August 22, 2010
THE NEW YORK TIMES ON TOM DELAY’S VINDICATION: “But many of Mr. DeLay’s actions remain legal only because lawmakers have chosen not to criminalize them.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES ON TOM DELAY’S VINDICATION: “But many of Mr. DeLay’s actions remain legal only because lawmakers have chosen not to criminalize them.”
AT AMAZON, outlet deals.
CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY: Senate Landscape Shifts Farther in Favor of GOP. “It’s hit that point in the election cycle where the competitive nature of Congressional races are shifting rapidly. Unfortunately for Democrats, the overwhelming majority of those shifts are in favor of Republicans.”
TONY ROBBINS: Forget What I Said Before; We’re All Doomed. Actually, this makes me feel safer, somehow.
ARGUING AGAINST INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OVERREACH. I haven’t read Lewis Hyde’s Common As Air, but it seems clear to me that we’re overdoing it on the intellectual-property front. As Robert Merges and I argued in an article for the Harvard Journal on Legislation some years ago, there are constitutional limits here, and courts should be willing to enforce them.
THIS WEEK IN THE FUTURE.
NOT IMPRESSED WITH THE WEEKLY RADIO ADDRESS: Professor Bainbridge: Obama’s Anti-Corporate BS.
OH, GOODY: More kinds of hepatitis, beyond A, B, and C. I didn’t know we’d gotten to G & H.
Plus, from the comments: “I heard about this one time at a famous club in NYC, a coupla long-time rockers hooked up after a show. The result was hepatitis CB-GB.” Well, it’s the funniest hepatitis joke I’ve ever heard, anyway . . . .
HOW TO SAFELY AND LEGALLY CAPTURE THE RAIN.
IN NEW JERSEY, a sovereign debt crisis of our own?
HOW MANLY IS YOUR DRINK?
LIFE LESSONS from Zoltan Mesko.
DVD SALE: Any season of The X-Files for $13.99.
HMM: Panel: College’s police force violates First Amendment. “It’s not every day that First Amendment issues get raised in a drunk-driving case. But last week the Court of Appeals threw out a DWI case involving an arrest by a Davidson College police officer, agreeing with the defense that Davidson is a religious institution and giving police powers to the school is unconstitutional.”
MICHIGAN DEMOCRATS embarrassed by fake Tea Party.
NEW YORK CITY’S BEDBUG PROBLEM — there’s a musical!
RECOVERY SUMMER! U.S. restaurants starved for business. “The number of restaurants operating nationwide dropped this year for the first time in more than a decade, a survey shows, with California accounting for almost a third of the losses.”
UPDATE: Reader Greg Pollard writes: “I wondered about the studio and related Hollywood layoffs mentioned in the article. Are you aware of any recent links or articles regarding that phenomenon? I suppose it’s poetic justice in a way, based on how caring the Hollywood crowd is toward large chunks of their potential audience.” No, it’s news to me.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Danielle Schlei sends this report and cautions: “As you can see from the LA times blog post, mostly IT & home entertainment are affected; not the folks who make decisions about what is produced. I live in LA and know people affected by this layoff.”
PARKING SIGNS: “NO FOREIGN CARS.”
HOW TO BUY a Nissan Leaf.
TRASH TALK: I’ve got one of these. Not bad, though the lid sometimes pops off the hinge. Easy to fix when it does, though.
A TRAGIC LOSS. OH, WHO AM I KIDDING? The Great Pinto Extinction Proceeds.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE FUTONS GONE?
CORRECTING MAUREEN DOWD: “If you’re going to worry that comments plant the wrong ideas in people’s heads, you should be more careful about the ideas you plant. Dowd took a Limbaugh phrase out of context. (Hey! Remember last month, when we were hyper-sensitive about the problem of taking quotes out of context?)” That was last month.
The EU is being made redundant by technological change. In the 1950s, a regional trade association arguably made sense. But in a world where capital surges around the globe at the touch of a button, physical proximity becomes irrelevant. When deciding whether to invest in a country, corporations will consider many factors – tax rates, regulation, language, corruptibility of public officials – before they worry about geography.
The Internet makes it as easy for my constituents to do business with a company in New Zealand as with a company in Belgium. Easier, indeed, because the Kiwi company shares our common law, accountancy practices, commercial traditions and language. . . . The Internet, as Douglas Carswell argues, is ironing out a kink in our cultural and political alignment, whereby a small elite artificially reoriented our foreign policy, our trade and even our news cycle away from our old alliances and towards Europe. That’s the great thing about the web (or, from a Europhile perspective, the disagreeable thing): it democratises.
Shockingly, The Guardian contains expressions of unhappiness about this trend. But Jim Bennett, who popularized the term “Anglosphere,” emails: “Faster!”
MARK TAPSCOTT: Obama knew Gulf drilling ban would cost at least 23,000 jobs. Obama knew, jobs were few. . . .
HOT SAUCE THAT WILL push you to the limit.
A HERD, NOT A PACK: “They actually do their work for other journalists and for the regime.”
THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN WE’D SEE POLITICS BEATING OUT SCIENCE. AND THEY WERE RIGHT! Politics, Not Science, Drove White House to Release Rosy Gulf Oil Report.
MEGAN MCARDLE: More Reasons to Shun 401(k) Loans. “In general, the point at which you’re kiting debt–using home equity or the 401(k) to pay off credit cards or bad car loans–is the point at which you are in serious financial trouble. While transforming the debt to lower-interest rate forms can seem like salvation, it’s not the answer. For one thing, the lower interest rates come with greater risk–of losing the house or your retirement savings, rather than your credit rating. For another, it won’t work unless you get serious about controlling your money. I’ve watched colleagues do it (not at the Atlantic), and invariably after they refinanced the house, the credit card debt started to creep up again. Many financial counselors and personal finance gurus say the same thing.”
A BIRTHDAY GIFT FROM PAUL KRUGMAN: “At first glance, the column hardly seems like a gift: it’s long on nastiness, short on thoughtfulness, and misleading (all Krugman standards, sadly). But it offers such a poor defense of the Social Security status quo that I suspect readers will be more skeptical of the program after seeing the column, not less. Hence, Krugman’s gift.”
THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN, YOU’D HAVE TO SIGN A LOYALTY OATH TO WORK AT A UNIVERSITY. And they were right!
A PREDICTION: “Watch for panic over the UNEXPECTED collapse in home sales next week. Now that the federal credits have expired, Texas monthly home sales have fallen 25% to the lowest July level since 1997.” Well, stay tuned.
CHANGE: Illinois Fiscal Meltdown: A Continuing Series. “Even though Harris resigned in 2008, Park District officials confirmed that he was paid the remaining $185,120 left on his three-year contract. The district also gave him a sport utility vehicle while his compensation without the SUV in 2008 still totaled $339,302 for eight months on the job, officials said.”
MARKDOWNS ON cellphones and accessories.
LESSONS FROM an unlicensed barber. “The government licensing and regulation of barbers, like other hair stylists, is driven by the self-interest of the profession. Licenses restrict entry and reduce competition, enabling those with licenses to capture more rents. This is actually the case with most licensing regimes, even those that appear to serve a greater public interest than barber licenses.”
ODD TRAFFIC from Pandagon. There’s another kind?
ABOVE THE LAW: Dear Law Firms: Canceling Summer Programs After People Bid on Those Programs Is Bad Form. “In this market, interview slots are extremely valuable for law school students. There are not enough jobs to go around, and students know it. When they bid on your firm for an interview, that’s one less bid they have for some other firm. When you pull the rug out from under them this late in the process, you’ve essentially taken away one of their few chances to get a summer job. It might not matter to the law firm — they’ll get more than enough applicants for the summer positions they have — but for the individual student it’s a huge problem.”
A VACCINATION CAMPAIGN at this year’s DragonCon.
RECOVERY SUMMER! With consumers slow to spend, businesses are slow to hire.
PATTY MURRAY now trailing Dino Rossi by 7% in Washington Senate race. Nice polls, kid. Don’t get cocky.
DOES SLEEPING AROUND make people happier?
TODAY ONLY: Another cheap external hard drive.
MALINVESTMENT STRIKES AGAIN? China’s Looming Real-Estate Bubble: A massive Keynesian spending program has misallocated capital and set the stage for a crisis. “Beijing is in a dilemma. It can cut spending and rein in its monetary expansion, releasing over time capital for more productive endeavors (especially if it opens up hitherto closed investment options) and putting the economy on a healthier footing. However, that would mean slower growth, lower home values, rising unemployment and potential political unrest. Alternatively, it can buy a few more years of faux-growth and stability by propping up the real-estate market—and risk making the day of reckoning far worse when it arrives.”
UPDATE: Reader R.M. Jones writes: “My observation during the month (April 2010) I spent in China, in several large and small cities, they’ve got more buildings under construction and dead in the water than we do here in Las Vegas. Driving around Hangzhou and Shanghai there were hundreds of multistory building shells and nobody working.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: More happy news: Fund Flows Show An Enormous Panic.
MORE: Reader Jim Beall writes:
Those massive fund flows are not a panic. It is clear rational thought on the part of main street investors. There is the potential for deflation and there is the possibility of a recession. You are better off paying down debt for either of those scenarios. The stock market has credibility issues of being biased against the individual investor with the flash crash and high frequency trading being no small part of the problem. Bonds at the very least will provide some income and have performed very well this year, certainly better than the stock market.
The only people panicking are the stock fund money managers. They are seeing a huge drop in revenue and assets.
I’m not sure that makes me feel better.
FROM TIM BLAIR, an Australian election roundup. Also here. And Jim Bennett emails: “BTW, remember that Kevin Rudd’s 2007 victory in Australia was taken to presage a general swing to the left in the English-speaking world, and forecast a Dem victory in the US for 08? Will we hear the same sort of predictive arguments from today’s election, in which the Left defected to the Greens and the right was energized? Not from the same people, I think.”
UPDATE: Thoughts from Michael Barone.
STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE: “Reading upbeat articles about the curious indigenous customs of authentic ethic brown people and their authentic, mysterious, exotic religious beliefs makes New York Times readers feel good about themselves in an abstract way, unlike those upsetting articles about terrifying armies of white American Jesus terrorists.” Heh.
PARALYZED by love.
WHAT? YOU MEAN IT’S JUST MORE MEDIA HYPE? ‘Cougar’ Trend of Women Chasing Younger Men a Myth. “Women generally seek an older and, therefore hopefully, wealthier man, according to the UWIC study.”
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: What, Me Study? Why so many colleges are education-free zones. Melanie Kirkpatrick reviews Craig Brandon’s The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It.
A CAMERA BLEG FROM J.D. JOHANNES:
I have an info request for my fellow punditeers, or you may know what I’m after. I’m looking for a DSLR that works like an old fashioned manual SLR. What I really want is a Canon F-1 with a CCD, LCD and memory card slapped on the back. I searched around for camera backs, but they are all for high end cameras. I’ve been told Leica makes something like what I want, but I don’t have a Leica budget.
HUMAN BIODIVERSITY: HAROLD LLOYD AND FRIENDS.
KETAMINE TREATS depression and bipolar disorder.
HOW NOT TO DRIVE: This 20-Year-Old Woman Drunkenly Rammed A Cop Car Head-On.
IN THE MAIL: From Esther Gokhale, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot.
VIDEO: Unemployment Spreads.
UPDATE: Mike Couvillion writes: “Notice how the spread of unemployment resembles that of a Zombie Apocalypse outbreak?” I did, actually . . .
TIM CAVANAUGH: Summer of Recovery Dog Days. “I haven’t been checking in with Bill McBride’s Calculated Risk much lately, so it was instructive just now to spend an hour on the blog and realize how uniformly dismal the economic news is.”
Plus this: “Things have gotten so slow that Wall Street traders are giving up coke for pot. Note that, according to the White House itself, we have already enjoyed most of the benefits of the $787 billion ARRA Stimulus. These benefits seem to have consisted of making signs to tell people about the stimulus.”
AN ARTICLE ON TEA PARTY CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS MIKE STOPA IN MASSACHUSETTS.
Hey, he’s a nanotechnologist and a Tea Party candidate. What’s not to like?
THOUGHTS ON Prison Rape, Dehumanization, and Punishment.
SCOTT RASMUSSEN, America’s Insurgent Pollster. John Fund writes: “You can tell it’s a volatile political year when a balding, middle-aged pollster gets a standing ovation from hundreds of state legislators after delivering the news that only 23% of the people in this country believe today’s federal government has the consent of the governed.”
And note this:
“This will be the third straight election in which people vote against the party in power,” he says. “The GOP will benefit from that this year, but 75% of Republicans say their representatives in Congress are out of touch with the party base. Should they win big this November, they will have to move quickly to prove they’ve learned lessons from the Bush years.”
Indeed they will.
REMEMBERING the Cadillac Catera. “How unreliable was it? Let’s put it this way: Cadillac-Catera.com, a website run by and for Catera owners and fans, describes the car on the masthead of its home page as ‘The finest car of the 1990′s! . . . On the occasions when the Catera actually works.’”
THEY’RE NOT ANTIWAR, THEY’RE JUST . . . . Code Pink Tells Gold Star Mom: Your Son Deserved to Die.
A WINDSOR BY ANY OTHER NAME would be as dumb. “Yes, Prince Charles, most famous scion of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, has put his bespoke shoe in it again.”
TODAY’S Macho Hero.
YES, BUT IT SEEMS LESS CHRISTIAN — EVEN TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T THINK OF THEMSELVES AS CHRISTIAN. Business Success Helps Society More Than Philanthropy.
Successful entrepreneurs-turned-philanthropists typically say they feel a responsibility to “give back” to society. But “giving back” implies they have taken something. What, exactly, have they taken? Yes, they have amassed great sums of wealth. But that wealth is the reward they have earned for investing their time and talent in creating products and services that others value. They haven’t taken from society, but rather enriched us in ways that were previously unimaginable. …
While businesses may do more for the public good than they’re given credit for, philanthropies may do less. Think about it for a moment: Can you point to a single charitable accomplishment that has been as transformative as, say, the cell phone or the birth-control pill? To the contrary, the literature on philanthropy is riddled with examples of failure, including examples where philanthropic efforts have actually left intended beneficiaries worse off.
I should note that there’s plenty of corruption in the nonprofit world, too, but with far less scrutiny than for-profit businesses receive.
UPDATE: Reader Scot Echols writes:
I really appreciated your post on the WSJ article on capitalism this morning, but it left out what I think is really the central benefit of capitalism. The enemies of capitalism seem to be focused on the evil of “taking” from others through profits. They are completely missing the point. Capitalism is about creating value. Value is created when someone does something for someone else better, faster, or cheaper than they can do it themselves.
I was at the doctor’s office yesterday for a sore throat, and he was on a tirade about how we need communism or a benevolent dictator to solve all of societies problems. So I went there. I explained to him that I could get over my sore throat myself with a couple of weeks of gargling hot salt water and eating garlic and cayenne pepper, OR I could come pay him $80 for an office visit and $5 for some generic antibiotics, and feel a lot better in a couple of days. THAT is capitalism. He did in 20 minutes and for $85 what it would have taken me two weeks and probably a couple of missed days of my own productivity to do. He CREATED value out of nothing by using his knowledge, skills, and ability to provide value to me. That in turn created wealth for him, and is the reason he deserves to drive a nicer car and live in a nicer home than his receptionist.
He had no response to that.
I’d still find another doctor.
A MISSED MOMENT. You know, if Obama had governed as a centrist postracial free-market pragmatist — which is how he positioned himself in the campaign — he’d be looking like one of the most successful presidents in recent history now.
MARKDOWNS ON BLU-RAY with some movies under ten bucks.
A LOOK AT THE NEW Nikon D3100. “Apparently, when Nikon decided to add video capture functionality to its D3000 follow-up, they weren’t just kidding around. Not only have they made it the first Nikon DSLR to capture full 1080p (1920 x 1080) footage, but they also made it the ‘world’s first’ DSLR with full-time auto focus in Live View and D-Movie modes. It can even capture the 24p stuff that cinema-types crave.”
The price is surprisingly good, too. But how’s the audio?
RECOVERY SUMMER! Mortgage Bailout: Government Spin Accelerates. “I don’t envy the folks over at Treasury and HUD who, month after month, are forced to report lackluster statistics on the Administration’s mortgage bailout and find something positive to say about them. Unfortunately they painted themselves into a corner by inventing a ‘Housing Scorecard’ this summer, which only forces them to report more troubling numbers. . . . Yes, home prices are not in freefall, as they were before the current administration took office, but I’m not sure where they’re seeing ‘improving expectations.’ All I’m seeing are reports of double dips in home sales and prices, and increasing concern that the struggling job market will push more borrowers into foreclosure. When asked about that, Dr. Bostic replied only to the first part, about prices being better now than two or three years ago. He declined to answer the question: Where exactly are you seeing data that things are improving now?”
DOUBLE STANDARDS ON Presidential religion? “When Bush declared his Christianity, the press felt a need to delve into his faith and explore the nuances of his belief. Was Bush a moderate Christian, or was he really just one of those crazy wingnut believers who use words like sin and redemption and stuff? Heck, those people are practically snake-handlers, right? But the real question was whether he was a real Christian at all. So many questions to be explored. And explore them, the press did. Then, I mean.”
WHERE GPS DOESN’T WORK, digital bread crumbs. Well, mostly a poor man’s inertial navigation system: “The goal is to count a user’s sequence of steps, gauge direction changes, and even calculate how many floors the user has traversed by stairs or an elevator. The app stores the trail data so that a user can later retrace his path precisely.”
GOING TO JAIL BECAUSE OF bad statistics.
AT AMAZON, it’s the Friday Sale.
A CRITICAL LOOK AT breath alcohol analyzer devices.
REDISCOVERING ordinary places.
A NEW DODGE LOGO? It reminds me of something, but I’m not sure what.
HOWARD DEAN: ‘Some’ Dems demonizing N.Y. mosque opponents. “‘I think some of my own folks at my end of the spectrum of the party are demonizing some fairly decent people who are opposed to this,’ he said. ‘And again, in no way am I defending the right-wing of the Republican Party. Sixty-five percent of the people in this country are not right-wing bigots. Some of them really have deep emotional feelings about this.’”
“DON’T GET COCKY” vs. “ride the wave.” I’m a big fan of the surfing approach — but if you’re cocky, you’ll miss the wave.
THE T.S.A. EMBARRASSES ITSELF AGAIN. Look, just try to keep the terrorists off the plane, and leave the white-collar-crime detective work to someone else, okay?. . . .
L.A. TIMES: Obama now blames poor job numbers on congressional inaction. Wait! His party runs Congress. “The very same party that has controlled both houses of Congress since the 2006 election and really controlled them both since the 2008 hopey-changey balloting.” Love the photo.
TIM CAVANAUGH: Why “CalPERS Manager” Is Every Stock Picker’s Dream Job. “California’s public pension fund allowed its fund managers to take mega-jet-set kickbacks from financial companies looking to win big state investments. In testimony related to Attorney General Jerry Brown’s bribery lawsuit against a former California Public Employee Retirement System board member, a CalPERS representative has admitted that he and other CalPERS investment staffers accepted gifts, steaks at Morton’s, toys, and dozens of luxury trips to exotic ports of call like Shanghai, Mumbai and New York. Was sex part of the package? Sounds like it.”
BELL, CALIFORNIA TYPE RESENTMENT spreads to Illinois, as citizens in Highland Park demand that commissioners resign for excessive salaries, bonuses and pensions.
JIM TREACHER: NYT and WaPo Circle The Wagons. But don’t be dissing those 49-year-old-man’s pecs. Mine are real, and they’re spectacular.
UPDATE: “After the 2004 election, some lefties branded the U.S. ‘Jesusland.’ Now they’re scrambling to deny rumors that Obama doesn’t love Jesus. Odd, yes?”
GOOD GRIEF: Rasmussen: Arkansas Senate: Boozman (R) 65%, Lincoln (D) 27%. “Lincoln was reelected to a second Senate term in 2004 with 56% of the vote, but her political fortunes in the state have plummeted since she cast a procedural vote late last year to keep President Obama’s national health care bill alive. Opposition to that bill in Arkansas has been even higher than it is nationally.”