December 5, 2010
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO LEAVE UNDER THE TREE? How about a Bureaucrash t-shirt? My “Enjoy Capitalism” shirt always gets a second look.
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO LEAVE UNDER THE TREE? How about a Bureaucrash t-shirt? My “Enjoy Capitalism” shirt always gets a second look.
ANTI-SEMITISM IN AMERICA: Does Helen Thomas Have Blood On Her Hands? “Helen Thomas belongs to the Sirhan Sirhan wing of the Democrat Party, and it is high time we begin to speak frankly about how far and how deep this dangerous radicalism has spread.”
THE BELMONT CLUB’S RICHARD FERNANDEZ HAS A NEW NOVEL OUT: No Way In: Freedom is the greatest addiction of all.
It’s also on Kindle. I just ordered a copy.
MORE THOUGHTS ON the college debt bubble.
MCCAIN BAITS THE HOOK, and it’s bitten.
TOBY BUCKELL: How I lost 30 pounds while eating a donut every day. Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?
PUBLIC PENSIONS and your right to know. “Estimates of the problem’s true size vary, because the governments with the biggest shortfalls often try to conceal their dire circumstances. In jurisdictions across America, pension funds attribute unrealistic values to investments and assume unrealistic rates of return. They protect themselves with exemptions from freedom of information laws, or even withhold information despite those laws.”
TEN REPUBLICANS duck out on tax vote.
ED MORRISSEY: Do We Need A “Repeal Amendment?”
SOME OF THIS WEEK’S food news.
FROM BITS TO ATOMS: Delivering Freight Through A Series Of Tubes. A hundred years ago, there were vacuum-pipe networks within cities. Back to the future!
SOME RECOMMENDED gifts for teenagers.
SOLVING the Stop Sign Mystery.
A FICTIONAL STORY OF a Flash Mob gone terribly wrong.
DON’T OVERSHOOT THE OPTIMAL SUGAR-CAFFEINE DOSAGE.
DON SURBER: Manchin Votes Against Obama.
IT REALLY IS THE 1970s ALL OVER AGAIN: Coming soon: Downsized engines? “Engine downsizing is considered an effective method for reducing emissions and improving fuel efficiency and that’s precisely why many automakers have developed smaller mills to replace older, larger motors. Kia, Volkswagen, Fiat, Audi and many others already announced their intentions to introduce downsized engines in upcoming models. We can now add Volvo to the ranks of automakers developing new low-displacement mills.”
GOODBYE AND GOOD RIDDANCE: Shady Dealings Brought Dodd Down. “It isn’t the news cycle that causes the public to lose faith in political leaders, it’s the news of what they do with their authority. Dodd’s respect for the legislative process was not in view during that squalid episode. . . . The people of Connecticut took his measure anew and found Dodd wanting in fundamental ways. The system wasn’t broken — it worked, to Dodd’s disappointment.”
IN THE MAIL: From Sarah A. Hoyt, Darkship Thieves.
THE NIGEL TUFNEL PRESIDENCY: My Sunday Washington Examiner column is up.
UPDATE: Don Surber: “The Nigel Tufnel character also works on another level; he really is not as smart as he thinks.”
And reader Aaron Jones emails: “When Obama faces criticism for his ham fisted actions, or soloing as it were, Obama, like Tufnel, tunes the violin rather than questioning whether dragging it across the distorted guitar strings really adds any musical quality to the sound.” Heh. (Bumped).
ANOTHER UPDATE: More Spinal Tap prophecy! Yeah, I wanted to work that one in too, but I only had 800 words. . . .
THE ECONOMIST: Breaking Up The Euro Area: How To Resign From The Club. “The idea that the euro itself might also be reversible and that one or more countries might revert to national currencies is no longer unthinkable.”
SUPPORT FOR THE “REPEAL AMENDMENT” FROM MARK LEVIN.
Meanwhile, Dahlia Lithwick and Jeff Sesol recycle Dana Milbank’s dumb criticism: “For a party (whether of the Tea or Grand Old variety) that sees the Constitution as something so perfect as to have been divinely inspired, the idea that it needs to be altered fundamentally is beyond crediting, something like putting the Fifth Commandment up to a popular referendum.” My comments on Milbank’s deep, deep misunderstanding of things would seem to apply equally here. Is it just me, or do the lefty critics just seem to be phoning it in lately?
My own take is akin to Ilya Somin’s — if a genie let me choose just one amendment to the Constitution, I don’t think this would be the one I’d pick. But the criticism of the proposal is so amazingly ignorant that I find myself warming to it despite myself.
Also, from Ann Althouse — who, like me, Somin, and Barnett, but unlike Milbank, Lithwick or Shelso, is actually a professor of Constitutional Law — “Since the Repeal Amendment, proposed by Randy Barnett, can easily be portrayed as an effort to return to something closer to the balance of power provided for in the original Constitution, it is pretty silly to portray yourself as brimming with respect for the Founders when what you really support is the shift of power to the national government that occurred over the long stretch of time, a shift that the courts have allowed to take place.” Judicial reinterpretation is okay, because in recent decades it has accorded with the policy preferences of the Gentry Class.
UPDATE: Reader Matt Tanner emails:
You ask: “Is it just me, or do the lefty critics just seem to be phoning it in lately?”
No, it’s not just you.
Maybe somewhere deep down they recognize the hollowness of their own positions; maybe they’re frustrated by their inability to accomplish anything of value with two years of Obama in the White House and substantial majorities in both houses of Congress; and/or maybe they’re dispirited because their lefty-majority festival has been ended by the American people even before it got warmed up.
Someone the other day (I wish I could remember who) noted the link between seemingly disparate events: the Heller gun rights decision and the deficit reduction commission report. In both instances, an idea not so long ago viewed as fringe — that the Second Amendment secures personal rights, and that the size and cost of the federal government is simply unsustainable (and can’t realistically be fixed on the tax side) — is now viewed as not only respectable, but correct.
Then I read George Will’s latest (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/03/AR2010120304467.html?hpid=opinionsbox1) on the difference between judicial activism and judicial engagement, and how the latter may impact the claim of authorization under the Commerce Clause for the mandate in Obamacare.
If you’re in a “phone it in” mode, it’s easy enough to justify the mandate as consistent with the Commerce Clause, as the Virginia district judge did just last week. But if you’re awake and engaged, it’s not so hard to see that if the Commerce Clause is made infinitely elastic, then our constitutional system has been quietly trashed; and that if you’re going to identify a line that can’t be crossed, this is a pretty good opportunity to pencil it in.
So of course we mustn’t get cocky, but by all means let’s let the left continue to phone it in, while our side works to demonstrate that fidelity to the founders’ vision is both legitimate and healthy.
Is it too much to ask that before they snark at people for constitutional ignorance, they spend a little time reading and thinking about the Constitution themselves? Apparently, yes.
CYBERWEEK MARKDOWNS in cameras, photos, and video.
POLIWOOD: The Worst Year For Movies, Ever.
AT AMAZON, a one-day-only sale on Swiss Army knives.
Less than a year ago, struggling states and coastal towns saw crude exploration off the Gulf Coast and Atlantic seaboard as economic salvation.
Yet the backlash from the BP oil spill — most recently the Obama administration’s decision this week not to open up some of that area to new drilling — has residents wondering if the industry will ever thrive again in U.S. waters.
Some fear an exodus of oil rigs in search of friendlier waters overseas. And with each passing day, folks that rely on deepwater drilling say the damage is multiplying, creating a ripple affect from blue-collar Main Street to beachside drives. They warn it will only get worse.
It’s mostly bitter-clinger types who are suffering, though, so who cares?
FORGET THE BRIDGE TO NOWHERE: Now it’s high-speed rail to nowhere. “The California High Speed Rail Authority is committed to breaking ground on a leg of the train that will serve passengers between the unincorporated town of Borden and the half-incarcerated town of Corcoran.”
MICKEY KAUS: Latinos Going Rogue!
INDEED: “One of the most appealing aspects of the Tea Party movement is its ‘pay attention!’ ethos. Complain about elites all you want, they can’t cause so many problems if we citizens are performing our own oversight functions.”
SPANKING THE ISTHMUS.
WHAT HAPPENS when you don’t let a crisis go to waste.
MARKDOWNS ON clothing and accessories.
THE RECLUSIVE LEFTIST on the sexual politics of “supposedly liberal doods.”
UPDATE: Reader Tom Kennedy writes, “But was it rape-rape?”
CHANGE: “A child nutrition bill on its way to President Barack Obama — and championed by the first lady — gives the government power to limit school bake sales and other fundraisers that health advocates say sometimes replace wholesome meals in the lunchroom.”
TO LOOK BETTER IN PHOTOS, tilt your head. This is the reason for the classic downward-angled MySpace selfshot. A million 15-year-old girls can’t be wrong!
MYSTERIOUS BALL LIGHTNING, caused by space debris?
CAR MYTHS, debunked.
THIS WEEK in the future.
AT AMAZON, they’re still running the Cyber Week deals.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS slow eye aging?
THE CARNIVAL OF NUCLEAR ENERGY IS UP!
THE NEW SCIENTIST GOES AFTER The Obama Administration’s War On Science:
A US government report on a pressing environmental issue is edited to falsely imply that scientists had peer-reviewed and supported the central policy recommendation. Almost 1 in 4 government scientists working on food safety say they have been asked by their bosses to exclude or alter technical information in scientific documents during the past year.
These incidents sound as if they come from the dark days of George W. Bush’s presidency, when complaints about political interference in government science reached a crescendo. But in fact, both refer to the behaviour of the current US administration, led by a president who famously promised to “restore science to its rightful place” in his inauguration speech of January 2009.
Nobody tell Chris Mooney.
UPDATE: Reader Tom Brosz emails:
From the article:
While some other constituencies are deserting him, Obama largely still has the support of the scientific community. He is seen as a friend of science, who with his allies in Congress ensured that a generous dollop of stimulus spending was devoted to research.
It seems pretty obvious what it takes to be a “friend of science:” A generous dollop of taxpayer money.
Follow it, and you’ll understand a lot. Not everything, but a lot. And note the “if the Czar only knew” bit in the final paragraph. Still, The New Scientist is standing up for scientific integrity here, and that’s to be commended.
IN THE MAIL: The 21st Century Sniper: A Complete Practical Guide.
UPDATE: Reader Stu Gittelman writes: “Just out of curiosity, since China is going to spend all that money on nuclear power, will Tom Friedman finally support more nukes here?”
THE FACULTY SABBATICAL on the chopping block? A lot of people who would have stepped up to defend higher education a decade ago won’t do so now, because it’s become more politicized, and less respected. Alas, we don’t have sabbaticals at my school anyway, so I have no dog in this fight. However, places that have instituted them have seen faculty research productivity go up substantially.
The problem is, governments are broke. When governments are broke, cuts hit the least-powerful constituencies first. That means universities are likely to get cut so that other, more-politically-powerful state employees can preserve their situations. And, within universities, faculty will get hit before administration, even though administrative bloat accounts for most of the rise in costs.
THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN, the feds would be warrantlessly tracking Americans in their daily lives. And they were right! “Federal law enforcement agencies have been tracking Americans in real-time using credit cards, loyalty cards and travel reservations without getting a court order, a new document released under a government sunshine request shows.”
COMING SOON: The loud thud of a gold bust?
LIFE INSURANCE INDUSTRY lobbies hard against estate tax repeal.
AT AMAZON, Cyber-Week deals in electronics.
VIRGINIA POSTREL: Recovering China’s Past on Kenya’s Coast. “The underwater search for shipwrecks follows a dig last summer in the village of Mambrui that unearthed a rare coin carried only by emissaries of the Chinese emperor, as well as a large fragment of a green-glazed porcelain bowl whose fine workmanship befits an imperial envoy. Although Ming-era porcelains are nothing new in Mambrui—Chinese porcelains fill the local museum and decorate a centuries-old tomb—the latest finds suggest that the wares came not through Arab merchants but directly from China.”
CHURCHILL SAW IT COMING.
ED MORRISSEY: The new humane: killing terrorists instead of capturing them. It’s a sign of dysfunctional law and politics.
THE REST OF THE STORY on those Andy Griffith ObamaCare ads: “The new documents show the Obama administration spent $3,184,000 in taxpayer funds to produce and air the advertisements on national television in September and October of 2010 to educate ‘Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members about forthcoming changes to Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act.’”
HOW HIGHLY WOULD YOU RATE SPINAL TAP? I just watched it again — doing research for my Sunday Examiner column (no, really) — and thought it held up pretty well. On the other hand, my daughter watched it with me, and despite her current immersion in ’60s and ’70s rock history she was pretty lukewarm. Since then, though, she’s been gleefully repeating key lines. So maybe it’s better after you’ve watched it then while you watch it?
UPDATE: On rating Spinal Tap, Dr. Scott Hannay writes:
“11”, of course!
HOW EUROPE’S DEBT CRISIS could infect America. Remember when the Euro-pundits were tut-tutting about “cowboy-style” American capitalism?
NIGEL FARAGE: The English Tea Partier.
PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE: Why don’t institutional investors have say on their own pay? “I wonder how many, if any, members of the Council permit their beneficiaries to vote on the pay their executives receive. I don’t recall ever being asked to give an advisory vote on the pay of the executives at TIAA-CREF or the UCRP. How about CalPERS? Why isn’t sauce for the goose sauce for the gander?”
I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER GODDAMNED WORD about my carbon footprint.
THE FOLKS IN WASHINGTON can’t even regulate bars well. “When I moved to DC a scant three and a half years ago, there were enough bars where you could enjoy a Thursday night seated in the company of friends. Then came January 2009, when I held a birthday get-together at a previously local place on 11th street. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much getting together; more than half the people were turned away because of overcrowding. Several bars had been shut down in Adams Morgan because the weren’t serving enough food to comply with their tavern licenses; the result was that Adams Morgan relocated to U Street. Since then, this pattern has been repeated over and over; any bar that opens is pleasant for a month or so, then completely, miserably jammed.”
VENEZUELA’S JEWISH COMMUNITY sees “dark horizon.”
OBAMA MAKES A SURPRISE HOLIDAY TRIP TO AFGHANISTAN. What a novel idea.
ETHANOL’S POLICY PRIVILEGES: Heading for history’s dustbin?
SOME RECOMMENDED light reading for a law student.
THE SUNDRIES SHACK: The Right-Wing “Rift” and the Wormtongues Who Want It.
DOES GLENN BECK KNOW ABOUT THIS? Superheavy Element 111 Found In Gold.
HOW TO ENSURE THAT YOUR PACKAGES arrive in one piece.
THE LIFEBOAT FOUNDATION IS HOLDING ITS end of the year fundraiser.
AT AMAZON, it’s the Friday Sale.
THOUGHTS ON women, rules, school, and work.
SHOULDA LISTENED TO GLENN BECK: Gold hits record high. Also, unemployment goes up, unexpectedly!
MEET WIKILEAKS’ first likely victim. Obviously, anyone injured or even endangered should sue. Lawfare can be lucrative and fun!
ANDREW KLAVAN: Is America Satanophobic?
THE FUTURE OF metabolic engineering.
THE UNIVERSE HOLDS three times more stars than previously thought. Shouldn’t this knowledge lead to a universe-wide real-estate collapse?
IMPORTANT HEALTH NEWS: Women who sunbathe live longer. “Studies of the sun exposure habits of 40,000 women in southern Sweden have found that the health benefits of spending extended periods in the sun outweigh the negatives, such as the increased risk for skin cancer.”
Plus, an important scientific illustration.
YEAH, BLOGGING’S A LITTLE LIGHT. As I mentioned, I’m traveling. Email-reading is much lighter too, so if you’ve written and I’ve missed, it, sorry.
A NEW VIDEO FROM DAN MITCHELL: Keynesian Economics Is Wrong: Economic Growth Causes Consumer Spending, Not the Other Way.
DON SURBER ISSUES THE SURBER CHALLENGE. “So that is my challenge to readers. $10. Each. Just remember, that’s $10 more than Warren Buffett or Fareed Zakaria paid.”
LAURA ROWLEY: Is The College Debt Bubble Ready To Explode?
In some respects, the student loan crisis looks remarkably like the subprime mortgage crisis. First, outstanding student loan debt has ballooned: It grew roughly four-fold in the last decade to $833 billion as of June — surpassing outstanding credit card debt for the first time.
Secondly, defaults have soared amid the difficult job market. In 2008, the most recent year for which data are available, nearly 3.4 million borrowers began repayment, and more than 238,000 defaulted on their loans. The number of loans that went into forbearance or deferment (when borrowers receive temporary relief from payments) rose to 22 percent in 2007, from 10 percent a decade earlier, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Over a 15-year period, default rates range from 20 percent for federal loans to 40 percent on loans to students who attend for-profit schools, The Chronicle found.
Just as lenders offered easy no-money-down mortgages to unqualified borrowers, private student loan firms offered instant online approval for up to 100 percent of college costs to students. . . . While the housing collapse’s impact was wide-ranging — wreaking havoc on a multitude of industries and market participants — the primary losers in this debacle are the borrowers. Lenders can’t repossess a college degree, and changes to the bankruptcy law in 1984 and 2005 mean borrowers can’t charge off their obligations the way they can shed credit-card, mortgage or even gambling debt when they file for bankruptcy.
Read the whole thing.
THE CYBER WEEK SALES aren’t quite over yet.