Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for August 2007

Snow cashes in

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Ezra gets all crazy and petty on the subject on Tony Snow’s resignation:

He’s resigning because he’s out of money. Not long ago, he told Hugh Hewitt that “I’m not going to be able to go the distance, but that’s primarily for financial reasons. I’ve told people when my money runs out, then I’ve got to go.” Snow makes $170,000 a year. Real median income in this country is about $50,000. So this White House spokesperson doesn’t think you can live on $170,000, but repeatedly told the press corps that “It is worth reminding people of how good this economy is.”

C’mon, Ezra, lighten up. It’s possible to critique the administration’s pretty awful economic policies — especially with regard to their effect on ordinary people — without resorting to (left) wingnuttery. And besides, when did Tony Snow say he doesn’t think he “can live on $170k?” He no doubt has implied he and his family can’t live on 170 grand in the manner to which they’ve grown accustomed, but that’s a very different thing. Even a quite large family can purchase adequate food, clothing, shelter, health insurance and transportation on that money. You can certainly live on $170,000 annually, even in a relatively expensive area like Washington, DC.

What folks might not be able to do on 170 grand is: make the mortgage payments on a big house in one of the swankier corners of greater DC and a vacation house at the beach and maintain three high end European imports and fly first class and afford Ivy League tuitions and dine out at expensive restaurants and afford seasons tickets to the Redskins and stay at top hotels when visiting London…

In other words, Tony Snow’s family is used to living the life of the affluent. It’s just silly to try and turn this fact into yet another way to pillory George W. Bush (as much as his policies deserve it).

Anyway, I can’t imagine the life expectancy for someone undergoing treatment for a recurrence of intestinal cancer is very long, so Snow undoubtedly wants to put away some money while he still can. I feel bad for the guy myself. Seems like a decent fellow.

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Written by Jasper

August 31, 2007 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Economics, Politics

The cat ate my blogroll

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Once upon a time I had a wicked pissah blogroll complete with links to lots of bloggers big and small. My site went through a period of benign neglect for a couple of months over the summer (Hey, can you blame me? YOU try living through countless New England winters without developing a tender, obsessive, and hyper sentimental adoration of the weeks between Memorial and Labor Days), and this was followed by some format tinkering, and, lo and behold, my blogroll got lost.

Anyway, I plan to get the damn thing back on the site within the next few days, and build it up to a proper length in short order. So, if you happen to be a blogger, and you’re willing to link to me, shoot me an email or comment, and I’ll include your blog on mine. Seriously, I will. I don’t care how badly you write or how little traffic you get. Thanks in advance.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Blogs, Miscellania

By the company they keep

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Awesome! My old party just picked up a key new ally in its noble quest to fight the browning of America.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Beggar thy neighbor

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Kevin Drum brings to our attention an LA Times opinion piece by one L. J. Williamson, who apparently is miffed at the efforts of the lunch ladies to get a little health insurance:

Part-time food service employees are seeking the same health benefits — including coverage for their families — that their full-time counterparts enjoy. Extending these benefits to cafeteria staff who currently work only three hours a day would cost an estimated $40 million a year, according to school board calculations…This is fat that the food service’s too-lean budget simply doesn’t have. If health benefits were extended to these part-time workers, the CFPA estimates it would mean that the per-plate meal budget would be reduced from 85 cents to 49 cents. Making healthy food available for that amount would take a miracle of biblical proportions. So we’d be improving the healthcare of nearly 2,000 part-time workers at the expense of the 500,000 children who eat in public school cafeterias every day.

In reply comes a morning rant from Kevin:

It’s true that the growing gap between public workers and private workers is a real problem. In the past, there was something of a tradeoff: public sector workers generally got paid less than private sector workers but made up for it with job security and benefits. Today, though, public workers generally get higher salaries and better benefits and more vacation and earlier retirement and more lucrative pension packages compared to comparable private sector workers. And private sector workers are understandably annoyed by this. But their annoyance would be better directed not at the lucky public sector workers, but at the mahogany row executives and conservative politicians who pretend that the only possible use for the mountains of cash generated by decades of economic growth is to give it all to mahogany row executives and the billionaires who contribute to conservative politicians.

That Drum fellow sure can write.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 7:17 pm

The ever littler big three

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Matt Zeitlin goes on a rant about the awfulness of Detroit’s products:

American cars, for the most part, are an inferior product.  They also have the potential to destroy the world.  At the low end, their Japanese (and ever Korean) competitors are cheaper, better designed, more fuel efficient and have better technology.  While the Ford Focus is one of the better low end American efforts, it is only popular overseas and is still beaten out by a comparable Civic at home.  Comparable Ford and Chevy’s to Corey Spaley’s favorite, the Honda Accord simply can’t compete with it’s higher gas mileage and superior design.  When American companies try to make more expensive, performence cars — like the Mustang GT, they are inefficient, overpowered brutes.  The GT has a lame 65 hp/liter, which pales in comparison to similarly powered Japanese cars, which manage to get around 100 hp/liter (Subaru WRX STI and Mitsu Evo).  Though the GT has an aluminum engine block, American companies have been late to using anything besides heavy cast iron in engine blocks.  Not to mention the poor gas mileage, 15/23 highway city.

Okay, Zeitlin, I’ll see your rant and raise you one: nobody ’round these parts under the age of 50 seems to even consider buying American (save in the USV category). I actually kinda like the new high end caddies, but not much else.

I’ve long been of the opinion that plain old marketing and branding bears a lot of the blame for Detroit’s decline. Look at one pretty successful Japanese automaker, Honda. They’ve got, like, four or five principal models that account for the bulk of their sales. Compare that to General Motors, which has, like, 30 or 40 to choose from. I mean, hello!?! Can you say “dillution of brand”? Has it really occurred to nobody in Detroit that a strategy that made sense in 1957 doesn’t work anymore? They’ve literally had decades to study their own decline and formulate strategies to reverse it. If I were dictator of GM I’d rename the company “Chevrolet”, I’d get rid of most of their divisions, and I’d cull the models down to a number comparable to what Toyota or Honda have to offer.

Modern, busy consumers simply can’t wrap their very harried brains around the dozens of possible models that GM can sell them. Thing is, it’s a total waste anyway, because anybody with an IQ over 70 can plainly see that the “Pontiac” and “Buick” and “Chevrolet” (or Pymouth, Dodge and Chrysler, etc) versions are pretty much the same product. Their lack of respect for the intelligence of the car buying public is simply astonishing. If ever there existed a firm that deserved to go out of business (and doesn’t deserve a dime of public money should the need arise) it’s General Motors, closely followed by Ford and Chrysler.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Michael Vick’s biggest fan

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The following thought occurred to me this morning: don’t you think David Stern is probably elated about the Michael Vick scandal? It’s definitely long past time for the once (but no longer) effective NBA impresario to lose his job, but the amount of media energy focused on his league’s travails is looking mighty skimpy at present.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 8:21 am

Posted in Culture, Media, Sports

A lot like forty summers ago

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I don’t write much about Iraq (nor a great deal about foreign or military affairs in general) for a very good reason: I’m simply not much of an expert. Fortunately, other people seem to know what they’re talking about. Kevin Drum, for instance, has these sobering words for us:

Anbar is good news despite the long-term risk of arming Sunni tribal leaders. Petraeus seems to be doing a good job on the counterinsurgency front (though it’s frankly hard to say how much of this is good PR based on a limited number of success stories and how much is genuine widespread progress). And it’s possible that violence is down in Baghdad, though I’d rate the odds of that at no more than 50-50. On the downside, most of the evidence suggests that violence is following seasonal patterns and is going up, not down. The insurgency seems to be getting worse in the north. Civil war is breaking out in the south. Anecdotal reports of progress are undercut by suggestions that we’ll need to stay in Iraq for another decade. The Iraqi police force is a disaster and the army doesn’t appears to be much better, despite the usual Pentagon claims of improvement. Kirkuk is a timebomb. Iraqi infrastructure is in a ruinous decline. And the insurgency is apparently bigger than it was a year ago. The conventional wisdom this summer, after a steady round of dog-and-pony shows from the military, says that although political progress in Iraq is nil (or even in reverse), at least we’re finally making some tactical progress on the security front. And maybe we are. But I’m trying to be as honest as I can be here, and it looks to me like the balance of the evidence suggests that this is more hype than reality. As near as I can tell, we’re not making much progress on either front.

Read the whole thing. It’s not a pretty picture. As much as I wish he were wrong, my fear is he’s very likely right. It’s time to get out.

Written by Jasper

August 27, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Foreign Policy, Iraq