Thursday, August 18, 2011

One of these is a politician...

Two amazing clips from CNN this morning:

Anne Hathaway is my new favorite actress:  

and Christine O'Donnell is a complete moron:

Couldn't they please trade places? Based on those videos, wouldn't Anne Hathaway be a politician with three times the courage and intelligence of Christine O'Donnell?

For your interest, pieces of the transcript of the O'Donnell CNN video. Full credit to CNN here:
 (I won't ruin the Hathaway video by posting the transcript. click the video).

MORGAN: Christine O'Donnell ran for the Senate from Delaware. She's a Tea Party darling and yes, she infamously dabbled in witchcraft when she was in high school. She's also the author of a new book with the intriguing title, "Troublemaker."

And Christine O'Donnell joins me.

Christine O'Donnell, how are you?

O'DONNELL: I'm doing well. Good to see you, Piers.

MORGAN: I can't help but notice you did the sign of the cross as you sat down there. Was it -- is it because you're nervous about the interview? Or --

O'DONNELL: No, I did it off camera. I didn't realize you were watching. I do that just because ever since my very first TV interview, I just pray. You know, and ask for God's blessing on what I'm about to say.

MORGAN: Well, I got relieved. I was expecting some kind of devil worshipping sign.


MORGAN: Look, here's your book, "Troublemaker." And what I was struck by is a little description on the back where -- it's a quote from you. "They call us wacky. They call us wing nuts. We call us the people."

I mean, I have met lots of people who are wacky and wing nuts. You can be both, can't you?





MORGAN: I'm sure you'll be thrilled about this. We're going to remind you of one of the self-inflicted wounds. So, have a little look at this.


O'DONNELL: I dabbled into witchcraft -- I never joined a coven. But I did, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute, you are a witch? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she was a witch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. If you were a witch, you are going to --

O'DONNELL: I was a witch. That's exactly why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you be a witch?

O'DONNELL: Because I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do. I mean, one of my dates -- my first date --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait. I want to hear about this.

O'DONNELL: One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn't know it. I mean, there's little blood there and stuff like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your first date was in the satanic altar?

O'DONNELL: Yes. We went to a movie and like had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.


MORGAN: My first date was in a satanic altar with blood there. What were you thinking?

O'DONNELL: Did Bill Maher pay you to rerun his show?

You know, well, at the time -- at the time as I, again, painstakingly detail in the book, it was a different time in my life and perhaps I was a little too candid for television. But my goal wasn't to go on the show just for the sake of going on national television. I went on the show to try to reach a younger audience with a message that, you know, when I was 16, by the way, this was 25 years ago, you know, I too was trying to find my way in the world and ultimately I did.

And, you know, people have said -- do you regret making those comments?

And I go into detail about what my thinking was. But the more self-inflicted wound was how we chose to respond and the ad was a big mistake.

MORGAN: Well, that brings me -- that brings me neatly to --

O'DONNELL: Oh, don't tell me you're going to play that ad.

MORGAN: I'm afraid we are. Yes. So, let's have a look at how you made a small problem 10 times worse. (LAUGHTER)


O'DONNELL: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you.

None of us are perfect but none of us can be happy with what we see all around us. Politicians who think spending, trading favors and backroom deals are the way to stay in office. I'll go to Washington and do what you would do.

I'm Christine O'Donnell, and I approve this message. I'm you.


MORGAN: You see, the weird thing to me watching those two clips is on the first clip, you seem like a fairly naive -- you don't me mind saying -- slightly silly young woman who is having a bit of fun about witchcraft.


MORGAN: In the second one, you look like a witch. You look really creepy.







O'DONNELL: We need to address sexuality with young people. And masturbation is part of sexuality, but it is important to discuss this from a moral point of view.

The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery, so you can't masturbate without lust.

The reason you don't tell them masturbation is the answer to AIDS and all these other problems that come with sex outside of marriage is because, again, it is not addressing the issue.


MORGAN: That was from the MTV special "Sex in the '90s."

I'm about to ask you a question I don't ask most of my guests, I have to be honest with you. Do you still think masturbation is wrong?

O'DONNELL: Let's not even go there.

MORGAN: Why? You went there.

O'DONNELL: Well, again, like I said, I address it in the book. At that time in my life, my goal was to reach out to young people and there was a show "Sex in the '90s" on MTV where it pretty touted the philosophy that anything goes. And, you know, there's no doubt I don't think anyone would disagree that there's a little bit of a crisis when it comes to whether it's AIDS or sexually transmitted disease or teenage pregnancies.

So, my goal at the time was to reach out to young people and try to present a view of sexuality that they weren't getting. And again I go into detail about where I was at that time in my life and why I chose to go on that show and do that interview.

MORGAN: I get all that. I mean, your views on sex and stuff are relevant if you're going to be a politician.

O'DONNELL: Well, they're not because there aren't laws outlawing sex. And if there are, they should be on the local level, as I make the case for local control as opposed to federal control.

MORGAN: So, am I right in assuming your views have evolved over the years?

O'DONNELL: Well, I am a practicing Catholic and I support what the Catholic Church teaches. But, you know, would I as a -- I was about to say my age, but as an older woman, go on that show again, no. I wouldn't go on that show again and nor would I choose to do an interview about that subject again.

Again, it was a different time in my life. I was -- I was excited and passionate about this new belief that I had, this new faith that I found. I was eager to share it with my peers.

MORGAN: Are you still a supporter of total abstinence even if you are on your own?

O'DONNELL: Are you the pro-masturbation talk show host?


MORGAN: Yes. Why not? Yes.

O'DONNELL: Good for you for taking that stand. You know, right now --

MORGAN: If the option is to be the anti, I think I'd be in the pro department, yes.


O'DONNELL: OK. MORGAN: And I'm not afraid to say so. So, over to you, Ms. O'Donnell.

O'DONNELL: Well, what I'm going to do and what my goal is now is to fight for the freedom of speech in America that allows to you say that. I mean, that's what's my focus right now is to fight for the constitutional principles that made our country great because we do have a movement in Washington that is completely abandoning it.

MORGAN: Can I ask you, have you -- have you committed lust in your heart and therefore adultery?

O'DONNELL: Let's not even go there. Let's get the conversation back to the book. That's why I'm here.

MORGAN: Yes. But this is -- to me, it's a natural extension to ask you, for example, a very relevant question of any politician. For example --

O'DONNELL: I address it all in the book.

MORGAN: -- what is your view of gay marriage, for example?

O'DONNELL: I address that stuff in the book.

MORGAN: You can't -- you're on here to promote the damn book. So, you can't keep saying it's all in the book. You got to repeat some of it.

O'DONNELL: I'm here to talk about the book.

MORGAN: Yes. I'm talking about the book. You keep saying it's all in the book. So, tell me what's in the book.

O'DONNELL: Well, why don't you ask me questions about what I say in the chapter called "Our Follower in Chief" where I criticize Barack Obama? You know, why don't we talk about --

MORGAN: Because right now, I'm curious -- right now, I'm curious about whether you support gay marriage.

O'DONNELL: You're borderline being a little bit rude. You know, I obviously --

MORGAN: Really?

O'DONNELL: -- I obviously want to talk about the issues that I choose to talk about in the book.

MORGAN: Do you answer that question in the book?

O'DONNELL: I talk about my religious beliefs, yes. I absolutely do.

MORGAN: I mean, do you talk -- do you talk about gay marriage in the book? O'DONNELL: What relevance is that right now? Is there a piece of legislation? I mean, I shouldn't be voting on anything.

MORGAN: It's obviously one of the most -- it's obviously, as you know, because Michele Bachmann's views and others, it's obviously a highly contentious political issue. I'm just curious what your view is.

You keep saying it's in a book. So, I'm bemused as to why you wouldn't just say it in an interview if it's in the book?

O'DONNELL: Because I don't think it's relevant. It's not a topic that I choose to embrace. I'm not championing it right now. I've been there, done that, gone down that road.

Right now, what I'm trying to do is to promote a book that I hope to be a very inspirational story to people who are part of the Tea Party movement so that they can continue, you know, in this movement to bring America back to the second American Revolution. That's my goal. That's my focus right now.

MORGAN: So, would you agree with Michele Bachmann that we should maybe repeal "don't ask, don't tell"? You should restore that?

O'DONNELL: I'm not talking policies. I'm not running for office. Ask Michele Bachmann what she thinks. Ask the candidates who are running for office what they think.

MORGAN: Why are you being so weird about this?

O'DONNELL: I'm not being weird about this, Piers. I'm not running for office. I'm not promoting a legislative agenda. I'm promoting the policies that I lay out in the book that are mostly fiscal, that are mostly constitutional.

That's why I agreed to come on your show. That's what I want to talk about.

I'm not being weird. You're being a little rude.

MORGAN: I'm baffled as to why you think I'm being rude. I think I'm being rather charming and respectful. I'm just asking questions based on your own public statements and now what you've written in your own book. It's hardly rude to ask you that surely.

O'DONNELL: Well, don't you think as a host, if I say this is what I want to talk about, that's what we should address?

MORGAN: Not really, no. You're a politician.

O'DONNELL: Yes. OK. I'm being pulled away. You know, we turned down another interview for this.

MORGAN: Where are you going? You're leaving?

O'DONNELL: Well, I was supposed to be speaking at the Republican women's club at 6:00, and I chose to be a little late for that not to be -- you know, yes, not to endure rude talk show hosts, but to talk to you about my book and to talk about the issues that I address in my book. Have you read the book?

MORGAN: Yes, but these issues are in your book. That's my point. You do talk about them.

O'DONNELL: OK. All right. Are we off? Are we done?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's still there.

MORGAN: I'm not. I'm still here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he still wants to talk to you.

MORGAN: It would appear that the interview has just been ended.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

S&P Downgrade Nuances

Credit to someone else for this argument - I don't remember who, sorry!

Many people have been flipping about the S&P downgrade. This is understandable. It's a big deal. Many people have been arguing about whether it's justified, and from that perspective, it's far more complicated.

S&Ps ratings, to my knowledge, measure only the probability of a default event. Unlike some other ratings agencies, they do not consider severity, duration, recoverability, or anything else - only probability of a default event. From that perspective, given the drama that just went on (which is attributable to both sides, this was bipartisan stupidity), how can we be considered AAA when we were days away from default and it could happen again?

We probably don't deserve AAA anyway if inflation risk is accounted for along with severity, etc, but that's more debatable

Friday, August 12, 2011

Last Night’s Debate

Steven Landsburg ranks the eloquence of Republicans in the debate.

Does anybody notice that the best speakers tend to be the least ideologically complex and intellectually nuanced? Huntsman and Pawlenty have real opinions, whereas Santorum and Cain are close to ideological standins. The simpler the message, the easier to communicate... but is simplicity of message really a quality to look for in a politician?

As a disclaimer, I'm a big Huntsman fan, personally, and I'm not a big Palin or Santorum fan. I like candidates both near the top and at the bottom of that list. But I'm not sure this is a good thing to be voting based on.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Initial Reaction to the Debt Ceiling Bill

I've been reading details about the debt ceiling bill that's been agreed to by most of the moderate congresspeople and is expected to pass.

Basic details as I understand them, cutting the politically symbolic stuff (balanced budget amendment, etc)  -

Stage 1: Functionally, a 900 billion debt ceiling increase. 917 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, mostly backloaded. This is 50% defense cuts, and the rest is mostly discretionary spending cuts, but it does not cut a number of programs popular with progressives. Medicare providers will take a hit, as well.

Stage 2: Another 1.2 trillion debt ceiling increase. Could go higher, up to 1.5 trillion based on a) a balanced budget amendment that won't happen or b) if the reduction in the next part exceeds 1.2 trillion, but for now, likely 1.2 trillion. A bipartisan, bicameral Congressional panel must identify 1.2 trillion in deficit reduction (from taxes or cuts) and submit it for passage. If it's not passed, it comes out evenly from defense, discretionary programs excluding stuff popular with progressives, and payments to Medicare providers, up to a 2% cut in Medicare payments.


1) all future deficit recommendations are relative to "current law", so the Bush tax cuts expiring is considered baseline. It will make extending the Bush tax cuts a tax "cut" by definition of the committee, and makes them less likely. This strikes me as a victory of proponents of letting them expire - it's a way to raise taxes without having to say you raised taxes.

2) The real compromise here is that the Republicans didn't have to raise taxes and set the size of spending cuts, but Democrats functionally got to entirely design the composition of spending cuts, conditional on their size. The cuts are backloaded into out-years, exclude a bunch of welfare state programs (including social security, medicaid and actual welfare), and 50% of all cuts come from defense while barely touching entitlements.

3) It's going to be difficult to get the committee's recommendations passed, realistically. The committee will almost certainly look at tax reform - eliminating deductions in exchange for lower marginal rates, ultimately creating something revenue neutral. The committee will also probably look at entitlements - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Most Democrats won't vote for this, when the alternative is to have 50% of further cuts come from defense, and mostly spare entitlements.

So in my opinion, the best way to look at this deal is:

1) Bush tax cuts probably expire.

2) Defense spending slashed about 30%.

3) Medicare spending is slashed 2%

4) Discretionary spending on non-progressive departments is cut 30% - this is places like agriculture, energy, epa, etc.

5) No tax reform, no entitlement reform (social security, medicaid, medicare)

A lot of people are trying to call this a "huge Republican win". I disagree. This was a real compromise - numbers 1, 2 and 5 strongly favor Democrats.

I do hope that tax reform can get done, but I'm not optimistic.

I'm happy the debt ceiling was raised and I'm happy about a number of the spending cuts (both defense and discretionary), but excluding entitlements is a big deal, and tax reform remains an important piece for me. I'm neutral to slightly positive on this.