Good Cop / Bad Cop in Britain’s Coalition

The power-sharing that goes on between Number Ten and the Treasury is now working in the interests of both, to a much greater degree than it did under Blair. The split is actually Humean to the core. Clegg and Cameron represent fairness, decency and the common good; Osborne represents objectivity, facts and economics. The former want a better world, but know little of its reality. The latter knows about its reality, but doesn’t care what happens to it. Osborne unleashes trolleys down hills, while the rest – and the Lib Dems in particular – are tasked with pulling leavers, pushing fat people off bridges and diving in front of the odd trolley themselves, all in the hope that this minimises the suffering.

Read the rest.

Categories: Politics, United Kingdom Tags:

Yeah, Asia is pushing closer to the West

Western officials should have realised this Summit would be different when they arrived in Seoul to find their phones and blackberrys didn’t work. The problem was that Korea’s nationwide 4G network was too advanced. On early negotiating missions, key UK officials found themselves communicating with London via gmail, on rented phones.

That was never a problem in Pittsburgh, or Toronto. But as George Osborne liked to point out, this was the first G20 Summit not hosted by a G8 country – and, he might have added, the first where G8 countries didn’t call the tune.

Read more here.

Why are they doing so well? The major reason is the amount of investment they do. As an example, see Tom Friedman’s NYT oped:

China is doing moon shots. Yes, that’s plural. When I say “moon shots” I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments. China has at least four going now: one is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers — from America — giving China the largest number in the world in one institute to launch its own stem cell/genetic engineering industry; and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country’s leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities. In essence, China Inc. just named its dream team of 16-state-owned enterprises to move China off oil and into the next industrial growth engine: electric cars.

You never hear about these types of investments in the western world, which suggests we need to increase the aid our governments give to investing companies AND make it worth their while to switch to new products and methods of production.

Categories: Economics Tags: ,

The problem with industrial policy

Modeled Behavior:

Many will point out that we are already involved in industrial policy in the energy sector, it’s just that our industrial policy favors dirty energy. The important thing is, Matt Yglesias tweeted yesterday, “that we have bad industrial policy now and should make it explicit and improve it”. I can agree with this sentiment, but I would modify it to say this: we have bad industrial policy now, and we should prove we can fix the existing problems before expanding it’s scope and aim. Now there is a lot of overlap between these two notions, and a fair bit of semantics, but there is at least one crucial difference: I’m arguing if we don’t have good reason to believe we can fix some of the current systematic problems, then just killing bad industrial policy is greatly preferable to attempting to build good industrial policy.

The problems our current industrial energy policy is that it doesn’t have, in fact doesn’t allow, the characteristics that we want of a healthy dynamic industry. In order for industrial policy to work in the long-run it needs to be able to allow subsidies to cease for products, companies, and even industries that become outdated. This means it has to be effective at identifying these industries, and capable of cutting off life-support.  This is what the creative destruction of capitalism provides, and our current policies do not.

I agree with Matt that dirty technologies like coal and oil shouldn’t be given preferential treatment over clean ones like they currently are. Nor should ethanol, our largest attempt at a green industrial energy policy that almost everyone recognizes does not pass cost benefit. Yet if we can’t wind down the inefficient, environmentally devastating subsidies to these industries, why should we believe that the government will ever be able to hit undo if they accidently pick the wrong “winner” this time around, or if today’s “winner” becomes tomorrow’s “loser”?

The reason industrial policy has this problem is that it is explicitly geared towards creating jobs. Once those jobs are created, the goal for policy-makers becomes preserving those jobs. This is the antithesis of creative destruction, and a huge impediment to progress. What happens if we build this giant “green economy” supporting millions of middle class jobs and then a cheaper and more environmentally friendly technology comes along that makes them all redundant? Will the politicians who decide our allocations of energy via mandate and subsidy allow those jobs to go away and progress to occur, or will they fight tooth and nail to preserve the inefficient status quo?

For these reasons I find the idea of an NIH for green technologies compelling. Moneys are doled out by competitive grants to researchers with proven track records and good ideas, and the emphasis is on creating technologies, not jobs. But with respect to subsidies, mandates, and other command-and-control industrial policy, I don’t see how they will overcome the failure problem.

BTW, I haven’t made this explicit yet, but ECONOMICS IS A MASSIVE RIGHT-WING CONSPIRACY.

Probably the most encouraging thing I’ve read

Ira Glass- broadcaster, storyteller and presenter of the fantastic This American Life (iTunes podcast)- is interviewed on being wrong (read it) and this section should cheer anyone up:

Is it tough to find stories that work? In my experience, a fundamental part of being a journalist is that you find a story that seems like it’s going to be perfect and then you get there and start talking to the subject and as often as not, it falls apart in any one of a million ways.

Totally. One of the reasons I was interested in doing this interview is because I feel like being wrong is really important to doing decent work. To do any kind of creative work well, you have to run at stuff knowing that it’s usually going to fail. You have to take that into account and you have to make peace with it. We spend a lot of money and time on stuff that goes nowhere. It’s not unusual for us to go through 25 or 30 ideas and then go into production on eight or 10 and then kill everything but three or four. In my experience, most stuff that you start is mediocre for a really long time before it actually gets good. And you can’t tell if it’s going to be good until you’re really late in the process. So the only thing you can do is have faith that if you do enough stuff, something will turn out great and really surprise you.

Have you gotten faster at recognizing what’s not going to work?

Well, I register the danger that it might not work. But honestly sometimes you have to just do it. There are definitely interviews that we all go into knowing, "Ehhhhh, here’s all the things that can go wrong and here’s the one or two things that it can go right." And you just gotta do it.

I had this experience a couple of years ago where I got to sit in on the editorial meeting at the Onion. Every Monday they have to come up with like 17 or 18 headlines, and to do that, they generate 600 headlines per week. I feel like that’s why it’s good: because they are willing to be wrong 583 times to be right 17.

That’s amazing. I’m trying to work out the fraction in my headlike, how wrong do you have to be to finally be right?

It kind of gives you hope. If you do creative work, there’s a sense that inspiration is this fairy dust that gets dropped on you, when in fact you can just manufacture inspiration through sheer brute force. You can simply produce enough material that the thing will arrive that seems inspired.

It reminds me of your own career trajectory. In the past, you’ve told a story about one of your producers listening to a piece you did early on, and afterward saying to you, "There’s nothing in here that indicates that you were ever going to get it."

I know. I mean, that’s my big drama. Everybody has a drama, a struggle that they went through, and for me it was turning myself from somebody who wasn’t any good at this thing into somebody who’s really, really good at it. I was a great intuitive story editor from the start, but writing, interviewing, performing on the radio—I was just terrible at all of that. All through my 20s, my parents were like, "Why are you doing this?" I wasn’t making any money, and I was so bad at it. I was 19 when I started at NPR and I was 27 or 28 before I could competently put together a story that I had written. All that time, I just stubbornly pushed toward this thing because I thought it would work out in some form. I was right about that, but I was wrong about pretty much everything along the way.

Plenty of people in your field got to competent a lot faster but then stayed there. Do you think there was a relationship between the length of your struggle and the spectacular outcomethat being so bad at it for so long forced you to come up with a different way to do it?

[Thinks.] Not necessarily the length of the struggle. The engine of what I was going through was that I wanted to make something that would be really special. I wanted it to seem special to me, I wanted it to stand out, and that kept me from learning a lot of the ways that people make boring stories. I had contempt for those stories. I didn’t know what I was making that was better—in fact, what I was making was a lot worse—but it kept me from going down a lot of paths that would have been boring.

Basically, if you’re not doing as good as you want to expect to, don’t worry. Not everything you try will work out. So work hard and work lots.

Google translate doesn’t do Russian


That is all.

Categories: Internet Tags: , ,

“Socialist” Obama is Big Business for conservatives

As you can see I’ve been working hard on writing newspaper-type headlines.


via Frum Forum, the Daily Beast reports that there have been 46 anti-Obama books published since he was inaugurated 2 years ago (at this point Bush had 5 and Clinton, 11). And they’ve got some ridiculous names:

I started wondering how many Obama attack books had been published when I saw David Limbaugh’s Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of Barack Obama at a bookstore a few weeks ago—at this point the titles all blur together in a manic mad-lib, always accusing Obama of something close to war-crimes against the American people.  With the help of research assistant Nicholas Anderson, I compiled a full list of anti-Obama books available on Among the choice titles:

The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and other Anti-American Extremists; Barack Obama’s Plan to Socialize America and Destroy Capitalism; Obama’s Change: Communism in America; To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine; How Barack Obama is Destroying the Military and Endangering Our Security; Obama: The Postmodern Coup—Making of a Manchurian Candidate; Trickle Up Poverty: Stopping Obama’s Attack on Our Borders, Economy and Security; The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America; and my favorite: Whiny Little Bitch: The Excuse Filled Presidency of Barack Obama.

I think it’s ironic that it’s the growth-killing socialist who’s proving such a gold mine for conservatives authors. Also, I’ve always wondered, do they really believe the things they’re saying or do they know their peddling adulterated horse-piss. The former means they’re well-meaning idiots, while the latter means they’re just evil; whipping gullible people into irrational hate and fear while raking in money.

Categories: Politics, United States Tags: ,

President Sarah Palin

The Elephant Parade  

(Photo: (L-R) Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images; Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images; Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Steve Pope/Getty Images; Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)


John Heilemann thinks so in an article that could be subtitled “How to get elected United States President”:

Firstly, she’ll put her hat in the ring; her ambition having won over her intelligence. Then she’ll overwhelm the Republican field [picture] first with the Tea Party’s backing:

All those guys they could try and turn it up and have the fervor, but voters are gonna read through it,” says Dowd. “It’s just not authentic to them, because they’ve been part of the Washington scene or taking part in state politics, where they cut deals and made compromises—which is part of governing but lethal in this environment.”

On this reading, the tea party and its populist brethren seem likely to emerge as the new Christian right, only more powerful—not merely exercising an effective veto over any nominee but altering the underlying dynamics of the race. “There will be two simultaneous primaries: a mainstream-conservative primary and a primary in the anti-Establishment wing of the party,” says John Weaver, McCain’s guru in 2000 and the early part of his run in 2008. “And then there’ll be a playoff down the road between the winners of the two.”

The sequencing of primary elections does its bit:

Beyond the intensity of her grassroots following, Palin would bring to the race two other significant advantages, the first being the calendar. That she would be the prohibitive favorite in Iowa, where the caucuses are dominated by Evangelical voters, is considered a given by most strategists. But, in fact, all of the first four states might provide fertile ground for Palin. “Iowa and New Hampshire both are places in which the tea party has manifested itself,” observes Dowd. “In South Carolina, [firebrand Senator] Jim DeMint has already shown that he’s a force to be reckoned with. And Nevada’s nominated Sharron Angle.”

then her unconventional, even insurgent campaigning and the media’s reaction to her every 140 characters takes its toll:

Palin’s second advantage, nearly incalculable in its scale and implications, is her ability simultaneously to drive and saturate the electronic media, new and old—the way that cable chronicles her every twitch, that with a trifling tweet she often earns 24 hours of breathless nonstop coverage. “It’ll be something that we’ve never seen before,” says John Weaver. “Obama wasn’t like that until the general election.”

How will the Establishment candidates cope with all of this? “The first thing it does is completely freaks them out,” says McKinnon. “And the hard part is, it’s going to be difficult for them to go after her, because she’s so popular [within the party]”—and also because she’s likely to be the only woman in a large field of men. “If you have somebody who can operate the way she does,” adds another strategist, “which is totally outside of political convention, where she does not engage with the free press, she does not answer questions when she speaks, her communication is done in 140-character bursts on Twitter or on a Facebook post, her ability to have the nine other people who are running afraid to disagree with her is problematic, right? It forces a guy like Pawlenty to say things that are obviously not true, like ‘Sarah Palin of course is prepared to be president!’ ”

In truth, what the Establishment candidates are likely to do is focus on their own bracket—on emerging as the Palin alternative around which the non-tea-party elements of the GOP coalesce. “If you’re a traditional candidate, you have to run a traditional campaign,” counsels Castellanos. “There will be an opportunity to seize that mantle, the Establishment, Reaganesque, visionary Republican mantle. My advice would be, don’t run in Sarah Palin’s primary. Go win your primary.”

In July (check me out), I tweeted:

Palin GOP

“I still think this is true although now, I’d add that the problem for more mainstream Republicans would be same as what is affecting the Democrats coming up to the November elections; uber-motivated right-wingers whose turnout will swamp your moderate vote. The same effect aiding the Republicans now- and which they’re cheering- will bite them in the behind going forward.

If that happens, I doubt she’ll win mainly because even though I have my criticisms about them, I don’t think Americans are stupid, nor enjoy self-harm. However, Heilemann thinks up a scenario in which New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg gets into the race based on his appeal to moderate Republicans (“economic competence and financial acumen”) and liberal social stances. This will occur especially if the economy doesn’t pick up soon:

But there is a third scenario, one that involves a more granular kind of analysis-cum-speculation. By the accounts of strategists in both parties, Bloomberg—especially with the help of his billions—would stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California. Combine that with a strong-enough showing in a few other places in the industrial Northeast to deny Obama those states, and with Palin holding the fire-engine-red states of the South, and the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives—which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans. The result: Hello, President Palin!

Again brrrrrrrrrr.

NB: Today, Palin says she’ll run in 2012, “if there’s nobody else to do it”. Which I think means “If I don’t like any of the candidates, then I’ll run”. Or she knows that everyone will be dead then.