Wednesday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Reading suggestions for leaders. What would you suggest?
  2. Tears of a geographer, noted here too. Or is this just more evidence of innumeracy?
  3. Nuts noted. Nuts who don’t know the two words which are Mr Obama’s best insurance, i.e., Biden and Pelosi.
  4. That’s why it took so long to catch Mr Madoff (he was being groomed).
  5. Slavery.
  6. Of human evils.
  7. The socialism notion.
  8. Still trying to spin. Remind us why (coincendentally white) non-Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union are unable to comprehend discrimination?
  9. A related (and counter) point made here.
  10. St. Brenden.
  11. Mr Kass in science.
  12. An interesting discussion on A Secular Age
  13. In the context of advise and consent … recalling Mr Obama on Mr Roberts.
  14. Covering for judges.
  15. Summarizing the McArdle/ObWings abortion discussion.
  16. Marriage and Tolstoy.

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11 comments

  1. Still trying to spin.

    WTF?? Who is spinning here? Republicans and their allies who are pretending she said that Latina judges are better than white judges or people who are pointing out the context of her quote? You disgust me sometimes.

    Remind us why (coincendentally white) non-Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union are unable to comprehend discrimination?

    LOL what are you even talking about? Let me guess, you know one immigrant from the Soviet Union who happens to be a Republican?

  2. You disgust me sometimes.

    Sorry, too far. Lost my temper there. I just get so sick of people assuming the worst possible interpretation of everything a liberal does or says and then insisting on that interpretation as if it’s the only possible explanation. Especially when a perfectly mundane explanation is plainly obvious to the remotely fair-minded observer.

    This is why American politics suck right now.

  3. Other examples:

    1) The government takes over GM.

    Mundane and obvious explanation: the government believes this is in the best interest of GM and/or the economy.

    Reason this is the mundane and obvious explanation: WHY WOULD ANYBODY WANT TO ACQUIRE GM NOW??

    Right-wing explanation: ZOMG Obama wants to take over the country! It’s socialism! He’s nationalizing everything!

    2) Chrysler shutting down dealerships.

    Obvious and mundane: Duh.

    Republicans: ZOMG! The dealerships closed included a lot of GOP donors! It’s political payback!

    I mean are you serious with this stuff?? I don’t know whether to write you off as disingenuous or crazy or both, but this is seriously crazy shit. Nobody with the slightest modicum of interest in what’s really true could possibly believe that. And yet, you link to it coyly, and imply it might be true.

  4. Boonton says:

    1. Indeed, if the goal is to take over the economy why not buy up companies that actually contribute to the economy like Wal-Mart or Microsoft?

    2. Which point is Chrysler’s dealership shutdowns mentioned on? Both on Megan’s site (http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/05/closing_chryslers_dealers_cui.php) and two posts on fivethirdyeight (http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/05/news-flash-car-dealers-are-republicans.html) feature excellent comments by yours truely (as well as good analysis by fivethirtyeight) demolishing the idea that there was any GOP bias in the Chrysler closing list. I would hope that Mark takes interest since the question relies a lot on math and I believe he will find my points uncontestable

  5. Mark says:

    JA,
    I know lots of Eastern bloc immigrants and I’ll admit that I don’t know a single one who would not be regarded as conservative. Oddly enough fleeing from communism does that to a person.

    However, I’m not sure what relevance that has at all to the point I was making. Ms Sotomayor was indicating her racial experience as non-white was highly relevant in racial cases and outweighs any experience that a white person might bring to the table. I’m suggesting a very large obvious category of white people have experienced racial/ethnic biases that are more extreme than the ones she has experienced.

    On the dealers … you continue to be willfully innumerate. The statement made was that GOP dealerships were very disproportionately closed not “a lot of them.”

    On “why acquire GM vs Microsoft/Walmart” … is that a liberal meme you’re repeating, because I thought I just saw that in the 538 comment thread too. You might not want to acquire all the profitable companies because you want to tax them. If you kill them with government intervention that won’t help raise tax revenue. But your point is valid, “Why would anyone want to acquire GM now?” I have no good answer to that, and oddly enough isn’t that a good reason for the government not to do it either?

    Boonton,
    Ms McArdle’s point, if I recall, was that there are regional biases that aren’t taken into account, i.e., liberal dealerships might be in more affluent areas. I think that is a valid point, however the original poster (Ross?) suggests his correlation holds up for dealerships in one metro area … but I don’t know if the numbers are large enough there to support arguments against statistical variation.

    On a quick read your second link (at 538) is making the same erroneous assumption (that it’s about numbers not proportion). Your remarks seen to be that within a region the demographics of GOP/Democratic dealerships reflective of differences which may reflect economic reasons for keeping them open or shutting them down. That may be true, but it also might work the wrong way, i.e., democratic dealerships are in depressed areas and selling more used cars might be less profitable but kept open for political reasons (affirmative action tokenism) not for economic ones.

    And more to the point, valid criticism is wonderful. It’s remarks of the sort JA made attempting to shut the mere notion that this could be a question “just put together a bunch of words” which then “automatically” get expanded by blogs and blasted all over is unhelpful.

  6. I know lots of Eastern bloc immigrants and I’ll admit that I don’t know a single one who would not be regarded as conservative. Oddly enough fleeing from communism does that to a person.

    Sure, overreaction is normal.

    However, I’m not sure what relevance that has at all to the point I was making. Ms Sotomayor was indicating her racial experience as non-white was highly relevant in racial cases and outweighs any experience that a white person might bring to the table. I’m suggesting a very large obvious category of white people have experienced racial/ethnic biases that are more extreme than the ones she has experienced.

    I don’t think she was talking about the many, many judges who are also Russian immigrants. 😉

    On the dealers … you continue to be willfully innumerate. The statement made was that GOP dealerships were very disproportionately closed not “a lot of them.”

    LOL, yeah, the “statement was made” but it wasn’t defended, except to show that some of the dealerships closed were run by GOP donors.

    On “why acquire GM vs Microsoft/Walmart” … is that a liberal meme you’re repeating, because I thought I just saw that in the 538 comment thread too. You might not want to acquire all the profitable companies because you want to tax them. If you kill them with government intervention that won’t help raise tax revenue. But your point is valid, “Why would anyone want to acquire GM now?” I have no good answer to that, and oddly enough isn’t that a good reason for the government not to do it either?

    It’s not a meme so much as a blindingly obvious flaw in the right-wing “meme” that Obama’s nationalizing GM for socialist-type reasons.

    And you may not believe that Obama is correct in his belief that this actions is best for GM and/or the country, but it’s just childish to pretend that you don’t even know that he believes that — that he’s doing it purely out of greed or to bring about socialism or that he has no reason.

    You know he has a reason. You know he thinks it’s the best thing for the economy and/or GM. You just think it’s wrong. The honest thing to do — and what I’m asking you to do — is to just say that you think his reason is wrong! Stop the pretending and the ridiculous insinuations about dark motives. Be a freakin’ honest broker in these discussions.

  7. Mark says:

    JA,
    I suspect terming it as “overreaction” is not charitable. I’d suggest that the left presents much of the same tropes they identify with the regime they are fleeing … and don’t associate with that. Additionally, the Eastern bloc people I’ve met by and large are cultural conservatives, which doesn’t fit so well with the left.

    I’m confused why I would be defending the claim of bias on closings. I linked to the claim. The person I linked to linked the source … who believe it or not I think has been actually defending the claim. My only contribution so far has been to correct your continual misstatement of this as a “numerical” not a “proportional” objection, which point was pretty clearly made in the original post.

    I don’t pretend to know the “reasons” why Mr Obama has acquired GM. I do however know I don’t believe anything he says at this point or that I have any sense even he believes what he says. Look you don’t believe much of what he says, on NAFTA and gay marriage you assure yourself that you get back-channel signals signifying that “he’s lying on this issue.” Well, (a) he can lie on either channel, (b) that is unhelpful for those of us who don’t share your (and presumably his) assumption and don’t “get” that particular channel, and (c)why is that at all commendable is beyond me. He has too often answered questions with “beyond my pay grade” or changed responses for political expediency to be believable.

    As you know I suspect that like very very many lawyers that Mr Obama at best not careful with numbers. Lawyers take it as a point of pride sometimes that they are “bad with figures” and Mr Obama seems to follow this. He certainly had a personal history of being very naive about investing prior getting in office, e.g., making a good six figure salary for years but having no investments. So I suspect everything he’s talking about the markets and situation is just what he is told by his cadre of “experts.” I don’t know if that gives you pause, but it certainly should.

    The point is, I don’t care at this point very much what Mr Obama says he thinks or believes because he’s lost any credibility. So, what we can still reasonably discuss is what you think. Do you defend the GM purchase. What do you think about sinking large sums of money into companies to avoid bankruptcy which then go bankrupt anyhow? Was the first money wasted? What do you see as the way clear?

  8. Boonton says:

    Ms McArdle’s point, if I recall, was that there are regional biases that aren’t taken into account, i.e., liberal dealerships might be in more affluent areas.

    No it wasn’t. The point was that among the list of closed dealers, a slew of GOP donors were found but only one Obama donor. The talking point was that the list was therefore biased. But Nate at fivethirtyeight pointed out that car dealers tend to donate to the right. Of the dealers who donate, about 90% donate to Republicans and only 10% to Democrats.

    Over on zerohedge (http://zerohedge.blogspot.com/2009/05/i-am-marlas-observations-on-artifical.html), a series of regressions were posted which revealed no such biases. Zerohedge was able to work with data that included donations of all dealers….those that were closed as well as opened. Oddly the one possible suspect she got was a relationship between the odds of not being closed and being a *Clinton* donor. Problem: The p-score for this result indicated a 87.5% confidence level. Usually 99% or 95% confidence levels are standard. 90% is pretty suspect and below 90% is very bad.

    Again Nate (http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/05/on-moon-landings-michelle-malkin-p.html) did a very good takedown and I suggest you look for my comments using the coin toss comparison.

    Here’s the problem with ‘regional biases’. If a nefarious operator acted to punish GOP donors or reward Obama/Clinton/Democrat donors on a regional basis, the results would how up on the overall numbers and they don’t. The only way for this not to be so is if the operator offset their intervention….’saving’ an unworthy GOP donor to make up for ‘saving’ an unworthy Dem. donor. Unfortunately for those seeking an Obama outrage fix, this makes no sense at all…unless the operator saved donors of both types at the expense of dealers who didn’t donate. But non-donors were analyzed too on Hedge and no relationship was found there.

    I think that is a valid point, however the original poster (Ross?) suggests his correlation holds up for dealerships in one metro area

    No it can’t. Here’s what we are working with. Something like 90% of dealers make no donations at all. Of those that do, 90% break GOP and 10% break Democratic. Out of 800 closed dealers then, we would only expect to see about 80 who donate and of those only 10% will donate Democratic. That would make the expected number of Democratic donors in the entire list on the order of 8 (and just to be clear ONE Obama donor was found intially but several donors were found who donated to other Democrats like Clinton or Dems running in Senate and other races). Quite frankly, there is no sample for any possible metro area to make any type of statistical analysis along these lines.

    What has gone out there is ancedotal stuff. One dealer says he got canned while the one in his area who didn’t is a Democratic donor. One guy I sparred with was making much of the fact that one guy who was saved had 6 dealerships, was the founder of BET TV and a big time donor to Democrats and Democratic causes while some of those closed in his areas had better metrics (i.e. sales, volumn etc.) than he did. Problem, though, is that with such ancedotal cases you really can never tell. If the guy has 6 dealerships then he is probably very good at running dealerships. I can see why Chrysler would rather deal with one guy covering 6 territories than 6 different guys.

    Your remarks seen to be that within a region the demographics of GOP/Democratic dealerships reflective of differences which may reflect economic reasons for keeping them open or shutting them down.

    My point was that autocorrelation needs to be accounted for. Say, for example, you did find a statistical relationship (NOTE FOR THE RECORD, THERE IS NONE). Let’s say Chrysler decided not to avoid closing black owned dealerships. One reason might be for affirmative action. Another reason might be pure business. Pissed off black dealers might go over to Chrysler competitors and make it a point to push Chrysler out of black communities they operate in. Either way, the population of ‘saved dealers’ is going to have more Obama donors than the population of all dealers….but not due to any intended attempt to reward dealers for political donations.

    To use an analogy, look at the NBA. The NBA has more black players than there are blacks in the general population. This difference is statistically significant. However that is a long way from establishing the NBA is either treating non-blacks unfairly or giving blacks unfair preference.

  9. Boonton says:

    On “why acquire GM vs Microsoft/Walmart” … is that a liberal meme you’re repeating, because I thought I just saw that in the 538 comment thread too. You might not want to acquire all the profitable companies because you want to tax them. If you kill them with government intervention that won’t help raise tax revenue. But your point is valid, “Why would anyone want to acquire GM now?” I have no good answer to that, and oddly enough isn’t that a good reason for the government not to do it either?

    Ohhh wow, this is just really backwards. So let’s see the gov’t plans to implement socialism by NOT controlling the productive parts of the economy, only the unproductive parts because the gov’t would rather tax the productive parts of the economy. In other words, Obama’s secret plan is to implement socialism by implementing capitalism….wow…..

    Reality check here, the idea behind socialism is that gov’t takes the profitable pieces of the economy. It either runs them for the benefit of society by taking the profits directly or by running the enterprises at a breakeven point or at a loss. Consider a classic socialist policy from the past, ‘nationalizing the coal mines in the UK’. The idea is simple. The gov’t could eliminate the profits by lowering the price of coal for consumers and raising the pay for miners. Labor wins and consumers win by eliminating the ‘middleman’ of the capitalist owner who would normally be collecting a return on his investment.

    From a socialist’s POV, taking over GM is totally pointless. Since GM is already in the red it is by definition taking *from* the capitalist and giving to labor with too high pay or to consumers with too low prices. A true socialist would love GM as it is. In fact, a true socialist would probably press for the no questions asked bailout of GM so that it could avoid bankruptcy. After all, the more GM operates in the red the harder it is for all the other car companies like Honda or Ford to make profits.

    Why is the gov’t ‘taking over’? It isn’t. The gov’t has already loand GM something like $20B and in order to avoid bankruptcy liquidation it is going to chip in another $20B or so. In exchange the gov’t is getting 70% ownership of GM. If GM starts becoming profitable again the gov’t wins only by selling its shares. If GM isn’t profitable, then shareholders are wiped out in bankruptcy….which is why it was hard to get the bondholders and UAW to accept stock in exchange for writing off their IOUs from GM.

    Here’s a point to consider that I made over on TomtheRedHunters site. Any ‘policy’ you think Obama might want to implement by ‘owning’ GM is simply made more expensive and difficult by owning GM. Take higher MPG cars. The gov’t can mandate them with CAFE standards. It can incentivize them with subsidies and taxes. But $20B on subsidies will put many more high MPG cars on the road than buying a failed auto company for $20B and trying to get it to make high MPG vehciles.

    Sometimes the most simple explanation is the correct one. Obama says he doesn’t want to manage GM because he doesn’t. He would rather GM return to profitabiloity and its stock price shoot up (and Wall Street will not let it shoot high if it perceives the Federal gov’t as constantly micromanaging the company for political considerations). If that happens, in a few years the gov’t might get a windfall of a few tens of billions of dollars which would be helpful if the economy has recovered and the deficit becomes a more front line issue. If GM fails, well then it is worthless and that essentially means the gov’t didn’t take over any productive part of the economy. If the gov’t didn’t take over anything productive, then where’s the socialism?

  10. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Take your socialism argument elsewhere. I’m not saying he’s a socialist of his policies are the same. I am making a suggestion that progressivism itself and the hopey/changey thing in particular threaten totalitarian dystopia. If those words are equivalent in your mind, then we have an argument to make, otherwise, you can engage my totalitarian claim as it unfolds.

    You are a little incoherent here however. Either Mr Obama is “not lying” when he says he doesn’t want to manage GM (then the of course why is he discussing locations for new headquarters with Michigan mayors). If GM fails, well then, we’re out how many billions of debt we can’t afford? If it doesn’t fail, it still isn’t going to be able to repay $20 or 40 billion in debt without hyper-inflation to help it before the tectonic movement puts Michigan on a coastline. I wasn’t asking for a justification that avoids claims of socialism. I was asking something simpler, a justification that avoids charges of “boy that sounds really stupid.”

    On the dealers, I’ll admit I never looked closely at it because I have no dog in the fight, i.e., I’m not making the argument, nor defending it. I just reported it existed and attempted to do so “ahead of the curve.” My only defense, as noted above, was to correct misstatements about what was being claimed.

    If we’re talking 80 and 8 …. I’d say the argument is done. That’s not enough for statistics of any sort to be meaningful.

    My Dad for example attended to a one-room grade school and a tiny high school. His graduating class was 10. All the boys in school played on the football team (and all the sports for that matter) … in order to make up one team. Half went to college and 30% got PhDs. If you report just the last sentence that sounds impressive. Until the sample size of 10 is mentioned. There is no real difference between a sample size of 10 and 80.

  11. Boonton says:

    If GM fails, well then, we’re out how many billions of debt we can’t afford? If it doesn’t fail, it still isn’t going to be able to repay $20 or 40 billion in debt without hyper-inflation to help it before the tectonic movement puts Michigan on a coastline.

    We need to get the facts straight.

    1. Chrysler could not keep up its debt payments last year. In effect, it couldn’t make its ‘mortgage’ payments. If nothing was done, bankruptcy was going to happen then for Chrysler and GM.

    2. A temp. loan was given from the Fed. It came from that $700B TARP fund that Bush and then Tres. Sec. Paulson got in late in 2008. The loan was over $20B ($17.4 to GM and Chrysler, $6B to GMAC and $1.5B to Chrysler financial).

    3. The idea was that the companies would draw up a restructuring plan and present it in exchange for a more long term solution. Several rounds of plans were presented but essentially they hit a road block. The plans all consisted of swapping debt for stock so bondholders would have an ownership stake in the auto companies. Legally the bondholders have every right to insist on getting paid exactly what their contracts say….in other words they want and have a righ to cash. Not free cars, stocks, baseball cards or whatnot. Just like your mortgage company has a right to refuse your payment of old comic books in lue of cash.

    At this point the bondholders include investors, the Fed. gov’t (from that loan in #2), the UAW (who basically ‘loaned’ their pension funds to the auto companies) and others. If you allowed a full bankruptcy here is what would have happened:

    a. The companies would try to pull together a plan. Possibly including outside investors…to keep running and return to profitability.

    b. Such a plan could not come together. The auto debts are too big and the economy is too depressed and the financial markets are too scared. Without a plan bankruptcy proceeds to full liquidation. Everything is sold, bondholders get paid whatever results. Everyone else screwed.

    You may remember the huge sales Circuit City had after Christmas. That was b. After the Christmas season ended they couldn’t come up with a viable plan so right to liquidation. Going out of business sales for a month or two and then they are gone forever.

    At this point, our choices(as taxpayers) are liquidation which means essentially loosing $20+B and then more as the rust belt economy collapses (which it probably would). Or chip in another $20B to get just enough bondholders to go for this plan which essentially says debt holders get converted into stock holders (current stockholders are more or less wiped down to nothing).

    There is no longer any debt for GM to ‘repay’. The debt is now stock which will go up and down with the market but in the long run will go up if GM is profitable and could actually go up quite a bit (auto sales are unnaturally low nowadays….at the current rate the US auto fleet would turn over once every 29 years or so so at some point sales have to rise dramatically….or there’s going to be amassive shift away from driving in the US).

    The critical point isn’t really now. It is simple fiscal responsibility to accept 70% of GM’s shares in exchange for money GM owes us rather than take pennies on the dollar. The die was cast back in Jan when the initial loan happened to save them from bankruptcy then. I suppose you can say the US should just write off the loan but then if GM does recover we will essentially watch other shareholders getting rich while we paid off the debt when times were tough. Doesn’t seem fair or sensible.

    It’s easy to say we should have just played tough and let the whole thing fall apart in Nov, Dec. and Jan. But back then no one was really willing to go there. Even the Bush admin. was trying to get some $10B-$20B in a loan program for helping Detroit convert to hybreds (yes even before Obama this wasnt exactly the first autobailout) into an all purpose loan to hold off bankruptcy.