Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Like Comparing Apples To Orange-Shaped Hand Grenades

Comprehensive immigration reform is like Iraq, sez Mickey.

No! Economic stimulus is like Iraq, sez Applebaum.

No! The auto bailout is like Iraq, sez Mickey.

No! The auto bailout is like the Middle East, sez David Sanger.

No! The auto bailout is like Vietnam, sez Mickey.


There was a time, during the 2006 midterm elections, when I wanted to outlaw the playing of football, just so George Allen would stop making football analogies.

Reading the fifteen-thousandth "this thing I clearly don't quite understand is like this war that I'm also not totally sure about" analogy, I think it's about time to outlaw war. If not for the death and destruction and all, can we at least do it for the good of the poor, tortured similes?

[Does this mean you'll be marching in next week's Code Pink/A.N.S.W.E.R. joint rally/papier mache-off? -- ed. Front row, center!]

Friday, March 27, 2009

It's All Your Fault

Shorter Mickey Kaus: You hear that, Money Liberals? You're why we are awash in shantytowns!

You're not going to bowl over the American political system by engineering a wave of naive, guilt-tripping compassion. Did Marion Wright Edelman prevent welfare reform? I don't quite understand it. It's not as if homelessness isn't a real problem. An organization that gained a reputation for not hyping it might have real impact on legislation.

Well, of course that's why Republicans resist anti-poverty programs ... a lack of *credibility*. [And here I thought it was because they were dim sycophants who consider enriching the wealthy as the only worthy goal of government -- ed. Who let you in here? Was it the Money Liberals?]

Also, isn't this post nearly identical to Gregg(gg) Easterbrook's article about homelessness in the Atlantic? That made the exact same points, and drew the exact same conclusion (if only liberals would get out of the way, we'd solve homelessness) 25 years ago? Oceans rise, cities fall, neoliberalism remains.

[Is it worth noting that Jack Shafer has also poked holes in the dubious use of statistics in media coverage, and with far more success? -- ed. Sure, but Shafer's only attempting to expose the outright propaganda, conflicted sources and uninformed hysteria that continue to propagate an enormously destructive War on Drugs. Mickey's the real hero here, saving his fire for that *truly* awful war: the War on Poverty.]

But that doesn't seem to be what the world of non-profit grantsmanship rewards.

Damn anti-poverty activists ... always in it for the money.

The Secrets of Miriam's Kitchen

How on Earth did Mickey miss this?

C'mon, homelessness and kicking Kausfiles enemies when they're down? That's comedy gold, baby!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

But Enough About Michelle Obama's Arms, What About Michelle Obama's Dress?

Good lord, does Slate keep the XX Factor going just to make Kausfiles look sane and reasonable by comparison?

"What Women Really Think"? Shouldn't women sue Slate for defamation?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kausfiles Blogging Output To Fall By 40%

... annnnnnnd it appears that it's all over for card check, clearing another enemy off the list and making Mickey a surprisingly robust 1 for 5 on his 2009 predictions. Guess it's, uh, not a juice bill, then, huh?

Do you think it bothers Mickey that a crazily right wing primary challenge to Arlen Specter -- and not a full-blown popular revolt against unions and everything for which they stand -- struck the fateful blow?

Yeah, me neither.

Up next ... ugh ...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I'm 95% Confident Nate Silver Is Full Of It On This One

Like (almost) everyone else on the planet, I respect the hell out of Nate Silver. He generally doesn't make assertions that he hasn't tested thoroughly (one of these days he's going to run 10,000 simulations through 10,000 simulations and rip a hole in the fabric of time), and this level of rigor has made him scarily accurate on most non-Oscar subjects.

So why is he doing the ol' Kaus trick of creating a false choice between Current Policy Proposal A (here, the bonus tax) and Not Mutually Exclusive Progressive Policy Idea B?


If we want to address wealth discrepancies in this country (and I think that we should), we should do so by changing marginal income tax rates ... if we're monkeying around with tax policy, it's important to do so in an economically coherent way.


The compensation paid to AIG's employees, however, is less a moral failure than a market failure ... there are some ways to address these market failures; the more time we spend focusing on those, and the less on AIG, the more money we the taxpayers will save ourselves in the end.

And again:

Moreover, I wonder if it does not augment the view that the financial crisis was perpetuated by a few bad apples, when the real causes were far more systemic, and systemic reform will be required avoid their recurrence.

Bonus Kaus points to that last post for (a) suggesting that the Democrats will somehow be hurt by taking a popular position on a contentious issue and (b) the completely untenable and wildly inflammatory comparison in the headline ("That Thing I Hate Is Like That Thing You Liberals Hate", another Kausfiles staple).

Silver seems to be endorsing a Law of Conservation of Outrage here -- the idea that the electorate is so emboldened/distracted/whatever by the claw-back of the AIG bonuses that they simply won't have the energy/willpower/whatever to clamor for reform to the tax code, or Wall Street practices, or laws regarding executive compensation, and so on.

But ...

(1) There's no logical reason why there can be only one response to this mess, and the former could just as easily be a springboard for the latter.

(2) For a site based on thorough statistical analysis, isn't it a red flag that there's not even so much as a scatter plot or a line graph on these posts? If there's anyone who could put together data proving the link between allegedly misdirected rage and failure to pursue meaningful reform, it's Silver. Pics Logistic regressions or it didn't happen.

(3) The same evidence-free theory was advanced by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, making it highly probable that it is utterly wrong or horribly banal.

(4) A half-assed glance at recent history (the Kausific Method) also suggests that scapegoating and fingerpointing can totally co-exist with structural reassessment. After the Enron collapse there was both an outlet for populist ire (the criminal prosecution of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling -- and, man, you could beat a federal agent to death with a brick of cocaine and get a lighter sentence than Skilling did) and a genuine attempt at reform (Sarbanes-Oxley).

So I think I've got Silver here -- all I need now is for Mickey to endorse Silver's view, and I'll be assuredly correct.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mediocrity = Integrity

Spurred not at all by his jealousy of the whippersnapper crowd, Mickey puts the leftovers from his 2006 Townhouse blogging in the microwave and hits 'reheat'. It's worth it for this fantastic bit of projection:

I always thought one of the big ideas of the Web was that, to the maximum extent possible, these deliberations and revisions and improvements could now take place in public, where everyone could follow along and maybe contribute.

So, to Mickey, the revolutionary aspect of the internet is that everyone could -- nay, should -- write things that are poorly thought-out, half-assedly researched, and sloppily composed? That Kausfiles becomes the pinnacle of achievement according to these criteria I'm sure is sheer coincidence.

(Also coincidental is the fact that in Mickey's ideal world -- where kicking around an idea with friends represents craven compromise, and a private process of revision and editing is somehow deleterious -- the only writers worthy of respect are the triumphantly self-regarding.)

What's truly ridiculous -- aside from the fact that the blogger calling for a public-as-editor model just so happens to lack a direct commenting feature -- is the presumption is that the same force tearing down the barriers to the distribution of thought somehow also tore down the barriers to the production of thought. This wish is understandable -- anyone who has ever put pen to paper dreams of the time when the ratio of effort expended to worthwhile result is 1:1 -- yet it is entirely delusional. The web made publishing easier, not writing; that something is more easily read does not mean it is more readable.

Mickey does get one thing right, though. Thanks to the web, I *can* follow along with the deliberations and make my own contribution for improvement and revision:

Fire Mickey Kaus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On The Ball(s)

So far, two months in, Obama has delivered an $800 billion stimulus package that passed with a total of three (3) opposition party votes, ordered the closure of Gitmo, opened up our foreign policy, reversed the torture/secrecy policies of the last eight years, proposed a budget that makes our tax code more progressive, and is now preparing for legislative fights over universal health care, card check and a cap-and-trade system. But you know what Obama's problem is, according to Mickey?

He lacks cojones.

Why, you might ask, does Mickey think this?

Because Mickey desperately needs his progressive politicians to stab him in the back to justify his continued reliance on a pathetically outdated worldview.

Because the first rule of neoliberalism is to never, ever show weakness in front of the New York Times editorial board.

Because people who have weird obsessions with homosexuality are uniquely capable of determining who's a manly man full of manliness.

Because Obama didn't fight for Tom Daschle to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

What a wuss, right?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kausfiles Minus Kaus, pt. 3

Wherein I remove whole sentences from context, and blah blah blah ... check out this quote about those AIG bonuses:

“We are a country of law,” Mr. Summers said on ABC-TV’s Sunday show “This Week”. “There are contracts. The government cannot just abrogate contracts. Every legal step possible to limit those bonuses is being taken by Secretary Geithner and by the Federal Reserve system.”

Good lord, that's just ridiculous. Does anyone have a good idea for how to fix this?

How about empowering the ... czar to declare the companies' labor contracts null and void? And to indefinitely delay payment of all executive salaries and bonuses? [minor pruning there with the ellipsis]

That's a good point, Mickey! It makes sense, in the face of a $165 million payout of taxpayer money to incompetent executives, to nullify contracts and ultimately reorient the way Wall Street is paid to bring their incentives in line with investors and the country as a whole, instead of, say, using that power to punish union members who "make $28 an hour as opposed to, say, $26 an hour or even $24 an hour".

[Should we also do away with the utterly ridiculous pretense that unions are a dominant political force capable of bending spineless politicians to their will, when they're the ones making concessions while Mr. One Hundred Seventy Billion Dollars In Debt over there is giving himself a freakin' bonus and the President of the United States of America and both houses of Congress are just walking around like "whatcha gonna do?" with their palms turned upward and their shoulders shrugged? -- ed. Whoa, whoa, whoa ... imagine how much *worse* it would have been if AIG had been unionized! We'd have spent, like, one hundred *eighty* billion!]

So following Mickey's suggestion, we should expand oversight and empower regulators to make broad changes in the structure of executive compensation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kausfiles Minus Kaus, pt. 2

Wherein I remove whole sentences from context, and choose to engage Mickey as though he were referring to practical concerns, instead of frantically chasing the ghosts of the Great Society.

Actually cutting spending on specific programs, once it's been incorporated into the budget, is excruciatingly difficult at best.

That's a good point, Mickey! Federal defense spending has proven incredibly resilient, regardless of public opinion, even for the most useless and cost-inefficient projects. And there's more:

At some point, you run out of GDP, no? Every bilion [sic] dollars of low-priority government that Obama cements into the federal structure is a billion dollars he won't be able to spend on health care (and Social Security, and supplemental pensions) unless he raises taxes to pay for it. And there are limits, political and economic, to how much taxes can be raised. We don't want to reach them.

''Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Good to know you agree, Mickey!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mickey's Rules Rules Rule

Mickey, who generally advocates the "under no circumstances should you give the people want they want" school of government, explains why it's critically important to ignore the needs of the electorate:

P.S.: Of course, McGurn is working the Take Away Rule, which holds that it's always harder for politicians to take something away from someone than it is to not give it to them in the first place. In the vast majority of circumstances, this principle favors government-expanding liberals, since it makes any federal spending near-impossible to cut ...

"Take Away Rule"?

1) I'm not sure why Mickey needed to relabel the "Endowment Effect" (or "Divestiture Aversion", or the "Offer/Ask Disparity", or a thousand other reasonable terms) as the hilariously infantile "Take Away Rule", a move that recasts the general public as a kindergartner and Mickey as the sensible adult trying to ween them off their binky. Or maybe that's the point, and he only went with that one because "The Big Sissy Wants His Bottle Rule" was too on-the-nose.

2) The larger problem here is that the "Take Away Rule" clearly violates the Kaus Rule-Naming Rule, which holds that names for rules should be as obscure and unelucidating as possible, causing one to have to repeat both the origin story and the entire theoretical underpinning of the rule every time it is referenced, thereby creating the illusion of productivity. [Note: The Kaus Rule-Naming Rule is named after Mickey Kaus, who uses names for rules that are as obscure and unelucidating as possible, causing him to have to repeat both the origin story and the entire theoretical underpinning of the rule every time it is referenced, thereby creating the illusion of productivity.]

If the Take Away Rule wants to join the Feiler Faster Thesis, the Howell Raines Fallacy, Jo Moore Day, and a dozen other bits of received wisdom repackaged to honor/disparage some long-forgotten influence/enemy, Mickey had better work a little harder.

(Coming soon to Kausfiles: the Camel Whack Tent Theorem. I'm very, very sorry.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Completely Unrelated To Mickey Kaus Blogging

Glenn Greenwald describing the Al-Haramin case:

Obama defenders take note: ... Obama lawyers have been running around for weeks attempting one desperate, extreme measure after the next to prevent this case from proceeding -- emergency appeals, requests for stays, and every time they lose, threats of still further appeals, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court.

During the controversy in the Jeppesen/rendition case, there were actually "defend-Obama-at-all-costs" advocates in the comment section offering the painfully ludicrous excuse that Obama only embraced Bush's State Secrets theory because Obama secretly hoped and expected to lose the case and thus create good judicial precedent. But in the Al-Haramin case, the Obama DOJ has now lost -- twice -- in their attempts to invoke secrecy to stop this case from proceeding, but they just keep searching for a court to accept their claims ...

Greenwald describing the Al-Marri case, in the same post:

[W]hether this is a positive step in a general sense is a different question. In the Jose Padilla case, the Bush administration kept a U.S. citizen in a cage for many years without charges of any kind, and then suddenly filed criminal charges against him right as the Supreme Court was set to rule on the constitutionality of imprisoning U.S. citizens as "enemy combatants" with no trial. Once they finally indicted Padilla, the Bush administration ran and argued that the indictment rendered the questions before the Court moot. The Supreme Court, in essence, agreed and refused to hear the appeal, thus leaving in place the Fourth Circuit's affirmation that the President has this power.

If that is what the Obama DOJ does here -- namely, if it succeeds in its efforts to convince the Supreme Court not to rule on this critical matter because, yet again, the individual who has been encaged for years without charges was, at the last minute, transferred to a civilian court (thus leaving standing the Fourth Circuit's horrendous ruling) -- that will be destructive for all the reasons that Bush critics cited when the same thing was done in the Padilla case.

In conclusion, the Obama administration shouldn't actively pursue an appeal that could get a terrible legal theory decisively defeated, except when they should.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Ol' Switcheroo

Like the castaway on a desert island -- or a Milwaukee Brewer -- seeing a feast in every inanimate object, Mickey continues to look at a more-or-less progressive president and imagine his neoliberal ideal, in everything from card check to health care.

Sadly, something has to break the siren spell:

And here I almost believed Obama's health care plans were all about lowering costs and getting the budget under control.

Yeah, it's not as though he ran on a platform where the first priority was getting health care for everyone and the second priority was lowering costs. The imaginary Obama in Mickey's head guy is such a lying bastard!

The second-best part of all this is that Mickey is furiously portraying Obama, the guy who co-sponsored the card check bill in 2007, as shaky on check card because of ... well ... nothing? The best part of all this will be the moment when Mickey pretends that his rank speculation constituted a binding promise, and subsequently accuses Obama of stabbing him in the back.

By, you know, supporting unions.

But who could have seen that coming?