Video of the day

How hot dogs are made.  I never really eat hot dogs, but this didn’t actually make me any less likely to.  Pretty fascinating.

Krugman on the deficit

Must-read Krugman on the deficit and economic policy:

Back in 2010, self-styled deficit hawks — better described as deficit scolds — took over much of our political discourse. At a time of mass unemployment and record-low borrowing costs, a time when economic theory said we needed more, not less, deficit spending, the scolds convinced most of our political class that deficits rather than jobs should be our top economic priority. And now that the election is over, they’re trying to pick up where they left off.

They should be told to go away.

It’s not just the fact that the deficit scolds have been wrong about everything so far. Recent events have also demonstrated clearly what was already apparent to careful observers: the deficit-scold movement was never really about the deficit. Instead, it was about using deficit fears to shred the social safety net…

And then there’s the matter of the “fiscal cliff.”

Contrary to the way it’s often portrayed, the looming prospect of spending cuts and tax increases isn’t a fiscal crisis. It is, instead, a political crisis brought on by the G.O.P.’s attempt to take the economy hostage. And just to be clear, the danger for next year is not that the deficit will be too large but that it will be too small, and hence plunge America back into recession.

Deficit scolds are having a hard time with this issue. How can they warn us not to go over the fiscal cliff without seeming to contradict their own rhetoric about the evils of deficits?

This wouldn’t be hard if they had been making a more honest case on the budget: the truth is that deficits are actually a good thing when the economy is deeply depressed, so deficit reduction should wait until the economy is stronger. As John Maynard Keynes said three-quarters of a century ago, “The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.” But since the deficit scolds have in fact been demanding that we make deficits the priority even when the economy is depressed, they can’t go there.

Frum on reality

David Frum once again shows why he’s my favorite conservative– he’s firmly based in reality.  Sure, we disagree on stuff, but unlike most conservatives these days, his analyses are based on the world as it exists, not as he wishes it were.  Excellent piece in CNN:

O’Reilly’s analysis is echoed across the conservative blogosphere. The (non-white) takers now outnumber the (white) makers. They will use their majority to pillage the makers and redistribute to the takers. In the process, they will destroy the sources of the country’s wealth and end the American experiment forever.

You’ll hear O’Reilly’s view echoed wherever conservatives express themselves.

Happily, the view is wrong, and in every respect.

America is not a society divided between “makers” and “takers.” Instead, almost all of us proceed through a life cycle where we sometimes make and sometimes take as we pass from schooling to employment to retirement.

The line between “making” and “taking” is not a racial line. The biggest government program we have, Medicare, benefits a population that is 85% white.

President Barack Obama was not re-elected by people who want to “take.” The president was re-elected by people who want to work –– and who were convinced, rightly or wrongly, that the president’s policies were more likely to create work than were the policies advocated by my party.

The United States did not vote for socialism. It could not do so, because neither party offers socialism. Both parties champion a free enterprise economy cushioned by a certain amount of social insurance. The Democrats (mostly) want more social insurance, the Republicans want less. National politics is a contest to move the line of scrimmage, in a game where there’s no such thing as a forward pass, only a straight charge ahead at the defensive line. To gain three yards is a big play.

Yep, yep, yep.  Democrats are not socialists.  We believe in capitalism and free markets.  We just see a much larger role for the government in softening the inevitable inequities and inefficiencies in capitalism and trying to make it work better for most (if not all) Americans.   Republicans running around yelling “socialism” all the time is either fundamentally dishonest or fundamentally stupid.  Take your pick.

Oh my

Well, this is lighting up my FB feed.  I think somebody at a Denver affiliate may be losing a job:

ABC’s Denver affiliate is coming under fire for accidentally running a phony cover of Paula Broadwell’s biography of General David Petraeus. The cover read, All Up In My Snatch. The real book title is All In.

Here’s a screen grab:

A call placed the affiliate’s assignment desk confirmed the unfortunate “mistake.”

Chart of the day

Via Sarah Kliff at Wonkblog:

The Kaiser Family Foundation polled Americans last week, right after the election, asking what they want to see happen next with the health-care law. Most notably, they saw support for repeal plummet to an all-time low.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t exactly Americans gravitating toward the health-care law: Support for expanding the law or keeping it as is held steady at 49 percent. Those who no longer support repeal seem to have drifted into the “don’t know” category, about what should happen next.

In a lot of ways, this reflects larger shifts in thinking about the health-care law in the wake of President Obama’s reelection. There’s a general acknowledgement that the law, whose main components roll out in 2014, is here to stay.

I’d certainly say that’s a positive development.  And, once all these people realize that this is not a dreaded socialist takeover and that the law is really not going away, this number will continue to decline.  Someday, it will be just as accepted as Medicare.

Photo of the day

Very cool photo of the Southern sky in the Slate “Bad Astronomy” blog:

Southern skies over the Very Large Telescope

The southern stars of Carina and Crux hang over the Very Large Telescope.

Image credit: ESO/Babak Tafreshi

What grabs your attention right away is the stunning starscape. This picture was taken in Chile, at a latitude of 24 degrees south. Many of the stars seen here never rise for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere; the Earth is forever in the way. We’re looking in a direction toward the Milky Way, so we see lots of stars scattered about—it’s like looking toward the downtown of a city from a suburb.

Most of the stars you see here are part of the constellation Carina, representing the keel of a ship. The brightest star in the picture, though, the blue one on the right, is called Acrux, one of the stars in Crux, the famous Southern Cross. Crux is a kite-shaped figure, with Acrux at the top and the other three to the lower left.

Dominating the shot is the ruddy glow of the mighty Carina Nebula, a vast, sprawling complex of gas and dust so large, so massive, that it’s hard to describe, let alone grasp.

Why Republicans won’t catch up

Here’s an interesting piece about the social science “dream team” that helped Obama’s messaging and organization:

Late last year Matthew Barzun, an official with the Obama campaign, called Craig Fox, a psychologist in Los Angeles, and invited him to a political planning meeting in Chicago, according to two people who attended the session.

“He said, ‘Bring the whole group; let’s hear what you have to say,’ ” recalled Dr. Fox, a behavioral economist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

So began an effort by a team of social scientists to help their favored candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Some members of the team had consulted with the Obama campaign in the 2008 cycle, but the meeting in January signaled a different direction.

“The culture of the campaign had changed,” Dr. Fox said. “Before then I felt like we had to sell ourselves; this time there was a real hunger for our ideas.”

This election season the Obama campaign won a reputation for drawing on the tools of social science. The book “Victory Lab,” by Sasha Issenberg, and news reports have portrayed an operation that ran its own experiment and, among other efforts, consulted with the Analyst Institute, a Washington voter research group established in 2007 by union officials and their allies to help Democratic candidates.

Less well known is that the Obama campaign also had a panel of unpaid academic advisers. The group — which calls itself the “consortium of behavioral scientists,” or COBS — provided ideas on how to counter false rumors, like one that President Obama is a Muslim. It suggested how to characterize the Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in advertisements. It also delivered research-based advice on how to mobilize voters.

“In the way it used research, this was a campaign like no other,” said Todd Rogers, a psychologist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former director of the Analyst Institute. “It’s a big change for a culture that historically has relied on consultants, experts and gurulike intuition.”…\

For their part, consortium members said they did nothing more than pass on research-based ideas, in e-mails and conference calls. They said they could talk only in general terms about the research, because they had signed nondisclosure agreements with the campaign.

In addition to Dr. Fox, the consortium included Susan T. Fiske of Princeton University;Samuel L. Popkin of the University of California, San Diego; Robert Cialdini, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University; Richard H. Thaler, a professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago’s business school; and Michael Morris, a psychologist at Columbia.

“A kind of dream team, in my opinion,” Dr. Fox said.

He said that the ideas the team proposed were “little things that can make a difference” in people’s behavior.

Now, imagine a similar group of social science all-stars lending their smarts and talents to a Republican presidential candidate.  Or that Republican candidate even wanting so much input from a bunch of ivory tower eggheads.  Yep.  That’s why Democrats should have an advantage on this for a long time to come.

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