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Got passed this link to Michael Lewis’s article on the housing collapse in Ireland. It’s good. Very good, in fact. What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that political correctness is increasingly becoming common when criticizing the financial and business classes, as this paragraph makes clear:
This time Kelly sent his piece to a newspaper with a far bigger circulation, the Irish Independent. The Independent’s editor wrote back to say he found the article offensive and wouldn’t publish it. Kelly next turned to The Sunday Business Post, but the editor there just sat on the piece. The journalists were following the bankers’ lead and conflating a positive outlook on real-estate prices with a love of country and a commitment to Team Ireland. (“They’d all use this same phrase, ‘You’re either for us or against us,’ ” says a prominent bank analyst in Dublin.) Kelly finally went back to The Irish Times, which ran his article in September 2007.
I can’t believe anyone would use Bush’s immortal phrase without irony ever again, but it looks like these bastards (and their American equivalents) were even bigger shitheaded failures than Dubya.
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Piling on to Lev’s post about Republicans and their obsession with hyperinflation and the gold standard, Tom Levenson spots a fun new bit of GOP currency kabuki in South Carolina:
Via TPM we learn that a legislator in the Palmetto State seeks to create a new South Carolina currency, just in case the US dollar blows up. It seems that, as the proposed legislation puts it, “many widely recognized experts predict the inevitable destruction of the Federal Reserve System’s currency through hyperinflation in the foreseeable future.” Those would be the experts who read this chart, no doubt.* Facing this inevitable disaster, isn’t it just simple prudence to plan ahead?  State Senator Lee Bright** (R.-Klanbucks) thinks so.  His bill seeks to set up a joint committee of the state legislature to study the issue and make recommendations by November, 2011.
What could go wrong?  Oh, maybe this:
That’s really what this is about, of course. Secession in salami slices, while retaining just enough connection to the loyal states of the Union to continue receiving their wingnut welfare from the rest of us.  (As of 2005, South Carolina received $1.35 in federal spending for every degenerate Federal Reserve dollar it sends north to the enemy capital.) And you know what?  I think that this should really happen.  Go for it, Palmetto (gold) Bugs!  Set up a currency—with this proviso.  Greenbacks cease to be legal tender.  You’d be on your own, scrabbling for the shiny bits as best you could.  No federal subsidies for you, neither.
“Secession in salami slices” = brilliant.

Mexican Gold

Let's see what the wingnuts do with this!

In case any of you were under the impression that Paul Ryan is anything but a nutty kook, DougJ finds him backing the gold standard. He asks the question of when all the currency craziness on the right started, but that’s a fairly easy question so far as I can tell: it began with Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential bid, which featured these very positions. Before him, the only murmurs I ever heard about this stuff were from very fringe right-wingers. But within three years, it’s suddenly a mainstream Republican position! We’ve gone from the tax-based Keynesianism of Bush to something even more radical than Friedmanite monetarism, to something that could literally be called Hoovernomics! What a crazy world.

I think the problem with gold standard nostalgia is that, like people’s deceptive longings for “smaller government” while opposing almost nothing the government does (aside from foreign aid, a piddling expenditure in the grand spirit of things), it’s a cultural complaint wrapped up in a political argument. We’ve all seen a million polls showing that the public believes firmly in slashing spending, but when asked about specific cuts, nobody wants to cut anything. But the notion of “smaller government, like it was back before all this mess happened” will have a certain appeal to people who want to turn back the clock on society anyway. When you get down to it, very few people want to get rid of Medicare or the FDA. But there are a fair amount of people (let’s just call them the Republican base) who are very comfortable with the idea of going back to the social mores of, say the early 1900s. So, you have a scenario where a lot of people argue vociferously for smaller government when they’re really just unhappy with the directions modernity has taken. Or so goes the theory, anyway, but it does happen to fit the facts. The gold standard stuff is trickier to easily diagnose, but I suspect it’s growth has been driven on the right over the past few years by a deep mistrust of the financial system and how debt has been commodified and sold, as well as a sense that lavish spending by the government is going to lead to hyperinflation, and from there to Weimar Republic, and Hitler, of course! You can see it in the grilling Republicans gave Ben Bernanke on inflation the other day. Inflation is so low it’s hardly worth even worrying about, but Republicans are worried about it. They have their Glenn Beck-driven theories floating around in their heads! If only we could have some guarantee that our money won’t be worthless. Alas. That theory most definitely does not fit the facts, indeed, it’s a silly and hysterical one propagated by professional shriekers. But I can see how the notion of “backing up our currency” could take hold if you share the Beckian assumptions about things.

So, therefore, the Gold Standard is making a comeback. I don’t expect it to be long-lived, since it’s basically a populist, truthy reaction to the Wall Street collapse and the crummy economy. As an economic idea, it’s pure garbage. Paul Krugman has often written about how it constrained economic recovery efforts until Franklin Roosevelt finally ditched it (though remnants of it hung on until Nixon’s presidency). But if you should happen to be a proponent of this dubious theory, if you think a Gold Standard would somehow keep the economy running more smoothly, I would think the list of terrible panics and often nonexistent economic growth during the “sound money” era would at least make you wonder if it’s the silver bullet you’ve been promised. Also, this is a bit off the topic, I’ve often wondered why the business community doesn’t push harder for internationalist, Keynesian political candidates. I mean, the Chamber shilled for the stimulus package, but they also ran ads for Rand Paul, who is against regulation, but unless you consider that and taxes to be the only determinants of a good business environment it’s a poor choice. Isn’t it in business’s interest to have people with sensible policies on this stuff? They used to play this role–they were behind giving Eisenhower the Republican nomination over isolationist/”sound money” type Robert Taft–but I guess it’s yet another data point to show you that these days, businesses really don’t care about anything other than tax cuts and less regulations.

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I know that Gherald is a Ron Paul fan, and I admit that he seems like a well-intentioned and decent guy in many respects. But this is maybe the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard a political figure utter:
“Look, we are not doing such a good job being government these days,” Paul explained. “We make promises and we don’t know about the future.” “Would you consider opting out of the whole system under one condition?” Paul then asked, introducing his plan. “You pay 10% of your income, but you take care of yourself. Don’t asked the government for anything.”
Leaving aside the cryptic argument of the first two sentences–that make absolutely no sense whatsoever in the combination they’re in–this is just fucking nuts. What, does taking the deal mean you forfeit the ability to use sewage systems? Does that mean the police can’t help you when you’re getting mugged? What about national defense? I mean, maybe that’s what the 10% is for (though there’s not much ambiguity when he says the whole system), but this is so very, very stupid. It’s libertarianism taken to the N-th degree, and it’s insane. (No joke: I’m seriously wondering if the guy is starting to lose his marbles. These remarks read like someone about to have a stroke.) So, naturally, the response was that “the crowd of libertarian youth packing the CPAC hall for his speech went wild.” At this level, libertarianism goes from being a logical (if extreme, in my opinion) way of viewing the world to being something you have to turn off your brain to get into. Not unlike a Star Wars prequel (and I promise I’ll stop using that comparison). Sheesh.
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So, he gives indication that he’s planning to resign, then he makes a speech where he says he’s not going to resign, but is going to make some minor concessions? Did he actually think that would result in anything other than the protesters getting even angrier at him? I think there are basically two ways of looking at this:
  1. He was going to resign, but changed his mind and then realized he had to say something at his big press conference.
  2. He’s panicked, and trying to do whatever he can so that he can stay in office (why that’s such a good idea to him, I don’t know, since his term ends in a few months anyway).
The fact that so many people (including the CIA) thought he was going to resign lends credence to the first option, while the actual gesture of holding a news conference and some of his remarks seem to support the second one. I’m split on which one I believe. Really, though, this was a terrible idea all around. The protesters have had quite a bit of success: they’ve managed to get Mubarak not to run for another term, and they’ve gotten a few constitutional reforms from him now as well. What’s more, they’ve called Mubarak’s bluff at every occasion, he hasn’t used troops and the threats of crackdowns have not been met in any appreciable way. He’s afraid of them, they sense it. The more he gives up, and the longer his threats go unfulfilled, the more power it gives the protesters. Frankly, Mubarak would be wise to realize that unless he wants the last few months of his tenure to be more of this–with such crummy unemployment, what else have Egyptians got to do?–and if he’s unwilling or unable to act on his threats, it’s time to go. Giving up power is always tough for the dictators, usually because they convince themselves that the country literally couldn’t survive without them, but that’s usually not the case.
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I know that one of my running themes on the blog since time immemorial is how painfully stupid most of our fellow Americans prove themselves to be on a daily basis.

Well, this new set of poll numbers pretty much takes the cake and shuts the file on the open case of “How stupid are we?”:

How aggressively stupid is America when it comes to our debates over taxes, budgets and the size of government?

That’s been difficult to answer with any precision, beyond simply citing the Tea Partier who famously told his congressman to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” But now we have some hard numbers to tell us how deep this ignorance really goes.

According to new data crunched by Cornell University’s Suzanne Mettler, large numbers of Americans who receive benefits from government social programs nonetheless tell pollsters they “have not used a government social program.” And when I mean large, I mean large. For example, a majority of those who have received federally subsidized student loans, 44 percent of Social Security beneficiaries [ed. !!!!!] and 40 percent of G.I. bill recipients say they have not used a government social program.

These numbers go a long way to explaining why the economic debate in our country is so insane. Indeed, at a moment when taxes have hit a historic low, most politicians — from presidents to governors to state legislators — insist we must further cut taxes and shrink allegedly “Big Government.” And they are finding a receptive audience in the general public because, as the numbers show, so many Americans wrongly believe they don’t receive direct financial benefits from government.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We get the government we deserve. And by Jeebus, we sure do deserve the government we’ve got.

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I want to like Conor Friedersdorf, I really do. But after he starts a post with this, I really don’t know what to think:

One of the most thoughtful right-leaning talk radio hosts is Dennis Prager

Really, Conor? I must disagree. Prager is easily one of the stupidest, most poorly-informed and least creative talk show hosts imaginable. Granted, the article Friedersdorf cites isn’t bad, but dear Lord, this is such an ignorant whopper I feel I have to lay down some justice.

Here’s Prager’s thoughtfulness in effect (link):

If you love liberty, you must target the left and put its totalitarian tendencies in your cross hairs. We must shoot down political correctness and wage a crusade for truth and liberty. All those ladies and gentlemen who cherish personal and societal freedom must fight like great Indian chiefs, braving secondhand smoke if need be, in affirming a masculinity that has been under relentless attack. And yes, we must even endure the taunts of our foes and, at the appropriate time of the year, wish fellow Americans a “Merry Christmas.”

Then, and only then, will we be able to vanquish lies, defeat the foes of liberty, and once again be able to proudly sing a national anthem that affirms that “the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

If we don’t, that line in “The Star-Spangled Banner” will go the way of “Merry Christmas.”

Just so that you don’t accuse me of cherry-picking something he wrote years ago, he posted this last week. Violent rhetoric post-Arizona? Not cool, man (though the Christmas references make me think he might have written this in December, to be fair). Keep in mind, I didn’t even have to go looking for this. It finds me (or, more accurately, it finds my significant other Elizabeth and she sends it to me). But, still: LAST WEEK!

See, I don’t get how Friedersdorf could possibly think that Rush Limbaugh is awful while praising Dennis Prager. Limbaugh is preferable to Prager by a mile in my opinion, by making points (loathsome as they often are) and being entertaining sometimes. Here’s something else to savor by Prager (this was around the time that health care passed, I believe) and you tell me what you think:

I write the words “civil war” with an ache in my heart. But we are in one.

Thank God this civil war is non-violent. But the fact is that the left and the rest of the country share almost no values. The American value system and the leftist value system are irreconcilable. If the left wins, America’s values lose. If American values prevail, the left loses.

After Sunday’s vote, for the first time in American history, one could no longer confidently believe that the American system will prevail. And if we don’t fight for it, we don’t deserve it.

It saps energy just read it, doesn’t it? It’s just uninspired, tired rhetoric of the sort that nearly anyone on the right throws around. Could be Coulter or Hannity just as easily. Not what I would consider thoughtful stuff. But this is about as thoughtful as he gets, and I’m not sure it’s an improvement (here’s a link):

Finally, and most important, by voting for Democratic Party candidates, you are voting for a type of government more like the ones most Latinos fled.

Yeah, Obama’s just like Pinochet! Oh, wait, Pinochet’s economic program in Chile is indistinguishable from what Republicans advocate for! Never mind.

I’m not even sure what to make of this:

Take black Americans, for example. It makes perfect sense that a black American who is essentially happy is going to be less attracted to the left. Anyone who has interacted with black conservatives rarely encounters an angry, unhappy person.


Because the liberal view on race is that America is a racist society. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, a black American must abandon liberalism in order to be a happy individual. It is very hard, if not impossible, to be a happy person while believing that society is out to hurt you. So, the unhappy black will gravitate to liberalism, and liberalism will in turn make him unhappier by reinforcing his view that he is a victim.

I guess this is part of this “Why Obama is angry” bullshit that Dinesh D’Souza is pushing. But the black conservatives I’m aware of tend to be angry yellers like Allen West and Herman Cain, so I guess I don’t agree here.

And, if you’re really a glutton for punishment, go ahead and read though some of his large, patronizing op-eds for TownHall. Most of his writing takes the form of long lists of long, leading, weaselly questions addressed toward liberals that only really allow for his particular answer, like this (I swear, this is supposed to be one question):

Given how much you [lefties] rightly hate torture, why did you oppose the removal of Saddam Hussein, whose prisons engaged in far more hideous tortures, on thousands of times more people, than America did — all of whom, moreover, were individuals and families who either did nothing or simply opposed tyranny? One assumes, furthermore, that all those Iraqi innocents Saddam had put into shredding machines or whose tongues were cut out and other hideous tortures would have begged to be waterboarded.

This isn’t a question, it’s a damn soliloquy! Warblogging makes a comeback! And much of his “deep thinking” is really meant to emotionalize and shut down debate, not to get it going, which is exactly you see here. If you’re a torture opponent, as I am, how do you even respond to this? (I made an attempt at the time here.) The premises are so idiotic that it’s hard even to know where to start from. Keep in mind this was written in 2009. As in, after the years of deaths fighting for what will wind up a vaguely theocratic strongman state. Tens of thousands of dead civilians, U.S. troops and God only knows how many victims of ethnic and religious cleansing, and Prager has the nerve to act as though it’s an argument for torture! By this point, I can’t even tell the bullshit from the lies.

Before I stop (and believe me, I really have to), let me just point out a factual inaccuracy in his recent column about how the left libels the right:

For example, most Americans want to retain the man-woman definition of marriage. Even most voters in liberal Californians [sic] want to. The left has not been able to convince even Californians to redefine marriage to include members of the same sex. So what the left did was to declare as “haters” all those who wanted California to retain the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Proposition 8 became “Prop. Hate.”

This is Prager in a nutshell to me. You see, I worked for the No On 8 campaign, so I can speak to this. I can say authoritatively that we were told never to use the word “hate” in the same sentence as Prop 8, or ever. All the literature I handed out did not have “hate” in it. Perhaps he’s referring to “the left” as people holding signs by the side of the road, and I did see one or two signs saying to “Stop the hate” by voting No on 8, but if that counts, then the Tea Party should be considered racist because a couple of their people had signs that said “nigger” on them. God, he’s stupid. It’s not like a quick search on the Internet Archive wouldn’t let you see what the No On 8 page looked like in 2008.

Oh, I can go on and on. Ultimately, if you want to hear a pompous ass spouting off about the “myth of heterosexual AIDS” and gender role claptrap that would make Dr. Laura say to ease off, then Prager’s your huckleberry. Other than that, stay away!

Man, that was exhausting. Oh, and if you liked that “bullshit from the lies” crack, it’s not mine:


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