April 24, 2005
IS GM “TOO BIG TO FAIL?” Thoughts at GlennReynolds.com.
IS GM “TOO BIG TO FAIL?” Thoughts at GlennReynolds.com.
DANIEL DREZNER OFFERS praise for the wisdom of average Americans.
SOME LARGELY DEPRESSING THOUGHTS on democracy, stability, and Nepal.
IT’S NOT (QUITE) TOO LATE to register for the BlogNashville conference. Be there, or be square!
There aren’t many good studies on this, but some have concluded that as much as 10% of bankruptcy filings are caused by tax liabilities (and that doesn’t count those who would have alot more money available to pay their debts but for having to pay their taxes or pay their taxes because they are generally nondischargeable in bankruptcy). For those keeping score at home, this exceeds the number of bankruptcies traditionally thought to be caused by health problems, death in the family, college expenses, and gambling.
UNSCAM UPDATE: ROGER SIMON has new information on the unravelling Volcker Committee.
PERHAPS THIS IS BECAUSE IT WAS ALWAYS A CROCK, but The New York Times notices that ending the assault weapons ban didn’t matter:
Despite dire predictions that the streets would be awash in military-style guns, the expiration of the decade-long assault weapons ban last September has not set off a sustained surge in the weapons’ sales, gun makers and sellers say. It also has not caused any noticeable increase in gun crime in the past seven months, according to several metropolitan police departments.
The ban was symbolic legislation, designed to bolster the media profiles and direct-mail efforts of gun control lobby groups, while building momentun for eventual complete gun confiscation (something that some gun-control enthusiasts admitted, and others unconvincingly denied). It failed at that, and in fact succeeded mostly in costing the Democrats control of the legislative and executive branches.
TIM WORSTALL is hosting another BritBlog roundup.
(SALMA) HAYEK-O-RAMA: Nobody tell Daniel Drezner about this.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER RIGGED ELECTION in Africa. Publius has a Togo election roundup. We need to be working harder to promote democracy in Africa.
LIGHT BLOGGING: Went to a Seder last night at Doug “InstaLawyer” Weinstein’s. Got back late. Had a good time, as usual.
STRATEGYPAGE ON IRAQ:
The Sunni Arab and foreign terrorists are resorting more to attacks on civilians. The security around government officials, as well as their homes and workplaces, has increased to the point where attackers are discouraged. These failed attacks are often not reported, but they are frequent. Interrogations of captured terrorists indicate that many attacks are called off when it is obvious that the attack would be futile, and just get terrorists killed, and valuable equipment (a vehicle and weapons) lost. . . .
Attacks on civilians are still attempts to discourage people from cooperating with the government, or to encourage support for the terrorists. But once you do a lot of this, you are tagged a loser. Such terror only works if you can do it on a large enough scale to control the entire population. But the terrorists are almost entirely Sunni Arabs, and more and more of their terror is being directed against other Sunni Arabs. This isn’t working, with Islamic terrorist becoming more and more unpopular among Sunni Arabs.
Read the whole thing.
JEFF JARVIS rounds up more information suggesting that we’re at a tipping point in the transition from Old to New media. I think he’s right.
DON’T MISS THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES: It’s blogalicious!
I’VE MENTIONED AMAZON’S ROLE in pushing short web-films before. Now you can be the judge in their online film festival.
THE MPAA HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF BRIBING NEW YORK COPS to bust people for DVD piracy, according to this report in the Post. (Via Slashdot. Best comment: “I don’t know who’s worse: people paying cops to enforce the law, or cops that won’t enforce it unless you pay them extra.”)
ADAM GROVES: “Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Jeff Miller is currently going through a divorce with his wife over allegations that he had an affair with a Senate staffer. Ironically, Miller is the sponsor of the state’s Marriage Protection Act aimed at preventing gay marriages or unions from happening in Tennessee.”
Brian Anderson’s South Park Conservatives (which I’ve now finished) notes that campus conservatives seem to split with middle-aged ones on the question of gay marriage, not least because they’ve seen so much marital hypocrisy from their parents’ generation. As one student observes, heterosexuals have already done plenty to cheapen marriage.
UPDATE: Ann Althouse has related thoughts occasioned by a Russ Feingold speech:
I would never have said this out loud, but I couldn’t help thinking how interesting it was that Feingold shaped his whole lecture around the sanctity of the oath, when just a few days ago he announced that he was getting a divorce, his second. Was I the only who thought how strange it was to hear a man piously invoke a passionate fidelity to an oath when he had — so conspicuously — gone back on the marriage oath twice?
But I like Senator Feingold. I do think he’s a good man. I don’t presume to know what happens to people in their marriages, and I am divorced myself. Nevertheless, he could have discussed his devotion to the Constitution from some perspective other than the fact that he’d sworn an oath. Taking an oath to the Constitution, after all, is not the strongest reason to support it.
Her commenters discuss whether the oaths are comparable.
IT’S MORE CANADIAN SCANDAL NEWS:
Paul Martin hardly needs another scandal, but the news that Maurice Strong has stepped down from his UN post as special envoy to Korea in the wake of allegations related to the Iraqi oil-for-food debacle is potentially damaging on several fronts.
This week, Mr. Strong, a long-time mentor and associate of Mr. Martin, admitted ongoing links to Tongsun Park, a Korean lobbyist charged in connection with oil-for-food. Mr. Park previously enjoyed 15 minutes of infamy in the 1970s as the conduit for bribes to U.S. Congressional officials, an affair dubbed “Koreagate.” This time, according to Paul Volcker’s independent inquiry, Mr. Park transferred funds from Iraq to high-ranking UN officials. . . .
Mr. Strong is a man of enormous informal power within the “international community.” A lifelong self-confessed socialist, he espouses apocalyptic alarmism as a rationale for a much more powerful United Nations. Paradoxically, however, he has always kept one foot in the capitalist camp via an array of often messy business dealings.
I think it’s more a case of “a hand in the capitalist pocket” rather than “a foot in the capitalist camp.” But it’s really more about power than corruption, though corruption certainly plays its role:
Paul Martin’s senior advisers, angry at having lost control of the political agenda, are determined to get it back. They didn’t ask for the election that is being thrust upon them, but they are confident that they can win it.
Maybe they will. But the fact remains that the Liberals are struggling with more than the ever-spreading fallout from the sponsorship scandal. They must also fight a growing impression that the government is adrift, its agenda frustrated by a minority Parliament and by a Prime Minister who wanted to take on everything and ended up achieving very little.
I’m just interested in seeing how money seemed to be flowing from Saddam Hussein to pretty much every government that took an active role in opposing the Iraq war. And I wonder where else the money was going. I suspect we’ll find out, in time.
OXBLOG HAS photoblogging from Afghanistan.
WE’RE WINNING THE WAR, says Victor Davis Hanson, who then offers some lessons drawn from things we’ve done right — and things we’ve done wrong.
I DON’T THINK THAT MOBIUS DICK WILL MAKE THE TOP 40, but at least I’ve made this top 20.
I LOVE THE BT REFERENCE: Now to work in one about blonde English girls with ghetto names.
ROGER SIMON, AUSTIN BAY, AND CLAUDIA ROSETT discuss the UNScam oil-for-food scandal on Kudlow & Company. Trey Jackson has the video.
CATHY SEIPP: “Personally, I think we should be banning the phrase ‘taste treats,’ not guns, but alas I do not rule the world.”
CANADIAN SCANDAL UPDATE:
The Canadian company that Saddam Hussein invested a million dollars in belonged to the Prime Minister of Canada, canadafreepress.com has discovered.
Cordex Petroleum Inc., launched with Saddam’s million by Prime Minister Paul Martin’s mentor Maurice Strong’s son Fred Strong, is listed among Martin’s assets to the Federal Ethics committee on November 4, 2003. . . .
Yesterday, Strong admitted that Tongsun Park, the Korean man accused by U.S. federal authorities of illegally acting as an Iraqi agent, invested in Cordex, the company he owned with his son, in 1997.
I remember a lot of talk about a “coalition of the bribed,” but I’m not sure this was what people meant. . . .
ASHISH HANWADIKAR has thoughts on how to sneak in democracy using demonstrations ostensibly against third parties. Is this what’s going on in China? We can hope.
WHAT’S GOOD FOR GENERAL MOTORS? Some thoughts at GlennReynolds.com.
I WENT ALONG WITH THE INSTA-WIFE to her cardiac rehab place. They’re quite good about having spouses there, and even hooked me up to an EKG monitor while I exercised. Helen’s workout is pretty mild compared to what she was doing a few months ago, but she’s still glad to be getting exercise, and they say she’ll be able to return to her old workout in a few months.
IN THE MAIL: Craig Symonds’ Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History. Looking through it, I was interested to see that Commodore Dewey’s staff was almost embarrassed at the lack of casualties in the battle of Manila Bay. Symonds reports that the size of the butcher’s bill had, in the age of wooden ships and iron men, been seen as an indicator of how major the victory was. This battle marked a paradigm shift in that regard.
SOME OBSERVATIONS ON FRAUD AND FAT: Many people will find this a relief.
RANDALL PARKER wonders what will happen when everybody can do genetic engineering.
EUGENE VOLOKH thinks that I, and Vince Carroll, have erred on the subject of academic freedom. I think that Eugene’s argument is entirely correct — but the definition of academic freedom in question was not mine, or Vince Carroll’s, but that of the faculty who supported Ward Churchill. That was the point of Carroll’s first paragraph:
Remember the proclamation of 29 professors at the University of Denver College of Law denouncing the inquiry into Ward Churchill because “the critique of conventional wisdom, or the accepted way of doing (or seeing) things, is essential to fostering the public debate that is necessary to prevent tyranny”?
While DU was certainly within its rights not to publish the article by Lamm, that action sits uncomfortably with talk of “fostering public debate,” especially when it seems clear that his article would normally have been published, and was rejected only because the administration found the ideas unacceptable.
JIM DUNNIGAN WRITES on popular demonstrations and the coming revolution in China:
The government is scrambling to defuse all the unrest unleashed by popular discontent over Japanese textbooks that downplay Japanese atrocities during World War II. It isn’t easy. There are many groups in China, that are unhappy with the government, and are mobilizing to hold public demonstrations in the major cities. The government is rushing additional police and troops to cities most likely to be the scene of these demonstrations. One of the most touchy dissident groups are retired military officers and NCOs. The armed forces have shed several hundred thousand officers and troops in the last few years, as the size of the armed forces were reduced. But each year, over 40,000 officers and NCOs are retired on small pensions, and left to fend for themselves. These retirees believe they deserve better, and they are organizing. This is particularly frightening, as these retired warriors could provide professional advice for a mass rebellion.
And one suspects the armed forces would be more reluctant to move against them.
TURNING A VERIZON EVDO CARD into a mobile wireless access point. Pretty cool. Thanks to reader Rob Port for the link.
TED OLSON, NO QUICHE-EATING LEFTY, writes that Republicans should lay off the judiciary:
But, absent lawlessness or corruption in the judiciary, which is astonishingly rare in this country, impeaching judges who render decisions we do not like is not the answer. Nor is the wholesale removal of jurisdiction from federal courts over such matters as prayer, abortion, or flag-burning. While Congress certainly has the constitutional power, indeed responsibility, to restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts to ensure that judges decide only matters that are properly within their constitutional role and expertise, restricting the jurisdiction of courts in response to unpopular decisions is an overreaction that ill-serves the long-term interests of the nation. As much as we deplore incidents of bad judging, we are not necessarily better off with — and may dislike even more — adjudications made by presidents or this year’s majority in Congress.
Calls to investigate judges who have made unpopular decisions are particularly misguided, and if actually pursued, would undermine the independence that is vital to the integrity of judicial systems. If a judge’s decisions are corrupt or tainted, there are lawful recourses (prosecution or impeachment); but congressional interrogations of life-tenured judges, presumably under oath, as to why a particular decision was rendered, would constitute interference with — and intimidation of — the judicial process. And there is no logical stopping point once this power is exercised.
He also observes: “No discussion of the judiciary should close without reference to the shambles that the Senate confirmation process has become.” Indeed. And there’s nothing about that process that suggests that the Senate has anything to teach judges — or the rest of us — about self-restraint or fairness.
Of course, that describes the Democrats, too as Harry Reid’s embarrassingly ignorant assault on Clarence Thomas illustrates.
UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer agrees this morning:
Provocation is no excuse for derangement. And there has been plenty of provocation: decades of an imperial judiciary unilaterally legislating radical social change on the flimsiest of constitutional pretexts. But while that may explain, it does not justify the flailing, sometimes delirious attacks on the judiciary mounted by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and others in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case.
But read the whole thing.
ED MORRISSEY remains the go-to guy on the Canadian scandals and the political havoc they’re wreaking. Just keep scrolling.
AUSTIN BAY IS BEHIND BIGGIO: I heard him getting grief for that on Hugh Hewitt.
WEBB WILDER UPDATE: Reader Barry Johnson emails:
Did you know that Webb regularly does DJ duty on XM radio’s “X Country?” That’s how I found out about Wilder, I’m ashamed to say. But he rules, and so does XM radio. I wish I’d subscribed sooner.
Hmm. They’ve got my brother’s band, too. Maybe I should subscribe.
SENTENCING AND WHITE-COLLAR CRIMES: Doug Berman has thoughts inspired by the latest Enron developments.
BLOGGERS AS SYMBIOTES: And customers! Some people get it.
IN THE MAIL: George Gilder’s The Silicon Eye: How a Silicon Valley Company Aims to Make All Current Computers, Cameras, and Cell Phones Obsolete.
PUTTING THE “OFFSHORE” in offshoring.
RAND SIMBERG WRITES ON LIFE EXTENSION AND THE PAPACY: Habemus Papam…Ad Perpetuitatem?
I THOUGHT WE WERE TRYING TO GET “BIG MONEY” OUT OF POLITICS: I guess it isn’t working.
ANOTHER CANADIAN SCANDAL:
Even as the association of Canadian Maurice Strong with “Koreagate Man” Tungsun Park was coming under world limelight, Sri Lankans were starting to demand answers about where the $425 million promised by Canada to tsunami victims is.
Four months after the tsunami hit, Sri Lankans still don’t have their money. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin rushed to the scene for a weeklong photo op. Generous Canadians donated record amounts of money on line.
The Canadian government promised to match dollar for dollar, donations from the public.
But the promised mega millions never arrived.
Turn down your PC volume before following the link, as this page has an extremely obnoxious ad with audio. I don’t know why people think those kinds of things are good for business, as it merely makes me want to give the advertiser a sound InstaPunk treatment.
THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is up!
You shouldn’t let my problems with the D70 affect your judgment too much, as I don’t think they’re systemic. But the fact that it went back to Nikon for service and returned no better — and perhaps worse — should perhaps trouble you more.
UPDATE: Sorry for the brain-burp: I had EOS 20D instead of Digital Rebel XT before.
THERE’S ALREADY AN anti-Voinovich ad.
MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN CHINA, and these aren’t about Japan:
As the market plumbs six-year lows, China’s 60 million retail investors are an embittered lot — sounding a jarring note amid the capitalist changes transforming China’s economy. The government once touted the nation’s two stock exchanges, started in 1990 and 1991, as founts of opportunity. But they have turned out to be full of rotten companies that relied on political connections to get listed. Regulators have had little success fighting rampant insider trading and poor disclosure.
For the ruling Communist Party, the rage of investors who have lost their nest eggs could be toxic. The party has long struggled to keep a lid on social unrest, especially among unemployed workers and overtaxed farmers. Now a big chunk of the middle class is angry, too.
No wonder the government would rather have people angry about Japan.
Meanwhile, France is supporting preemptive war — so long as it’s by a major customer!
During a state visit to China, French Premier Raffarin threw support behind a law allowing China to attack Taiwan and continued to push for a lift of the EU arms embargo.
At the outset of a three-day visit to China, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he supported Beijing’s “anti-secession” law on Taiwan, and vowed to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell weapons to the Asian giant.
Raffarin also signed or finalized major business deals with Beijing valued at around $3.2 billion (2.4 billion euros).
You know, we should have just bribed Chirac et al. It’s clearly the way these things are done. Bloggledygook has more on the big picture.
The level of prevarication surrounding the recent resignation of investigators Robert Parton and Miranda Duncan from the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme is so great that even a blogger in farwaway Los Angeles can see that committee members responding to the resignations are lying through their teeth.
You’d think that the reporting on this story would make lies like that more difficult. Press coverage of UNScam, and particularly of the serious problems within the Volcker Committee, has been disappointing. I guess only amateur bloggers have the time, discipline, and resources to fully address this story!
I WONDER IF THIS STORY will have legs?
A Democratic fund-raiser involved in Senator Clinton’s 2000 campaign has offered a guilty plea to bank fraud charges and is likely to become a government witness at the upcoming federal trial of a top finance aide to Mrs. Clinton, David Rosen, court records obtained by The New York Sun show.
The Sun is certainly punching above its weight.
RYAN SAGER NOTES that left and right are making common cause against campaign finance “reform.”
MORE JOURNALISM-AS-FICTION at the Los Angeles Times. Patterico has the story.
PRAISE FOR CONNECTICUT’S CIVIL UNIONS, over at GayPatriot:
Twenty years ago, few, even in the gay community, recognized gay couples as a social unit. Nor did many more “mainstream” institutions, whether commercial, civic, educational, religious or governmental. Today, a growing number of commercial enterprises offer benefits to the partners of their employees while other institutions welcome same-sex schweeties (i.e., significant others) to meetings, services and social events.
And now, a state, not forced by a court and with an elected legislature close to the people, has recognized gay unions. This is huge. Let me repeat, this is huge.
NIKON D70 UPDATE: There’s bad news about the pictures below, though. The autofocus on the D70 emitted an ugly groan and quit working about halfway through my walk. It doesn’t even try to autofocus now; I focused most of these manually.
I’m pretty disappointed in that. One reason I bought a Nikon over a Canon was because I thought it would be more reliable. Now it’s headed back to the Nikon repair shop for the second time.
I HAD PLANNED TO GO TO THE MOUNTAINS to take pictures after a brief stop at the office, Once in the office, however, I was unable to escape in time. But I did wander the campus with the Nikon and took some pictures, for the benefit of the various alumni and expats who keep asking for more.
This is just outside the Walters Life Sciences building. The dogwoods are blooming nicely.
Some posters at the bottom of The Hill, near the student center
A campus coffee shop, ghostly face visible in the window.
The path to Ayres Hall, with more dogwoods.
One of the unsung heroes of the Physical Plant, hard at work. The main guy for the law school is cool; he’s into electronic music, and is even a Cool Edit fan.
Outdoor reading and studying is de rigeur on days like today.
Bigger versions available here.
RX-8 UPDATE: Reader Tony von Krag emails:
IIRC you got your RX 8 just about a year ago. So any thing you like or hate to a tremendous degree? BTW AutoWeek just did their year long test wrapup this week too.
I like the car to a tremendous degree. There’s nothing I hate. The Autoweek testers experienced much worse fuel economy and oil consumption than I’m experiencing. Perhaps that’s because I was meticulous about the break-in period, or perhaps it’s because their car was just different. My mileage isn’t great — about 18-20 mpg in mixed driving, and I think I got 21 or 22 on the highway once, but it’s substantially better than theirs. And my oil consumption is much, much lower. I don’t think it’s that they drove it a lot harder, because I generally keep the revs pretty high. It’s a lot more fun to drive that way, after all.
I had a battery problem (covered under a recall), but that’s the only problem I’ve had with it. The car is fast — and, more importantly, it feels fast, something that other cars with similar numbers don’t always deliver. It’s loads of fun to drive, the seats are shockingly comfortable, even on fairly lengthy trips, and the back seat is actually functional. I’ve actually had it since August of ’03, and I like it at least as much as when it was new.
I haven’t tricked mine out with lots of Japanese Domestic Market gewgaws or anything, and it’s kind of sad that you can’t get one of these for the RX-8, as you could for the RX-7, but I’m very happy. I had an elderly (1980) first-gen RX-7 in my youth, and this car captures the pleasures of that car without any of the downsides, and with far more refinement.
UPDATE: A reader emails:
Thought I’d give you my impression of the RX-8. I’ve had one since June 2004. My gas mileage is about the same as AutoWeek’s (I actually stopped keeping track after about 6 months, but I haven’t seen any noticeable improvement in miles per tank). The only time I went over 20 mpg was on a long trip from CA to AZ. I usually get 15-17 mpg. (And yes, I drive it pretty hard, what’s the point of getting a car that revs to 9300 if you don’t get it at least 2/3rds of the way there).
My oil consumption is almost the same as AutoWeek’s. I had my oil changed 3000 miles ago and have added 1.5 quarts.
The other most common complaint of the RX-8 is the snow performance of the tires. I’ve never driven in the snow (we don’t get much over here), and I don’t plan to.
I am VERY satisfied with the car. My wife, on the other hand, is not so happy with it. We have a 3 year old daughter and there is not much room in the back seat for her. Therefore, when all 3 of us are in the car, my wife doesn’t have much room in the passenger seat because we have to move it up just to fit our daughter. Plus, it’s kind of awkward to get our daughter in and out of the back seat.
The back seats work (and my daughter fits behind me OK without me moving the seat up, but she’s old enough not to need a carseat), but their chief virtue is that they exist. You can put a small-to-medium adult in them for short distances, but you wouldn’t want to go far.
Meanwhile, reader Steven Headley emails:
Regarding your posted comments about your RX-8 … I am glad that you really like your vehicle, and definitely have been looking at the car as the wife’s “next car”, but have to take issue with your characterization of the RX-8 as “fast”.
As an owner of an American musclecar (2000 Pontiac WS-6 Trans Am) there is nothing like the experience of 400+ horses from the GM Gen III LS1 engine (“slightly modified”) coupled through a 6-speed tranny to the rear wheels.
0 to 60MPH in a little over 4 seconds, now THAT is “fast” … !
No, that’s “absurdly fast.” And reader Paul Music thinks I should get this car, but he seriously overestimates my tipjar proceeds . . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: Charles Austin emails:
I’ve had mine for about 4 months now and I love it. My daughters (8 and 15) fit comfortably in the back seats tooling around town. I get 16-20 MPG depending on how I’m driving and added 1 quart for the first 4,000 miles.
What’s not to love about this car? It is fast, though clearly not the fastest, but I do enjoy the off ramps where I zoom zoom by the Mustangs, BMWs and 350Zs that pass me on the straightaways.
Yes, it’s good on the “twisty bits.”
VINCE CARROLL NOTES that academic freedom seems to be a one-way street:
Remember the proclamation of 29 professors at the University of Denver College of Law denouncing the inquiry into Ward Churchill because “the critique of conventional wisdom, or the accepted way of doing (or seeing) things, is essential to fostering the public debate that is necessary to prevent tyranny”?
Remember the ringing declaration of 199 faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder, also in defense of Churchill, on the importance of an “environment in which ideas may be exchanged even in the face of widespread doubt, incomprehension and hostility”?
Does such an unfettered intellectual environment actually exist on any Colorado campus?
In the journal Academic Questions, former Gov. Richard Lamm recounts an incident that suggests, once again, the answer is emphatically no.
Lamm, who is a tenured professor at DU, tried to publish an article in The Source, a newspaper run by the administration there, “in response to a particularly offensive screed on white racism by one of our affirmative action officials.”
Yet despite personal pleas he took up the DU ladder right into the chancellor’s office, his essay was repeatedly rejected.
It is now online at educationation.org/blog/?p=51. Provocative? Undoubtedly. Offensive? Obviously to some. But if Churchill can call for violence and the destruction of America, surely Lamm can argue that the cultural component in personal success is much larger than many of us wish to concede.
Or can he?
On the Internet, speech is still free.
AUSTIN BAY HAS THOUGHTS on gang warfare and insurgencies.
GLENN FLEISHMAN RESPONDS to my column on municipal wi-fi.
YOUR FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE AT WORK: Roger Simon has thoughts on the Bolton nomination. “By playing the child’s game of partisan politics, these same Senators are ultimately helping to destroy the reputation of the very institution they think they are trying to preserve – the United Nations. What dumbbells.”
UPDATE: In an update to the post above, Roger reports that two out of three Volcker Committee investigators have resigned in protest over the failure to follow up on leads. Sounds like a whitewash to me.
KEN SILBER offers a positive review of Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner’s new book, Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.
I haven’t read it, but I like the discussion of the chapter entitled “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?”
The upshot is that the crack trade, even at its market peak, was lucrative only for those at the top of a selling organization. The gang’s foot soldiers made less than minimum wage and faced a 1-in-4 risk of being killed over four years. (In the same time, being a timber cutter, the most dangerous legitimate job in the U.S., carried a 1-in-200 risk.) These drug dealers struggled desperately to reach the gang’s upper echelons, but few would make it.
I don’t know Levitt’s answer here, but one explanation (besides the obvious “they’re idiots”) for why people become drug dealers when the economic returns are poor is that being a drug dealer offers — and, especially during the crack boom, offered — nonmonetary returns, by having much more status than working minimum wage. (Read Richard Price’s excellent book, Clockers for some very good illustrations of that phenomenon).
My historian-brother often says that one of the most interesting phenomena that he’s observed is the cross-cultural willingness of people to trade away economic benefits for status. I suspect that this is one example of that. So, in a surprisingly similar way, is being a politician. That’s an obviously poor economic move for most folks. But one of the drug dealers in Price’s book talks about how he likes the way he becomes the center of attention when he enters a room full of junkies. Politicians, I think, get the same thing, especially in the bubble-environments of Washington, or state capitals. I suspect, in fact, that people are, to varying degrees, hardwired to get an endorphin rush from that sort of attention, just as they’re hardwired in varying degrees to respond to drugs.
As I say, I don’t know if Levitt talks about that or not, but I think it’s one possible explanation for a lot of stuff that looks economically counterproductive.
UPDATE: Stephen Skaggs emails:
Take out “drug dealers” and “crack” and replace with “bloggers and
Heh. And Greg Hlatky emails:
Take out “drug dealers” and “crack” and replace with “professors” and “universities.”
I guess that makes me a double-dipper. No wonder I’m always so cheerful! It’s the endorphins! [So why isn't Brian Leiter happier? -- Ed. No theory is perfect.]
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Barnes emails: “Talk to your budding rock-star brother and he can probably tell you about ‘non-monetary’ benefits.”
UNSCAM UPDATE: Everything old is new again:
Yet more scandal at the United Nations? Secret deals, millions in bribes, leading to billions in global kickbacks? What to do?
Have no fear, reform is here. The United Nations has already put in place a sweeping set of improvements, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan reorganizing and streamlining the world body to bring about, according to a U.N. reform dossier, “a culture of greater openness, coherence, innovation and confidence.” A blue-ribbon panel has “set more stringent standards for judging the performance of peacekeepers, in the field and at Headquarters.” And there is now a system for dealing with U.N. staff, that “gives more precedence to merit and competence and less to tenure and precedent.”
All of which sounds terrific. Except that the reforms cited above, heralding the new era of openness, coherence, competence, integrity and improved peacekeeping are all plucked from a U.N. dossier released almost three years ago, in June 2002. These reforms were shepherded through by Mr. Annan starting in the late 1990s, with the help of his handpicked special adviser, Undersecretary-General Maurice Strong.
In the course of telling the press on Monday that he “cannot recall a single instance” of contact or discussion with officials responsible for the scandal-plagued Oil for Food program, Mr. Strong did confirm that he has been friendly for years and had a business relationship back in 1997 with a Korean, Tongsun Park. Mr. Park achieved prominence in the 1970s as the go-between who shuttled hundreds of thousands in bribes from the regime of former South Korean dictator Park Chung-Hee to assorted members of the U.S. Congress, in the scandal that became known as Koreagate. . . . U.S. federal prosecutors charged Mr. Park last week with accepting some $2 million from Saddam Hussein to convey yet more millions to two (so-far unnamed) high-ranking U.N. officials in an effort to shape the 1996-2003 Oil for Food program to facilitate Saddam’s sanctions-busting embezzlement of billions meant for the people of Iraq.
It’s like they’re all a bunch of crooks, or something.
UPDATE: Here’s more on the Canadian scandals, which, as noted earlier, do seem to overlap with the oil-for-food scandals.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:
I believe that Kyoto, with the carbon credits will be one of the biggest boondoggles around. Who’s going to check that everything’s on the up and up, the UN? Kofi? Strong? Martin? The French?Chinese? Iranians?
If I were an American company or worker or citizen I’d be keeping a close on on this program. Why do you think they’re holding up Bolton’s appointment? He won’t them get away with it and they know it.
There are already many ways of cutting back on greenhouse emissions by using new technology, scrubbers on coal fired plants, etc. without resorting to
this. The further the international organization is from the local voter, the easier to pull off scams. There aren’t enough forensic accountants in the world that will be able to track the money once it gets revved up.
Though it seems like a growing field . . . .
THOUGHTS ON MUNICIPAL WI-FI and telco opposition thereto: My TechCentralStation column is up.
ALPHECCA’S WEEKLY SURVEY of media reporting on guns is up.
ERIC MULLER IS CORRECTING THE NEW YORK TIMES on the Pope. “Does nobody at the New York Times do any fact checking at all?”
It’s not like Ratzinger was an out-of-the-blue candidate, so you’d think they’d have had all this stuff squared away ahead of time.
Meanwhile The Anchoress has some thoughts on the press coverage in general.
Meanwhile, Trey Jackson has a video roundup.
UPDATE: Amy Welborn, unsurprisingly, has lots of interesting thoughts.
IT’S A QUAGMIRE:
Sixty years after the end of World War II, there are still 62,000 American troops in Europe. They are stationed in 236 bases, including 13 training areas. The force has been reduced considerably over the years, especially after the Cold War ended in 1991, leaving over a quarter million American troops in Europe. But in 2015 there will still be 24,000 American troops over there, in 88 bases, and using four training areas.
This is all because Ike went in without an “exit strategy.”
READER C.J. BURCH EMAILS: “I grow more and more convinced the Republican majority will end itself by 2006 if the Left will just shut up for five minutes.”
Which makes it a damn close-run thing.
RAND SIMBERG HAS THOUGHTS on National Self-Defense Day.
JOE GANDELMAN has a massive new-Pope roundup.
IRAQI BLOGGER SALAM PAX TAKES ON GEORGE GALLOWAY:
Mr Galloway left the press conference near Liverpool Street station before the end but was met outside by Salam Pax, the Baghdad Blogger, who was making a film for BBC2’s Newsnight.
Challenged by Mr Pax that only 21% of Iraqis want US and UK troops out of their country, Mr Galloway said there was no point in engaging in discussion “because you and I will never agree”.
That’s because Galloway — as he’s illustrated quite consistently by his words and actions — wants the good guys to lose.
This via U.S.S. Neverdock, which also notes this passage from the BBC’s report:
The “Baghdad blogger” was at the event to make a film for Newsnight, and he managed to snatch a brief interview with Mr Galloway before the Respect candidate dashed off to his meeting with the lawyers.
“I know who you are,” said Mr Galloway, warily eyeing Mr Pax, whose weblog gave the world an insight into the lives of ordinary Iraqis in the run-up to the US-led invasion.
Mr Pax wanted to know why Mr Galloway wanted the immediate withdrawal of occupying troops from Iraq.
“I really don’t think we are going to agree on this. You supported the war and I opposed it,” said Mr Galloway.
“You welcomed the invasion of foreign armies into your country. I opposed it. So we are not going to agree on this, which is why I didn’t think it would be productive to have a discussion with you and I do have to go now.”
But Mr Pax – whose real name has never been revealed – pressed the point.
Galloway: “I just want to be honest with you. You can not demand that our armed forces occupy your country – that’s a matter for us.
“It’s not a matter for you – it’s a matter for us. Now I think there are millions of people in this country who think the war was illegal, was wrong shouldn’t have happened and should be immediately withdrawn from. We are entitled to that point of view and we are.”
Mr Pax “shouldn’t have supported” the war in the first place, added Mr Galloway.
But Mr Pax countered that would be tantamount to supporting the continuation of a regime like Saddam’s.
Which would be no surprise where Galloway is concerned.
THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE IS CONSIDERING TRAFFIC CAMERAS: Given that this dreadful idea has been abandoned by many states, I don’t know why we’re considering it. Though I suspect that it has something to do with the city’s desire for revenue . . . .
REPORTEDLY, THERE IS A NEW POPE: No further details, yet.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Rob Huddleston: “I am just giddy that the word ‘conclave’ will quickly disappear from all newscasts. . .”
Blake Wylie: “No surprise, here.”
Ed Morrissey, on the other hand, notes that the selection flies in the face of traditional conventional wisdom.
And Bainbridge responds to Sullivan — though his final line is, I think, a two-edged sword.
Meanwhile Brendan Loy videoblogs the (mixed) reaction at Notre Dame law school.
TODAY IS THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY of the Oklahoma City bombing. And there are still homegrown terrorists out there. One of my worries is that some of them will make common-cause with the middle eastern variety of terrorists. (Some people say that they already have, and did so in the context of Oklahoma City. And some were certainly quick to applaud the 9/11 attacks.)
I worried about domestic terrorism before Oklahoma City, and in fact wrote an op-ed in January of 1995 that I sent out to lots of little newspapers in rural towns in the north- and southwest. I don’t even remember sending it to the Chicago Tribune, but they published it. (They didn’t even call me first, and for that matter, they never paid me anything . . . .) You can read it by clicking “read more.”
Recently, a steady drumbeat of print reports and network news stories has given national attention to what many in the South and West already knew: that some Americans are arming themselves and organizing into militia companies. Part of a so-called “Patriot Movement” that some number at 5 million members, the militia movement is estimated by press accounts as having somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 members under arms. Their fear, based on all sorts of rumors about “black helicopters” and foreign forces maneuvering in remote areas, is that the feds, perhaps in conjunction with the United Nations, will seize their guns and establish a “new world order” dictatorship that will take control over their lives. Some are even talking about armed revolt.
Militia members believe their actions are authorized by the U.S. Constitution. They’re silly to worry about the UN, which can’t even handle the Serbs. They’re half right about the Constitution-but the part they have wrong could mean trouble. Militia advocates point to the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment, which addresses the right to keep and bear arms, and to the framers’ general views in favor of an armed citizenry as a check on tyrants. Here they’re on solid ground. There is no question that the framers supported an armed citizenry as a way of preventing tyrannical government.
But the militia groups haven’t thought about how the framers defined tyrannical government. The fact is that though there is plenty to complain about with regard to the expansion of government in the last half-century, just about all of it was with the acquiescence-and often the outright endorsement-of the electorate. That makes a big difference. Although many militia supporters can quote the framers at great length on the right to bear arms, few seem aware that the framers also put a lot of effort into distinguishing between legitimate revolutions-such as the American Revolution- and mere “rebellions” or “insurrections.” The former represented a right, even a duty, of the people. The latter were illegitimate, mere outlawry. The framers developed a rather sophisticated political theory for distinguishing between the two.
The most important aspect of this theory was representation. Those who were not represented lacked the citizen’s duty of loyalty. A government that taxed its citizens without representation was thus no better than an outlaw, and citizens enjoyed the same right of resistance against its officers as they possessed against robbers.
But revolting against taxation without representation is not the same thing as revolting against taxation, period. Like it or not, the government we have now is the government that most citizens at least thought they wanted.
If you want to know what the framers considered grounds for revolt, read the list of complaints about George III in the Declaration of Independence.
The framers understood what a dangerous thing a revolution was. They embarked on their effort with trepidation, and they would not have been surprised to learn that most revolutions that came after theirs either failed or produced a new tyranny worse than the old. They knew that once let out, the genie of revolution often proves both destructive and hard to rebottle. As the militia movement says, the framers did believe in the right to revolution. But they believed that such strong medicine was a last resort against tyranny. Today’s militia members would be better advised to organize a new political party, or to work at increasing voter turnout.
Such counsel may seem bland beside the very real romance of revolution. But those on the political right (from which most, though not all, of the militia movement comes) should know better than to yield to that romance. Ever since the idolization of Che Guevara, a large chunk of the American left has succumbed to revolutionary romance, while those on the right have focused on workaday politics. The relative fortunes of those two movements over the last 25 years, especially after November’s elections, suggest which approach works.
Having said this, I also have a cautionary note for those who are not part of the militia movement. When large numbers of citizens begin arming against their own government and are ready to believe even the silliest rumors about that government’s willingness to evade the Constitution, there is a problem that goes beyond gullibility. This country’s political establishment should think about what it has done to inspire such distrust–and what it can do to regain the trust and loyalty of many Americans who no longer grant it either.
LOOKING FOR ALIEN SPACE STATIONS. But not finding any, yet.
UPDATE: Reader Frederick Irving emails: “Alien Space Station research is looking for Intelligent Design in the Universe. I guess it’s not science.”
Except that Intelligent Design in the Universe isn’t the same as Intelligent Design of the Universe. And the ID theorists I’ve encountered generally seem to have already decided who the Designer is, before they ever started looking for evidence of design.
HEALTH CARE BLOG-A-RAMA: This week’s Grand Rounds is up, over at GrrlScientist’s place.
Visiting Americans may be about to lose their favorite cliché about their chilly neighbor. Over the past few weeks, a judicial inquiry in Montreal has heard charges that Canada’s governing Liberal Party was running a system of extortion, embezzlement, kickbacks and graft as dirty as anything Americans might expect to find in your run-of-the-mill banana republic. . . .
Unlike their supposed analogues, the Democrats in the United States or Great Britain’s Labor Party, Canada’s Liberals are not a party built around certain policies and principles. They are instead what political scientists call a brokerage party, similar to the old Italian Christian Democrats or India’s Congress Party: a political entity without fixed principles or policies that exploits the power of the central state to bribe or bully incompatible constituencies to join together to share the spoils of government.
As countries modernize, they tend to leave brokerage parties behind. Very belatedly, that moment of maturity may now be arriving in Canada. Americans may lose their illusions about my native country; Canadians will gain true multiparty democracy and accountability in government. It’s an exchange that is long past due.
PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH is unabashedly pro-choice.
A CALL FOR ELIOT SPITZER’S RESIGNATION over conflicts of interest.
The Google story is rather revealing.
IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY TODAY, but I was just too busy (got an article back from a law review with editorial revisions and the inevitable request for more footnotes) to get out and photoblog. But Ann Althouse has some photos. Once again, as at my campus, women seem to be overrepresented.
HATE SPEECH AT STANFORD.
UPDATE: Stanford blogger Elliot Fladen emails:
It was as bad as the Reason piece says, if not worse. And the Women of
Stanford Law are largely repeating her truisms left and right now, as
if they went to a cult initiation session. Anyway, here is my post on
the subject if you are willing to link to it.
Follow this link for his firsthand account.
UNSCAM UPDATE: More on a Canadian connection to the oil-for-food scandal.
MIKE KREMPASKY ERICK ERICKSON is defending the Heritage Foundation against Thomas Edsall’s charges.
Sorry, Krempasky sent me the link and I didn’t notice the author credit line.
JIM DUNNIGAN THINKS THAT CHINA IS LESS STABLE than it appears, and that the anti-Japanese protests organized by the government are getting out of its control.