February 24, 2008
ROGER L. SIMON GOES PSYCHOANALYTIC on Bill Keller: “[T]here was something weirdly self-destructive in the newspaper’s behavior on this matter….”
ROGER L. SIMON GOES PSYCHOANALYTIC on Bill Keller: “[T]here was something weirdly self-destructive in the newspaper’s behavior on this matter….”
WHAT ANDREW SULLIVAN LEARNED ABOUT THE CLINTONS: “Clinton is a terrible manager of people. Coming into a campaign she had been planning for, what, two decades, she was so not ready on Day One, or even Day 300. Her White House, if we can glean anything from the campaign, would be a secretive nest of well-fed yes-people, an uncontrollable egomaniac spouse able and willing to bigfoot anyone if he wants to, a phalanx of flunkies who cannot tell the boss when things are wrong, and a drizzle of dreary hacks like Mark Penn.”
VDH: Victor Davis Hanson looks at how the Democratic Party ended up with Barack Obama.
SELF-DESTRUCTION: Yael Kaynan says Gazans are hurting themselves far more than they will ever hurt Israel.
NOT A GOOD SIGN: The European Union withdraws from Northern Kosovo.
MARXISM STILL DEAD: Cyprus elects a communist president who promises to preserve the market economy.
IN THE MAIL: J. Storrs Hall’s Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine. An increasingly important topic.
“CRIPPLED BY YEARS OF SEXY DANCING,” Prince â€” aged 49 â€” is getting hip replacement surgery. Dance, Music, Sex, Romance… Somebody call the doctor… Say ooh, yeah, yeah… Help me!…
HILLARY IS SHAMING OBAMA for telling people she’s going to force them to buy insurance whether they can afford it or not. It really is so unfair. She’s going to force them to buy insurance only if she thinks they can afford it. There will be tax credits and subsidies to get them to the level where they will be told they can afford it. Surely, no one will think they can’t afford it once they government has figured out that they can. How dare Obama hinge his argument on the notion that people will have ideas of their own about how to spend their money.
NORA EPHRON SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY PERSON who knows that Charles Dickens died of multiple sclerosis.
HEH: “Memphis wanted to prove it really was the best team in the country, maybe even make a run at perfection. Turns out, the Tigers aren’t even best in their own state.” I now return you to your regularly scheduled guestbloggers.
HEZBOLLAH IN IRAQ: The late Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh — who was assassinated by car bomb in Damascus — was reportedly the man who organized the training of Moqtada al Sadr’s radical Shia Mahdi Army militia in Iraq.
FOR YOUR PRE-OSCARS PLEASURE: a beautiful morphing of the faces of beautiful actresses. It’s interesting to see the how similar the faces of beautiful women are even as they are strikingly individual. Do you find yourself trying to decide who is the most beautiful? Wasn’t it Vivian Leigh?
CLARK HOYT, THE NYT PUBLIC EDITOR, EXAMINES the journalistic ethics of the McCain story published last Thursday:
â€œIf the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, weâ€™d have owed readers more compelling evidence than the conviction of senior staff members,â€ [NYT executive editor Bill Keller said.] â€œBut that was not the point of the story. The point of the story was that he behaved in such a way that his close aides felt the relationship constituted reckless behavior and feared it would ruin his career.â€
I think that ignores the scarlet elephant in the room. A newspaper cannot begin a story about the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee with the suggestion of an extramarital affair with an attractive lobbyist 31 years his junior and expect readers to focus on anything other than what most of them did. And if a newspaper is going to suggest an improper sexual affair, whether editors think that is the central point or not, it owes readers more proof than The Times was able to provide.
“Ignores” is putting it way too mildly. It’s a ludicrous argument. It would mean that editors could purvey all sorts of trash as long as it is embedded it in a larger story. And when we get outraged, they could look down their noses and insult us about our poor reading comprehension.
[Keller] tries to tell us that weâ€™re concentrating on the wrong thing here, that we donâ€™t see what the real story is….
Do they have no news judgment? The lede in this story was obvious to everyone but the Times…
That the editors of the Times donâ€™t see that is incredible â€” that is to say, not credible.
More at the link, but I’ve boiled it down to make it clear that Jarvis thinks Keller is dissembling.
(Cross-posted here, where you can comment.)
EYECATCHERS: A terrific selection of photographs at American Digest.
THE REGIME DOESN’T PROTEST TOO MUCH: Lebanon’s Minister of Communications wonders why the Syrian government doesn’t vow to avenge the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus. It was a “major insult to Syria’s national security,” he said, “unless Syria was involved in liquidating him.”
RFK REDUX: Roger L. Simon supported Robert F. Kennedy back in the day, but found his rallies a bit disturbing and compares them to Barack Obama’s.
NEW YORK TIMES READERS, not the most conservative bunch in the country, overwhelmingly disapproved of the paper’s story about John McCain’s alleged affair with a lobbyist. With McCain and Barack Obama as candidates, we actually might have a somewhat cleaner election this time.
UPDATE: It gets worse. (For the Times, that is.)
CONTACT LENSES WITH CIRCUITS AND LIGHTS. Is there something you’d like to see with your eyes other than what’s really in front of you?
DIGG AND WIKIPEDIA WORK because the vibrant democracy we see on the surface is checked and balanced by a less conspicuous and more reliable elite group â€” Chris Wilson explains.
“THE KIDS BUYING MUSIC DON’T WANT immaculately-performed songs that remind them of their grandmothers; they want music that will help them get laid, which is exactly what AI’s audition process doesn’t test for.”
OUT OF BELGRADE: The United States is pulling non-essential staff out of Serbia.
LULA OVER HUGO? Let’s not get too optimistic just yet, but here is some evidence that Raul Castro might lean more toward Brazil’s Lula da Silva than Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. According to one report, he asked the Brazilian president to help with a political and economic transformation process in Cuba. We’ll see.
IN THE MAIL: The Mormon Way of Doing Business: How Eight Western Boys Reached the Top of Corporate America. From the mailer, an appealing tidbit: “They rarely work Sundays, they come home for dinner, and they do chores around the house. Yet they compete very successfully against workaholics who routinely put in seventy to eighty-hour weeks.” It can be done!
“INDOCTRINATE U” is now available to buy and download on line here. The film â€” which I watched the other day â€” uses that “Roger and Me” approach where the filmmaker confronts people who have not agreed to an interview, and you probably already know whether you love to laugh at people who are trapped into defending the bureaucracy they work for. I think the conflict between free speech on campus and dealing with racial and sexual harassment is quite a bit more subtle than Evan Coyne Maloney makes it out to be, but it’s an amusing presentation of his point of view.
AND: If you want to argue with me about this, go here.
CAN WE JUDGE THE CANDIDATES by the way they woo Bill Richardson?
‘IT OFTEN SEEMS AS IF, TO THEM, I WILL ALWAYS BE BLACK FIRST and a student second.” So reads Michelle Obama’s senior thesis, written when she was a student at Princeton. You can read the whole thing, which I’m not going to do, but I did read the first few pages, and nothing I read troubles me. I should add that I attended her speech at Madison â€” the one where she said “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change” â€” and that line didn’t jump out at me. But she’s the wife of a presidential candidate, so her words will necessarily be raw material for attacks, especially what she’s saying now. But what she wrote as a college student in 1985? She had much more reason to feel alienated than the average college student â€” and anyway, feeling alienated is a classic part of the young American experience. Amba has read much more of the thesis than I have, and she has some excellent observations:
What was being weighed here… was whether it was better to participate in the common life or to build up a separate community with its own resources and institutions, as “a necessary stage for the development of the Black community before this group integrates into the ‘open society’.” Before, not instead of. Ideas are always psychobiography, and you may feel here the young Michelle’s sense that she needed to gain confidence in a context of people who were familiar and supportive before venturing forth into a more ambiguous, less embracing world that was harder to read and harder to trust.
ADDED: If you want to argue with me, come over here and you can.
AND: Captain Ed has read the whole thesis:
It found — surprise! — that black students who socialized more with whites before and during Princeton were more comfortable with whites later, and those who didn’t, weren’t. Interestingly, they all more closely identified with the black community during the Princeton years, and that mostly declined when they went out into the world afterwards. There were more subtle variations on ideological trends, and attempts to drill down into “literateness” and other subjective analyses, which made the project rather ambitious if not completely convincing. At the conclusion, she acknowledges that her more hard-line attitudes and assumptions about blacks who did not meet her definition of “identification” were incorrect and naive.
THERE IS A GOD Today’s Chris Muir cartoon is a must-read.
CONFESSIONS of a Language Addict: “I don’t know whether Breton will hang on, though I’m not overly optimistic. And if it doesn’t, I’m certainly not prepared to shrug my shoulders and mouth platitudes about the progress of civilization and how it’s all for the best. On the other hand, it’s not all for the worst. Truth be told, without the nationalization and globalization that threaten Breton culture and even make people uneasy about the status of French culture, a kid from rural Michigan would never have seen the Breton culture to mourn its passing – or gone to Brittany to study French!”
SWINGING FROM THEIR OWN PETARD
As longtime readers of the blog know, I’m related to the Swing Voter, aka my mother. Her vote is an infallible indicator of who will win the general election. We had dinner last night, and somewhat to my surprise, The Swing Voter is completely outraged by the New York Times story–she vows to no longer take the Times, nay, not even for the Sunday crossword. She is also now thinking seriously about voting for McCain just to spite the New York Times.
I found myself offering a tepid defense of what really is a pretty indefensible story: to wit, that reporters in cases like this usually know more they can tell, because so many sources refuse to go on the record. The Swing Voter was unmoved. She feels like the Times, and the sort of people who staff the Times, feel that they are entitled to manipulate the election in order to get teh “right” results–that such a story would never have run about a Democrat. No doubt the folks at the Times would strenuously disagree–but it matters that people feel that way. I seriously doubt my mother is the only one.
OLD HABITS DIE HARD: Russia threatens Kosovo with military force.
IT’S A START: Golf courses will return to Cuba now that Fidel Castro is out of the way. Castro rid the island of golf courses after he lost a round to Che Guevara. (Yes, really.)
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: The New York Times says John McCain received a major boost in fundraising and support thanks to another New York Times article about his alleged affair with a lobbyist.
BUSTED: Congressman Rick Renzi (R-Arizona) is indicted for extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, and insurance fraud.
TURKISH GROUND TROOPS enter Iraqi Kurdistan.
ACE fact-checks Barack Obama.
CALLIMACHUS: Your Media At Work, Part 262.
AT THE “VISIBILITY RALLY” OUTSIDE OF THE CLINTON-OBAMA DEBATE last night in Austin, Texas. Here’s a nice set of pictures taken by my son Christopher Althouse Cohen (who’s for Hillary). My favorite:
ADDED: Then there’s this dog…
… and my other son says we should name him “Bark Obama.”
A CLARIFICATION The debate over whether people want higher taxes on themselves is, I think, slipping back and forth between two debates: a normative and a positive one. I started out with a positive claim:
What most of us are really in favor of is higher taxes on other people. If we wanted higher taxes on ourselves, we’d give the money to charity.
This is simply observationally true. People do not voluntarily give money to the government; polls show that most people support raising taxes on only a small fraction of the electorate. (Yes, yes, they’re rich. Okay, and? The observation still holds: most people want other peoples’ taxes raised, not their own. Whether this desire is justified is irrelevant.)
Henry Farrell, and others, stepped in to complain that I, like, totally didn’t understand that people behave different collectively than individually. This does not, in fact, negate my point; it supports it. Most people are not concerned with remedying the injustice of their own high income; they want large public goods that can only be secured by taking a lot of money from other people. They are willing to kick in their own money if they have to in order to secure the coalition, or because they think this is fair. But they are primarily concerned not with their own contribution, but with that of others. This will not be a surprising observation for anyone who has ever lived in a group house.
This does, however, raise an interesting normative point, into which I have now been sidetracked without quite noticing: should you, if you think that your taxes are too low, voluntarily give that money to the government? The answer, I think, is yes, for reasons that I’ve laid out in previous posts. But that is separate from the positive observation I stand by: people are more interested in levying taxes on others than they are in paying taxes themselves.
MORE ON VOLUNTARY TAXATION
Henry Farrell fires back with the delightfully titled McMuddled:
Umm, no. I sent her Tom Sleeâ€™s book, which uses the analogy of shopping at Walmart to demonstrate that vulgar revealed preference arguments do a very bad job of capturing situations of interdependent choice. This is something that is quite clearly laid out in the extended Alex Tabarrok description of Sleeâ€™s argument which I quoted in my original post. Whatâ€™s at stake here isnâ€™t shopping; itâ€™s interdependence. When choices are genuinely interdependent, behaviour doesnâ€™t necessarily tell us anything about the â€˜trueâ€™ preferences of the actors in question. What it does tell us about, (if we think that actors are behaving rationally) is what actors think the best reply to other actorsâ€™ strategies is in a given strategic situation. Iâ€™d like it very much if Megan â€“ and others who use similarly poorly-thought-through arguments â€“ would read about and absorb this basic lesson of game theory. It complicates the analysis of social situations in some very useful and fruitful ways.
We seem to be talking at cross purposes. Henry seems to be treating tax revenue, rather than the things it purchases, as the collective action problem.
I concede that there is a collective action problem in providing actual public goods, like the military and statues of politicians on horseback; that is why I am not an anarchist, or even a minarchist. There is also a collective action problem in setting up a tax system in the first place; people will not participate if they think other people are not participating. This is one of the many problems with the budget of Eastern Europe.
But if you think that you have more money than is fair–money that the government should, by rights, be using for some more noble purpose–then there is no collective action problem. You can send the money to the government. They will spend that money on either actual public goods, or things that you think should be paid for out of the common weal. (Or at least, they will do this to exactly the extent that they would if you plus 20 million of your fellow citizens were forced to send them money via a new tax bill.) There is no strategic value to withholding the money from the government; your fellow citizens are not going to say to themselves, “Oh, Henry’s paying extra, so I guess it’s okay if I vote for McCain.” There is no interactivity here. You, alone, can secure more public goods by putting your extra dollars in the treasury–exactly as many public goods as your dollars will secure if you vote for a politician who extracts that tax money, plus the same amount from other similarly affluent people, via the tax code.
I suspect that Henry is trying to get, not at an actual collective action problem, because there isn’t one, but the moral intuition that we appear to have evolved in order to resolve these collective action problems at the small group level. We refuse to contribute unless everyone else does out of the sense that it’s unfair for us to do it alone. But it seems to me that if you believe that there are serious distributional injustices in our society that your extra tax dollars ought to be out there resolving, then those distributional concerns should override your resentment at those you feel are shirking their duty. There is simply no strategic benefit to withholding your extra taxes when the tax base numbers in the millions. Essentially, if you think your taxes should be higher, but won’t contribute unless everyone else also does, then you are saying you are willing to punish the neediest members of society for the sins of its more affluent members.
Which just takes us back to where I was before: people aren’t interested in increasing their own taxes; they’re willing to pay to increase other peoples’ taxes. These are not the same thing.
YUGOSLAVIA IS FINALLY DEAD: Christopher Hitchens.
A NEW Honda hybrid. Cool.
REGRETS, I HAVE A FEW . . . BUT THEN AGAIN . . . TOO FEW TO MENTION A reader sends along a link to this article from Cato’s Michael Tanner on Obama, saying “As a fellow ‘libertarian tepidly for Obama’, I ask myself more and more if it’s a sound position. This latest Cato makes me cringe a little more . . . ”
Obama’s rhetoric about trade, and his insanely bad economic “patriot act” have certainly given me pause. But do I have buyer’s remorse? No. For starters, I clearly prefer Obama to Hillary as president; on the assumption that there’s a very good chance that Generic Democrat will win the election, the primary outcome suits me.
In the general? I might not vote for Obama; I will not vote for McCain. There are some things more important than the economy, and free speech is among them. Yes, I don’t like Obama’s stance on the Second Amendment, but the difference is, the president has little wiggle room right now on the second, while McCain might do serious further damage to the first, or the fourth. I dislike the steps Obama is willing to take in order to achieve his goals of economic equality. But these are as nothing to the notion that citizens have to be protected from information because Big Daddy John thinks we’ll get bad ideas in our heads.
Moreover, Obama is running left right now to try to win the nomination. I expect he will tack right in the primaries . . . and he will probably have to govern as the fellow in the general election, because that will be his actual mandate.
WAITER SAVES WOMAN from the worst blind date ever:
Colt Haugen, a 22-year-old student at the University of Colorado and waiter at Ruby Tuesday, was working at the restaurant last month when he saw a man pull a pill from his pocket and put it in his date’s glass when the woman got up from the table. “I almost dropped the food I was holding. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Haugen says. “I talked with the manager. I told her, I said, ‘I saw this plain as day. And if we don’t do something about this, something’s going to happen to this woman.’” The police were called and when the drink was tested, it was found to contain Valium. Nancy McGrath, the woman at the table, was on a blind date and considers Haughen to be an “angel.” “He saved my life,” she says.
A few months ago, I got an attack of vertigo in a bar, so bad that I couldn’t walk. (It happens every few months) As I staggered out of the bar, having to stop and put my head between my legs every few steps in order to overcome the waves of nausea, I dimly realized that the friends I was with (both male), were informing everyone in the bar that I had vertigo. When I stopped being so sick, some hours later, I started being embarassed; I must, I thought, have looked like I was vilely, humiliatingly drunk. Was it very embarassing, I asked one friend.
“It wasn’t because you looked drunk,” he said; “You looked like the roofies had kicked in too soon.”
Thank god for interested bystanders.
BEIRUT VETERAN Lee Smith writes a guest article for my Web site about the Arab world’s views of Barack Obama.
LIKE MOST IRISH-AMERICANS, I have a sort of vague sentimental notion that the conversion of Ireland to an English-speaking nation is a linguistic and cultural tragedy. Like most Irish-Americans, I also would not want to actually live in a non-English-speaking nation. What I really want is to have learned Irish from my Grandmother, and be able to impress friends by ordering drinks in my ancestral tongue while on holiday. This is the sort of thing that makes my Irish friends complain–justly–that Irish-Americans would really like to see the whole country preserved as a sort of Colonial Williamsburg with shamrocks and twee wool caps.
This is not just a question for the Irish. Language Log is meditating on how we should feel more generally about linguistic loss:
Serious questions about the benefits (and perhaps the losses) of having an assortment of distinct native languages within one national society should be addressed through research that objectively determines and assesses the effects, not through emotional appeals to imagined cultural riches not vouched for by the language users themselves, or self-serving demands that aboriginal tongues be kept alive (by poor people) for (comparatively wealthy) linguists to study.
Something like half the world’s languages are supposed to go extinct in the next century. I find it hard to believe that the bad outweighs the good here–it is a good thing that more of the world’s people will be able to communicate with each other. Still, with each language that dies, something goes out of the world that can never be rekindled.
EVEN IF I WEREN’T A (TEMPORARY) VEGAN, I’d think almond milk in my coffee was pretty delicious. It has about as many calories as 1% milk, it’s creamy–not like nasty soy or rice concoctions, which are good only for baking–and it tastes deliciously of almonds. A huge improvement over hyper-sweet syrups (and if you like it sweet, just add your own sugar or Splenda.) After Lent ends, this is one innovation I’ll keep.
IN THE MAIL: Robert Bryce’s Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence. I agree that energy independence is a mirage, though energy security is a different question.
WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT HOWARD BASHMAN to keep me informed about the state of the law with respect to having sex with a dead deer in Wisconsin? I wrote about the case long ago â€” in a post called ” Is a burrito a sandwich? Is a dead animal an animal?” â€” and I promptly dumped it from memory. But Howard is always there, monitoring all things appellate.
KERRY HOWLEY has Fun With Singaporean National Archives:
I think the message here is that if you keep having children with empty, improbably round eye sockets, you should probably consider tubal ligation. On a more uplifting note, we really need more billboards reminding us that weâ€™re just a few days removed from total annihilation.
Every time I hear someone refer to Singapore as quasi-Fascist, I kind of cringe and think “Do we really need to drop the F bomb here?” Then I see things like this, and I begin to think yes, yes we do . . .
LAST WEEK I argued that no one actually thinks their own taxes are too low. Laura at 11D says she’s willing to pay higher taxes:
Megan McArdle had a post up last week about whether or not people willingly pay taxes. (link when I’m not so tired). I’m willing to pay the higher taxes in New Jersey. I’m getting things for that money — better schools, a home that holds its value, access to better paying jobs, proximity to New York City, access to grandparents. Taxes aren’t always about money for other people; it’s also about services for you.
The first question is “higher than what?” New Jersey taxes are lower than those in New York City, which Laura moved out of. Higher than Alabama? Even if she weren’t particularly willing to pay them, she wouldn’t have much choice, because her husband’s job is tied to New York’s financial services industry. In that sense, I am willing to pay the higher taxes of the United States in order to avoid living as a stateless person in some refugee camp somewhere, but that’s not really a very helpful guide to how I feel about the general level of my taxes.
Does Laura think that her property taxes should be raised? Very few people do . . . and those who do seek an increase in their property taxes are almost always looking to fund large increases in spending on the services they use, like the schools, in the knowledge that many of the people who do not use them will be forced to kick in. This goes to the heart of the argument I heard over and over again: that it’s perfectly rational to think that you should pay higher taxes, but only if other people do, because taxation is somehow a collective action problem. A collective action problem, if you’re not familiar with the term, is one where there is a potential equilibrium that makes everyone better off, but it’s hard to get to because of incentives to defect. Think casual Fridays: most people prefer not to wear suits and ties, but unless there’s some sort of enforcement mechanism, the hyperambitious will ruin it for everyone by showing up in a suit. Next thing you know, everyone’s back in a Brooks Brothers sweat sack, because they don’t want to look less serious about their job than those around them. These problems generally require the creation of some enforcement mechanism–including, but not limited to, a formal law–to punish defectors.
Henry Farrell, for example, compared paying taxes to shopping at Wal-Mart. Far be it from me to criticize anyone who sends me free books, but this does not really work. Leave aside my questions about whether people really prefer downtowns to Wal-Marts, which is hard to agree upon empirically–I say I care deeply about poverty in Africa, but if that’s true, how come I bought a new iPod instead of sending the money to Chad? Collective action problems generally apply to situations where the outcome is binary: either you have a Wal-Mart nearby, or you don’t. Tax revenue is not binary–it’s an upward sloping line. Some of the things the government spends the money on are binary–but given the existing level of tax revenues, this is simply not a reasonable objection to sending the government additional money. People who say they want higher taxes on themselves generally think the government does not have enough money to do the things it is already doing; as long as you think the government has a better (in some moral sense) use for the money than you do, then you have a moral obligation to send it in.
(As an aside, I am afraid that Henry made a common mistake in referring to me as an economist. I am but a lowly MBA, and have never claimed otherwise, but for some reason a lot of my readers are confused.)
But most people do not appear to think that the government (or anyone else) has a morally salient better use for their money than they do; otherwise, they would give that money to the government (which will take it even if there is no “tax me more” fund) or charity. Perhaps you’ll argue that people’s norms about fairness are so strong that they will not give away their money unless other people do. My response would be to ask: is the unfairness of your paying more than other similarly affluent people greater or smaller than the distributional unfairness that you want the government to rectify? Nor is it plausible to believe that you can, by withholding your extra contribution, force other people to kick into the kitty; your contribution is a drop in the budget of any political entity to which you belong.
[Gotcha! You cry. My money alone won't make a difference! Sorry, but if that were true then you'd be morally justified in cheating on your taxes. The small sum you send them is spent on something you presumably think we need more of.]
Or you might argue that since money is a positional good, it’s not reasonable to ask you to reduce your income unless everyone else at the same level does, too. So now positional goods races are an acceptable way to spend your life? So important that they should override your moral concerns about distributional justice?
Perhaps you claim that you don’t want to send the government extra money because God knows what they’ll spend it on. Well, welcome to the libertarian movement. Your subscription to Reason should arrive in four to six weeks.
No, I simply cannot grant that people really believe that they pay too little in taxes. It seems more like they think the government has a better use for everyone else’s money, and should therefore take it. They believe this so strongly that if they have to pay some of their own money to rectify the situation, they will do so. In other words, they don’t so much want higher taxes on themselves, as to purchase the good “State coercion of other affluent people”. That is not the same moral intuition as “I have too much money, and the government should take it away”, however much nicer it would be if that were true.
These objections might hold if we were attempting to establish a tax system from scratch, against a background of no previous taxation. If the number of potential taxpayers were small enough, you might then convincingly argue that you need to withhold your taxes until everyone else pays in in order to avoid the free rider problem. But against the background of our current, already extremely large and well-funded tax system, no one who actually thinks that their taxes are too low has much of an excuse for refusing to fork over.
PUT DOWN THOSE STAGE PROP GUNS! Because you know if you want to avert campus shooting sprees, you want to start with the hard-working theater kids who rehearsed their hearts out to put on a big show. Yes, the show is about presidential assassins, but it’s Sondheim. It’s high class. The bright side of this is: Because it’s high-class musical theater that’s getting censored, even the usual prissy anti-gun types should get pissed off.
Via Nick Gillespie, who hates the musical “Assassins” (“godawful in its original conception and execution back in 1990 (and naturally, retardedly well-received in its 2004 Broadway revival)”). I’ve never seen the show, but I loved Sarah Vowell’s description of it in her cool book “Assassination Vacation”:
“It’s the Stephen Sondheim musical in which a bunch of presidential assassins and would-be assassins sing songs about how much better their lives would be if they could gun down a president.”
“Oh,” remarks Mr. Connecticut. “How was it?”
“Oh my god,” I gush. “Even though the actors were mostly college kids, I thought it was great! The orange-haired guy who played the man who wanted to fly a plane into Nixon was hilarious. And I found myself strangely smitten with John Wilkes Booth; every time he looked in my direction I could feel myself blush.” Apparently, talking about going to the Museum of Television and Radio is “too personal,” but I seem to have no problem revealing my crush on the man who murdered Lincoln.
I THINK YOU CAN BE SURE that question won’t be repeated. Wouldn’t be fair.
READERS who have questions about the Times’ McCain story–like “Huh?”–can apparently email them to the editors:
A recent New York Times article examined a number of decisions by Senator John McCain that raised questions about his judgment over potential conflicts of interest. The article included reporting on Mr. McCainâ€™s relationship with a female lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee led by Mr. McCain. Since publication of the article, The Times has received over 2,000 comments, many of them criticizing the handling of the article. Editors and reporters who worked on the article will be answering questions on Friday. Please send yours to email@example.com.
Thanks to Tom Maguire for the tip.
SNOW IN NEW YORK CITY. I just got back from Madison, Wisconsin, where this winter we’ve had the most snow ever recorded. But there’s been barely a dusting here in my alternate home… until today.
Though I’ve heard some car wheels spinning, it looks very pretty from my vantage point.
ADDED: At ground level:
NOT THOROUGHLY TIRED OF DEBATE-BLOGGING YET? Well, for all two of you, Divided We Stand has live-blogged the live-bloggers.
MCCAIN WANTS OUT OF THE CAMPAIGN FINANCE SYSTEM he’s responsible for and finds it’s not so easy. Amusingly, McCain is arguing that he has a constitutional right to get out.
MORE: “‘We never claimed that the matching funds were collateral for the loan,’ says McCain lawyer Trevor Potter. ‘This was all a hypothetical future transaction.’ (We wish we could get bank loans like that.)” The WSJ is aptly smirky: “We suppose we can’t blame Mr. McCain for trying to make the finance rules work for him, but it’d be nice if he finally admitted their embarrassing folly.”
MORE “PLAGIARISM.” Wow, Hillary really set herself up for this. I think that if your candidacy is going to be about accusations of unoriginality, then you’d better be sure that you’ve always used your own words…
Hillary Clinton, February 21, 2008 debate with Barack Obama: “You know, lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.”
Hillary Clinton, later on in the same debate: “You know, the hits I’ve taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country.”
Jack Stanton speech, in Primary Colors (New York: Random House, 1996), p. 162: “Y’know, I’ve taken some hits in this campaign. It hasn’t been easy for me, or my family. It hasn’t been fair, but it hasn’t been anything compared to the hits a lot of you take every day.”
Meanwhile, Chris Beam at Slate picks up on another instance:
Hillary, however, pivots in a way that evokes, of all things, her Diner Sob. Only this time, she sets herself up: â€œPeople often ask me, â€˜How do you do it? How do you keep going?â€™ â€ Thatâ€™s the exact same question asked by Marianne Pernold Young at the CafÃ© Espresso in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on the eve of the primary. Clinton then goes into a colorful anecdote about a medical center filled with people injured in Iraq. She doesnâ€™t exactly tear up, but itâ€™s a deliberately emotional moment. (We see Chelsea looking teary afterwards.)
At the very end, she borrows a line that John Edwards used toward the end of his campaign. “We’re going to be fine,” she said, referring to herself and Obama. (Edwards always said it about himself and Elizabeth.) “I just hope we can say the same thing about the American people.”
HILLARY CLINTON’S FAREWELL ADDRESS
The emerging consensus: this was a good debate for Hillary Clinton . . . but not good enough. I think she probably picked up a lot of votes with that closing speech, but getting more votes in Ohio and Texas will not be enough; she needs to get nearly all of them.
Obviously, I’m not a Hillary supporter. But now I have that feeling of sympathy that often wells up when an opponent is defeated; once we can afford to be generous once they are no longer much of a threat. And one can hang one’s hat on the fact that she was possibly undone simply by bad timing. Not having been much of a primary hound the last time around, I’ve been repeatedly struck by how path dependent this all seems to be. If the primaries had been run in a different order, mightn’t she have emerged as the front runner . . . and wouldn’t that be a pretty bitter thought for any of us to live with?
Ask Dr. Helen: Is Male Bashing Curable?
I’M LIVE-BLOGGING THE CLINTON-OBAMA DEBATE, so come on over and hang out at my place, where we have an active comments section.
EUROPE’S BLACK HOLE: Stephen Schwartz is unimpressed, to put it mildly, with Serbia’s reaction to Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
Americaâ€™s embassy in Belgrade is burning. Our flag has been torn down and set afire by the fearless Serbs. Americans should mute the repulsive gabble of the TV talking heads and just watch the spectacle, which speaks for itself. At least this is real history, not Serbian disinformation.
Let Serbs dance in the ashes of their undeserved reputation for honor and glory. They will be the black hole of Europe for a hundred years. Albanians kiss our flag and express their gratitude and love for us. Let us not forget who have been our honorable and truthful friends.
"IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO SILENCE COMMUNICATION on the Internet, but it is just as important not to silence victims of defamation," writes lawprof Betsy Malloy in an article flagged by Stephen Bainbridge. When someone says free speech is "important" but something else is "just as important," I get edgy. One cancels out the other and then what have you got? Like Bainbridge, I want a high standard to be met before a court can force an ISP to disclose the real name of an anonymous or pseudonymous blogger or commenter. So much damage can be done by the mere unmasking. It is all too tempting to file a lawsuit to punish someone who’s pissed you off. And, of course, victims of defamation are not "silenced" if they can’t sue. What a disaster if we think of the courthouse as our primary speech forum! If someone’s speech on the internet offends you, you can always talk back on the internet. Silence may nevertheless be the best choice, even if you’re used to jabbering endlessly on line. I’m frequently defamed on the internet, but I do what I can to avoid amplifying the attacker’s speech by reacting to it. There are times when I put my revenge in writing in a blog post and get that cursor right up to the "publish" button and then stop and remember what my mother used to say: "You’ll only encourage him."
AND: Eugene Volokh has some great detail on the standard the Delaware Supreme Court articulated in Doe v. Cahill: “Prof. Malloy seems to read the opinion as taking the view that statements in blogs are categorically opinion: ‘[T]he court argued that a reasonable person would not construe a blog as stating facts.’” That would be an a funny thing to say about blogs, and Volokh says the court didn’t say it.
“CINDY MCCAIN, LIKE OTHERS, STANDS BY MAN.” Ridiculous AP headline.
MICHAEL YON says more bloggers should consider trips to Iraq. I could not agree more.
BILL ROGGIO has more on Moqtada al Sadr’s ceasefire extension.
IT’S NOT JUST A GOOD IDEA . . . IT’S THE LAW Over at concurring opinions, Daniel Solove interviews the creators of Battlestar Galactica about the legal and philosophical issues in the series.
IF you live in the Rochester area, and have any interest in seeing me on television, apparently they’ll be running clips from an interview with me on the ABC affiliate at 6 and 11.
NOAH POLLAK: “Obama seems proudly intent on sending the United States wandering naively into the Middle Eastern bazaar.”
A MOB IS STORMING THE US EMBASSY IN BELGRADE. They’re mad about the Kosovo independence vote. Even destroying the vital US ornamental shrubbery installations cannot break our steely will, nor silence the voice of Kosovar freedom . . .
CLINTON CAMPAIGN IN CHAOS? FOXNews offers confirming evidence for what I’ve been saying for months:
If American voters were casting their ballot today, Democrat Barack Obama would have a slight advantage over Republican John McCain in the race for the White House, while McCain would narrowly edge out Hillary Clinton, according to the latest FOX News poll.
Meanwhile, The Huffington Post paints a dark portrait of the Clinton Texas operation:
Although the Clinton Campaign has been telling the press that they have the ground operations to pull off a win in Texas, those ground operations have not been in evidence when I’ve traveled to small towns to see how Bill Clinton is doing on the Texas stump. Wednesday evening in Victoria, down in the southeastern part of the state, incipient chaos threatened to overwhelm the “Early Vote” Rally precisely because there was no ground operation. The well-oiled, beautifully constructed state-level HRC campaign machine, focused and determined in Iowa, Nevada and California, is beginning to break down.
“It’s a clusterfuck! Just a clusterfuck!” the Corpus Christi producer for a local news affiliate shouts into his cell phone. He’s telling his boss that there will be no coverage of Bill Clinton’s visit to Victoria for the 6 o’clock news. “Who’s running this campaign anyway?” the producer asks, of no one in particular. “And now five hundred people have stomped away mad.” He shakes his head. At that moment, twenty well-dressed elderly and middle-aged dignitaries and politicians exit the back of the local arts center and walk slowly for the intersection of Goodwin and Main. Presumably, they are Hillary Clinton supporters; however, given their dazed faces, they look more like commissars who have been turned out by the NKVD and cannot believe how suddenly their fortunes have changed.
On the other hand, I didn’t think she could win in New York. On the third hand, perhaps she wouldn’t have, if she’d been playing against the varsity. At any rate, it certainly doesn’t sound good.
MORE ON MCCAIN from my comments section (yes, if you want to comment on one of my posts here, you can go do it at my blog):
I spent some forty years working under FCC regulation, and it’s clearly not unreasonable to ask for help in moving the commission along.
They have been better or worse depending on the chairman at the time, but there is an incredible tendency to simply not take action if there is a real decision to make.
This is compounded by the deterioration in the quality of commission staff, now totally dominated by lawyers, many of whom fail to have even a elementary grasp of the technology they are supposed to regulate, and the poor quality of recent political appointees to the commission. By ‘recent’ I mean the last twenty years; I would indict both the Bush and Clinton administrations.
LESSIG IS MORE Julian Sanchez interviews Larry Lessig regarding a possible run for Congress:
One simple means of reducing the political power of campaign cash, Lessig says, “could be done tomorrow.” He wants to ban legislative earmarks, those juicy morsels of targeted federal funding legislators direct toward pet projects and political supporters. Lessig also hopes to encourage more robust public financing of campaigns, noting the salutary effect such policies appear to be having in states like Maine and Arizona. Most immediatelyâ€”and perhaps most radicallyâ€”Lessig says he will swear off contributions from lobbyists or political action committees, and he hopes to bring grassroots pressure to bear on other candidates to follow suit. (Prospective opponent Jackie Speier, he notes in passing in his online video, does accept such contributions.)
Larry Lessig and I do not see eye to eye on many issues, but one certainly can’t object to the prospect of more serious thinkers, and fewer professional politicians, in Congress. And earmark reform, however trivial its fiscal impact, is indisputably a blow for better government.
99% DETECTION of early-stage ovarian cancer. Bring it on!
SADR’S REALISM: Two aids for Moqtada al Sadr say the truce between his Mahdi Army militia and the American forces will be extended.
THE OTHER “OTHER” ISRAEL. David Hazony: “It is widely believed that Israeli Arabs despise the Jewish state, actively support its enemies, and willingly constitute a kind of fifth column in the Jewish stateâ€™s population. This is backed up by the wild rhetoric of Arab-Israeli politicians, who frequently bend over backwards to voice their hatred of the country that hosts them. But is this belief true?“
The publication of the article [on John McCain] capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair. It pitted the reporters investigating the story, who believed they had nailed it, against executive editor Bill Keller, who believed they hadn’t. It likely cost the paper one investigative reporter, who decided to leave in frustration. And the Times ended up publishing a piece in which the institutional tensions about just what the story should be are palpable.
Lots of detail at the linked article.
THE MAKE UP FOR REAL MEN
I’m going to be interviewed today by satellite for a Rochester-area station; the subject is my Atlantic article on what happens to America when the baby boomers retire, which was partially set in my mother’s hometown in western New York State. In the process of setting the details of who does my makeup (answer: me), Evan Dawson, who will be interviewing me, sent this observation about life in the glamorous world of television news:
As an aside, the first time your girlfriend asks to borrow your bronzer, it’s embarrassing. The second time, not so much. The third, and you begin to wonder if you could make a fortune by inventing “Cover Guy” to compete with the heretofore monopolizing “Cover Girl.”
HUNTING MENGELE’S MEMORY IN PARAGUAY My colleague Graeme Wood has a terrific piece in the Smart Set.
IN THE MAIL: Reagan’s Disciple: George W. Bush’s Troubled Quest for a Presidential Legacy. Actually, I kind of doubt that George W. Bush spends a lot of time thinking about “legacy” issues.
THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR asks the hard questions: “The NRA and the ACLU both can’t buy ad time in the days before an election because doing so, by virtue of the ethical senator’s own philosophy, is manipulating the people and hurting democracy. But when McCain hops a flight with a campaign contributor, it ought to be obvious that he’s maintaining his integrity. Why is it that associations comprised of every day citizens are suspect, but a powerful politician is not?”
MICHELLE OBAMA â€” RETROGRADE AMERICAN WIFE, old-style leftist, affirmative action neurotic, or something else that I’m not even going to mention? Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus debate. The moose is deployed, and Mickey worries that he’s trafficking in stereotypes.
“PERSONALLY, I don’t see anything wrong with a senator doing to a lobbyist what the lobbyists do to the rest of us.” As Glenn himself would say, heh.
On a more serious note, Mark Kleiman links to the AP story, which has more detail on what, exactly, McCain is supposed to have done wrong.
In late 1999, McCain twice wrote letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Florida-based Paxson Communications â€” which had paid Iseman as its lobbyist â€” urging quick consideration of a proposal to buy a television station license in Pittsburgh. At the time, Paxson’s chief executive, Lowell W. “Bud” Paxson, also was a major contributor to McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign.
McCain did not urge the FCC commissioners to approve the proposal, but he asked for speedy consideration of the deal, which was pending from two years earlier. In an unusual response, then-FCC Chairman William Kennard complained that McCain’s request “comes at a sensitive time in the deliberative process” and “could have procedural and substantive impacts on the commission’s deliberations and, thus, on the due process rights of the parties.”
McCain wrote the letters after he received more than $20,000 in contributions from Paxson executives and lobbyists. Paxson also lent McCain his company’s jet at least four times during 1999 for campaign travel.
Kleiman asks “Is it routine for a Senator from Arizona to pressure regulatory agencies on behalf of companies based in Florida?”
Fox News has these details, and is making it sound like this is not a big deal, because the senator did not press for an outcome, but only a speedy resolution. But regulatory uncertainty is very costly for firms; just getting your case jumped to the head of the line could be a pretty valuable special favor. It doesn’t cost the rest of us much, of course–unless we happen to work for the company whose case was delayed while everyone dropped everything to deal with the senator’s request.
That said, I don’t have a good sense of how much impact this sort of thing actually has, and I suspect it’s (sadly) rather common.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT Georgia is trying to move part of its state line more than a mile north, claiming a nineteenth century survey error.
COLE CITY HOLLOW, Tennessee – Nearly two centuries after a flawed survey placed Georgia’s northern line just short of the Tennessee River, some legislators are suddenly thirsting to set the record straight.
A historic drought has added urgency to Georgia’s generations-old claim that its territory ought to extend about a mile farther north than it does and reach into the Tennessee â€” a river with about 15 times greater flow than the one Atlanta depends on for its water.
Local Tennesseans are resisting, not least because Georgia, unlike Tennessee, has a state income tax
THE RICH REALLY ARE DIFFERENT . . .
They have more social conflicts. Few people realize how hard a wealthy socialite works. But Cookie mag has apparently launched a new investigative series that reveals the gritty underside of life in the jet set:
Only just last month, she was forced to choose between a trunk show, the Guggenheim Young Collectors Council’s annual Artist’s Ball, and a dinner party at a hedge-fund manager’s lavish home! Horreurs. Happily, she made the right decision and went to the trunk show. “At the event I saw rising It girl Chessy Wilson,” she relates in her inaugural column, “who regaled me with a story about her handbag catching fire earlier that day when she accidentally dropped a lit match into it.” Hahahahaha â€” barf. But it’s not all clinking and chortling for this real housewife. There is a dark side. “The problem with the New York City social scene is that it sucks you in,” she writes. What, like Michael Alig? Will Tatiana’s addiction to nightlife end in blood and guts and jail?
A BIG CIGAR? THERE?! That seems so wrong.
“IF REPUBLICANS ARE MAKING TOO MUCH of Michelle Obama’s gaffe that ‘for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country’ — and well they might, because it could win them the election — Democrats are making way too little of it.”