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Archive for December, 2009

But Bob Kaplan Said that Europeans Have Lost Their Will to Live!

[ 0 ] December 27, 2009 |

Quick question: Did the news that a Dutchman was the first to tackle Shoebomber #2 remind anyone of how, in United 93, the appeasement-minded coward was clearly European?

Me neither.


"Just take a left after the big black Mammy."

[ 0 ] December 26, 2009 |

Those would be directions given to me the first time I tried to visit my in-laws without the wife there to navigate. I hadn’t a clue what he meant. Then, as I crested a hill south of Natchez, I suddenly did:

Texas advertises itself as a “Whole ‘Nother Country,” but that’s only true if you live off a farm-to-market road. Houston’s sprawl is as uniformly bland as the city that extends from Los Angeles to San Diego; but in the actual South, even the metropolitan areas surprise you.

This is my way of saying: as I’m writing from a location where the power—much less the internet—is intermittent, I’m not going to be able to address the arguments in Avatar thread for a couple of days. I will do so soon, though, as I value your new low opinion of me.

CBO projections as political props

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

Glenn Greenwald has a nice catch here, on Matt Welch’s egregious hackery. Calling a document traditionally labeled a report a report ‘lying’ is pretty rich, but the larger issue is, as Greenwald demonstrates, Welch and Reason’s writers are perfectly happy to cite CBO “reports” as accurate and reliable when it serves their purposes to do so.

There’s a sense is which Welch is kind of right, of course–CBO budget forecasts change quite a bit from year to year. This kind of projection is just inherently speculative, as all kinds of important complicated factors for program cost and cost savings, including but not limited to the performance of the economy overall. Welch points readers to the Peter Suderman piece on the CBO, which isn’t bad, but doesn’t really offer much new information and insight, other than reiterating what we all knew–economic projections are volatile and uncertain. Suderman labels them “Gatekeepers” and means to suggest tehy are a powerful independent actors, but their power is rather clearly limited to the power politicians wish them to have. Somehow, CBO cost projections failed to prevent the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq war. Suderman obviously overstates the CBO’s independent political power; their power is clearly a product of other political actors.

Interestingly, Suderman cites this Jon Gabel op-ed from August, in which Gabel demonstrates that the CBO has systematically underestimated cost savings from previous Medicare reforms. If this is continuing to occur, then obviously the use of the CBO is making good HCR more difficult. The current director of the CBO responds to this and other charged here. On the other hand, the CBO dramatically underestimated the costs of the Iraq war. What I’d really like to see, though, is some more systematic data on the accuracy of the CBO’s projections, and the directional trend of their inaccuracy. (This may well be available, and if it is please point me to it. I’d conduct a more thorough search myself, but my current internet connection is intolerably slow.)

Annals of Bad Amazon Reviews

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

While working on my Statecraft and the State syllabus, I happened upon this Amazon review of Margaret Levi’s Of Rule and Revenue:

“As specialization and division of labor increase, there is greater demand on the state to provide collective goods where once there were solely private goods or no goods at all.”

From the second sentence of this book, it charts its course in oblivious contradiction of reality. In reality, of course, economic activity individuates and privatizes as society develops. The few exceptions, e.g., the Soviet Union, are typically short-lived and embarrassing to their promoters.

Ms. Levi is obviously a clever person, but sadly, as with many clever people in academia, her intelligence in this book is deployed mainly to play games of self-referential abstraction.

This book’s obscurity and practical uselessness mean that it is unlikely to be of any consequence. There probably is a good book to be written on a general theory of comparative taxation, but this ain’t it.

That’s just… super. Anyone have other examples of Amazon review that exceed stupid by utterly missing the point?

Today In Yoosta-Bee Concern Trolling

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

Shorter William Daley: The Democratic coalition needs to be big enough to encompass legislators who oppose every significant item on a moderately progressive agenda, or the party is doomed.

We Can’t Get on Any of the Best Enemies Lists…

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

How is Noon not on this list?

H/t GC.

Relevant Seasonal Videos

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

To echo Rob, Happy Holidays, and take care of each other!

Merry Christmas and So Forth

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

Happy holidays. Be good. Stay safe.

Wait, Acorn Did Not Commit Voting Fraud?

[ 0 ] December 24, 2009 |

You’re kidding, right? At least that’s the line by the reasonable representative from Iowa, Steve King (R). After weighing his complete lack of evidence to the contrary, he finds this report “unconvincing”. Instead, he goes with his well honed imagination:

“This report doesn’t begin to cover the transgressions of Acorn,” Mr. King said.

Admittedly, the authors of the report were likely unable to interview the voices in King’s head, so he does have a point.

“I think Acorn is bigger than Watergate.”

To which all I can think is that I’d like some of that eggnog he is drinking, but I have to drive back down to Oregon from Kitsap County today.
Of course, maybe with that eggnog and King’s imagination, my car might be sprinkled with fairy dust, sprout wings, and we could fly down to Oregon . . . because it must be powerful stuff, seeing as how King has voted in favor of Acorn projects early and often.
Life’s ironies can be delicious.
As an aside, it appears that Congressional legislation cutting off Acorn is vulnerable to a constitutional critique as a bill of attainder. I’d search to see if Scott or Paul have picked up on this, but I can see the wings unfurling from my car as I type . . .

Dinga Dinga Dee!

[ 0 ] December 24, 2009 |

This is indescribably awesome in every way:

Via Danger Room.

The Enemy of My Enemy Really Isn’t Necessarily My Friend

[ 0 ] December 24, 2009 |

I’ll bet that there are some things that I’d agree with Grover Norquist about. He has a nice beard, for example. If somebody asked me to co-sign a “Defense of Facial Hair” letter with Grover, though, I suspect I’d have to shave.

I Always Suspected That Peter Mandelson Was a Wanker

[ 0 ] December 23, 2009 |

I’ll have more to say about this later, but I’m out the door for a Christmas dinner with my partner’s family. Merry Christmas, Lord P.

Of course, the British university system never really recovered from the Thatcher slash and burn approach, only just recently recovering a modicum of respectability. Nobody really believed Tony Blair’s desire to see 50% of British “school leavers” in university was possible (or even desirable), but this is the same government, right, that now claims this:

Lord Mandelson made his position clear in the Secretary of State’s annual letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. He said: “My predecessor repeatedly made clear the risks of student over-recruitment putting unmanageable pressures on our student support budgets.”

And people wonder why most people no longer believe a word that the Labour government has to say about, well, much of anything.

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