Thursday, March 27, 2008
Note: For any naysayers out there that think the popeyes founder doesn't stand atop the same peak of fast food history as the creator, nay, inventor of the McMuffin, is a dolt. Popeyes chicken is the shit!
What interested me about Frank's proposal was the underlying motivation. Frank seems less concerned with negative aspects of taxing work but rather consumed with deterring status or positional competition. He thinks that Americans suffer from an consumer arms race where we are all spending ourselves into debt just keep up with the joneses. I have heard this view advanced a decent amount in the liberal blogosphere (prominently by Ezra Klein) and I of two minds on the subject. My basic reaction is: so what? I am unsure why the government need intervene wielding its power to tax because some people are spiteful, envious, or have poor self esteem. Instead of taxing those that consume maybe we should tax those who envious of others' consumption. We could embed monitors on every soul and monitor envy emissions and wire this machine up to their bank account and conduct continuous withdraws as appropriate and transfer those moneys to people whose personal fulfillment is not fueled by spite. Though, this seems all a bit invasive. And I don't know if the technology exists (though we could do another Manhattan project). But, as much as I hate to admit it, I do think there is something to Frank's point of view. I can't accept it whole hog. Not gonna do it. BUT, I do think that in fact, sometimes people do consume purely to show that they can consume, and maybe there is some harm in this. And maybe in narrow instances, there is a way to harness certain folks prediliction for cupidity for the public good. In Virginia we have a car tax which is progressive. It could be made steeply progressive so that once you exceed $50 k for a non-business purchase the tax rate doubles.
In concluding this wet bag of shit post, I like Frank's idea, I am not a fan of his motivation.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Now, the second story. It's interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what Louis Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Reverend Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say "Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that." JOE SCARBOROUGH: But, but, you never came close to saying five days after September 11th, that America deserved what it got. Or that the American government invented AIDS...
HUCKABEE: Not defending his statements.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I know you're not. I know you're not. I'm just wondering though, for a lot of people...Would you not guess that there are a lot of Independent voters in Arkansas that vote for Democrats sometimes, and vote for Republicans sometimes, that are sitting here wondering how Barack Obama's spiritual mentor would call the United States the USKKK?
HUCKABEE: I mean, those were outrageous statements, and nobody can defend the content of them.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: But what's the impact on voters in Arkansas? Swing voters.
HUCKABEE: I don't think we know. If this were October, I think it would have a dramatic impact. But it's not October. It's March. And I don't believe that by the time we get to October, this is gonna be the defining issue of the campaign, and the reason that people vote.
And one other thing I think we've gotta remember. As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say "That's a terrible statement!"...I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack -- and I'm gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who's gonna say something like this, but I'm just tellin' you -- we've gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told "you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can't sit out there with everyone else. There's a separate waiting room in the doctor's office. Here's where you sit on the bus..." And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.
MIKA: I agree with that. I really do.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: It's the Atticus Finch line about walking a mile in somebody else's shoes. I remember when Ronald Reagan got shot in 1981. There were some black students in my school that started applauding and said they hoped that he died. And you just sat there and of course you were angry at first, and then you walked out and started scratching your head going "boy, there is some deep resentment there."
Spencer Ackerman has an article on Obama's likely foreign policy approach over at the American Prospect.
Julian Sanchez has a pair of interesting columns on wiretapping, one at the Los Angeles Times and one at the American Spectator.
Tyler Cowen has an interesting post on stagnant wages.
Inside Higher Ed has an interesting post on affirmative action at universities.
Hillary at this point has trotted out the race card, played the is Obama a muslim trick, and has essentially stated that McCain is better qualified to be a president than Obama. Democratic voters of the world, this should tell you something about the Clintons. Their concern is not to be able to strengthen the country at home or abroad, or to strengthen the Democratic party, it is to be in power.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Let me offer a clear criterion of victory: the end of violent struggles between foreign troops and Iraqis. And let me offer these words from Sallust - who was a Roman senator and military officer under Caesar - in support of this sensible definition of victory:
It is always easy to begin fighting, but the man who starts may find it exceedingly hard to stop; for while anyone - even a coward - can open hostilities, only the victor can decide when they shall cease. (Sallust, The Jugurthine War, VIII, 83)On this view, America is fighting a war in Iraq that cannot be won. The sooner our nation faces up to the impossibility of "victory," the sooner we can put an end to our losses, both human and financial.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
"Are you following the presidential race?
Not at all.
You’re not? You know there’s a Black guy running, Barack Obama and then there’s Hillary Clinton.
His name is Barack?!
Barack Obama, yeah.
What the fuck is a Barack?! Barack Obama. Where he from, Africa?
Yeah, his dad is from Kenya.
What the fuck?! That ain’t no fuckin’ name, yo. That ain’t that nigga’s name. You can’t be serious. Barack Obama. Get the fuck outta here.
You’re telling me you haven’t heard about him before.
I ain’t really paying much attention.
I mean, it’s pretty big if a Black…
Wow, Barack! The nigga’s name is Barack. Barack? Nigga named Barack Obama. What the fuck, man?! Is he serious? That ain’t his fuckin’ name. Ima tell this nigga when I see him, “Stop that bullshit. Stop that bullshit” [laughs] “That ain’t your fuckin’ name.” Your momma ain’t name you no damn Barack.
So you’re not following the race. You can’t vote right?
Over the last four years there have been those of us that have sat out the housing market because we have seen what looked like, and was in fact a bubble, but also, simply couldn't afford to buy. What's the responsible thing to do when you can't buy a place, well, not to buy the place. The responsible thing is not to get a no-document loan, or an interest only loan on the hopes on that appreciation will build equity for you. For a good many of the folks whose houses have gone into foreclosure they entered into mortgages with low teaser rates where they were paying interest only for a year and once the reset set in discovered that their house had depreciated and that they couldn't afford the new rate. Who is somebody that doesn't have any equity in a house, a renter. Why not just accept this reality rather than maintaining the fiction that these folks are actual homeowners.
If the administration were to put a moratorium on foreclosures it would essentially be taking money from fairminded folks who decided to live within their means for deciding not to enter into a mortgage that they couldn't afford and giving it to the profligate and stupid. At least with Bear Stearns what we are seeing is basically an orderly liquidation of the firm. JP Morgan is taking their good assets, though, along with the attendant litigation risk (they have purportedly set aside $6 billion for lawsuits) and the fed has become the speculator of last resort.
I think there is one other aspect though that needs to be fleshed out here. I think people are under the impression that foreclosures are good for the banks. They are awful, they truly are the last resort for the bank. The banks have every incentive to renegotiate the loan terms with the "homeowner". Mortgages are non-recourse loans. So if I default on my payments and can't negotiate new terms with my bank my home goes into foreclosure. Let's say the value of my loan was $500,000 but the bank can only get $350,000. As a mortgage is a non-recourse loan they can't pursue me for the $150,000 difference. They are stuck with the loss. So a foreclosure is a pretty shitty deal all around. I think the reason that you aren't seeing renegotiations en masse is that so many of these mortgages were so insanely stupid. The rule of thumb with a mortgage is that you want have a 1:4 ratio income to mortgage with 1:6 as the outerbound. You are seeing on a lot of the foreclosures, especially in Florida and California, trends where the ratio was closer to 1:9 or 1:10.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Here is what I found interesting/very sad, for those of you not paying attention the Fed rushed to bail out Bear Stearns by helping to broker a deal between Bear Stearns and JP Morgan, as part of the deal, the Fed put up $30 billion to guarantee Bear Stearns riskiest investments. While at the same time the Fed and the Bush administration have done next to nothing to help out those facing foreclosures on their homes.
On Monday, reporters questioned White House Press Secretary Dana Perino about the bailout.
Reporter: “But people who are facing, say, foreclosures, individuals, the little guys who are facing their foreclosure, are looking at the big guys getting government, if not brokered, certainly they’re overseeing deals that are engineered to sort of keep the big picture financial community afloat, and they’re saying, well, where’s my boost of liquidity?”
Dana Perino: “They’re going to get that boost of liquidity in the form of a stimulus package and a tax rebate that’s coming to them the second week of May.”
Reporter: “But that’s not going to save their houses.”
What I thought was the most profound aspect of his speech was that it wasn’t political, it wasn't a stump speech, it wasn't a speech pandering for votes, but instead a speech that was intrinsically aspirational in its nature. He basically laid out what could be described as his national vision statement in a direct, personal, honest and straightforward manner.
It was a brilliant and inspirational speech.
Here's a link if you want to look at the transcripts or view the video.
Friday, March 14, 2008
"The main impact of the current policy is, it seems to me, to make it easy for cops to rape prostitutes but hard for prostitutes to get out of bad situations."
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
It is telling that in this primary contest the three favorites (Clinton, Edwards, and Obama) had remarkably thin records. The bulk of Hillary's experience claim stems from being a first lady. The last go around wasn't much different. Edwards and Kerry emerged as the favorites . Kerry had more experience than any of the three contenders this time around but that amounted to two terms as Senator and not much more. Edwards, in 2004 was completing his first term as a Senator and had no prior experience as a public servant. Edwards performance in 2004 essentially disposes of Ferraro's claim. He is the white Barack Obama. Where they are distinct is that Barack Obama is more intelligent(vastly) and does not come across like a snake oil salesman. Democrats are constantly looking to fast track their young talent, well, Obama is the young talent.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
So, to sum up: the US didn't just fail to intervene in Rwanda. Our government urged the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping forces that were on the ground protecting Rwandans, for no better reason than to keep the Belgians from looking like cowards. It refused to jam the radio station that was passing on instructions for genocide. It blocked further efforts to reinforce the peacekeeping forces there. It also failed to do any of the much smaller things that might have shown that our government was not wholly indifferent to the people of Rwanda who were, at that time, being hacked to death with machetes.
It's worth bearing this background in mind when you hear Hillary Clinton claim that she advocated military intervention in Rwanda. If you don't, you might think: well, it's perfectly comprehensible that she might have argued for military intervention but failed to convince her husband. After all, military intervention in another country is a big deal, not to be undertaken lightly. And it's easy to imagine Hillary Clinton being in favor of it, and her husband reluctantly concluding that it just wasn't something he could do.
It's a lot harder to imagine that while Hillary Clinton was advocating military intervention, she not only failed to convince her husband to send troops, but also failed to convince him, for instance, not to advocate the withdrawal of most of the UN peacekeepers, or that he really ought to order the Pentagon to jam Radio Milles Collines. If she was doing her best behind the scenes, and failed to accomplish even this -- if, despite her best efforts, she couldn't persuade her husband not to advocate withdrawing UN peacekeepers just to provide cover for the Belgians -- then we really need to ask how effective an advocate she really is, especially since no one except her husband, in full campaign mode, seems to remember her efforts at all.
Of course, I think it's a lot more likely that she either didn't advocate action on Rwanda at all, or did so only in passing. If so, this would have to be the definitive example of her attempt to claim responsibility for everything good that happened during her husband's presidency, while disavowing all responsibility for his mistakes. This was, in my opinion, the most shameful moment of the Clinton administration. It ought, by rights, to have a place in Hillary Clinton's "thirty five years of experience working for change." Or perhaps she might claim that she wasn't that interested in foreign policy at the time, or that for whatever reason she just didn't pick up on the genocide in Rwanda until it was too late to act. That would at least be honest.
But if, in fact, Clinton missed the chance to urge her husband to help stop the Rwandan genocide, then she should not pretend that she was, in fact, right there on the side of the angels all along. That's just grotesque.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
I think the approach Furman outlines is essentially correct. Before we look at coordination, delivery and performance, we need to address the incentive structure. At present, the tax code provides a substantial incentive for upper income folks to spend but doesn't do much at all for lower income folks. This needs to be turned on its head.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
And the funny part is that both right-leaning groups like the Heritage Foundation and left-leaning groups like the Center for American Progress concur on the need for the common-sense reforms that have been snubbed decade after decade.
For more info about the Farm Bill check out the lobbying work that Oxfam America has been doing in an effort to bring about reforms.
Hatchbacks are ubiquitous in Europe but here they are seldom found. I suppose their likeness to station wagons (which they essentially are but on a smaller scale) kills their appeal. Anyhow, I like hatchbacks and when I was car shopping the dearth of hatchbacks made my task all the simpler. In the last two years the hatchback market has grown significantly and Mitsubishi is adding to the pool. Anyhow, geeks like me are sure to rejoice.
"In this op/ed, a Minnesota farmer complains that he cannot increase production of garden crops by growing them on former-program crop land because these acres will lose their corn subsidy forever if non-program crops are grown on the land for a year.
Why? Because national fruit and vegetable growers based in California, Florida and Texas fear competition from regional producers like myself. Through their control of Congressional delegations from those states, they have been able to virtually monopolize the country’s fresh produce markets.
...In other words, it seems that non-program crop states have been willing to support continued subsidies for program crop states because they are facing less competition in return. Less competition, higher prices and more money. Voila!"
US farm policy: harvesting poverty abroad, obesity at home, and making us all poorer in the process.
hat tip: Marginal Revolution
The video and Peter Paul’s civil case against Bill and Hillary Clinton which is currently in front of a California appeals court alleges that Hillary Clinton’s direct involvement in planning this gala would make Paul's substantial contributions a direct donation to her Senate campaign rather than her joint fundraising committee, violating federal statutes that limit "hard money" contributions to a candidate to $2,000 per person. Knowingly accepting or soliciting $25,000 or more in a calendar year is a felony carrying a prison sentence of up to five years.
I don’t have a whole lot of background knowledge about this guy or the Clinton’s involvement with him, but I do find the relationship rather interesting considering how she is currently trying to portray Obama and Rezko.
After all of the questions about how she celebrated last night and what not was out of the way the commentator asked what was in my eyes an excellent question.
The commentator noted that even with the wins last night Hillary was only able to decrease Obama’s delegate lead by six delegates (prior to last night he had a 112 delegate lead and after last night he had a 106 delegate lead), the commentator went on to ask that if she wasn’t able to close in on his lead if she still deserved to receive the nomination?
She of course avoided the question, but this question got me thinking. In 2000 Democrats were up in arms about the fact that George W. Bush was chosen to be president against the will of the people and was thus an “illegitimate” president.
If Hillary Clinton receives this year’s Democratic nomination without receiving a majority of the popularly elected delegates what is the difference between Bush’s “illegitimate” presidency and Clinton’s “illegitimate” nomination?
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
But all fear mongering aside the funniest part is that she ripped off the ad from Walter Mondale’s 1984 advertisement from when he was running for the Democratic nomination against Gary Hart.
Here is the original Mondale ad: