Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Ezra Klein looks at Obama Derangement Syndrome:
It isn't so much paranoia about President Obama's policies as it is paranoia about the man himself — that he is, in some fundamental way, different, foreign, untrustworthy, even traitorous. What's odd is that it is attached to a president whose presidency has been, in almost every respect, conventionally liberal.
Obama's presidency is in many ways ordinary, but the feelings it evokes are not. There is something about seeing Obama in the White House that deeply unsettles his critics. Obama Derangement Syndrome rationalizes those feelings.
If it's really true that Obama doesn't love this country, if it's really true that his birth was a conspiracy and his ideology is baroque, foreign, and hateful, then the discomfort some Americans feel when they look at Obama is justified — it's a kind of patriotic spidey-sense. The alternative explanation — the one that looks at why Obama makes some Americans so much more uncomfortable than, say, Joe Biden — requires a much harder conversation.
And commenter Claudius on Brad DeLong's site makes the obvious comparison between criticisms of GW and criticisms of Obama, and why the latter have to be invented:

I think that in a way, this President is unusually scandal free. He really is a rather remarkable individual and politician, and going from Columbia and leaving behind a more traditional role in business and consulting, became an organizer in poor, rough neighborhoods of Chicago, then the Chicago school of law and a civil rights firm. And what he did growing up, he fully confessed in his first book.
For someone coming out of Chicago politics, they have nothing to hang on him.
I don't think the Clintons were guilty of any of the petty scandals created on the right, but there was more fertile ground to till; there actually were associates who went to jail, and an early cabinet member that committed suicide. They still made things up about the Clintons, but didn't have to stretch as far. For Obama, because he is either clean or already confessed his sins, and has such an idyllic family life, they have to make up so much ridiculousness.
I didn't like W, but it was because he wasn't paying attention before 9-11, allowed torture, blundered the US into war in Iraq and then mismanaged the occupation, and otherwise neglected America in service of the rich and corporate interests. He didn't need any strange background - it was enough that he was a poor leader, poorly advised, making poor decisions, and intellectually incurious. I was perfectly comfortable judging him on what he did as president, and without hyperbole. Obama's critics have no such easy ammunition.

Pushing Ahead

Our pretty good president is doing more to help ordinary people.
This of course raises the question of what it is that brokers who serve the middle class — people at mass market brokerages who pick up the phone when you dial the number on your company's 401(k) site — are doing to make money. The answer is that they are earning a living marketing financial products that are profitable to their employer and disguising the marketing as advice.
Obama is proposing to force people who purport to be advising on investment strategy to actually give good advice and reveal conflicts of interest. That the bank lobby claims this will put their advisors out of business is a damning indictment of the way they've been running their industry. More formal studies show the same thing, that investment advisors reenforce their clients' worst instincts, "encourage returns-chasing behavior, and push for actively managed funds that have higher fees, even if the client starts with a well-diversified, low-fee portfolio."
Details of proposed rules here. 

Update:  Ben Walsh weighs in.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

More Press Failure

So the Republicans think that vaccinating children should be an option, not a requirement for living in a modern society.

For example, here's Wisconsin state representative Sean Duffy:
"...I do think we want to make sure we continue to let parents make these decisions for their kids. I think it's a slippery slope when we let the state get so involved with our children."
So presumably he's also against mandatory child seats and seat belts for kids in cars, not to mention mandatory bicycle helmets for young children while bicycling, and mandatory life jackets for young children out on the water in boats?

Needless to say, the feckless interviewer didn't follow up with these obvious examples of the state ensuring protections for children, asking for Mr. Duffy's opinion of those requirements. 

Toilet Training

So Senator Tillis believes that it is government overreach to require that restaurant workers wash their hands after using the toilet.
‘I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,” Tillis said.
"..as long as they post a sign..."  Hmmm.  Would that be a legal requirement?  And if so, wouldn't that be another of those pesky regulations?  And supposing Starbucks wanted to opt out of that rule....

Friday, January 30, 2015

10% or 1%

Gernot Wagner's book Climate Shock is due out this spring.
His argument:
If you had a 10 percent chance of having a fatal car accident, you’d take necessary precautions. If your finances had a 10 percent chance of suffering a severe loss, you’d reevaluate your assets. So if we know the world is warming and there’s a 10 percent chance this might eventually lead to a catastrophe beyond anything we could imagine, why aren’t we doing more about climate change right now? We insure our lives against an uncertain future—why not our planet?
 Well, yes.  Or we could apply Dick Cheney's 1% rule.


A Pew Research Center study on the differences in views of science between the general public and sciences includes this chart:

Opinion Differences Between Public and Scientists
It shows how poorly informed the US public is on scientific matters, as we might expect, but my question is:

Who are the 2% of scientists who do not believe in human evolution?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Teleprompter Dependence

Here is part of Sarah Palin'e incoherent ramble (I can't describe it as "her speech") at the January Iowa "Freedom Summit":
"Things must change for our government. Look at it. It isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed! It's too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo. Another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, ‘Man, the middle-class everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’ That's status quo, and GOP leaders, by the way, y'know the man can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then the man can't ride ya, America won't be taken for a ride, because so much is at stake and we can't afford politicians playing games like nothing more is at stake than, oh, maybe just the next standing of theirs in the next election."
Her explanation for thus incoherence:  her Teleprompter broke down, so she had to improvise.

And these are the people who claim that the eloquent President Obama is totally dependent on his Teleprompter!