Friday, July 29, 2011

Georgia Banks

Back in Georgia, they're still trying to figure out what caused so many of their banks to collapse when the real estate bubble burst. This is an interesting take on the situation. Such mature examinations are far more valuable than the "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" narrative so many right-of-center types have parroted since 2007.

It also may answer some of the questions jerztronics was asking on this blog back in March.

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Cultural Economy

I commented at Cliff's Crib that, if more people truly understood what their tax dollars paid for, our national conversation about government would be completely different.

Instead, the national conversation is awash in complete misconceptions, falsehoods, and made-up theoreticals. One of those is that "the government does not/should not provide funding for the arts." This one has been around for a while, and is a narrative often trotted out as an anecdotal example of pervasive government waste and the largeness of government size. The perception is that government pays artists to create pretty pictures or songs, and that the money never goes anywhere else. People who buy into that narrative seem to think this government money is there simply to subsidize the bohemian lifestyles of liberal, artsy types.

The truth is, arts and culture have tremendous economic impact all over the United States, and any honest discussion of the validity of government funding should take that economic impact into account.

Because if it is worth $400 million to the state of Georgia to land a KIA assembly plant, it may be worth it to the state to fund the arts and culture as well. It all depends on the return on investment per government dollar spent, and the taxpayers deserve to hear the truth about the economic impact of their tax dollars. Unfortunately, all they're getting right now are narratives and platitudes, as return on investment isn't a part of the "Big Government Waste" conversation we so often hear.

(HT: Jeffrey)

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don



Here's hoping Don stays a rainy tropical storm and helps ease a little Texas drought.


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Amateur

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tom Echols needs to step up his game if he wants to join former Alaska governor Sarah Palin & former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin's Chocolate Moose Party.


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Convicting the Victim

(HT: Alli)

At least there was enough intelligence from the bench to allow a retrial in this case: a mother convicted of vehicular homicide because someone else ran down and killed her 4 year old with their car.

People looking at this case will say "but, Pat, she was jaywalking with her 4 year old." I guess that's the conclusion you'd reach if you only read the AJC, the Wall Street Journal, or watched CNN. There's more to this story, and yes, city planning is just as culpable if not moreso.

This is what people are talking about when they say roads are not safe for pedestrians.

She was jaywalking. Correct. And, Lord knows, I ain't no fan of jaywalking moms with kids on busy roads. But I "jaywalked" every time I went to a friend's house growing up on St. Simons Island, because their house was on the other side of the road from the bike path. I grew up in a small town, but people still got hit crossing Frederica Road, to be sure. Two lanes are easier to cross than 5, after all, but when resurfacing came through Island City, they installed a half dozen new pedestrian crossings. Why would they do that? Why would a place like Glynn County consider pedestrian crossings important enough to spend money on them?

The answer is simple: St. Simons prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle safety as part of its design as a tourist destination. Cobb County prioritizes cars to move people quickly from one exurb to the next. Such decisions have real world, sometimes life-and-death consequences.

She was jaywalking because she was traveling by foot in a car dominated area.

That's because her bus stop lets her out on the other side of Austell Road from her apartment complex, where the closest crosswalk is 3/10ths of a mile away. That's more than half a mile round trip, on foot, with three kids carrying full shopping bags, at night, after already waiting an hour for the bus. Not everybody owns a car. Not everybody can park that car in a garage or a driveway and watch the kids pile out into the house.

Half a mile in the dark with kids next to a busy highway or cross five lanes (75 feet?) of highway? What's your choice, tired mother of three? There aren't any good ones available.

And that's before you add in the driver, allegedly inebriated because in a car-centric world, the bars are located in "commercially zoned" areas and linked to "residential areas" by roads with no pedestrian or bicycle infrastructure.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Religion of Peace

Where does cultural justification of violence meet historical revisionism? Well, this week those forces met in Norway, and the noise machine kicked into gear.

There are two views of the world. In one view, one accepts that human beings are capable of horrible things as well as wonderful things, while using their individual beliefs to justify extreme behavior on either side and all those in between. In the other view, human beings are capable of horrible things as well as wonderful things, but what marks the difference depends on how much they agree with your own beliefs.

Take the latter too far, and Andrew Sullivan explains what you get:

Both Islamism and Christianism, to my mind, do not spring from real religious faith; they spring from neurosis caused by lack of faith. They are the choices of those who are panicked by the complexity and choices of modernity into a fanatical embrace of a simplistic parody of religion in order to attack what they see as their cultural and social enemies. They are not about genuine faith; they are about the instrumentality of faith as a political bludgeon.


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Friday, July 22, 2011

Rolling the Dice

Some right-of-center folks are making a big deal out of Democratic affiliated businessman Steve Wynn, a casino and resort developer, complaining about Obama's affect on the economy.

This is big for the right-of-center crowd, because it feeds the Democrats-are-anti-business narrative with the gasoline of they even do it to their own business leaders!

Taking a reasonable step back, I'll repeat here what I said in the comments at Peach Pundit.

I think Presidents can have much more than a negligible impact on the American economy. I also think that the President’s imact (sic) is only one part of a massive, chaotic whole, dictated directly and indirectly by situation, state policies, municipal and local policies, technology, past policies at all levels, culture, the spending habits of the American people, the spending habits of small business, the spending habits of big business, and the lending practices of banks. I think the expectation that an American President can control or impact all of that to the point where they “own” the economy is nothing short of unhelpful oversimplification.

Because if the economy is getting worse, how is it that so many investors and entreprenuers are opening up (or trying to open up) shop in New Orleans, maybe the most anti-free enterprise municipality in North America? Why is it I can’t get a seat at Southern Soul BBQ, Sal’s Neighborhood Pizzeria, or Crabdaddy’s on St. Simons Island because the lines are out the door? Sanctuary Cove in Camden might have had to close down when the bubble burst, but chose instead to bottom out their prices and offer killer deals; now they’re probably the best golf value in Coastal Georgia. Wynn’s political affiliation doesn’t matter one whit – he’s angry because there isn’t a market for what he’s selling where he wants to sell it at the price he wants to sell it for.


Emphasis added.

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A Tale of Two Malls (and a city revitalization effort)

I know Pat has put a few posts up recently on pro-business vs. pro-free-enterprise and this seemed to fit that theme. I blogged a couple of years back on the demise of Forum 303 Mall. In it's place, they built Forum 303 Crossing. It's an industrial park that was part of a public-private deal to revitalize the mall area. The City of Arlington paid to demolish the old mall and made a property tax deal for the new structure. The Dallas Business Journal even gave it an award in 2009. It cost about $23 million to develop with the City of Arlington on the hook for about $7 million of that in demolition costs and property tax cuts.

About 5 miles north on TX-360 is another dying mall: Six Flags Mall. At the time of Forum's demolition, Six Flags Mall had a Dillard's Clearence Center (which moved to Six Flags Mall from Forum 303 the year before Forum closed), Kaplan College, a half-dead food court, a movie theater, and about 40% occupancy on their interior stores. That shot up to about 90% occupancy when Forum closed down but the bulk of those new tenants had already either went elsewhere or closed completely in the two years between Forum's closing and its demolition. But a lot of people were hopeful that the upcoming new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington would revitalize the area including Six Flags Mall. I was highly skeptical about that claim since across TX-360 the Jerrydome was situating itself right next to a Six Flags and the Rangers Stadium. How would it revitalize the area more than attractions that are open much more often during the year?

Yesterday I had some free time in Arlington so I decided check out both properties. My first stop was Six Flags Mall. I don't know if you noticed but the high in the Metroplex has been over 100F for 19 days straight. There was no air conditioning on in the interior of Six Flags Mall. The old Sears wing was roped off. I counted 4 in-line stores remaining. Kaplan College is gone. The food court likely died around that time (except for Italia Express which somehow hangs on). Dillard's is still alive and is air conditioned, but the latest I heard they were planning to move the Clearance Center to Irving Mall. The movie theater is also still alive and well. So at this point Six Flags Mall is a mostly dead carcass. As an added bonus, I looked up the property at the Tarrant County Tax Assessor's website. The current owner hasn't paid the property taxes on the site in about three years when it last changed hands.

Onto Forum 303 Crossing. The first thing I noticed? Kaplan College now has its campus at the Crossing. The next thing I notice? There's not another tenant there. I looked them up and found that the Crossing was sold recently for $16 million. 16 should stick out to you because its the result you get when you subtract 7 from 23.

So for $7 million the City of Arlington demolished an old abandoned property to put in a new shiny mostly-abandoned property whose only tenant dealt a crushing blow to another nearby property when it left. This move resulted in zero new jobs and zero new revenue for Arlington. Would Six Flags Mall have died on its own anyway? Absolutely, but the city certainly sped up the process. Did the Cowboys Stadium revitalize any or Arlginton? Yes. Every strip mall walking distance from the stadium is now at full capacity. There's also a new Wal-Mart near the stadium that is very busy every time I've seen it. But the revitalization didn't reach as far as Six Flags Mall and likely never will.

I'd like to point out that I don't intend this one case to be a condemnation of such public-private partnerships. They can work. And many times they do work. But I do think it's important to point out that there are risks when a government enters into such agreements. And when such arrangements do fail the government is often the partner left holding the bag.

The Gentilly Wal-Mart

For the record, I'm not as much anti-WalMart as I am anti-WalMart increasing sprawl and using government subsidies to do it.

But if WalMart wants to build an in-town store that is already a blighted former strip-mall, they adhere to all existing zoning specifications, the neighborhood is reasonably behind the decision, and they ask for zero government subsidies to do it, you'll hear no complaint from me.

Just like the idea of a WalMart in the French Quarter - if you follow the rules and don't need corporate welfare from the city, feel free to compete in the free-enterprise system.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Iron Throne

I started reading A Game of Thrones based on the online discussions that took place at First Draft during the HBO series' first season. I'll be picking up the second book this week.

Like most good science fiction and fantasy, George R. R. Martin's books go beyond the story on the pages and serve as allegories to our world. Like the best science fiction and fantasty writing, it does this in ways both subtle and sublime, and avoids the hokiness of smacking the reader over the head with some sort of message.

So it isn't a surprise to me that Foreign Policy magazine took a look at the series through the lens of international relations, or that Wired breaks down military strategy.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pro-Free Enterprise

Ask and ye shall recieve. In response to a comment I made last week on WalMart subsidies, Owen Courreges at Uptown Messenger examines the difference between being "pro-business" and being "pro-free enterprise."

Pro-business being another term I associate with "business friendliness," the turn of phrase preferred by so very many Southern Chambers of Commerce as they pick the pockets of some businesses to put cash in the pockets of their more invested interests.

As a Southern Liberal, I can justify subsidies and tax breaks and infrastructure investments that stand to augment all businesses in a place. The Tennessee Valley Authority made a lot of people rich while taking a lot of other people's land. It also provided power for millions. The Port of New Orleans and the Port of Savannah allow any businesses to ship their goods by sea. Farm subsidies can be gamed to make millions for agribusiness, but they've also helped stabilize food prices. There are trade offs, and the people must be vigilant and informed of where their tax dollars are going, who is using them, and who stands to benefit the most.

That's because the free enterprise system requires rules and a just playing field in order for the true market competition to work. On the other hand, using tax revenues generated by some businesses to support their competition is when the government - and their well-connected interests - violate the free market to choose the winners and the losers in unfair competition. That may be "pro-(specific)-businesses" or "business friendly," in name, but it is more akin to feudalism in practice.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Death Penalty Incentives

Another death penalty case where a conviction was overturned because the prosecutors weren't forthcoming with the defense. And rightly so.

But that prosecutor doesn't need to worry. It isn't like the guy who erroneously spent 10 years on death row can sue for his lost time.

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Admitting Failure

If you asked New Orleans homeowners to agree to a $200 - $250 a year increase in their property taxes, and put it to a referendum, it would likely fail. Charge the same homeowners that money to pay for a "security district" of NOPD officers, and they pony up.

I'm not worried about the arrest and incident quotas brought up in the article, no matter how problematic they may be.

What concerns me is the idea that certain areas feel the need to pay extra because they accept that normal police coverage isn't enough in this city. To me, that sets a dangerous precedent. My problem is with the entire concept, and I don't care if this is how they do it wherever else.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Subsidizing the Arts

Author Kevin Kane recently advocated Louisiana cut subsidies for 'the arts' in the Pelican State.

If there is evidence that government support has been integral to any of these great traditions, Martin does not offer it.


Lamar quickly takes him to task:

Mardi Gras? I hate to break it to you, but it’s publicly-subsidized.


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Profiles in Courage

Let's talk about the successful charter school experiment in New Orleans. I like how the article pops on a Friday afternoon to depress the readership as much as possible.

Don't ever believe the hype. If you allow charters to be run badly, they will have the exact same problems you find in regular schools that are run badly. The only answer is to actually make sure whatever schools your local tax dollars are paying for are run by professionals.

And you damn sure can't put the blame for this on the teachers. If it weren't for some of these courageous ladies (some of whom I know) damning the torpedoes and blowing the whistle, this craziness might never have been exposed.

Bravo, ladies.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

The War of When?

Jonathan Rauch at The Dish starts a discussion about who really won the war of 1812. Several emailed comments seem confused. I guess the answer to "who won" depends on who you ask, and everyone's got a claim to fame.

Down in New Orleans, there damn sure ain't no questions.

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Peach Sticker Shock

Because the Almighty cares what sticker you put on your car's license plate. Doesn't have anything better to do, really.

< / eyeroll >

This is more news about Christians falling all over themselves to prove how Christian they are to other Christians, and make those of us who don't follow their particular narrow worldview of evangelical exhibitionism know that we are doomed to the Fiery Pit.

Of course some of them are going to be agitated that they'll have to render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's by paying a $1 fee for the "In God We Trust" sticker. Customization always costs, though some of these folks would have you believe that not printing IGWT on ALL THE PLATES is somewhere in the arena of Christians getting thrown to the lions. There goes the government again, persecuting Christianists by not requiring every single car owner to agree with them.

There is, of course, little outcry that no non-religious sticker option yet exists. Because, you know, a lot of folks have bigger concerns in their lives. The end result? The Georgia DOT got the plate designs it wanted.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Development & Density?

No thanks. By failing to approve a new mixed use, high density urban development, the "preservationists" would rather keep Canal Street's "historical character" of boarded up buildings, shut down hotels, shoe shops, and faux-voodoo tourist kitsch.

That's a shame for a streetscape that should be one of the bustling, dynamic, walkable commerical avenues of the Southeastern United States.

Wide streets can be fronted by tall buildings, that's one of the way urban design is supposed to work. I find the complaints of this building's height to be baseless. There are plenty of other buildings on that streetscape of that height, and they work because they front Canal.

Historical character? The building design does look "modern" in the aspect that it appears to use state of the art building design and materials. While this may not fit perfectly with the rest of the street towards the river, it isn't like this is some concrete-block monstrosity or post-modern experiment going in on that street.

As for the building it is replacing, it is a ramshackle low rise with a boarded up first floor covered in graffiti and posters. There is a need here to balance historical character with needed economic expansion. You'll be more able to preserve the historical character of other buildings and this part of the city as a whole if it is part of a working, dynamic downtown economy.

In other words, the Saenger Theatre, the Lowe's Theatre, and the Broadway South concept for that intersection isn't going to work if the theatres have no economic support nearby. If the University Medical Center ever does get built, people who work there could live in this building and walk to work, increasing the value of properties between this location going up Canal Street - an area that desperately needs commerical dollars.

And the folks making these decisions need to look up the definition of "leverage." They have some leverage in that a location like this on Canal Street should be quite valuable. But that knowledge needs to temptered with the reality that a location like this on Canal Street currently isn't as valuable as it could be, because of a lack of developers willing to take a risk of locating there.

Because, while the location has the potential to be very valuable based on the proximity of planned theatres and hospitals, those planned theatres and hospitals aren't yet done deals. Going ahead with developments of this nature assist the critical mass required for those projects to be successful. Otherwise, you'll end up stuck with the street the way it is now.

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Rationing

OH NOES! TEH DEATH PANELIZMS BE RATIONING MAH HEALTH CARES!!!

It sure doesn't take long to manufacture a dog-whistle, does it? Of course, Representative Gingrey phrases it like this:

Well, here are the facts: the only proposal to reform Medicare that President Obama has advanced is to employ a bureaucratic panel to ration health care. These 15 unelected individuals comprise a board called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which was first created in Obamacare. It’s empowered to make decisions about critical coverage and payment policies regarding Medicare — without having to answer to the American people.


Wow, those are pretty words. The long form of "TEH DEATH PANELIZMS!" And yet,

These distracting gimmicks have allowed Democrats to avoid discussing the dangers of IPAB and unfairly rendered many Americans ill-informed.


Which brings me to another point regarding political communication. When Democrats, progressives, and liberals lose elections because they don't think they have to convince people to agree with them, their answer is "The American People are Stupid" or "Why Do People Vote Against Their Own Interests" or "WHHAAA! Politics is Hard!!"

On the other hands, the GOP blames Americans' status as "ill-informed" due to "distracting gimmicks" from the Democrats.

Guess who wins more credibility just through phrasing? (HINT: Who controls the US House of Representatives?)

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Literal Dark Ages

I'm sure any government restrictions on asbestos and lead paint will be forthcoming after reading this.

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Caylee's Law?

Get ready for the cable-news-personality-driven push to enact "Caylee's Law" all over the country. They're entertaining one in the State of Georgia, and the usually diverse commentary at Peach Pundit presented a nearly united front against.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Race to the Bottom?

MOAR SOUTHERNERZ BE TAKING URR JOABS!!!

Georgia gets ready to make a bid for the North American Audi manufacturing plant. While this might be exciting that more manufacturing is taking place in the Deep South, I despise the fact that the main discussion centers around which states will offer the most robust subsidies for these industries. According to the article, Georgia offered Kia $400M in breaks, and Tennessee offered Volkswagen $500M.

Yes, I realize that these are subsidies that include tax exemptions for taxes that wouldn't exist if the plant was built somewhere else. Hell, as a Southern Liberal, I'm all about using strategic subsidies to encourage development where appropriate. It just chaps me that people may not realize just how much of the store the state gives away to land these developments, and I definitely want the dialouge to be more honest.

People need to know, after all, how much the state is making off such a robust investment. People also need to know how this sort of thing plays with the "small government" narrative. Such expenditures are often labeled as "pork" or "bailouts" when a less politically-savvy political party makes deals of this kind.

Of course, I am glad to be proven completely correct about the root cause for the Seattle vs. South Carolina Boeing dust-up. It is all about the subsidies, baby.

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Negotiating Mr. Hand Style

So Obama is telling Cantor not to call his bluff, Obama lost his cool, Cantor is a big fat baby, and Mr. Hand wants to know why Jeff Spicoli shamelessly wastes his time in class. What do they all have in common?

"I don't know."

I have no idea if any of the above 3 non-Fast-Times-related items even happened. Why? Because the American people are not allowed to see and hear what's happening in negotiations that will seriously impact America's financial future. There's no national security risk here. These negotiations (like all such government negotiation) should be a matter of public record. The only reason to hide behind closed doors for this sort of thing is because those politicians don't want the general public to know what's being considered. I personally hope our information age eventually hits its full stride and that it leaves our politicians unable to hide. In the meantime, we're stuck with this he-said-she-said crap.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Legit Verdict

To be clear, I'm of a rationally firm opinion that if someone attacks you with deadly force, you are well within your rights to defend yourself with a firearm.

However, if an attacker has already been shot, and they are unconcious and bleeding on the floor, coming back to stand over them and shoot them 5 more times is little better than cold-blooded execution. It passes the realm of "self-defense" and into the realm of "murder" when the attacker is no longer a threat due to lying prone and bleeding on the floor.

I don't know all the evidence presented in this case, but that's a verdict that appears to have a basis in reality.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Too Big for a Nation

And too small for an insane asylum. I like Governor Brown's response to the proposal to create the state of South California: if you don't like it, there's always Arizona.

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Speaking of Shame, Shame...

Just like Christmas in July, President Obama is firing up the Great Social Security Fearmongering Machine a wee bit early. It is a thing of beauty during elections. It's one of the most powerful pieces of rhetoric the Democratic Party has: Evil Republicans will take your Social Security away! Run! Run to the polls! Vote Democrat!

It looks like at least Mitch McConnell is planning to cave. I'm not sure why Obama waited so long for this tactic. All he had to do was whip out the SS Boogeyman and Republicans will run for the hills. If for some reason McConnell is on his own and other Republicans don't go along with him, the next step will be to point out how many minorities will not get their Social Security checks and how the evil racist Republicans are taking away Social Security because they hate minorities.

Personally, I think the next step for the Republican Party is to stand up to this bullying. Obama has raised the stakes. Raise them back. Let August 2 go and for every damn penny our federal government spends, point out that the money could've gone to Social Security checks instead. Obama cares more about X than he does about senior citizens. This especially works if the US continues to service their debt: Obama care more about Communist China than he does about you! Run! Run to the polls! Vote Republican!

Shame, Shame

Doug Gillett is at SB Nation Atlanta, doing his part to make the college football offseason roll by a little quicker by trying to find out which of the many rivals could count as the Georgia Bulldogs' biggest.

Last week, he asked which rival is the most fun to beat. One guess as to which team got the most votes.

This week, he's asking which rival brings the most shame in a loss. I know that I'm in a minority. Our Atlanta-centric fan-base will answer this question resoundingly with "Georgia Tech."

Look, I completely understand that answer. But for me, that team is Auburn.

When it comes to the Bees, I understand they're going to catch the Dawgs every once in a great while. They'll just be up for the game, the Dawgs won't and the story will write itself in a close loss. The braying of their more obnoxious fans is more comical than anything else, and I feel no shame listening to them prance about the internets because they've won one football game this decade.

Auburn, on the other hand, is a more evenly matched foe for the Dawgs. Their fans have tasted the sweet nectar of championships, no matter how they were acheived. When they beat Georgia, they just kind of pat Dawg fans on the back and act as if their victory was always assured, has been in the past, and always will be.

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The "Message"

At what point do you start disregarding facts entirely and start arguing about made up stuff? The farcical national conversation about the Stimulus could be "Exhibit A."

For what it is worth, the Stimulus was a disaster - a political disaster, especially for Democrats and Keynesians. Facing a looming economic catastrophe as our nation's people collectively maxed out their personal debt financed by banks who were maxing out theirs, the government had to spend money it didn't have to avoid getting us into a depression. That money combined with the vaporization of several trillion dollars in Monopoly-money wealth our nation didn't actually have to create some pretty gnarly budget deficits and government debt.

But, instead of hammering home each stimulus need individually (we need $200 billion for infrastructure - who doesn't like planes, trains, and automobiles?; we need $100 billion for schools - who doesn't think children should read?; we need $2 billion for alternative energy sources - who doesn't want cheap, renewable energy? etc.) the brainiacs in charge decided to completely ignore political reality, lump everything together and not talk about it.

Opponents were suddenly free to parade the words "omnibus" and "stimulus" around while waving the total price tag aloft, declaring we were getting this money from "our children." They found endless anecdotes and examples of "pork." Some were real, some were made up, and some were actually valuable government programs that monitor things like floods. It didn't matter what it was, there was so much in the bill it forced most Americans to rely on the lazy media to tell them. We all know how that turns out.

Now, a media-savvy Democratic Congress could have owned the news cycles and won political victories for two straight years just passing parts of the whole. They probably could have got more money for the big stuff, too. All those folks who later argued "the stimulus didn't work because it wasn't big enough," political problems in their own right, simply didn't understand how to gain political support to justify those additional expenditures.

But, noooo, Nancy Pelosi had a chance to destroy the GOP opposition on a host of issues the majority of Americans already agreed with her about and decided instead to do it in a way that actually turned Americans against the program, the party, and drove them into the waiting arms of a "Tea Party" ready to capitalize off the cultural and economic panic being felt across the country. GOP governors across the land decried the bill while taking the cash, and never paid a political price for it. Why would they? They were counting millions while the "Stimulus Ins't Big Enough" crowd took to the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times and got busy telling Americans the stimulus didn't work and that they needed more money.

That moment of decision, when the Democrats decided they didn't need to convince the American voters to agree with them, was when they lost the national argument over how to do something about the economic collapse. That was the moment they decided they would never get another chance to use Keynesian theories to save this economy, and that they'd never get a political chance to recover until the GOP allowed them to have one. That was the moment they assumed blame for the "stimulus didn't work" narrative, and they are still paying for it today.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Know Your Rights

I make a habit out of watching the show COPS, and counting all the things that are done wrong by (sometimes) the police and (most of the time) by the suspects. I really have always found it amazing how many people will let the police search their car during a traffic stop because they asked to.

Darnell Dockett of the Arizona Cardinals, however, refuses to be played in such a way. (HT: EDSBS)

I remember the first time I refused a search during a traffic stop, even the officer was like "Really? Wow. Well, you're within your rights to refuse."

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Systems Failure

Patrick Appel at the Daily Dish ponders how little protections are afforded at-risk populations.

Looking at the story as is, this seems like a case of many patholgies that are crushing our society these days under weight of our own making.

The race and economic status of the guy thrown in jail. The bank incompetently refusing to honor its own check, and its inability to verify that check's accuracy in house. The inability of a criminal justice system to work swiftly while the parking police can sweep down and impound a car in a matter of hours. The litigation for the damage this has done to one man's life is dragging along. For want of a nail...


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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

"An Odd Protest Movement"

David Brooks at the NYT wonders if the Republicans are normal. In discussing negotiations over raising the debt limit, he praises the political victories won by the GOP, but worries they will throw all that away at the altar of the Tax-Cut religion.

[We] can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.


I still think the GOP is behaving in this way to more strongly negotiate with Democrats who have proven time and again that they will give away the store in order to avoid Republican political marketing in the next election (that they will face anyway). The GOP has no reason to believe that the Democrats will draw a line in the sand and start making them pay the political price for their own policies because they haven't done so since the Kennedy administration. What evidence do the Republicans have that now will be different?

HT: Andrew Sullivan, and Patrick Appel.

But here's the problem: even if the GOP does take this nation to default, they will not pay a political price for it. They own the national narrative, and can (and will) lay it all at the feet of the Democrats. They control the redistricting process, and have built themselves safe seats under any circumstamances. Past political organization decisions on the part of the GOP (focus on suburbs, exurbs and rural areas) and Democrats (abandon suburbs, exurbs and rural areas) mean the Dems have no political infrastructure in a majority of Congressional districts. The Dems simply have no political answer to make to GOP mandated default. None.

And that gives this "odd protest movement" more leverage than they know what to do with.

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Revisionism Kills

Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast explains one right-wing tactic that's importance always seems to escape the progressives, liberals and Democrats: the revisionism complete and utter re-engineering of common American History.

The standard, non-crazy history we’ve all been taught is being contested every day by Beck and others. Next time you’re on a long-ish drive, flip over to the AM dial and listen to any of the several Christian news-talk stations you’ll find. You will see what I mean. And I’m not talking about arguably controversial liberal assertions about history—Thomas Scopes was a great man, say, or Charles Beard was dead-on about the Constitution. I’m talking about stuff in the grade-school textbooks. The Civil War was caused largely by slavery? Lib propaganda, all of it.


Why is acceptance of a common history important? I'll use the example of the libertarian fantasies surrounding the Civil Rights Act.

It isn't just the left that gets snowed by this sort of thing. When Rand Paul got into a mess about the Civil Rights Act, a lot of older conservatives I spoke to (like my Dad) thought he was a kook who would never win that election. There was simply a refusal on their part to believe me when I told them that, far from losing that election, by getting involved in that "controversey" he had ensured his evenutal win. When the media got involved and talked about those views for a few days, they must have been shocked to find out how uncontroversial many viewers found Paul's position. They kept trying to play Maddow's gotcha moment into something beyond the left wing internets. They failed. They failed badly. And they've never seemed to understand why.

Now Paul's father Ron has been able to discuss his position about the law at length with hardly a notice, and every time this issue is brought up it is discussed in terms of government intrusion into business.

In the larger context, a fair number of voters start to question whether government intervention was necessary at all in the decisions of private business owners, based on the incredible historical inaccuracy that private businesses would have integrated peacefully without being coerced by government intrusion or the howling mad historical "theory" that private businesses would have integrated peacefully if governments hadn't specifically required them to discriminate.

Make no mistake, this demonstrates a stunning, jaw-dropping ignorance of historical racial, legal, cultural, and economic conditions that dominated this country from British colonization to around the Reagan administration. We still find pockets of that cancerous economic discrimination, and we are damn sure dealing with the economic, cultural, and social legacy of that discrimination.

Part of it is the understandable forward movement of history - the further you get away from a thing, the less present it is in the national conciousness. Part of it is the shame and rationalization of the mainstream population that benefited from the old status quo; everyone wants to fondly remember the "good ole days" when life was simpler and safer and more stable. But you cannot underestimate the effect blatant historical reengineering has on the national conciousness when combined with those preceeding two factors.

Of course, folks on the left tend to recieve the wrong signals from this type of thing and try to hang the "racist" tag around the necks of anyone who would challenge the CRA. That's because folks on the left accept history as a given, tend to think everyone else does as well, and think they don't need to reiterate why the CRA was needed in the first place because of that. Doing so concedes the historical argument to CRA opponents, allowing the popular narrative to completely dismiss the devastating effect of American racial, economic, cultural, legal conditions in the United States, especially post-Reconstruction.

A lot of folks on the left don't get that these people aren't making racial arguments. Instead, they are undermining the history and calling into question the need to discuss racial issues at all. When the liberals take the bait and go after them on race, they walk right into the "crying-racism" punch because the audience isn't primed to discuss race on those terms. That such factors as racial economics could be eliminated from a conversation about the Civil Rights Act is a mere demonstration of how effective it is to challenge common American history, and cut it off at the knees. Remove or confuse the context, and your policy opponents simply cannot contribute. This, of course, fulfills a completely seperate right-wing narrative that liberals are constantly "playing the race card."

The sports analogy to this would be that CRA defenders on the left constantly show up to play a ice hockey game in soccer uniforms and cleats. Then they spend the game wondering why it is so cold in here; why they are unable to move around the field of play or score goals by kicking the puck; and why the referees won't card their opponents for checking them into the walls.

When the right turns to historical reeingineering, the left needs to get into that game. In many cases, the left already won those arguments, and the right is simply inviting them to revisit those victories. When it comes to the CRA, and "libertarians" start utopianizing their fantastic "government coercion of business" theory of racial economics, here's what liberals need to do:

1. Government was coercive, but it wasn't business on the recieving end. Cue up film of Birminham 1963 when Bull Connor turned loose the dogs and fire hoses on black children. Follow that with film and radio from White Citizen's Councils, the "business" and "white collar" wing of the KKK.

2. Government was only following the will of the voting majority. Cue up the film of those segregationist governors leading their people in rallies. Follow that with images of the white race riots that burned over the South in the 1960's.

3. Show how businesses reacted to the thought of integration. White's Only. Colored entrances. Sharecropping. Businesses closing once Jim Crow laws failed.

4. Show how necessary federal government intervention was to tear down Jim Crow. Little Rock. Ole Miss. Alabama. Truman's decisions. Eisenhower's decisions. LBJ's decisions. Kennedy's speeches.

All that needs to be done is to dust off some old footage and replay the old news feeds. Again. And Again. And Again. And Again. Retake history, don't assume people accept it.

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