7/30/10

Don't worry- Matlock will explain everything

Just in case seniors aren't purposely dissembling about the death panels, the government has made a commercial with Andy Griffith to tell them to, basically, go on a website to learn more about changes to Medicare thanks to ACA. Sometimes life is just a parody of The Simpsons.

Death Panels!

According to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll, 36% of seniors think that the Affordable Care Act "allows a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare." I've been trying to decide what I think about this number and I've come to the conclusion that there's no way one in three seniors think that death panels actually exist. Rather, there's a substantial number of seniors willing to be partisan participants in the promotion of the death panel myth. The thinking goes as follows- "well, I know that there's no such thing as death panels, but I hate Obama, so I'm going to say that there are because that's what my team- Fox, Rush, elected Republican officials- want me to think, so I'll go along and propagate the talking point." I'm not really sure if this kind of very conscious post-modern style thinking is actually so widespread, but I sort of think it is. Don't we all fudge our answers based on what we think others might want to hear, even if we know it's not the truth?
It's either believe seniors are willingly manipulating polls or believing that they're gullible, low-information paranoids and I just don't have the stomach to think the latter.

If Sue Lowden Ran TARP...

Sue Lowden suggested that people barter chickens for healthcare. Like in olden days (or whatever). Matt DeBord hypothesizes about GM repaying the government by giving away Chevy Volts:
I'm surprised I haven't seen someone on the right float this idea yet. General Motors will initially build about 10,000 Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicles. The government will provide up to a $7,500 tax credit for each Volt bought or leased. But GM also borrowed $50 billion for the U.S. Treasury to get through bailout and bankruptcy in 2009. At a sticker price of $41,000, GM could "donate" all 10,000 Volts to taxpayers (through some kind of lottery) and return $410 million bucks. Leaving it a mere $49.5 billion in the red to the American people.
Forget the right wing, this idea should be Harry Reid's energy bill!  And why not 100,000 cars? Or a million? Set up a lottery, weight it so that participants with the least fuel efficient cars have slightly better odds and with the condition that the winners have to trade in whatever they currently drive in exchange for the Volt. This lottery will reduce the deficit, take clunkers off the road and be like a tax rebate (in the form of a car) all in one! Senate Democrats, you're welcome.

London's Bike Share Will be Better than DC's

London's bike share will be great. It's because of density and price. For example, 
Following the same formula as most bike-sharing systems, one can subscribe for one day at £1 ($1.55 US), one week at £5 ($7.80 US) or one year at £45 ($70 US). The first 30 minutes are free and then the next 30 minutes of use is £1, and after that the price for keeping the bike escalates very steeply. The cost of the Cycle Hire member “key”, the RFID access card, is £3 ($4.70 US).
That's really cheap. And DC will definitely not be a dollar a day. I'm guessing more like $5. If you're on vacation in London for a week, £8 for unlimited short trips by bike is such a great deal. And, while still only a quarter the size of Paris' Velib, it's going to be huge:
When fitted out, Barclays Cycle Hire will have 6,000 bikes and 400 stations all over central London. Only around 4,800 bikes and 330 stations will available at first
DC, in contrast, will be opening 30 stations in September and proceed the roll out of all of the 114 stations and 100 bikes over the course of the next few months. If Budapest opens a bigger bike share program than ours, I might cry.

Anthony Weiner is Awesome

Yelling at Republicans about procedure and channeling the frustration of all of us.

For-Profit Colleges and Title IV Spending

Matt Yglesias is pretty happy about the Obama administration's new rules for for-profit colleges:
In practice, this is a pretty modest step, but it’s a step down a potentially promising road. Basically the idea is to ensure that for-profit schools now have large incentives to make sure that students who attend them are securing a positive return on their tuition investment. That means that models of effective teaching will tend to spread and models of ineffective teaching will tend to die off. If it works, there’s plenty of room to make these standards tighter and drive the process of innovation further forward. You could imagine this turning out not to work, but the low-end higher education sector is in definite need of more incentive-compatible innovation and this seems like a smart way to get it done.
I'm not sure that this will really spur innovation. I think it'll mostly just shut down a lot of for-profit colleges. As much as I'd like to believe that teaching innovation correlates directly to employment and a positive ROI, I think that this overlooks the fact that in a terrible business cycle lots of people who are taught very well are unemployed, underemployed or vastly underachieving.in terms of income.  

The untenable American Idol judging situation

Some major shake-ups on the judging panel for American Idol. The judges the upcoming season looks like it will be Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson. I'm not sure that this is a good idea- both in terms of judging quality (can Steven Tyler really keep on the wagon when faced with horrific talentless rubes auditioning in Omaha?) and in terms of overall wattage. Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, while "celebrity" "musicians," certain don't have the same star power as J-Lo and Tyler. It reeks of desperation and a bit of misdirection- pay attention to these new judges and not the 75th treacly, miasmatic rendition of "Something to Talk About." Who's next, Henry Winkler?

7/29/10

Summing Up Conservative Budget-Tax Magic

Jonathan Chait sums it up nicely:
Imagine a man who has to lose weight. Either he needs to eat fewer calories or burn more of them. Conservatives are arguing that he should exercise less, because this will force him to eat less food. Foster writes, "Lower taxes are evidently what the American people want, which is especially galling to the tax-increase crowd." And it's true -- Americans want to keep their spending and tax cuts too. Diets that promise to let you spend all day on the sofa and still eat lots of delicious food are also popular.

Obama on the View

A thoughtful piece by Rebecca Traister. She concludes:

All in all, it was not so different from a Sunday Morning news show, except that the diversity of people asking Obama questions was greater, and there was one brief segment of the show in which everyone got really squeal-y and asked him about Justin Bieber, Snooki, Tweeting and Lindsay Lohan, Chelsea's wedding and whether or not Mel Gibson needs anger management classes. It was like they got all the shallow stuff people were worried they were going to linger on out of their systems in one brief, giggling fit.
But that, frankly, is precisely the cocktail of high and low -- of informal discourse and free, varied speech, of explosive unpredictability and capable professionalism -- that makes "The View" a perfectly respectable, perfectly weird and therefore perfectly interesting place to sit down for an hour. Even if you're a sitting president.
I know the president is an important job and his views are quite substantial on important policy issues. But there's nothing wrong with asking the president about tv! Americans need to stop monarchizing our elected leaders and get back to treating them like real people. 

What do Alphonse Mucha and Michael Jackson have in common?

The cause controversies in the Czech culture scene, apparently. In its own way, it makes a lot of sense. Czechs are weird.

7/28/10

Regionalism and the Environment

Sam Brownback supports a renewable energy standard. We always see legislators (even more progressive ones) from fossil fuel producing regions step up to defend local interests in the face of stricter environmental standards. All politics is local, I get that. But, you would expect to see more legislators from the Midwest and Southwest support renewable energy, since it would be much to their constituents' benefits in terms of transfers of wealth and jobs. This kind of regionalism could theoretically break the right vs. left dynamic that tends to plague all political debates and create some more interesting political coalitions. Of course, if legislators don't feel like there's any political pressure on them to take these stances because, let's say, the majority of your constituents are political conservatives and receive most of their news from sources that them feed nonsense lies about climate change, then there's no real impetus to push too hard. If you can get the renewable jobs, that's great. If not, who really cares because Al Gore is such a jerk, haha.

The First LEED Gold Certified Section 8 Housing Project Maybe

And it's in Washington, DC. This story is pretty heartwarming, but it's also pretty clear that there could have been a lot more green retrofitting if there was more cash on hand and things in the building prior to renovation weren't so awful.

Winning and Losing the Great Tax Battle of 2010

Steve Pearlstein says that Obama can't afford to "lose" the political battle over the Bush tax cuts. There are lots of ways that Obama and Democrats could screw it up, but I'm not sure that thinking about victory in these kinds of terms in especially helpful:
That challenge: driving a stake through the heart of the anti-tax monster that has cast a menacing shadow over American politics for the past 30 years. The idea that it is bad to raise any tax on any taxpayer at any time under any circumstances is a pernicious fallacy that is so ingrained in political conversation that it prevents the country from addressing its most pressing problems.
 Defeating 30 years of anti-tax rhetoric sure seems hard. I think it might just be easier for Democrats to do nothing and let all the Bush tax cuts expire. There's a lot of politics that can be played before election day and it involves a lot of brinkmanship. But, after election day, if Democrats lose the House, they could just sit there and do nothing. No patch. No permanent solution. Just do nothing. The tax cuts go away on December 31st and so long as Obama is in the White House there will be no more filching of the public coffers for the benefit of the rich. If there's bipartisan agreement on lowering taxes for those making less than $250,000, then Congress can pass it and Obama can sign it and take credit for it. But there's no good political reason to renew the whole package.

Another Reason for the USA Card

I'm a big proponent of the government getting involved in the transactional credit business. At least the states, if the the federal government feels like it would be too much. I would even say that it's my policy hobby horse. Here's another reason to advocate for transactional credit (which I've called the USA Card because it sounds patriotic and nonthreatening to our way of life)- it's wildly regressive!
Merchant fees and reward programs generate an implicit monetary transfer to credit card users from non-card (or “cash”) users because merchants generally do not set differential prices for card users to recoup the costs of fees and rewards. On average, each cash-using household pays $151 to card-using households and each card-using household receives $1,482 from cash users every year. Because credit card spending and rewards are positively correlated with household income, the payment instrument transfer also induces a regressive transfer from low-income to high-income households in general. On average, and after accounting for rewards paid to households by banks, the lowest-income household ($20,000 or less annually) pays $23 and the highest-income household ($150,000 or more annually) receives $756 every year. We build and calibrate a model of consumer payment choice to compute the effects of merchant fees and card rewards on consumer welfare. Reducing merchant fees and card rewards would likely increase consumer welfare.
Don't get me wrong- I'm not going to switch over to cash for all of my transactions, nor will I abandon my rewards card. The Wall Street Journal makes it sounds like there's some moral fault with card users  by highlighting gems like this:
“The typical consumer is largely unaware of the full ramifications of paying for goods and services by credit card,” and is unaware how the fees merchants pay to offer payment by credit affects the setting of overall prices, the paper said.
But, this is where public option transactional credit (USA Card) would manage to fight this regressive system. Rewards programs (and wealth transfers) would be driven away because wide access to transactional credit keeps the people who pay for my rewards with their fees and interest out of the system in the first place. It would also give merchants much greater leverage to negotiate rates with credit card companies, who would have a much smaller slice of the card market due to the prevalence of the USA card.

7/27/10

SHABOR?

Matt Yglesias hates it when companies hoard money:
Suppose Harley-Davidson increases profitability by laying off workers, then rebates the extra profits to shareholders as dividends thus benefiting them. Well then they’re going to take their money and buy some stuff with it. Maybe Harley-Davidson shareholders want to get their kitchens redone or they want to go visit Miami or whatever. This is the whole reason economic growth works—distributive issues matter, but economic interactions aren’t zero-sum and when some people are getting more prosperous the benefits of that prosperity normally flow around a bit. As an alternative to giving money back to shareholders, a profitable motorcycle firm that doesn’t want to expand its own capacity could always save it in a way that finances some other firm’s investment. Indeed, this is what the financial system is for.
But when you look at the economy as a whole, you see that this circulation of funds into either consumption or business investment isn’t happening. 
That's why I'm proposing SHABOR (modeled on Colorado's TABOR). The Shareholder's Bill of Rights will MANDATE that any funds beyond which the company needs to operate (and a set rainy day fund) must be returned to shareholders in the form of dividends. Quarterly dividends should be paid in cash and couldn't be reinvested in the same company. Does this seem like a massive infringement on the rights of corporate boards to make decisions? Absolutely. But does it get money in the hands of shareholders? I guess.

Ending the Filibuster with the Consitutional Option

Ezra lays it out. They should do it with 51. Don't use it to bargain some phase out or rewrite. Just do it and it'll be over and we can go back to majority rule. Of course, Republicans will start changing Senate rules all over the place once they earn back a majority, but it all works to the same end: eventually replacing gerontocracy with unicameralism! Here's some crazy guy's idea:
End "cheap seats" in US Senate: via internal state secessions:

West Virginia seceded from the rest of the state in 1860, as soon as the US Civil War began -- creating two extra US Senators in the post era war.

Quoth the US Constitution, Article IV, section 3: New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

I would reconstitute the US Senate -- at least for openers; allowing future democratic rethinking -- with one senator for every two million population. California for example would break itself up into nine smaller states for a total US Senate representation of 18. One senator to two million would add up to 160 US Senators overall in my calculations.
A reconstituted US Senate could pass a constitutional amendment instituting a new representation formula (one per two million?) -- then the states could by prearrangement reconstitute themselves into their traditional form.

 He's got a blog, so he probably has important and valid ideas about politics and policy.

Mad Men Inspired Poll Question

It's about lady politicians. No, it's not sexist at all. It's an important issue because of, um, policy, um, and California vis-a-vis Vidal Sassoon.

Homeless and Voteless

Andrew Romanoff sold his house and gave the proceeds to his campaign. I don't know if this is an attempt to curry-favor with voters or maybe he just doesn't want to live in the house any more, but it looks like he made a  $170,000 profit from it. Now all he has to do is ask all of his supporters to sell their homes and give him their profits (Matthew 19:21 is not meant to be used in primaries!) and then maybe he'll have as much money as Michael Bennet.

Mad Men Ratings

Under 3 million and only a 5% gain from last year's premiere. 
Now, I'm confident through Netflix that more people are exposed to the show and I'm not sure to what extent this counts people who watched on a delayed DVR basis ( I started watching 15 minutes into the show), but this isn't a great gain in viewership. I think that AMC has drawn about as many eyeballs as they're going to and we've reached peak Draper.

It's pronounced Nucular.

Jonathan Chait points out some ironies about "free market" energy and carbon taxes now that solar power seems to be cheaper than nuclear (it's pronounced nucular):
The more free market approach would be to set a price on carbon and let the market decide which clean energy source can do the job more cheaply. That, however, is the ultraliberal position in the debate.
I don't know if having political liberals adopt free-market positions to reach progressive ends has been the "secret plan" of conservatives all along or if Democrats have decided that markets work better than regulation.
It's not a bad deal for Republicans: if you oppose the Democrats, but they still manage to pass a market-based solution, then it proves the market is the most efficient way to solve political problems and more political problems should be solved through free-market means (like segregation!). If you oppose Democrats to the point where they can't pass legislation, then you score political points, whereby you can run against them as ineffective, big government liberals (because so little scrutiny is applied to this pejorative that it doesn't matter what Democrats actually propose).
 

Traffic "Accidents" Kill A Lot of People

But why isn't it a public health priority?

7/26/10

Disaster For Everyone!

Andrew Leonard spells out the worst case scenario with the Bush tax cut debacle:
But the worst case scenario -- a political stalemate that runs through the election and afterwards, with the result that taxes automatically rise on everyone on December 31 -- does not seem all that unlikely.
 So, Republicans can get to say that under "President" Barack Obama (Socialist Muslim implied), the largest tax increase since forever and forever happened and the American people wanted us to stop it (because in this world, they win back the House in November), but "obstructionist" Democrats in a lame-duck session stood in our way. Look forward to these talking points coming to a Sunday morning talk show! Don't look forward to anyone asking why the Republicans didn't agree to letting the tax cuts on the rich expire. That's self-evident.

Filibuster and Process Politics

Ezra Klein doubts that Democrats will get rid of the filibuster if handed an electoral defeat in November even though the idea seems to be gathering momentum.
I'd be lying if I said this seemed likely. Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats in the next election. A "win" would be losing only quite a few seats. A loss would be losing one -- or two -- houses of Congress. Either way, voters are not likely to dramatically reaffirm their desire to be governed by Democrats.
But because the Senate isn't very democratic, only a third of its members are up for reelection, and that blunts the damage that any single election can do. So Democrats are likely to start the next Congress with a majority, even if they lose the election quite badly. With sufficient unity, they could change the rules before work begins again. But it'll be a pretty raw move: Neutering the opposition after the voters favored them at the polls is a bit hard to defend on principle, and it's even harder when the principle in question is that the Senate should be governed democratically.
My question is, if they get rid of the filibuster, who will care? Sure, it'll seem hypocritical and reactionary and a desperate political move. But in 2012, which Republican is running against Obama on "Democrats changed the rules such that 60 votes weren't required to move business forward in the Senate"? Senate rules arcana doesn't make for a sexy tv ad  (unlike this) and voters will judge based on legislative outcomes, not process. Plus, once it's gone, what majority will lobby to put it back into place? It'll make a hubbub in the Beltway and on Fox News and maybe the first time a piece of significant legislation is passed by "running roughshod over the minority," but so long as the Democrats make that legislative sufficiently evil (like school lunches for poor kids or an extension of unemployment benefits) the substance of the bill will draw a lot more ire than the way it's passed. Just pull off the band-aid so we can all move on with our lives.

What if we had a cultural conversation and nobody came?

Mad Men Season 4 premiered last night. No spoilers here. The overnights haven't come out yet, but if the past numbers are any indication, it won't draw many more than 3 million viewers. However, those 3 million viewers are apparently everyone who reads the same websites as me. Mad-mania (portmanteau words featuring tv show titles are awesome...?) seems to drive the cultural conversation and has changed us as a nation. Here's a very earnest Heather Havrilesky on the show's relevance:
Somehow "Mad Men" captures this ultra-mediated, postmodern moment, underscoring the disconnect between the American dream and reality by distilling our deep-seated frustrations as a nation into painfully palpable vignettes.
Mad Men, like Lost and Battlestar Galactica before it, means something to American culture. It means that "affluencers" and their ilk write a lot on the internet about the relationship between "TV and America" and will gladly overlook the fact that Two and Half Men and CSI outdraw niche programming (because really, let's be honest with ourselves, that's all this is) by leaps and bounds. I love all the upper-middlebrow tv that is demographically appropriate, but it's only driving the cultural conversation so far as there is a cultural conversation, which is only amongst people who use words like cultural conversation.

I didn't know that this would become a tax blog

Martin Wolf says what we all know about Republicans and taxes. The greatest lesson that our professorial president could ever teach during this election cycle is where deficits come from. Here's a little play I wrote.

Setting: The View, This Thursday

Obama: Let me tell you where deficits come from. If tax receipts are lower than spending outlays, the government needs to borrow money to make up the difference. This is a deficit.
Barbara: I understand. So, if I'm concerned about the deficit, I should be concerned about taxes and spending.
Elisabeth: THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!
Joy: I don't want the government to reduce spending. The government pays for old people's socialized medicine and this is important to me, as a taxpayer.
Sherri: Then it seems to me that we should try to increase our tax revenue. Should we do that by lowering tax rates like Mitch McConnell and John Kyl think? Might the economic growth caused from a reduction in taxes actually yield a higher revenue?
Elisabeth: [Insert Right Wing Talking Point and furrowed brow]
Obama: No. It won't. Every Greg Makiw agrees. So, let's review. A deficit is born when spending is bigger than tax revenue. If you don't want to reduce spending (i.e. mostly medicine for old people and wars for young people), you need to raise more money.  I have to go now. My planet needs me.

The End

Until Democrats can explain this simple, simple thing to the American people and get them to understand that deficits are not some amorphous thing due to earmarks and redistribution of wealth to minorities and foreign aid, they will never win in an argument. It's time for the American people to learn than Santa (endless tax cuts, but whatever spending you want) isn't real.

Glenn Beck: Civil Rights Pioneer

In that he's totally reinventing the history of the Civil Rights movement. You'd think that the ability to analogize Civil Rights:Communism is like Black President:Communist would be too alluring to pass up, but he's more interested in turning Martin Luther King into a libertarian and reclaiming him.
I wonder who this is for. It's certainly not for African-Americans, who I don't think are going to become Beckites once they learn the "real" story of Civil Rights. I think that Beck has realized the secular sanctification of King has fully bloomed, so you might as well co-opt it. It allows his (older, white) audience to say things like "I agree with Martin Luther King about Civil Rights and lunch-counters and whatnot, but he would agree with me that the Government is just too involved in people's lives nowadays and, by the way, this mountaintop has too much regulation. He was a Christian minister after all."

Tax Cuts for Everyone! Or not! Or maybe!

It looks like the Democrats might be maybe a little smart when it comes to (the politics of) handling an extension of the Bush tax cuts. In the WSJ,
"The Senate will move first, and it will be a test to see whether Republicans filibuster" to block the bill in a bid to also win tax cuts for higher earners, said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, head of the House Democrats' re-election effort.
"If you can't get it out of the Senate, then you take it to the election," Mr. Van Hollen said in a recent interview. "You say to the American people that Republicans want to continue to hold middle-class tax relief hostage for an extension of tax breaks for [the well-to-do]. That will be the debate."
The idea is to extend the Bush marginal rates for incomes below $250,000, while presumably allowing the marginal rates to reset to Clinton-era levels for those making above. I'll be curious to see what they do with the  (budget-busting) Capital Gains tax rates (I'm not in charge of Democrat messaging, but I'd start calling it the Capital Drain tax- since it drains money from the treasury with no real justification. Income is income, geez.) I'm fairly confident that Republicans will just resort to the old canard that the rich are the ones who create jobs (Ayn Rand-style) and if they have to pay more taxes, unemployment will go even higher and the only way people will find work is by building Ground Zero mosques in every small, real-American town in the country. And they'll get cover from "moderate" Senators like Evan Bayh and Max Baucus, who, for whatever, love that rich people have lower marginal tax rates. But, we'll see.

7/24/10

Why I will now be outsourcing all my Blingees to Stephanie

                        Ellie and Cupcake BFF
Myspace Glitter Graphics


                        Cupcake Princess
Build your own Blingee



               
              

Guest Post on 90s Movies! Cruel Intentions

Hello.  This is Stephanie.  Brian asked me to guest post some movie reviews of the awesome 90s "films" we have been watching.  This is particularly nice since I didn't even know Brian had a blog until about 3 days into the experiment.  Anyway, the movies - I mean films:  Somehow, it dawned on my to use our Netflix subscription to rent some actual movies rather than just television seasons that we usually use it for, and decided that the movies should have a theme.  I picked 90s nostalgia.  First up:  Cruel Intentions.  Despite having an all-star cast (Buffy Prince Jr., Reece Witherspoon, Selma Blair and Daniel from Ugly Betty), I didn't really like it.  Perhaps it was Ryan Phillipe's poor acting skills, perhaps not.  Regardless, it seemed waay dated, and the last 10-15 minutes are HORRIBLE!  He (do I need to spoiler alert a movie this old?) dies from being hit by a car???  And the looks of shock on everyone's faces at the end when (again, spoiler alert?) they all read his journal and find out Buffy keeps coke in her awesomely 90s large cross necklace and has 'cruel intentions' is just laughable.  Nevertheless, without this movie, there could be no Gossip Girl.  Next is Reality Bites, which has always been one of my favorites.  Also, don't you think my Blingee is better than Brian's?

                        Ellie Bark
Myspace Glitter Graphics



              

7/23/10

Daria

Where are the Darias?

Visualizaing the Food System

A map.

Will Jim DeMint rap too?

The Alvin Greene Rap. With all the video of LeBron, I'm guessing that Ohio expats don't play a large part of South Carolina electoral politics.

Another Reason I Blog

Gender and Action Movies

NPR discusses the casting of Angelina Jolie in place of Tom Cruise in Salt. Alyssa Rosenberg contributes and adds more. She writes:
But if someone is a spy motivated by concern for their family, the manager of a general-interest retail store, a tough lawyer working a hard case, or any number of other roles where gender is not the key subject the movie is exploring, then there's no absolute need to cast men and women in certain kinds of roles.
I don't know if this kind of gender-neutralizing casting really means anything. In the case of Salt, you swap out one iconic and box office friendly movie star playing a generic, shallow (and presumably poorly written ) super spy for another. So? I don't think it helps anyone think of gender any differently because ultimately the situation is so comically ludicrous and fantastical that it doesn't matter if the character is male or female.

Sarah and Kate Plus Please Just Shoot Me

Kate Gosselin to meet Sarah Palin in Alaska.

Opportunity Cost of High Unemployment

Matt Yglesias says that we should mobilize real resources, ideally through government expenditure to build useful public goods. It's not just a question of Keynesian stimulus, but a question of maximizing efficiency and output from otherwise idle resources. I think that this kind of argument falls on deaf ears because the political elites in this country are a asset class, rather than a labor class. To them, productivity essentially is seen as the exchange of white-collar business activities for money. Wealth is measured through asset holding and having lots of money tied up in assets is the goal. If the country has lots of money, it's doing well. If it has negative balance sheets, it's doing poorly. There's never a question about what the country is or isn't producing or whether its human capital is being used in a way that produces useful things.

Tax Policy!

Here at Brian McEntee The Blog, our favorite blog posts are all about tax policy (Ok, maybe second-favorite). Here's some trenchant analysis from Howard Gleckman on "Starve the Beast":
  As you can see from the chart, there is absolutely no evidence that tax cuts have constrained spending over the past three decades.  In the early 1980s, taxes fell but spending rose. The same thing happened for much of the decade 2001-2010. In fact, the only consistent decline in spending was during the Clinton Administration, a time when tax revenues were rising, not falling.
...
Starve the beast has received a real-world 30-year test. As economic theory, it deserves a place on the ash heap of history. If Senator Kyl wants to cut spending, he’s not going to get there by cutting taxes. He’s just going to have to, well, cut spending. 

When the country can print its own money and deficit spend as much as it wants and where Congress is judged by pork and not probity, the idea that lowering tax receipts is a recipe for anything other than greater deficits is lunacy. If you want to cut spending, just cut spending. To paraphrase, I'd like to reduce the size of think tanks and elected officials who endorse "Starve the Beast" to where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.

Charles Sherrod, Civil Rights Hero

Turns out that Shirley Sherrod's husband, Charles, was a Civil Rights pioneer.
Sherrod was SNCC's first field secretary, and he co-founded the Albany movement after a student sit-in at the local bus station (to test a recently enacted desegregation law) led to a years-long campaign that ultimately involved Martin Luther King Jr. and the intervention of President John F. Kennedy. He traveled to the historic (and almost all-white) 1964 Democratic National Convention, when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party fought for more black representation. He was jailed several times and stayed with SNCC until 1966, when Stokely Carmichael became chair and whites were expelled, but he'd already become more focused on his work in southwest Georgia than SNCC politics. Sherrod got his doctor of divinity degree from New York's Union Theological Seminary, then returned to Albany to found the Southwest Georgia Independent Voters Project, then the agricultural cooperative New Communities Inc. He served 14 years on the Albany City Council, and he still lives there, known to civil rights movement veterans but obscure to the wider world, until his wife was attacked by the ignorant bullies of the right.
 I'm not sure that this was the "discussion" on race that Fox News was hoping for.

Capital Bikeshare Info and Photos

I will go Bixi riding with anyone who visits DC. Check out pictures of the actual bike and the map of the stations. Keep in mind that the way that the bikeshare works means that we would have to stop every 30 minutes and either swap out bikes or do a quick check-in and check-out, but maybe after a half an hour riding through DC traffic on a rented bike, that would be enough.

7/22/10

I thought the Zoo sent them back to China

A Panda on Metro.

Blog on Facebook

This "blog" was meant to replace posting articles on Facebook, but due to popular demand (ok, one emphatic dissent), I've created a page called Brian McEntee The Blog. You can like it, if you would rather do that than use an RSS reader or check the actual webpage.

My First Fake Trend Story

Spoiler Alert: it's from the New York Times Style Section. It's about online dating tools that have stupid analog components (in this case, a business card with a not-very-provocative-or-witty one-liner on it). Here's how they scam single people:
Users receive calling cards to dole out to alluring strangers they encounter in their everyday lives, be it in a club or in a subway on their morning commute. Recipients of the cards can use the identification code printed on them to log onto Cheekd.com and send a message to their admirer. A pack of 50 cards and a month’s subscription to Cheek’d, where users can receive messages and post information about themselves, is $25. There is no fee for those who receive cards to communicate with an admirer through the site.
So, if you're the kind of person who has the effrontery, er, I mean courage, to approach random strangers that you find attractive but would rather hand them a business card referring them to your online dating profile than actually start a conversation to determine your compatibility, then this works great for you!

Some Necessary Clarification

In "L'affaire Sherrod," the role of the White House has been misunderstood.

Andrew Sullivan is Bullish on Obama

He admires a patience that increasingly frustrates liberals.

White Roofs

A no-brainer. Localities need to get with it and start using zoning codes progressively, instead of stupidly.

The Real Reason I Started Blogging

To post stuff like this.

The Public Option is Back From the Dead

The Public Option is coming back. But will it ever clear the Senate? I think a better policy position for Democrats is a Medicare buy-in starting at age 55. Given the difficulty of older workers finding their way back into jobs and their proclivity to vote (especially in midterms), this seems like a no-brainer. You can even roll some of the expiring Bush tax cuts from those making more than $250,000 into some subsidies for unemployed, older workers. And, once you establish a Medicare buy-in, it seems more likely you can keep bringing down the age and work towards an efficient single-payer system. Since this make so much sense, don't expect it to happen.

John Boehner: The Decision

GOP suffering from LeBron James syndrome

One Percentage Point for Each Minute Lance is Off the Lead

Discounted Cycling Gear

The Roll Out

So, it's been decided. The name of the my blog is a name that, while less witty (and less plagiarized), is one that won't be confused with anyone else's. Except for maybe this guy. There are myriad reasons for this change, but I found this argument against pseudonyms or for name-based blog titles from Ezra Klein fairly compelling:
If I left The Washington Post tomorrow, I couldn't take my archives with me. But then, I wouldn't want to take my archives with me. I don't need everything I've ever written following me around forevermore. What protects me is that if I leave, I still control the Ezra Klein brand, and all of its rights revert back to me. That's not because it's written into my deal. It's because I'm Ezra Klein and my picture is on the banner. It would be really weird for someone not named Ezra Klein to be writing in this space.
That situation is different for a titled blog. If the New York Times bought the rights to FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate might walk and the Times might replace him. But you can't do that when you're dealing with someone's actual name. That's one of the reasons, actually, that I've resisted giving my blog a title. So long as it's under my name, I control it. If it's primarily known by another name, I don't. Lawyers can take a lot of things from you, but as Marlo Stanfield said, your name is your name.. 
 So, that settles it. Lawyers will never take away my picture of Colonel Klink.

Counting Down to a New Name

The editorial staff here at Post and Riposte were shocked (shocked!) to learn of our unwitting plagiarism. So, we're counting down to revealing our new brand identity in anticipation of our big reboot. Guess we'll have to order new merchandise. So here are our top 10 (potential) new names:
10. Huffington Post and Riposte
9. The Pacific Biweekly
8. Ezra Klein's Other, Better Blog
7. Newhart
6. James Bill's Fencing Prospectus and Saber Metrics
5. Jeze-bro
4. LOL Eelz
3. Unsuck DC Electricity
2. Post and Riposte: Tokyo Drift
AND THE WINNER...
To be revealed later in the day (when I think of it)

7/21/10

The One Where I Need to Get a New Blog Name

Because the Atlantic was cleverer and already had such a thing.

Gimme a I! Gimme an X! What does it spell? Not Cheerleading.

Judge: Cheerleading not a college sport - Title IX - Salon.com

The Infrastructuralist View of Bicycling

Tom Vanderbilt lays it out here. It's always been fairly persuasive to me and is winning over more converts. I admire "vehicularists," who ride with traffic and fully stop at stop signs and insist that we pretend that we're all encased in 2,000 pound pieces of "metal" with internal combustion engines, but I think that they make terrible advocates. Riding a bike in traffic is scary. You get used to it eventually, but if the goal is to get people on bikes (especially for short trips), you need to make them feel comfortable. A good experience breeds more good experiences and the best way to create that initial good ride is to have it in a place where you don't have to worry about cars whirring by too close for comfort. So, at least give us a white stripe as one small line of defense and let us decide later on if and when to cross it.

Cynically trying to increase page hits...

I'm a real blogger now.

Trying Something New

Instead of posting news stories to Facebook (for my wide and captive [indeed] audience of 98 friends, most of whom probably couldn't care less), I'm going to post them here. The title is probably the most clever thing likely to come out of this venture. I might occasionally add commentary, but it's doubtful that it will be substantive or more than a few lines. This, more likely than not, will be a temporary dalliance.