Glenn Hubbard as Ignorant as He Pretends

Glenn HubbardGlenn Hubbard is the ultimate example of a conservative economist who has given up all pretense of being a scientist and works just as an apologist for conservative policy. See my article, Conservative Apologia Economics. I really can’t see him talk without having a strong desire to slap him. He’s got the smug demeanor of a man who knows he was once smart and knowledgeable, but now thinks the smartest thing he ever did was to sell his soul for thirty pieces of silver. Unlike Judas, however, I doubt that Hubbard will give his blood money back and hang himself. But it’s pretty to think so.

Any time that Hubbard publicly embarrasses himself, I am very interested. If there were a new cable network “Glenn Hubbard Speaks” (which is the same as embarrassing himself), I would get cable. In fact, that would be a good way to kill me. I don’t think I could tear myself away from the station to eat. It would be like the best drug ever. Or better: Infinite Jest!

Tim GeithnerSo I was all excited this weekend when Hubbard and Tim Geithner got into a bit of a fight. Now I’m no fan of Geithner. But he isn’t Seventh Sign evil like Hubbard is. So there was little doubt where my sympathies would lie. And it turned out like that. In Geithner’s new book, he says that he had a conversation with Hubbard. Hubbard criticized the White House for not jumping all over the Simpson-Bowles budget plan. Geithner said they would when the Republicans said they would be willing to raise taxes as the Simpson-Bowles plan required. Hubbard replied, “[W]ell of course we have to raise taxes, we just can’t say that now.” At least, that’s what Geithner claims.

This exchange makes Hubbard look like a jerk. For one thing, it has been a big Republican talking point that Obama didn’t embrace Simpson-Bowles, even though they are even more against it than the Democrats. But it’s worse than that. Is Hubbard an economist or a Republican political hack? Well, we know the answer to that, but Hubbard would claim that he’s an economist. And just like John Roberts, he would tell you that he just calls economics as he sees it. He has no ax to grind!

Matt YglesiasHubbard shot back. “Geithner is making it up. It’s pretty simple. It’s not true.” Oh! My! God! Tim Geithner is lying about Glenn Hubbard! Or so says Glenn Hubbard who has all the credibility of that scorpion who kills the turtle in the famous Aesop’s Fable. Still, it’s he said, he said. Who can know the truth?

Well, Matt Yglesias took a dive into the facts, The Geithner-Hubbard Spat Shows How Conservative Wonks Try to Have it Both Ways on Taxes. He found that Hubbard had actually written an OpEd in The New York Times where he admitted that taxes would need to go up. What does this mean:

One point is that conservative economic policy elites like Hubbard are often trying to have it both ways on Simpson-Bowles—criticizing the White House for not immediately endorsing the commission’s proposal while also adhering to a rigid “no tax hikes” line that makes discussing Simpson-Bowles pointless. The other is that conservative policy elites like Hubbard know that the rigid “no tax hikes” line doesn’t make sense either practically or conceptually, but are unwilling to challenge it head on. Hubbard’s angry insistence that he never deviated from the party line on taxes—even though he did, very publicly, in the country’s most famous newspaper—is emblematic of those trends.

There’s a bigger issue here that goes beyond what a repugnant little prig Hubbard is. The conservative movement is based upon this idea that they are just telling the prols what they want to hear but that once they are in power, they’ll do what has to be done. But that never happens. Ever since Bush the Elder, Republicans have decided that raising taxes is toxic. So Hubbard may write the occasional OpEd that says what he knows to be true. But if he were high up in a Romney administration today, he’d be selling the idea that we really need to lower the top tax bracket to 25%. It’s like that line from Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” The conservative elites pretend to be as ignorant as the loony base, and in the end, they are as ignorant as the loony base.

John Oliver Destroys Global Warming False Equivalence

Polar BearsLast week on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, our intrepid host did a piece about global warming. It’s funny and all, so I’ve embedded it below. But it acts as a very insightful bit of media criticism that I don’t recall seeing before or, even worse, thinking about before. Well, I did have my problems with Bill Nye debating Ken Ham, because it legitimizes the idea of young earth creationism. But the truth is, as Oliver points out in the video, that even having two people discuss global warming gives a ridiculously skewed impression of what is going on.

And now, more and more, what you see on Fox News and the like is Bill Nye debating a conservative who claims not to be a global warming denier. We are now far enough along in this nonsense that the denier community is going with the old Intelligent Design tactic of “teach the controversy.” So the denier will say, “Sure, global warming is happening, but we can’t say it is humans causing it!” It’s all part of my Three Stages of Global Warming Denial:

  1. There is no global warming!
  2. There is global warming, but humans aren’t the cause!
  3. Humans are causing global warming, but there is nothing we can do about it!

Increasingly, we are at stage three, because the first two stages just sound crazy. But when you have someone like Bill Nye (who really isn’t the best person to make the case) arguing the science, he sounds rigid. But the denier side sounds open-minded, “I agree with you Bill, but we’ve got to look at all the options!” In other words: let’s continue to do nothing because Exxon is making a pile of money right now.

But even if you had two people who really believed what they were saying, the viewer would get a totally skewed view of the facts. No reputable news agency would bring on a NASA astronomer to talk to a member of the Flat Earth Society. It would provide a ridiculous equivalence: the mainstream view of the shape of the world and the belief of a couple of thousand loons who believe the earth is flat because the Bible talks about the “four corners” of the earth. Yet these same pseudo-journalists are more than willing to imply an actual disagreement—50-50 split—on global warming.

So John Oliver does what someone should have done long ago. Since 97% of climate science papers with an opinion believe that global warming is happening, he brought on 3 deniers and 97 scientists who accept global warming. It’s brilliant:

Why Do Maps of Everything That’s Wrong With America All Look the Same?

Green Energy Electricity by State

David Atkins brought this map to my attention last week, The Renewable Energy Map and the Slave State Map. He compares it to a map of slave states in 1854 and as should surprise no one, there is a great correlation. Of course, it isn’t just about renewable energy. Take your pick: murder rates, teen pregnancy, poverty rates. There really is something going on here.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t the vestige of slavery. Rather, it is the vestige of the kind of people who settled those lands. These were the people who thought it was right and fitting to base an economy on slavery. For lack of a better way to describe such people, they are the kind who think that knowledge is something that is provided not by highfalutin science books but rather from the clarity of the King James Bible. There is a reason why the Scopes Trial took place in Tennessee and not California.

What I’m proposing is Colin Woodard’s thesis in American Nations. This is the idea that there are historical roots for different parts of the country and they affect the cultures of those areas to this day. It’s actually quite a depressing view of America because as a proud and lifelong Left Coaster (which doesn’t include Southern California), I don’t have nearly as much in common in those in the Deep South as I do with people in Switzerland. It’s hard not to think that if we had let the south leave the Union in 1861, it would still be a slavery based, impoverished country today.

And that gets to the very heart of the matter. My biggest problem with conservatives is how dedicated they are to fetishizing ideas to the detriment of practical matters. So it’s great to have a government that screws you as long as it screws your neighbor even more. It’s like that old joke about a genii that will give a guy whatever he wants, with the stipulation that his neighbor will get twice as much. So the guy says, “Beat me half to death.”

The broader problem here is that the consequences of this kind of voting are far broader than people realize. Let’s suppose that the people vote to “get the fags” or “get the uppity feminazis” or “get the lazy coloreds.” They certainly get that! But they also get taxed more to lower taxes on the rich, they get worse schools for their kids, and they get polluted water and air. But at least they struck a blow for the white man!

So it isn’t surprising that those states aren’t that interested in green energy. The people aren’t just voting for the interests of the business community—they’re voting for the interests of the biggest business community. It’s not just individuals who get screwed by the “get the minority group” voting; it’s also the smaller businesses—you know: the ones who will make the future better.

You might note as David Atkins did, that Arizona produces very little green energy. That’s strange, right? After all, Arizona is such a sunny place! You’d think that they’d be on solar power in a big way. Well, part of the problem is that, Arizona Imposes Unprecedented Fee on Solar Energy Users. If you thought you could make some money by putting cells on your roof and selling it back to the energy company, think again. They’re going to tax you for the privilege. But actually, Arizona produces a lot of solar energy. It’s just that it is exported to other states. Because, you know, it isn’t about the people. It’s about the profits of big business.

Herbert Ross Directed Many Great Films

Herbert RossStephen Colbert is fifty years old today, but like a lot of entertainers, his life is really boring so I skipped him. Instead, I went with a really great director who you’ve probably never heard of. He got his start as a choreographer on stage and then eventually on the screen. This isn’t so strange. Bob Fosse was one of the greatest choreographers ever and then went on to be one of the great directors. I don’t think that’s too surprising. Dance is all about telling a story, but without words. And regardless of how you dress it up, films are about story telling. Oh, I forgot to tell you who I’m talking about!

On this day in 1927, the film director and much more, Herbert Ross was born. Most people haven’t heard of him, but they’ve seen and enjoyed his films: The Owl and the Pussycat, Play It Again, Sam, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, The Goodbye Girl, Footloose, Steel Magnolias, and Boys on the Side. I’ve left out a lot of films, most of which you’ve probably seen and enjoyed. He wasn’t an ostentatious director, but he was artful.

My favorite of his films is Funny Girl. He didn’t direct the film. (William Wyler, also a great director, did so.) Ross choreographed it. But my understand is that he directed the musical numbers. And they are the high points of the film. So here is what might as well be a short film, the “I’m the Greatest Star” number. I just love it:

I think we over-value what film directors do. From D W Griffith to Martin Scorsese, they are just trying to tell stories. And when they do it artfully with style, they are at the top of their profession. Herbert Ross was such a director who made the raw materials of his films into something even better. The next time you are looking for a good, funny, and entertaining movie to watch, find one by Herbert Ross. You won’t be disappointed.

Happy birthday Herbert Ross!

Afterword

Another of Ross’ films was Pennies from Heaven. I wrote a fairly harsh review of the film recently. But as I note, the film is great; it is just brought to its knees by Steve Martin’s performance. Despite everything else, it is worth watching.

They Only Come Out at Night

If at all possible, if you have the ability, you should spend a couple nights In, At and Around any place you plan to relocate to, move someone into or acquire. I know its old advice. I have heard it myself… or read it in a NOLO Press book on real-estate or Landlord-Tenant Law. See, you never really know what you are getting into AND if you have any choice, choice can be a good thing.

The most obvious is probably the most creepy, but very true and very real: Crawlies. We are lucky. Our cave is not and apparently has never been very bothered by crawlies. But if you ever wound up poised to rent a place like my brother Marlo did in San Diego, you would—at the very least—want to be warned. I visited Marlo in ’82 when he was renting off-base housing, while stationed in the US Navy. I’d probably been there a couple days when he showed me that if you suddenly turned on the lights in his bathroom, all kinds of little friends would scurry. Yikes! We had never had any kind of bug problem where we grew up. I had never even seen a cockroach ‘cept for a display of some kind of wooded roach, in the ‘nature glen’ of Navarro Boy Scout Camp. The pests, of course, were not isolated to the bathroom and had hundreds of friends than one would care to know about. Even with inspections etc, I don’t think you can really know what you are facing, bug wise, unless you are able to surprise them in the middle of the night. ALSO worthy of note, it is not limited to the confines of the intended abode. I know a nearby neighborhood which has both a dairy plant and a grain processor. On that block, late at night, if one dares stroll there and dares to illuminate select sections of pavement, one might reconsider the premise of late night walks altogether.

Another pretty obvious thing that goes bump in the night pertains to late night scavengers. We live not far from the town police department. To those not in the know, that is not altogether a good thing and often quite the opposite. There is a generally accepted phenomena which indicates neighborhoods near law enforcement agencies tend to be ‘questionable’ on more than one level. Now add surrounding elements of low-income housing, both retail and light industrial zoning and railroad tracks (often referred to, on the streets, as the Mexican highway). It is a sketchy enough area during the day, but between the hours of 2:30 and 5AM things get extra special. I have seen groups of 4-5 homeless people, on bicycles, divide and ride down each side of the street and indicate to each other specific addresses that look worthy of gleaning… verbal accounts of how many bicycles and other noticeable items can be found on each property. Yeah, I was on my porch, in the shadows, enjoying a break from an overnight project. Many times locks have been cut and human-powered transportation stolen. We also have two sets of dumpsters in our complex. The very early morning hours seem to be a preferred harvesting time for recyclables. This activity too is generally carried out by an armed and intimidating crew of 4-5 homeless people, with loud banter and camaraderie. Add close proximity to bars and liquor stores and you also have the frequent drunken fight on your porch. In one incident last year, a fighting couple believed they were scuffling on their own porch, which was actually blocks away.

Yes, we could see, when we moved here, there was a nearby market and, in another direction, a nearby min-market (read liquor store). No prob. The only thing that came to mind about those was convenience. These businesses have a staggered schedule of very noisy business-related events. The market receives shipments of stock 2-3 times a week, after 1AM, by the arrival of a big rig that blares its horn twice upon arrival. There is a 2AM parking lot cleaning and power wash, once a week. On another day the shopping carts are power washed at 4AM. The worst, however, is the 3AM garbage truck which empties the liquor store dumpster on Tuesdays. The backside of the building faces our complex and seems to amplify the sound as the dumpster is pounded several times against the open top of the truck. This particular event I never fail to notice. Some nights, I can fall back to sleep almost instantly… other nights, I have to get up and write.

The front of this apartment complex features two mixed-use buildings. One houses a daycare (which does not receive younglings until 6:30) and the other the traffic enforcement division of our local police. Apparently, motorcycle traffic enforcement begins between 3 and 4AM. I am also told, by a couple bikers, that police motorcycles are the only ‘bikes’ on the public roads that can legally have illegal pipes (exhaust systems which are specifically altered to make them much louder). Add that to the frequent code3 (lights and siren) responses to distant emergencies and it becomes quite a noticeable feature of the neighborhood.

Spending a night or two, on different nights of the week, at or near an address you are considering for residence or business could reveal elements you may not be comfortable with and help you avoid a bad move. If you find yourself, however, in a situation of limited options… try not to fret. Learn to roll with the punches. Maybe find a way to be productive at off hours or days. Maybe buy a nice set of headphones and get used to sleeping to music.