Poster Propaganda And Second-Guessing Voters

I’m not sure what to think about this video. It seems wrong in a bunch of dimensions to the extent that maybe they all cancel each other and (once filtered through the electorate) net-out to something right. I dunno. I was done trying to second-guess the American electorate long ago.


Here are just some of the problems I see with propaganda that pushes in this direction.

First, there is a sort of implied notion that young people voted for Obama in 2008 with a view towards job prospects and such. This accords with absolutely nothing in my memory of that time. A 19-year-old who voted for Obama in 2008 was not thinking of jobs, she was thinking that Obama was a hip slim black guy and the (R)s are old geezers who screwed things up and did wrong wars on places. She was thinking that Obama Cared About The Environment, Poor People, and other mascots. She was also thinking about a bunch of stuff she made up about Obama in her head. Literally nothing that has happened since then refutes this logic. Certainly, the fact that recent grads struggle with high unemployment does not refute this. An argument that goes like ‘Obama promised he’d get you all awesome jobs, and that’s why you voted for him, but look, he hasn’t!’ sounds pretty compelling, until you realize (a) No he never did promise anything of the sort and (b) That’s not why you voted for him anyway. (To remind: black; hip; leftist.)

Second, there is an overarching argument being made that a U.S. President’s job is to Make There Be Jobs. I am naturally uneasy with this concept. Whether and to what extent there are Jobs in the economy is a product of larger forces than any one guy. Granted, all Presidential elections are inevitably about this, whether that’s right or fair or not. It is also probably true that Presidential policies, whatever they are or aren’t, have some measurable effect on the economy, and therefore, ‘jobs’. But there’s just a nagging problem with running commercials telling voters ‘you’ve gotten a raw deal because you voted for XYZ for President and he didn’t Make There Be a job for you’ unless you yourself have an ironclad plan to Make There Be A Job for the same person you’re telling this to. Much as I prefer Romney to Obama, or rather Romney Inc. to Obama Inc., which in particular means I predict Romney would have more sensible economic policies, the idea that something President Romney is going to do will Make There Be Jobs for whatever target audience he’s trying to pitch this to is laughable.

However, here’s where it gets tricky: maybe that target audience will become convinced that he will. Indeed, for all I know maybe they will become convinced by this video. Who’s to say? The video does seem ‘well produced’, well-made propaganda. Who am I to say it won’t work then? This becomes an exercise in second-guessing a group of people I believe to be (by and large) shallow and dumb in their voting choices, however, so it sort of makes my head hurt. You see the problem.

Decision ’12: A Plebiscite To Register Your Opinion, Yea or Nay, Regarding Dirty Harry Talking To A Chair

That’s what it looks like it’ll boil down to, folks. Fasten your seatbelts!

Has ‘American Pie’ Actor And National Treasure Jason Biggs Actually Been A 13-Year-Old Girl All This Time?

His wiki page implies he’s a 34-year-old man, i.e., an adult.

Meanwhile, he uses the word ‘totes’.

Doesn’t compute.

Should Chris Matthews Be Given Some Kind Of Racial-Awareness Award?

After all, from the sound of things, he sure lives near has to drive past and look out his car-windows at a lot of black people.

That sure must be tough for him. But he does it!

Runners And Catchers

Hardball Times has this discussion: Why can runners hit catchers—and only catchers?

I recall writing about this here. Looking over it, everything I wrote still applies: Catchers who try to ‘block’ a runner without having the ball should just be called for obstruction, and meanwhile, runners shouldn’t be rewarded for knocking out of the fielder’s hands a ball that got there ahead of them. Even aside from the injuries they cause, none of the plays that allowing these things incentivize are good or interesting parts of baseball in the first place.

Just play ball.

Yglesias Advocates Massively-Regressive Tax Increase

Matthew Yglesias on Romney’s nostalgia:

He thought the America of the 1950s and 60s was a good place and a land of opportunity. Which is interesting, because looking forward his view is that avoiding a return to Clinton-era marginal income tax rates is crucial to preserving America’s status as a land of freedom and opportunity. But back in those Romney salad days, those rates were up at 70 percent or even higher. Yet somehow life went on. It’s worth thinking about.

Okay, let’s think about it! I thought about it.

Looking at inflation-adjusted tax rates (not marginals – who cares about marginals? – I’m talking about rates) in 1963, when the top marginal rate was last 91%, vs. today (35%), my quick, dirty, and hopefully minimally-buggy Excel vlookup() and sum() work suggests that net (federal, income) tax effective-rates on a single/married-filing-separately person were anywhere from 30-90% higher back then, on all income categories. Rates in the $50k-110k range (adjusted to 2011 dollars) are perhaps ~30% lower now but those on the low and high ends have seen far higher reductions.

So, it’s true that higher-income folks were billed more in (federal, income**) taxes back in Romney’s utopia. But it’s also true that lower-income folks were billed more. To restore the greatness of 1963 then, we’ll obviously need to raise everyones’ taxes by at least 30% of their current rate. It does seem to be the case that we could squeeze higher incomes more than that, and ‘life would go on’. But only – apparently – by also really sticking it to those making $30k and under – indeed, however much we wish to 1963-ize our tax code, in rate-increase terms we’ll need to squeeze them every bit as much as we’re going to have to stick it to those making $150k or more, as this graph clearly demonstrates:

Of course, the Matthew Yglesiaseses of the world would be the first to point to basic marginal utility theory and say that such a change to the tax code is effectively regressive – raising lower-income folks’ taxes by X% hurts them far more, while higher-income folks are able to more painlessly absorb the same X% extra hit. Nevertheless, having taken his advice to heart and thought about it, I find that Yglesiaseses’s analytical approach and the lessons of history makes it rather inescapable that (if we want to raise higher-income marginal rates at all) that’s what we’re going to have to do, in order to reestablish America as the good place, the land of opportunity of Mitt Romney’s youth.

Or we could just, y’know, not raise taxes at all, on anyone. Absent an actual argument to do so, I mean.

**Obviously, we are ignoring all other changes to the tax environment that have simultaneously occurred since then which may mitigate or even reverse the picture of changes to the tax code these numbers paint: the more-than-doubling of Social Security taxes, the introduction of Medicare (which didn’t exist), the fact that state taxes, sales taxes and property taxes are probably much higher than they were then (if they even existed at all). But that’s totally fair for me to do, and to focus on federal income tax numbers in pure isolation from everything else, since that’s exactly what Matthew Yglesias did.

Did Romney Accept?

I was so busy fact-checking his speech that I forgot to check whether he accepted their nomination.

If he didn’t accept? Boy, that would be awkward.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I did not watch a single millisecond of the (R) convention.

Romney’s Convention Speech: The First Fact-Checking

In a landmark here at RWCG, Inc., our staff has managed quite the coup: we have scored the first official Fact-Checking of Mitt Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention. You will no doubt see many hundreds if not thousands of other Fact-Checkings, but never forget who was first! Let’s get right to it…

1. CLAIM: Mitt Romney should be made the next President of the United States.

THE FACTS: Barack Obama still has one term to go and still wants to be the President.


2. CLAIM: Barack Obama has done a subpar job of managing the executive branch and does not merit a second term.

THE FACTS: That’s racist; Barack Obama is a black man. Also, as if that weren’t enough, George W. Bush was the previous President, which made literally everything terrible in such a way that no acts or decisions of a President in the subsequent four years can be held responsible for any bad outcomes.


3. CLAIM: Mitt Romney loves his wife and children.

THE FACTS: Mitt Romney’s wife and children all seem like a bunch of spoiled, wealthy white people. Also, there is a notable lack of diversity among them.


4. CLAIM: It would be a good thing if somewhat conservative, Republican-oriented polices were put in place.

THE FACTS: No, it wouldn’t. Those policies, if carried out consistently, are inadequately socialist.


5. CLAIM: America is a great country.

THE FACTS: America is a terrible country that has done irrevocable harm to humanity, the earth, and the universe. In theory its wickedness runs so deep that it deserves to have Barack Obama continue to be its President forever, if that were possible.



Shame on you Mitt Romney. Shame.

What The Left Is Prepared To Do

Gene at Harry’s Place notices that those in the opposing ideological camp don’t necessarily disagree with the left’s lofty rhetorical goals to protect and care for the weak, they just prefer different methods, in part because they (unlike most of the left) see an important difference between ‘society’ and ‘government’, which seems to be news to Gene:

In some ways that sounds a lot like what the late, great heart-on-his-sleeve liberal senator and vice president Hubert Humphrey said …
I suppose the main difference is Ryan’s use of the word “society” rather than “government.” And what he is prepared to do (and not do) about it.

I get it. The clear implication here is that only those ‘prepared to’ either use centralized, distant force and coercion to take from X to give to Y, or to (like Gene) rhetorically support and put in power those who use such force but (in many if not most such cases) do absolutely nothing else whatsoever, qualify as caring. That’s the ‘progressive’ viewpoint.

Rule Of Law Deathwatch Update

This interview with a UPenn professor about the abandonment of the rule of law is somewhat reminiscent of a discussion of bad food aboard the Titanic.

For extra comedy gold, fast forward to the part where he says any hope for preservation of the rule of law is going to have to come from the judiciary. Okay, I’ll be sure and hold my breath till then.


What Women And Gay Men Want Us To Think Women And Gay Men See First

The other day I caught part of this bizarre TV commercial.

I had the sound down and didn’t see the end, so I couldn’t even begin to fathom what it was a commercial for until I saw it again a bit later. Turns out, the commercial is for some men’s hair product and so I guess that’s why it wants us to believe its tagline, ‘Hair: It’s What Girls See First’.

But the interesting thing about this commercial is how it functions as double-propaganda: pro-women, anti-men. The ‘joke’ is that it implies that men see women’s breasts first. So, that’s a knock against men for their shallowness.

Meanwhile women supposedly see…hair first. So the guy shown at the end could just as well have been a 450-pound slobbish junk-food addict, but as long as he had a great, well-coiffed head of hair, that’s what the woman would focus on, would ‘see first’. They’re not so shallow as to care about a guy’s body, muscles, or anything like that.

Do we really believe this?

Isn’t it odd that the makers of a commercial for a men’s hair product thought that insulting men and being patronizing to women was the way to do it? The usual explanation that comes to mind for this sort of thing is that commercials are mostly made by women (or gay men) who are steeped in a mostly-feminized subculture.

But I think there are 2 ways I can see to salvage the logic of using this commercial:

  1. Maybe they had some kind of detailed market research showing them that women actually influence the purchases of whatever niche of hair product this is at the margin they’re trying to influence, so even though the product is for men, the commercial is actually consciously designed to appeal to/patronize/flatter women.
  2. Maybe men who see this commercial get so distracted by the sight of the disembodied breasts that they just fail to think about the commercial’s larger implications. So the commercial’s makers knew they could sneak any propaganda in there they wanted and it wouldn’t matter.

Obviously, if the explanation is #2 then I guess that proves the commercial’s point… ;-)

‘Zero Tolerance’ Policies Exist To Protect Bureaucrats, And Ridicule Is The Best Weapon Against Them

I am provisionally pleased to see that that school district has seemingly backed down from their widely-decried stance that a deaf 3 year old shouldn’t sign his own name because in doing so his little 3 year old fingers reminded some petty-fascist morons of a gun. It makes you wonder though how many idiotic policies such as this remain simply because they don’t go viral.

But I suppose it’s worth focusing on what worked in this case. What worked, I suspect, was ridicule. From what I saw, the ridicule for the decisionmakers who applied this policy was practically universal (which is unusual; usually there are at least some people online willing to defend the idiocy with overeducated, intellectualized jargon or some such), and I have a feeling that’s what made the difference. Death threats and the like wouldn’t do it – if that’s all they’d gotten, it may have actually hardened the policy in place, because such things could be dismissed as the rantings of evil rednecks, which would make the fight to keep the policy in place a romantic and heroic one. But ridicule, that wears them down.

The reason for this is that ‘zero tolerance’ policies, far from existing to protect the kids or whatever their supporting propaganda says, exist only to protect those people – namely the bureaucrats who apply them. People in mid-level, white-collar, low-productivity bureaucratic jobs need such things as ‘zero tolerance’ and other mindlessly reality-immune policies so that their cushy existence can be hermetically-sealed from all possible criticisms and setbacks. Sweeping and uniform, such a policy requires no judgment whatsoever which means that no one can be held responsible for their failure or any damage they may cause. The petty tinpot fascists who all too often gravitate to this sort of job need seem to that shielding from responsibility to make up for the disappointment of having ended up in that job, and being paid only half or a third of the salary they believe their Smartness deserves, in the first place.

But when applying a ‘zero tolerance’ policy leads to ridicule – and ridicule that can’t all be dismissed as ranting from krazy redneck kooks – this fringe-benefit starts to backfire and become counterproductive. What had normally functioned as a non-monetary, added ‘bonus’ of having the job (lording over relatively-powerless people in a certain carved-out sphere, and being shielded from responsibility while doing it) has turned into something that damages their precious, inflated egos and self-images as Smart People doing Smart things. In such a conflict, something’s gotta give which is why abandonment, or rather a face-saving ‘reconsideration’ or ‘clarification’ of the formerly/supposedly ‘zero tolerance’ policy starts to become an appealing way out of the trap.

In short, when faced with and trying to resist idiotic policies, the best weapon is ridicule.


  • I’m pleased to see Before Midnight in the works. I hope they keep doing these things every 5-15 years till they’re both in their 80s. Before Bingo? Before Early Bird Hour? Before Dialysis?
  • The importance of the difference between reserves and excess reserves.
  • Via Mark Thoma I hear that ‘It Is Mathematically Impossible for Romney to Keep His Tax-Policy Promises’. This is gonna be a problem if he is elected because obviously the government will move to immediately implement whatever ‘tax policy’ his campaign threw up onto his website lock stock and barrel when he is sworn in as President – as required by the U.S. Constitution – but apparently will fail (because it’s impossible), and then I can only assume the universe will implode under the weight of the logical contradiction. Please, don’t let the universe implode; don’t vote for Romney.
  • Are they having a the (R) convention soon? Please let me know when it’s gonna be on because I sure don’t want to take care not to miss it. I can’t wait to see who wins. (I’m rooting for LAMAR! I hear he is a working-man who wears flannel). Will it be aired after the Olympics come on?


  • Bob Murphy on Ezra Klein’s highly informed prescription for what mortgage rates should be all across this great country of ours; almost too easy (video)
  • Julian Sanchez on philosophy of arguing, or something gets to an example re: the question Is Social Security a Ponzi scheme?

    A more productive frame might have been: In what respects can Social Security be meaningfully analogized to the classic Ponzi scheme, in what respects does that analogy break down, and on which dimensions would these similarities render the two susceptible to the same concerns or objections?

    Although the philosophy stuff went mostly over my head, I think my discussion of the issue actually conforms to these rules pretty well.

  • The New York Fed’s False Assertion of AIG Bailout Profits looked promising but in the end I don’t think it gets at the real issue as much as my discussion. In fact this part is downright problematic:

    The $6.6 billion profit calculation was based on the discounted price that Maiden Lane III paid for the securities in late 2008. [...] The Maiden Lane III transaction and any profits it generated cannot be looked at in isolation; it was part of the larger AIG rescue, which is still ongoing with more than $30 billion in TARP funds still unpaid.

    Okay, but bailout-cheerleaders could just say that the Treasury is also up, at current market prices, in its equity position vs. its original break-even cost, and that even if the TARP loan is discounted appropriately, the government is probably still ahead, net-net. Like I said in the previous post, the real problem is not whether the government is ‘up’ – the U.S. federal government is not supposed to be a profit center, an investor, or a prop desk, I thought we had all agreed! – but whether the round-trip was worth it, all things considered. Viewing the AIG transaction in isolation, this means among other things that you have to look at risk-adjusted returns, not just the absolute nominal sign of returns. But there are also larger issues such as opportunity cost (what else – what better – could the government have done with this money?), moral-hazard (what precedent/example was set by the AIG bailout?), rule of law (was it even legal? were prior-established procedures followed?), democratic accountability and decisionmaking (what arguments were used to justify it, were those arguments valid, and is there reason to be concerned about cronyism and/or this decision being shoved down the throats of ignorant/cowed/frightened government employees and congressmen?), etc. Opponents of the AIG bailout who let the discussion become solely about whether the transaction ‘made money’ are setting themselves up for a loss.

  • Ezra Klein says the Obama administration has cut taxes. This brings up a pet peeve of mine which is that financial commentators should probably be required to learn a modicum of accounting and/or how to ‘book’ things appropriately, including at least some attempt to account for future cashflows/liabilities. By my reading of Klein’s article his conclusion that Obama ‘cut taxes’ rests entirely on changes to the tax code and tax receipts up to and including [now]. But what about taxes in that part of space-time we call [the future]? He ignores and treats it as unimportant (“but those changes don’t really take effect for a few years yet” – oh well nevermind those, then!). It’s more useful to think of taxes as a trajectory – a sequence of numbers that the government collects/intends to collect over time – not just a single data-point. And discussions over taxes being raised/lowered should either speak of the whole trajectory/term-structure (which will inevitably require some embedded assumptions over the future state of the world in which those taxes are collected, and thus will be inherently subjective and not subject to – or part of – ‘fact-checking’), or be specific about which year is being addressed. Otherwise you can reach absurd conclusions. For example suppose I pass a law saying “no taxes this coming year, but TRIPLE taxes every year after that!” Will Ezra Klein look at my law and say (1) well the tax increases ‘haven’t kicked in yet’, (2) meanwhile I cut taxes to 0 this year, and indeed (3) 0 taxes were collected, therefore (4) my law cut taxes? I don’t know but from his article I’d have to say yes. The source article he links is better in this regard, because it does address future tax-trajectory changes from e.g. Obamacare, but that article is also more subtle and detailed, reaching no easy yes/no conclusion re: whether Obama ‘cut taxes’ that I can see.
  • Why UC Berkeley isn’t as liberal [leftist] as its image suggests: “The impression I think arises from Cal’s close association with the City of Berkeley which actually is full of politically far left citizens.” True. One problem is, some of those citizens are often hanging/hangers-on around the campus, so the distinction gets blurred. The other justification for the stereotype comes from looking at leftist dominance among faculty, but I doubt that’s really much different than at most of the other top colleges.
  • William Black responds to an anti-financial-regulation op-ed by NY-(R) Senate nominee Wendy Long, and I find myself largely agreeing with…William Black.
  • Borepatch makes his prediction for the election outcome, in cold hard electoral numbers. His prediction is nearly the opposite of mine. For what it’s worth I do hope it is I and not him who is proven to be the stupid one.
  • The story of the preschool deaf kid not to sign his name because it looks like he’s making a gun with his hand is nearly as fascinating as it is (obviously) infuriating. The first thought running through my head when I saw this story, of course, was: What sort of special moron at this preschool gave this command? How stupid does that person have to be? And how on earth can a person actually be that stupid, and yet have ended up holding a job working at a preschool? But of course truly stupid people don’t go into running preschools. A different kind of flawed person does. Whatever flaw that is, seems to intersect quite well with a penchant for Mindlessly Applying Overly-Programmatic Rules In The Dumbest Possible Ways. Is it about the power-trip? Are preschool administrators bitter former-overachievers who stew that they didn’t rise to their self-perceived talent level, so they resent their lot in life, and now feel the need to take out those resentments – Walter White-style, James Holmes-style – on society, and society’s children? I wish I knew. The thought that the institutions we set up whose employees will be working with children are selecting at least in part for absolutely horrible, terrible people who have emotional problems making them idiots who should not be allowed anywhere near children is, of course, slightly terrifying. I really don’t have a better hypothesis than that though. Do you?

President Poochie

That the best way Team Obama could come up with to pay tribute to Neil Armstrong was to post a photo of President Obama looking up at the moon would probably be offensive if it weren’t so downright hilarious. One could premise a halfway-decent drinking-game on the frequency with which Barack Obama inserts his important, weighty self into other peoples’ historical accomplishments. All of which, turns out, are ultimately about Barack Obama in one way or another.

This incident reminded me of a line from the classic Simpsons episode, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show”, so indulge me as I reminisce. In this episode, the “Itchy & Scratchy” show, desperate for ratings, has introduced a dumb, spurious, calculatedly-’hip’ character (Poochie the Dog), who turns out to be voiced by Homer. The clueless TV execs cook up this character by committee, out of buzzwords and fads:

Oh, you know, attitude, attitude! Uh… sunglasses!

Can we put him in more of a “hip-hop” context?

Forget context, he’s gotta be a surfer. Give me a nice shmear of surfer.

I feel we should rastafy him by … ten percent or so.

Silverman redraws Poochie. They’re still not totally satisfied.

Hmm… I think he needs a little more attitude.

Silverman blackens in Poochie’s sunglasses.

Oh yeah, bingo. There it is, right there!

Yeah, that’s it!

I love it!

But once inserted into the show, he has nothing to do, and destroys the essence of the show – disrupts the ‘dramaturgical dyad’ Itchy and Scratchy comprise, in the words of one of its overeducated writers (and clearly a Simpson-writer stand-in). As a result, everyone hates Poochie when the episode airs.

The line I’m thinking of happens at the beginning of act 3, when – ego bruised due to the hatred for Poochie – Homer comes to the producers with his desperate ideas for fixing the character:

I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’ve got some ideas to improve the show. I got it right here. (pulls out a piece of paper) One, Poochie needs to be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine. Two, whenever Poochie’s not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking “Where’s Poochie”?

This is clearly what Team Obama wants us to be thinking too, whenever anything happens and President Poochie Obama isn’t onscreen.

This suggests a slight correction to Neil Armstrong’s historic words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Where’s Obama?

UPDATE: In what I’m sure is just a coincidence and has no implications for the Poochie Obama administration, I believe this was also the episode in which Comic-Book Guy introduced his catchphrase, “Worst. Episode. Ever.” Anyway, for completeness, here’s a picture of Poochie. I miss him.


President Obama (artist’s rendering)

Links 2

  • This is starting to be a pattern: Matthew Yglesias advocates fraud as a means to his desired social outcomes. Last time he said it ‘makes sense’ for the government to make laws saying student loans weren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy so they’d be cheaper to get, but now that they’re coming due, it’s time to rescind that rule after the fact since it’s inconvenient to actually carry it out. This time he (half-jokingly, I guess?) wishes the CBO would fudge numbers, to make health-care suppliers think Medicare spending is destined to increase far slower than it actually will, so suppliers they won’t build as much excess health-care supply in anticipation of those government dollars (which are actually coming, in theory, but suppliers won’t know that). Voila, self-fulfilling cost controls! It’s like if you lie on your credit application, you’ll get a lower interest rate, which will indeed make you more likely to pay it back – also self-fulfilling. Why don’t we just do these things all the time, since we are so deft at convincing ourselves that they are justified? Besides, it’s all so much easier and more straightforward than just using, you know, freedom. Anyway, I guess all the government’d have to do is to continue to hide how much Medicare dollars it’s actually spending, fudge the books, play coy with budget categories, make it a crime to report accurate statistics, etc., so that nobody ever figures it out. Fraud, manipulation and endless lying: is there any progressive goal that doesn’t necessitate them? Meanwhile, tell me again why I should trust the CBO on anything?
  • Michael Totten on Hezbollah and the academy:

    I’d like to ask her, though, what makes Hezbollah a “progressive social movement”? Because it builds hospitals and schools? That hardly makes a movement “progressive.” Has any modern political entity not built hospitals and schools when it had power? Adolf Hitler built hospitals and schools, as did everyone from Augusto Pinochet to Georgios Papadopoulos. So what?

    Hezbollah is notoriously hostile to every social value liberals and progressives hold dear, from women’s rights to gay rights, with one exception. Hezbollah says the United States and Israel are the Great Satan and the Little Satan. That’s it. That, all by itself, is enough to get a socially retrograde totalitarian terrorist organization labeled “progressive” even by a professor who adheres to non-violent politics.

    Pretty much.

  • I seem to have missed the kerfluffle over the supposed “swagger-jacking” of black culture by supposedly ‘happening’ new restaurants in gentrifying DC neighborhoods. What’s funny is how few of the commenters are sympathetic to the author’s pleas; sure, diversity and political correctness is nice and all during your freshman orientation or when you’re drafting laws about contractor set-asides or something, but not when it threatens something as substantial and fundamental in peoples’ lives as a hip SWPL nightlife. Then, they don’t even wanna hear it! Even more hilarious is there’s going to be a “panel” to talk about it all this Sunday. Reading between the lines, sounds like the restaurants’ execs are going to be bringing in some (black, I assume) Georgetown professors to (provisionally, of course, and perhaps with the promise of future “panels” or perhaps “outreach”) ‘bless’ these restaurants’ existence on behalf of The Black Community. Sure to be an exciting discussion. Can’t wait to read the minutes!

Oh Yeah, Abortion

Every 4 years or so (around (R) convention time, as it happens) the media reminds us all how important abortion – whether it’s allowed, under which circumstances – is as an issue to everyone, to the extent that it basically dictates the votes of at least half the country.

That’s good, because I always seem to totally forget about that issue in the intervening 4 years, and even get lulled into thinking there might be other things the federal government might profitably concern itself with, and (therefore) other issues on which an intelligent person might wish to base his/her vote. But nope, then I remember, there is just abortion.


  • The fact that the jury didn’t really seem to understand the laws they were applying in the Apple verdict (albeit, this didn’t materially affect the outcome) doesn’t give me much confidence that my original glib, ill-informed assessment – that law is recognizing and protecting Apple’s claim to have patented shiny black rectangles that light up and do cool stuff when you touch them – was incorrect.
  • This guy seems happy about the Lance Armstrong thing: “Just when we’re convinced the legal system does not work…”. Sorry but what ‘legal system’? This appears to be one private organization lecturing some guy and arrogating to itself the right to ‘strip’ (whatever that means) him of awards he won in the past from some other private organization. I think that at some point we are going to have to either make peace with the fact that athletes ingest things that they think will help them do athletics better, or give up athletics altogether. What is the end state of all this monitoring and sanctioning I wonder? What will the drug-police need to do in the year 2500, when we have nanotech, genetic engineering, bionic bodies, etc.?
  • I tend to agree with Matthew Yglesias that the Fed appears to be acting as if “the reigning dogma is that if inflation were to go from 2 percent to 3 or 4 percent that long-term expectations might become “unanchored” and drift higher and higher”. He’d probably convince me to be as mad at the Fed as he is for not doing QE3, QE4, QE[N], …, QE[N^2], …, QE[aleph_0], … – or whatever it is he thinks they should do – if he could convince me they’re actually wrong about that. He says there’s ‘no evidence’ that it’s true (how could there be, even in principle?) but doesn’t seem to realize that doesn’t constitute an actual counterargument.
  • Relatedly, Sheldon Richman on Yglesias on Bastiat.
  • ‘Economic liberties’ are civil liberties.
  • Daniel Larison isn’t any more impressed with the D’Souza Obama-as-anticolonialist thesis than I am.
  • Steven Landsburg on the 1972 Democratic convention.
  • I think Old Spice was my third- or fourth-favorite Spice Girl. Maybe I’m misremembering.
  • Things you once wondered but then forgot to keep wondering: Why does their handwriting go bad in the movie Primer?
  • Kevin Drum reads people who chalk up the high cost of government-commissioned civil engineering projects to things like overly-complex and -specific procurement rules – rules meant to avoid the prevous situation where the contractor ripped off the government. Since the government rules are so complicated, you see, the government (and contractors) need to involve all sorts of ‘consultants who consultant with consultants and advisers who advise advisers’, and meanwhile, small contractors and competition are priced out. How does Kevin Drum summarize this problem? Among other things: ‘small government obsession’. Of course! I know when I think of hundreds of pages of bureaucratic rules and giant budgets for consultants to interpret them, ‘small government obsession’ is the first culprit that comes to mind.
  • Matt Levine explains why just because you loaned (fixed-rate) money during a time period when LIBOR was being manipulated downward doesn’t mean you got cheated out of interest. Important lesson therein on what ‘market price’ means. Of course, if you bought fixed-rate notes and hedged their interest-rate risk by overlaying a swap linked to LIBOR, you’re in business. And there are a lot of those swaps.
  • Simon Grey asks an astute question: Where’s Whoopi?
  • Sandmonkey on Egypt. Sounds like the whole ‘Arab spring’ thing is doin’ swell.
  • Another one of these things: Newt Gingrich speaks of food stamps (and Ronald Reagan spoke of a ‘welfare queen’), these things made Chris Matthews instantly think of black people, so Chris Matthews calls those other guys (not him) racist.

Deconstructing Obama, Comparing (Possibly False) Theories, And Unseen-Movie Criticism

As I understand the premise of the movie 2016, and the book it’s based on by D’Souza (note, I haven’t seen the movie or read the book), the theory goes that President Obama is deeply motivated by a deep and angry anti-colonialism, something that is revealed by a close reading of his book Dreams From My Father.

The interesting thing about this ‘anti-colonialism’ theory is how similar it sounds to (what I’ll just call) the Steve Sailer theory, that Obama is motivated by race, and in particular a deep and abiding wish to garner fruits for the black race that he is (or rather, so longs to be) a part of. Something that Sailer gleaned in large part from a close reading of his book Dreams From My Father. (Note: I am in the process of reading Sailer’s book about this.)

So we have two theories that are structurally similar, and appear to be based on the same evidence, but one theory (the Sailer theory) is at once less baroque, simpler, more general, makes more sense, and seems to explain more.

‘Anti-colonialism’, after all, is a very specific cause to have been driving someone all this time – too specific, it seems. Why (for example) did Obama want to be the mayor of Chicago – how exactly did that fulfill his purported ‘anti-colonialist’ urge? What’s all that about writing about made-up white girlfriends, how to explain that as an expression of ‘anti-colonialism’? How is ‘community organizing’ ‘anti-colonialist’? Was Obama, trying to channel his namesake father, concerned about all ‘colonialism’ generically – in Indonesia, South America, Asia – or colonialism on one continent in particular perhaps?

But if you just go with the Sailer theory, that it was all about blackness, it makes infinitely more sense.

The bottom line is, without having seen 2016 or read D’Souza’s book, I nevertheless seem to find myself able to reject its hypothesis: not necessarily because D’Souza’s theory is 100% wrong or stupid, but because the Sailer theory is a local improvement over (what I know of) the D’Souza theory in every respect. In other words – while I can certainly imagine, and could be convinced of, neither theory being true – conditioned on the premise that one of those theories is true, I’d have to go with the Sailer theory. It’s just clearly better and more plausible.

Indeed, I can’t envision how someone – including D’Souza – presented with both ‘anti-colonialism’ and ‘black racialism’ as explanations for Obama’s driving motivations, and forced to choose one, wouldn’t go with the latter over the former. (Among other things, ‘black racialism’ basically contains ‘anti-colonialism’ as one of its prongs anyway.)

So is D’Souza not aware of the Sailer theory? Or did he basically come to the same conclusion as Sailer – indeed, is his theory essentially the same as Sailer’s – but he was afraid to state it explicitly, so he decided to skirt around it all by euphemistically calling his diagnosis ‘anti-colonialism’ in the hopes of disguising the specifically black-race aspect of it?

I guess to form a conclusion about that, I might have to actually see the movie.

Your Back-to-School Resource

Judging by the traffic I’m suddenly getting here in late August via searches for stuff like ‘what does katniss teach us’, ‘katniss moral power’, ‘moral messages hunger games’, ‘what are katniss’ morals’, etc., I think I’ve figured out what all the cool teachers learned – in their summer workshops (which count as CE) – to assign as a ‘relatable’ back-to-school essay topic.

Anyhow, as always, I’m happy to oblige: the moral message of the Hunger Games is that it’s bad (not good) to sacrifice teenagers in televised free-for-alls for the sake of societal harmony. Even though that would totally work, if you ask me. Meanwhile, Katniss’s moral power is that (unlike most teenagers) she doesn’t want to kill the other teenagers, she just wants them all to die in convenient ways. Also she can shoot a bow & arrow and that’s kind of like that one Greek myth about like, wasn’t there one who was a girl who shot a bow & arrow or something?

Anyways, school sucks, doesn’t it?


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