Perhaps Ann Coulter should try for a guest slot on the “Love Boat” or “Murder, She Wrote” next

That’s usually what washed-up pseudo-celebs do when they become unhappy with their (usually entirely deserved) relegation to oblivion.

It’s really hard to even write this post because there really is nothing about Ann Coulter that doesn’t disgust me–I like my conservative commentary with actual content in it, which is why I am a regular reader of material from Cato and NR.

She’s just a fame monger, and I’m not sure why anybody pays attention to her except that she’s blonde and says mean things, routinely, like somehow being snotty equals being hard-hitting and being common equals being populist. It was boring and predictable 10 years ago when Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore patented it.

Here is a response from Tim Shriver to Coulter’s mean-ass, petty Twitter: I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard. (during the debate)

Here is the money quote from Shriver:

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

And here I was just wondering if Coulter meant “retard” as “person who actually uses reason in debate instead of playground invective.”

Cherrypicking the sprawl-bankruptcy connection

Bill Fulton has a piece in the LA Times where he argues that sprawl contributes to municipal bankruptcies. There’s so much wrong with his argument that I don’t even really know where to begin.

It’s easy to mistake a sprawling new development for prosperity. New buildings and wide new roads look great at first. But over time, the cost of serving such developments gradually bleeds taxpayers dry. More firetrucks have to travel longer distances to serve fewer people. So do police cars. And ambulances. And school buses. And dial-a-ride buses. And, up in the mountains at least, snowplows too.

This is not a terrible argument as far as it goes; density does leverage economies of scale in the provision of urban services, and so the cost per person goes down. The problem is the assumption that all urban services are cheaper to deliver via density–and that the marginal cost curve associated with service delivery continues to slope downwards with additional people. But that can’t be true past a certain point: using Fulton’s own example, a fire truck is also subject to congestion, which means at some point, the marginal contribution to delay that additional people bring can cause the service to slow beyond what gains to proximity yield–though it’s an empirical question about where that inflection point might occur, and whether most cities that might be more dense are anywhere near it. But that point probably varies for a whole bunch of municipal services. That was the goal of all the economics literature in the 1980s and 1990s about ideal city sizes. People have known for some time about the economic trade-offs between scale and congestion, the tensions between them, and how congestion of urban goods can act as a prompt for de-centralization.

Or, and this is one of our questions, how those economies of scale and marginal cost curves might change slope when cities get institutions large enough to unionize, or how and when collective bargaining attained through statewide public sector union activity acts as a particular problem for small-scale municipalities within the state.

Fulton is a smart growth guy. It’s what he does, so he just nods at pensions: yes, I guess that pension thing is a problem, but let me tell you about my pet issue: sprawl. But really? No mention of Prop 13 or the redevelopment money grab, and just a nod at the pension issue?

Then there’s the cherry picked examples: Stockton and San Bernardino, contrasted with his own shining Ventura, where he was mayor, which he happily notes is ‘not bankrupt.’ Come on. There are currently 3 cities in California that have filed for bankruptcy, and hundreds that, like Ventura, are not currently bankrupt, so don’t self-congratulate too much yet.

Both Stockton and San Bernardino are gritty older cities with struggling downtowns and dreams of urban revitalization. They have sometimes overreached in their zeal to achieve those dreams. Stockton in particular kept trying to rescue the city with grandiose redevelopment projects, none of which were within walking distance of one another and, not surprisingly, none of which succeeded.

Those redevelopments weren’t within walking distance of each other, and that was they reason they “didn’t succeed”? Not the fact that the developments were in Stockton? But if that’s the case, why do redevelopments in LA that everybody drives to walk around in ‘succeed wildly’ (like the Grove, the 3rd Street Promenade?), if by “succeed” you mean “they make a lot of retail cashola and generate an enormous amount of traffic.” You can’t walk between those, though, either.

FYI, the other city that is bankrupt is Mammoth Lake. Sprawled? Meh. What appears to have brought Mammoth Lake to its fiscal knees is…a conflict with developer trying to do one of those fancy new mixed use airport development. Now, in fairness, plenty of Smart Growth folks would guffaw at the notion that this resort town development was in any way sustainable, but it did have a bunch of mixed uses that went along with the airport expansion.

So here’s a story about Stockton that actually makes sense, from the HuffPo. It tells a story that is, indeed, related to the housing market, but also to the pension dodges that a cash-strapped city used to deal with unions and Prop 13. It’s a mess.

Here is a map of municipal bankruptcy filings of all city institutions (including school and park districts) from Governing. You can break out the whole-city chapter 9 filings.

Look, I’m all for the idea that it’s generally cheaper to provide infrastructure to greater population densities, but oye. Smart Growth is not medicine for every problem, even if ‘dumb growth’ doesn’t help.

Goodbye George McGovern

Senator George McGovern passed today at the age of 90, and we shall miss his open-hearted, Midwestern way of thinking about social policy. From the WashPo’s obituary:

Sen. McGovern, a minister’s son, was raised in a South Dakota farm community during the Depression and was a decorated bomber pilot in World War II. Both experiences — seeing hobos begging for food at his family’s doorstep and witnessing emaciated child beggers in wartime Italy — molded his political career from the moment he was first elected to Congress in 1956.

On the dangers of being nice when you are a woman

So as a feminist scholar and a leader, I routinely hear a lot of whining about how “women aren’t very good mentors” and “older women are so…catty” to young women. This is stated at me, like ha! “I met a mean woman once and that proves that women can’t be leaders.”

It’s hard to know how to respond to this nonsense. For one thing, there are so few senior women at my university that if they mentored everybody who wanted their time, they would do nothing else. For another, being nice or nurturing has real consequences for women. Patricia Hill Collins talks about the central, undermining tropes of black women: the hoochie mamma and the mammy and the welfare queen. The mammy presents a real problem for women of color in the academy, as people assume that they are entitled to black womens’ time and nurturing. What else would a mammy do but put the needs of the white baby before her own needs?

The same problems plague white women to differing degrees. The mommy imagery means that any signs of nurturing or niceness you show will come back to bite you as people see that as weakness they can exploit.

To wit.

A couple weeks ago, I gave a paper in our research seminar. Our media people had been taping all the faculty presentations up to that point, but they didn’t show to tape me. I asked him, and he responded that “Oh, we’re only taping the premier faculty.” I arched an eyebrow. Oh, really. I challenged him on that, and noted that I actually outranked a number of the people who had been selected to represent the school, and I have tenure. He recognized the hole he was in and said “oh, I didn’t realize. I was only told about the other faculty who were speaking….the list I got of premier faculty didn’t include you…”

One as to wonder why, exactly, I am not on the list of premier faculty…

Amateur Hour: Stupid versus smart image politics, and is it really that hard to find dirty dishes to wash?

OOoooo yes it’s a new liberal media attack on poor dear TEA party hero Paul Ryan: this story in the WashPo notes that he put his family through a fake photo op at a soup kitchen for reasons that really make little sense to anybody. I see one of his kids writing a Bristol Palin type memoir soonish.

Image politics bites back: who would have thought that, apparently, pictures of you washing clean pans can make you look like a fool when people actually report on what you did. You mean pictures aren’t enough? I guess not.

The comments on the story are, as always, dumb: Ooooo doncha ya know, that Ohbummer does the same thing with hugging pizza guys.

Um, no, Obama does not do the same thing. His people are really competent at controlling images. That’s the difference. He doesn’t have to photoshop the hug. Or hire an actor to play a pizza guy to hug or a janitor to fist bump. If something cute or human or inspiring is staged, as they undoubtedly are, they take a picture and circulate it widely. It’s called image politics, and it’s as old as politicians kissing babies.

But they don’t kiss dolls and then try to tell people that it was a real baby with typhus and aren’t they brave for kissing it? Gah! HOW DO YOU MESS UP A PHOTO OP AT A SOUP KITCHEN? Amateur hour.

The millions and scads that Romney has in money should be getting him better staffer than this. Everybody who is a pro in politics knows you don’t ask a volunteer if a candidate can come in. You do actually ask somebody on payroll with a title that has “director” in it, for precisely the reasons outlined here in the WashPo follow up with the charity’s president: many public charities steer clear of endorsing candidates because they know they will lose donations if they appear to be throwing in behind a particular candidate.

We all know this. How can Ryan’s people not know this? How in God’s name could anybody have thought that nobody would talk about a candidate playing with clean dishes for the cameras?

They would have been FINE just talking with volunteers and getting their pictures taken shaking hands and thanking real volunteers. FINE. But no.