Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Stages of Recovery from the Bush Presidency

First there is disbelief:

We elected this guy as president? No way!

Then there is denial:

I won't watch him on TV, listen to him on the radio, I won't say his name, and so on (some of us kept this up for years).

Next, anger:

The birth of Shrillblog. Impeach!

Anger is followed by acceptance:

Shrillblog goes quiet.

Acceptance brings hope:

The election can't get here soon enough. Maybe, just maybe, things will change. It looks like the Democrats will win! Yeah!

But hope gives way to fear:

What if the Republicans use their dirty tricks to win again? Oh no, it looks like they might! Shrillblog has a flicker of new life.

Fear is followed by determination:

I won't let them win. I'll donate money, volunteer time, do whatever it takes to make sure the dirty tricks won't work this time.

And finally, resolution:

We did it! We won! It's over!

Or, horror of horrors, back to step one and disbelief:

I can't believe the Republicans won. I just don't understand how that happened. I am so depressed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Poor Man on the John Yoo Situation

Characteristically Restrained:

They write letters « The Poor Man Institute: [It is a] matter of little consequence to the average American: whether Prof. Yoo picks up his paycheck from Berkeley or Liberty University, or whatever Home for Temporarily Inconvenienced Wingnuts would happily scoop him up. But probably a matter of consequence to the [Berkeley] administration, who - unless they want to rebrand their university as Liberty West Coast Satellite Campus - might not want their most recognizable faculty member having as his primary field of expertise “concocting legal sophistries to undermine the foundational values of western civilization.” Perhaps also of concern to alumni, who might feel less inclined to cut large checks to their alma mater if their Golden Bears sweatshirts started inviting questions about whether they played home games at Abu Ghraib (football fans can be very cruel).

The student body might have an interest in this matter, as would, I imagine, faculty and staff at other UC campuses, and even the taxpayers of California, who might wonder if they wanted to be so openly associated with a person who scuttled around the dark corners of an administration... asserting, for example, that the President had the right to crush the testicles of children in order to compel or punish their parents. So it could matter to more people than you might think whether Prof. Yoo gets to practice his craft in decent society, or whether he has to join the other crackpots and undesirables in the shadow reality of wingnut academia, where Jesus rides a dinosaur and the Moonies pick up the tab and the vast liberal fascist secularist conspiracy doesn’t give a f--- what utter bullshit you get up to so long as you stay down in your f------ hole. The thing about the Universe is that it likes to align itself harmoniously. I suspect there’s a way of putting things in order here.

Matthew Yglesias Is Shrill!

He writes:

Matthew Yglesias (April 22, 2008) - The Blind Praising the Blind (Media): I continue to wonder what the point is of exercises like having Adam Nagourney or the team of John Harris and Jim Vandehei defend the ABC News debate. What the debate's critics are saying, after all, is that ABC's conduct was the apotheosis of everything that's wrong with MSM campaign coverage. To point out in response that the people most responsible for the MSM campaign coverage status quo thought it was good seems totally non-responsive.

What I'd like to see in defense of ABC would be to identify some likely Democratic Party primary voters in Pennsylvania or some other upcoming state who are now better-informed about the election than they were previously. Until that happens, though, I'm going to stick with James Fallows' observation that ordinary citizens show an extremely low level of interest in this sort of stuff. The fact that the people who've turned political reporting into appalling farce found the somewhat more appalling than usual farce of last week's debate even more delectable than the merely appalling debate work we'd seen earlier from Tim Russert and others is no kind of defense at all.

Felix Salmon's Ben Stein Watch: April 27, 2008

Boy is Felix shrill:

Ben Stein Watch: April 27, 2008 - Finance Blog - Felix Salmon - Market Movers - Stein is maybe a little bit chastened, since he seems to have given up on trying to impart his own ideas in his column. Instead, he gives himself a reading-comprehension test, taking a widely-circulated speech by David Einhorn and trying to boil it down to its most salient points.

Naturally, Stein fails the test.

Einhorn's speech is worth reading, but Stein's self-described "CliffsNotes version of it" isn't. For instance, Einhorn makes the point that since employee compensation is a function of revenues, investment-bank employees are incentivized to maximize those revenues by adding leverage:

The managements of the investment banks did exactly what they were incentivized to do: maximize employee compensation. Investment banks pay out 50% of revenues as compensation. So, more leverage means more revenues, which means more compensation.

Clear and simple, right? Here's the SteinNotes version:

The fellows who run big investment banks have a strong incentive to maximize their assets and leverage themselves into deep trouble because their pay is a function of how much debt they can pile on. If they can use relatively low-interest debt to generate slightly higher returns, the firm earns more revenue and executive pay increases. Often, an astonishing 50 percent of total revenue goes to employee compensation at Wall Street firms.

Longer, more convoluted, and - in the last sentence - utterly missing the point.

There's nothing "astonishing" about the 50% figure, in an industry which relies on human capital. Stein calls himself a lawyer, so he probably knows that the employee-compensation-to-revenue ratio at law firms is closer to 100%. And in any case, the 50% figure is well known to anybody who follows the investment banking industry, and long predates the credit crunch. That Stein is astonished by it only goes to show how ill-qualified he is to write about this stuff.

Stein also has no idea what "capital" is in the banking industry. Banks 'can hold some scary "assets",' he says, making sure to put the word "assets" in scare quotes just to reinforce just how scary it is. He then continues:

What do they hold as capital against such risks? You would think it would be cash or Treasury bonds, wouldn't you? But no...

The S.E.C. -- acting as one of Wall Street's chief regulators, mind you -- also allowed such things as "hybrid capital instruments" (much riskier than cash or Treasuries), subordinated debt (ditto) and even deferred return of taxes, to be counted as capital.

Once again, Stein has managed to mangle one of Einhorn's points. Here's Einhorn's clear English:

Only tangible equity, not subordinated debt should count as capital.

How Stein managed to read that bit about "tangible equity" and decide that it referred to "cash or Treasury bonds" is beyond me. Stein is clearly too dim to realise that cash and Treasuries are assets, which means that they can hardly be used as capital to hold against assets. The point about cash and Treasuries, of course, is entirely Stein's, it's never made by Einhorn.

But Stein isn't really trying to channel Einhorn, he's just using Einhorn as an excuse to bash the same old drum all over again. This is 100% Stein, for instance, and appears nowhere in Einhorn's speech:

Henry M. Paulson Jr., the Treasury secretary, is calling for merging the S.E.C. with the easygoing Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in the financial equivalent of setting off a Doomsday Device.

A Doomsday Device? It would be great if Stein could tone down his language just a tiny bit, because while merging the SEC with the CFTC may or may not be a good idea, I don't think anybody (except perhaps for Stein) considers it to be tantamount to the End of the World. But then again, as the NYT itself pointed out, Stein is something of a master when it comes to such cheap rhetorical devices:

Blithely ignoring the vital distinction between social and scientific Darwinism, the film links evolution theory to fascism (as well as abortion, euthanasia and eugenics), shamelessly invoking the Holocaust with black-and-white film of Nazi gas chambers and mass graves.

No doubt Stein would do the same to Hank Paulson if he were allowed to incorporate B-roll into his columns. Let's just be thankful the NYT's multimedia push hasn't gone that far.

Paul Krugman Tells Us to Go Read Joe Klein from 2005

Here's Klein. The occasion is that he recycled the title of his column. The Democrats, you see, are always shrinking:

The Incredible Shrinking Democrats: There was a cheap metaphor to be had in the remarkable moment when Safia al-Souhail, who had just voted in the Iraqi elections, and Janet Norwood, whose U.S. Marine son was killed in Iraq, embraced during the President's State of the Union speech last week.... [N]othing should detract from the emotional truth of the moment, the magnitude of Norwood's loss, the exhilaration of al-Souhail's ballot. Yes, disentanglement will be difficult. And, yes, we shouldn't "overhype" the election, as John Kerry clumsily suggested. But this is not a moment for caveats. It is a moment for solemn appreciation of the Iraqi achievement--however it may turn out--and for hope.

The Democrats are having trouble with graciousness these days....

This was a symptom of a larger disease: most Democrats seemed as reluctant as Kerry to express the slightest hint of optimism about the [Iraqi] elections. Congressional leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi diminished themselves....

Reid's claim that George W. Bush would reduce Social Security benefits 40% was hogwash. The President has merely stated the obvious, that reductions will be necessary. Reid also made the absurd comparison between Bush's very conservative investment-account proposal and Las Vegas gaming tables. Finally, there was the boorish and possibly unprecedented hooting of the President....

The day after the President's speech, the party's congressional leaders gathered at the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial to carp. How 70 years ago! "Progressive" Dems—-and I use the term advisedly, since liberals seem more interested in preserving the past than in discovering the future—-are right to admire Roosevelt. But the Roosevelt they worship is a bronze sculpture, frozen in time. The real F.D.R. was a gutsy innovator. The current Democrats resemble nothing so much as the Republicans during the 25 years after Roosevelt's death-—negative, defensive, intellectually feeble, a permanent minority... undifferentiated opposition [to Bush] is obtuse and most likely counterproductive. The Democrats' current crudeness is a function of their desperation, and the imminent ratification of Howard Dean, the least charming presidential candidate in recent memory, as their party chairman only serves to punctuate the problem.

All of which leaves Bush with a lot of room to lead. His speech last week was striking... with the exceptions of his empty call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage--a congressional nonstarter, but a sop to religious conservatives--and his continued refusal to support federal funding for new stem-cell-research lines.... There is... a profitable discussion to be had between "ownership" Republicans and "third-way" Democrats about transforming the stagnant bureaucracies of the Industrial Age... the stunned and churlish Democrats are refusing...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Justin Logan Is Shrill!

It's the Weekly Standard:

Cato-at-liberty » More Strategic Brilliance from Our Friends at the Weekly Standard: Here’s Michael Goldfarb:

As to whether Bush is a recruiting tool for terrorists–who cares? Al Qaeda was recruiting before Bush was in office and they will continue to do so after he’s gone. The important thing is that we keep killing those recruits. Eventually, one side will give up.

Do they edit this stuff before putting it up? By this logic, why don’t we airdrop a bunch of copies of Penthouse Letters into the Kabaa? After all, al Qaeda will continue recruiting whether we do it or not. Or maybe we could declare war on all of Islam. After all, al Qaeda was recruiting before we declared it. Or maybe we could send Senator McCain’s “moral compass and spiritual guide” onto al Hurra to tell Muslims that “America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.” After all, it’s not like al Qaeda’s not recruiting today.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Robert Waldmann's Shrillness Threatens to Destroy the Universe

Robert Waldmann is shrill: Manages to reach a new Low.

In the post below, I note the outrageous bias against Clinton and for McCain displayed on where the abstract of an article admits that McCain was the first to propose the egregious gas tax holiday, but the link under "most viewed articles" is labled "Clinton Gas-Tax Proposal Criticized."

It appears that the blatant contradiction between the article, which notes that McCain started it, and the link, which is written according to the rule that the words "McCain" and "Criticized" must not appear in the same seentence, has been noticed.

Thus the unmentionable fact has been removed from the abstract of the article which appears on It has been edited to

Plan to Halt Gas Tax Criticized

Proposal supported by Clinton, McCain would offer little savings at the pump, economists say.

When I noted the earlier outrage, I didn't imagine that could do any worse. I certainly didn't guess that they would soon show even more outrageous bias in editing inconvenient but undeniable facts out from the same article.

update: Almost goes without saying that, by now (21:56 Rome time) all references to the fact that McCain has some connection with the proposal for a gasoline tax holliday has been removed from the front page of Now we have just

Most Viewed Articles

* Trial Nearing, Alleged Call Girl Found Dead
* Clinton Gas-Tax Proposal Criticized


More Headlines
# Clinton Gas-Tax Proposal Criticized

The deceased alleged call girl is not Deborah Jeane Palfrey also featured on the page. That's two deaths in the great war on prostitution reported in one day.

Washington totally in the tank for McCain

The Story as it appears on

Economists Criticize Proposal to Halt Gas Tax

Plan first offered by Sen. John McCain, supported by Sen. Hillary Clinton, would spike demand, offer little savings at the pump, many economists say.

Alec MacGillis and Steven Mufson

But that's not all. It also appears under

"Most Viewed Articles"

With (as always) a slightly different headline and (as usual) the gross extreme blatant explicit shameful pro McCain bias is obvious and undeniable

the new headline written by someone whose name should not be hidden from the public is

" * Clinton Gas-Tax Proposal Criticized"

There it is, all on the web page (which I have, of course, saved).

On the very same web page the proposal is correctly described as "first offered by Sen. John McCain" and as "Clinton Gas-Tsx Proposal".

Maybe should just officially declare that they have decided that any facts which are embarrassing to John McCain are not to be reported.

Screen Shot with my higlighting in pale pale yellow


update: The Editorial suggests that the editorial board of the dead tree Washington Post is as in the tank as the nameless web page technician. They denounce the "Gas Tax Gotcha" writing "Alas, that hope was not warranted in the case of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has followed Republican John McCain in recommending a suspension of the federal gas tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day."

Odd phrasing. Ink and some shred of credibility would have been saved if they had written "Alas, that hope was not warranted in the cases of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain" but they chose not to. Why is the grammatical position of Clinton and McCain so different ? More importantly, why did the Washington Post editorial board wait until Clinton joined McCain in demagoguery to denounce it ?

There is no doubt in my mind that the explanations are that the Washington Post Editorial board is unwilling to denounce McCain without also denouncing a Democrat.

However, I may be influenced by the gross monstrous bias demonstrated by which is a separate organization (with the same owners). is my browser home page. I was a huge fan of the Washington Post starting, I blush to say, when I saw the film All The President's Men (at the time I followed Watergate on TV and in Newsweek (hey I was only 13 when Nixon resigned)). I read the full page advertizement for themselves "All the Presidents Men. If you liked the film, you'll love the Newspaper" with joy appreciated their just pride. I bristled when people said the New York Times was a better newspaper.

I am sure that there is something the Washington Post could do to regain my trust. I can't imagine what it is, but it must be possible.