Why Reps Are Now More Rational About Economy

Republican Small Government LieLast Monday, Paul Krugman wrote, The Long-Run Cop-Out. That’s a reference to Keynes’ observation that it is meaningless to talk about the “long run” because in the long run, we are all dead. In fact, before he wrote the column, I wrote an article following off one of his blog posts, “Serious” Economics Is Just a Stalling Tactic. That’s what all that “long run” and “structural reform” is all about: avoiding doing anything that might help, and more important, might cause the rich a couple of bucks.

But while reading it, I began to wonder about something else. I’ve noticed that the Republicans have started to sound a whole lot more reasonable about matters economic. Namely, they are starting to talk about things that actually would help the economy. And why is that? Well, it’s no secret. Obama is at the end of his time as president. They are hopeful that they will control the White House as of 2017. So they are laying the ground work now. They are getting ready for more of their traditional work as The Wrecking Crew. It’s the same thing we saw with economist Greg Mankiw who was for stimulus under George W Bush, against it under Obama, and then again for it in the middle of 2012 as a Romney advisor — looking forward to a Romney presidency.

Later that week, Jonathan Chait wrote, Will Republicans Stop Beating Around the Bush? As with Krugman, he isn’t writing about this subject. But he did mention an important part of it:

The Republican Party began the Obama era with a reflexive spasm of disgust against George W Bush. The sins of the 43rd president, both real and imagined, propelled and helped to justify a wild lurch to the right. Was Bush a failed, unpopular president? This was only because he had sold out conservatism with his big-spending ways. Had Republicans turned against even policies they once supported — like TARP, fiscal stimulus, and cap and trade — in order to deny Obama any bipartisan cover? This was because those policies represented cardinal ideological error, of which the party had now cleansed itself.

The majority of the GOP now recognizes this lurch into anti-government purity was a mistake. The question is not whether the Republican party returns to Bushism, but whether its return is complete enough that this return can be led by George W Bush’s actual brother.

Maybe I’m just too cynical. I don’t think that the Republicans have just woken from their fever and now understand that they were mistaken. All that’s changed is the environment. And if a good economy sweeps Hillary Clinton or another Democrat into the White House, the Republicans will find that actually, that “Hell no!” position was right all along. They will convince themselves that the real reason they lost was that they had the wrong candidate and that what they really should have done was run a True Conservative™. If only they had run on a platform of ending abortion except in the case of legitimate rape, starving the darkies, and cutting the taxes of the only oppressed minority in America — the rich! Then they would have won!

It would seem that only far left cranks like me are supposed to mention this clear reality that what the Republicans actually think about government spending is only dependent upon who’s doing the spending. But it is well established. The Republicans aren’t for a small or even smaller government. They want a big, invasive government. They want to pick the winners. They just want those winners to be their wealthy friends. There is no reason to avoid saying this. It’s just the truth.

The Sun’s Enormous Gaseous Filament

Sun Superfilament- Oliver Hardy
Superfilament by Oliver Hardy

Yesterday, the Sun exhibited one of the longest filaments ever recorded. It may still be there today. Visible as the dark streak just below the center in the featured image, the enormous filament extended across the face of the Sun a distance even longer than the Sun’s radius — over 700,000 kilometers. A filament is actually hot gas held aloft by the Sun’s magnetic field, so that viewed from the side it would appear as a raised prominence. The featured image shows the filament in light emitted by hydrogen and therefore highlights the Sun’s chromosphere. Sun-following telescopes including NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) are tracking this unusual feature, with SDO yesterday recording a spiraling magnetic field engulfing it. Since filaments typically last only from hours to days, parts of this one may collapse or erupt at any time, either returning hot plasma back to the Sun or expelling it into the Solar System.

—NASA
Astronomy Picture of the Day

Does Harper Lee Want to Publish Another Novel?

Harper LeeThe story of the new Harper Lee novel just gets sadder and sadder. Last week, we found out that HarperCollins was going to publish a new book, Go Set a Watchman. There was much excitement. But then it turned out that the novel was not new. It was a book that Lee wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird. Still, it was exciting that Lee had decided to allow any new fiction to be published. But the question now is whether Harper Lee really has decided to do this.

Harper Lee is about to turn 89 years old. Her eyesight and hearing are failing. And according to Michael Hiltzik, last year her older sister Alice died. Alice had always acted as Harper’s protector. Now she lives in an assisted care facility. It is in this context that there is suddenly a new Harper Lee novel being published.

Alice Lee was a lawyer, but she stopped practicing law about ten years ago (she lived to be over a hundred). One of her lawyers, Tonja Carter, took over the legal work for the Lees. She has been far more aggressive in protecting the estate. And no one thinks she has anything but good intentions. But that doesn’t mean that she is necessarily doing what Harper Lee wants — or at least what Harper Lee has wanted her whole career.

It was Carter who just happened to be going through Lee’s paper and just happened upon the book and just happened to note that it was really good. And let’s face it, it will be good for Carter to have the book published. I’m not sure exactly what Lee gets from it. But I’m sure that in Carter’s mind, this is a good thing for Lee. The book is, after all, what interested her publisher in the first place. It probably is good — maybe even great. It is a gift that Harper Lee can give to the world in her twilight years.

Still, it smacks of elder abuse. Sitting on great works of art is like sitting on great piles of cash. And we would be skeptical of a lawyer prying cash from an old person. I see no reason why we shouldn’t be skeptical of this. Because a second Harper Lee book is not just a work of art; it is millions of dollars.

Lee’s eyesight and hearing may be failing, but the word is that her mind is as sharp as ever. It would make me feel a whole lot better about this project if we got some word directly from her. The best we’ve received thus far are second and third hand claims about her delight about the publication of the book. I hope that’s true.

Google’s Birthday Gift

Google's Birthday Gift for Me

I was treated to this image yesterday when I went to Google. I think it is kind of ugly, but I always like seeing this sort of thing. It means that someone is having a birthday, and even though it is rarely someone I haven’t heard of, it’s nice to be reminded. So I clicked on it and it took me to my Google+ About page. For a moment, I figured it was some computer screw up. But, slow as I am about this stuff, I eventually realized that Google was just telling me that it knew that it was my birthday.

I went to Google on a browser where I wasn’t longed into Google+ plus, and sure enough: it was the same old Google page. I am not, it appears, a star. Still, I think it is kind of a nice thing for Google to do. It is all part of the Google+ treatment. On my birthday, Google+ sends out an alert to all of my several dozen followers that it is my birthday, offering them an easy way to wish me a happy birthday. And pretty much no one does. I don’t take this as an insult.

When I get a reminder of someone else’s birthday, I’m very reticent to offer them a birthday wish. It seems a bit like stalking. If I don’t really know them well, what does it say? Just the same, when I do wish people happy birthdays, they are always gracious. What’s more, even relatively famous people seem fairly shocked by the birthday wish. Recently, I wished Martin Longman a happy birthday and he was clearly pleased and surprised. So even an established writer like Longman doesn’t seem to be getting a bunch of people wishing him a happy birthday.

The other side of it is that privacy people might freak out. But I suspect that they would be the kind of people who wouldn’t provide Google+ with their birthdays anyway. I’m all for privacy myself, but for a decade now, most of my personal information has been widely known. And I generally assume that everything I say and do is being recording by the NSA, DEA, and any other organization that is concerned with loose cannons like myself — regardless of how committed to peace we may be.

The only thing that I wish is that Google would take the time to create a better image to celebrate my birthday. I’m very simple — one might even say boring — in my preferences for delicious birthday treats. Vanilla ice cream really is the most wonderful. As for cake, I like a light chocolate with vanilla frosting. And folks: why do I see canned frosting at the super market? Frosting is extremely easy to make. It’s simple: powered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla. It couldn’t be easier — or more delicious. But what do we get in the Google image? I don’t know, but it doesn’t look very tasty.

I don’t mean to complain. But next year, I hope that Google offers me more appealing treats for my birthday. I mean, there are seven cakes there and not one looks especially tasty. Maybe I’ll get Andrea to create a better one for me next year. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Ellen Day Hale

Ellen Day HaleOn this day in 1855, the great American impressionist painter Ellen Day Hale was born. Her work reminds me very much of Édouard Manet. And I think of her very much part of the impressionist movement — never moving toward post-impressionistic work, even though she was of the right age for it. I’m more fond of the post-impressionists work, but there is something constantly thrilling about Hale’s work.

Most of her work consists of portraits. And they are very much in keeping with the impressionist style. But other things transcend this. I’m especially impressed with her use of direct lighting. Take for example, the painting Morning News, which she painted at the age of 50. It is just gorgeous. Off canvas to the left is a large window with the morning sun streaming through. A teapot and a flower in a vase is on the shelf behind her. I don’t know if she is waiting to serve breakfast and is taking a moment after. But it is a complete story — a slice of life — a moment when life is worth living.

Morning News - Ellen Day Hale

Happy birthday Ellen Day Hale!