links for 2010-02-14
Literature: Best Moment in Gift-Exchange Relationships...

Valentine's Day Triple-Size Special Festival of Human Stupidity: February 14, 2010

Yes, it's the Festival of Recent Human Stupidity:

1) Republican Representative Paul Ryan, as observed by Benjamin Sarlin:

Ryan... voted for the bank bailout, a position considered heretical by most of the right wing, and the auto bailout, an even more reviled bill among Republicans. Ryan said his vote for the bailout was influenced by Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism... and his belief that a second Depression would threaten capitalism--and rescue Obama's presidency.... "TARP... represented a moment where we had no good options and we were about to fall into a deflationary spiral," he said. "I believe Obama would not only have won, but would have been able to sweep through a huge statist agenda very quickly because there would have been no support for the free-market system." He couched his support for the auto bailout in similar terms.... “A lot of these votes are defensive votes," he said. "A lot of them are not votes you want to take but under the circumstances they're the best path forward."

2) Leon Wieseltier, observed by Blake Hounshell:

Wieseltier uses a W.H. Auden quote as a framing device for long, tedious, and link-free article that paints Sullivan as an anti-Semite. Sullivan fires back with a rebuttal of Wieseltier's interpretation of the quote and shows the original email exchange that prompted Andrew to use it. He follows up a while later with a 2008 quote from Wieseltier explicitly saying Sullivan is NOT an anti-Semite.... I'm not impressed by any of it. Wieseltier does catch Sullivan writing some weird and sloppy things about Jews, and Andrew should be much more careful in criticizing Israel. But Wieseltier is equally sloppy and careless with his language, sweepingly accusing Sullivan of "venomous hostility toward Israel and Jews." The whole thing is pretty tiresome, and the fracas as it plays out will do little to enhance the discussion about Israel and the Palestinian question (and just wait until Marty Peretz throws his hat in the ring)...

3) Dan Riehl, as observed by Conor Friedersdorf:

Mr. Riehl titled his post, dated November 18, 2009: “Friedersdorf Digs Sullivan’s Crazy Anti-Semitism.”

Valley of the Shadows has been on this angle. I detest such vile displays. It’s a good thing it isn’t allowed on Talk Radio where they police such things for appropriateness. Why do these young post-menstrual, or whatever they are, faux conservatives support hate speech? Are they anti-Semites at heart? Friedersdorf … hmm, is that a German name? Gosh, I hope that isn’t it.

4) The U.S. Senate, as observed by Chris Dodd: Mike Stark Reports: Dodd: Senate “a dysfunctional institution”; Senators need to start acting like Senators; “were about to abandon the essence of the Senate” at

I asked what he thought of reconciliation and recess appointments. He never answered that question, but he had some pretty strong words for the conduct of certain Senators (that remained unnamed), saying they needed to “start acting like Senators”. But perhaps the most revealing thing Senator Dodd said was that because the Senate is currently dysfunctional, “because we’re frustrated right now over an abusive use of a historic vehicle that led to the essence of what the Senate is, we’re about to abandon the essence of the Senate.” That came after he said, “I’m saddened in a way… the reason the Senate works is because the chemistry of the membership makes it work. That’s why it takes unanimous consent to do almost anything. And the essence of the Senate was basically a longer, slower look at things.”

5) Republicans, observed byJon Chait:

In 1994, when they were killing Bill Clinton's health care plan, Republicans promised over and over they just wanted to do it right. Start fresh and pass a real health care plan without all the bad socialist stuff: "'"We don't have to do it all this year', [Bob Dole] said in the closing address to committee members. 'We don't have to do any of it this year. You know, Congress meets every year. I see a lot of bright spots to (acting) next year.'... 'If they come up with something I can live with, I would support it', said California state party Chairman Tirso del Junco, a surgeon. 'But I do not believe that the plans presently on the table would be approved by the American people. To rush this through is bad news'." Of course, the Clinton plan died, and Republicans proceeded to do absolutely squat for the next fifteen years.

This year, when they're doing everything possible to kill President Obama's health care plan, Republicans again insist they just want to start over fresh, have a chance to enact a real bipartisan plan. Why do they say that?... [I]t's pretty clear that the Republican pretense to really want to do reform, only just not this reform and not right now, is rooted in an understanding that their real position does not reflect public sentiment. There's been an enormous amount of bluster about popular repudiation of the Democratic health care plan. If Republicans truly thought the public shared their beliefs, they wouldn't be talking constantly about starting over and doing it right in a bipartisan fashion.

6) Gerald Alexander and Charles Krauthammer, as observed byMichael Kinsley:

"[I]n the end the bedrock common sense of the American people will prevail," wrote conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer Friday in the Washington Post. He was crowing over Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts and the apparent about-face by Americans generally about President Obama's health care reform. He mocked liberals for believing that "the people are stupid" and accused liberals of having "disdain for the intelligence and emotional maturity of the people."... Gerard Alexander asked, "Why are liberals so condescending?" He said they "insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots," and "the benighted public is either uncomprehending or deliberately misinformed."...

Where is the evidence that liberals are more condescending than conservatives? Krauthammer offers a snippet from a New York Times columnist saying that people are "suspicious of complexity," an unnamed Time Magazine blogger who said we're "a nation of dodos," and a nine-year-old New York Times obituary in which a philosopher is credited with offering a "philosophical justification" for conservative ideas. The condescension, I guess, is in the notion that conservative ideas need a philosophical justification. Alexander's examples of condescension are mostly more like simple disagreement. He says that liberals "disregard the policy demands" of conservatives.

Poor babies. If believing that you are right and that people who disagree with you are wrong amounts to condescension, then we are all condescending.... If you had a friend who was wrecking his future by making bad choices, it would not be "elitist" to tell him so. It would be treating him as an adult--and as an equal. In the end, which is more condescending? To tell citizens that they are behaving like children or like fools, or to praise them for their "bedrock common sense"?

7) Bloomberg News, as observed by Greg Sargent:

One of the day’s big stories is that Obama said in an interview with Bloomberg that he doesn’t “begrudge” the massive bonuses awarded to the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and Chase, pointing out that some professional athletes take home even more. The story has been widely picked up, with critics blasting Obama.... The White House is making a transcript of the interview available to anyone who asks, and the comments seem a bit more nuanced than the headlines suggest... there’s a bit more of an emphasis here than the initial story suggested on his support for specific measures to check the long-term trend of inflated bonuses, and the thrust of his comments seem aimed at combating the perception that such policies are anti-business...

8) The Advocates of the Miles Driven Tax, as observed by Andrew Samwick:

[O]ne of the most ridiculous policy proposals I've read in a while -- to make up for falling gas tax revenues with a new tax on miles driven.  Ashley Halsey III is on the case in The Washington Post yesterday. The appropriate tax instrument to make up for declining or inadequate gas tax revenues is ... a higher gas tax rate.  Compared to a higher gas tax rate, a tax on miles driven ignores the amount of fuel used to drive those miles.  Highway travel is taxed the same as city travel.  Gas guzzlers are taxed the same as hybrids. Neither change makes any sense from an environmental perspective.  Nor is it necessary to raise issues of privacy involved in collecting a tax on miles driven in the ways suggested in the article by monitoring the history of the locations of the car (as opposed to an annual fee based on an odometer reading collected at a state inspection). Many cities are experimenting with congestion taxes, which are based on miles driven at particular times in particular locations.  Those are worthwhile policy measures to relieve congestion and are different from a uniform tax on miles driven. 

9) Republicans who claim that blizzards in Washington DC are reasons to disbelieve in global warming, observed by Matthew Yglesias:

While the normally snow-free Washington, DC area is suffering from crippling blizzards, Olympics planners in Vancouver are concerned about a snow drought: "On Tuesday, organizers gave the news media their first look at Cypress Mountain, the site of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events, with hopes of allaying concerns about a lack of snow and unseasonably warm weather endangering the competitions. But officials kept the snowboarding halfpipe off limits, citing safety concerns. The mountain looked as if it were under military siege, not an Olympic site days from competition."

Of course by the “heads I win, tales you lose” accounting that prevails in the climate change debate, unseasonably snowy weather in the mid-Atlantic counts as evidence that we should allow uncontrolled pollution, whereas unseasonably warm and snow-free weather in British Columbia is just ignored. If you turn your moron filter off, though, you’ll see that unusual weather events all around the world are exactly what you would expect from systemic shifts in the global climate. This also illustrates the point that shifts, as such, can be harmful. Most human settlements are reasonably well-adapted to their existing climate. Farmers have suitable land and suitable crops for their local situation. Boston owns lots of snowplows and Atlanta doesn’t. The Winter Olympics are in Vancouver and not DC. Just swapping weather patterns around is incredibly destructive.

10) The entire management and editorial staff of the Washington Post Company who pay Robert Samuelson, and Robert Samuelson, as observed by James Kwak:

Remind me never to open Newsweek again when I have real work to do. Robert Samuelson tries to play the tough guy yet again in his column, saying that we face either major entitlement cuts or major tax increases and we have to buck up and take it like real men... this was what set me off: “There is no way to close the massive deficits without big cuts in existing government programs or stupendous tax increases.” This leaves out the obvious and best solution: reduce the growth rate of health care costs. Democrats and Republicans differ on how to do it–the former put a large package of cost-cutting measures in the Senate version of the health care reform bill, the latter want to kill the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health care (and some Democrats would be fine with that as well). But everyone knows that the long-term debt problem is a health care problem... and cutting health care cost growth is the key. If we don’t, then we’re completely screwed no matter how much we cut Medicare--someone has to pay those health care costs, and if we cut entitlements we’re just shifting the problem onto individuals....

Samuelson says, “Even with these cuts [proposed by him], future taxes would need to rise. Unless you’re confronting these issues–and Obama isn’t–you’re evading the central budget problems.” Does he not realize that health care reform was the centerpiece (now perhaps failed, but at least he tried) of Obama’s first year in office, and that Obama himself insisted that cost reduction was more important than universal coverage, to the chagrin of his own political base? Oh, wait. Samuelson doesn’t realize that health care is the central budget problem. I’m sorry to belabor the point. You all know it. But apparently Robert Samuelson doesn’t.

11) Fred Hiatt and the entire management and editorial staff of the Washington Post Company, who sought out Gerald Alexander to write a "liberals are condescending" piece, as observed by Jamison Foser:

Well, this is interesting.  Remember that "Why are liberals so condescending" piece by Gerard Alexander the Washington Post published last week?  Turns out, the author didn't submit the piece the the Post -- the Post sought him out:

Bethesda, Md.: I thought that "Why are Liberals So Condescending" was the most intelligent article I've read in the Post in some time. Do you think that this is the result of a decision by your editors to be more fair and balanced? Also, I would appreciate your comments on the "All serious scientists agree that Global Warming is an enormous problem." school of thought. This matter has been positioned in exactly the same condescending manner.

Gerard Alexander: I can only tell you that the Post editor I dealt with searched me out, and were as encouraging as any editor could conceivably be.

I wonder when we'll find out that a Washington Post staffer is actively seeking out a similarly disparaging column about conservatives?  After all, Howard Kurtz keeps telling us how liberal the Post's opinion operation is. Meanwhile, Alexander spent the bulk of today's Washington Post online Q&A acknowledging that some conservatives are plenty condescending to liberals, but claiming that it just isn't very common.  Or something.  Alexander, for example, contends that "conservative magazines, elected officials, etc" don't accuse coastal liberals of being out of touch with heartland values -- and that if they did so, they'd be "run out of town." In reality, of course, such accusations are not limited to conservatives; they are pervasive in the media.  And those making such accusations are not "run out of town," they are given television shows on CNN.

12) Google, observed by Standpipe Bridgeplate:

Google is at, if not beyond, a tipping point of s---. I can't use it reliably to search this blog's archives, which are nothing more than a heap of mostly-static pages. Its contacts system has a clumsy interface and was evidently disastrously unprepared to have privacy semantics forced upon it. All of Google's various web widgets are sprouting cute little buttons that I don't dare click on because I don't know whether the ghost in the machine is going to give me a candy bar or an anal probe. You all down in Mountain View need to step back for a moment and think about what you want to do and how you want to do it.

13) *Google again, observed by Harriet Jacobs, who says: F--- you, Google:

I use my private Gmail account to email my boyfriend and my mother. There’s a BIG drop-off between them and my other “most frequent” contacts. You know who my third most frequent contact is? My abusive ex-husband. Which is why it’s SO EXCITING, Google, that you AUTOMATICALLY allowed all my most frequent contacts access to my Reader, including all the comments I’ve made on Reader items, usually shared with my boyfriend, who I had NO REASON to hide my current location or workplace from, and never did...

14) Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, as observed by Matthew Yglesias: Sleep Deprivation:

What I really wanted to do, though, was pull out the account Massie quotes of Menachim Begin talking about being tortured by the NKVD: "In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep… Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it. I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them. He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them – if they signed – uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days."

This once again drives home the core points that Marc Thiessen is dodging with his absurd nitpicking. The torture techniques implemented by the Bush administration, and beloved by unintelligent and brutal people like Thiessen, are characteristic not of highly effective public security agencies but of brutal totalitarian dystopias. And their main systematic impact has never been the conduct of highly effective investigation, but rather the extraction of coerced confessions regardless of accuracy.

15) Jim Vandehei, Jonathan Martin, and the entire staff of the Politico as observed by Jim Vandehei and Jonathan Martin: Politico: We're part of the Palin problem...:

We know we're part of the problem - and we'll surely continue to run stories about Palin. But, we're looking at your top newspaper editors and network executives, listen to your grumbling political reporters when they try to tell you why going over board on the Hockey Mom beat isn't wise. Palin is no doubt a phenomenon - she's going to draw monster crowds and be an in-demand fundraiser for GOP candidates this fall. And she may overcome her weaknesses to make a run for the White House. But to cover her as the chief alternative to Obama and the presumptive frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2012 borders on dishonest. Yes, she's good copy and yes she's good for business. But that doesn't mean she should be treated like a president-in-waiting.

16) The Pro-Euro Policy Elite, as observed by Paul Krugman:

So, whose fault is all this? Nobody’s, in one sense. In another sense, Europe’s policy elite bears the responsibility: it pushed hard for the single currency, brushing off warnings that exactly this sort of thing might happen (although, as I said, even euroskeptics never imagined it would be this bad).

Am I calling, then, for breakup of the euro? No: the costs of undoing the thing would be immense and hugely disruptive. I think Europe is now stuck with this creation, and needs to move as quickly as possible toward the kind of fiscal and labor market integration that would make it more workable.

But oh, what a mess.

17) The government of Latvia, as observed by Mark Weisbrot and Rebecca Ray:

The Latvian recession, which is now more than two years old, has seen a world-historical drop in GDP of more than 25 percent. The IMF projects another 4 percent drop this year, and predicts that the total loss of output from peak to bottom will reach 30 percent. This would make Latvia’s loss more than that of the U.S. Great Depression downturn of 1929-1933. This paper argues that the depth of the recession and the difficulty of recovery are attributable in large part to the decision to maintain the country’s overvalued fixed exchange rate, because it prevents the government from pursuing the policies necessary to restore economic growth.

18) Donald Luskin, as observed by ">Derek Thompson:

The Wall Street Journal op-ed section has a lot of bad habits, but one of the worst is blaming the White House for every stock market crash. I'm serious. Every. Single. One. And adjusting for typical WSJ nonsense, this is the worst paragraphs I've read in a long time:

From the beginning of this historic rally--up 73% over the 316 days since last March's market bottom--politics has been an important theme. That horrific bottom was reached after Democrats in Congress rammed through a $787 billion stimulus bill so quickly that no senator or representative could have possibly read all 1,073 pages of it. That hastily concocted porkfest should not be credited with turning stocks around. Rather, it should be blamed for the more than 18% loss that stocks suffered in the 24 days from the date of its enactment to the day of the March bottom.

In other words, the stock market crashed because Democrats succeeded in passing the stimulus. But wait. After the Congress rejected the first government bailout in September 2008, the Dow dropped 778 points. That was the single worst market value loss in American history, and it happened after a stimulus plan failed. Guess who the WSJ blamed? Democrats for failing to pass the stimulus!... Here's what I know. In the 300 days after the Recovery Act passed, the market soared a "historic" 73%. Economists from the CBO and Goldman Sachs credited the stimulus with adding up to four percentage points to our third and fourth quarter GDP growth. In the meantime the Federal Reserve spent trillions of dollars buying bad assets as the government set a floor to big bank losses and assured the financial system that it would not allow another major failure, and the administration administered a stress test of banks that clearly helped them to recapitalize. Don Luskin's conclusion? Forget last 12 months, let's focus on blaming the administration for some stock fluctuation last March! Of course, this sets up a couple doozies: (1) if the market grows only when Democrats fail, why did it rally last spring and summer when the Democrats' agenda looked more certain? And (2) how do you explain the recent stock market fall-off that occurred after the Massachusetts upset threw a wrench into the Democrats' plans? Luskin:

It's because the immediate reaction to the Brown election--in both parties--has been a dangerous lurch toward antibusiness populism.

Of course, this is utter silliness. Financial regulation was nearly declared nearly dead last week. Going by the Luskin Theory of Dow Fluctuations, that should have sent stocks soaring. Instead the market hit a three month low yesterday. Explain that one, Luskin. Truly, the WSJ has outdone itself today.

19) *Max Boot, as observed by Matthew Yglesias:

I learned earlier this week that before Max Boot became a national security expert and acquired his current wingnut welfare perch at the Council on Foreign Relations he was involved in other branches of right-wing crankier and even wrote a book called Out of Order: Arrogance, Corrption, and Incompetence on the Bench decrying—wait for it—judicial activism. Searching around in the book you can tell that Boot is a cut above your standard-issue conservative since he has the good sense to recognize that the entire “activism” controversy was spawned not in some rights of the accused case, but rather in the Supreme Court’s decision to rule that school segregation was illegal in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

As he writes, “as with all modern judicial activism, the answer comes back, ineluctably, to Brown v. Board of Education.” Or, since “judicial activism” is a made-up nonsense word, the way I would have put it would have been that “as with all modern complaining about judicial activism, the answer comes back, ineluctably, to the fact that white supremacists didn’t like Brown v. Board of Education.” But of course Boot, being a contemporary conservative rather than a 1950s or 60s conservative, isn’t a white supremacist at all. He even goes so far as to concede that “the result is one we can all applaud.” He’s just more upset by the prospects of courts overturning the demographically expressed will of a herrenvolk democracy that denied its black citizens the right to vote in order to better be able to oppress them with the systematic application of terrorist violence than he is by the apartheid regime itself.

And so we get yet another classic expression of the weird conservative view on racism. They’re not exactly for white racism, and they get very upset if you accuse them of being for it. They’re just against doing anything about it and very concerned that efforts to do something about it are having all manner of dire consequences.

20) Tim Sumner of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, as observed by Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Tim Sumner, who runs the website 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America:

The race card. Who'd of thunk this leftist author would ever play one? Did the thousand-plus 12/5 crowd chant "Lynch Holder" in unison? Where's the video? Did Ta-Nehisis "Tee-hee-hee" Coates ever object when it was suggested President GW Bush be strung up or as his likenesses were hung in effigy hundreds of times during his Presidency? Is it always okay to suggest hanging a white Republican? Wasn't that what they were suggesting, Tee-hee-hee? Or was it is effigy? You being a person of color, obviously makes you the world's foremost expert on peering into a person's heart and mind-reading so you know. Discern for us their intent, please, Tee-hee-hee. I am currently hanging in effigy a printed off picture of you, Tee-hee-hee, over my computer with the words 'Lynch Coates' written on the photo. Discern that.

I did some googling around and found that Tim Sumner, evidently, lost a relative on 9/11. My condolences. I'm not quite sure what my reaction would be, or who I'd become, if I lost a loved one like that. One thing I hope would not happen--whatever my politics, whatever my feelings about torture, whatever my feelings about terrorism--is that I'd be compelled to threaten other people with lynching. When I read Jane Mayer's description of that rally, I was somewhat in disbelief. Had she been another reporter, writing for another magazine, I might have even doubted her account. Turns out she was more right than I knew. I don't know what manner of blindness makes people pillory the race card, and then turn around and threaten a lynching. I don't know what makes them seethe with this kind of hate. I don't know what America they want to keep safe, or strong. It isn't mine. Likely, that's the point.

21) Leon Wieseltier, as observed by Matthew Yglesias:

To pick one thing I thought was particularly egregious:

[Wieseltier:] Leave aside the question of the relation of blogging to writing, of posting to publishing. I wish to emphasize what the love songs omit: the economic and professional consequences of the cheap entropy of the web–its proletarianization of the writer. I wonder if people outside the besieged walls of the profession understand how little is earned with contributions to websites. The sums are scandalous.

Wieseltier works at a print magazine called The New Republic and he knows perfectly well that the researcher-reporters at The New Republic are paid less than entry level bloggers at, say, Think Progress. Indeed, they’re paid so little that The New Republic (a print magazine, I hasten to add) seems to have recently decided to relabel the salary as a “stipend” presumably because if the salary were a salary it would violate minimum wage laws...

22) *Ronald Reagan, as obserbed by Bob Herbert:

It was primarily a symbolic gesture. Way back in 1979, in the midst of an energy crisis, Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. They were used to heat water for some White House staffers. “A generation from now,” said Mr. Carter, “this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people, harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.” Ronald Reagan had the panels taken down. We missed the boat then, and lord knows we’re missing it now

23) The United States of America, as observed by Bob Herbert:

Keith Bradsher was writing from Tianjin, China, about how the Chinese were sprinting past everybody else in the world, including the United States, in the race to develop clean energy. That we are allowing this to happen is beyond stupid. China is a poor country with nothing comparable to the tremendous research, industrial and economic resources that the U.S. has been blessed with. Yet they’re blowing us away — at least for the moment — in the race to the future. Our esteemed leaders in Washington can’t figure out how to do anything more difficult than line up for a group photo. Put Americans back to work? You must be kidding. Health care? We’ve been working on it for three-quarters of a century. Infrastructure? Don’t ask. But, as Mr. Bradsher tells us, “China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines and is poised to expand even further this year.”...

We’re in the throes of an awful and seemingly endless employment crisis, and China is the country moving full speed ahead on the development of the world’s most important new industries. I’d like one of the Washington suits to step away from the photo-op and explain the logic of that to me. The truth, of course, is that there is no reason at all for this to be happening. The United States, in many ways, is very well prepared to move ahead on clean energy. It could and should be the world’s leader. Many, if not most, of the innovations in this area were developed right here. But much of that know-how, as we are seeing in China (and have been seeing in Germany and other places), is being implemented overseas...

24) Dan Quayle, observed by Steve Benen:

Former Vice President Dan Quayle appeared on Fox News [yesterday] afternoon to chip in his two cents on the health care debate. Namely, he warned that using the reconciliation process would set a "very bad precedent" because a simple majority is just unconstitutional. "They're gonna go to budget reconciliation, which I believe would set a very bad precedent, because essentially -- if they could do it, and I don't know if they can do it, but if they could do it -- what you have done, effectively, is to take away the filibuster in the United States Senate," Quayle said. "So, therefore, you have 51 votes in the House and 51 votes in the Senate. That is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind. That is not the constitutional process."

25) The entire management of Stanley Kaplan Test Prep Inc, as observed by DougJ

A Washington Post reporter wrote a post that criticized DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee’s cozy relationship with the Washington Post editorial board. The post was taken off the site and the reporter was called on the carpet. So much for those Chinese walls between the editorial board and the news staff. Sorry to inflict my Kaplan fixation on you so long after the cocktail hour, but I find this kind of thing fascinating.

26) Law professor Brian Tamanaha, a genuine stupidest man alive candidate:

Justice Thomas recently, in an almost off-handed fashion, made several important observations: " the University of Florida law school, Thomas said the Court's decisions should be questioned, but he is bothered by rhetoric suggesting its justices have ulterior motives, the Associated Press reports." He is correct to object that we (legal types) are too quick to suspect the motives of Supreme Court justices. This skeptical tendency is corrosive of law, unwarranted and unfair (except for the occasional one-off like Bush v. Gore). The sitting justices, by all indications, are people with integrity who sincerely render decisions in accordance with their good faith reading of the law...

Except when they want to and the stakes are high. Brian doesn't say that we shouldn't call someone a thief because he only steals things as occasional one-offs, or that we shouldn't call someone a murderer because he only kills people as occasional one-offs, does he? Stupidest man alive candidate.

27) Charles Krauthhammer, as observed by TBogg:

On Health care: "Providing adequate health care for all Americans who need it is far too difficult for the government to handle. Leave it to private enterprise." On Space, The Final Frontier: "Sending astronauts to seek out and obtain Four-Breasted Wild Women from the Planet A-Go-Go is just too difficult and expensive for private enterprise. Government should totally handle this."

28) "Economist" Steven Horwitz: “For every dollar that government spends, there is one less dollar being spent somewhere else in the economy.”

Sigh... You can argue that it is a bad idea to create jobs for people right now by boosting government spending–that if they stay unemployed until private enterprise recovers and hire them that they will get better and more productive jobs. I think that argument is largely wrong, but it is a coherent argument. However, that is not Horwitz’s argument. Horwitz’s argument is that boosting government spending doesn’t create any jobs now. And that is a claim that no even half-trained economist has believed for generations–not since Irving Fisher pointed out that government bond sales to finance deficits affect interest rates and that money demand is interest elastic, not since Knut Wicksell pointed out that the total flow of spending in an economy is such as to match savings to investment at the market rate of interest and that government deficits affect and detract from savings. Horwitz needs to go fight the late Knut Wicksell and Irving Fisher and Milton Friedman, and not open his mouth until he has done so.

29) STUPIDITY HOISTED FROM THE ARCHIVES: Brad DeLong, as observed by Brad DeLong: Smackdown Watch (Special Self-Smackdown Edition): Greenspanism and Its Discontents:

For a decade now, I have been a follower of Greenspanism--the doctrine that I name after former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan that the constraint on expansionary monetary policy is inflation and inflation alone. The idea is that the first priority of the central bank is to maintain low consumer price inflation, and that the second priority is--given low current and forecast consumer price inflation--to maintain maximum employment and purchasing power--and the third priority of the central bank is that there is no other third priority.... The Greenspanist retort to the Mussaites--a retort I would have said I believed 100% a year and a half ago, 90% a year ago, and 60% last March--is that creating unemployment and idle factories because you are scared of what might happen when irrational exuberance dies away and asset prices collapse is a crime; that modern central banks are powerful; that they can successfully manage whatever crisis is provoked when it happens; and that it is easier to sweep after the elephants have gone through than to try to stop them--especially when stopping them requires the destruction of millions of jobs.

I don't see how I can maintain my belief in Greenspanism today.

Therefore I abjure, I recant, and I do penance...

30) AND ONE THING THAT IS NOT STUPID AT ALL: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Nelson Mandela and James Longstreet:

It's been twenty years since Nelson Mandela got out. This was like the defining political event of my youth. I was either a freshman or sophomore in high school, can't remember which. What I think is pretty cliche: Whatever South Africa's problems, the fact that the country (and its leaders) did not descend into mass revenge mode is an enduring tribute to compassion and empathy. It's a great object lesson on how to handle being wronged. It's one of the things I've struggled to accept as an African-American. There is no Rosewood. Often you are wronged, and by your hand, or even in your lifetime, your persecutors will never be brought to account. There are limits to our justice. It doesn't mean you shrink in the face of injustice (South Africa did no such thing) but that you recognize that it's not really in your power to even the odds.

I've been thinking about this a lot in my study of the crimes of slavery, the Civil War and Jim Crow. I don't think the scales will ever be evened.... James Longstreet, Confederate general, once hailed as General Lee's warhorse and one of the greatest generals of the war, but eventually dismissed as nigra-lover and blamed for the Confederacy's defeat at Gettysburg. I'm dying to read a bio  on James Longstreet, though I have no idea when I'll get to it. Here's the thing: Longstreet was a great general, but there's some controversy over his generalship at Gettysburg. But most distressing to the white South, after the War, Longstreet became a black Republican, supported civil rights, and endorsed Grant.

I don't want to equate Longstreet and Mandella, and more than that, I don't know if it was political courage or cynicism that caused Longstreet's change of heart. (Haven't read that bio!) But what I see in my reading about both of them is an understanding of the limits of blood-feuding. History is important to me because I love narratives. But it's important to me broadly as a  science, as way of understanding "how it happened." History can help us fix some things, but it can't make everything. It can't settle our scores. Some wounds we will have to bear.