GOP attacks

Republicans not buying Hillary hurts Dems down ticket and Obama doesn’t meme.

On another issue, I want to believe that Jeremiah Wright’s egomaniacal world tour this week was choreographed by the Obama campaign to give Obama a chance to Sister Soljah him, but I’m not sure I do.

While I continue to believe that Obama sealed the nomination on February 5, the separate and distinct question of how his campaign has been run the last several weeks, I believe is answered differently. It’s been bad.

A lot of the buzz has worn off. And perhaps the press’s love afair has chilled a little. The numbers are mostly stable, and his base support is still energized. But there is a palpable reduction in the energy.

Arguably, that’s Hillary’s fault: she needs to get out of the race so Obama can get on with it. But since it has now been long established that she’s not doing that, the failure of anyone else to do anything about it has to be in the mix too.

It’s time for Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, et al. to end this.

Posner on re-regulation

From one of the members of the intellectual vanguard of Neo-classical economics, “law & economics”, and, in a sense, the whole late 20th century conservative movement, Judge Richard Posner:

I no longer believe that deregulation has been a complete, an unqualified, success. As I indicated in my posting of last week, deregulation of the airline industry appears to be a factor in the serious deterioration of service, which I believe has imposed substantial costs on travelers, particularly but not only business travelers; and the partial deregulation of electricity supply may have been a factor in the western energy crisis of 2000 to 2001 and the ensuing Enron debacle. The deregulation of trucking, natural gas, and pipelines has, in contrast, probably been an unqualified success, and likewise the deregulation of the long-distance telecommunications and telecommunications terminal equipment markets, achieved by a combination of deregulatory moves by the Federal Communications Commission beginning in 1968 and the government antitrust suit that culminated in the breakup of AT&T in 1983.

First, considering the source this is shocking. Second, there is a very simple distinguishing feature between successful deregulation industries and others: the services can easily be “unbundled.” By limiting regulation to the natural monopolies, they are freer to let competition work in the other parts.

For example, natural gas can come from quite a few places. Not infinite, but many. And it can be stored. There’s a fine line, but I think gas falls on the side of the line that lets it be free, as long as the natural monopoly pipelines are not.

The same applies to the tons of trucks out there. There’s not really a natural monopoly the way there is with, say, trains. Telecommunications is the same thing. The “pipe” can be regulated as long as the contents can go from point A to point B mostly freely. This is especially possible in the era of packet-switched inter-networks.

Electricity, on the other hand, is always going to be an oligopoly. It’s also too essential to everything else to just leave the regulation to the power lines. Sure, like in Texas, you could unbundle, but at the end of the day there’s only going to be a handful of providers and a handful of power plants, and electricity is virtually impossible to store efficiently.

Same with airlines. Unless you just had a regulated fleet of cargo planes that carried service modules from different companies in them, it’s more or less impossible to unbundle the medium and the cargo. There is also a finite number of routes that can be flown, resulting in natural oligopolies.

Any true champion of the free market doesn’t want monopolies or ologipolies, whether natural or not, whether government or not, interfering in their markets unregulated. This is why we don’t have private ownership of roads or bridges.

This all goes back to the way these issues were understood in the 1800s, arguably in a free market era, but without the same degree of fundamentalism or concentration of political power, which has become a natural monopoly (duopoly?) of its own.

With relation to banking, there is simply no compelling argument for the level of deregulation that we have. It’s too fundamental to everything else, it’s too disaster prone, and that’s been shown again and again, but we keep forgetting.

P.S. How many times have I lamented the repeal of Glass-Steagall as the single worst act of the Clinton administration? That act was responsible for Enron and the current subprime crisis (an expert cited in this Bloomberg.com article agrees). It’s Bush’s fault for not doing anything, but this was made possible by 90s “New Economy” triumphalism and forgetting not just the Great Depression but the recent history of Long Term Capital Management’s meltdown in the mid 90s, and the S&L crisis in the 80s.

Solve Every Environmental Problem

Solve global warming, overfishing, soil destruction, pollution, and a great deal of poverty in one fell swoop over 30 years:

Cost: $2T. Pay 1 billion people $1,000 to get sterilized, and use the other half to pay for the operations.

Financed over 30 years at 5%, that’s about $60B per year, or 0.6% of GDP (and less than the Iraq war by far). Almost no one in the developed world would take the money, because it’s nothing to them. However, that would feed people in the developing world for about 3 years in some places, and those are the exact areas that are suffering the worst from overpopulation.

But since you’re not forcing it on anyone–they get to choose–it’s not a scary totalitarian thing.

The total world fertility rate is about 2.6. The total world replacement rate is about 2.3. At present that means a growth rate of about 13%. Reducing the fertile population by 1B would increase the replacement rate, by my amateurish calculations, to about 2.7, which would mean, on average, a population decrease of about 600m per generation. I suppose that’s about a billion in the 30 year period, assuming no countervailing increase in fertility elsewhere.

That calculation could be even greater if not spread out over the whole world. Inasmuch as the appeal of $1,000 would correlate strongly with places with higher birthrates, it might skew that number even higher, so the 1B reduction over 30 years is conservative.

Of course, a simpler and even less scary way of doing this would be to provide free of charge birth control of all kinds to everyone in the world, everywhere. It would cost much, much, much less than $1,000 per person, could arguably reach everyone in the world instead of 15%, and could work an even more drastic reduction.

All of this involves no killing.

Of course, the alternative is to wait for the earth to just choke and kill us through famine and disease.

Claire Promises!

Claire McCaskill promised on MSNBC Tuesday night that Barack Obama would “pivot” against John McCain and go on the attack after the Pennsylvania primary. Am I impatient by complaining now?

Obama has certainly addressed a lot of my concerns in the past several weeks. He seems to get through the media maelstroms with decent aplomb. One of my remaining concerns is his ability to kick some Republican ass. His campaign and surrogates are shocked—shocked!!! I tell you—that the Clintons have the temerity to use his gaffes against him, or to hit below the belt.

You can read 10 page treatises on a seemingly infinite number of lefty blogs about how Clinton’s attacks were “wrong” or whatever. Who cares? The effect in the polls is what matters. Obama’s already got the cerebral crowd, so he can stop campaigning for them. Ph.D’s everywhere are putting Obama bumper stickers on their Volvos. He’s the president of college.

But for those dominated by lower reaches of the brain, attack politics work. If you whine about them, it just makes it worse.

Time to roll up the sleeves, Barack. Time to get some of that shoe leather up where Hanoi Johnny kept his grandfather’s watch.

Hillary Defeats Misogynist Conspiracy Again!

Despite only having the entire state Democratic establishment, sans Senator Casey, behind her, Boomer Clinton was able to defeat the incredible misogynist conspiracy again. Despite having a yap dog from her hubby’s administration and a Fox News hack trying to destroy her not white opponent, the incredible misogyny of American culture was not enough to defeat the dogged underdoggedness of Her Royal Clintoness. Clinton Patsy Ed Rendell did not legitimize the quiet racism of “small town” Pennsylvanians by saying that many of them are not ready to vote for a black person. I mean, c’mon, he’s only the Governor! After all, the Clintons are not race baiters, as far as I know.

Now it’s on to North Carolina and Indiana. Hopefully, the fact of Clinton’s vagina will not be enough to undermine her in Indiana despite having the support of Senator Bayh, the governor, and the entire state Democratic machinery. Keep on defeating that phallacracy you multi-millionaire president’s wife underdog with the mini-celebrity daughter! I never thought it would happen in my lifetime, but oh my god it is true! The Democratic Party is finally being wrested away from the iron grip of Senators Leahy and Rockefeller. If only my grandfather had lived to see this moment! I’m gonna’ cry!

Problem

McCain 254 Obama 269; ties 15 — Obama wins in House of Reps.
McCain 239 Clinton 289; Clinton wins outright
–April 23, 2008

If those polls are correct and their methodology is sound it’s either an argument for Clinton to get out because she’s hurting Obama. . . or, that the Superdelegates need to support her.

I’m not sure which it argues more for, but I’m pretty sure that the former option is more reflective of reality.

Time to take a bow, Hills.

Prediction: Obama *narrowly* wins PA

Man — have you ever seen such a mess of polling? I think I’ve seen everything from Clinton +16 to Obama +6. I know there were some divergences in other places, but there’s been so much time to measure Pennsylvania, you’d think they would, I don’t know, be better.

I think Obama will pull it out, and I think that’s going to mean the party leadership better get their shit together and end this.

Moore's Endorsement of Obama

“You cast your die when you voted to start this bloody war. When you did that you were like Moses who lost it for a moment and, because of that, was prohibited from entering the Promised Land.

How sad for a country that wanted to see the first woman elected to the White House. That day will come — but it won’t be you. We’ll have to wait for the current Democratic governor of Kansas to run in 2016 (you read it here first!).”

There are a number of things completely whacko about Moore’s statement. Almost everything, in fact, except its essence: that Hillary’s hail mary campaign has only made her look worse, not better, and its past time to get behind Obama.

I reject the notion that voting for Hillary because she would have been the first women president is valid; or that voting for Obama because he’s black is. This is a time in our history where we don’t have that luxury. It’s just luck that it will work out.

As for Kathleen Sibelius, you could have read that here in January, three months ago. In that three months, I’ve become convinced she’s not good enough for the national stage.

Bill Press

“If Benedict is really serious about fixing the Church’s sex scandal problems, he will let priests get married. Then they won’t be so likely to prey on little boys.”

That’s really a ridiculous homopobic contention from a respected Democratic party elder. Pedophiles are drawn to professions where interaction with children is essential. Other professions root those people out through background checks and care.

If the Catholic church really wants to fix its sex scandal it would just do a little more screening. Rooting out gays in favored of “married” priests won’t do that. Heterosexual pedophilia is quite possible, you know.

Polygamy

Back in school, one of my liberal professors shocked me when, after almost a full semester of agreeing with everything she said, came out in favor of government interference with polygamist sects.

We had discussed the wrongful impact of government regulation on reproductive rights, marital relations, gay marriage, miscegenation, and the long-standing gender bias in the law. But when the subject of polygamy came up, she thought the government was right to interfere.

With Passover fast approaching, my thoughts naturally turn to religious persecution. So, with the FLDS in the news again, I thought I’d throw m two cents in.

The first argument is that Polygamy is per se abuse of women. And while there are probably some women who would chose to leave those groups given the right opportunity, there isn’t a large exodus even after raids like this. These women have free will–don’t they? Do we decide for people that they must not have free will because they make bad decisions, or ones that even seem repugnant to us? It wasn’t so long ago that a strong majority opposed gay marriage.

It’s not the choice we protect, it’s ability to make choices that we protect.

Second, the children. It’s always the children, isn’t it? So, the adult women you can say have free will. But what about the brainwashing of the children? What about the alleged sexual abuse of the children? That’s illegal, right?

This is as close to the line as you can get. I would point out that not long ago, the age of consent was 14 some places. Did those 14 year olds suddenly become the victims of sexual abuse the day the legislature changed the law? Does the legislature really dictate these norms?

But this brings up a different question. Are we genuinely going against the child abuse in general, or are we finding child abuse as a tool to oppress polygamy? I suspect it’s the latter. And this bothers me.

Look, if there’s honest to god child abuse going on, stop it. If there are members of the FLDS that are breaking their own rules about young girls, then I don’t feel sorry for them. But, I hate to break it to you, but it’s hardly a unique practice to consider girls who have hit puberty to be women of proper age for child bearing.

I think this is a similar question to circumcision. Is that child abuse? It certainly is an awfully painful procedure (assuming no anesthesia is used) and the medical evidence is mostly equivocal on its benefits. Yet it is probably the most widely practiced aspect of Judaism. In America, most non-Jewish boys are circumcised too. But what if medical practice determined that boys shouldn’t be circumcised until age 18, if at all?

What would happen to the brit milah on the 8th day? Would a bunch of Orthodox rabbis be thrown in jail? In that context, I think we see that as a bit oppressive. That practice is millenia old, and doesn’t appear to have destroyed humanity.

So, as much as I find it abhorrent that young girls are forced to marry older men and bear their children, I have very strong reservations about the use of state power to change that practice.

Media Maelstroms

See? Nobody cared about bittergate or pastorgate. Obama has a big national lead and hasn’t moved in PA.

I think the reality is that people only look at things like that when they haven’t decided. I think most people have decided to throw the bums out, and will vote that way barring a major game changing event. This doesn’t mean Obama can continue to gaffe–it just means that gaffes have to be judged in terms of their empirical effect, not the number of dumb headlines they generate.

Here the data supports the contention that this had no effect.

And, in tribute to the self-centeredness of Americans, I think that if the economy continues to worsen, even capturing bin Laden won’t do much good for McCain. It’s the economy, stupid, when it’s bad. When most voters are doing ok, then there’s time to kill or oppress people. Until then, gimme gimme gimme.

I also don’t think that $4 gas is a priori unreasonable. But the reality is, you can’t go so quickly to that price level without causing major shocks to the economy. Especially in commuter areas, this is bound to be very destructive. The macro effect may be good for the economy and the evnironment long term, but until then, people are going to hurt, and, really, just for oil company profits, since the cost of extraction and exploration is no different than it was in 2004.

Nobody Cares

It might be generating some news headlines, and it may even be cared about in PA, but most people are so tired of this Democratic primary that they aren’t paying attention and even if they were, they wouldn’t care about what Obama said. His poll numbers aren’t going to be affected by that gaffe.

That said, people who are acting outraged that Clinton is taking advantage of it are still missing the point. If Obama is going to be our nominee after only three years in the Senate (after a virtually uncontested election for that seat) he absolutely muse be vetted.

I can get behind Obama now in large part because he weathered the Wright scandal. Having this experience in Pennsylvania will only ensure that he doesn’t do it again in the general.

Apparently the report in the Scottsman that Al Gore and Jimmy Carter were going to step in and end the primary were incorrect. Carter said he wasn’t going to endorse right before he went to talk to Hamas. That’s probably a good thing. But I’m not sure that doesn’t mean that he’s not using his influence to collar Clinton.

I really hope that happens soon, because while I think it is a good thing for Obama to be vetted, I think that people are ready to turn the page. I think all of the excitement in January and February is dying. It might be rekindled by a strong showing of party unity.

And if all of this doesn’t work, I’m moving to Canada. I will not suffer Walnuts.

HRC to GWB: Boycott Olympics

WASHINGTON — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling on President Bush to stay away from the Olympics opening ceremonies in Beijing this summer.

The Democratic presidential candidate cites the recent unrest in Tibet and questions about China’s relationship with Sudan.

The New York senator said Monday, “The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for presidential leadership.” She said Bush should not plan on attending the ceremonies “absent major changes by the Chinese government.”

Her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama, said recently that he was conflicted about whether the U.S. should fully participate.

I hope Obama joins the chorus. The excuses not to boycott range from the irrelevant (“it would hurt the athletes”) to the kind of lame Neo-Liberal door opening crap that was supposed to justify free-trade agreements (“going and putting the spotlight on them will force them to open up”).

The Chinese government—as with most governments—can let the dog bark all day as long as it doesn’t bite. If the show goes on, you can rest assured that we’ll get a very cute picture of China from the games, well managed by the government–as will the tourists who go there. I’m sure Beijing will be some kind of temporary libertarian Potemkin village, but you won’t be able to travel far from it.

That will not help Tibet.

China can retaliate in a number of ways. They can let their currency float, or do some dumb shit with Taiwan. Both of which will expose the US: one for the perilously weak economy we have, and two for our broken military. But everyone knows that anything more serious than that by the Chinese government would endanger their leadership more than it would endanger the US.

But until the US regains some semblance of moral leadership, we are less secure at home. So why don’t we fight the terrorists over there instead of over here?

It's Generation Part II

Welcome to this book of slaves
which I wrote during your exile
you lucky son-of-a-bitch –
while I had to contend
with all the flabby liars
of the Aquarian Age
— Leonard Cohen, “The Aquarian Age” 1972

Against any other candidate this would have been done long ago. Bubba Clinton was an outsider in ’92, but by the time he was secure in the lead he had the party apparatus behind him to help swat away the annoying hovering gnat that was the Jerry Brown candidacy. HRC’s campaign reached Brown-level churlishness right around the “shame on you Barrack Obama” moment last March, but she still had Governor Strickland to finagle her way through Ohio; she still had that older generation of Texas Latinos who voted for Team Clinton out of habit without even giving the new guy a shot.

HRC has earned her establishmentarianism, but to what purpose? The increasing childishness of the Clinton campaign — from their fundraisers’ warnings about withholding money if she loses, to her convenient insistence on seating Mich/Fla which she never mentioned pre-hoc, to the Bosnian sniper fantasy — is the stubborn throes of an establishment maintaining itself. It is stasis for the sake of stasis. Like all flab its only purpose is inertia.

The silliest part of the Clintonian tantrum is the assertion in pentagenarian and sextageneraian feminist corners that the recent call for HRC to drop out by Senators Dodd and Leahy is a phalluscratic conspiracy. The argument of the establishment candidate being undone by the spectre of a gone male establishment doesn’t pass the laugh test, but it does show why generation is the underlying difference in the primary. Elder feminists like Marie Cocco may be reacting to a lifetime of experience, and while sexism remains present most under 50-somethings do not insist on grafting our experiences with it onto the politics of the moment in order to define them.

The flabbergasting irony of Team Clinton’s tired inertia is that the only probable way it can triumph is through insider shenanigans at the Denver Convention. The establishment heirs to the truncheoned romantics of Chicago ’68 will have to become the “pigs” of Denver ’08 — the old guard garroting the practical idealism of a new generation just to maintain their own hegemony.

It’s time for the forty years of our polity reacting to the histrionics of the Boomer experience to end. Either grow up or retire Boomers! That goes triple for you Ms. Clinton.

Iraq on TV

If you listen to Rachel Maddow’s radio program, you know that she starts each show with news from Iraq. I always found that gimmickly liberal. It makes the point that there’s this war going on that was bullshit that no one is paying attention to, in a way, to make a political point.

I’m not accusing Maddow of using the Iraq war for political purposes—not that there’s anything wrong with that—politics is meant to decide big issues like wars—but that the fact that she’s doing it stands out and appears as such.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I visited Canada—which has no skin in the game in Iraq—and the nightly news showed actual footage of the fighting, the explosions, and the coffins on an almost nightly basis.

Is the Canadian news also being political? Maybe, but they are doing so in the guise of informing people. If the truth hurts, if the truth is political, then it’s just too damn bad.

This means that the American media doesn’t think we can handle it. You know what? They’re right. If we had been watching scenes like that since 2003, Bush wouldn’t be in office right now and the troops would be home.

File this under your so-called Liberal media.