seeks to model itself on the Taliban.

The Daily Kos opines:

When called to serve his country, Judd Gregg flinched, and revealed himself too beholden to the extremist views of a Republican party controlled by zealots.

Bipartisanship can only work when both parties put the national interest before everything. All but a few of the Republicans in Congress put their party before the good of the nation. Judd Gregg's refusal to serve in the Obama cabinet demonstrates' once again that the Republicans would rather obstruct progress than contribute to the good of the nation.

Again, it's hard to dispute this reading of the situation.

The American Prospect looks at the score and thinks things don't look good for Gregg:

Some may see Gregg's decision as yet another failure of bipartisanship, but the meme is becoming more and more that Obama reaches out and the GOP rejects the overture, so I call it a wash for the administration and for Gregg, who does look a bit silly. The winner here is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who gets to hold on to a smart and effective senator for the next two years -- I wouldn't count on Gregg winning reelection in 2010, given the political climate and the tenacious fundraising of Representative Paul Hodes. Another developing storyline: How Gregg and the White House work together on the new administration's forthcoming legislative agenda. Gregg's gracious statement promises a continued relationship on certain issues, so we'll have to see what that all amounts to; presumably he won't recuse himself from voting on the stimulus now, and presumably he'll vote no.

Wonkette jumps in the way that only Wonkette can:

JUDD GREGG IS DESTROYING OUR CONVERSATION: Only a few more hours until Jonah Goldberg steals the news by being named Commerce Secretary, so we better get all of our “Judge Dredd” posts in. We’ve entered the second phase of this nasty story, where the various anonymous partisans go crazy with the leaks: “WASHINGTON (CNN) — A Democratic source close to the Obama White House said Thursday that Judd Gregg ‘campaigned for the job’ — that the New Hampshire senator had asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to approach the president about the Commerce post.” A Republican source has responded that in fact Barack Obama kidnapped Judd Gregg’s children and threatened to feed them arugula until Gregg accepted the position.

My suspicions are that Gregg probably stepped up to commerce with the best of intentions, but faced a barrage of criticism from members of his own party. The excuses he's given for his withdrawl are essentially... well, let's face it: nonsensical. As Commerce Secretary Gregg's job would be largely to help negotiate trade agreements and open foreign markets to U.S. goods. The Obama stimulus plan is wholly tangential to that job. Also, let us not forget that Barack Obama has made much of the fact that he was appointing three Republicans to his cabinet. But, of course, this fact flies in the face of the recent GOP media offensive which seeks to spread the word that it is the Whitehouse, not Republicans, who are being partisan and intransigent. And so Gregg could not be allowed to join the administration. I suspect there was some pretty heavy arm-twisting from Gregg's GOP colleagues.

The GOP has been pretty good at getting th mainstream media to parrot their message that it's the Democrats, not the Republicans who are being partisan. It boggles the mind that TV news announcers are playing along with this ridiculous game, but given the average CNN host's spinelessness and lack of intellectual curiosity or acuity I guess it should not surprise us. However the American people are not so easily fooled. The GOP may be getting news anchors to tell us that the sky is pink, but it's not so easy so sell that message when everyone and his brother can see that it is, in fact, blue. That's why the GOP's poll numbers are in the toilet right now.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Entitlement Culture

Michelle Malkin is disgusted that a homeless, jobless woman with a child in school would have the gumption to attend a town hall meeting and ask demand Barack Obama help her.

Stay classy Michelle, like we already know you are.

Field Trip to Insanity

Crooks and Liars brings us video of Jonah Goldberg's recent field trip to clinically insane Fox News host Glenn Beck's new show. Don't say I didn't warn ya, Jonah.

Highlight of the show: Glenn Beck tries to get Jonah to agree that Barack Obama's presidency is probably the culmination of a secret cold-war plan hatched in the Soviet Union in the 1950s, to turn the U.S. into a Communist satellite of the USSR.

Appropriating the Machinery of Government...

Now that Democrats are back in the majority in the New York State government, they have begun taking a close look at budget items that were one off limits to them. What they have discovered is truly shocking, if sadly predictable. It appears that the GOP has been using a sizable portion of the Senate's $100 million budget for GOP centered electioneering purposes:

On Long Island, they found a small television studio, which had been set up — all with public money, with two press aides on hand to help operate it — for the exclusive use of Republican senators to record cable TV shows.
Bills, mailings and various brochures were printed [at the Senate's printing plant], with Republicans receiving premium service. For instance, the constituent newsletters sent to Republican districts were printed in multiple colors, while those printed for Democratic districts were printed in black and white, with one color. Democratic leaders say the lease for the plant currently costs the state $632,460 per year, and that the payroll appears to be about $2.7 million.

At 90 Swan Street, in the building across the street from the Capitol, 45 employees worked for the Senate Research Service, which generated a variety of documents for the Senate, though Democrats and Republicans differ on the partisanship of their service.

A memo circulated late last year by top staff members of Mr. Skelos said the research service needed to coordinate with the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, then the majority’s political arm. The memo’s existence was previously reported by The New York Post.

“It was a mistake, it was unauthorized and it should never have been done,” Mr. McArdle said of the directive.
When Democrats finally took the reins of power in Washington after the 2006 elections, they discovered much the same behavior from Republicans on a national level. Here, too, government agencies were repurposed with their mission changed to reflect a goal of electing Republican public officials. The Washington Post reported on this in 2007:
An invitation to a March 12, 2001, political briefing for federal officials -- one of the Rove team's earliest -- framed the mission this way: "How we can work together."

In practical terms, that meant Cabinet officials concentrated their official government travel on the media markets Rove's team chose, rolling out grant decisions made by agencies with red-carpet fanfare in GOP congressional districts, and carefully crafted announcements highlighting the release of federal money in battleground states.

"We did that from Day One of the administration, strategically utilizing the president's appointees to sell his agenda," Drew DeBerry, the Agriculture Department's liaison to the White House between 2001 and 2005, recalled in an interview last week.
And let us not forget the firings of U.S. Attorney Generals in a brazen attempt to appropriate the U.S. judicial system and turn it into the defacto enforcement branch of the Republican Party.

When George Bosh came to power in the aftermath of the 2000 election fiasco there was much talk of the possibility of the establishment of a GOP permanent majority in U.S. governing circles. What is clear from the eight years that followed is that the GOP sought to make it so, whether by hook or by crook.

Thank God that corrupt scheme has been derailed... for now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

File this under: it would be funny if it weren't so sad.

James K. Glassman pens an article for Commentary magazine explaining why the Obama stimulus plan won't work. Yes... that James K. Glassman.

A few years ago, and long after James K. Glassman became the intellectual laughingstock that he is today, I turned on the radio to find him on a CSPAN talk show seeking to disabuse us all of the notion that global warming was in any way real or caused by human activity. My first reaction was: why is this man --who has been throughly discredited as any sort of reliable authority in his own field of expertise-- on CSPAN commenting as an authority on a field in which he has no formal academic training whatsoever?

What I quickly came to realize is that the mainstream media does not reward conservatives for a track record of correct predictions and insightful opinion. The mainstream media rewards conservatives for a track record of being relentless and vociferous. This is, of course, doubly so for the conservative media which, I suspect, probably actually punishes conservatives for being right.

A Truly Hellish Vision of a Future Dystopia

"In two years, if we take all of these steps, we will have made a dramatic move in the direction of, indeed, turning America into Western Europe."

-Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, if I follow his argument correctly, trying to scare us.

The things they brag about on The Corner.

Would you really brag about this?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Media Update [Jonah Goldberg]

I'm scheduled to be on Glen Beck's show at the top of the hour today (5:00 PM EST).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Stunning Shamelessness of the Right

(A warm welcome to Andrew Sullivanites. Hope you enjoy the blog!)

So I run across the following post in the National Review's The Corner blog, a place so intellectually vapid it makes William Kristol's New York Times column seem like a work of Solomonic wisdom in comparison:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


How Do You Really Feel? [Mark Hemingway]

This morning the Heritage Foundation, in conjunction with the Club for Growth, held a conference on the supposed stimulus bill. Here's what one of the speakers, CATO Economist Arnold Kling, had to say about the Democrats' economic plans:

“I think about the stimulus as an economist but I feel it as a father. Barack Obama is destroying my daughter's future. It is like sitting there watching my house ransacked by a gang of thugs. That’s how I feel, now back to how I think.”

The event was liveblogged on Heritage's blog, The Foundry. There's a lot more on the event there.

Some Keynes for Bush

"Arguing in My Spare Time" No. 3.28

by Arnold Kling December 20, 2000


Times may not be good much longer. In January, I predicted that the next President would face a recession caused by a stock market crash. Also, I predicted that the President's economic advisers might not know what to do about it. Subsequent developments have been along the lines that I feared.

The father of macroeconomics is John Maynard Keynes. Since the 1960's, his reputation has declined steadily, particularly among conservative economists. I continue to believe that Keynes is relevant today. What follows is some elementary Keynesian economics that President-elect Bush is likely to need but unlikely to hear.


My Recommendation

Overall, if you accept points (1) - (5), there is a case for thinking in terms of turning the Federal Budget in the direction of a deficit. How should this be done?

One approach that would be congenial to Bush would be a large tax cut. Unfortunately, much of the tax cut that was part of his campaign was "back-loaded," with the larger cuts occurring farther into the future. If anything, we probably need a more front-loaded tax cut.

In addition, some of the tax cuts most popular with Republicans may not be very stimulative, because they are likely to be saved rather than spent. For example, eliminating the "death tax" is unlikely to unleash much spending. I cannot imagine that the marginal propensity to consume out of inheritances over $700,000 (smaller inheritances are tax-free today) is very high.

Another approach to running a deficit would be to increase Federal spending. However, the notion that the first Republican President-plus-Congress since 1952 would go on a spending spree is difficult to contemplate.

An alternative would be to give large grants to state governments--what used to be called general revenue sharing. For example, the Federal government might give each state $1,000 for every person living in that state. This would amount to a $280 billion program.

One impact of a recession is to reduce state revenues. Because they are obliged to balance their budgets, this leads them to reduce spending. The result is to reinforce the downturn. However, with revenue sharing, the states would have less need to cut back.

In conclusion, I believe that a large, temporary revenue-sharing program would be a good approach for fighting a recession. This form of fiscal stimulus would quickly find its way into the economy. Unfortunately, I suspect that there is little chance of any Keynes getting through to Bush.

So this CATO Institute economist who depicts Barack Obama's simulus plan as akin to a gang of thugs ransacking his house, and who worries for his daughter's future, is the same guy who back in 2000 was urging Bush to go on a Keynsian spending spree?

Give me a break, people!

They tipped their hand...

The GOP's fatal mistake?

They tipped their hand when not a single member voted for the stimulus bill in the House of Representatives. You can argue that the other side is being too partisan if just a few members of your side vote for their bill (say 15-20). But when not a single one of them does, it's clear that your side is principally interested in sending a message. In other words, your side is merely politicking. Of course, it didn't help the GOP that this all happened in the context of Rush Limbaugh publicly announcing that he wanted Barack Obama to fail. It didn't help that the only GOP legislator to publicly criticize Limbaugh for this statement went on his show the next day to apologize, genuflect and kiss Limbaugh's ring. It didn't help that the GOP leadership commanded the troops to vote against the package even before speaking with the president who was on his way to meet with Republicans in an attempt to garner bi-partisan support. The GOP announced that while they'd hear Obama, they would not be listening.

The economy is in a freefall and millions... literally millions of jobs are being shed every few weeks. People are scared. The GOP base of moderate income blue-collar workers from rural Southern states is scared. And the GOP is playing politics instead of working for a solution to the crisis that confronts us.

The simple fact is this: if the GOP is seen to be hoping for an economic catastrophe with the expectation that such a result will lead to the party's eventual resurgence, they're going to get slaughtered in 2010. can only hope.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hedging... hedging...

Here's an interesting paragraph from a recent post by Greg Mankiw, onetime head of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers:

Some traditional Keynesians would object on the grounds that government spending has a larger multiplier than tax cuts. Even though that is the prediction of standard Keynesian models, the evidence is not completely consistent with that conclusion, as I have discussed here in previous posts
What struck me when I first read the above is that it seems to be a tremendous hedging of earlier claims by Mankiw that a recent academic study by two U.C. Berkeley economists had shown that tax cuts are more stimulatory than government spending, a conclusion that neatly fits in with the outgoing Bush administration's supply-side orthodoxy. But as Nate Silver of the blog Five Thirty Eight soon pointed out, Mankiw's reading was a distortion of what the paper in question actually concluded. Indeed, the study actually seemed to show that: (a) while in the midst of an economic boom, tax cuts do, in fact, more to stimulate the economy than government spending, however (b) in dire economic times, the opposite is true. And if you think about it, this conclusion makes intuitive sense: when the economy is roaring, the market is undoubtedly a better judge of consumer demand than the government. But when irrational economic fear has taken hold of a population, and people are stuffing their mattresses with wrinkled Benjamins, only fearless and robust government spending can be counted on to prime the economic pump to get things moving again.

Mankiw's New York Times editorial proved enormously influential among conservatives, and it along with an unsigned Editorial in the Wall Street Journal that claimed that only 12% of the Obama stimulus package was actually "stimulative," formed the basis of the GOP's two pronged attack on the Obama stimulus plan (and it's worth noting that our useless mainsteam media has more or less parroted these conclusions since). So it's interesting to see that Mankiw is now hedging. His language is a lot more guarded... indeed it seems guarded almost to the point of parody: "the evidence," Mankiw insists, "is not completely consistent with that conclusion" as if all the evidence for any proposition were ever completely consistent with its conclusion.

What if Obama...

...gave the following speech on Monday?


My fellow Americans: I have called this press conference today to announce a change of strategy and a change of direction, for my administration and for the country. This morning I was handed a jobs report with some pretty shocking numbers. This report showed that in January, the last month of my predecessor’s administration, the country lost an astonishing 500,000 jobs. And what is more astonishing still, and frightening to an unprecedented degree, is that such job loss figures are projected to rise over the next few months, to become much worse, long before they start getting any better. Indeed, if the government does nothing, as some irresponsible legislators in the Republican party are now suggesting, the country could well be looking at an economic depression that will make today’s job report look like robust growth in comparison. If we do nothing… if we sit without our hands on our laps, while members of the opposition party bicker and fidget, complaining that our bill provides health insurance for too many poor children, or tax breaks for families that are too poor to pay income tax, but who do pay Social Security taxes, who do pay property taxes on their homes and cars, who pay sales taxes, tolls and user fees, and doesn’t reward the very Wall Street financiers who brought on this mess with enough marginal tax cuts, then before we know it an economic tidal wave of such magnitude will strike this nation that a fully a quarter of you listening to this broadcast right now will lose your jobs, your retirements and your homes and everyone else will feel the pain in their wallet and pocketbook.

The time for politicking is over. The events of the past few days have made it clear to me that in these first two weeks of my Administration I have chosen to follow an erroneous path. I naively hoped that the economic crisis that confronts us today was serious enough that it might cause responsible politicians of all stripes to put aside political differences and do what is right for the country. But those hopes were dashed when just a few days ago, not a single Republican member of congress voted for the economic stimulus and jobs bill that is desperately needed if this nation is to avoid an economic catastrophe. It has become apparent to me that the Republican party currently consists of two types of legislators: the first are the very same blind ideologues who brought this nation to the brink of economic collapse by promoting dangerously irresponsible fiscal policies and allowing Wall Street to fleece the American people while regulators played golf and sipped martinis with the likes of Bernard Madoff. These sorts of Republicans believe that tax cuts and expensive wars are the solution to all problems, and if their policies result in economic misery, then they are convinced that the problem can only be that taxes were not cut deeply enough. The second type of Republican understands that the crisis we are facing demands robust intervention by the Federal Government and the treasury but also hopes, quite cynically, that an economic collapse that occurs under a Democratic president is just the sort of catastrophe that will pave the way to their return to power in four years.

So I have come to the conclusion that the Republican party is currently made up mostly of fools and cynics, and can be of no help in managing this crisis. As a result I have decided to abandon my project for bipartisan cooperation in this time of crisis. From this point on, the Democratic party will use all means at its disposal to push through the requisite legislation to save America from her financial enemies both foreign and domestic. I invite any Republican leader who loves his country and wants to do the right thing to join me in pushing through my legislation. And to those who would stand in the way of the action that is needed to rescue our economy I have one message: the American worker will not look kindly upon you, sir or madam, when he has lost his livelihood and everything that he has worked for his whole life, to your posturing and cynicism.

Thank you all, and may God have mercy upon those who would sacrifice the financial health of America to their own, selfish, political agenda. Because I know that I, and the American people, will not.