September 27, 2007
GREG MANKIW: How big a problem is lack of health insurance?
GREG MANKIW: How big a problem is lack of health insurance?
RICHARD FERNANDEZ looks at what’s going on in Burma.
WALTER OLSON WONDERS how well-lawyered the Lynne Stewart invitation was.
TODD ZYWICKI likes John Lott’s new book, Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don’t.
CONTRA KAY HYMOWITZ, I don’t see how this post can plausibly be read as a “taunt.” I certainly didn’t mean it that way. In fact, as noted in our podcast interview of Hymowitz, I’m in many ways sympathetic to her cultural critique, with the exception of gay marriage, which I don’t see as any threat to traditional marriage at all. I certainly don’t see where in my post, or elsewhere, I’ve said that “[G]overnment shouldnâ€™t say anything about the family problem. And neither should anyone else.” I don’t think the government has much to say, and it’ll probably get it wrong if it tries — I’d be happy if it just avoided screwing things up — but I’ve never said that “anyone else” shouldn’t say things. Just disagreed with them, sometimes. (That’s allowed, isn’t it? It’s certainly not a taunt.)
I don’t like her use of the term “freedom fetishist” to describe libertarians, but Eric Scheie has already said all there is to say on that.
UPDATE: Kay emails: “You’re right; you weren’t taunting. An editor inserted the word (I had simply written ‘wrote’) and I didn’t catch it on a final read. Really sorry.”
That stuff happens. Shame on that editor, though, who changed the meaning and who must not have bothered to follow the link. I’d expect better from Commentary.
THE RETURN OF MONDALENOMICS?
KEEPING OUR SCHOOLKIDS SAFE, with bulletproof backpack inserts.
A LAME DISCLAIMER FROM BEST BUY: “It’s still unclear why the company won’t just do the right thing and match its own listed prices, but we’re willing to bet the suits are patting themselves on the back for their innovative, out-of-the-box solution. Martinis for all!”
SINGING THE PRAISES OF the Dodge Colt Vista: “These are available for a song nowadays, and to be completely honest I can’t think of a better beater.” Okay, I buy that. But this? “The clincher is that I think the Vista is a very attractive vehicle, with an open and honest “face” and a smooth, well-proportioned body.” Hmm. . . . Look at the photo and decide for yourself . . . .
WHAT MADE HUGO CHAVEZ POSSIBLE? “Latin America’s history shows that populist strongmen keep appearing with astonishing frequency. Understanding why Chavez came to power almost a decade ago and is now poised through a constitutional amendment to become president-for-life is a necessary step in trying to halt the emergence of future populist strongmen.”
POWER GENERATION vulnerable to cyber attacks: “Researchers who launched an experimental cyber attack caused a generator to self-destruct, alarming the federal government and electrical industry about what might happen if such an attack were carried out on a larger scale, CNN has learned. . . . Weiss and others hypothesize that multiple, simultaneous cyber-attacks on key electric facilities could knock out power to a large geographic area for months, harming the nation’s economy.” Seems like a reason not to connect these things to the Internet.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: House Minority leader John Boehner is saying the right things on pork:
House Republicans have launched a renewed effort to change the way Congress spends taxpayers’ money. Our goal: Stop Congress from tucking members’ pet spending projects into bills without public scrutiny and debate.
Pork-barrel earmarks were an important factor in the loss of the GOP majority last November. Years of irresponsible earmarks, slipped into bills behind closed doors without public debate or scrutiny, eroded Republicans’ reputation as the party of fiscal responsibility and trustworthy custodians of taxpayer funds.
I’ve never made a secret of my distaste for worthless pork. Just a few months after being elected as majority leader last year, we enacted comprehensive reforms that brought the earmark process out into broad daylight. All taxpayer-funded earmarks had to be publicly disclosed and subject to challenge and debate. If you sponsor a project, we argued, you ought to be willing to put your name on it and defend it–and if not, you shouldn’t ask taxpayers to pay for it. These reforms were the right thing to do–and they still are.
The Democratic majority came to power in January promising to do a better job on earmarks. They appeared to preserve our reforms and even take them a bit further. I commended Democrats publicly for this action.
Unfortunately, the leadership reversed course. Desperate to advance their agenda, they began trading earmarks for votes, dangling taxpayer-funded goodies in front of wavering members to win their support for leadership priorities.
Yes. Had the GOP done better with this stuff, Boehner might still be Majority, instead of Minority leader. Will the Democrats take a lesson from that?
TRUST IN GOVERNMENT hits an all time low. This ought to encourage government officials behave in a more trustworthy fashion, but . . . .
MORE HEAVY-HANDED PHOTO FUNNIES.
BILL ROGGIO ON Al Qaeda’s last bastion in Baghdad.
I KNEW WIRE SERVICES WERE TRIMMING STAFF, but this is ridiculous.
BAD REVIEWS FOR The Daily Show on Mandela.
MORE ON BURMA: “Intensifying their crackdown despite pressures from abroad, Burmese security forces raided a half-dozen Buddhist monasteries Thursday and opened fire into pockets of demonstrators who continued to demand an end to military rule despite new threats on their lives.”
A CELLPHONE WITHOUT BORDERS: Isn’t that how things ought to work?
SOME WORLD WAR TWO REMINISCENCES, inspired by Ken Burns.
A NUCLEAR RENAISSANCE? “If you’re tracking the nuclear power revival in America, last Tuesday, September 25, was a milestone. For the first time since 1973, a new application for building a reactor was placed before the federal government. ”
It’s greenhouse friendly. And if there’s nothing more important than combating the greenhouse threat, then nuclear power certainly should be undergoing a renaissance.
THIS IS JUST PATHETIC.
IF YOU LIKE THE GLENN AND HELEN SHOW, you’ll be able to catch us, along with others, on XM Radio’s new POTUS ’08 channel, starting tonight at 6 p.m. Eastern, XM channel 130.
TAMMY BRUCE vs “the Gestapo.” I’m betting on Tammy.
LEAKED IRAQ MEMO doesn’t say what the critics think.
JEFF EMANUEL ON DEVELOPING IRAQI POLICE FORCES: “A Long, Difficult, and Dangerous Process – But Not a Hopeless One.”
LOOKING AT THE NEW YORK TIMES’ ARTICLE ON BLACKWATER, A SURPRISING DISCOVERY: Iraq is a lot safer that you might think:
I don’t know about you, but I find those figures â€“ both for Blackwater and DynCorp â€“ staggering, even allowing for the fact that there must be other incidents where convoys come under attack, but keep going without returning fire.
I was under the impression that every time a convoy left the Green Zone it was like the scene in Mad Max II where the fuel tanker (no spoilers in case you haven’t seen it) driven by Max leaves the good guys’ compound. I pictured insurgents leaping off buildings on to the roofs of SUVs, IEDs going off left, right and centre, and suicide car bombs and RPGs coming from every direction.
Where did I get this impression? From watching the TV news and reading the mainstream news websites. It’s almost as ifâ€¦ as ifâ€¦ the media is exaggerating how bad things are in Iraq!
Read the whole thing. It reminds me of when the Soviets used to show newsreels of Vietnam protests as evidence of how bad things were in America, only to have the audience think, “hey, everybody in these films has new shoes!“
ILYA SOMIN on regulatory takings and the poor.
SURGING BEFORE the surge was cool.
THE BIG NEWS from last night’s Democratic debate: “The leading Democratic White House hopefuls conceded Wednesday night they cannot guarantee to pull all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of the next presidential term in 2013.”
Will this give the Draft Nader movement a boost? It’s certainly got to be a disappointment to the MoveOn/Netroots crowd.
LAW SCHOOL AS A SORTING HAT.
HSUT DOWN: “A judge has frozen bank accounts and sealed the Manhattan apartment of Norman Hsu at the request of investors who say the jailed political fundraiser stole $40 million from them. . . . After being a fugitive for about 15 years, Hsu made a name for himself as a political fundraiser for Democrats. He was arrested about three weeks ago and now faces new federal charges in New York of bilking investors out of $60 million. Investigators say he donated some of that money to numerous Democratic candidates and causes.”
More here, including this tidbit: “Minkoff asked the judge to issue attachment orders on donations Hsu made to Sen. Hillary Clinton, Gov. Spitzer and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who have either returned the money or put it in escrow.”
INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY: “There’s new evidence the Saudis aren’t cooperating in our battle to eradicate terrorists or those who bankroll them. Their negligence is shocking even to cynics.” I’d say calling it negligence is kind.
ANDREW BREITBART: “A Brokeback mountain of lies.”
DISAPPEARING TRUSTEES at Columbia?
THOUGHTS ON TRUSTWORTHINESS in media and government. Not a lot to go around . . . .
MORE THOUGHTS ON journalists and the blogosphere.
NOAH SHACHTMAN: The Soldier of the Future gets his gear on.
POLLYANNAISH ME: At the University of Chicago Law Faculty Blog.
BLOGGERS VS. AN UZBEK BILLIONAIRE: Go bloggers!
Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has vowed to carry on making allegations against billionaire Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, despite attempts to silence him and his supporters.
Murray told The Reg: “If the man believes he was libelled then he should take me to court.” . . .
Murray’s blog was deleted by its host on Friday after threats from Usmanov’s UK legal team. It’s expected to reappear in the early hours of tomorrow on an overseas server, and will repeat the charges that drew heavy fire from specialist libel firm Schillings.
The ex-diplomat says he has contacted Schillings to ask for clarification of which specific aspect of his allegations they contest, but has not received a response. “They say my book [Murder in Samarkand] is ‘grossly libellous and defamatory’, yet it has been widely available for a year and has sold 25,000 copies, without their actually taking any legal action,” he added.
Murray’s criticism of Usmanov stems from his rise in Uzbekistan following the collapse of communism to become one of Russia’s richest men. He denies the accusations. His profile in the UK has skyrocketed since he followed Chelsea chairman and fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich into football investment.
(Via Slashdot, where Usmanov isn’t getting much sympathy.)
OOPS: David Shuster’s cheap shot backfires. Will an apology be forthcoming?
UPDATE: An apology: Follow the link for details and video. It’s a pretty grudging apology, though, leaving out the cheap-shot angle. Would Shuster have asked Hillary that question?
ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.
MORE: A reader asks why it’s a cheap shot to ask a member of Congress to name the last casualty from his/her district? That would seem to answer itself. But — as noted plainly above — I strongly doubt that Shuster would have asked Hillary that question, even though she voted for the war. It was a trap.
Interestingly, though, it’s a trap that, in its nature, underscores how historically low casualties are in this war. You wouldn’t have heard that question in World War II, not only because the press would have been ashamed to ask it, but because casualties then were such that nobody could possibly keep track. That it can be asked in this war demonstrates not only the cheap-shot tendencies of a hopelessly partisan press, but also the small scale of the actual warfare.
THEY TOLD ME THAT IF GEORGE W. BUSH WERE REELECTED, jack-booted thugs would be dropping the hammer on anyone deemed guilty of lese majeste. And they were right!
I’M NOT DEAD YET . . . I’M FEELING BETTER . . . I THINK I’LL GO FOR A WALK: The Death of Blogs.
CHRIS SUELLENTROP: “How poorly is John Edwards faring in his bid to become president of the United States?”
BLOGS ON BURMA: A big roundup at Slate.
PUNS: HSUPER? OR HSTUPID? A reader emails: “Ok enough with the puns on Hsu’s name please.”
On the other hand, people keep mailing in suggestions. So it’s time for a poll!
UPDATE: Okay, we’ve broken the 2,000-vote mark and Hsu-puns are winning by better than 2-1. That’s a hstupendous margin!
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More questions about porkmeister Don Young:
Hopefully we’re about to get closer to learning how Rep. Don Young’s (R-AK) $10 million Coconut Road earmark made its famous post-vote change. A Washington watchdog group filed a complaint today with the House ethics committee asking for an investigation into the drastic edit, calling it “an extraordinary case of the House of Representativesâ€™ integrity being undermined.” . . .
Initially, Congress approved a bill that would have given Florida $10 million for a highway widening project, but as we’ve explained before, during a 13-day window between the bill passing Congress and the President signing it into law, the earmark changed. It was the only such change among 6,000 earmarks in a pork-filled bill. The new Coconut Road wording redirected the money to a project that would be a boon to a real estate developer and major campaign contributor of Young’s.
Read the whole thing.
A CHEMERINSKY FOLLOWUP from Jon Wiener: “The fact is that we still donâ€™t really know the sources of the pressure that led Drake to act against his newly-appointed dean. And at this point, with Chemerinsky himself calling for a focus on the future, it seems unlikely we will ever know.”
CALLING IN THE BOMB SQUAD: To protect bridges from terrorists.
“SOFT FASCISM” in Britain?
LOOKING TOWARD CHRISTMAS (already?) a roundup of favorite toys.
SECRETS OF PRODUCTIVITY, from Vincent Van Gogh. Okay, I don’t smoke a pipe, but otherwise, yeah.
LOSING WEIGHT the Castro Way!
SOME INTERESTING AHMADINEJAD VIDEO from Andrew Marcus.
341-79: House condemns MoveOn “Betrayus” ad. Plus, a Joe McCarthy comparison from David Obey.
THE NEFARIOUS “WE.” But don’t question their patriotism!
GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS about the Tesla Roadster.
IN THE MAIL: Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes’ The Genius of America: How the Constitution Saved Our Country–and Why it Can Again.
IS DICK CHENEY UNCONSTITUTIONAL? I don’t usually put pieces on SSRN until they’re published, but a colleague suggested posting this one now. So I have — you can download a copy here. It’s an essay, quite short by law review standards.
UPDATE: SSRN was having server problems earlier, but everything seems to be working fine now.
THOUGHTS ON WHAT TO DO about private military companies like Blackwater.
WHY SOME PEOPLE fear bloggers.
A SECOND AMENDMENT DEBATE: Dave Hardy has all the links.
Disgraced fund-raiser Norman Hsu did a lot more than just pump $850,000 into Hillary Clinton’s campaign bank account: He also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local, state, and federal candidates who have endorsed Clinton or whose support she courted. . . .
In at least some cases, Clinton or her aides directly channeled contributions from Hsu and his network to other politicians supportive of her presidential campaign, according to interviews and campaign finance records. There is nothing illegal about one politician steering wealthy contributors to another, but the New York senator’s close ties to Hsu have become an embarrassment for her and her campaign.
Obviously there was a closer connection than mere check-writing. It sounds like he was an integral part of the campaign.
NORM GERAS HAS THOUGHTS on the denial of human nature.
GARRY KASPAROV ON PUTIN: “In Kasparov’s view, the main goal of Russian foreign policy is to raise the oil price, no matter what – that’s why the tensions in the Middle East are so important to Putin.” This would explain a lot.
THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of Little Rock.
TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES FOR LAWYERS? That’s surely in service of the public good!
PRE-GAMING TOMORROW’S Larry Craig hearing. Can’t he just resign?
ANOTHER MEMBER OF CONGRESS RETURNS FROM IRAQ, with a report.
THIS SHOULD BE FUN: Nader 2008!
DAVID BERNSTEIN on politics in academia.
A SAFFRON REVOLUTION? Richard Fernandez on what’s happening in Burma.
THOUGHTS ON a culture of efficacy.
ANDREW BREITBART to David Ehrenstein, in the Los Angeles Times: “I have no false hope that the Gulfstream-flying, eco-warrior billionaires that propagate Westside L.A.’s convoluted, one-way dialogue will begin to show their gratefulness to this country. . . . Just don’t try to sell me that Brian De Palma and George Clooney are making brave gestures when they churn out antiwar films and make self-congratulatory award show pronunciations. Just admit it: Your idols simply toe the company line.”
HILLARY’S BRILLIANT STRATEGY, REVEALED: “I’m ready to vote for her if she maintains that hawkish edge. That is, I think there’s a hawkish edge in there somewhere, since she going to so much trouble to hide what must be it.”
On the other hand: “Edwards isn’t dumb and confused. He’s smart and strategic.”
MIKE HUCKABEE is not a libertarian.
DAVE KOPEL FINDS A RIGHT TO ARMS in a surprising place.
MICHAEL SILENCE: “So, what, now we need the increased cigarette taxes to pay for monitoring purchases of cigarettes in other states?”
JENA UPDATE: In Slate: “The mismatch between the complex and layered racial tensions in Jena and the one-issue rallying cry of ‘Free the Jena 6′ suggest that the tactics of last century’s civil rights movement may be an anachronism for today’s racial conflicts.”
COPS COMPLAINING ABOUT cops writing other cops tickets.
RAND SIMBERG IN POPULAR MECHANICS, on a lunar refueling station.