Archive for February, 2008

February 27, 2008

UH OH: Imam From Va. Mosque Now Thought to Have Aided Al-Qaeda.

February 27, 2008

A TEEN ENTREPRENEUR with a Rock Band drum mod. “Yet another example of why kids should play video games.” With video.

February 27, 2008

INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY: NAFTA Nonsense Insults Our Allies. “Threatening to renege on a permanent treaty — as Clinton and Obama are doing through their identical vows to ‘opt out’ of the deal — signals loudly that America’s word is no longer its bond. A permanent pact with the U.S., it turns out, isn’t so permanent.”

It does seem odd that two candidates who claim they’re going to “repair America’s world image” want to do so by ditching a treaty and starting trade wars.

February 27, 2008

OBAMA RESPONDS TO MCCAIN: “There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.”

The problem with this statement is that, although it’s an article of leftie faith, it’s not true. (Remember how Richard Clarke was worried that Osama would “boogie to Baghdad” if we invaded Afghanistan? It’s not really Obama’s fault though — as an Illinois State Senator when these events transpired, he probably wasn’t paying much attention.) Meanwhile, McCain hits back.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

As a preface, I agree with you on the “not true” part: there were terrorists in Iraq prior to 9/11 and prior to the invasion, and there are terrorists there now; that’s not really at issue for me.

However, this post is at issue: “[t]he problem with this statement is that, although [the belief that '[t]here was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq’ is] an article of leftie faith, it’s not true. ( . . . It’s not really Obama’s fault though — *as an Illinois State Senator* *when these events transpired*, he probably wasn’t paying much attention.)”

Obama, in addition to being a state senator, was a law professor at the University of Chicago during the run-up to the war. It’s intellectually dishonest for you to leave out this information and instead belittle a candidate and his views on Iraq by saying that he was just a meager State Senator at the time of the events listed. It’s also somewhat amusing, since you are also a law professor and thus at the time you both had similar credentials – neither of you were serving as U.S. Senators at that time, both of you were law professors.

The difference is that I was paying attention. I promise, however, that a position as a professor of Constitutional Law — or, as Obama actually was, a non-tenure-track lecturer — provides no special insight into antiterrorism. however, I’m including Mr. Hawkins’ email on the off-chance that others think this is as important an omission as he does.

February 27, 2008

SPOILER ALERT: Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early.


Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

February 27, 2008

MISSISSIPPI LAW:

A lawyer accused of trying to bribe a judge also paid two associates $500,000 to convince Attorney General Jim Hood not to file criminal charges against an insurance company over its handling of Hurricane Katrina claims, according to an FBI report in court records.

Plaintiffs lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who sued State Farm Fire and Casualty Cos. soon after the 2005 storm, was afraid the company “was not going to settle the civil cases” if the attorney general’s office filed criminal charges, according to an FBI report filed Monday in the bribery case. . . . Scruggs agreed to pay New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci and former State Auditor Steve Patterson “if they could get Hood to relent on indicting” State Farm, according to a report written by FBI Agent William Delaney on Nov. 2, 2007. . . . Scruggs, the brother-in-law of former Republican U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, donated $33,000 to Hood’s campaign last July. He also gave tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which in turn contributed to Hood’s campaign. Hood, a Democrat, was easily re-elected to a second term in November 2007.

It just gets worse.

February 27, 2008

A PLAGIARISM SCANDAL AT THE NEW YORK TIMES? It’s real, but it seems pretty small-bore to me.

February 27, 2008

SEAN WILENTZ: How Obama played the race card. (Via Taylor Marsh, who thinks closer media scrutiny of Obama is beginning).

February 27, 2008

IT’S LIKE A DENIAL-OF-SERVICE ATTACK IN MEATSPACE: Comcast packs FCC meeting with hired chair-warmers, keeping interested parties out.

February 27, 2008

WELL, IT’S PROGRESS: Hillary picks up half a delegate.

February 27, 2008

POTENTIAL DEMOCRATIC SUPREME COURT NOMINEES: Doug Berman takes a broader look than some have done.

February 27, 2008

JOHN STOSSEL: Guns save lives.

February 27, 2008

MORE REZKO SCANDAL NEWS: “In their strongest language yet, federal prosecutors said Tuesday that Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration granted access and influence to Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko because of his prowess as a fundraiser for the governor. Rezko’s role as a key Blagojevich insider is essential to understanding how he was able to extort illegal payments and a campaign contribution from firms seeking state business, prosecutors said in a motion filed a week before Rezko’s corruption trial is set to begin.” (Via NewsAlert.)

February 27, 2008

YUM: Texas Barbecue and Monster Potatoes.

February 27, 2008

IN LIGHT OF MY EARLIER FLASHLIGHT-BLOGGING, which generated a lot of email, there’s this: Test-driving the world’s most dangerous flashlight.

February 27, 2008

BOB COTTROL AND RAY DIAMOND: Public Safety and the Right to Bear Arms.

February 27, 2008

TAKING A “TRADE TIMEOUT”? TigerHawk is not amused.

More on trade politics here.

February 27, 2008

MCCAIN LEADS DEMOCRATS IN TENNESSEE according to an MTSU poll.

February 27, 2008

BOB POOLE ON HOW WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY created intellectual space for the libertarian movement.

February 27, 2008

IMPORTANT THOUGHTS ON bookshelf etiquette.

February 27, 2008

COPS AND DOCTORS: Is the DEA blowing it on prescription drugs?

February 27, 2008

OUCH:

GOP presidential candidate John McCain mocked Democrat Barack Obama today for saying he’d take action as president “if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq.”

McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas “I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It’s called ‘al-Qaida in Iraq.’”

In Obama’s defense, he probably reads the New York Times, which always calls it “Al Qaida in Mesopotamia.” That may have confused him. Anyway, to Hillary’s undoubted dismay it seems to be turning into a McCain vs. Obama election already.

UPDATE: Reader David Cavalier emails:

There’s an old adage that generals are always fighting the last war. So it is with the latest exchange between Obama and McCain

If you stop and consider it, Obama’s answer is not really an answer. We are not fighting over whether to invade Iraq. We are there. It is happening. That decision was made years ago. He is fighting a battle that was lost in 2003.

The question is what is the next President going to do with the current strategic situation. McCain rightly called him out for implying that there was no al-Qaida presence in Iraq and Obama responded with an irrelevant comment about the past and then some silly boilerplate about being the party of the future. Ironically, it sounds like Obama who is the party of the past.

This has been a rhetorical trick that Obama has used a lot when he gets hit for saying something stupid. He never admits being caught and he changes the subject to a different talking point as fast as he can, claiming that he wants to be about the “future.” Given his tendency to make bizarre and naive statements about foreign policy, I have to wonder how long he can get away with it.

I don’t believe the “flypaper” thesis about Iraq (that the invasion was planned as a trap to lure al-Qaida into a fight on foreign soil), it sounds too much like ex post facto rationalization. That being said, it cannot be denied that al-Qaida, in what was a major tactical blunder, decided to make Iraq the centerpiece of their strategy against the U.S. And they have been suffering some pretty severe setbacks. So it is certainly reasonable to wonder what Obama is thinking when he says we need to pull out of Iraq to fight al-Qaida. They made the decision to have the battle there. He should know that by now.

Indeed he should.

UPDATE: Reader Charles Wilson notes that the “flypaper” theory goes back quite a ways. And, of course, there’s this post.

February 27, 2008

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY HAS DIED: He’s remembered by many over at National Review.

February 27, 2008

UH OH: Nader Calls Out Obama’s “Pro-Palestinian” Past.

February 27, 2008

HEH: Name ‘em and shame ‘em.

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February 27, 2008

PAUL MARKS: “Hollywood has become a parody of itself.” But not a funny parody.

February 27, 2008

SECOND THOUGHTS ON COMPACT FLUORESCENT BULBS: The mercury issue is overstated, but Congress’s mandate is asinine and unAmerican.

February 27, 2008

“COUNTER-TRIBALISM?” Depends on the tribe.

February 27, 2008

BOLOS? OR SKYNET? (CONT’D) Automated killer robots ‘threat to humanity’: expert.

February 27, 2008

OBAMA WOOS THE JEWS: He’d better. One of my die-hard Democrat friends says he’d vote for McCain over Obama because he thinks Obama is anti-Israel.

February 27, 2008

ERIC SCHEIE: “I think the guys who learned the hardball game decades ago would do well to remember that overpressured, aggressively lobbied, and disgruntled superdelegates can do things like start whistle-blowing blogs (something impossible in the old days).” But fun!

February 27, 2008

IN THE MAIL, from Ed Begley, Jr.: Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life.

February 27, 2008

ANN ALTHOUSE: Obama, Farrakhan, and how Hillary Clinton took the opening and then squandered it. “He’s creating the space for Farrakhan to operate separately, bringing him support. Farrakhan didn’t coordinate with the campaign in any way. Fine. That wasn’t the question.”

February 27, 2008

JAMES LILEKS REMEMBERS THE NEW DEAL:

The NRA, among other things, was intended to prevent the depredations of competition, and “allowed industry heads to collectively set minimum prices,” as this rather scant wikipedia entry notes. (The same page relates the story of the tailor who was arrested for charging 35 cents to press a suit; the NRA rules specified the price at 40 cents. So he was arrested. Consider that the next time someone complains that liberty and civil rights have been eliminated in the last 7 years.)

But economic liberty doesn’t count as liberty because . . . well, because if it did it might stand in the way of policies that some people like. Read the whole thing.

February 27, 2008

AN ASTEROID MISSION PRIZE, from The Planetary Society.

February 27, 2008

THE VALUE OF OPTIONS, even unexercised ones:

“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities. If you are afraid to drop any project at the office, you pay for it at home.

Heck, I wrote about this in the Yale Law Report years ago. (Warning, big PDF file).

February 27, 2008

INDEED:

What fascinates me is how light the baggage is when one travels from violent radicalism to liberalism. Chicago activist Sam Ackerman told Politico’s reporter that Ayers “is one of my heroes in life.” Cass Sunstein, a first-rank liberal intellectual, said of Ayers and Dohrn, “I feel very uncomfortable with their past, but neither of them is thought of as horrible types now – so far as most of us know, they are legitimate members of the community.” . . . Why was Sen. Trent Lott’s kindness to former segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond a scandal but Obama’s acquaintance with an unrepentant terrorist a triviality?

No enemies on the left.

February 27, 2008

THE CASE AGAINST government subsidies for college tuition.

February 27, 2008

THOUGHTS ON stupidity and nationality.

February 27, 2008

JERRY POURNELLE: “Grinding the faces of the poor seems to be the policy of the Greens.”

February 27, 2008

CRASHING MURTHA’S PORKFEST at the Ritz:

Rep. John Murtha is hosting a gala dinner tonight at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City for defense industry lobbyists who have received and who hope to receive millions of tax dollars via earmarks sponsored by the Pennsylvania Democrat. . . . .

But Murtha’s porkfest is not going unnoticed. Three conservative citizen activist groups and a conservative blog that are active in the anti-earmark Porkbusters movement are gathering protesters, posters and pigs and plan to crash the Murtha pork bash.

Heh. Taking pigs to this thing is like coal to Newcastle. But this is good:

The protesters are meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the top of the Pentagon City Metrorail station outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 1250 South Hayes St. in Arlington. Organizers say photographs of attendees will be taken and posted on the Internet.

Name ‘em and shame ‘em.

February 27, 2008

OBAMA: Feminized?

February 27, 2008

A POST-DEBATE WRAPUP, from Stephen Green.

February 27, 2008

MONTANANS insist on gun rights.

February 27, 2008

CLINTON CAMPAIGN flips on super delegates.

February 27, 2008

MICKEY KAUS: “In Tuesday’s debate, Tim Russert definitely let Obama off the hook on the issue of Obama’s chosen pastor, Rev. Wright . . . . I don’t think Russert was consciously helping Obama escape. But there are any number of potential subconscious motives for Russert’s choke, including fear that his image wouldn’t benefit if he were the heavy who skewered the popular, charismatic black Dem frontrunner.”

February 27, 2008

LARRY KUDLOW: Is the Fed in denial about inflation?

February 27, 2008

GUN CONTROL: Bad for gays? It’s bad for everybody. Except criminals.

February 27, 2008

THE BBC AND THE TERRORISTS:

A BBC producer failed to give police information that would have helped track down the July 21 bombers, the trial was told. . . .

Called as a defence witness, Miss Suleaman admitted that she had spoken to Hamid in the days following the July 21 attacks and found out he knew the wanted men.

She said she thought he was scared the fugitives might try to call him but did not contact the police because she felt under “no obligation” to do so.

Patriotism? That’s a bourgeois virtue.

February 26, 2008

TEARING AMERICA APART.

February 26, 2008

A DEBATE WRAPUP: “My take? NBC stinks. Tim Russert stinks. Brian Williams stinks. Keith Olbermann stinks. Chris Matthews stinks. Who won the debate? No one. Who lost? Everyone. NBC’s coverage of its coverage? We are fair. We are great. How could anyone complain? What a joke.”

UPDATE: Another bad review: “As of tonight’s debate, I can’t stand Clinton or Obama.”

February 26, 2008

WOMEN’S SKI-JUMPING AND THE 2010 OLYMPICS: A report here. Plus, billboards in Vancouver. Perhaps someone should file suit for discrimination in the Canadian courts . . . .

February 26, 2008

SAY IT AIN’T SO: “Both Democratic presidential candidates, who promise to curb the influence of corporate lobbyists in Washington, helped enact narrowly tailored tax breaks sought by major campaign contributors.”

It’s as if the whole thing is just a game to fool the rubes.

February 26, 2008

THAT WON’T LAST: A humbler Bill Clinton.

February 26, 2008

BRENDAN LOY IS pleased with John McCain. “John McCain already seems intent on running a more honorable campaign against Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton has.”

February 26, 2008

NEW YORK TIMES CORPORATE WARFARE and its impact on news coverage. “So it’s not a coincidence that the McCain-Iseman story was published the same day—February 21—as The New York Times Company submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the preliminary proxy statement for this year’s annual meeting. ”

On the other hand, Bob Somerby is cheering on the NYT’s new hostility to McCain.

February 26, 2008

LIVE-BLOGGING THE HILLARY-OBAMA DEBATE. And more here.

UPDATE: More liveblogging at Contentions.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Elia: “If McCain can’t beat either of these two, the Repubs deserve to lose.”

MORE: Debate drunkblogging from Stephen Green. “Clinton has spent the last thre minutes explaining exactly how she’s going to screw over our two largest trade partners. That weak dollar? It’s not going to get any stronger with talk like that. . . . BTW, I have a very icy Bombay Sapphire with a twist of lemon. How are you enjoying the debate?”

And somebody should have asked Obama about this.

February 26, 2008

DOESN’T THIS VIOLATE MASSACHUSETTS SEX DISCRIMINATION LAW? To accommodate Muslim students, Harvard tries women-only gym hours.

February 26, 2008

REZKO stuck on Obama’s shoe?

Plus, Spengler on Obama.

February 26, 2008

UH OH: “Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling.”

The Fallen Angels scenario is looking better and better. Or worse and worse . . . .

February 26, 2008

MICKEY KAUS: “Is Obama Deval Patrick II? . . . Isn’t it incumbent on those prominent NEA-bashing neoliberal Obama supporters to explain just why his term as president won’t quickly descend into a Patrick-like interest-group quagmire? Jon Alter, this means you! And Charles Peters as well.”

February 26, 2008

HIJAB HILLARY: “Will the shameful photographs of Democrats wearing ‘race clothing’ ever end?”

February 26, 2008

HOW TO BUILD A GREEN P.C.

February 26, 2008

JERALYN MERRITT on Presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

February 26, 2008

A NEW TREND: Flat-rate cellphone plans. Makes sense to me.

February 26, 2008

MORE ON THE LAW AND POLITICS OF Battlestar Galactica.

February 26, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS TO NEW U.VA. LAW DEAN Paul Mahoney. He’s a worthy successor to John Jeffries, which is saying a lot.

February 26, 2008

SOME LESSONS from that accidental nuke flyby.

February 26, 2008

FRUITS OF AN OBAMA PRESIDENCY: A $34,000 pay cut for lawyers. If I were Obama, I’d cut a TV spot on this pronto . . . .

February 26, 2008

POLICING THE advertising claims of law schools.

February 26, 2008

A VARLEYFEST: While I was travelling I read John Varley’s Gaea trilogy, Titan, Wizard, and Demon. Good fun.

February 26, 2008

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The earmark fight is heading to the Senate:

Hoping to bring the House fight over earmark reform to the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will propose a full one-year moratorium on considering bills with earmarks as part of the fiscal 2009 budget resolution, the lawmaker said Monday.

DeMint, who will discuss the moratorium during today’s weekly GOP luncheon, said he believes his proposal could create the political room needed to bring reform to the process. . . .

DeMint said he will offer the moratorium as an amendment to the budget resolution, which is expected to come up the week before Congress breaks for the Easter recess March 14. The language, which if passed would be binding on the Senate, would make any legislation including an earmark out of order for Senate floor consideration. DeMint’s proposal will use the definition of an earmark included in S. 1, the Senate ethics bill, and would cover both appropriations measures and authorization bills.

Bring it on.

February 26, 2008

A CENTRIST WITH no one to his left.

February 26, 2008

HILLARY CLINTON: Still picking up Ohio endorsements. She’s leading Obama by eight points in Ohio.

February 26, 2008

WHY DO PEOPLE GO TO LAW SCHOOL? For the money! And because of thirst for power. Hey, do it right and they go together . . . .

February 26, 2008

ED MORRISSEY IS MOVING TO HOT AIR. I’m sure that’s a good thing, but I’ll miss his blog.

February 26, 2008

HAROLD ICKES’ new love for superdelegates.

February 26, 2008

THE HAZARDS OF politically correct research.

February 26, 2008

GUNS IN THE DESERT: Michael Totten posts another report from Iraq.

February 26, 2008

FOLLOWING THE MONEY IN THE REZKO AFFAIR: Mansion ‘mistake’ piles the pressure on Barack Obama. Seems The Times of London is more interested in covering this story than the American news media are, for some reason.

UPDATE: The story certainly seems to have legs in the blogosphere.

February 26, 2008

INSTAPUNDIT’S IRAQ CORRESPONDENT REPORTS on the man with the hardest job in the world.

February 26, 2008

REVIEWING THE REVIEWERS: A roundup of book reviews from this weekend’s newspapers.

February 26, 2008

SELF-REPAIRING RUBBER: The condom-related applications alone are staggering . . . .

February 26, 2008

OKAY, THIS IS COOL: Air-Powered Car Coming to U.S. in 2009 to 2010.

The Air Car caused a huge stir when we reported last year that Tata Motors would begin producing it in India. Now the little gas-free ride that could is headed Stateside in a big-time way.

Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) confirmed to PopularMechanics.com on Thursday that it expects to produce the world’s first air-powered car for the United States by late 2009 or early 2010. . . .

We’ll believe that when we drive it, but MDI’s new dual-energy engine—currently being installed in models at MDI facilities overseas—is still pretty damn cool in concept. After using compressed air fed from the same Airbus-built tanks in earlier models to run its pistons, the next-gen Air Car has a supplemental energy source to kick in north of 35 mph, ZPM says. A custom heating chamber heats the air in a process officials refused to elaborate upon, though they insisted it would increase volume and thus the car’s range and speed.

“I want to stress that these are estimates, and that we’ll know soon more precisely from our engineers,” ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM, “but a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles.”

Bring it on!

February 26, 2008

HMM: Bush Predicts GOP Will Hold White House.

February 26, 2008

I THOUGHT ONLY ARROGANT REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTS DID THIS: Obama stiffs, stifles national press.

February 26, 2008

TAR AND FEATHERS ARE CALLED FOR, AT A MINIMUM, BUT THIS IS A START: Iranian shoppers riot against the “modesty police.” Video at the link.

February 26, 2008

IN THE NEW YORK TIMES, David Brooks attacks the “Democratic chorus” on McCain, but neglects to mention Bill Keller.

February 26, 2008

IN BRITAIN, a serious brain drain.

February 25, 2008

BARACK OBAMA’S NEGATIVES: Higher than you’d think from reading the press coverage. Doesn’t seem to be helping Hillary all that much, though.

February 25, 2008

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE: “There was a time when the Clinton machine was justly feared for its ruthlessness and adeptness at the politics of personal destruction. But now they’re just sad and lame. Maybe even the Clinton machine is suffering from Clinton fatigue!”

Plus, how low will Hill go? “Next the Clinton camp will accuse Obama of fathering a black child in wedlock.”

And, is Hillary depressed? Wouldn’t you be?

February 25, 2008

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, JIGGITY-JIG: I’m back. Regular blogging will resume tomorrow. Thanks to the “Dream Team” of guestbloggers, Ann Althouse, Megan McArdle, and Michael Totten. I think that InstaPundit is better when I’m away!

February 25, 2008

WHERE’S GLENN? I think he’s coming back tonight….

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Photo by Chris.

February 25, 2008

A LETTER FROM A READER: “I have a friend who is a public-sector psychiatrist. She tells me that the free samples are the only thing that keeps her patients going. Yes, there are government programs BUT they refuse to pay for the latest medication, because the older stuff (which is less effective and has more side effects) is cheaper. The bean counters for drug costs are different from the bean counters for costs of mental committments, hence the first don’t care that they’re shooting up the costs of the second. Overall it winds up costing more, since a committment is lot more expensive that pills, but welcome to Michael Moore’s idea of a medical system.”

February 25, 2008

HARMLESS? An oldie but a goodie from Julian Sanchez on moral responsibility and collective action.

February 25, 2008

MY POST ON PHARMA triggered some emails complaining that drug companies spend more money on advertising than R&D. I blogged about this a while ago:

People who think that there is a gigantic pool of capital that could be sucked out of the pharmaceutical advertising budget are being misled by accounting terminology. People who rail against the pharmaceutical industry are fond of noting that about 20% of industry revenues go to marketing, with the implication that this is all wasted on advertising baldness cures during Golden Girls reruns. But just the top ten firms in the pharmaceutical industry took in about $350 billion in revenue in 2007, 20% of which is $70 billion. The entire US expenditure on advertising by all companies in all media forms totaled something like $150 billion in 2007. I know it seems like every other commercial you see is for Botox, but most advertising is not done by pharmaceutical firms.

In fact, advertising is only a small fraction of that marketing expense. Over half of it expense consists of free samples, the offering of which seems to me like an unalloyed public good.

February 25, 2008

KAPHTOR ON CUBA “I might add that the US tends to get blamed for both dictators, which just goes to show, in the minds of some people, it doesn’t matter whether we support third rate leaders like Batista, or oppose third rate leaders like Allende, when they fall to a coup within their own country, it’s America’s fault. It also doesn’t matter whether we embargo them or trade like crazy with the subsequent junta, the policy it to blame for the continuing plight of the people. And it doesn’t matter whether we gently show the dictator the door, or shake our fist at him in his dotage, we don’t get much credit.”

February 25, 2008

THE LOGIC OF COLLECTIVE ACTION Will Wilkinson asks whether it’s useful to refrain flying in order to prevent global warming. Answer: no. Any one consumer’s demand will not impact the level of carbon emitted, just as no consumer who refrains from eating meat will actually cause the amount of meat consumed to fall; the random mismatch in the supply and demand in your local market for chicken will far exceed the number of chickens you might have eaten for any time frame you choose.

So why do it? To create a cultural norm about carbon emissions, or chicken eating, says Will. I have a different intuition, which is that if you want everyone to do something, you are morally bound to do it whether or not they follow suit. I am rethinking that–but I have a sense that those sorts of illogical bourgeois committments to virtue are precisely what allow us to overcome collective action problems without coercion.

February 25, 2008

MARKETING GONE MAD I defend the pharmaceutical companies a lot here, and with good reason; they produce lifesaving drugs. More please! Nonetheless, one criticism I don’t see made enough is that pharmaceutical companies don’t seem to realize that they can’t sell pills the way you sell detergent. For starters, the things do have side effects that could kill people, so you shouldn’t try to persuade people to take drugs they don’t need. But from a purely selfish perspective, any company that is seen to be mixing the profit motive too closely with our health care will eventually get sentenced to death by the court of public opinion. Derek Lowe has more:

I agree that Merck is still doing some excellent science, as they always have. And they still have a lot of good people there, as they always have. Those aren’t the problems. And they’re still introducing some innovative drugs, arguably more than a lot of other companies, and that’s not the problem, either. These are all are admirable things.

And Vioxx, as I said here at the time, was not, in my opinion, necessarily a bad drug. It and the other COX-2 inhibitors have a real place in the pharmacopeia. The problem is that Merck – or, to put the usual face-saving perspective on it, Merck’s marketing department – oversold the stuff. The prospect of an aspirin-sized market was too much for them to resist, so the company pushed Vioxx just about as hard as they possibly could.

Yep, Vioxx was for all kinds of patients, all kinds of pain, all the time – and under those conditions, whatever side effects were there were finally revealed. It’s the company’s bad luck (not to mention the bad luck of their patients) that those effects were as potentially severe as they were. Even so, the increased risk of a heart attack with Vioxx use is extremely small in any absolute sense. For people with severe pain who can’t get relief with other drugs, I think a COX-2 inhibitor is absolutely worth it.

February 25, 2008

FORGOTTEN, BUT NOT GONE Ralph Nader declares his candidacy again.

I confess, I’ve never really understood the appeal of figures like Ralph Nader and Ron Paul. I vote for candidates who can’t possibly win–but only when I am genuinely unable to muster a preference between the major-party candidates. Ralph Nader voters clearly have a preference for Democrats over Republicans, and Ron Paul voters, at least those who have graduated from college already, probably mostly prefer the reverse. So why vote for the guy you know can’t win?

I know, I know–you want to move the party in the direction of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. But this is wishful thinking. The reason that those of us on the fringe–libertarians, Greens, socialist workers, or what have you–do not have more representation in government is not because there is some structural problem with the American political system, like a lack of IRV or minority party candidates. The reason we don’t have more representation is that most people just don’t agree with us. Oh, I know you can find a poll that says that voters want national health care, a guaranteed income, a carbon tax, or lower government spending. But voters like lots of things in the abstract. When you get down to the specifics of raising their taxes and restricting their choices, they tend to get balky. The Democrats cannot move significantly closer to Nader, nor the Republicans to Ron Paul, without losing more voters in the center than they gain on the fringe.

That’s not to say that you should have a preference between Democrats and Republicans–frankly, these days, it feels a lot like “So, by which of the plagues of Egypt would you like to be consumed?” But if you do, you should vote for that candidate, rather than making an expressive vote which could put your last choice into office.