In the past, research has predicted that global warming could lead to the extinction of more than one-fifth of animal and plant species. This research has largely been based on theoretical models. However, now observations can confirm whether reality matches theory. The paper Erosion of Lizard Diversity by Climate Change and Altered Thermal Niches (Sinervo 2010) compares global observations of lizard populations from 1975 to present day. The result? Rapidly warming temperatures are causing lizard species to go extinct before our eyes.
A colleague mentioned to me the other day that I’m “pretty conservative” on some state and local government issues, with reference to some recent posts on occupational licensing. Someone on twitter asked if I’m trying to score a date with a Cato staffer. I’m not. And I’m not. And I think that whole framing represents a bad way of understanding the whole situation.
I think it’s pretty clear that, as a historical matter of fact, the main thing “the state” has been used to do is to help the wealthy and powerful further enrich and entrench themselves. Think Pharaoh and his pyramids. Or more generally the fancy houses of European nobility, the plantations of Old South slaveowners, or Imelda Marcos’ shoes. The “left-wing” position is to be against this stuff—to be on the side of the people and against the forces of privilege. It’s true that some useful egalitarian activism over the past 150 years has consisted of trying to get the state to take affirmative steps to help people—social insurance, the welfare state, infrastructure, schools—but dismantling efforts to use the state to help the privileged has always been on the agenda. Don’t think to yourself “we need to regulate carbon emissions therefore regulation is good therefore regulation of barbers is good.” Think to yourself “we can’t let the privileged trample all over everyone, therefore we need to regulate carbon emissions and we need to break the dentists’ cartel.”
I feel certain that if Financial Times did an article about how some country’s determination to provide free bags of rice to all its citizens was leading people to spend a huge amount of time standing on line waiting for rice, that they would highlight the fact that this is what happens when you don’t price things correctly. There’s only so much rice. There are only so many hander-outers of rice. If you try to make the rice free to everyone, you’re going to get lines and shortages.
At any rate, as Clive Cookson points out in the FT a comparable problem exists on most countries’ roadways:
Access to these roadways is generally either free, or else set a price determined by something other than the scarcity of space on the roadway. And yet any given street or highway can only fit so many cars at a time. So when the price is unrelated to the scarcity, you get shortages and queuing—traffic jams. But weirdly a whole long article on improved traffic management just leaves this as a throwaway line “In the long term, variable road pricing or tolls on main roads may provide a partial answer but these are not yet technically or politically feasible in most countries.”
That’s fair enough, but none of the other stuff in the article is yet technically or politically feasible in most countries either. And the question of what is and isn’t “politically feasible” is itself amenable to influence by media coverage.
I would highly recommend that you take a look at Adam Pozen’s talk “The Realities and Relevance of Japan’s Great Recession – Neither Ran nor Rashomon“. His point is that poor Japanese economic performance, though of course not unrelated to the bursting of asset bubbles, was fundamentally caused by policy errors and that when better policies were implemented growth became strong:
What was necessary was the clean-up and recapitalization of the banking system, the further loosening of monetary policy (to the extent possible given that interest rates were at zero), and the avoidance of any further premature fiscal tightening, as I set out in Posen (1998, 1999a, and 2001b). This was obviously not a simple list, economically or politically. Yet, it was also not a list of the impossible, it emphasized demand side factors, and was a list that seemed all the more plausible when Japanese policymakers recognized that Japan was not doomed to a permanently low trend growth rate – a belief that had bedevilled both fiscal and monetary policy decisions in Japan for much of the 1990s.
Japan’s new economic leadership in the early 2000s, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Cabinet Office and later Financial Services Minister Heizo Takenaka, and Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui, turned matters around. They reversed monetary policies that contributed to deflation, turned the fiscal impulse to average net zero (see figure 5), and forced bad loan write- offs and recapitalization by the Japanese banks (figure 6).10 What few seem to appreciate, either inside or outside of Japan, is just how strong the resulting Japanese recovery from 2002-2008 was. It was the longest unbroken recovery of Japan’s postwar history, and, while not as strong as pre-bubble Japanese performance, was in fact stronger than the growth in comparable economies even when fuelled by their own bubbles.
People can get confused about Koizumi-era Japan’s economic performance because demographics were driving a pretty rapid reduction in the number of workers. That drags down overall output. But even though China’s GDP is much larger than Switzerland, Switzerland is still much richer and its workers are much more productive.
Posen’s piece is important, because I fear that historical evidence of poor economic performance in the wake of asset price bubbles bursting is creating a mood of dangerous complacency. You can read that as evidence that we’re destined to experience an extended period of poor growth, but you can also read it as evidence that what normally happens after a bust is that policymakers implement an ineffective response. And as Posen argues, accepting the view that slow growth is inevitable is a major cause of ineffective policy and becomes self-fulfilling. Japan started growing once it got some policymakers who believed it was possible for Japan to grow, and thus that they would try pro-growth things and try them on a large scale.
For the long drive, I’ve tried to assemble a playlist of state-appropriate songs that take us from DC to Maine as follows:
1. For Washington, DC it’s the Postal Service “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.”
2. For Maryland, it’s REM “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.”
3. Then Delaware, Promise Ring “Is This Thing On?”
4. New Jersey is Less Than Jake “Never Going Back to New Jersey.”
5. I know a million New York songs, but since the route just involves a quick jaunt across the Cross Bronx Expressway I’m going with Boogie Down Productions, “South Bronx.”
6. I think from the title that Rainer Maria’s “CT Catholic” is Connecticut, though the only specific place referenced is the BQE in New York. But I guess that’s how you’d get from Williamsburg to Connecticut.
7. Next up, The Get-Up Kids “Mass Pike.”
8. There don’t seem to be any real songs about New Hampshire, but the “Granite State of Mind” parody is hilarious.
9. John Linnel’s “Maine” is pretty great.
This ended up being a more emo list than I’d intended. Peppy bands should write more songs about locations in the Northeast.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Survey Of Spouses Leaked, Condemned As ‘Insulting And Derogatory’ By Advocacy Group
Politico has obtained a copy of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell survey sent out to 150,000 military spouses yesterday. The document is part of a broader Pentagon study designed to determine the consequences of repealing the ban against open service. Earlier this year, the Pentagon came under attack from groups representing gay and lesbian servicemembers after portions of a separate survey of active and reservist troops became public. Citing privacy concerns, activist groups advised closeted gay members against participating in the study and denounced it as insulting.
This 13-page document — which begins with a letter from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates informing spouses that the survey “will help us assess the impact of a change in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law and policy on family readiness and recruiting and retention” — has sparked similar condemnation from LGB groups. “This survey of military spouses contains many of the same insulting and derogatory assumptions and insinuations about gays and lesbian that ran throughout the last survey,” Servicemembers United said in a statement. “Answer choices suggest things like the Defense Department possibly distributing flyers in military neighborhoods if, as they say, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is repealed and that the ‘readiness’ of military families might somehow be impacted.”
Below are several sample questions. Read the full survey HERE:
Q: Do you have any family members, friends or acquaintances, including coworkers, whom you believe to be gay or lesbian?
A: Yes, one, Yes, more than one, No
Q: How important a factor would a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell be to you in making decisions about your spouse’s future in the military?
A: Very important, Important, Neither important nor unimportant, Unimportant, Very unimportant, Don’t Know
Q: Would a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell affect your willingness to recommend military service to a family member or close friend?
A: Yes, I would be more likely to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
Yes, I would be less likely to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
No, it would not affect my willingness to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
The Pentagon insists that the survey will allow for a smoother repeal of the policy by informing the military of possible conflicts that could arise in community life. It also expects that repeal will be a low priority for spouses, in the context of other concerns like educational opportunities and access to medical care.
The survey’s recipients were selected at random from the Pentagon’s database of registered spouses, which does not include the partners of gay and lesbian troops. The Pentagon is engaged in a separate process of contacting and incorporating the voices of LGB partners. In fact, according to one Pentagon source, the co-chairs of the DADT study group have already met with several spouses of gay and lesbian members.
Spouses will have until September 27th to complete the survey. The results of the broader DADT study are expected at the beginning of December.
Over at Daily Kos Clarknt67 observes, “The military taking time to survey such a thing is a validation of the viewpoint that objecting to living near a homosexual is somehow rational, somehow a viewpoint that should be considered.“
,The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld via Twitter, “From the #dadt Spouse Survey: “Assume DADT is repealed. Would repeal affect your family readiness?” //Huh??
,AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay: “You have to wonder how the hell the Pentagon came up with these questions. Makes me think Elaine Donnelly had a hand in writing the survey. And, we’ve been told repeatedly, the Pentagon study is about ‘how’ to implement repeal, not ‘if’. But, everything we see from the Pentagon seems to be a lesson in how not to implement repeal.”
Despite His Anti-Government Rhetoric, Gov. McDonnell’s Budget Surplus Results From Government Assistance
While most states are experiencing debilitating budget deficits, Virginia is “feeling flush” after turning a $1.8 billion deficit into a $403.2 million budget surplus at the close of the fiscal year. In a celebratory speech before the Virginia legislature Thursday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) credited higher tax revenue, state agencies’ fiscal responsibility, and serious budget cuts for the state’s ability “to balance the books.”
McDonnell’s victory tour continued with a stop on the Fox Business network to tout “fiscal prudence and conservative budgeting” as “the key” to his surplus. When enamored host Gerri Willis asked him whether Washington “could learn something from Virginia,” McDonnell replied he hoped his fiscal responsibility in Richmond “would be a model for Washington”:
WILLIS: Well you know congratulations, it’s an amazing story. You started the year with $1.8 billion deficit – you turned it around completely, even have a surplus. How’d you do it?
MCDONNELL: Well it took a lot of work and a lot of bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature but I think we took a very conservative, fiscal, practical approach to budget. You can’t spend what you don’t have. [...]
WILLIS: And you mentioned some of the spending priorities in Washington, could they learn something from Virginia?
MCDONNELL: Well, as I said in my speech to the legislature today, they sure could. Everybody knows, families and businesses that are cutting in these tough economic times, this is an unsustainable level of spending. What we need to do is incentivize the free enterprise system which has been the strength of American democracy for hundreds of years to grow. And we can’t keep adding a trillion and a half dollars to the national debt every year with this deficit, you’ve got to be fiscally prudent and incentivize the free enterprise system so you don’t have more government bailouts and more dependence of people on government. It’s a very different model and I hope Richmond would be a model for Washington.
McDonnell’s “prudence” would be a shining example for the federal government if he hadn’t relied on one important contributor: the federal government. According to a Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis report released this week, last year’s Recovery Act provided $2.5 billion in stimulus relief to “maintain crucial services for [Virginia] citizens” and “help close the state’s budget shortfall in 2010-2012.” Virginia legislators relied on $1.3 billion in enhanced Medicaid funding, $1 billion in funding for K-12 and higher education, $39 million for public safety, and $200 million in general support to reduce “what would otherwise have been a $5.4 billion budget hole.”
But McDonnell has a history of selective amnesia when it comes to Recovery funds. During his gubernatorial campaign, McDonnell continually criticized the Recovery Act as a “massive” spending bill that would “do little to help the economy.” But, while in office, McDonnell heralded $24 million in federal funding to advance health information technology while sweeping the fact that it was stimulus funding under the rug. He even requested stimulus funds to cover rising health care costs and to help build a Rolls Royce manufacturing plant in Prince George County. As one Virginia legislator put it, “we wouldn’t even be talking about the surplus if it weren’t for the stimulus.”
Voting is mostly about the objective situation, not about what people say about the election. But insofar as talking is inevitable, you may as well do it well. Looking at the Democrats message heading into the midterms it all seems mighty backward looking: “we accomplished a bunch of stuff / the economy’s not really our fault / etc.” Missing here is what you’d call the narrative about what Democrats envision the 112th Congress as doing.
Suppose you voted for Democrats in 2006 and 2008 because you wanted to see action on health reform, energy reform, and immigration reform. Now you’re happy that health reform happened, but sad that energy reform and immigration reform didn’t happen. If Democrats come back this fall with a surprisingly good result—diminished but still robust majorities—are those things going to happen? Or are the remaining pieces of that agenda dead either way?
Last month, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) became the first congressman in his party to hint at impeaching President Obama for purportedly violating his oath of office by not completely securing the border. Since then, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has joined Smith in declaring that Obama has violated his oath of office.
ThinkProgress caught up with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) at a town hall meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska last week to get his take on the matter. Fortenberry, who lacks no conservative credentials with an 87% lifetime conservative rating from the American Conservative Union, was unwilling to join his colleagues. Not only did he argue that Obama had not violated his oath of office, but he also recoiled at the notion that his colleagues would make such incendiary comments:
TP: I had a quick question about immigration policy in particular. There’s a lot of hot feelings out here about it. Do you think that if President Obama doesn’t address the issue, that that would be a violation of his oath of office?
FORTENBERRY: Well, I don’t think it’d be a violation of his oath of office. The problem is, like I was asked today earlier, when is the immigration reform going to happen? [...]
TP: I know Congressman Lamar Smith has come out and said that Obama is permitting illegal immigration is coming really close to a violation of his oath of office.
FORTENBERRY: Lamar said that?
TP: Yeah, he did. If Republicans were to take back Congress next term and if he were to bring up a bill like that, you’re saying you don’t think you would support that?
FORTENBERRY: That the president had violated his oath of office? Well I don’t…These things get a little politically heated. I don’t like to throw things around like that, that’s pretty serious. I like Lamar Smith, he’s a friend of mine. [...] I just don’t want to throw stuff around like that, frankly.
I’m off this morning to a strange and distant land for a bit of vacation. Specifically, my girlfriend and I will be driving up to sunny Cambridge, MA today and then pushing forward Sunday morning to my dad’s summer place in Brooklin, ME recently profiled by the Internet’s own Emily Gould. My hope is to enjoy some breeze, nice views, lobster rolls, peekytoe crab, and perhaps some sea kayaking.
Anyways, I like blogging so I’ll put some posts up while I’m gone, but obviously at a much-reduced pace and possibly focused on photos of quaint stuff.