Patterico's Pontifications

4/19/2011

Texan Gets Obama’s Goat

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:35 pm

Awesome.

What’s that thing he’s mouthing through his sneer as he’s taking off his mike? Right before he whines about not getting to finish his answers?

Kinda peevish for Mr. Even Keel, huh?

Are Unemployment Benefits Hurting The Jobless?

Filed under: General — Stranahan @ 5:52 pm

[Guest post by Lee Stranahan]

Another day, another illusion-sustaining scary headline at The Huffington Post.

HUff_OutOfLuck

I say illusion sustaining because the goal of the article is not actually to help people who are unemployed. If that were the goal, an entrepreneur like Arianna Huffington might have any number of useful things to say to the people facing the prospect of no income. In fact, to be fair, I think the Huffington Post actually does have a number of articles that are useful to would be entrepreneurs, usually found on the Business or Life sections.

But the Politics section is the big eye-magnet for the Huffington Post so it gets front-page headlines. The real point of this article is to reaffirm to the mostly liberal readers of the Huffington post that the Democratic talking point of extending unemployment benefits is the only salvation for the unemployed.

As I’ve argued before, long-term unemployment benefits aren’t any sort of panacea because our long-term employment scenario has changed due to the digital revolution of the last decade. In short, many of the jobs that have gone away are not coming back, ever. Those jobs are remnants of a bygone era and the sooner policymakers get real about that point, the sooner they can start dealing with some solutions that might actually work.

Let’s put this in some practical terms and take a look at the first few paragraphs of the Huffington Post article…

Robin St. Louis of Charlotte, N.C. lost her job as a sales rep just before Christmas in 2009 and said she hasn’t had much luck with her job search since then.

"Looking for a job, it seems your résumé goes into a black hole," St. Louis, 46, told HuffPost, describing the process of flinging one job application after another at unresponsive potential employers and staffing agencies.

St. Louis said her family is grateful for the $325 she’s received every week in unemployment insurance since her layoff: "This money’s sustaining us.

The amount of money that will be lost to this woman and many like her is $325 per week. That translates into roughly $60 a day, five days a week.

My thought on this is that it can’t be that difficult to teach someone how to earn $60 a day. Starting a simple service or home-based business should be able to net somebody putting in the effort $60 a day and possibly much more.

How much better the entire economy would this be? Even the proponents of unemployment benefits know that it’s not the same as productivity; it’s taking money from someone’s pocket and putting it into someone else’s. Yes, it’s the redistribution of wealth – but let me point out that I think there are plenty of cases where the redistribution of wealth is needed, such as providing some sort of basic safety social net. But my view is also that this sort of redistribution is far from ideal and that 99+ weeks of benefits are way beyond the bounds of a reasonable social safety net.

Is there any role for government here? I’d argue that an efficiently run government program that put people to work doing something productive would be a greatly superior alternative to extending unemployment benefits out into infinity. For instance, there is no shortage of trash to be picked up or vacant lots to be turned into community gardens.

I’d love to see some actual research into how many people who are collecting unemployment benefits actually want to work. Whenever I bring this topic up, I’m always met with the answer that most people really and truly want to work. I just don’t believe it. Sorry, my personal experience tells me that there are people out there who are quite happy collecting unemployment and going through the motions of filling out job applications willy-nilly or whatever other hoop they need to jump through to collect a check. This is all anecdotal of course which is why I said I would love to see some real numbers.

In the meantime, is it too much to ask for some political middle ground between the people on the left who think that these benefits should keep going on and on forever and the people on the right who simply want to cut them off cold. Can we put some thought into creating some programs that spur productivity and give people willing to work a chance at a different future?

- Lee Stranahan

Charles Johnson’s Perfection on Display

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 3:17 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

So yesterday I had a post and in it I was trying to interpret internet time stamps and I came across a designation that I didn’t understand, “UTC,” and wrote:

As for Gavin’s post, it’s listed at 1:20 a.m. in something called UTC (which I guess is one of the Asian time zones) and I am unsure how to translate it into my time.

So by the plain language of that (1) I admitted that I didn’t know something, but (2) guessed it was one of the Asian time zones.  And then in the post I found a way to work around my lack-of-knowledge and dealt with it.  Of course I based my guess on the fact that (1) he wrote for something called Asian Correspondent, and (2) it appeared to be exactly 12 hours different, which is the exact time difference between here and the Philippines, something I happen to know because my extended family lives there.  I mean that is why I was so hot on the Tsunami story a few weeks back, because in part I was worried about them.

Well, it turns out my educated guess was wrong, if Wikipedia is to be believed:*

Coordinated Universal Time (abbreviated UTC) is the time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. Computer servers, online services and other entities that rely on having a universally accepted time use UTC for that purpose.

Coordinated Universal Time is a time standard based on International Atomic Time (TAI) with leap seconds added at irregular intervals to compensate for the Earth’s slowing rotation.  Leap seconds are used to allow UTC to closely track UT1, which is mean solar time at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

And apparently Chaz thinks that somehow it is the most hilarious thing in human history that I didn’t just know this, writing an entire post where he mocks me for this, accuses me of xenophobia and setting off a tweet war yesterday.  Seriously I felt like a guy being made fun of by hard-core Trekkies for being unable to speak fluent Klingon.  It’s nerd-knowledge–not exactly what anyone would call common knowledge.

I mean look, I am a law nerd (among other things).  So I can read this passage from an Onion article on the Justices of the Supreme Court vowing to lose their virginity and I would get this joke:

Asked to assess his prospects for losing his virginity within the next two months, a confident Scalia lifted his judicial robe and quipped, “Res ipsa loquitur.”

I would go as far as to say that most lawyers would get the joke.  But I am self-aware enough to know that most normal people have no idea what res ipsa loquitur means.**  And because of that, I wouldn’t call someone else ignorant for not knowing about it.  There’s nothing wrong with knowing that law latin, or what UTC is, but there is something wrong with thinking its common knowledge or something.

Oh, and if you go back to the original post to see how knowledge of UTC mattered to the subject at hand…  you will be at a loss.  My lack of knowledge can’t be attributed to any error I made.  It just made it harder to prove when a post was published on the web.  And certainly it doesn’t bear on the subject of global warming.  I mean is Chuckles trying to claim that if we went by UTC time that the UN’s prediction that there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010 was not wrong?  Was that on the special secret nerd-time calendar, Chaz?

So the whole thing amounted to the cheapest gotcha one could imagine,*** proving I didn’t know something I admitted I didn’t know, that most normal people don’t know, and that had at best a tangential bearing on the subject.

And it’s funny that Chuckles did that, because you know it just so happens that he doesn’t know several items of much more common knowledge.  For instance, back during the 2008 campaign, he wrote a post that said, well… this:

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Judge Walker Reaffirms His Bias—Twice

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 1:37 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

This is a long one and there is a lot of background to cover before getting to the really interesting stuff.  So strap yourself in.

One of the most damning pieces of evidence of Judge Vaughn Walker’s bias in the Proposition 8 trial was his handling of the “cameras in the courtroom” issue.

Now let me start with two principles.  The first is my belief that as a rule of thumb, if we the public have a right to be present at an event, we have the right to have it recorded and rebroadcast.  Obviously the constitution’s literal wording doesn’t demand that outcome, but policymakers can and should be moved by the policy underneath it which is that the people should be given the greatest opportunity to scrutinize the conduct of its government, including the Least Dangerous Branch.  So my sympathies tend to lie with anyone who wanted to broadcast the Proposition 8 trial.

Second, I believe in something more basic: that it’s not enough to do the right thing, but to do the right thing the right way.  Outcomes matter, of course, but following procedures does, too.  That is based in part on my belief that if we do things the right way, we are more often going to get the right result, even if individual cases end up coming out wrongly.

So if you wanted to say that Judge Walker had the right goal in trying to set things up so that the Proposition 8 trial would be seen on TV, well…  I won’t say you are right, but I would lean in that direction.  But the fact is he violated the administrative procedures in attempting to arrange for the broadcast of the trial.  You see the local court rules didn’t allow for that, so they had to be revised.  Typically the revision of rules required that the new rule be proposed, that the public be given thirty days to comment on it and/or object, and then at the end of the period either the rule is adopted, or a new revision is proposed and the process starts all over again.  But as noted in Hollingsworth v. Perry, that isn’t exactly what happened:

On December 21, a coalition of media companies requested permission from the District Court to televise the  trial challenging Proposition 8.  Two days later, the court indicated on its Web site that it had amended Civil Local Rule 77–3, which had previously banned the recording  or broadcast of court proceedings.   The revised version of Rule 77–3 created an exception to this general prohibition to allow “for participation in a pilot or other project authorized by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit.”  Id., Exh. 14.  Applicants objected to the revision, arguing that any change to Ninth Circuit or local rules would require a sufficient notice and comment period.

On December 31, the District Court revised its Web site  to remove the previous announcement about the change to Rule 77–3.  A new announcement was posted indicating a “proposed revision of  Civil Local Rule 77–3,” which had been “approved for public comment.”   Id., Exh. 17.  The proposed revision was the same as the previously announced amendment.  Comments on the proposed revision were to be submitted by Friday, January 8, 2010.

On January 4, 2010, the District Court again revised its Web site. The announcement regarding the proposed revision of  Rule 77–3  was removed and replaced with a third version of the announcement.   This third version stated that the revised Rule was “effective December 22, 2009,” and that “[t]he revised rule was adopted pursuant to the ‘immediate need’ provision of Title 28 Section 2071(e).”  Id., Exh. 19, at 3.

You got that?  So first they said that the rule had been changed without that pesky comment period.  Then they dialed it back to a proposed rule.  Then someone decided that the emergency exception applied.  And indeed the Supreme Court noted that this invocation was not appropriate, either:
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The White House Plan to Confront the S&P Downgrade

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 6:29 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Patrick highlighted it yesterday, but apparently Standand & Poor’s was less impressed with Obama’s speech on the debt and downgraded our credit rating:

The timing of S&P’s announcement was unwelcome for the White House, coming just as President Obama tried to regain the initiative on the deficit debate in Washington.

Last week Obama laid out his plan to reduce the budget deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, trying to give markets confidence that he was serious about tackling U.S. fiscal woes.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded the outlook for the United States to negative, saying it believes there is a risk U.S. policymakers would not reach agreement on how to address the country’s long-term fiscal pressures by 2013.

This of course led to soul-searching by the White House, recognizing that we are endangering the future of this country and leading them to come up with a more serious approach to the debt.

Ah, who am I kidding?  They went into damage control mode:

The White House strategy:

1) Pan S&P.

“I don’t think that we should make too much out of that,” top White House economist Austan Goolsbee said on MSNBC, referring to the S&P downgrade.

“What the S&P is doing is making a political judgment and it is one that we don’t agree with,” he said on CNBC.

2) Praise Moody’s.

The rival ratings agency said it viewed the direction of U.S. fiscal policy as “credit positive.”

“It appears to me that Moody’s and some others did not agree with that judgment,” Goolsbee said.

3) Express optimism.

White House and U.S. Treasury officials said they believed lawmakers would be able to come up with an agreement to reduce the U.S. deficit. S&P’s skepticism of that influenced its decision on the downgrade.

“We think that there has never been more momentum to try to get to fiscal consolidation, so we think that we should give that process its due,” a Treasury official said.

4) Buy time.

Obama administration officials said it would take some time to get a solution, and S&P should have waited to allow that to happen.

“I think their timing is off,” the Treasury official said.

“I think they should allow the process to work its course here. We have got a lot going on between the White House, Congress, the fiscal commission. I think there are some very serious proposals on the table so I think they should take some time to see what happens.”

That from an unusually scathing Reuters piece.  Yeah, Reuters.  I am surprised, too.

Personally I am waiting for someone to explain to me why we shouldn’t just vote against raising the debt limit and force the government to get things done without going deeper into debt.  That doesn’t quite solve the problem, but it would be a great first step.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]


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