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Deflation Now!

[ 0 ] March 22, 2009 |

It doesn’t quite pack the immediate punch of the “morans” sign, but this — from one of those planet-quaking tea parties — is also made of awesome.

No word on whether the sign-holder was named Alan Greenspan.

AIG executives are not the Communists of Liberal Fascism

[ 0 ] March 22, 2009 |

I realize it would be unreasonable to expect a Protein Wisdom contributor to appreciate the subtlety of what I’m about to say here, but comparing the taxation of publicly-funded corporate bonuses to the evolution of Nazism makes you sound like an historically illiterate jagoff. That Martin Niemoller is usually quoted by people who know utterly nothing about his life does not make his poem any less poignant or instructive; one supposes, however, that the pastor would not have wished to see his words used to buttress half-baked slippery-slope arguments drawn up by aspiring pantloaders who define tyranny as the reintroduction of slightly higher marginal tax rates on the wealthiest percentage of earners.

These are people who believe Ayn Rand provided a blueprint for a decent society, and they’re quoting someone who mourned the destruction of trades unions. And that’s the least offensive part of the analogy — it’s worth noting, for example, that this particular meme seems to have begun with someone with an extensive history of arguing that the mass evacuation and detention of racial minorities isn’t such a bad idea.

But at least they aren’t making jokes about the Special Olympics, because that would be a million times worse!

The Constitution Did Not Enact Mr. Howard Fineman’s Preferred Tax Policies

[ 0 ] March 21, 2009 |

Some of the nation’s foremost constitutional scholars have apparently decided to weigh in on the tax plan passed in the House:

O’DONNELL (3/19/09): You know, this is, this was a brilliant trap—a tax trap set by Nancy Pelosi.

I agree with [previous guest] Howard Fineman that this is unconstitutional. Chris Matthews had said so. I started saying so yesterday morning on MSNBC.

But it was a brilliant trap and here is why. There are 172 House members who take two oaths. They take an oath of office and then they take an oath to Grover Norquist, who is a Washington—a well-heeled Washingtonian fetishist about tax cuts. And they promised to him that they will never, ever vote to raise any taxes of any kind.

Which leaves us with the question — what provision of the Constitution, exactly, is the tax on bonuses supposed to violate? Ed — regrettably echoing the hapless Charles Krauthammersays that “Bills of attainder” and “ex post facto” are two phrases well-known to high school freshmen taking mandatory civics classes, so they must certainly be known to Congressmen.” The ex post facto clause, however, has been held since the early 19th century to apply exclusively to criminal cases. The prohibition on bills of attainder is even less relevant; it certainly prohibits Congress from convicting AIG traders of criminal offenses without a trial, but says absolutely nothing about Congress’s ability to set tax policy.

Another blogger, in addition to the clearly erroneous claims, asserts that the bill violates the equal protection clause. The obvious problem with this argument, however, is that it proves too much. The tax code discriminates in countless ways — against renters and wage earners and in favor of homeowners and investment income earners, for example. It was been well-settled for decades that such discrimination require only some rational relationship to a legitimate government interest. The policy taxing bonuses for corporations that would have gone bankrupt without public support bears a much clearer relationship to a legitimate public objective than a law preventing anyone but an optometrist or ophthalmologist from putting lenses in glasses frames, which the Supreme Court upheld unanimously.

Using taxation to claw back benefits may or may not be good public policy. But it is plainly within the constitutional authority of Congress as it has been understood for many decades.

The Titanic. Matt Millen. An American Carol. Andrew Ridgeley’s Solo Album.

[ 0 ] March 21, 2009 |

Tim Geithner. Larry Summers.

Indeed, the response of Summers and his protege to the crisis has been so transparently inept it’s almost enough to make me question the sexist just-so stories the Smartest Human Being Alive used to justify his atrocious record of attracting and maintaining female faculty members at Harvard…

…and on the more important issue raised by Weiner in comments, I’m afraid I’m not making that last one up.

Firedoglake Book Salon, 5pm ET

[ 0 ] March 21, 2009 |

I’m hosting a Firedoglake book salon for Juan Cole’s latest, Engaging the Muslim World, at 5pm this afternoon. Swing by if you get a chance…


[ 0 ] March 21, 2009 |

Laura Miller captures my general sentiments re: the BSG finale.

BSG Finale Open Thread

[ 0 ] March 21, 2009 |

My five favorite series finales:

Star Trek: The Next Generation*
Quantum Leap
Magnum P.I.**

*Penned by Ron Moore
**This refers to Limbo, the season 7 finale, and pretends that the misconceived season 8 never happened.

BSG open thread. Consider this a spoiler free-fire zone; enter at your own risk.

Douthat’s Greatest Hits

[ 0 ] March 20, 2009 |

Ewwww. Although I’d have to say my very favorite is the non-culture-war one:

It goes without saying that [Saddam Hussein], too, is busy trying to acquire a nuclear bomb, to supplement his extensive collection of biological and chemical weaponry.

I dunno, it seems to me that Kristol made these kinds of arguments about as well.

See also Edroso. And if Pollitt is a little bitter because this job would much more properly be given to her, well, she’s right.

Our Incompetence Means You Can’t Do Anything

[ 0 ] March 20, 2009 |

Via the Sultan of Shrill, the comedy stylings of Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy:

This package is partly based on the belief that government spending is required to stimulate the economy because private spending would be insufficient. The focus on government solutions is particularly disappointing given its poor record in dealing with crises in the US and many other countries, such as the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and failure effectively to prosecute the war in Iraq.

You’d think that their very first example wouldn’t be 1)an obviously necessary government function that 2)was the province of an agency that functioned at a very high level until George Bush got a hold of it. But apparently not. I trust that the Iraq example speaks for itself (although perhaps at least he no longer thinks that the cost of the war is being overstated. Perhaps he’s also abandoned his belief that attacking a country that had no connection to 9/11 and posed no significant security threat to the United States lessened the risk of a terrorist attack against the United States.)

And as a bonus, savor their example of the horrors that await us should the Bush Depression lead us to more state intervention:

Similarly, the backlash against capitalism and “greed” has been used to justify more antitrust scrutiny, greater regulation of a range of markets, and an expansion of price controls for healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

Yes, it certainly would be horrible if this crisis meant that the United States adopted one of the health care systems of other liberal democracies and therefore got more coverage for less money with similar or better health outcomes. I’m very, very scared.

Natasha Richardson, 1963-2009

[ 0 ] March 20, 2009 |

A very tragic story, of course (which also occasioned some pretty creepy journalism.) I found her work in Schrader’s odd-but-compelling Patty Hearst especially, well, compelling.

See also Glenn and Lissa.

Pandering to non-Alaskan voters? You betcha!

[ 0 ] March 19, 2009 |

Pain rejects half of Alaska’s stimulus money.

Gov. Sarah Palin just told reporters that she’s accepting only 55 percent of the federal economic stimulus money being offered to Alaska. The governor said that she will accept only about $514 million of the $930 million headed to the state.

“We are not requesting funds intended to just grow government. We are not requesting more money for normal day-to-day operations of government as part of this economic stimulus package. In essence we say no to operating funds for more positions in government,” Palin said.

The biggest single chunk of stimulus money that Palin is turning down is $160 million for education. There’s also $17 million in Department of Labor funds (vocational rehabilitation services, unemployment services, etc.), about $9 million for Health and Social Services and about $7 million for Public Safety. The full list and the specifics aren’t available from the governor’s budget department yet.

The state’s aspiring teachers and state troopers, unemployed ConocoPhilips and FedEx employees will be delighted by the news. Perhaps they can all join the governor at Galt’s Gulch Wasilla, where the recession-immune crystal meth industry remains a vibrant part of the local economy.

Baby Carrier Commissioned

[ 0 ] March 19, 2009 |

Japan’s new aircraft carrier helicopter carrying destroyer was commissioned yesterday. Hyuga can carry up to eleven helicopters, and may in the future be able to carry the F-35B VSTOL fighter. But don’t call Hyuga an aircraft carrier.

In other maritime news, there is some confusion about the hull numbering for the LCS. US naval practice is never to re-use hull numbers, even if the ship in question is never built. This is why, for example, the original South Dakota was BB-49, and the second South Dakota was BB-57, despite the fact that the original South Dakota was never constructed. It’s also why there are wide gaps in the CV listings. Anyway, the Navy is violating this policy for the LCS; LCS 1 and 2 have been built, but 3 and 4 have been canceled, and the Navy now wants to re-use the numbers 3 and 4. Not the most earth-shattering news in the world, but now you know…

Via Kyle and Galrahn.