Monday, June 28, 2010
It Had To Be Done
Copyright notice: republish this image to your heart's content. It's simply too awesome not to share.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Global Leaders Remain in the Grips of Deficitmania
TORONTO — Despite President Obama’s pitch at the summit meeting for developed nations here for continued stimulus measures to prevent another global economic downturn, the United States will go along with other leaders who are more concerned about rising debt and join in a commitment to cut their governments’ deficits in half by 2013, administration officials said on Saturday.
That goal is the proposal of Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada and the host of the two-day Group of 20 summit of developed nations.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
The "New Normal" Isn't Normal At All
DeLong again, "If we had 10% inflation and 1.2% unemployment, Ben Bernanke's Hair Would Be on Fire". But we have 10% unemployment and 1.2% inflation, so it's treated as a mild nuisance, the way you might treat a problem of having too many feral cats in your neighborhood, rather than mountain lions mauling your children.
The proper response to this sort of chart ought to be "Damn the inflation, full speed ahead!" But somehow the public conversation isn't obsessed with solving this drastic an unique unemployment problem.
Friday, June 25, 2010
A Love Letter to European Soccer
We need to talk. The world has changed around you and I'm not sure you've noticed.
You see, it's just not your World Cup anymore. While the top seeded teams faired very well whether they hailed from Europe or South America, the unseeded teams from the Continent just weren't anything special. Here's the average number of points scored per game
- 2.25 -- CONMEBOL (South America) -- 2.25
- 1.16 -- AFC (Asia)
- 1.13 -- UEFA
- 1.11 -- CONCACAF (North America, Central America, & Carribean)
- 1.00 -- OFC (Oceania, aka New Zealand)
- 0.67 -- CAF (Africa)
Going strictly by group play results, FIFA ought reduce the number of teams coming from Europe and Africa and plus up the number from South America an Asia. Had this happened this year, that would have replaced Algeria and Portugal with Bahrain and Ecuador. Now, Portugal did make it to the knockout round, but they haven't managed to score a goal against anyone other than North Korea. Color me unimpressed.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Jeff Merkley Is Awesome And I Gave His Leadership PAC $5000
Financial reform provided a nice display of Merkley's progressivism and his tactical skill. He and Carl Levin came up with a proposal to ban banks from high-risk trading. When it got filibustered, he turned it into a second-degree amendment to a Republican proposal to exempt car dealers from financial regulations. With his proposal attached to theirs, Republicans gave up on their proposal.
Being a just-elected freshman Senator, Merkley isn't up for re-election until 2014. So I didn't give money to his ordinary campaign account. Instead, I donated to his leadership PAC. This is money he gives to other Democrats for their campaigns. Most of the money he's given out recently has gone to people running for the Senate this cycle. So basically I'm donating through him to Democratic efforts to retain the Senate. Some people's leadership PACs are just slush funds that they use for golf, but Merkley's been throwing nearly all the money to candidates.
The point of doing it through Merkley is that he can show up in the offices of people who took his money and persuade them to help out with the awesome stuff he's trying to do. As a random out-of-state contributor, I'm not really equipped to tell Senators to go support Jeff's stuff. Giving to a progressive legislator's leadership PAC seems to be the best way to both help Democrats retain the Senate and ensure that they vote for the right things. I lose some efficiency in terms of being able to pick the races where extra money will make the biggest impact, but I'm thinking that donating through somebody who can actually get in people's faces and call in favors more than makes up for that.
The last time I wrote a big post about Merkley, he was running for for Senate. He was right on all the major progressive issues -- supporting universal health care, gay marriage, public transit, and fair trade, while opposing the Iraq War from the beginning. The thing that really won me over, from a phone interview I did with him back in 2007, was his clear and eloquent explanation of the need for third world debt relief.
Not only was he right on the issues, but he was an excellent electoral and legislative tactician. He won Democrats a 31-29 majority in the Oregon House and became Speaker by recruiting a serious challenger to run against the previous Republican Speaker, tying her down so that she couldn't just go out and fundraise for everyone else. Then on the strength of that slender majority, he passed all sorts of awesome stuff -- same-sex domestic partnership benefits, requirements that insurance companies cover birth control, and all sorts of minor nifty good-government things I would've never thought of, like a law allowing people in trailer parks to join together and form co-ops to prevent the land they live on from being sold out from under them. Take a look -- it's pretty amazing.
So far, he's lived up to the amazing promise he showed as a candidate. And I'm optimistic that he has a long career as a great progressive Senator ahead of him. I'm hoping that we can increase his influence by giving him money to give away. If this sounds good to you, please think about donating to Democratic efforts to retain the Senate through his Leadership PAC!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
McChrystal And The Knives
I don't know which way is the right way to go as far as short-term perception stuff is concerned, and the things that I read McChrystal saying in the Rolling Stone article seemed quite mild to me. (Obviously I don't have any sense of what the norms are for military leaders talking about the President.) But the thing that'll have a big long-term effect here is the general direction of Afghanistan policy. Do that right.
On a different note, I found this part of the Rolling Stone article interesting:
With soldiers like that, how can we win in Afghanistan? Look, you guys signed up for dangerous duty, and you're eager to follow dangerous orders if they're the orders to attack an enemy position or do some other offensive military action. Good for you. But now we're in a mission where victory depends on not shooting, given the insurgent math that McChrystal is talking about. Why can't you see the dangers of not shooting the same way you see the dangers of heading into combat -- a brave thing that needs to be done for victory?
Despite the tragedies and miscues, McChrystal has issued some of the strictest directives to avoid civilian casualties that the U.S. military has ever encountered in a war zone. It's "insurgent math," as he calls it – for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. He has ordered convoys to curtail their reckless driving, put restrictions on the use of air power and severely limited night raids. He regularly apologizes to Hamid Karzai when civilians are killed, and berates commanders responsible for civilian deaths. "For a while," says one U.S. official, "the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a 'civ cas' incident." The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There's talk of creating a new medal for "courageous restraint," a buzzword that's unlikely to gain much traction in the gung-ho culture of the U.S. military.
But however strategic they may be, McChrystal's new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. "Bottom line?" says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers' lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing."
COIN guru John Nagl has likened counterinsurgency warfare to eating soup with a knife -- something difficult that you should just try not commit yourself to doing. Maybe soldiers who learned to fight in an atmosphere with a courageous restraint medal and whatever else would be more spoonlike. But right now, knives is what we've got, and it's time to walk away from the table.
Monday, June 21, 2010
The recent Deseret News poll shows Matheson leading Wright 52-33. He is very likely to win, but even so, a close race will be interpreted as a leading indicator of the peril moderate-to-conservative Democrats court by opposing major progressive initiatives, even in a place like Utah.Given that there's a major risk of Democrats losing the House this year, is the optimal outcome is for Wright to get as close to 50% as possible without hitting it and beating Matheson? That gives you more juice for the party discipline story, without actually raising the chances of Boehner becoming Speaker and turning the House into a chamber of obstructionist horrors for the rest of Obama's first term, right? Just given the poll numbers, I think this means 'vote for Wright' but I'm not in touch with the situation on the ground.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Daughters Of Republican Presidential Nominees: The Swing Voters Of 2010!
Obviously, the conclusion I want to draw is that progressive views are the natural outcome of rational reflection on how the world should be, and their merits are especially obvious to young women, even those raised in the very center of Republican power.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Line Of The Day
I'll take it, but Team America were clearly robbed on that free kick. And Findley shouldn't have gotten a yellow card. Lots of grit from the Yanks to come back in the second half.
At this point, assuming England handle Algeria, a 2-goal margin in our third match against Algeria guarantees advancing out of group play. Alternatively, if the ENG-SLV matchup ends in anything other than a draw (corrected), any victory against the North African side would be enough to advance.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
There Will Be Escrow Funds
The Future Is Here Bleg
There's a somewhat famous article written in ... oh I don't know when ... where people talk about what they think the future will look like. One thing they say is that people won't go shopping; goods will be delivered to their house through a network of pneumatic tubes. This ends up leading to jokes about how they got it right, only the series of tubes was the Internet but we still have trucks to deliver the goods.
Does anyone know what I'm talking about? Can you find a link to the original article, or an excerpt?
Update: Wow, somehow remembered the source: Ladies Home Journal.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I guess the only real criticism of Chipotle that comes to mind is that I'd like to see smaller portion sizes made available, but that's mostly on behalf of other people. I'm a pretty big eater, and back in grad school I'd often eat two big meals a day, one of which was a burrito bowl. It's pretty high in sodium, too, but a drinking man needs his electrolytes.
Monday, June 14, 2010
GOP 2012 Chaos
The 2008 Democratic primary was a model of stability. For a very long time, the conventional wisdom was that Hillary, Obama, and Edwards were 1-2-3 with everybody else in a big mess behind them. That stayed pretty stable until Obama slowly pushed ahead over the course of the 2008 contests. Part of the reason for the stability is that (setting aside the ticking scandal bomb attached to Edwards) they were all very good candidates. Other than Al Gore, who made the wise choice not to run and thus maintained the implicit threat of making or breaking a campaign with an endorsement or a curse, there was nobody out there who could upset the order as it was.
It's basically the opposite situation with in the Republican primary. Everybody has some combination of general-election weakness, a very low public profile, or unacceptability to a large portion of the Republican base. The success of a campaign will depend in large part on who else is running and cutting into your territory.
I guess the only direct criticism I'll make of Bernstein is that you can't count Sarah Palin out in a race like this. Since she has a hardcore fanclub that's going to vote for her over anybody in her niche, she can easily be one of the last 4 or 5 candidates standing if she wants to. She'll need lots of luck to get the rest of the way, but so does everybody else at some stage or another.
Minerals and the Resource Curse
Update: With all the Nirvana references, I forgot that Evanescence also has a song titled "Lithium":
Saturday, June 12, 2010
The Most Important Contest Betwen England and America Since we Opened a Big Can Of Whoopass at Yorktown
Let's do this thing.
Friday, June 11, 2010
World Cup Open Thread
Oh it's on.
My typical MO during the World Cup is to root against Europe. UEFA views the World Cup as a Europe+Brazil+Argentina championship tournament to which they graciously invite a few of the sport's developing nations, though they'd prefer to just have more European sides. But really, what is the reason that third-tier European nations deserve a trip to the finals over second-tier Asian, South American, North American, and African countries? It's like inviting the 9th-best team in the Big East to take a #12 seed in the NCAA tournament.
I also usually root against Argentina, since they like to pretend that they're a European nation that just happens to be located in South America. But I'm a huge fan of Lionel Messi, pictured above. Argentina's struggles in the qualifying round (thanks, Maradona!) and Cristiano Ronaldo's outstanding play during the club season have led to Messi being eclipsed as a football wunderkind, but I suspect he will outperform expectations.
This is a world cup open thread.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The Victory Of Lincoln, Hammer Of The Banks
We should also thank the Bill Halter coalition for scaring Lincoln into helping out on derivatives regulation. It's hard for me to see why she would've been so useful without a primary challenge from the left. I don't understand financial regulation well enough to know how much Lincoln's contributions are worth, but my guess is that organized labor just bought America a gift worth more than the price they paid.
A 3000-vote election result is a close one that admits of many explanations, and one of the stories you could tell about it is that Lincoln won the primary by taking on the banks. Derivatives regulation may be a fairly complicated issue, but the financial industry is not well liked among Democratic primary voters these days. It would've been pretty easy for Halter to attack an unhelpful attitude from Lincoln. Lincoln smartly moved left, and best of luck to her in the general election.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Policy Detail In Primaries: It's Good!
I draw exactly the opposite conclusion. The details of these plans ended up being extraordinarily relevant. What we got in the end was the Edwards-Clinton plan, except with regulated competition on the exchanges replacing the public option. When a plan shows up in a primary, gets adopted by a major centrist Senator (Max Baucus in his Jekyll aspect) and ends up one or two centrist-vote-buying compromises away from the eventual thing that passes Congress, it suggests that health care plans introduced in primaries are a big deal.
It's true that Obama won and the policy we got was farthest from his plan. But that's just because the pro-individual-mandate forces won the debate, even as their candidates lost the election for other reasons. One of the beautiful achievements of the interminable 2008 Democratic primary was that Democrats got together and figured out that an individual mandate was good policy. A mandate is exactly the sort of technocratically essential but superficially icky proposal that wonks dream of but nobody will swallow. But we chewed on it for a good long time, and in the end we realized that it was good. So when the legislative process started, the Democratic base was ready to support a plan with a mandate.
It makes me proud to be a Democrat. Where Republicans made ridiculous smears about death panels, we took time to learn about adverse selection death spirals. We talked out the wonky details and formed a consensus behind a strange but good idea. The guy who won had proposed the wrong idea (probably because he was being a bit timid on the issue during the primary), but given that a consensus had developed about the details of the plan, he and influential moderates could embrace the consensus and do the good thing! Well done, people.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
The Anointed One? Or Angelus?
So I'm surprised to see Dave Weigel write that "Goldberg has had, I'd argue, a bigger influence on the rhetoric and thought of the tea parties than any other single writer." Is this right? My impression was that Jonah was more correlation than causation. But Dave is an expert on this stuff.
Friday, June 4, 2010
The World's Imploding in Like Six Different Directions At The Moment ...
Really? I hope whoever asked the question feels as proud of himself as the WaPo reporter who decided Obama's first East Room press conference merited a question on Alex Rodriguez's steroid use.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Ross Douthat, Instant Replay, And The Divine Right Of Kings
It's the conservative approach to race, gender, and democracy. I like it more in baseball, because there it can do less harm.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Israel As Viewed From The Gelb Nebula
Well, where was all that international outrage and demand for explanations and retribution when the North Koreans sunk a South Korean ship? Where was it when the Gazans attacked Israel? Where, when Afghan men flogged their women for not wearing veils? Where, when Saudi Arabia funds terrorists around the world? This international outrage is highly selective, isn't it? The one consolation is that the international community, such as it has become, doesn't get anything of value done.North Korea is a country with no allies that everybody thinks is crazy. The only reason we don't go harder on them is that it's tough to figure out what to do about the situation without punishing the innocent victims of Kim Jong Il's tyranny or dumping a massive refugee crisis on South Korea. For almost the last ten years, we've been fighting a big war against the guys in Afghanistan who are flogging women for not wearing veils. We're escalating it now. I'll agree with Gelb that Saudi Arabia deserves more ire, not just for terrorism but for the gruesome state of women's rights. We're shaking the devil's hand because it's oily. But the idea that anybody of significance is treating Israel's violations as worse than those of North Korea or Afghanistan suggests a poor grasp of political dynamics on Earth.
The only reason people don't make more noise about the bad guys in North Korea and Afghanistan is that US policy already takes full account of their badness. You'd be preaching to the choir. And they're so far gone that there's no point in asking them to explain themselves. The Taliban is a vicious enemy, and Kim Jong Il is a mad dictator. There's plenty of room for policy disagreements about the best way to deal with evil forces like this given limited resources and complicated consequences, but everyone agrees on how awful these guys are.
Israel, meanwhile, gets billions of dollars in foreign aid from the United States. If you're going to take large amounts of our foreign aid budget, you'd better give us a reason to think you're the good guys. With the bombing of Lebanon, the blockade of Gaza, the denial of voting rights to the Palestinians, and now commando raids on aid boats, it's hard for me to see why we should regard the Israelis as better than the Palestinians. The casualty ratios are crazy -- 117 Israelis have been killed in the conflict from 2005 to late 2008, comparied with 1754 Palestinians. 12 Israeli children have been killed in that period, compared to 309 Palestinians. People talk about Israel's right to defend itself, but when you're killing 25 times as many of the other side's kids as they're killing of yours, they've got the higher card in the self-defense suit.
There's a very good reason for Americans to hold Israel to a higher standard than North Korea or Afghanistan -- instead of diplomatically isolating them or invading them, we're giving them lots of money! And at a certain level, the demand for explanations is based on a presumption that Israel is a rational ally deserving of our support whom we can ask for explanations. If Gelb is right that we should stop asking Israel to explain itself to us, it's only because that presumption, and the support that goes with it, is making less and less sense.