Man Without Qualities

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Davis Descending XXIV: Schwarzenegger Uber Huffington

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Arnold Schwarzenegger, columnist Arianna Huffington and businessman Bill Simon filed papers to join the race. ... The trio of candidates in Norwalk submitted the necessary documents within a few minutes of each other this morning ... Schwarzenegger and wife Maria Shriver stepped out of a black sports utility vehicle ... Seconds later, Huffington arrived ... Huffington noted:

"We came here as two outsiders running against professionals but that is where the similarities end," said Huffington. "I arrived in a Prius, which gets 52 miles to the gallon, and he arrived in a large SUV."

Arianna apparently doesn't agree with Mickey Kaus' Ariarnold Schwarzenopoulos theorizing!

Amazingly, the Los Angeles Times reporter doesn't seem to notice the make of the Schwarzenegger SUV. Mickey Kaus criticized Schwarzenegger for driving what Kaus Files calls a Mercedes Gelandewagen to his Leno taping instead of Schwarzenegger's General Motors - built Hummer. A Prius is made by Japanese auto company Toyota. If Schwarzenegger drove the Hummer, Arianna may not have been all that swift to make her vehicular comparison.

And, Arianna, just imagine how little fuel efficiency all those state vehicles in Governor Gray Davis's motorcade get at 94 miles per hour! At those speeds one measures efficiency in gallons-per-mile! How could you pass up a mention of that!

UPDATE: Kaus Files with the latest: The SUV Schwarzenegger drove in to file his candidacy papers was a regular GMC Suburban, not a Hummer. So not only his he now driving domestic, he's moved several MPG closer to Arianna's Prius.

FURTHER UPDATE: Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, under pressure from fellow party members, dropped out two hours before the filing deadline, leaving Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as the only prominent Democrat on the ballot. Of course, the "ballot" here means the list of replacements/alternatives - on which Governor Davis' name does not appear according to law.

Will this relative closing of the Democratic ranks bring pressure on the lesser-polling Republicans and Republicanoids to withdraw?
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Lies, Damn Lies and Representative Statistics In The Grand Duchy of Krugmania

Don Luskin points out this beaut of a letter of rebuke to Paul Krugman from Andrew B. Lyon, a deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury Department:

As deputy assistant secretary responsible for tax analysis at the Treasury Department from April 2001 to July 2003, I must respond to Paul Krugman's Aug. 5 column accusing it of political bias.

Mr. Krugman objects to an analysis of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for six representative families, including a married couple, both 65, with $40,000 in income, including $2,000 in dividend income. He says that such a family is not representative of elderly taxpayers.

Obviously, no single example can be representative of all elderly taxpayers, but this couple has income quite close to the median for filers their age, and dividends quite close to the average for elderly filers at that income level, about half of whom receive dividends. The couple in the example would see its income tax liability decline from $1,396 to $675 as a result of the tax cuts.

Mr. Krugman is certainly free to oppose the tax relief, but he should be more circumspect in asserting political bias in the underlying analyses.


The New York Times actually published this letter. Ouch!

Herr Doktorprofessor's column which the letter addresses was previously discussed by the Man Without Qualities.

Herr Doktorprofessor responds:

Did you get that? I'm more accustomed to this sort of math than 99 percent of readers, and it took me about 6 reads. The average dividend of elderly families with the median income, half of whom receive dividends ... it sounds as if this refutes what I said . But you'll notice that he never takes on my assertion that only about 1/4 of elderly families receive any dividends, which comes from Tax Policy Center ; nor does he challenge my statement that only 1 in 8 elderly households receive as much as $2000 in dividends, which comes from CBPP . Here's CBPP's picture:

[Here Herr Doktorprofessor pointlessly inserts a pie chart showing nothing but the fact that 88% of the "elderly" have less than $2,000 in dividend income, apparently to impress people who are impressed by pie charts with only one slice.]

I leave it as an exercise for readers to figure out how Lyon's discussion is consistent with a real world in which the Treasury's "low-income" elderly household has more dividend income than 7 out of 8 elderly households.

The point, however, is that the confusing discussion shows the Treasury strategy at work. 1. Never answer the question directly. 2. Offer an elaborate calculation that sounds as if it refutes the accusation that the tax cut mainly favors the wealthy, when in fact it does no such thing.

For afficionados: notice how they're still doing the average/median thing. It's clear from what he says that the median dividend for families with the median income is ... 0.

Update: I couldn't provide a direct link to the piece from Tax Policy Center, because their web site appears to be down today. But here is a good summary table from Citizens for Tax Justice. By the way, both CTJ and TPC basically have the Treasury model of tax impacts, so their numbers must correspond very closely to what Treasury knows but won't tell us. For more about all this, read Sullivan's angry article in Tax Notes.

As a preliminary matter, it is worth considering the rhetoric of Herr Doktorprofessor's "money line": It's clear from what [Mr. Lyon] says that the median dividend for families with the median income is ... 0. That way of putting it makes it sound as if the number of median income families with dividend income must be insignificant (even zero) - and that's the impression Herr Doktorprofessor wants to make with this flourish. But this money line means exactly the same as: more than half of all families with median income have no dividend income. The money line would still be true if, say, 49% of all median income families owned stock - and that all of it paid substantial dividends. His rhetorical flourish (his "money line") articulates a standard that doesn't really address the issue it seems to address at all. He is here committing exactly the sin of which he accuses Mr. Lyon.

As a "reader" I take Herr Doktorprofessor up on his challenge: "I leave it as an exercise for readers to figure out how Lyon's discussion is consistent with a real world in which the Treasury's "low-income" elderly household has more dividend income than 7 out of 8 elderly households."

Mr. Lyon writes: [T]his couple has income quite close to the median for filers their age, and dividends quite close to the average for elderly filers at that income level, about half of whom receive dividends.

Mr. Lyon does not use the term "low income" to describe this family, so why does Herr Doktorprofessor use it and put it in quotes, as if he is quoting and debunking Mr. Lyon? Mr. Lyon expressly states that they are a married couple, both 65, with $40,000 in income, including $2,000 in dividend income, ... income quite close to the median for filers their age. Repeating: Mr. Lyon says they are a median income family - not a low income family.

Mr. Lyon also expressly states that the family's dividends [are] quite close to the average for elderly filers at that income level. So if you happen to be a 65 year-old couple with about $40,000 in income, this example will likely be of personal interest.

Herr Doktorprofessor is right when he says of Mr. Lyon's letter: you'll notice that he never takes on my assertion that only about 1/4 of elderly families receive any dividends. Instead, what Mr. Lyon does is point out that this family is representative of a different, well-defined group of the elderly - a group more representative of elderly people who are, in fact, affected by a change in the income tax than are the groups on which Herr Doktorprofessor wants to focus exclusively. Herr Doktorprofessor is entitled to present his own "representative" families. Mr. Lyon hasn't suggested that Herr Doktorprofessor's "representative" families are somehow fraudulent, as Herr Doktorprofessor has suggested of Mr. Lyon's. But Herr Doktorprofessor's "representative" families don't indicate the effect of tax changes on elderly families that have dividend income. Further, now that the tax on dividends has been reduced, more elderly families may in the future want to acquire dividend-paying stocks - and Mr. Lyon's numbers will be helpful to such families in making that decision, but Herr Doktorprofessor's could not be helpful. In important respects Herr Doktorprofessor is like someone insisting that one cannot look for a lost quarter except in those parts of the room with average lighting, regardless of where the quarter fell. [And, if that's the game, you'll notice that Herr Doktorprofessor never, here or elsewhere, takes on Don Luskin's point (also pointed out by those Luskin cites and links) that Herr Doktorprofessor's separate California growth-and-taxes column is full of basic math errors that "somehow" come out favoring Herr Doktorprofessor's biases. A little sauce-for-the goose, Herr Doktorprofessor? Eh?]

In some respects Herr Doktorprofessor's "answer" to Mr. Lyon seems to be little more than a wan, special-purpose reprise of the anti-tax-cut crowd's complaint that the recent public income tax-cut discussion should never have focused on the laws effects on people who pay income taxes. That crowd rants that the public discussion of a law reducing income taxes must always be couched in terms of people who pay any federal taxes. To do anything else, they and Herr Doktorprofessor maintain, is a lie - even if you disclose what you are doing.

I have pointed out in prior posts that the huge expenses imposed on the economy by federal regulation, as well as the prevailing anti-business litigation climate which the Commerce Clause of Constitution gives Congress the power to address, are economically equivalent to "hidden" federal taxes and expenditures. But the anti-tax-cut crowd never want those hidden costs and taxes included in tax cut debates. In fact, all efforts even to formulate and impose a comprehensive federal "regulatory budget" accounting for the costs imposed on the economy by federal regulation have been savagely opposed by those Herr Doktorprofessor supports in his anti-tax-cut fervor. That doesn't really bother me - intellectual constructs have to stop somewhere. But I just don't understand why people like Herr Doktorprofessor keep insisting that constructs that don't stop exactly where they want them to stop are fraudulent.

Why can't he just give his own examples, let the reader determine how good they are, and then shut the heck up?

Mr. Lyon uses the median as his basis of determining this "representative" couple (which he never maintains tells the whole story, contrary to Herr Doktorprofessor's whole rant), while Herr Doktorprofessor seems to fume that Mr. Lyon just must (must, Must!, MUST! MUST!!!! - goddamnit) stick to "averages" - at least to the point of not choosing a family of median income. But which is more "representative" of the effect of Warren Buffet walking into a bar: The resulting change in the average or median income of the people in the bar? Yet, as with Herr Doktorprofessor's "money line" above, comparisons based entirely on medians can omit a great deal of important information - he would say such comparisons were fraudulent if they were made by a Republican, especially a member of the Administration. But the correct response is not to foam at the mouth, but to point out the limited sweep of the example one doesn't like and give examples of one's own. Yes, not all Americans are 65 making $40,000 and receiving dividends, Herr Doktorprofessor. But that's hardly a weird, fraudulent not of the "real world" example - even if the couple is not a completely average elderly couple either.

"Medians" are often used to express (imperfectly) generic economic developments, especially when addressing non-specialists. For example, many newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times normally report fluctuations of local home prices by reference to median sales prices within given zip codes - and not average sales prices. Do those reports tell the whole story of how the housing market is fluctuating? No, of course not. Are such medians worth publishing? Yes, of course they are. But Herr Doktorprofessor seems to be implying that those papers are all but perpetrating some kind of fraud on the public. All illuminating comparisons based on "medians" and "averages" (like the Times home sales reports and Mr. Lyon's family example) are to some extent unrepresentative - and so are such comparisons such as Mr. Lyon's which are based on combinations of "median" and "average." Indeed, Herr Doktorprofessor frequently rails against the use of averages as being unrepresentative in economic matters - as, by way of many examples, his rants against what he considers the national over-concentration of income and wealth - including, as an astute reader points out, the case of Bush administration citing for its tax cut an "average" benefit of $1,600 per family, which elicited howls of protest from Paul Krugman's crowd that this was a misleading number because a few super-affluent families can skew averages substantially.
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Davis Descending XXIII: Schwarzenegger Uber Ueberroth

For someone who emphasizes the importance of politicians' getting along and not alienating each other, Peter Ueberroth has an interesting relationship with George W. Bush, judging from his attempt to put down Mr. Bush's role in managing the Texas Rangers:

Bush has often cited his efforts to put together the [Rangers] deal as one of the greatest accomplishments of his career. Ueberroth sees it differently.

"There is no question that Rainwater and Rose were the primary investment group and I asked them to consider taking George in," Ueberroth said in an interview. "He was an asset because his father's career was going up and reaching the top. We just brought the young man over somewhat out of respect for his father." Several major investors disputed Ueberroth's recollection. "It was a merger of the two groups," said Gerald Haddock, Rainwater's attorney and later the Rangers general counsel. "It is a fact that Eddie Chiles wanted to give the deal to George W. . . . Without George, this group could not have done the deal."

That's interesting - and rather pointlessly hostile on Mr. Ueberroth's part.

Mr. Ueberroth is far from my first choice for governor, although he would be better than Mr. Davis. Mr. Ueberroth takes the "let's make a deal" approach to politics that many successful big businessmen do. That means he accepts the existing lineup as a given and focuses on bringing home the "deal" (the budget, the legislation, the appointment, whatever). That's nice for a "deal doer", but it's the usual way Rockefeller Republicans like Mr. Ueberroth screw up everything they touch in the long run, and it ignores the fact that every existing lineup just reflects somebody else's past ideological efforts.

Peter Ueberroth seems to actually be worse than most Rockefeller Republicans, since he doesn't even appear to see those past ideological efforts, never mind understand them. An overused criticism still has truth in it here: I'm not sure that he "believes" in many principles.

In this sense, Peter Ueberroth is a poor man's Richard Riordan. Running a state like California in it's current condition well requires more than doing local "deals" the way, say, putting the 1984 Olympics together did - running this state well requires a global vision. Mr. Ueberroth tries to make a virtue out of being visionless, and his public 1984 Olympic success is a personal burden to him in that respect. Mr. Riordan sometimes grits his teeth and accepts that the system is hard on visions. In the short term both approaches probably would lead to a substantial tax rise in California - which is the last thing this state needs or can tolerate. Sometimes, one side in an argument is just wrong - and that's the Democrats when it comes to California's current budget mess. Such things are not certain: It is at least possible that Richard Riordan might understand that and might be willing to stand up for not raising taxes. It is almost impossible to imagine Mr. Ueberroth standing up that way - or for many principles that need defending in California, other than the principle of keeping the decibel level in Sacramento down to a dull roar. In the longer run Richard Riordan would probably do much better - but he's not an option.

I'm not sure why more people don't really model themselves on Ronald Reagan here. Lots of people say they do - but they don't. Maybe he's too hard to understand - especially if, like most politicians (including most putative Reagan admirers), one is so burdened by prejudice, bias and contempt that one can't understand basic facts like Mr. Reagan being an uncategorizable genius.

We don't know that much about Arnold Schwarzenegger deeper political motivations. But the "economic conservative/social liberal" position he's staking out - or being stuck with - is unlikely to be the whole story. That position would have allowed him to become a brand of "centrist" Democrat, in, say, the putative Al Gore mold.

A man who becomes and remains a Republican - and supports many Republicans - for years even as he navigates uber-Democratic Hollywood and remains married to a member of the nation's highest-profile Democratic family, is not just a shallow opportunist and almost certainly has serious principles that simply were and are not consistent with being a Democrat. We haven't seen much of those, yet.

Of course, someone writing under the name of a cantankerous Austrian might have a soft spot for such people.

UPDATE: A new TIME/CNN Poll via Drudge makes clear why Pandemonium has broken loose on the Democratic side:

California voters would remove Governor Gray Davis from office and replace him with Arnold Schwarzenegger by a 19 percentage-point margin if the election were held today.

Mr. Schwarzenegger leads Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamanate, his closest competitor, by a 25%-to-15% margin.

State Sen. Tom McClintock (9%)

Former candidate for governor Bill Simon (7%)

Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, columnist Arianna Huffington, and former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth (tied with 4% each)

The poll's margin of error is +/- 4.3%. So the entire apparent support of Larry Flynt, Arianna Huffington and Peter Ueberroth could be just statistical noise.

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Trending Away: Leo Terrell Out The Gate

Los Angeles civil rights attorney and radio talk show host Leo Terrell - a Democratic champion of the left - has resigned as a member of the NAACP, saying officials tried to strong-arm him into dropping his endorsement of Carolyn Kuhl, the hyper-qualified, brilliant, personable woman who has been nominated by President Bush to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which can certainly use her help and talent. Mr. Terrell said he would use his weekly radio show against the NAACP:

"How dare the NAACP tell me who I can or cannot endorse on an individual basis. That is the part that makes this so outrageous. I am going to tell the whole world what the NAACP did to me."

The Man Without Qualities believes that there will be an increasing number of such defections over the next few years, as African Americans break the liberal/Democratic hold in their own impressive, unique fashion. And I expect that much of that break-up process will be fundamentally incomprehensible to the liberal/Democratic establishment with a few brilliant exceptions like Donna Brazille - although the establishment types will pore over their charts and poll results as they always have.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if within a few years Donna Brazille herself were to become an "independent" consultant instead of a Democratic consultant - why not have the formalities match the increasingly obvious substance? Why should Donna Brazille not spend her time trying to obtain school voucher programs for less advantaged children - instead of taking orders from people who take orders from teachers' unions bosses who care little about those kids? Donna Brazille has two big failings as a Democratic consultant: she is a good person who actually cares about the consequences of her acts to ordinary people, and she's brilliant enough to know what the current Democratic agenda does to those people.
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Jobless Recovery?

The recovery may be largely "jobless" so far, but that aspect has provided significant employment for some mighty clever people, including Bruce Bartlett and Arnold Kling and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Steve Antler (from whom all these link were obtained).

Mr. Bartlett points out that productivity recently and now continuously obtained through new technology (as distinguished from productivity obtained from workers woking harder) has had a substantial effect on employers' short-term demand for new employees as the economy has emerged from its the recent doldrums:

The higher productivity going in [to the recent recession] meant that fewer workers were needed coming out of the recession. Now, in the current recession, which ended in the fourth quarter of 2001, we have seen even higher productivity on either side. The latest data show an increase in productivity of 4 percent in the six quarters before and 6.5 percent in the six quarters after. That is why employment growth and hiring levels remain weak. Employers are raising output without adding much new labor. It is important to remember that this is a short-run phenomenon. In the long run, higher productivity increases employment, a fact documented in two new studies from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. But in the meantime, employment growth may still be slow for a couple more months.

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Friday, August 08, 2003

Davis Descending XXII: Dud Prediction?

The Man Without Qualities impetuously predicted: Simon, McClintock and Ueberroth will throw their support to Arnold Schwarzenegger within days.

But Peter Ueberroth has announced his candidacy. And shortly after it became known that Arnold Schwarzenegger would join the race for California Governor Bill Simon said on television that he will file papers to appear on the recall ballot on Saturday, which is the final day to qualify. So Mr. Simon doesn't seem interested in bailing. [UPDATE: Bill Simon is now reported to have filed]. And McClintock has not shown any inclination to withdraw. So it looks like my prediction was a dud - at least at this point.

Of course, it's one thing to enter the race and quite another to allocate the kind of budget this will take. If his heart were in it, Mr. Ueberroth would probably make a much better governor than Gray Davis - so I have no problem with his entering the race, as such. But why has he waited until now, instead of trying for the governorship - or some other statewide position, such as Senator - at any time over the last 20 years? I had expected him to withdraw from the recall because he has declined so often in the past when he could have made a real difference and because his constituency - centrist, economically rational, socially liberalish voters - overlaps extensively with Arnold Schwarzenegger's. That means that he will likely deny both himself and Arnold Schwarzenegger the governorship if each of them spends the north of $15 Million needed to run meaningfully, and then lose. What's more, I had thought - and I still think - that Mr. Ueberroth doesn't believe in his own candidacy, which he seemed to confirm even as he declared that candidacy: "I’m going to give it a try, and I know it’s something of a longshot," said Mr. Ueberroth. Uh, sure, Peter. Whatever you say. It is just hard to believe that Mr. Ueberroth has the fire in the belly for this run. I still expect him to pull out, but I think it may take longer than I had thought.

In light of how well Mr. Simon did in the last election, he is certainly not a clear loser if he, too, is willing to spend another $20 Million. I expected Mr. Simon to withdraw if Mr. Ueberroth declined to enter because the Republican establishment seems to have favored (if not exactly endorsed) Mr. Schwarzenegger, because Mr. Simon had already spent so much of his own money in the last election, because he must be bruised and exhausted from the prior race with the Governor, and because Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably the stronger candidate - assuming his skeletons don't change his public profile too much. But with Mr. Ueberroth possibly splitting Arnold Schwarzenegger's constituency, the calculus for Mr. Simon is much more complex and uncertain. I still expect Mr. Simon to decline - but my sense is now much weaker.

As for Mr. McClintock - he has not been quoted recently to my knowledge, which is one reason I still expect him to withdraw. It is hard to understand what he gains by running without funding or media interest. But I suppose it is possible for him to leave his name on the list, but let the race die anyway.
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Davis Descending XXI: The Better Reason To Eject Gray Davis

The Los Angeles Times today reports:

California's labor market declined sharply in July as the state's employers axed another 21,800 jobs or nearly half the positions lost in the entire nation last month ... [T]here was little to cheer about in July's numbers as California struggles along with the rest of the nation amid a "jobless recovery." Nearly every sector of the California labor market posted losses, from retailing and transportation to manufacturing to business services, demonstrating a widespread reluctance among employers to hire. Worse yet, the losses are accelerating. July's cuts were the biggest so far this year, and California has shed jobs in five out of the last six months. More than 1.1 million Californians are unemployed, nearly a quarter of them have been out of work more that six months.

These figures emphasize that the widespread focus on the mere size of the unresolved $38 Billion California state deficit, and its emergence after a previous surplus, are distractions. As with most enterprises, the most important question is not often how something is funded (debt or taxes) but what is funded. California may be in the zone where solvency considerations are becoming real - but they are certainly not yet dominant. What is dominant is what dominates most corporate financial considerations: the choice of what California funds and how it operates those funded programs. In addition, there are newer, huge regulatory expenses imposed by the state (including the electricity and natural gas messes, which are not going to cease to be caused by the state no matter how often the politicians and media shout "Enron!"). For example: Next summer California will become the only state in the US where workers are entitled to pay while staying at home to care for newborn children or sick relatives. And, of course, there is the preposterous anti-business litigation climate. These burdens can be thought of as "hidden" taxes and expenditures.

It is in that area of choice of what to tax and fund (including "hidden" taxation and funding) that California is so much more off track than the federal government and almost every other state. To see that, suppose that $38 Billion had actually been well-spent, in the sense that the state would receive a meaningful positive return from it. Would California be so much in an uproar? No. California's spending used to be more productive: education, roads, health, water programs and much more, returned much more than the state spent - at least in the long run. Even if the state might not have made the best use of those funds, at least the return was positive and ample. Taxes were not as structured as attempts at wealth shifting.

That is no longer the case. The return to state-financed education is low, for example - simply because students are not educated. In short: The uproar is not fundamentally over how much California spends - although it spends much too much - the uproar is over the value obtained from those expenditures. But the issue is clouded because most people can't unpack the nature of their discontent - and the media has failed miserably in filling that gap.

The results include too much fussing over the size of that deficit. But the real problem is that California's recent economic numbers are worse than the country's as a whole largely as the results of factors which are well within the control of Californians in elected public office.

The recall critics are right in some things: Gray Davis didn't do it all himself. That doesn't mean he should be retained. He has not been much of a corrective influence. But the real problem is with the legislature - which means the real problem is with the voters' choice of legislators. As in any democracy, the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves - and that will remain true if Gray Davis is replaced with a star of the Hollywood variety.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times reports:

[Peter] Ueberroth, a Republican who said he would position himself as an independent if he ran, had not made an announcement about his candidacy by mid-day [Friday].

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Thursday, August 07, 2003

The Eden Fallacy

I'm so disappointed. Paul Krugman doesn't explain how all the positive economic news is meaningless and he didn't take any of my suggestions on how to avoid writing about that news. Can a Man Without Qualities feel unloved?

Instead, Herr Doktorprofessor retreats to Iraq, to the fabled valley of Eden itself, to languidly accuse Republicans all of undermining and disparaging the very science that supports efforts to address Global Warming, and perhaps to even insinuate that Republicans have despoiled Eden by allowing salt to percolate into its soil, with Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, apparently bearing a particularly large portion of the blame:

The answer — the reason "the very soil lost its virtue" — is that heavy irrigation in a hot, dry climate leads to a gradual accumulation of salt in the soil. Rising salinity first forced the Sumerians to switch from wheat to barley, which can tolerate more salt; by about 1800 B.C. even barley could no longer be grown in southern Iraq, and Sumerian civilization collapsed. Later "salinity crises" took place further north. In the 19th century, when Europeans began to visit Iraq, it probably had a population less than a tenth the size of the one in the age of Gilgamesh. Modern civilization's impact on the environment is, of course, far greater than anything the ancients could manage. .... Before last year's elections Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, wrote a remarkable memo about how to neutralize public perceptions that the party was anti-environmental. Here's what it said about global warming: "The scientific debate is closing [against us] but is not yet closed. There is still an opportunity to challenge the science." ... But as a recent article in Salon reminds us, this appearance of uncertainty is "manufactured." Very few independent experts now dispute that manmade global warming is happening, and represents a serious threat. Almost all the skeptics are directly or indirectly on the payroll of the oil, coal and auto industries.

It is indeed curious that Herr Doktoprofessor, who takes the greatest pride in being the "only" economist rendering his particular insights de jour should lapse into a science-by-super-majority approach when it comes to climatology. But there he is.

He is also there to cast his saline polluted mud on the good faith of those who question the Global Warming orthodoxy, including, implicitly, Bjorn Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist who has been the subject of several Man Without Qualities posts. Herr Doktorprofessor knows perfectly well that Dr. Lomborg is the best-known opponent of Global Warming orthodoxy and that there is no reason to believe that he is directly or indirectly on the payroll of the oil, coal and auto industries. Moreover, Herr Doktorprofessor also knows that sliming a source of funding does not invalidate scientific work. Would he have the FDA turn down all drug applications where the drug's inventors are directly or indirectly on the payroll of the drug companies? That wouldn't leave many drugs. The real answer is more research. [UPDATE: Some environmentalists are entirely comfortable in shutting down research to further political or very-far-fetched pseudo-scientific agendas, as this remarkable story about the forced termination of an ocean temperature study indicates.] And are the authors of a recent Harvard-led study on the take, a study previously discussed on the Man Without Qualities:

Claims that man-made pollution is causing "unprecedented" global warming have been seriously undermined by new research which shows that the Earth was warmer during the Middle Ages. ... A review of more than 240 scientific studies has shown that today's temperatures are neither the warmest over the past millennium, nor are they producing the most extreme weather - in stark contrast to the claims of the environmentalists. The review, carried out by a team from Harvard University, examined the findings of studies of so-called "temperature proxies" such as tree rings, ice cores and historical accounts which allow scientists to estimate temperatures prevailing at sites around the world. The findings prove that the world experienced a Medieval Warm Period between the ninth and 14th centuries with global temperatures significantly higher even than today. They also confirm claims that a Little Ice Age set in around 1300, during which the world cooled dramatically. Since 1900, the world has begun to warm up again - but has still to reach the balmy temperatures of the Middle Ages.

The timing of the end of the Little Ice Age is especially significant, as it implies that the records used by climate scientists date from a time when the Earth was relatively cold, thereby exaggerating the significance of today's temperature rise. According to the researchers, the evidence confirms suspicions that today's "unprecedented" temperatures are simply the result of examining temperature change over too short a period of time.

And, with respect to climate research in general, I will let Jane Galt speak, especially about the ridiculous Salon article on which Herr Doktorprofessor depends, since I could do no better than Jane, although her post was written before Herr Doktoprofessor's column came out! Has Jane - who does not even write about Herr Doktorprofessor nowadays - been through that small doorway behind the filing cabinet on the 7 1/2 floor? Here's what she had to say:

[M]ost of the journalistic coverage out there isn't any help at all .... 99% of the journalists covering the topic seem to have already decided what the truth is before they made their first phone call: either it's 100% certain science, refuted only by evil monster scientists who are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the oil companies; or it is an environmentalist shibboleth invented by stupid people who hate economic prosperity. This Salon article, which touched off this rant, is absolutely typical: the author seems to think that the way you refute bad science is to keep telling the reader that the scientists took money from Exxon, while quoting such scientific luminaries as Ralph Nader's Center for Science in the Public Interest to refute them.

While my limited research shows that it is indeed the consensus of the scientific community that global warming is real, there is no consensus about its extent and reach, a distinction that appears entirely lost on the majority of journalists who cover it. In other words, the fact that the scientific community believes it is happening does not mean that they endorse the wild doomsday scenarios promulgated by various environmental groups, and using their "consensus" to support such claims is bad journalism.

Journalists should also keep in mind that just as economists are ill-qualified to judge how well meteorological models work, scientists have little ability to evaluate the economic outcomes of their suggestions. In other words, they are prone to suggest things without understanding what the costs would be. A meteorologist who says that we should reduce our carbon emissions by 25% probably has no idea what sort of drop in GDP that would entail, and has difficulty imagining what such a drop would actually mean to everyday citizens. He is therefore probably looking only at the societal costs of his warming predictions, without looking at the costs of the measures he proposes to reduce the warming. If he were looking at both, his suggestions might be very different.

Finally, we are all prone to think that we are right. Scientists advocating aggressive models of warming may be right -- or they may be overconfident. A look at the history of downward revisions in warming projections is educational on that score. According to journalists, the scientists were every bit as certain about projections that were as much as 4 degrees celcius higher, just a short time ago. A little humility about the much-vaunted scientific consensus is in order.

I'd also note that the majority of journalists I know who believe that global warming is settled science believe thusly because -- they have heard it from other journalists. Few of whom were out building climate models in their spare time.

Which is not to say that global warming isn't happening, or that we shouldn't do something about it. But the level of superstition and ignorance surrounding the debate is appalling. People on both sides should hold off on the ridicule and contempt until they're sure that their own understanding of the science is rock solid.

That pretty much wraps it up. Herr Doktorprofessor's approach, of course, ignores the Senate's total, bi-partisan rejection of the Kyoto Protocol by simply not discussing the protocol at all! How elegant. That approach also spares him from having to address the awkward fact that some European countries are finding it essentially impossible to comply with the Protocol. So what, exactly, does he want the President or the US to do?

UPDATE: Given Herr Doktorprofessor's new infatuation with science-by-supermajority, it seems that on at least the question of capital expenditures he must now abandon his prior beliefs and submit to the will of the masses! Specifically, the Wall Street Journal reports:

An overwhelming 92% of economists in the survey said they believe the rise in profits will prompt companies to boost capital spending and investment in the next six months. Such investment will be key to sustaining a meaningful recovery.

So that's it Herr Doktoprofessor. No dissenting. None of that "nobody is paying attention to ...." stuff this time. Fall in line with that 92% or we'll know you're "manufacturing" dissent - and that you're in somebody's direct or indirect thrall. Just by applying your own criteria.
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Trending Away: Young African Americans Out The Gate

The growing disaffection of many African Americans with the Democratic Party has gotten so bad that even the New York Times is belatedly starting to take notice:

[S]ome Democratic strategists fear [what] may be a growing problem: The party is perilously out of touch with a large swath of black voters — those 18 to 35 years old who grew up after the groundbreaking years of the civil rights movement. It is a group too important and complex to ignore, many strategists caution, when analysts are predicting another close election. Democrats have traditionally counted on more than 90 percent of the black vote. Blacks 18 to 35 make up about 40 percent of the black voting-age population, but turnout among young blacks was so low in the 2000 elections that they made up only 2 percent of the entire vote. .... Generations X and Y, reared on hip-hop and the Internet, in a niche-market culture, are proving to be a tougher sell.

While still more closely aligned with Democrats than Republicans on issues like affirmative action and health care, younger blacks are more open to at least exploring initiatives shunned by the Democratic Party, like school vouchers and partial privatization of Social Security, polls show.

Polls also indicate that younger blacks place a higher priority than older African-Americans on issues like racial profiling and protecting civil liberties.

In 2000, 74 percent of African-Americans identified themselves as Democrats. By last year, that number had dropped to 63 percent, according to a recent survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a research group devoted to African-American issues.

Those shifting away from the Democratic Party are not necessarily becoming Republicans. ... But an increasing number, especially those 18 to 35, are identifying themselves as independents. Some 24 percent of black adults now characterize themselves that way. Among those 35 and under, said David Bositis, a senior researcher at the Joint Center who conducted the survey, the figures are 30 percent to 35 percent, with men leaning more heavily independent than women. ... [E]ven if they are not registered Republicans, younger blacks are more open to supporting Republican candidates and issues than older blacks. .... For Democratic leaders the trends are a worrying sign that their base, as it has traditionally been defined, is not as stable as it used to be. "This is very disconcerting for us going forward," said Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "It is critical that we do a better job of connecting." .... When Michael L. Steele, a black Republican, ran for lieutenant governor of Maryland with Robert L. Erlich Jr. in 2002, ... [they] not only swung traditionally Democratic white voters, [they] also received 14 percent of the black vote, the largest percentage of African-American votes ever for a Republican ticket in Maryland. In Baltimore, one of the areas deluged with the hip-hop radio spots, the ticket won 30 percent of the black vote.

I have noted previously that the Bush White House is exploiting this Democratic weakness with great subtlety, especially through deployment of Condi Rice and Colin Powell to take the heat in the misconceived Democratic assaults on White House credibility over Iraq. Ms. Rice has just made the associations even clearer:

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice likened Iraq's halting steps toward self-government to black Americans' struggle for civil rights, imploring black journalists Thursday to reject arguments that some people are incapable of democracy.

"We've heard that argument before, and we, more than any, as a people, should be ready to reject it," Rice, who is black, told about 1,200 people at the National Association of Black Journalists convention.

"The view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham, and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East," she said.

"We should not let our voice waver in speaking out on the side of people who are seeking freedom," Rice said. "And we must never, ever indulge in the condescending voices who allege that some people in Africa or in the Middle East are just not interested in freedom, they're culturally just not ready for freedom or they just aren't ready for freedom's responsibilities." ....

Rice has faced sharp criticism for allowing Bush to assert in his January State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa, and the journalists in Dallas questioned her actions Thursday. Rice and other aides have defended themselves in part by pointing to the fact that doubts about the intelligence appeared in a footnote, written by the State Department, deep in a top-secret National Intelligence Estimate. That footnote was thus not read by Bush, Rice or other top aides, said a senior White House official last month. ....

"The most appalling thing about this whole incident was that it for a two-week period had us discussing whether Saddam Hussein tried to get yellowcake in Africa, when of course the president of the United States did not go to war over whether Saddam Hussein tried to get yellowcake from Africa," she said. ... She never considered resigning, and never talked to Bush about quitting over the incident, she said.

She never considered resigning. Good.

And the cleverest aspect of all this is that Ms. Rice makes points for and about herself, and the desirability of the Republican Party to African Americans, without ever saying a direct word about these issues - just by creating the mis en place for the associations to be made and by being a brilliant example to us all. But the results of African Americans forming opinions of how the Bush Administration views Ms. Rice and Mr. Powell - and, by extension, African Americans generally - will be visible in 2004 and beyond.
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Davis Descending XX: Another Big Non-Surprise

In one of the recall elections biggest non-surprises, the Republican appointed California Supreme Court has decided not to intervene in the recall madness and, in particular, will not bail out Gray Davis by giving a totally bizarre reading to fairly obvious constitutional language (as he requested) for no good reason! This development comes hard on the heels of Dianne Feinstein's decision not pointlessly to enter the recall election and thereby bring massive chaos and bitter feeling into her otherwise comfortable life.

Tomorrow's non-surprises: None of the Justices will put his or her head in a gas oven! And they will all try to maintain their chambers at around 72% F, rather than, say, 106% F!

The several remaining federal law suits have the particular logic and charm of some of Roald Dahl's wilder efforts, especially a case filed in Los Angeles by the American Civil Liberties Union alleging that some of the state's 58 counties are ill-prepared to carry out a vote by Oct. 7, and that others would be forced to use voting machines they had promised a federal judge they would discard by March. Of course, those are the voting machines that have served California without significant complaint for decades - while the electronic version that are to replace them have recently been found also to be subject to great possible error and even greater possible fraud. And even "pop" or "snap" elections in many countries - Britain, for example - are routinely held after only six weeks of campaigning, with no apparent damage to the democracy.

But, heck, this is California! One can find a daffy federal judge to believe almost anything here. Perhaps as a result of that suit the federal judge in charge will have the courage to take recent federal jurisprudence to its logical conclusion and declare that no elections can be held anywhere in the United States until fully reliable voting machines that are easily understandable even by morons have been invented and distributed - and declaring that no such machines exist now. Therefore, until further notice, the country will be entirely run by the judiciary exercising equity jurisdiction.

UPDATE: Garamendi is in. And, in another big non-surprise, Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday derided the race as "a first-class carnival" and called two new entrants, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, opportunists.

UPDATE: The Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore provides no substantial support for the injunctive relief sought in Los Angeles federal court action, except, perhaps, in the mind of a opportunistic, partisan federal judge (of which there are plenty) or a legal academic willfully misconstruing the Court's holding out of all context. That the California Supreme Court rejected the exact same arguments without dissent or concurrence should be suggestive of how insubstantial the ACLU arguments really are. Substantively, Bush v. Gore depended critically on the peculiar timing of that case (there was no time left). It is not a Supreme Court writ of authority for federal district courts to upset long established, mostly trouble-free election procedures where no actual crisis, or even a problem, exists. Efforts such as the ACLU is making in Los Angeles to the contrary are fatuous misreadings out of context. Much of the legal academic professoriate and the mainstream media views Bush v. Gore with a hostility so intense that it is all but impossible for them to understand its limitations. But this much can be guaranteed: The Supreme Court does not share a view of its decision that casts it as the free-form federal court power grab urged by the ACLU in Los Angeles. And any lower court - including the California Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit and the Central District of California in Los Angeles - which does not want to be summarily and brusquely reversed by the Supreme Court (as the Ninth Circuit frequently is - and would be in this case) will not accept the ACLU's weird and attenuated reading of Supreme Court precedent. That Mark D. Rosenbaum of the ACLU describes its action as an attempt to force from the federal constitution the principle that the process for buying "lottery tickets should not be more reliable than voting for the governor of California" should be taken as a concession that the ACLU is whistling in the dark. But most legal academics and most media representatives are too far gone to understand that.

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Davis Descending XIX: Ranks Close On One Side Only

In addition to Cruz Bustamante, many Democrats, quasi-Democrats and pseudo-Democrats have entered the race or may enter. Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, former U.S. Rep. Leon Panetta, ever-daffy U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (who the media blessedly seem to have stopped quoting so much recently) may run. Megalomaniacal author, syndicated columnist, Picasso-basher, reborn-progressive political chameleon Arianna Huffington announced that she is running, gratuitously adding that her entry is as an "independent" - but, of course, in a "loose affiliation" with Peter Camejo, of the Green Party, who is also running. Larry Flynt - the noted pornographer and Clintonista - is in there. Got all that?

The entry of each of these leftish people seriously undermines Governor Davis' ability to characterize the recall as an elitist or Republican "coup," which undermines the Governor's ability to survive the first recall vote (which asks only: "Davis, yes or no?").

But if Davis loses, all these names seriously dilute the left's chances of having one of their own win the election - the second recall vote. Why, Larry Flynt alone can probably siphon off more than a dozen votes.

What is even worse for the left is that the rightish/Republican side seems to be closing ranks around Arnold, and its presence on the ballot has just shrunk significantly with the decision of Darrell Issa - who funded much of the California recall efforts - to withdraw from the recall race. Richard Riordan has also indicated he will not enter if Arnold Schwarzenegger did. Arianna's former husband, former Republican Rep. Michael Huffington, also withdrew from the election today, saying that he would not enter the race because his children "come first"(Ouch! Michael slips her the blade!), and threw his support behind Schwarzenegger - it must have been a nasty divorce for the Huffingtons. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) said today that he would endorse the actor and predicted that many other California House Republicans would follow. "Most of them are very much impressed with Arnold," Rohrabacher said. "He will have overwhelming support in the Republican delegation right away."

That basically leaves Bill Simon and Tom McClintock. Simon is expected in some quarters to file on Saturday. Republican Peter Ueberroth, the former baseball commissioner who ran the 1984 Summer Olympics took out papers Thursday, but hasn't yet filed.

My prediction: Simon, McClintock and Ueberroth will throw their support to Arnold Schwarzenegger within days.

UPDATE: Ueberroth, Time magazine's man of the year in 1984 after he successfully organized the Summer Olympics (news - web sites) in Los Angeles, was expected to announce his decision Friday, said GOP consultant Dan Schnur.

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Steve Antler Is Justifiably Smug ...

... about the productivity numbers released today. Productivity grew at an annual rate of 5.7 percent in the April to June quarter.

It is also worth bearing in mind some rather obvious but often overlooked employer thinking:

When a jittery producer faces a recovering market for the producer's product, the employer at first resists hiring new people out of concern for renewed recession. That tends to push per-employee productivity up for a while even on an hourly basis (that is, employees work more during a given hour, they don't just work more hours), which is consistent with the numbers just reported. Other factors, such as new technology, can also lift productivity, of course - and those factors are more lasting.

The next thing that happens is that employers hire more temporary employees. And, indeed, there has been a lot of temporary hiring. Obviously, in a real recovery, this "next thing" (as well as the "final" thing described below) is going on simultaneoulsy with the first thing with regard to different employers and even within the same employer.

Finally, temporary employees become scarce or less acceptable and employers become more confident, so permanent employee hiring begins in earnest and jobless claims drop.

The country appears to be arriving at that point now. Which is consistent with Steve seeing the "Big Dubya" in the employment future. The retail surge doesn't hurt any, either.

Gee, it will be interesting to see how Paul Krugman explains how all this positive news is meaningless. There is, of course, the fall in the bond market. Maybe he can just write about that again, not mention the rest at all or only in some slighting aside, and toss in some conspiracy accusations against the President, the Vice President or even Alan Greenspan. And there's always his neo-luddite mode: Increasing productivity means fewer jobs as people are squeezed out by technology! Or how about an old stand-by like: Nobody has been paying attention to fuel prices, which are soaring as supplies contract! Hey, don't laugh - it's filled columns for him (if not exactly "worked") before.
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The Unraveling Begins

As a former state governor, Howard Dean has a huge advantage on every Democratic presidential hopeful from the United States Congress - an advantage occasionally noted by, but not really appreciated by, most of the media except the Wall Street Journal (which seems to have a much better grasp on this advantage than the rest of the media).

But Governor Dean is still a lightweight who can occupy the White House only in the event of serious pre-election economic doldrums or genuine Republican scandal.

And maybe not even then, since he has a truly amazing ability to undermine himself. He told the AFL-CIO he never favored raising the retirement age for Social Security benefits to age 70 - which is false. But such inconsistency and casual amnesia is not a terrible burden to bear in getting elected - President Clinton probably committed six or seven such transgressions in any given working day. So what? Well, such things do tend cumulatively to negate one's ability to actually govern - but that's another and future story, which in Governor Dean's case will probably never have to be told.

The real problem with Governor Dean's handling of this potentially volcanic matter is his basis of his explanation for his change of heart:

Dean acknowledged that he had called for such an increase when the country was faced with a deficit in 1995, but said he no longer thinks it is necessary. He said former President Clinton set an example of balancing the budget without raising the retirement age. "Clinton proved that if you run a decent economy and have a budget surplus and some jobs, then you don't need to raise the age to extend the life of Social Security," Dean said in a telephone interview after The Associated Press questioned conflicting statements he has made on the issue.

But Governor Dean seems to be saying that when the country does not have a decent economy and have a budget surplus and some jobs, then he may very well see a need to raise the age to extend the life of Social Security. We now know that when President Clinton left office the economy was slipping into recession. Moreover, the tech boom that buoyed the economy towards the end of Mr. Clinton's term is widely now seen as an orgy of "mis-investment" and "overcapitalization" which requires a long recovery period. In the face of all that, neither Mr. Dean nor anyone else has explained what they would have done to keep a decent economy and have a budget surplus and some jobs.

Which suggests that if Governor Dean had been elected to the Presidency in 2000, he would now be seeing a need to raise the age to extend the life of Social Security - because he really has no policy prescriptions for avoiding what he characterizes as the current economic doldrums. Besides, the traditional Democratic justification for non-privatized social security is that the program is supposed to be the ultimate safety net that keeps on functioning exactly when the private economy goes south. If anyone could always maintain a decent economy and have a budget surplus and some jobs, there would probably be no good argument for social security at all - and certainly a privatized system would be hard to resist.

Anyone who thinks social security recipients and future social security recipients and analysts are not going to ask questions in this kind of detail just doesn't understand this topic - and that seems to include Governor Dean.

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Davis Descending XVIII: Disaster And Stars In Their Eyes

He doesn't warrant even a mention in the clueless, celebrity-drunk Los Angeles Times headline (Schwarzenegger In, Feinstein Out), but the decision of Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to enter the recall race is a disaster for Governor Davis, making his removal from office very likely. That's the most important news. The disaster is not primarilly that Bustamante will split the Democratic vote - it is unlikely that he will have much money to campaign effectively, as the public employee unions support of the Governor and Mr. Bustamante's own past fund-raising impotence make apparent. No. The major part of the disaster is that it will defang Governor Davis' major successful campaign device: demonizing his opponents. As I noted early:

But what should be even more troubling for Mr. Davis is the increasing likelihood of other Democrats putting their names up to become governor if he is indeed turned out. If that were to happen, Mr. Davis' job of demonizing his opponent would become much trickier. For example, if Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante were to put his name up as an alternative, Mr. Davis would find himself running against his own second-in-command. Yet such a state of affairs seems increasingly likely, ...

That's also why the possible entry of Democratic Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi would be disaster for Mr. Davis - but on a much smaller scale.

What about Arnold Schwarzenegger? Of course it's bad for Governor Davis that a formidable Republican has entered the race. But if Mr. Schwarzenegger hadn't done it, his good friend and equally formidable - if less flashy - Republican Richard Riordan would have. Mr. Schwarzenegger's decision to enter - which displaces Mr. Riordan - will make it easier for Mr. Davis to run his typical demonization campaign against his main opponent - Mr. Schwarzenegger. The well-connected Richard Riordan could have brought more pressure against the Governor on this central consideration. Nor does the well-vetted Richard Riordan have the kinds of skeletons in his closet that may (or may not) trouble Mr. Schwarzenegger. Of the two, Riordan led in most polls. It is by no means clear that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a better candidate than the alternative, Richard Riordan, would have been, which means that it is by no means clear that Mr. Schwarzenegger's announcement yesterday was bad news for Mr. Davis.

And, no, Dianne Feinstein will not reconsider. For example, Mr. Bustamante has little to lose and much to gain by running. That's not true of the Senator. The public employee unions, for example, love Mr. Bustamante on substance even if they won't give him money.

UPDATE: At least the New York Times sees the significance of Bustamante's action in its headline: Top California Democrat to Challenge Davis in Recall Vote. The Times also correctly gives the lie to any thought that the Governor will not be up top his old demonization tricks: "I would advise parents in California to turn off the TV for the next 60 days," Democratic official Bob Mulholland said. "If they are firing at you, we will certainly fire back."

Right. Just one detail Mr. Mulholland ignores: Mr. Schwarzenegger hasn't suggested that he will be "firing on" the Governor's groin. And Cruz Bustamante has made it a lot harder for Governor Davis to effectively demonize the entire effort to eject him from office - that is, the first of the two recall votes - as a Republican "coup."

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Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Davis Descending XVII: Arnold Sez "Yes"

Drudge says that: Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger says during taping of 'Tonight Show'' he will run for governor in California recall election!

I hope that is true, because he would probably make a much better governor than Gray Davis.

I also hope Arnold has a thick skin, beause there will be a lot of money spent by people trying to uncover and expose every bit of dirt they can. And, with the recall election scheduled for October 7, that dirt doesn't have to stick for long to be effective.

UPDATE: Reuters confirms it. As does the Asssociated Press.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan has said he would not enter the race if Schwarzenegger did.

BACKDATE: Left wing columnist Robert Scheer way ahead of the pack - in 2001:

Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor!

Well, why not? I hadn't thought of putting in a plug for the actor's political career until Gov. Gray Davis' top political operative, Garry South, conducted one of the meanest political smear jobs in recent memory.

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Davis Descending XVI: Claptrap Debunked

It is some measure of how utterly clueless most of the mainstream media are being with respect to the California recall election that the Los Angeles Times this morning runs an interminable, witless article attempting to sustain the notion that Dianne Feinstein might run, the Senator's repeated dismissals of the idea discounted by the Times on the basis of the silly argument: Through three decades in politics, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has retained the right to change her mind.

That Times article is embarrassing enough standing alone. It fails to even mention such "details" as the intense union opposition to Senator Feinstein, her having to withstand Governor Davis' trademarked demonization (Note to media types: the Governor doesn't take orders from Bill Lockyer.), the job being thankless because the recently enacted budget just punts the same problems to next year, and much more.

But it is nothing short of humiliating that the Times also had to run - also this morning - another article (so new it doesn't even appear in the print version of the paper), reporting:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein today ruled out running for governor in the Oct. 7 recall election, giving a boost to Gov. Gray Davis but complicating plans of some California Democrats who wanted a replacement candidate on the ballot. ... "After thinking a great deal about this recall, its implications for the future, and its misguided nature, I have decided that I will not place my name on the ballot." Other papers confirm the report.

That's a surprise big enough to warrant a top-of-the-front-page headline for the Times, where the whole story should be buried on the inside as an obvious confirmation of the Senator's many previous statements that she would not run and common sense (even the Times dryly notes: Her decision came hours after one the nation's most powerful labor groups rallied behind Davis, ... Imagine that.). Does the Times lack a grip on the substance and rhythm of this story?

Does smoking pot every day affect one's memory?

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Tuesday, August 05, 2003

More Biases

Those intersted in the Kobe Bryant rape case will want to read this New York Times Op-Ed item, which argues preliminary research shows that, once a complaint is made, professional or collegiate athletes are more likely than the general population to be charged with a crime of violence against women — and also more likely to be acquitted of it.
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Davis Descending XV: No Softening

Contrary to many recent media reports (1) there has been no material softening of Democratic Party support for Governor Gray Davis, and (2) his chances of surviving the recall look better and better.

A typical "softening" article includes something like this:

Rep. Loretta Sanchez said Monday she believed the Democrats would have an alternate to Davis on the ballot even if their first choice, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, decides not to run. "If Dianne's not the name, maybe I am. But I will tell you this, I believe there will be a prominent Democrat on that No. 2 question," Sanchez said.

Well, with respect to Representative Sanchez's name being on that ballot, somebody might want to point out to her that "prominent" does not mean "notorious." But, more importantly, somebody might want to point out to her that after reviewing their polls over the weekend, the major public employee unions have strongly stated that they are completely opposed to any other Democrat's name being on that recall ballot, especially Dianne Feinstein's:

Gov. Gray Davis gained ground Monday in his effort to keep other prominent Democrats out of the recall election, as the nation's largest labor organization greeted him with rousing support here [in Chicago], and [California] state labor leaders prepared to warn other party members not to put their names on the ballot. Davis asked the union leaders at a national meeting of political directors from the AFL-CIO to pledge $10 million to his campaign — half of the $20 million he told them he would need to fight the recall. Delegates greeted the governor with rousing applause, and the AFL-CIO leadership is expected to vote on the financial request today.

Meanwhile, Democratic members of the state Senate caucused in Sacramento to discuss the recall. Some members have called for the party to back an alternative candidate, but that suggestion received only mixed support from the 17 senators who converged on the Capitol and others who joined by conference call. ....

Although some prominent Democrats have talked about U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as a potential alternative candidate, union leaders have strong disagreements with her and have discouraged any talk of her candidacy. That puts the unions on the same side as Davis' strategists, who argue that the presence of any prominent Democrat on the ballot could fatally undermine the governor's efforts.

"He said he needs to raise$20 million, and he would like to raise half of that from the house of labor," said Miguel Contreras, leader of the Los Angeles County labor federation, who promised strong labor backing for the governor. Davis "is our horse," Contreras said.

Davis' push to keep other Democrats off the ballot is expected to receive another boost today, when the California Labor Federation plans to issue a warning that it would "punish" any Democrats who break ranks and challenge the governor. The consensus among leaders of the union group is that any Democrat "who broke ranks would never again receive a labor endorsement," said Dan Terry, president of the California Professional Firefighters union and a member of the federation's executive council. Davis is scheduled to meet this morning with the AFL-CIO executive council, the governing body of the national labor group, before returning to California.

Why do the media keep presenting every expression of Democratic Davis-hate as a sign of Democratic "softening" or "fraying" - when it has always been common knowledge that Davis has always been widely regarded with contempt and envy in many quarters of the many-quartered California Democratic Party. What the heck is so hard to understand about Democrats supporting Davis as much as they ever have? Why do the media keep quoting Loretta Sanchez, of all people? Why do the media keep suggesting that the Republican-appointed California Supreme Court may come to Mr. Davis' rescue?

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Herr Doktorprofessor, Outraged!

Don Luskin and his readers have pointed out how Paul Krugman's penultimate column - allegedly analyzing California and its tribulations - distorts and misrepresents basic economic facts, misquotes the sources cited and gets the basic math all wrong - but always erring in ways that support Herr Doktorprofessor's biases and trivial political point.

Today Herr Doktorprofessor rails how can Congress or the public make informed votes if both are fed distorted information!?

Well, he should know, given Herr Doktorprofessor's performance in his penultimate column.

As is increasingly his custom, Herr Doktorprofessor gives not a single example or any other evidence (distorted or otherwise) of the Bush Treasury department having distorted information to Congress. (He does assert that Treasury Secretary Snow meets with Karl Rove in Rove's office! 'Nuff Said!- corruption case proved!) On this point, he does not even provide his usual misleading quote from a normally unsupecting third party: "Professor Thisorthat of the nonpartisan Workersoftheworldunite Institute says that he believes that some might think that the information provided to some in Congress might have been led at least one or two to misunderstand certain data ..." He exhausts that device in arguing that the public was mis-"fed" in 2001 (I'm not making this up): [T]he veteran tax analyst Martin Sullivan writes of the debate over the 2001 cut that "Treasury's analysis was so embarrassingly poor and so biased, we thought we had seen the last of its kind." But worse was to come.

The "worse" that was "to come" seems to be that the Treasury Department is no longer making the results of certain of its computer models public and - God help us all - gave an analysis of the effects of the Bush tax cuts on a hypothetical American family to Tim Russert where the family was not sufficiently "representative!" There is not even a suggestion that Congress does not receive those computer model results, nor does Herr Doktorprofessor say the information provided to Russert was inaccurate for the fully-disclosed position of that hypothetical family. Nor does he provide a scintilla of evidence that Treasury's decision to no longer publish computer models (if that has really happened) was motivated by any sinister intent at all. And aren't genius academic economic types supposed to excell at running their own computer models? Does the Princeton economics department rely on Treasury Department computer models - not just raw data? If so, why does Princeton need an economics department with "researchers" in it?

Betrayal! Outrage! says Herr Doktorprofessor: Traditionally the Treasury, like the C.I.A., stands somewhat above the political fray.

Ah, yes. Treasury tradition. Perhaps Herr Doktorprofessor has the Clinton Treasury in mind. Remember? That's the Treasury Department that gave us then-deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman (a college friend of Bill Clinton's) testifying before the Senate banking committee in February 1994 that he had given top White House officials a "heads-up" on nine RTC criminal referrals that in one instance targeted Clinton's 1985 gubernatorial campaign, and named the Clintons as witnesses in others. A parade of administration officials then claimed under oath not to have remembered the Treasury-White House contacts, even though Joshua Steiner, the 28-year-old Treasury chief of staff who bore an alarming resemblance to a deer caught in one's headlights, had noted them in his diaries. Lloyd Bensen, the Treasury Secretary, soon retired.

Yes, yes, compared to all that, providing information to Tim Russert about a hypothetical family not deemed sufficiently "representative" by Herr Doktorprofessor (too many stock holdings!) should really stick in one's craw.

MORE: Luskin cleans up Krugman's trash talking.

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Monday, August 04, 2003
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Does Anyone Else Find This Peculiar?

Hollings, out. OK. Good. For me, Senator Hollings' most characteristic - if not his finest (he did win a Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons) - hour is described in this passage by a Boston Herald sportswriter:

Alas, the [Ted Kennedy read the Herald editorial page] seriously, and he also read the city-side columnist who referred to him -- regularly, indelicately and accurately -- as "Fat Boy." The senator got revenge in his heart, and he soon saw his opportunity.

[Herald owner, Rupert] Murdoch owned TV stations in New York and Boston, where he also owned newspapers. It can be argued that the revenue from the TV stations kept the newspapers alive. But for him to legally do this, the Federal Communications Commission had to waive its rules regarding cross-ownership. In December 1987, working with Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., Kennedy got a rider tacked onto an appropriations bill that prohibited the FCC from repealing the cross-ownership rule, or allowing waivers to it. This would effectively force Murdoch to choose between his Boston TV station and the Herald.

A number of us trooped down the block to J.J. Foley's, Boston's last great newspaper saloon, to await the end. None of us was under any illusions. If Murdoch sold the newspaper, and we all knew that his head was in television at this point, it would die. There was no great love for the way Murdoch did business -- once, after his Fox network famously lost millions on a failed late-night talk show, I wore a button to an NBA playoff game that said, "Joan Rivers Got My Raise" -- but now, even though we were a small part of a massive global empire, it was as though we were lined up against some pitiless establishment to which none of us, not even Rupert, ever would belong. We were the guerrillas in the highlands, outmanned and outgunned. Venceremos, mate. We were the true alternative press, and The Man was after us. And Ted Kennedy was The Man. The senior senator popped up on "Crossfire," and that's when I booed him.

It was a long, strange evening. I went off to write a column off a Celtics game. While I was there, Himself turned up on a later newscast, and he announced that he was not going to be bullied out of owning a newspaper in which Ted Kennedy could be called "Fat Boy" with impunity. He would sell the Boston TV station. He would keep the Herald.

Well, you should've seen the crowd in Foley's explode. We'd brought the Establishment to its knees, man. Beer flowed. Strong men wept. I rejoined as the party was hitting high tide, and I vividly recall singing "The Internationale" at top volume. Someone else yelled, "Give us Barabbas!" for no good reason I could ever determine. Some guys from the Boston Globe showed up to commiserate and, transported by the news, one of my colleagues celebrated by repeatedly biting one of the Globe guys on the shoulder. He was amiably nonplused, but bought a round anyway.

And, of course, several months later, when nobody was looking, and when we were all back in Foley's, bitching about our salaries again, Rupert greased the skids in Washington, and got to keep both the TV station and the newspaper anyway.

The two senators did not just work together on that rider. Senator Hollings at first tried to present the idea as his own. He was only later "outed" as Senator Kennedy's catspaw. And then there will always be the Senator's broad opposition to almost all forms of free trade. And much more. Yes, good riddance to Senator Hollings.

But what to make of: Sens. John Edwards, D-N.C., and Bob Graham, D-Fla., are both seeking the Democratic presidential nomination and have yet to say whether they will run for new Senate terms.

It's not as though there's a whole lot of time left, boys.

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The Circle Of Life!

A friend e-mails:

At age 4 success is . . . not peeing in your pants.
At age 12 success is . . . having friends.
At age 16 success is . . . having a drivers license.
At age 20 success is . . . having sex.
At age 35 success is . . . having money.
At age 50 success is . . . having money.
At age 60 success is . . . having sex.
At age 70 success is . . . having a drivers license.
At age 75 success is . . . having friends.
At age 80 success is . . . not peeing in your pants.

But he fails to note that at ages 0 and 84, success is just being alive!

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Steven Levitt

Steven Levitt is a 36-year old University of Chicago economist who has done path breaking work arguing that as much as 50 percent of the huge drop in crime since the early 1990's can be traced to Roe v. Wade (with John Donohue of Stanford Law School) and that more police do translate into less crime, and devising a set of algorithms that identify teachers who cheat in classroom testing (and identifying good teachers). His coming ''Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990's: Four Factors That Explain the Decline and Seven That Do Not" argues that the entire drop in crime was due to more police officers, more prisoners, the waning crack epidemic and Roe v. Wade - but not the innovative policing strategy trumpeted in New York by Rudolph Giuliani and William Bratton.

He has won the John Bates Clark Medal, given biennially to the country's best economist under 40. Perhaps the American Economic Association is trying to make up for previously giving that Medal to the embarrassingly bad economist and current Princeton Professor Paul Krugman.

The New York Times carries a surprisingly good article about Professor Levitt - who, not surprisingly, is linked to fellow University of Chicago Professor and Nobel winner, Gary Becker.

The New York Times has recently shown an interest in a broader range of Op-Ed columnists. If the paper really wants some quality, Mr. Keller should sign up Steven Levitt for periodic contributions. A twice-a-week stint is out of the question. No serious economist would be able to carry that constant load well without devolving into a Krugmanesque caricature. But twice monthly (maybe even once a week) might be nice. Becker did it.
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Trending Away: Hispanics Out The Gate?

The New York Times reports that committed Democrats intensely "distain" President Bush:

There is a powerful disdain for the Bush administration, stoked by the aftermath of the war in Iraq and the continuing lag in the economy. ... It is not simply a lurch to the left. .... Geoff Garin, a pollster who is working for Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, said the Democratic anger toward Mr. Bush was "as strong as anything I've experienced in 25 years now of polling," and perhaps comes closest to the way many Democrats felt about President Richard M. Nixon. .... There was no abstract battle for the soul of the Democratic Party here, just an abiding anger at what Mr. Bush has done... Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said, "It's George Bush who will serve as the biggest unifying force for our party."

Which is all very interesting, because the Times also reports that Hispanic Americans mostly seem to like Mr. Bush:

Hispanics view the Democratic Party as better able than the Republican Party to manage the economy, create jobs and improve the nation's public school system, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. But they admire President Bush and have embraced positions — from supporting tax cuts to opposing abortion and some gay rights — that have typically been identified with Republicans.

... [T]he respondents identified with Republicans on a host of issues the party has emphasized over the past two years. They applauded tax cuts, calling them better economic policy than reducing deficits, and embraced the use of school vouchers. They were less likely than the population at large to support the legalization of homosexual relations between consenting adults. And 44 percent of Hispanics said abortion should not be legal, compared with 22 percent of non-Hispanics. .... The poll signaled that the competition to court Hispanic voters — whom White House aides have identified as one of the critical groups of swing voters in next year's election — is wide open, notwithstanding the efforts by each party in recent years to strengthen its support among these voters in anticipation of the 2004 contest. That impression was underlined by follow-up interviews with some of the respondents.

"The Republicans are closer to my value system," said Abigail Hansen, 45, an independent voter from West Valley City, Utah, who was born in Uruguay. "The Democrats are pro abortion and pro homosexual marriage, and those are things my value system does not agree with."....

Are there just not as many Hispanic Americans coming to the Democrats' events as there used to be? And it is especially interesting that Hispanics applauded tax cuts, calling them better economic policy than reducing deficits, and embraced the use of school vouchers. That makes it a lot easier to understand why uber-opportunist Dianne Feinstein has been waffling on vouchers - apparently generating her own brand of intense "distain" among some core Democratic interest groups, especially the teachers unions. The core Democratic interest groups have an immense capacity for loathing.

[By the way, the linked article above makes even clearer why Senator Feinstein would be stupid to enter the recall race - and therefore why she just won't do it.]

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Sunday, August 03, 2003

Herr Doktorprofessor In Lotus Land

Vaguely conscious of his own impending demise, Gustave von Aschenbach journeyed to Venice to surrender the last portion of his common sense, capability for reason and, ultimately, his life. Herr Doktorprofessor Krugman settles for Venice Beach. Perhaps the New Jerseyan was drawn to these milder climes because he, like Aschenbach, delighted in the scene on the beach, the sight of sophisticated society giving itself over to a simple life at the edge of the element. If so, he should have stuck to squishing Bain de Soleil on his thighs, because his analysis of the current California scene could hardly be more trivial - or more lacking in common sense and reason.

But surely Herr Doktorprofessor's journeys to California have not been physical enough to require any Bain de Soleil! Surely he relies entirely on celluloid and digitized images created by California craftsmen. It must be so, because no intelligent, observant person who has passed through Los Angeles International Airport during the Bradley and Riordan mayoralties of this City, and troubled to learn even a bit of that airport's history, could write something as preposterously out of touch as:

The recall isn't just a case of hardball politics. It's also a grand act of evasion: in the face of a severe fiscal crisis, voters are being invited to focus not on hard choices but on personality. Replacing Gray Davis with someone more likable isn't going to pay the bills.

Richard Riordan's will likely be one of the much-more-likeable-than-Davis names on the recall ballot. California is now a mess - but what was Los Angeles like when Republican Richard Riordan took over from his immediate predecessor, Tom Bradley? In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I'll tell you a story.

Our move into a new (for us) house during the height of the Bradley-era Rodney King riots - a house located only a mile from a burning electronics store on Sunset Boulevard - was not easy. All utility company service personnel were too busy dealing with the consequences of the riots to turn on our utilities - and we were faced with the prospect of spending our first nights in the house without lights or the ability to call the police if the need were to arise. A few months later when Richard Riordan assumed the mayor's office, the marks of those riots were still fresh on the streets. More riots seemed likely to break out again on almost any morning, and that would have been nasty. Some communities, especially Koreatown, which had been sacked while the LAPD stood by, were known to have armed themselves to the teeth - and merchants vowed a bloodbath if the riots were repeated. Real estate values were plunging. Values in Hancock Park, for example, one of the finest neighborhoods in the City, were in free fall as residents sold and fled because that neighborhood was felt to be too exposed to riots. The Los Angeles Unified School District was almost universally regarded as a nearly complete failure and getting worse. Employment was falling precipitously as federal defense appropriation expenditures fell severely. And in addition to of all that, it was impossible to find a decent cup of coffee in the Tom Bradley International Arrivals Building at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Was Tom Bradley to blame? The city's problems were deemed by many, especially many in the liberal media, to be manufactured elsewhere (especially Washington), structural, endemic and insoluble - and therefore not particularly Tom Bradley's fault. Mr. Bradley was presented by many such people as a decent man who was being blamed by critics who just didn't want to face up to reality. Such apologists also argued that it was simply unrealistic to imagine that LAX could provide services to passengers and significant income to the City. Los Angeles was widely viewed as all but doomed, what Herr Doktorprofessor would term a "banana republic," no matter who its mayor was.

But I didn't like Mr. Bradley very much. Yes, he was personally charming and he kept a civil tone. But he also caused the retail space at LAX to be leased to his political cronies, who did not pay much and did not provide many retail service - or decent coffee. He did not confront the City Council enough - and they continued essentially unchecked their rapacious taxing, crony-laden expenditures and suffocating regulatory policies. Personal charm without competence, guts and principle is just a form of seduction.

The Tom Bradley apologists were wrong. Grossly wrong. I voted for Richard Riordan then (he did not run against Bradley, who retired after the riots). I am certain that replacing Tom Bradley with this "someone" - Riordan - who was a lot more likable than Bradley did help my City to pay the bills.

If California voters do, by the grace of God and turn-of-the-century populism, have another chance to install the much more likeable Richard Riordan as Governor in lieu of Gray Davis, they should do so in a heartbeat, and focus on his brilliant if incomplete successes as mayor of Los Angeles. Richard Riordan as Governor would be a big help to California to pay the bills.

Memories are short in politics, but, yes, much changed in Los Angeles under the Riordan mayoralty. As a small but representative part of that change, decent coffee became available at the Bradley Terminal, along with a whole range of restaurants and a pretty reasonable selection of shopping outlets. Riordan had run on a platform of privatizing the airport - but that was blocked by the Clinton Administration (Tom Daschle's wife then headed the FAA). But Riordan caused the City to put the airport master lease out to bid - and the English company W.H. Smith took it, and has managed and sublet the retail space at the airport ever since. The results have been astonishing. But Riordan's accomplishments were not limited to the airport. Race relations throughout the City improved dramatically. White flight stopped. Hancock Park turned itself around, and then boomed and bloomed. Property values in my neighborhood - Los Feliz - soared and the neighborhood has been declared the "hippest" in the world by the Economist magazine (which I suppose is a compliment).

As Mayor, Richard Riordan confronted the City Council regularly, and often won - if not entirely, then meaningful, partial victories. He used the leverage of his office and his personal fortune and connections to challenge the school board - and helped install many reformers. The school district is still a disaster, but his efforts did help. He commissioned studies on the City's conflicting regulatory structures from competent, private firms. One such study revealed that it was quite literally impossible to build almost any factory in Los Angeles - simply because many material features of most factories mandated by one regulatory system (say, fire) flatly violated mandatory requirements of another (say, health or environment). Riordan caused the City to coordinate those systems, and thereby de-criminalized industrial construction in Los Angeles. Riordan was not divisive - either ethnically or politically, and frequently reached across the aisle to Democratic friends and allies (Broad, Feinstein, many, many more). One could go on and on and on. And on every count there is an obvious parallel to current State needs, and to current and past Gray Davis deficiencies. In sum: Herr Doktorprofessor could not be more wrong. Replacing Gray Davis with someone more likable like Richard Riordan will certainly help to pay the bills. And even if Riordan's name does not appear on the ballot, there are many, many people in California - some of them even Democrats - who would be far better for the State's economy and its ability to pay its bills than Gray Davis, who has been far more adept at running demonization campaigns than governing constructively.

Herr Doktorprofessor's errors aren't limited to ignoring the fact that replacing an incompetent chief executive officer of an entity - in this case California - with a competent chief executive officer will likely help the entity's finances. His errors are much more extensive than that because in urging California to raise taxes (which is really all the column amounts to) he doesn't even ask the most basic question: Can California raise taxes without damaging the State's economy through creating an even more uncompetitive business climate? The answer is almost certainly "no." According to the latest data (1999-2000) from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of the Census, California is eighth highest among the states when tax burden is compared on the basis of personal income and seventh-highest per capita - but none of the western states with which California competes is even close to eighth. States with a higher burden than California are thousands of miles away.

[Of course, California also needs extensive regulatory reform, privatization and out-sourcing. But that's another argument for ejecting Davis in favor of someone like Riordan, and for a lot of other changes.]

Herr Doktorprofessor's column appeared just days after California Senator Dianne Feinstein backed vouchers for Washington DC students because, in the Senator's words, "We all know D.C. public schools need improvement. According to the most recent census, the District spends $10,852 per student annually -- the third highest level of per-pupil spending in the nation -- yet test scores lag far behind." So one's jaw drops at Herr Doktorprofessor's passages that continue to ignore willfully the disconnect between public education spending and results:

Proposition 13, the 1978 cap on property taxes, led to a progressive starvation of California's once-lauded public schools. By 1994, the state had the largest class sizes in the nation; its reading scores were on a par with Mississippi's. Voters wanted this shameful situation remedied. Indeed, much of the recent growth of education spending was mandated by a rather complex measure called Proposition 98. So when conservatives denounce "runaway government spending" in California, what they're really talking about is the effort to hire more teachers and repair decrepit school buildings.

But, even more peculiar, is Herr Doktorprofessor's view of Proposition 13. Real property taxes violate a basic principle of taxation: a tax should not be levied where there is no cash to pay it. Proposition 13 was enacted to stop a very real and disastrous aspect of real property taxation: in the event of a real estate price boom, many people were forced from their homes - and every home owner was forced to participate in the real property speculation. There is no good reason why every home owner should be forced to pay higher taxes just because a house down the street sold for more, especially in a hot market like the current one, which Herr Doktorprofessor has characterized as a probable "bubble" for more than a year:

More and more people are using the B-word about the housing market. A recent analysis by Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic Policy Research, makes a particularly compelling case for a housing bubble. House prices have run well ahead of rents, suggesting that people are now buying houses for speculation rather than merely for shelter. And the explanations one hears for those high prices sound more and more like the rationalizations one heard for Nasdaq 5,000.

Without Proposition 13 all homeowners in California would be finding their property taxes "bubbling up," too. Is that efficient tax policy? Does Herr Doktorprofessor even stop to ask? No. He's too busy wallowing around in some silly, economically irrelevant review of what he says former Governor Wilson did in the 1990's. Who cares? - Wilson's not going to be on the recall ballot.

The trivial superficiality of this column shows up even in its confused vocabulary. Herr Doktorprofessor uses the upcoming recall to support his contention that California resembles a "banana republic." But a "banana republic" refers to a country which suffers from too little democracy and too many despotic juntas. But the recall procedure, a product of turn-of-the-century progressivism, represents expanded direct democracy - as does the referendum procedure generally. If the California recall procedure is bad (which is by no means clear), then it is a case of too much democracy being bad - the exact opposite of the problems characterizing a "banana republic." I really don't care that Herr Doktorprofessor can't control his vocabulary. But I do object to his use of vocabulary failings to conceal his growing economic and analytic deficiencies.

Further, his failure to understand or even see the nature of the recall and referendum process denies him any real ability to address their deeper consequences - or to see how those processes are reflected in the current California problems. For example, more whites, Republicans and middle class voters tend to vote in referendum elections. That - together with gerrymandering of the California legislature to favor the Democrats - has created a serious tension between the results of referendums and the sentiments of the legislature. Many of California's financial parameters are now imposed by past referendums. There are many serious public choice economics questions to be asked and answered here - and probably some serious reforms to be suggested. [Incidentally, Herr Doktorprofessor's main correct observation, that many of California's (and America's) problems flow from the demands of its citizens, was made long ago and in vastly more entertaining fashion in P.J. O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores.]

Not that Herr Doktorprofessor would know or care about any of that. Intellectually, he's too busy wolfing as bikini bottoms go by on the Venice Beach walkway. Make him happy – just pass him another margarita.

Hoystory has more. And Maguire has still more.

More from Hogberg: Herr Doktorprofessor's basic source didn't say what he says it did. That's common practice in the Grand Dutchy of Krugmania.

STILL MORE: The complete and utter carnival of the Krugmanities. By Don Luskin - who, by the way, writes lots of interesting things in many venues - things that have absolutely nothing to do with Paul Krugman. And Luskin is correct a lot more often than Krugman is.

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