First, second and WTF policy making styles

Dani Rodrick in 2007 had a fascinating post on the different groups of economists when looking at policy problems. He divided them into two basic mindsets:

You can tell what kind of an economist someone is by the nature of the response s/he offers when confronted with a policy issue. The gut instinct of the members of the first group is to apply a simple supply-demand framework to the question at hand. … No matter how technical, complex, and full of surprises these economists’ own research might be, their take on the issues of the day are driven by a straightforward, almost knee-jerk logic….

the second group are inclined to see all kinds of complications, which make the textbook answers inappropriate. In their world, the economy is full of market imperfections ….

Policy making has the same type of division. There are those who advocate for the most efficient and effective policies as first best solutions, and there are those who acknowledge the possibility of first best solutions but are also aware of other strong constraints so sub-optimal improvements to policy can be implemented. Finally there is a school of policy making which can only be described as WTF avant garde experimentalism.

Risk corridors in PPACA are a good example of these three schools of thought. The point of risk corridors to is to minimize the cost to an insurer of it getting stuck with an especially sick pool of people it has to cover. Read more

After Action Report

I’ll leave it to the military historians to write the authoritative version, since, like most combatants, I’m far too close to the events that have just transpired. Even so, though the fog of war has barely cleared, it’s pretty clear that the War on Christmas has been won by a lily white, WASPish St Nick and his sidekick, Anglo-Saxon Jesus.

Festivus poles aside, as far as I could tell, this Christmas transpired like any other. During my one shopping trip to the mall, the department store workers I encountered assured me that they would be on their feet for long hours, as stores kept their minimum wage employees working from dawn ’til dusk, and well into the night, to be sure that any consumer who wanted to consume could do so at any hour of the day, on any day of the week. Though I neglected to save photographic evidence, I can assure you that the line for Santa at the mall was as long (and for the parents, as miserable) as ever, even on the early Sunday morning I chose to sneak in to shop.

Just like every other year, I was still burping up Thanksgiving turkey when I heard my first of thousands of Christmas carols blared from in-store Muzak systems. If the irrational urge to begin my Christmas shopping had overtaken me prior to consuming said turkey, I would have been able to sate that desire by a Thanksgiving Day trip to one of dozens of stores in my area that had Thanksgiving hours. Those stores that failed to resist the overwhelming force of Christmas and weren’t open on Thanksgiving still opened at zero dark thirty on Black Friday, they were still covered with the same tatty Christmas decorations that have graced our retail establishments for generations, and they were still selling the same cheap Chinese crap that is presently being ripped open by sleep-deprived children across this great land.

In short, it was the same damn thing, only more of it. The Jewish, Muslim and Hindu kids had to take Christmas off, not Hanukkah or Ramadan, and the only birthday being officially celebrated sure as hell isn’t Vishnu’s . Millions of dollars were again spent on liquor for work Christmas parties so Bill from Sales could feel up Patty from Accounting in the copy room. Black kids only saw a black Santa by special request.

We’re still putting the Caucasian and the Christ into our White Christmas, just like we always have, and only the delusional or hysterical think otherwise.

This Just In: Still No Cure For Stupid

Timing, timing, timing.

The indispensable Charles P. Pierce draws our attention to Our Nation’s Capital’s Newspaper of Record and the piece found therein today on the stirring intellect of that paragon of right wing media, Megyn Kelly.

As Mr. Pierce points outThe Washington Post’s editors might have wished for a slightly different news hook for the ritual tongue bath offered Ms. Kelly:

Unfortunately for the Post, which must have spent hours turning a fire hose on the reporter when he was done, Kelly marked the occasion by having some interesting things to say about Santa…and Jesus

Kelly, it seems was all bent out of shape by a piece over at Slate by Aisha Harris, who wrote:

When I was a kid, I knew two different Santa Clauses. The first had a fat belly, rosy cheeks, a long white beard, and skin as pink as bubble gum. He was omnipresent, visiting my pre-school and the local mall, visible in all of my favorite Christmas specials.

Then there was the Santa in my family’s household, in the form of ornaments, cards, and holiday figurines. A near-carbon copy of the first one—big belly, rosy cheeks, long white beard: check, check, check. But his skin was as dark as mine.

Seeing two different Santas was bewildering. Eventually I asked my father what Santa really looked like. Was he brown, like us? Or was he really a white guy?

Two decades later, America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn’t it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas?

Yes, it is. And so I propose that America abandon Santa-as-fat-old-white-man and create a new symbol of Christmas cheer. From here on out, Santa Claus should be a penguin.


OK, that’s funny, and cute, and hardly the stuff of high dudgeon to most of us.  But as Charles knows very well, Fox News folks are not most people.  And I’d have to say that “interesting” is only one word I can imagine to describe what Megyn Kelly had to say about Harris’s pro-penguin subversion:

…”For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” Kelly said. “But this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. But Santa is what he is…Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change, you know?” she added. “I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa – I just want the kids watching to know that.”

Oh, my sweet FSM.  Verifiable facts at Fox are … not like the ones those with even a by-the-fingernail grasp on reality can recognize.

Which, to my pleasure, Harris was delighted to point out:

Santa isn’t real. 

Uh, yeah.
And just in case those with the meanest understanding (looking at you, Fox newsdesk) have trouble following that thought, Harris kindly explains why remembering that Santa is a made up confection loosely based on some old sainthood myths is actually kind of important, if only as a test of whether or not you can be allowed out on your own:
 I’ll be fine if no one else jumps on board the penguin train and Santa remains a white man. But if you’re seriously emphatic that he is white and must remain white, there’s a good chance that your view of the rest of the world is just as limited and unimaginative. I mean, we are talking about a magical man who slides down your chimney every Christmas Eve. Just so we’re clear.
Will that voice of calm reason have any effect on Kelly and her claque?  I doubt it.  Research into such utterly difficult questions as consciousness advances every year — but there is on the horizon still absolutely no cure for stupid.
Image: Frank Hurley, Adelie penguin chicks molting, Glass negative from the first Australasian Antarctic expedition, 1911-1914.

Four More Former Soldiers Charged In Plot to Assassinate President Obama

Lost in the shuffle of the tragedy that occurred in Libya last night is the following horrifying story that will most assuredly go unnoticed by mainstream media outlets.

If you recall, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about a plot by militia group called F.E.A.R., members of which were active-duty soldiers at Fort Stewart in Georgia.

Today, five more people were charged in connection with the plot. Four of them are former Army soldiers, one is a civilian, and all are fucking crazy.

[read full post at ABLC]

[via Online Athens]

I have SO got to get the poster of this–Now with extra teabagging!

Behold!  What may be the single greatest piece of 21st Century art.  Buy one for all your conservative friends!  UPDATE:  It can be found here.


When I get home from work, I have to begin packing for vacation, which starts on Saturday morning.  Only one more day of being pretty much useless at work until we go!  San Diego, with your 70’s and 80’s weather, and your Comic-con, here I come!   I’m looking forward to the Battlestar Galactica panel and the Dexter panel.  I’ll suffer through attending the Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 panel with my daughter because it’s her first Comic-con.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a jobs thread around here.  It’s perhaps time for another.  If you need a job, post your request.  If you have or know of an available job, post that information.  Also, too, open thread.

ETA–as always from me, USA Jobs should be your first stop for an employment search.

Speaking of wingnut patriotism, Deadbeat Dad Joe Walsh was on the Ashleigh Banfield show on CNN and got into what has been described as a 10-minute long shouting match with the usually genial and inoffensive host over his remarks last week that his opponent, Tammy Duckworth is not a “real hero” because, unlike John McCain, she actually talks about being in a war.  NOTE–I haven’t seen the video.  It’s blocked at work.

Here is a link on Talking Points Memo.  Walsh looks like hell, like he hasn’t slept in days.  My God, that melt down is fucking epic!  He’s blaming the Duckworth campaign for video taping him.  It’s Duckworth’s fault that he’s a prick.

37 Trees

I see that another wingnut voltron has formed over the fact that there are 37 trees in the White House, started by the loathesome former secretary for Barbara Bush, Andrew Malcolm. James Joyner handles this rather nicely:

For one thing, these Christmas trees aren’t for the Obamas. Rather, they’re for the tens of thousands of tourists who line up in the cold to tour the White House during the holidays. Indeed, precisely because of all the tourists running around, this is the part of the White House that the Obamas are least likely to use.

For another, the notion that the best thing one can do during a bad economy is to cut back on spending is remarkably counterproductive. If anything, the Obamas should be laying on more Christmas trees–and so should the rest of those fortunate to have jobs. That’s, after all, how people who sell and transport trees and ornaments put food on their tables. The last thing they need is for people to start cutting back in some bizarre show of solidarity.

I’m not sure if James meant to make the argument for expanded government spending and a second stimulus, but he just did.

By the way, I love how wingnuts can claim Obama is simultaneously waging a war on Christmas while also having too many Christmas decorations up.

Commence the making of popcorn… now

Erickson & Trump. One on One.

By RedState on May 11, 2011

Yes, it is true. On Tuesday, I will be going one on one with Donald Trump in his office in New York.

He has agreed to sit down and have an unfiltered conversation with no topic off limits. Thus I will ask him those questions many of you have wanted to ask him and flesh out why he thinks he is a conservative, why he might run, etc.

You can watch the interview live and for free. But you must register by going here.


H/t: Spaghetti Lee