Omnibus Catch-Up #1

The purpose — to murder Firefox tabs. Organization — arbitrary. Hey Google Chrome, Mac users are getting cranky and impatient.

(1) As far as ideas Republicans can and should poach, Shiller’s marriage of financial innovation — not hot right now — with middle class economic advancement — very hot right now — makes a lot of sense. I can promise you that Democrats will be reluctant to embrace the universalization of derivatives, which will strike them as casino-like madness. Yet Shiller’s program runs counter to the much-derided investor class agenda insofar as it is designed to make core investments less risky. One of Shiller’s older ideas, structuring the tax code to preserve a certain level of income inequality through retroactive adjustment, is totally nuts, but it is more a conceptual flight than anything else. Let’s not hold that against him.

Also, The Subprime Solution is well worth your time.

(2) Irwin Stelzer raises an interesting possibility:

Goldman Sachs’s economists are atypically cheerier than most. They “expect the unfolding massive stimulus to end the technical recession in the second half of 2009.” But they also expect the unemployment rate to keep ticking up “through late 2010.” Economists know that the unemployment rate is a lagging indicator, rising only after a recovery is well underway. Less well-trained voters, who now rate unemployment America’s top problem, don’t deal in such technicalities, which would mean that they are less likely to hail Obama and the Democrats as saviors come the midterm elections if unemployment is still headed up.

Does this mean a faint glimmer of hope for Republicans, as Stelzer gently suggests? I doubt it. One popular theory is that 2010 will be a false dawn and that 2012 will be a crushing defeat, though early news on 2010 candidate recruitment suggests otherwise, i.e., it seems somewhat more likely that 2010 and 2012 will be bad years for the GOP. “The Congress” was damn unpopular in 2008, yet the Democrats mightily increased their majorities. Re: how to think about how the Republicans will react, Chris Hayes offers a plausible hypothesis.

I’d be more optimistic about Republican prospects had there been more coherence on the stimulus, e.g., if Republicans had proposed a Lawrence Lindsey’s halving of the payroll tax to be funded by a post-recession green tax.

A brief note on this idea: in light of the Monica Prasad argument concerning green tax shifts, this would cause a longer-term revenue crisis. Carbon taxes work when the revenues are spent on carbon mitigation, not when the spigot is turned on for general operating expenses, etc. This leads me to think that a green tax shift is unworkable; the trouble is, a VAT would be politically poisonous, or I’ve been led to think, perhaps — hopefully — wrongly.

(3) Has gone missing.

(4) Lockhart Steele on the Goldman Sachs report on New York real estate: sobering, kind of encouraging. Reminds me, in a roundabout way, of Siegel’s The Future for Investors. I’m curious as to what the age structure of the five boroughs will be in 20-30 years, i.e., older or younger than the USA?

(5) This is a classic Ruffini post on movement infrastructure.

A conservative movement VC organization would operate as follows: Donors put money in. And a board of practioners invests the money after a rigorous application process. You start with small technology grants of $20,000 to $100,000 to build proofs of concept — the Series A round. Then you pick the winners and give them Series B funding of $100,000 to $500,000. And so on.

I understand that there is some preliminary talk of building institutions that will sponsor entrepreneurial, webby center-right activist work on college campuses along roughly these lines. Sounds like a shrewd experiment. My hope is that “center-right” would be defined very broadly. One thing I’d love to do is go out to campuses and meet with student groups that right-wing types don’t generally reach out to, e.g., BGLTSAs, etc., the understanding being that ideological efforts can be dialogues, not just proselytizing jamborees. Because the questions I find most interesting are the ones that are 15-30 years out, I imagine I’d learn a lot in the process. I can see why David Brooks enjoys talking to and learning from students.

(6) Stephanie Zacharek was one of the only critics to understand that The House Bunny is an incredibly, incredibly good movie. Of course, Zacharek is a national treasure, so this should hardly come as a surprise. If you don’t already belong to the cult of Faris, The House Bunny will make a believer of you. The film also stars Kat Dennings of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, a rare talent. Honestly, all of the women in the movie were rad. Colin Hanks was tolerable. And, though I’m hardly an authority on this kind of thing, I do think the “message” of the film — such as it was — was surprisingly sophisticated and subtle. That is, there is a balance to be struck when it comes to self-presentation and integrity and all of the other stuff young, still-forming people care about and dwell on.

Damn it, Zacharek said it best.

That line right there may be the key to “The House Bunny”: This is a cartoon fantasy of sorts, but it isn’t a retrograde one. “The House Bunny” recognizes some of the hard realities of getting along in the bewildering world of men and women. Shy people can sometimes use a few pointers on how to flirt with the opposite (or the same) sex. But the movie also acknowledges the point where flirting turns into manipulation and game-playing. No one in “The House Bunny” is rewarded for using stock feminine wiles; the characters get by only when they use their heads and their hearts.

What I like about Zacharek is that she appreciates smart schmaltz. Speaking of smart schmaltz, I am shocked at appalled by the lukewarm reviews for Last Chance Harvey, which was insanely good. I want to stress that Liane Balaban tore my heart out of my chest cavity, she put my heart on a slice of sourdough bread, she put some avocado on top of my heart, and then she ate it like a sandwich in that movie.

(7) There is something very poignant about shopkeepers and farmers minding their carbon impact in Noakhali in Bangladesh while we don’t even bother painting our roofs white.

(8) By now you’ve probably seen the Mariana Cook interview with the Obamas. If you haven’t, read it now. I’m a little jealous of Cook — Obamas aside, this sounds like an amazing project. I can think of few things I’d like to do more than interview dozens of American couples. No, seriously.

Michelle’s reluctance about entering public life is in the foreground, of course, but I was more taken by Obama’s coolly analytical interpretation of his relationship, which suggests a universal principle at work — the “tension between familiarity and mystery” is a crucial part of lasting affection. I guess I’ve always thought that the accumulation of shared experience — familiarity, mutual comprehension — is of greatest importance. But of course we’re most drawn to the people who continue to surprise us, not always in good ways. I was reading something by one of my best friends, and she was riffing wildly about snail-haired Buddhas. I mean, who knew?

(9) Sherle Schwenninger calls for rebalancing the global economy.

(9) Isn’t it amazing that Gene Sperling is accepting a job as an advisor? I think this means Sperling is a mensch.

(10) I used to like Nate Silver. What happened? Greg Mankiw offers a response that is honestly more polite and generous than Silver deserved. I’m still rooting for Silver. He’s obviously a tremendously bright guy. But his acknowledged expertise on polling and statistical analysis more broadly doesn’t necessarily give him the analytical tools to mock and insult someone like Mankiw. If it looks as though Mankiw is making an obviously stupid mistake, it makes sense to reexamine your own assumptions carefully before taking the next step.