Posted by Brad @ 2:49 pm on September 30th 2008

Looking for Someone to Blame?

Last week, McCain was wildly veering around looking for the enemy in the current financial crisis. He suggested SEC Chairman Cox. Republican House leadership are offering Nancy Pelosi. Democratic House leadership blame capitalism, apparently. McCain now blames Obama.

Matt Yglesias offers an alternative:

One issue that I don’t think has been adequately explored yet is the extent to which our current predicament is attributable to Hank Paulson’s mismanagement of the situation ten days ago. After underreacting to problems at Lehman Brothers and bringing us close to brink, Paulson abruptly reversed months of (false) reassurance that everything was fine and decided that dramatic action was needed. The smart thing to do would have been to privately alert key congressional leaders that he thought the ad hoc approach wasn’t sustainable and they and their staffs should expect to spend the weekend in sequestered talks with him and Ben Bernanke to work something out. They could have announced to the public that bipartisan discussions were underway to think out a comprehensive approach to problems in the financial system. I bet something could have been worked out.

Instead, Paulson unilaterally unveiled a plan that, in its initial form, was completely unacceptable to legislative leaders in either party. And then, in a misguided effort to ramrod a bad bill through congress, he did the equivalent of strapping a bomb to the entire US economy by dramatically announcing that the entire banking system was on the verge of imminent failure.

Naturally, this had the effect of taking whatever real problems were growing and making them much more severe by creating a sense of panic. It did not, however, have the effect of transforming an unacceptable plan into an acceptable one. So congressional leaders wound up needing to meet privately and negotiate with Paulson anyway. Which is what he should have done in the first place. But in the interim, justified criticism of Paulson’s initial plan helped poison opinion against the (better) bill that eventually emerged. Had Paulson proceeded in a more reasonable manner from the get-go, I think it’s very possible that we wouldn’t be in this situation.

Posted by Brad @ 12:08 pm on September 30th 2008

My New Hero

Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio is my new hero. On the floor of the House yesterday:

Posted by Brad @ 11:35 am on September 30th 2008

Lecturing Bernanke

9/24/08

Nice exchange.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:10 am on September 30th 2008

Spin and principles

I don’t for a moment excuse the laughable, imbecilic spin being put forward by the House Republican leadership on this. The bottom line is that they, and the Democratic leadership, have their own feet jammed squarely down their throats at the moment, and there is nothing much they can say to excuse themselves. It’s one thing to abandon all principle in favor of expediency and another thing entirely to do so while failing to achieve the expedient result.

Still, let’s not make the mistake of confusing the Pelosi-centric excuses of a dozen dingbats with the principled objections of the bulk of the House Republicans. Mike Pence:

Benjamin Franklin said in 1759: ‘They that can give up liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’

“Economic freedom means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail.

“The decision to give the federal government the ability to nationalize almost every bad mortgage in America interrupts this basic truth of our free market economy.

“It must be said, Republicans in this Congress improved this bill, but it remains the largest corporate bailout in American history, forever changes the relationship between government and the financial sector, and passes the cost along to the American people. I cannot support it.

Jeff Flake:

After having a chance to review the details of the bailout agreement, I will not be supporting the legislation,” said Flake. “Despite efforts by the House Republican Leadership to add some needed sanity to the proposal, this bailout still exposes taxpayers to hundreds of billions of dollars of liability.”

“We find ourselves in this predicament largely because implicit, and eventually explicit, federal guarantees in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shielded the financial services sector from market discipline. The way out of this mess is not to insert government deeper into the free market.”

The media has abandoned all pretense of objectivity on this issue, and so it ought not to suprise us that they are peddling the most venal spin imaginable. But the fact remains that the majority of Congress did the right thing, and the majority of those who did so did so for the right reasons.

Posted by Jack @ 10:34 pm on September 29th 2008

Update: U.S. Constitution Auction Ends

You may recall last week’s helpful notification that the U.S. Consitution was up for auction on ebay. The deal is done: winning bid: $20.50. The questions to the seller at the bottom of the auction are at least humorous.

Posted by Jack @ 10:23 pm on September 29th 2008

A View From the Inside: Terrifying

Last night I spoke at length with my brother, a financial analyst/investment counselor with a major European based investment bank. This makes me more qualified than most members of Congress to discuss the bailout, at least if the statements coming from our esteemed elected officials are used as a measure of wisdom. 24 hours ago I would have characterized his mood and perspective as nervous, though mildly optimistic, with his characteristic enthusiastic intellectual curiosity, even in the face of catastrophe, clearly evident. I just got a message from him. In the wake of the bailout failure, the market reaction, and the financial indicators he is seeing, he stated: “I know this must be pretty ugly for those looking in from the outside. For those of us on the inside looking out, it has become terrifying.”

Some interesting highlights from our discussion, and hopefully, after being filtered through my poor translation, they will still make some sense:
– Any stories you have heard about the hotshot, testosterone fueled, god complex derivative speculators who cooked up the sub-prime tranches as an investment opportunity: entirely true. Hollywood barely does some of these guys justice.
– Far too many investment houses and mortgage lenders cast off or pushed aside their experienced, wiser, and noticeably older analysts in favor of younger guys who didn’t want to miss out on the extraordinary opportunities associated with buying up mortgage loan packages at 80 cents or less on the dollar and flipping them for big short term gain. His company got in that game late, shut down early, and still got hurt.
– The companies that will come out of this looking like omniscient gods to some and carrion eaters (albeit even wealthier carrion eaters) to others are the ones that are seizing the opportunity to snap up some of the other financial institutions at rock bottom prices prior to the bailout. Lonestar, and Jamie Diamond at JP Morgan.
– The credit crunch is looming fast, even if anecdotally you are still hearing of easy credit. He compared the timing thusly: Remember the film footage of the Thailand tsunami, a few minutes before the waves actually hit, when the tide suddenly receded? That’s where we are now.

I suspect that much of America knows someone just a couple of degrees of Kevin Bacon seperated from an “insider”. I think this might have something to do to with the apparent shift in public support for a bailout.

Incidentally, having your significantly younger brother explain things to you, v e r y p a t i e n t l y, is not an ego boosting experience. I will ask him to help me set the clock on my VCR tomorrow.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:15 pm on September 29th 2008

The other Palin candidacy

Posted by Brad @ 7:15 pm on September 29th 2008

Oh, By the Way

Happy birthday, Ludwig von Mises!

Posted by Brad @ 6:54 pm on September 29th 2008

The Public Turns?

Public reaction is swift:

As Congress prepares to vote on a proposed economic rescue plan, opposition to the measure has declined significantly. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey conducted Sunday found that 33% of Likely Voters now favor the plan while 32% are opposed and 35% are not sure.

For proponents of the legislation, that’s a significant improvement. On Friday, just 24% of voters had supported the plan while 50% were opposed. Supporters of the legislation argue the plan to buy up bad mortgage debt from private firms is the surest way to free up credit for all Americans.

While voters are unsure about the particular plan agreed to by Congress and the Administration, 49% say it’s Very Important that some kind of plan be implemented. Another 29% say it’s Somewhat Important to do so.

But more along the lines of pushing off weak opposers into the undecided column (well, and a +10% in three days on those in favor).

Ross Douthat, meanwhile, notes there are three scenarios. He deems the most likely:

The most likely scenario, as of 3 PM this afternoon: The stock market continues to drop. Some version of the bailout passes in the next week. The American economy staggers into a recession, but passes through the storm without 1930s-style suffering; the Republican Party is not so fortunate. Even though most Americans claim to oppose the bailout [update: not anymore], the House GOP’s obstructionism is widely viewed as having worsened the economic situation; the fact that these are contradictory positions does not faze an electorate that wraps all of the country’s current troubles up, ties them with a bow, and lays them at the feet of the Bush-led GOP. John McCain loses by a landslide in November. The Democratic Party regains years or even decades worth of ground among the white working class, consolidates the Hispanic vote, and locks up a large chunk of highly-educated voters who might otherwise lean conservative. The much-discussed liberal realignment happens. And a politician running on a Ron Paul-style economic platform does very, very well in the GOP primaries of 2012.

That’s the cw rumblings anyway.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:03 pm on September 29th 2008

EPIC WIN

The House has apparently killed the bailout bill.

More to come.

Posted by Brad @ 1:44 pm on September 29th 2008

Hugo Chavez To America:

Comrades,

Now that you too are in the nationalizing industry business, let me give you a little advice

Posted by Brad @ 1:30 pm on September 29th 2008

Overshooting It a Little

In trying to gin up expectations for Thursday’s VP debate, Biden spokesperson David Wade had this to say about Governor Palin:

“He’s going in there to debate a leviathan of forensics…”

Posted by Brad @ 11:10 am on September 29th 2008

Freeing Sarah Palin

Rojas and I have been expressing the need for the McCain campaign to let Sarah Palin loose. Clearly, the conditions under which she is presently working are having a negative impact. She went from an effective populist communicator in her Alaskan career to a pretty effective “common man” attack dog at the RNC to, pretty quickly, a gibbering idiot.

I am not convinced that her recent incarnation as a nonsense-spewing empty suit is solely a result of her handling and not a result of the fact that she’s just plain not ready for prime time—in fact, I’ve pretty much become convinced of the latter. Nevertheless, it is, I think, apparent to most that the McCain campaign is over-handling and over-training her, filling her head with single-sentence positions and a laundry list of talking points but not actually prepping her in such a way that she has any depth or fluidity in her understanding of even basic issues. Again, I think that says as much about Palin as it does about the way she’s being handled—unless one considers her just a total hollow-headed cipher (you sexists)—but clearly, a new approach is needed.

Even the most Kool Aid drinking Republicans are now making that very argument—and implicitly criticizing the McCain tact so far, as well as recognizing that Something Is Not Working.

Here’s Mitt Romney on Morning Joe:

“Holding Sarah Palin to just three interviews and microscopically focusing on each interview I think has been a mistake,” Romney said. “I think they’d be a lot wiser to let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin. Let her talk to the media, let her talk to people.”

Kathryn Jean Lopez:

We know what’s pleasing to people about Sarah Palin. The authenticity. The love of country. A lot of good instincts. She should run with them. The campaign should let her run with that. She should take her own advice and not worry about the name of the finance minister of Costa Rica people are cramming into her head so much.

Bill Kristol:

Free Sarah Palin… Look, McCain picked her because she was a good governor, a good politician, a good communicator. Let her be a politician. Let her communicate. Put her on TV. Put her radio. Let her relax. Let her go into the debate and try to win the debate. They’ve surrounded her with former Bush White House aides, who if I might say in a way typical of the Bush White House got into a total defensive crouch… ooh, let’s not make mistakes… be very careful… I think she’s strong enough to overcome the very bad advice and very bad staff work that has surrounded her recently.

When Mitt Romney, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and Bill Kristol—three of the most sycophantic Republican talking heads operating today (add Hugh Hewitt and you’d pretty much have The Council of Simpering Yes-Men)—are openly nervous and arguing that something needs to change, you know something really needs to change.

On the plus side, her expectations for her debate on Thursday are bottom-basement low. So long as she doesn’t wet herself those same commentators will be letting off fireworks, I’m sure. And I think many people reflexively want her to succeed, so even being remotely passable, or anything above a total train wreck, will get a major sigh of relief from many quarters (including this one). But it’s also do-or-die for her, in the sense that if she does put in a performance on par with her recent interviews, her political brand will likely be irreparably damaged forever. And while both Biden and Palin will be fact-checked hardcore (both have been accidentally deviating from both the party line and truth itself lately), my guess is Palin won’t get nearly the benefit of the doubt that Biden will. Any obvious gaffes or mistakes on her part will be picked over with laser-like intensity and replayed with ridiculous emphasis. Over-prepping her for it in the way the McCain campaign has over-prepped her for everything else isn’t just a bad idea, it actively courts a potentially fatal disaster.

As much as I hate agreeing with most anything Romney, Kristol, and Lopez say, they’re right on this one. The McCain campaign needs to take this week and re-tool their candidate and her communications strategy before it’s too late. They really do only have one more chance to get this right.

Posted by Brad @ 9:37 am on September 29th 2008

Picture of the Day

Nothing to do with anything, but Dailykos is using this as their open thread picture today, and I thought it was pretty funny. Maybe is was the file name when I right-click saved-as that amused me.

Posted by Brad @ 9:34 am on September 29th 2008

Avast! Congress Takes On the Pirate Scourge!

While nobody was looking, Congress created a new cabinet-level czar, the “Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator”, as part of a bill called “The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act”. The copyright czar would require Senate confirmation, and the “executive and its office would be charged with creating a nationwide plan to combat piracy and report directly to the president and Congress regarding domestic international intellectual property enforcement programs.”

The new copyright czar will oversee government anti-piracy crackdowns and, among other things, train other countries about IP enforcement. The legislation also creates an FBI piracy unit and allows for the forfeiture of equipment used in large pirating operations.

The intellectual property measure approved Friday was strongly backed by Hollywood, the recording industry, unions, manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“This is a win for both parties and, more importantly, for America’s innovators, workers whose jobs rely on intellectual property, and consumers who depend on safe and effective products,” said Tom Donohue, the chamber’s president and CEO.

Digital rights groups, including Public Knowledge, opposed the measure.

Gigi Sohn, the group’s president, said the bill goes too far but she was nonetheless pleased that the Justice Department won’t be suing copyright infringers on behalf of the entertainment industry.

“We are pleased that the Senate bill as passed does not include the egregious provision allowing the Justice Department to file civil suits against alleged copyright violators on behalf of copyright holders,” she said.

The measure to which she’s referring was a provision that would have granted Justice Department the authority to sue copyright infringers on behalf of Hollywood and the music industry. Congress included it in the bill, but the White House nixed it, in a refreshing change of pace, saying they didn’t want to assume that authority.

Whether all this is good or bad depends, of course, on how it’s used. I find myself oscillating a lot on copyright stuff. On the one hand, without question people deserve the rights to protect their intellectual property. On the other hand, too much rigidity on that front undoubtedly stifles innovation. Finding that sweet spot in the middle is a difficult task, and one I’m glad I don’t have to execute.

I do, however, distrust the creation of a cabinet level position for this. I am not clear on why the Department of Commerce can’t continue to handle these matters, though perhaps the international nature of intellectual property problems requires more executive heft. I also have a knee-jerk distrust when government begins broadly setting down a “War on ____”, and given that a lot of this war will revolve around the online world—an arena that government has mostly, blessedly, not gotten its hooks into yet—I hope that they keep their focus more on bootleggers and corporate espionage and less on, say, peer to peer networks and the free flow of information.

Posted by Brad @ 9:13 am on September 29th 2008

An October Surbride?

Nobody seems to be quite clear on the veracity of this story, but it strikes me as dumb and erratic enough that it just might be true.

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

There is already some urgency to the wedding as Bristol, who is six months pregnant, may not want to walk down the aisle too close to her date of delivery. She turns 18 on October 18, a respectable age for a bride

Now, I’m going to go ahead and assume cooler heads put the kibosh on this. But I do buy that this is at least being kicked around the office in the VP HQ.

This strikes me as a bad idea because I think the McCain people are over-estimated America’s reaction to the Palin’s family. Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself wincing at every Todd Palin story I come across (“first dude”, paid “fact-finding” trips on the state dime, etc), and wincing even more that Bristol Palin has become something of a tabloid celebrity. I don’t think the “any publicity is good publicity” maxim holds true for the Palin family, and in particular a Palin-hockey dude wedding strikes me as dangerously close to stepping into Spears-Federline land, from whence it is difficult to return. And Bristol doesn’t deserve that (she is no Britney Spears).

If they do go through with something like this, I’d be ashamed on pretty much everybody involved’s behalf.

P.S. You can check out their wedding registry if you like.

Posted by Brad @ 9:02 am on September 29th 2008

McCain: Bad Monkey

We’re discussing Alpha Males in this thread (okay, “discussing” might not quite be the word for it), so I figured I’d pass on this pretty awesome debate. I had come across it glancingly in a TPM post and almost passed it along in the context of this post, but Rojas would have gotten mad at me. :(

At issue: David Broder’s opinion piece, “McCain as Alpha Male”. Like those of us in the tank for Obama, Broder also noticed McCain’s rigid lack of eye contact and general air of contemptuousness. Broder, however, takes it to mean that McCain was the dominant male in the room.

There were no knockout blows in the first presidential debate of the fall, but John McCain outpointed Barack Obama often enough to encourage his followers that he can somehow overcome the odds and deny the Democrats the victory that has seemed to be in store for them.

It was a small thing, but I counted six times that Obama said that McCain was “absolutely right” about a point he had made. No McCain sentences began with a similar acknowledgment of his opponent’s wisdom, even though the two agreed on Iran, Russia and the U.S. financial crisis far more than they disagreed.

That suggests an imbalance in the deference quotient between the younger man and the veteran senator — an impression reinforced by Obama’s frequent glances in McCain’s direction and McCain’s studied indifference to his rival.

Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi, I do not know.

Actually, since the “alpha male” eye contact thing comes from the world of primates, a few monkeyologists weigh in. The aforementioned reader comment at TPM:

I think people really are missing the point about McCain’s failure to look at Obama. McCain was afraid of Obama. It was really clear–look at how much McCain blinked in the first half hour. I study monkey behavior–low ranking monkeys don’t look at high ranking monkeys. In a physical, instinctive sense, Obama owned McCain tonight and I think the instant polling reflects that.

And the HuffPo piece, Monkeyologist #2:

Looking at the body language of the candidates, however, I did not come away with the same impression. A confident alpha male chimpanzee would never show studied indifference. I have seen such behavior only in males who were terrified of their challenger. Chimpanzees provoke higher-ups by making impressive displays in their vicinity, hooting loudly in their direction, and sometimes lobbing objects at them to see what happens. Will the other startle or will he return the challenge? It’s a war of nerves.

A self-confident alpha male just approaches his challenger and sets him straight, either by attacking him or performing a spectacular display of his own. No avoidance of eye contact: he takes the bull by the horns.

It rather is the hesitant or fearful alpha male who avoids looking straight at the other, sidesteps him as if nothing happened, ducks when objects fly, and just hopes that the other will give up and go away. This may work, but also signals weakness. One day, the challenger will pick up courage and do something more drastic, such as hitting the old guy’s back. If the latter still tries to ignore his challenger after this, he’s toast.

I read the body language between McCain and Obama as that between a senior male being challenged by a remarkably confident junior one. The senior didn’t know exactly what to do. He avoided eye contact and body orientation, probably realizing that a direct confrontation might not go his way.

Because all us monkeys can instinctively recognize an air of dominance when we see it, the polling seems to be reflecting the idea that it was Obama who came off as more Alpha.

[The poll] indicated that the younger, less-experienced Obama has made strides since last week in convincing Americans that he can handle the toughest challenges facing the country, including the economy and international affairs. Obama was seen as more “presidential” by 46% of the debate watchers, compared with 33% for McCain. The difference is even more pronounced among debate watchers who were not firmly committed to a candidate: 44% said they believed Obama looked more presidential, whereas 16% gave McCain the advantage.

We’ll see if McCain starts throwing feces in the next one to try and win back the edge.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:11 pm on September 28th 2008

The other shoe drops

The final version of the bailout bill on which the House will vote Monday is a good deal worse than reports on negotiations had led us to expect.

Remember those restrictions on executive compensation that we were told about? Well, turns out that everybody gets to keep their existing compensation packages for departure, down to the last dime, but by golly, Congress is putting its foot down on allowing the board of directors to ADD value to said packages:

The plan would impose some curbs on executive compensation at firms that sell assets to the government. These include a ban, for those that sell a large amount of securities to the U.S., on creating new “golden parachute” payments to departing top executives.

That, and steep taxes on all income earned by execs above the $500,000 mark. What a bold standard to hold a bankrupt company to.

Oh, but there’s more. Remember that “oversight” that congress thought might be preferable to turning over $700 billion to the exclusive control of a member of the Bush cabinet? Here’s what they settled for:

The plan would let Congress block half the money and force the president to jump through some hoops before using it all. The government could get at $250 billion immediately, $100 billion more if the president certified it was necessary, and the last $350 billion with a separate certification — and subject to a congressional resolution of disapproval.

Still, the resolution could be vetoed by the president, meaning it would take extra-large congressional majorities to stop it.

Nice to know Congress still prizes the power of the purse.

And finally, we have the recompensation of the taxpayers for their bailout. How will this take place? What of those provisions we’d heard about that would have enabled a federal claim on profits earned until the money was all paid back? Well, um…

The government would receive stock warrants in return for the bailout relief, giving taxpayers a chance to share in recipients’ future profits.

…which is…well, not the same thing at all. But don’t worry, because…

The president would have to tell Congress after five years how he planned to recoup the losses.

In other words: it was all a charade, folks. All the hemming and hawing and frenzied negotiation was a shadow play. What we ended up with differs from the original proposal only in its most cosmetic aspects. There was not the slightest interest, it seems, in actually reining in the more heinous aspects of this bill; only an interest in appearing to bow to public pressure and cover asses. I’m ashamed that I fell for any part of it.

We’re back to this being a disqualifier for public office. $700 billion of outright corporate socialism is too big a stagger for any candidate to make up, no matter what his other beliefs. This is the most shameful legislation of our time, and both its proponents and opponents should be remembered.

Posted by Brad @ 8:52 pm on September 28th 2008

Death From Above

Kip Esquire points our attention to the latest in what seems to be an unending string of abusive misuse of the taser that turns out to be a use of fatal force.

In this case, a disturbed naked man stands 10 feet off the ground on top of a roll-up gate. He’s holding what looks like PVC pipe or bamboo or something, but pretty clearly presents a life-threatening threat to no one. However, he does post an enormous inconvenience. How to get him down without hurting him, or getting an annoying thwack from the bamboo?

Why, tase him!

Now, I won’t belabor the friggin’ genius required to tase a man on an elevated platform knowing that he’ll fall, rigid and without even reflexive muscular control, 10 feet to the concrete sidewalk below. But it has become clear that the taser, from the perspective of too many police officers, has become not an alternative to the use of deadly force (for which it is intended), but rather, as an alternative to other means of non-violent suppression—on par with pepper spray, the club, backup, handling a person, or even just plain waiting and letting everyone catch their breaths.

I concur with Kip here:

The only use of the Taser that is unarguably ethical is as a substitute for the use of deadly force. Any other standard — as a substitute for mere exertion, for calling in backup, or especially for having to wait for a jumper cushion while a naked, disturbed man stands on a ledge — will inevitably lead to abuses and tragedies that, so far, have not proven worthwhile relative to whatever benefits ubiquitous Taser deployment might generate.

I’m not on a fatal-Tasing-watch like some bloggers, but I would say, at this point, police departments—despite the equally ubiquitous PR nightmare that overuse of Tasers continues to provide for nearly every major police department in America—have more or less lost the right to deploy the devices. If they can’t be responsible enough to use them according to basic instructions, common sense, and decency, they don’t deserve to have them. The Taser is a potentially very positive device for law enforcement—it sure beats shooting—but the rate of slapping them in the hands of every officer, security guard, prison hack, and rent-a-cop in America is outpacing the rate of responsible training and accountability. It’s beyond time for municipalities to begin creating some kind of mechanisms to ensure that that happens.

Posted by Brad @ 10:45 pm on September 27th 2008

Senate Passes $700 Billion Bill

No, not that one, the other one.

Posted by Brad @ 8:45 pm on September 27th 2008

“We All Love Sexist Alpha Males”

Good article in the Times of London from a next Gen feminist perspective, based on this:

The Journal of Applied Psychology has just published findings from a University of Florida study based on interviews with more than 12,000 men and women. Between 1979 and 2005, they were questioned regularly about how they viewed male and female roles – whether they believed a woman’s place was in the home, whether employing women led to more juvenile delinquency(!) and whether it was the woman’s job to take care of the home and family.

Sexist men, the scientists found, made an average of $8,500 (£4,600) a year more than men who viewed women as work-place equals. Meanwhile, feminists earned more than their more traditionally minded female colleagues (but not a great deal more – £800 a year, on average). And while there was only a small difference between the pay packets of “egalitarian” men and women, sexist men’s wages outstripped everyone else’s.

Surprised? Me neither. It’s one of those stories that, even without being corroborated by the figures, has the horrible ring of truth about it: we’ve all worked in an office where the sexist monster is (a) very good at his job and (b) gruesomely and guilt-inducingly attractive despite his antediluvian attitudes.

Added bonus: sidewind swipe at “emasculated Britain”.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:00 pm on September 27th 2008

The stripy menace: our days are numbered

While we’ve all been distracted by such trivia as the Presidential election and the complete collapse of the economy, mankind’s greatest enemy has been patiently plugging away. Now comes the news that not only do they outnumber us mammals, they will soon be aware of the fact, as they have apparently discovered mathematics.

En garde, America! The only thing worse than a bee is a bee with an abacus.

Posted by Brad @ 5:39 pm on September 27th 2008

Realignment

Freedom Democrats has an interesting look at an article (actually, the abstract of an article) in Perspectives on Politics . The gist of the article they’re looking at is:

In the short run, the move by pro-business social liberals from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party will make both parties look more moderate on economic policy. In the long-run, the same dynamic could actually make the Republican Party more blue-collar than the Democrats. Social conservatives in the Republican Party already insist that the Democratic Party is the party of privilege and elitism. The populist rhetoric adopted by the Republican Party has pictured the Democratic Party as the home of overpaid professors, bureaucrats, and social technicians. Democrats are seen as “limousine liberals” who want to indulge themselves in expensive pro-environmental policy, and who have nothing to lose when wages collapse to the levels of Third World countries.

If the Democratic Party continues to pick up social liberals like Jeffords and Parkinson (either by conscious strategy or just because they have nowhere else to go), then professionals and business leaders in the party will balance the beleaguered unions. These new elements of the party will be on the side of a balanced budget, open immigration, and accommodation with business (especially in the new computer and biotech industries). Most difficult for traditional Democrats will be the support for free trade among the new Democrats. The economic liberals in the Democratic Party will feel increasingly isolated and alienated. Listening to the populist rhetoric of Republican activists and politicians, blue-collar workers may come to expect the Republican Party to represent their economic interests, in addition to their social conservativism.

Some Republican politicians already accept the social values of blue collar workers and will decide to represent the economic aspirations of their constituents as well. Why not, if professional and business elites are already heading for the door? Indeed, the role model for the complete twenty-first century reincarnation of Bryan is possibly already visible in the form of Patrick Buchanan.

As a pro-business social liberal moving (at least in my voting habits) from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, I find that intriguing.

FD disagrees, saying that voters are capable of dividing up “business” and categorizing some swaths of industry as “bad” business (say, blue collar unions for Republicans, energy magnates for Democrats) and some as “good” business (say, Wall Street for Republicans, high tech computing stuff for Democrats).

The economic divide between Republicans and Democrats cannot be reduced down to lumping all businesses together. There’s room for disagreement between, say, fossil fuel energy companies and renewable/alternative energy companies. Large-scale agribusiness versus localized community farming. Creative class workers of the knowledge economy versus corporate managers of the industrial economy. The list goes on and on.

To be absurdly simplistic, America will have two pro-business parties, with one socially liberal and the other socially conservative. As a libertarian, I am more sympathetic to the socially liberal one, especially since I believe it will be the less bellicose of the two on foreign policy. Both will be economic statists.

Bush Republicanism has certainly expedited that process, in that the real meaty stuff against a regulatory state and against entitlements, for instance, has, for the most part, been resigned to the fringe or, at best, as tack-on fluff statements meant in a broad, philosophical way, and not as a specific policy agenda per se. But what I find interesting in it is I guess I take for granted the mis-alignment between the arguably top-down pro-business agenda of the GOP and the arguably bottom-up blue-collar flyover “real Americans” cultural rhetoric. It’s hard to see how those realign in a way that doesn’ make the GOP more economically populist (say, less inclined towards a pure stance on free trade, less inclined to pass on opportunities to bash “corporate fat cats”, etc), if indeed they do realign. Weirdly, I think the modern GOP would be more inclined to give up their pro-business agenda than their middle American culture war rhetoric.

Anyway, interesting to chew over on a lazy Saturday.

Posted by Brad @ 12:52 pm on September 27th 2008

“He Has To Demonize the Enemy”

The day after, it seems the one qualifier every single commentator is feeling the need to add about the debate is “McCain refused to even look at Obama.”

Since we were liveblogging, my TV was on (in the other room) and I was typing (in here) so I missed almost entirely the visuals. But I did find this exchange interesting, between Chris Matthews and the Post’s Eugene Robinson.

Posted by Brad @ 12:20 pm on September 27th 2008

This Just In…

Americans are kind of dumb

Nearly half of Americans (46%) are unable to correctly identify Barack Obama as a Christian including 13% who still maintain that he is a Muslim and another 16% who say they have heard different things about his religion. In addition, 11% say they don’t know because they have not heard enough about Obama’s religion. The percentage of voters continuing to say that Obama is a Muslim is largely unchanged from June (12%) and March (10%), when the controversy over Obama’s former pastor at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ was fresh in many people’s minds. In the current survey, nearly one-in-five McCain supporters (19%) say that Obama is a Muslim, up from 14% in March. Fewer than one-in-ten Obama supporters (7%) identify him as a Muslim. More than three times as many white voters than African Americans see Obama as a Muslim (14% vs. 4%). Among white voters, 17% of those who have not completed college say Obama is a Muslim and 45% say he is a Christian. Among white college graduates, 7% say Obama is a Muslim while 69% say he is a Christian.

You can parse it as many ways as you like, bothers me for two reasons:

1. Obama is as authentic a Christian as has run for the Presidency,
2. Implicitly presupposes that being a muslim is a disqualifier for the office.

Posted by Brad @ 11:25 pm on September 26th 2008

Kissinger

For the record, since it was a point of contention:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says the United States should begin direct negotiations with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program. Kissinger, speaking Monday at George Washington University along with four other former U.S. State Department secretaries, said the next president should initiate high-level discussions with Iran “without conditions,” ABC News reported.

Both were, of course, over-simplifying it, so it’s hard to say who was right or who was wrong.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:01 pm on September 26th 2008

“…so that we never torture another prisoner again.”

That’s the second-biggest story of the debate.

The Republican nominee for President concedes that the Bush administration tortures prisoners.

Good for him.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:59 pm on September 26th 2008

John McCain just proposed a comprehensive spending freeze

Increases ONLY in entitlements, defense, and veterans’ programs.

Kinda makes earmarking reform unimportant, doesn’t it?

How is this not the biggest story of the debate, and arguably, of the entire campaign?

Posted by Rojas @ 8:59 pm on September 26th 2008

McCain-Obama debate liveblog

Our usual fair and balanced coverage. From the crucial swing state of Mississippi.

Posted by James @ 7:02 pm on September 26th 2008

No Signs of Autumn

I had to do a bunch of stuff today that had me driving all around the town I live in as well as surrounding towns. It suddenly dawned on me that their were conspicuously few campaign yard signs, signs tacked to telephone poles, etc. As a matter of fact I only saw one small Obama sign at the end of one person’s driveway. I then started looking for bumper stickers as saw very few of those. This is a pretty political area in a very political state and usually the place is littered with signage and cars tattooed this close to an election, especially a presidential one.

Are people that are usually zealous enough to wear their support on their cars and lawns just to distracted by the other junk going on or does this indicate some level of uncertainty that may be more pervasive than polls suggest. I have no idea what to make of this and maybe there is nothing to it and people around here are just getting an uncharacteristically late start in littering this cycle, but I am curious as to whether anyone else has noticed this phenomenon where you live.

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