TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 312.
March 17, 2014
WILL BANKRUPTCY PROTECT GOVERNMENT MOTORS FROM RECALL LAWSUITS?
The defects themselves aren’t such a problem — 12 deaths over a decade, with millions of cars on the road, is a risk that’s statistically indistinguishable from zero. These sorts of problems are inevitable in a complex machine, and the company can be forgiven for the mistake.
The publicity, however, is a disaster. Consumers aren’t as forgiving as I am about defects. And they are especially unforgiving when the company knows about a problem and ignores it — and, worse, when it apparently could have fixed the flaw pretty cheaply. Can the company demonstrate that this was an aberration it’s determined to change?
Ironically, the bankruptcy may help them a bit there. In fact, it could help in two ways. The first is that the company is effectively shielded from liability for any accidents that occurred before it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. So the flood of lawsuits that might have been expected after a revelation like this will be at least partially dammed.
The second is that the bankruptcy draws a mental line, as well as a legal one, between Old GM, with its dubious reputation for quality, and New GM. The CEO title has changed hands multiple times since the financial crisis, and whatever else consumers may think about the bankruptcy, they understand that it was a catastrophic and transformative event in the company’s history.
However, the company is at least partially hampered in this by the past of Barra, who was the executive director of vehicle manufacturing engineering before the bankruptcy. Given that, it’s going to be hard to simply say, “Well, Old GM didn’t care about quality, but now we’re different,” which would otherwise be the most effective way to handle the crisis.
This is far from a fatal blow: Toyota Motor Corp. survived much worse with all the “unintended acceleration” claims a few years back. However, Toyota went into that crisis with two key advantages: It had a sterling reputation for reliability, and most of the claimed incidents were actually due to driver error, not the fault of the company.
GM, on the other hand, really did do something wrong here.
I’m more interested in whether the Feds shielded GM, and went after Toyota, for political reasons.
MICKEY KAUS: Will Asians Kill Race Preferences In California?
‘Coalition of the Ascendant’ Goes to War–With Itself; If you’re looking for moments when tectonic issue shifts seem to become visible–like the moment when Dems realized they had to give up on gun control, or the (coming) moment when there are enough charter school parents to defeat teachers’ unions–here’s one: the moment when California Democrats abandon a push to reinstate race preferences because of constituent-driven opposition from Asian Americans in their own ranks. . . .
Larger Meanings: 1) California is now more-or-less a one-party state, run by Democrats. If Dems can’t pass an affirmative action bill even when they are in full control, what does that say about the future of affirmative action? … 2) One-party government seems to sometimes make local Democrats more responsible. If there were a powerful Republican faction to be beaten, state legislators might choose to promote affirmative action if only to paint the GOPs as bigots. That is no longer necessary in California.
Painting Republicans as bigots is their chief strategy. Plus:
1) Do Republicans really need an Amnesty First immigration reform to appeal to the fast-growing Asian vote (which Mitt Romney lost by a bigger margin than he lost the Latino vote)? How about campaigning against race preferences? …. 2) The growing Asian vote is often lumped with the black vote and Latino vote in MSM descriptions of America’s “majority-minority” future. But if Asians can split with the new majority-minority coalition on preferences why can’t, say, blacks split with the coalition on immigration? … It’s every identity for itself!
Well, if that happens, the Dems will need a new strategy.
THE MAJESTY OF THE LAW: Justice Department Bad Boys: More Than 650 Cases of Misconduct Documented in 12-Year Period.
ED DRISCOLL: Walter Cronkite: Liberalism in the Guise of Objectivity. “In retrospect, there were more than a few similarities between Ted Baxter and Walter Cronkite; both men succeeded as a result of their deep voice and trustworthy looks, rather than actual knowledge of the world. And both men were more than a little silly; Baxter deliberately so, Cronkite by embracing every fad aspect of liberalism that came down the pike.” Plus: “Kill them all.” Also: Walter Cronkite: 9/11 Truther? “I’m a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, that he probably set up bin Laden to this thing.”
FROM JOHN HINDERAKER: Some Thoughts On “Banning Bossy.”
WELL, THIS IS UPSETTING SINCE WE’RE DOING A DEAN SEARCH AT TENNESSEE NEXT YEAR: Florida Dean Search Fails. At least we’re not paying $90,000 for a search company.
In what appears to be a draft of his 1995 State of the Union address, Bill Clinton’s speechwriters included a curious line aimed at teenagers: “Don’t have sex.” . . .
Bob Boorstin, a senior communications aide, wrote to speechwriter and senior aide Don Baer, referencing the concurrent objections of fellow communications aide Paul Begala: “Strike ‘Don’t have sex.’ Begala and I both object to it, not only because of how it sounds but also because of how our opponents could use it. Let’s try ‘Stay in school. Practice abstinence.’” Neither line made it into Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union speech as delivered.
HAVE YOU NO DECENCY? NO DECENCY AT ALL? New Hampshire Democrats Attack Republican Bride’s Wedding Gown. ”Why she is dressed up like a 20-year old virgin bride?”
They told me if I voted for Mitt Romney, fanatical believers would be obsessed with brides’ virginity. And they were right!
March 16, 2014
HAVE YOU NO DECENCY? NO DECENCY AT ALL? The Democrats Continue Their Smear of Paul Ryan.
THE POLITICAL RISKS OF GUN-HATRED: NRA opposition may sink Obama’s surgeon general nominee. “Facing a potential high-profile setback for the president, the White House is not pushing for a vote to confirm Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, a Harvard- and Yale-educated internist and former emergency room doctor who has advocated for stricter gun control laws, the officials said. Democratic leaders in the Senate have begun surveying senators to determine whether there is enough support to save the troubled nomination. Few Republicans are expected to back Murthy, and as many as eight Democrats also could be opposed.”
PHILIP LARKIN SAW CLEARLY: Verse For Sunday: When Russian Tanks Roll Westward.
They said if I voted for Mitt Romney, we’d be plunged into a new cold war. And they were right!
I ALWAYS SAID THAT IF AIDS WAS GOD’S PUNISHMENT, THEN IT MUST ALSO BE PROOF THAT GOD LOVES LESBIANS: The first confirmed case of lesbian transmission of H.I.V. was reported on Thursday by federal health officials, who said the event was exceedingly rare.
UPDATE: Oops. I think I killed ‘em. Here’s an alternative link.
THE ATLANTIC: The Democratic Party’s Foolish Koch Obsession: Led by Harry Reid, the party has declared its midterm strategy will revolve around bashing the conservative bankrollers. But do voters really care?
It’s not about voters. It’s about scaring off other rich people who might be tempted to donate to Republicans.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science.
American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise.
In Washington, budget cuts have left the nation’s research complex reeling. Labs are closing. Scientists are being laid off. Projects are being put on the shelf, especially in the risky, freewheeling realm of basic research. Yet from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, science philanthropy is hot, as many of the richest Americans seek to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research.
The result is a new calculus of influence and priorities that the scientific community views with a mix of gratitude and trepidation.
“For better or worse,” said Steven A. Edwards, a policy analyst at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.”
They have mounted a private war on disease, with new protocols that break down walls between academia and industry to turn basic discoveries into effective treatments. They have rekindled traditions of scientific exploration by financing hunts for dinosaur bones and giant sea creatures. They are even beginning to challenge Washington in the costly game of big science, with innovative ships, undersea craft and giant telescopes — as well as the first private mission to deep space.
Prior to World War II, this was the way science worked. And we made faster progress then. . . .
YOU SAY “CRAZY,” I SAY “AWESOME.” Inside the Crazy Lab Where the Army Spikes Its Rations With Caffeine.
An underground railway that was formerly used to transport post across London is to be converted into a ride for members of the public.
The Post Office Underground Railway—AKA the Mail Rail—was the world’s first driverless electric railway. It launched in 1927 and was used to transport tons of post from one side of London to another, with stops at large railway hubs such as Liverpool Street and Paddington Station, where post could be collected and offloaded for transportation around the rest of the country.
It would be a nice setting for a Charlie Stross story.
SCIENCE: The Future Of Brain Implants: How soon can we expect to see brain implants for perfect memory, enhanced vision, hypernormal focus or an expert golf swing? We’ll need to see advances in antivirus technology before I’ll try one.
READER BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Reader Richard Kelty recommends his brother’s book, Ragged Point. “A mystery thriller set on the Central California coast.”
INSIDER DISHES ON the horrors of life in the New Media business. Here at InstaPundit, there are no click-farms, and no exploited employees. Obviously, I’m doing something wrong.
IN THE MAIL: From Timothy F. McCarthy,The Safe Investor: How to Make Your Money Grow in a Volatile Global Economy.
Also, today only at Amazon: Yamaha RX-V575 7.2-Channel Network A/V Receiver with AirPlay, $299.99 (45% off).
TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 311. Key bit:
We need to remind ourselves that there is a lot more potential abuse going on at the IRS than what’s been associated with Lois Lerner. Here are a few examples. I talk to many practitioners who (a) don’t want to be identified, probably for fear of retaliation, and (b) question the independence of the IRS Appeals Office. That is a big problem.
In 2012 a high-ranking IRS executive said in a speech that she believes the government has a higher duty than that of a private litigant. “The government,” the executive said, “represented by the tax administrator, should not pursue a particular outcome and then look for interpretations in the law that support it. The tax administrator should do nothing more or less than find the law and follow it, regardless of outcome. The separation of powers, a bedrock principle of our Constitution, demands it.”
I have a few questions. How many private tax litigators believe that’s actually how the IRS operates? If this noble statement is taken seriously by others in the IRS, why did Tax Analysts have to go to court to get training materials? And why is the IRS being questioned so strongly by Congress on its belief – or, more accurately, the lack thereof — in the bedrock principle of the separation of powers?
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: The Consequences Of The NSA Failure.
In the wake of the NSA surveillance controversy, the Obama administration is privatizing part of the internet. It will be giving up state control of Icann, which assigns internet addresses. The privatization of Icann started back in 1997 but was put on hold after 9/11. . . .
The Obama administration undertook massive expansion of US spying without reviewing the weaknesses in the system that allowed people like Snowden and Manning to access extraordinary amounts of important data. It neglected to inform key allies (like Germany) about the nature of its program. It overreached by using a system whose only real justification was security against terror for other ends, apparently including information in such matters as trade negotiations. Now in an attempt to patch up relations, it is taking a step that has significant implications — without, one notes, feeling any need to get authorization from congress.
In itself, it’s possible that this step could work out well. We’ll have to see more of the details and observe how it plays out in practice to know whether the internet remains free and whether private actors prove less prone to abusing power than the US government. But to take a step like this because you’ve mishandled grave matters of alliance politics and national security is not a mark of success.
We’re not seeing a lot of “marks of success” much of anywhere, lately.
Four months after Bill Clinton took office in 1992, the White House announced that it was firing all seven employees of the in-house travel office, which arranged trips for the media. Officials blamed the employees for gross financial mismanagement — but the move took on another cast when the administration sought to replace them with a travel agency from Arkansas.
Hillary Clinton insisted in a 1995 deposition that she had no role in the firings. But an investigation by independent counsel Robert W. Ray found that there was “overwhelming evidence” that she had played a role. Still, he said in a report released in the fall of 2000, only months before the Clintons left the White House, there was not sufficient evidence to prove that she had lied under oath about what she had done.
“Mrs. Clinton’s input into the process was a significant — if not the significant — factor influencing the pace of events in the travel office firings and the ultimate decision to fire the employees,” Ray concluded.
As one of the first moves made by the Clinton administration, the travel office brouhaha helped craft an impression of the new White House couple as, at best, willing to run roughshod over employees in order to install loyalists. Ultimately, the administration admitted the firings were a mistake, and five of the employees were rehired. The former travel office director, a well-known and popular figure at the White House, was acquitted of criminal embezzlement charges.
All seven travel office veterans appeared before Congress the day after the president praised his wife in the State of the Union address. Angry and tearful, they testified that the accusations by the Clinton White House had ruined them financially by forcing them to incur massive legal bills to clear their names.
But she’ll run as a friend of the little guy.
WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Bobby Jindal steps out in New Hampshire.
Jindal was the featured speaker Friday during his second trip to New Hampshire, a key early presidential primary state. He took his previous trip, in May, for a Senate Republican fundraiser; now, he was presenting himself for the first time to some of the voters who will decide whether he should be the Republican nominee for president, if he decides to run.
He sounded like a candidate Friday night, as he hit on some crowd-pleasing Republican themes, such as gun-ownership rights and smaller government, and he peppered in sure-hit laugh lines.
“If you like your religion, you can keep your religion,” Jindal deadpanned at one point, as he railed against Democrats for infringing on religious freedom.
But the meat of Jindal’s remarks focused on what he has framed as his signature issue, his fight to bring a school voucher program to Louisiana and the subsequent federal court battles over whether the program meets desegregation standards.
He and Scott Walker both have strong education records.
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: Shrinking Law Schools Face Financial Devastation.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: Roll Call: Goodlatte to Fundraise in Silicon Valley as Tech Community Pushes Immigration Fix.
House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., is scheduled to hold a high-dollar fundraiser in Silicon Valley next week — but frustrated tech donors are already grumbling about the event, disappointed by the lack of progress from House Republicans on one of their top policy priorities: immigration legislation.
According to an invitation obtained by CQ Roll Call, the Goodlatte fundraiser is organized by TechNet, which bills itself as the “preeminent bipartisan political network of CEOs and Seniors Executives that promotes the growth of technology-led innovation.” Suggested contribution levels for Wednesday’s round table and reception with the powerful chairman range between $10,000 and $40,000 for the Goodlatte Victory Committee.
Like I said.
RUTH MARCUS: What the Duke porn-star student shows us about our degraded culture. Also about the higher education bubble . . . .
I HOPE THEY’RE AS SUCCESSFUL HERE AS THEY HAVE BEEN EVERYWHERE ELSE. BUT, YOU KNOW, ETERNAL VIGILANCE AND ALL THAT. Gun control activists open new front: Corporate America.
Still reeling from the stinging legislative defeats of 2013, proponents of tougher firearm regulations are increasingly turning their focus to private sector campaigns.
Gun control groups have claimed victories in recent months, successfully pushing Starbucks to declare guns unwelcome in stores and persuading Facebook to crack down on unregulated firearm solicitations.
With no end in sight to the congressional gridlock that has thwarted more stringent federal gun laws, groups say they will continue to apply pressure on major companies.
Message to The Hill: It’s not “gridlock.” It’s “a consensus in favor of civil rights.”
March 15, 2014
NOWADAYS I THINK THIS PICTURE WOULD BE EVIDENCE OF “RAPE CULTURE:” Everlasting Embrace: Man From Iconic WWII Kiss Photo Dies.
MY GUESS: This downward trend in law school reputation scores reflects increased strategic voting as people downrate schools close to theirs in the rankings.
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Milt Rosenberg talks to John Leo: Deans, Deanlets and the Left March Through the Universities.
Also, due to heavy demand, a new today-only deal: T-fal Ultimate Stainless Steel Copper-Bottom 12-Piece Cookware Set, $74.99 (50% off).
This is astonishing for several reasons. Rahall, first elected in 1976, is now the seventh most senior member of the House, with three of the more senior members retiring (John Dingell, Henry Waxman, George Miller) and another with a serious primary challenge (Charlie Rangel). Moreover, his district in southern West Virginia has historically been very Democratic; in its previous boundaries it voted for Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in 1984. Rahall won in 1976 by 46 percent to 37 percent over Ken Hechler, his predecessor in the seat, who after losing a Democratic primary for governor ran as a write-in candidate; the Republican nominee received only 18 percent of the vote. From 1978 to 2008, Rahall was re-elected with at least 64 percent of the vote, except in 1990 when he beat Republican Marianne Brewster by only 52 percent to 48 percent.
But this is coal country, and Rahall’s margins have gone down after President Obama was elected president. In 2010, Rahall won by a reduced margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, and in 2012, his margin was only 54 percent to 46 percent. Obama’s unpopularity surely cost him: John McCain carried the district within its then-boundaries by a 56-percent to 42-percent margin in 2008, and Mitt Romney carried the current district 65 percent to 33 percent in 2012. Rahall is ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and was Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee when Democrats had a majority in the House; these are committee positions of importance to a mountainous coal district, but apparently they are not enough to help him now.
Obama’s a millstone around a lot of necks this election cycle.
STEPHEN GREEN: How Do You Say “Keynesian Failure” in Japanese? I think it’s ケインズ主義の失敗.
Plus: “Deregulate. Simplify the tax code. Protect the value of your currency. Those three steps are all it takes to achieve prosperity, but as Glenn Reynolds like to say, politicians don’t like them because they provide too few opportunities for graft.” Well, I don’t exactly like to say it, it’s just that it’s indisputably true. . . .
RON RADOSH: The New Apologists for Vladimir Putin—on the Right and the Left. People have always projected their fantasies of power on various strongmen. That’s always been a mistake.
JOE PAPPALARDO: What Can the U.S. Do If Russia Attacks Ukraine? Give Poland and Lithuania nukes. And a lot of other stuff that Putin would find painful, and possibly fatal. But what will we do? A strongly-worded demarche, at most.
A UKRAINIAN OUTSIDE-THE-BOX RESPONSE TO A RUSSIAN INVASION: Paint some tanks to look American. During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, everything came to a halt when American-flagged tanks were sighted, before it was discovered that they were part of a movie being filmed. Tanks with American, and German, appearance — even papier-mache ones on truck bodies — would create great confusion at low cost. . . .
NOMADISM WITH ALL THE MODERN CONVENIENCES: So there is a Cruise Ship where Residents Permanently Live as it Travels the World.
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER: Missing Airliner Apparently Flew to Central Asia. Could the Passengers Still Be Alive?
IN THE MAIL: From Charles Murray, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life.
Also, today only at Amazon: ProForm 1110E Elliptical Trainer, $789.00 (61% off).
TRAIN WRECK UPDATE: Obamacare Co-Ops Exploit Dodgy Pricing.
You can read this development in two ways. One is as the surprising success of an innovative business model. And the other is as a potential fiscal disaster.
My general understanding of health insurance markets is that they are very, very tightly priced. If a policy is significantly cheaper, it’s either because the policy offers fewer benefits, its provider networks are miserly, or the insurance company has found a way to select for unusually healthy patients. (My favorite example of this in recent years was the Medicare Advantage policies that prominently advertised free gym memberships. You can imagine which seniors this benefit appeals to.)
And maybe that’s what the Obamacare phones are for. An insurer with 80 percent of the state market, however, cannot be lowering its prices through cherry-picking patients. My understanding is that most of the exchange policies offer relatively thin networks compared with the policies that are sold to employers, or individuals off the exchange, so that’s unlikely to be the full explanation, either. And what with all the mandates, an insurance company can’t be offering dramatically reduced benefits, either.
Which suggests a worrying alternative possibility — that the inexperienced co-ops have systematically priced their policies too low. That could hit the taxpayer in two ways: through the risk-corridor payments, which will make up excess losses, and through the $2.1 billion worth of government loans that have been made to these insurers.
Well, that would seem par for the course, wouldn’t it?
SHOCKING NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE: Study: You Really Can Predict the ‘Marrying Type’ — Attractive, agreeable, and clean people are more likely to get married. Surprise?
Back in 2011 this column noted that some liberals were anxious to get rid of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their concern wasn’t jurisprudential but actuarial: They feared that Ginsburg, then 78, might outlast President Obama but not President Romney, and they didn’t want a Republican nominating her successor.
Ginsburg, whose 81st birthday is tomorrow, is still in office, and so is Obama. This week Bloomberg View’s Jonathan Bernstein renewed the call for her departure, as well as that of Justice Stephen Breyer, now 75. (Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan shouldn’t get too smug; their time will come.)
The argument now is that Republicans appear set to capture a Senate majority in November, or, as Bernstein delicately puts it, “there is simply no way of knowing whether Democrats will maintain a majority.” He adds that “there’s also no way of knowing when the next Democratic presidential victory might be.”
In truth, everyone knows it might be in 2016, but you see his point. From a partisan standpoint, there’s a realistic prospect that this year will turn out to be Ginsburg’s and even Breyer’s last opportunity to retire while Democrats hold both the White House and a Senate majority.
“Ginsburg and Breyer might not prefer a Supreme Court that is highly partisan and ideologically divided, in which retirements are strategic moves,” Bernstein concludes. “But that’s the court they’ve got. If they care about the principles they’ve fought for, they should retire in time for confirmation battles this year.” Following his advice would be unseemly, he acknowledges, but it’s worth it. The ends justify the ends of their careers.
WHAT THE KITTY GENOVESE STORY REALLY MEANS:
If crimes don’t involve anyone powerful or well known, they generally aren’t considered news. But a few such crimes do become news, big news, and hold the public’s imagination in a tight, enduring grip.
An excellent example is the murder of Kitty Genovese, a twenty-eight-year-old bar manager, by Winston Moseley, a twenty-nine-year-old computer punch-card operator, just after three in the morning on Friday, March 13, 1964, in Kew Gardens, Queens. The fact that this crime, one of six hundred and thirty-six murders in New York City that year, became an American obsession—condemned by mayors and Presidents, puzzled over by academics and theologians, studied in freshman psychology courses, re-created in dozens of research experiments, even used four decades later to justify the Iraq war—can be attributed to the influence of one man, A. M. Rosenthal, of the New York Times. . . .
It’s evidence of a kind of editorial genius that Rosenthal, by playing the story in the way that he did, was able to get such a reaction. The tabloids had treated it simply as a sensational tale of urban violence. The Times made sure that its apathetic-witness angle would land by prominently displaying the story on its front page. The murder now stood for a profoundly disturbing sociological trend. The key line in Gansberg’s story came from one of the witnesses (none of whom were named), who said, “I didn’t want to get involved.” . . .
It’s now clear that this version of events is wrong, thanks to a number of Genovese revisionists who have emerged over the years. They include Jim Rasenberger, a journalist who has written a couple of influential articles about the case, notably one in the Times, in 2004; and Rachel Manning, Mark Levine, and Alan Collins, the authors of a 2007 article in American Psychologist (which quotes from, and debunks, the textbook rendering). The essential facts are these. Winston Moseley had been out in his car, looking for a victim, when he came across Genovese driving home from work. He followed her. She parked at the Kew Gardens train station, adjacent to her apartment. Moseley parked, too, and attacked her with a hunting knife. She screamed, and a man named Robert Mozer opened his window and shouted, “Leave that girl alone!” Moseley ran away. Genovese, wounded but not mortally, staggered to the back of her apartment building and went inside a vestibule. Moseley returned, found her, and attacked again, stabbing her and assaulting her sexually. He fled again before she died.
The Times story was inaccurate in a number of significant ways. There were two attacks, not three. Only a handful of people saw the first clearly and only one saw the second, because it took place indoors, within the vestibule. The reason there were two attacks was that Robert Mozer, far from being a “silent witness,” yelled at Moseley when he heard Genovese’s screams and drove him away. Two people called the police. When the ambulance arrived at the scene—precisely because neighbors had called for help—Genovese, still alive, lay in the arms of a neighbor named Sophia Farrar, who had courageously left her apartment to go to the crime scene, even though she had no way of knowing that the murderer had fled.
Insider Timesman lunches with police bigshot, publishes version of story that lets police off the hook, does incalculable damage to national psyche. All in a day’s work. . . .
JAMES LILEKS: Nobody Likes Malls, Except The Customers.
So it’s great when suburbs die! Except they’re not dying. A recent story in my local paper noted how the first-ring suburbs are great bargains for young people, which makes them cool again. So: Twenty-somethings in 1962 with two kids and a house full of Danish Modern furniture with push-button appliances and a Siamese ceramic cat on the mantle: the oppressive falsehood of the postwar American dream. Twenty-somethings with the same house in 2014, the same decor (they’re into mid-century design), and two pugs: the salvation of urban America, because the style section can do a piece that includes the phrases “lovingly restored” and “Josh works as a web designer for a nonprofit.”
Josh may go to the mall, but rest assured he’ll have the proper attitude: Here I am, ironically inhabiting the lifestyle of suburbanites, when I’m really the sort of guy who’s planning a Kickstarter campaign for my artisanal-shaving-cream company. We’re going to use fair-trade sustainable eucalyptus.
But he’ll go to the mall when the pugs are replaced by kids and they need something to do on a dreary February Tuesday, and everyone needs diversion. He’ll find himself in the food court, the tots fighting over a pretzel, the anodyne music leaking from speakers overhead, an Apple Store bag at his feet. Then one of the kids spies the ride that takes a quarter and lets you pretend you’re driving a car.
I have become my father, he thinks, and realizes that’s actually a good thing.
Read it all. It’s Lileks.
March 14, 2014
ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE: Europa’s Water Geysers Entice Scientists to Send a Probe—but Can NASA Do It on the Cheap?
THIS SOUNDS PROMISING: Gel Protects Monkeys From H.I.V. After Sex, Study Finds. But it’s a vaginal gel. Men, apparently, are on their own.
HEADLINES LIKE THIS REMIND ME THAT I’M LIVING IN THE 21ST CENTURY: Desktop quantum cloud to hunt elusive space-time waves.
FALSE RAPE CHARGES: ‘These girls are vicious and greedy’: Premier League star who was cleared of gang rape hits out at women who he claims target wealthy footballers. Well, when there’s a big payoff and no consequences — note the story doesn’t even mention the false-accuser’s name — some people will act badly.
VIRAL KISSING VIDEO ACTUALLY A CLOTHES AD: “The video peddles the fantasy that beauty can spring from an unexpected connection between two random people, but what it’s really showing us is the beauty of models making out. It’s like the hipster Bachelor. I doubt that millions of viewers would be so quick to celebrate a video of randos kissing if they were all less thin, hip, stylish, charming, and well-manicured.”
CARIBBEAN WORRIES: Threatwatch: Chikungunya may explode with rainy season. “Chikungunya virus, which causes fever and debilitating pain, has spread around the Caribbean, made landfall in South America, and could travel still further with the tourists who flock to the region for carnival season and winter breaks. With rains – and mosquitoes – due to surge in the Caribbean in coming months, the virus poses the greatest threat to the tropical Americas, possibly including places still blissfully unaware they harbour it.”
Bring back DDT.
SAVE BIG AT THE Amazon Spring Outlet Event. An “event” is like a sale, only more, er, eventful.
Plus, deals on Bestselling Products, updated every hour. Get ‘em before they’re gone.
ADVICE TO PARENTS on college tours. “Keep your designs sub rosa, because the minute you say, ‘I’d love to see you at UMass Amherst,’ she’ll set her heart on Sarah Lawrence. That one little sentence can cost you $40,000.” My advice is to communicate a realistically limited budget up front.
THE NUMBERS BEHIND Japan’s Renewed Embrace of Nuclear Power. “The Fukushima disaster led Japan to shut down nuclear power plants, but three years of rising costs and carbon dioxide emissions are forcing it to reverse course.” Fukushima was obsolete anyway. New nuclear plants are better, and some truly excellent technology is beginning to appear.
TENNESSEE MAKES THE “UNDERRATED” LIST, with a reputation well in excess of its U.S. News ranking. Over- and under-rated law schools.