Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seals on a break

Pictured: Seal Island, near Cape Town, South Africa, taken during a ferry ride in December.

UPDATE 3/6: This blog is also on something of a break.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Post-tea GOP

My look at some implications of the Republican race, particularly for Wall Street: "Post-Tea Party." It includes a look at some interesting campaign-finance figures. Excerpt:
Since the financial crisis peaked, Republican and Democratic politicians alike have shown a reluctance to be seen as having close relations with the financial industry. President Obama famously declared that he “did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” in a late 2009 interview.

Such rhetoric has meshed with policy disagreements in dampening Wall Street enthusiasm for Obama, which had been formidable in the last presidential race. During the 2008 campaign, Obama raised nearly $16 million from the securities and investment industry, compared to a little over $9 million for John McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

The group’s statistics for the current race show that, through end-2011, Obama received contributions of a little more than $2 million from the securities and investment industry — while Romney received nearly $6 million. Romney’s GOP rivals garnered far smaller industry contributions, in six figures or lower.

The president, it should be noted, has formidable sources of campaign funding even with diminished backing from Wall Street. Obama received overall contributions of over $125 million as of end-2011. Romney’s total during that period was $56 million. As Romney seeks to narrow the broader contribution gap against the incumbent, cash from the financial sector will be a crucial factor.
Whole thing here.

UPDATE: Another way to read it, here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Republican brain

Current reading: The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality, by Chris Mooney. I will, of course, read this book with an open-minded, dispassionate quest for truth. Links relevant to Mooney's interview of David Frum and me from last summer are here and here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wall Street politics podcast

My latest radio spot on the Gabe Wisdom Show is available as a podcast.
Research magazine Senior Editor Kenneth Silber appeared on the Gabe Wisdom Show, on the Business Talk Radio Network, on Feb. 13. The interview covered a range of topics at the intersection of Wall Street and election-year politics, including Silber's recent columns "Target: Wall Street," about public disenchantment with the financial sector, and "The Warren Effect," about Elizabeth Warren's bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. 
 Listen here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kotlikoff nomination

I've written previously, and favorably, about economist Laurence Kotlikoff's campaign for the presidency, which involves trying to get the nomination of the group Americans Elect. Here's Kotlikoff's update on where the campaign stands. As of right now, he has 73 backers for the nomination -- I just became one of them, after following the somewhat cumbersome process at the Americans Elect website. I don't know yet whom I'll vote for in November -- that will depend on who the GOP candidate is, in part -- though I am sure the substance of the race would improve substantially if this innovative, hard-to-pigeonhole thinker were in; so good luck, Larry.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Friday afternoon at the Hoboken train/ferry station.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Radio note

I'm slated to be on the Gabe Wisdom Show on Monday, Feb. 13 at 7 pm ET to discuss Elizabeth Warren and other topics at the intersection of Wall Street and politics. Some of my previous appearances on the show can be found here.

UPDATE: Podcast here.

Why not Santorum?

I’m unenthused by Rick Santorum’s victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. One reason is … let’s be honest … that I’d already written a magazine column for March that basically assumes Romney will get the nomination. If Santorum pockets more victories in late February, that column will arrive pretty stale, though on the other hand a Romney comeback on Super Tuesday could make me seem brilliantly prescient. But let’s move on to the bigger issues involved.

I have been a Republican since I first registered, in 1983, and have cast plenty of votes for candidates who espoused a conservative agenda on social issues. By and large, I cast those votes despite those positions, giving greater weight to economic and foreign policy issues where I was more aligned with the party. I did this partly on the assumption that the candidates themselves were unlikely to press those social issues all that much, let alone successfully, once in office.

While I am not a social conservative, I do think social conservatives make some good points about the importance of intact families and responsible behavior. However, when that translates into a political agenda of banning abortion and gay marriage, and maybe even contraception, this runs afoul of my desire for a tolerant, modern society, and for a federal government that abides by some limits on its powers.

With Santorum, we have social conservatism in a brisk and undiluted form, and offered as his highest priority and most salient characteristic. I don’t see how anyone could vote for him without, to a very large degree, sharing that agenda.

May I add that the campaign to defile Santorum’s name by associating it with repulsive Google search results is a valuable reminder that not everyone who dislikes social conservatism presents an argument worth hearing. I recall losing some respect for a journalist with whom I used to work when that person exulted online about how satisfying he found that obnoxious effort.

Even if Santorum’s brand of social conservatism were not a deal-killer for me, his brand of climate science denialism would be. Like social conservatism, such denialism comes in varying degrees, the worst being the view stated by Santorum that global warming is a “hoax.” Anyone who says something like that has substituted a ludicrous conspiracy theory for analysis. Anyone who wants laissez-faire on the atmosphere, coupled with hands-on government in the bedroom, has his priorities so backward that it's chilling to think what he would do in the very unlikely event that he were actually to win the presidency.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Totoro-paced blogging

Posting may be slow-paced in the near term. Speaking of which, I was struck, watching the 1988 Japanese animated film My Neighbor Totoro the other night, at how slow its pacing was, seemingly reflecting life in rural Japan of a few decades further back. This morning I read that the film's maker, Ghibli Studios, is looking for a breakthrough into the U.S. market; probably slow pacing has been part of their problem, though it has its virtues as a corrective in these days of compulsive tweeting and other limited-attention-span hyperactivity.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Awful pure-strain gold

Welcome, denizens of Something Awful, a wide-ranging forum that has generated a burst of traffic to this blog with a link to an old post of mine on the mysterious topic of pure-strain gold.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Romney thread

There's a lot of interesting political writing in the wake of the Florida primary, but here's a particularly worthwhile piece, by Conor Friedersdorf: "Threading the Needle: What Romney Must Do to Win in November." I agree with the overall gist very much, though I do think the proposed speech excerpt that Friedersdorf writes for Romney needs to be punched up a little.