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November 2003 Archives

November 1, 2003

On a personal note

Memo to boss: For $1.8 million, I'll go away.

November 4, 2003

Close enough for newspaper work

There's a mini-controversy in Seattle, where the Post-Intelligencer decided to rewrite one of Republican George Nethercutt's speeches.

"The story of what we've done in the postwar period is remarkable," Nethercutt, R-Wash., told an audience of 65 at a noon meeting at the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs.

"It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day."

Nethercutt was promptly trashed by the Post-Intelligencer, in columns and editorial cartoons for his uncaring attitude towards American casualties. But -- Nethercutt didn't actually say what I quoted him as saying above. That's what the Post-Intelligencer claimed he said. What he actually said was this:
It's a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day, which, which, heaven forbid, is awful."
Nethercutt actually took out ads in the newspaper to challenge this portrayal of his comments, since the paper refused to run a correction.

Now, read this rambling response from the editor of the Post-Intelligencer's editorial page.

For what it's worth: I thought the original news story did what it was supposed to do. It covered Nethercutt's speech and presented the news story in context.

Then reasonable people can disagree about that interpretation -- as did the congressman from Spokane.

A few days later our Editorial Board concluded that Nethercutt was part of a larger story, the coordinated effort by the Bush administration to change the story about Iraq. If the story is about progress in Iraq, then, we believed Nethercutt's view to be, the lesser story is about troops who have died or who face daily threats of death or injury. That was something our Editorial Board found unacceptable and said so. But then we erred because we allowed the discourse to slip into name-calling.

This just goes to show I can be callow and shallow, too. And, I've learned something from this debate, too. We need to provoke passionate opinions in a way that promotes respect for the other side of the argument.

Talk about "provoking passionate opinions," "interpretations," and "larger stories." But no response to the central complaint from Nethercutt: that the quote was forged. "Interpret" things however you want -- that's your right, as an opinion writer. But don't put a period in the middle of a sentence and pretend the rest of it was never said.

As seen on television

Despite the lack of interest from consumers, central planners in Washington have been flogging the digital broadcast television horse for quite a while now. But apparently it's not just an American thing; the New York Times reports on the German approach. While American regulators have been trying to convince us that digital television is the next big thing, the government in Berlin simply ordered everyone to switch. And what about the cost -- $175 for a converter box for a single television?

Berlin's hurry-up approach was risky. Mr. Bakarinov worried about a consumer outcry over the cost of the set-top boxes, not to mention tales of aging pensioners deprived of their television. But thanks to an elaborate public relations campaign and government subsidies for people who could not afford the boxes, Berlin kept the complaints to an occasional squawk. In a city accustomed to lavish public services since German reunification, this is no small achievement.
Government subsidies for people who could not afford the boxes?So they forced people to pay a significant sum of money for this pet project of technocrats -- and then forced people to pay even more for television welfare? And people didn't complain? What the heck is wrong with these people?

That was fast

Last week Donald Luskin idiotically threatened to sue Atrios for libel. Followup: Luskin surrenders:

A JOINT STATEMENT FROM DONALD LUSKIN AND ATRIOS We both regret a series of misunderstandings that have resulted in something that neither of us intended. We have discussed our differences, and both of us are confident that such misunderstandings will not occur again in the future. As a result, Mr. Luskin is retracting his demand letter of October 29, 2003. We congratulate each other on having quickly achieved an amicable resolution. We are both glad to have put this behind us.
(Same post on Atrios, by the way.) I guess someone realized how stupid he was being. And surprisingly (given the tone of Atrios's blog generally), that was a pretty gracious way to let Luskin off the hook.

November 5, 2003

At least it wasn't Cop Killer

Well, I think it's funny. It's not like he did it in the courtroom.

November 6, 2003

Judge not...

Stuart Buck makes a compelling and detailed argument that the Senate's rejection of Miguel Estrada's nomination to the DC Circuit meets the test for discrimination.

But disparate impact and "pattern or practice" claims aren't the only types of discrimination claims. Any individual who thinks that he or she was treated differently on account of race can sue for that individual instance of discrimination. And in such lawsuits, the employer cannot get the case dismissed simply by pointing to other racial minorities who haven't been mistreated. See, e.g., Peters v. Lieuallen, 693 F.2d 966, 970 (9th Cir. 1982); Jefferies v. Harris County Community Action Ass'n, 615 F.2d 1025, 1032 (5th Cir. 1980) ("The district court found that HCCAA did not "discriminate generally on the basis of sex" because nearly half of its supervisors were women, women were on its Board of Directors, and one of the vacant Field Representatives positions had been held by a woman. Though these statistics may be some evidence of absence of discrimination, especially in a disparate impact case, they do not constitute an adequate basis for a finding of non-discrimination in a disparate treatment case involving a particular instance of failure to promote.").

And that's as it should be. There is no rule that an employer is innocent of racial discrimination unless it fired or refused to hire every single racial minority in sight. It's enough to show that discrimination was involved in the plaintiff's individual case. Otherwise, there would be no remedy in situations where the employer discriminated against one or a few individuals but not against everyone.

There's lots more; Stuart shows that a similar white nominee received far less scrutiny than Estrada did, and that the explicit words of Estrada opponents make the case that his race motivated their opposition. Go read it.

Of course, anti-discrimination laws don't apply to judicial nominations, but that's not really the point.

November 7, 2003

Great, we can be crybabies, too

Steve Malanga of City Journal says that CBS was wrong to cancel "The Reagans":

Much as I hate to admit it, I am on the side of the Left here when it comes to lamenting the cancellation, but for different reasons. Everything we have learned so far about the miniseries - from the hamhandness of the script to the actors chosen for key roles to the previews already circulating - suggests that The Reagans is an artistic fiasco of epic proportions, possibly among the worst TV miniseries ever produced, in the words of one critic. Rather than protect the American public from this latest Hollywood debacle, we should make it required viewing, not for its lessons about the Reagans but about our entertainment industry.

I, too, am on the side of both Malanga, and the Left, but for yet another reason: I generally don't like when entertainment honchos give in to the demands of easily-offended interest groups. I detest the groups for whining and I detest the honchos for caving. And it's no prettier when the Right does it than when the Left does it.

No matter that the Left does it as a matter of course (remember the Puerto Rican Day Parade episode of Seinfeld?. You'll never see it on American TV again.), they'll still be crying "censorship" and complaining that "dissent" is being "stifled". And you bet they'll certainly remember this the day someone attempts to make a docudrama on the Clintons.

November 9, 2003

Ignore the elephant in the room

Look, a whole article about the debate over media bias which doesn't mention the New York Times. I wonder where this article appeared?

November 10, 2003

It ain't over til...

I'm not a political junkie, so I can't answer this question, but maybe someone else can: is it a good sign when a presidential candidate fires his campaign manager with just a couple of months before the first primary?

Assuming this is a sign of the Kerry campaign's implosion, is this the worst campaign debacle ever by the presumptive nominee? Kerry was supposed to be the front-runner with the straight shot to the nomination; instead, he's reorganizing his campaign at this late date. (Okay, there's Gary Hart, but his campaign collapsed for non-campaign reasons. I guess Lyndon Johnson in 1968 would have to take the prize for the worst campaign failure by a front-runner. But Kerry's has to rank up there among flops. Though I must point out that I called the Dean phenomenon long before the media noticed him.)

Fun Facts, With MoDo

In the course of using cutsey nicknames like "Rummy" and "Wolfie", and bringing up Vietnam references, Maureen Dowd includes this slight little fib:

But some fret that the Pentagon -- growing desperate as the Turks, the Indians, the Pakistanis and other allies refuse to send reinforcements -- has been turning out new Iraqi police officers and guards as swiftly and sloppily as Lucy and Ethel turned out chocolates on the assembly line.
(Dowd may be virtually unreadable, but it's interesting in a car-wreck-on-the-side-of-the-road sort of way to see which pop culture references she can use to best trivialize world affairs. In this column we get a two-fer: The Untouchables and I Love Lucy.)

The Turks "refuse to send reinforcements"? That isn't quite right, is it? The Turks agreed to send reinforcements; it was the Iraqis that didn't want the Turks there. Slight difference, that Dowd might have noticed, if she had stopped watching Nick At Nite long enough to read the newspaper. (And then she might have seen that South Korea has also agreed to send troops.)

November 11, 2003

In the main

The New York Times editorializes on Bush's judicial nominations, arguing (once again) that Senate Democrats aren't behaving unfairly in filibustering Bush's nominees. First, they argue that the statistics show not many nominees are being blocked, but that isn't the main thrust of their argument:

What conservative interest groups are unhappy about is that Senate Democrats are balking at a small number of nominees who lie well outside the mainstream. How far outside? Janice Rogers Brown, a California Supreme Court justice nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has publicly questioned incorporation, a well-settled legal doctrine holding that important parts of the Bill of Rights apply to the states. (At her confirmation hearing, she insisted that in fact she now accepts incorporation.) Alabama's attorney general, William Pryor, whose nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has been kept unconfirmed through filibuster, called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination" of constitutional law in our history.
I'm not sure quite where they get the idea that Brown has "questioned incorporation" -- other than from the People For the American Way hit piece on Brown, which seems to leave out an awful lot of context. (I suspect she's talking solely about the establishment clause, but there's no way to be sure, and I suspect even more strongly that the Times hasn't checked original sources on this point.) But in any case, are they implying her to be a liar when she "insisted" she "now accepts incorporation"? If not, what's their point here? She once was "outside the mainstream," but now she isn't? Or secretly inside her head she is?

As for Pryor, if the Times' editorial board thinks that opposition to Roe is "well outside the mainstream," the the Times' editorial board might want to venture outside the borough of Manhattan. Even among pro-choicers, there are many (such as yours truly) who agree that Roe was a poor ruling. And as for the substance of the ruling, there are an awful lot of pro-lifers in the country. Not a majority, but enough, surely, that being pro-life cannot be considered "outside the mainstream" any more than being pro-choice can. (Or, let's put it this way: there are more pro-lifers than there are who think that the partial birth abortion ban was a horrible law. The Times is in the latter category -- but I don't think the paper's editors consider themselves to be "outside the mainstream.")

If a majority of the Senate supports a particular nominee, where on earth do the editors get the gall to claim that the nominee is "outside the mainstream"? Who elected the Times to speak for anybody?

Most fundamentally, what kind of argument against a judge is it that the judge is "out of the mainstream"? Are judges supposed to be politicians, or are they supposed to be independent, judging cases on their own merits regardless of where the mainstream is? Wasn't the Supreme Court pretty "out of the mainstream" when it ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional? Or school prayer? Or that Miranda warnings needed to be given? Or that schools should be desegregated, or abortion legal, or flag burning, or... well, you get the idea. Aren't these all decisions that the New York Times celebrates? (It's rhetorical: the answer is "Yes.")

One might suggest that editorial's writers mean -- though they don't say so -- that regardless of what the public's views are, the nominees are outside the mainstream of current jurisprudence. But that's an even stranger complaint, and one the Times can't effectively make. Why? Because, like all doctrinaire liberals, the Times believes in a "living" Constitution which "evolves" to meet societal standards. The only way they can justify their support for rulings such as a ban on the execution of the retarded or the unconstitutionality of sodomy laws is to suggest that these rulings reflect the current mainstream. So they can't now suggest that the judicial mainstream is far from the public mainstream.

The only way to reconcile these points is to realize that the editorial writers simply define their own views as "the mainstream," and then demand that judges rule that way because it fits their preferences. Which is hardly a useful principle for running the judicial branch.

November 13, 2003


A story about a SmokingGunesqe website, The Memory Hole, contains this gem:

One of Mr. Kick's recent digs involved an internal report from June 2002 that harshly criticized the Justice Department's efforts toward diversity in employee hiring, promotion and retention. A version of the report was posted at the department's Web site last month with about half of the material in the 186-page study blacked out.

But Mr. Kick discovered that the deletions were easy to restore electronically. Opening the document in Adobe Acrobat, a reader and editor for Portable Document Format, or PDF, Mr. Kick used the software's "Touch Up Object" tool to select the black bars covering the text. He then hit the delete button. The black bars disappeared, leaving just the text.

"It was that simple," Mr. Kick said. "I was kind of surprised, but we are talking about a government bureaucracy, so I wasn't that surprised."

Your government at work, folks.

It's all Greek to me

Eugene Volokh points us to this exceptionally silly bit of political correctness at San Diego State University:

San Diego State is . . . dropping the word "foreign" from the general catalog's "Foreign Language Requirement."

According to Dean of Division of Undergraduate Studies Geoffrey Chase, the University Senate decided to delete the word "foreign" from the title last Tuesday. Chase said the extraneous word carries negative connotations and should, therefore, be omitted in the next publication of the general catalog.

This calls to mind Ted Turner's infamous edict banning the use of the word "foreign" from CNN in favor of "international." The difference there, though, was that Turner was trying to market CNN as an international media outlet, rather than an American one. Hopefully, SDSU isn't trying to market itself as a non-American university.

I did find this amusing, in the story:

Members of the Undergraduate Council, who drafted a rationale, in support of this initiative wrote: "The term 'foreign' has been used to designate something alien and is as ethnocentric and inappropriate as using 'oriental' to designate a person of Asian descent."
juxtaposed with
Although the action does not change graduation requirements, linguistics and oriental languages professor Zev Bar-Lev disagrees with the council's decision and considers it harmful.
I think they're coming for you next, Mr. Bar-Lev.

November 16, 2003

Window shopping

You know those state budget deficits that people like Paul Krugman have been whining about? The ones that are causing states to have to slash desperately needed services? Ever wonder what causes them? Well, if you're Krugman, of course, you don't wonder: it's George Bush's fault. All of it. But for the rest of us, read this story of state bureaucracy run amok, and get a slightly different perspective on why state budgets are in the red, and why their "desperately needed services" aren't always so.

So whose religion is more rigid and archaic: those who worship a pre-industrial era, or those who worship the nanny state? I'm not sure, but I do know that only one of the two is trying to impose personal religious beliefs on others.

(On the other hand, kudos to the town officials, who injected some desperately needed common sense into government.)

"Go Southwest, Young Man."

Democrats should ignore the South in 2004; they aren't going to win it anyway, and they can win without it, according to UMBC political science professor Thomas Schaller.

Essentially, the logic goes that Gore almost beat Bush without the South anyway, so all the 2004 Democratic nominee needs to do is hold onto Gore's victories and then pick up a few more electoral votes. Schaller's theory is that the Southwest is ripe for a Democratic pickup, primarily because of the Hispanic influx in recent years. So to those states add New England, the Pacific states, and parts of the Rust Belt, and the Democrats win without any victories in the South.

There are a few flaws in Schaller's argument; the most obvious ones are these:

  • The main basis for the thought that the Southwest is up for grabs is that Schaller's standard of comparison is Mike Dukakis. But doing better than Dukakis (or Mondale, Carter, and McGovern) is hardly evidence that the Democratic Party, as a party, is picking up ground in these states.
  • If the Democrats write off the South, this frees up the Republicans to concentrate their attention in competitive states elsewhere. And it's not as if Democrats have a lock on all these other areas; Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin all went Democratic by very small margins. If Bush, who is already likely to have a financial advantage, is free to pour resources into these states, the Democratic nominee is in real trouble. And that doesn't even count California, where Arnold's election throws the whole dynamic out of whack.
Of course, much depends on Ralph Nader; if Nader doesn't run, and/or if the Democratic nominee -- let's call him "Howard Dean" -- picks up Nader's votes without losing any in the center, then he can win without having to make gains elsewhere; both Florida and New Hampshire could have swung Democratic in 2000 if Gore had had Nader's votes.

Ultimately, it seems somewhat pointless to try to make these sorts of projections now, when so much depends on what the economy is doing in fall 2004. If the jobs picture continues to be mediocre, Bush is vulnerable; if the economy is in full recovery, Democrats aren't going to win in the South, North, East, or West.

Those who do not remember history... are condemned to work in journalism

Bobby Jindal lost yesterday's gubernatorial race in Louisiana to Kathleen Blanco, and in the identity politics story of the day, the Washington Post reports:

Blanco, 60, has held public office here for 20 years -- but her victory in the governor's race broke from the path of tradition. She is the first woman to be elected governor of a Deep South state, and only the third female governor elected in the old Confederacy (Texas has had two).
Apparently the Washington Post has forgotten about Lurleen Wallace, who was elected governor of Alabama in 1966.

Now, as soon as I read the quoted sentence from the Washington Post, I remembered George Wallace's wife. If I -- who wasn't even born at the time -- can come up with another example from memory, shouldn't reporters -- who are actually paid to do research for their stories -- not make mistakes like this?

November 17, 2003

Squander This!

IIt's rare to read an article one agrees with so completely. For me, this Time Magazine piece by Charles Krauthammer is one of them:

The world apparently likes the U.S. when it is on its knees. From that the Democrats deduce a foreign policy - remain on our knees, humble and supplicant, and enjoy the applause and "support" of the world.

This is not just degrading. It is a fool's bargain -- 3,000 dead for a day's worth of nice words and a few empty U.N. resolutions. The Democrats would forfeit American freedom of action and initiative in order to get back - what? Another nice French editorial? To be retracted as soon as the U.S. stops playing victim?

Sympathy is fine. But if we "squander" it when we go to war to avenge our dead and prevent the next crop of dead, then to hell with sympathy.

It's so perfect, I can't think of anything to add except the standard "read the whole thing." (Of course, you might already have, because it's Time Magazine's most-emailed article at the moment.)


Robert Musil scoffs at this article from the New York Times about middle class people losing their health insurance.

These people are not poor, and they are not unaware of the costs and risks connected with the decision of whether to purchase or not purchase health insurance. They are making consumption choices - and they quite clearly view health insurance as of a type with other ordinary goods. Indeed, in the case of Ms. Pardo, health insurance seems to be an ordinary good that is of less signifiance than economizing on rent, car payments and insurance, day care and utilities.
And it's difficult to disagree with him, when you read anecdotes in the article such as this one:
Lorenda Stevenson said her choice was between buying medicine to treat patches of peeling, flaking skin on her hands, arms and face and making sure her son could continue his after-school tennis program. "There's no way I will cut that out unless we don't have money for food," she said.

Mrs. Stevenson's husband, Bill, lost his management job at WorldCom two years ago, when an accounting scandal forced the company into bankruptcy. They managed to pay $900 a month for Cobra, the government policy that allows workers to continue their coverage after they lose their jobs, but when the cost rose to $1,200, they could no longer afford it.

When their son, a ninth grader, needed a physical and shot to take tennis, Mrs. Stevenson turned to the Rockwall Area Health Clinic, a nonprofit clinic in Rockwall, a city of 13,000 northeast of Dallas. The clinic charged her $20 instead of the $400 she estimated she would have paid at the doctor's office.

"I sat filling out the paperwork and crying," she said, tears streaming down her face. "I was so embarrassed to bring him here."

A salve to treat her skin condition costs $27, and she pays roughly $50 a month for medications for high blood pressure and hormones. She does without medication she needs for acid reflux, treating the conditions sporadically with samples from the clinic.

Apparently tennis just takes priority over medicine. Which is fine -- but isn't it obscene to ask that the rest of us pay for this woman's medicine when she could afford it if she chose?

November 18, 2003

Wrong question

In discussing the recent book Moneyball, in which author Michael Lewis profiles Oakland As General Manager Billy Beane, Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution observed:

An obvious question: if it is so hard to measure the performance of first basemen, when there is a slew of publicly available statistics, how about the rest of the economy?
It's an important insight -- and one about which I'll have more to say in the near future -- but it's not the most troubling one which one can take away from the book.

In fact, it isn't that hard to measure the performance of first basemen. Oh, I don't mean to imply that sabermetrics (the study of baseball) is as well understood as physics or as well documented as chemistry, but the field is no longer in its primitive stages, either, and there are well-established theories and methods. The real problem with baseball isn't the difficulty of measurement, but the difficulty of overcoming entrenched interests who are threatened by new ideas.

It's the equivalent of the difference between understanding the benefits of free trade and convincing politicians that they should support free trade. You're not going to find many mainstream economists who thought that George Bush's steel tariffs were a good idea, but that didn't seem to have much of an impact on the people imposing them -- perhaps because they had an interest in doing so. Similarly with baseball: it's not that you can't measure a first baseman's performance with all the statistics that are collected, but that if you can, people currently in positions of power within the industry, who are comfortable with existing techniques but not the new ones, will face losing their jobs to those who are skilled with both. So they have an incentive to denigrate the idea that these new methods work. (Perhaps a better analogy than steel tariffs is school vouchers. Certainly there are unresolved issues about measuring how well they work, but the real problem is that the people who would be directly affected -- the school bureaucrats and teachers -- have no interest in even trying.)

The primary question one has after reading this book is not "How can we possibly hope to measure the economy, given the statistics we have?" but "How can we possibly hope to get people to try new ideas when they got where they were using old ideas?"

By the way, Moneyball is wonderful; and I recommend it to anybody who has even a tiny bit of interest in baseball. Lewis is an excellent writer (I also recommend his fascinating, though somewhat dated, Liar's Poker), and he makes a topic which could be dry into a page-turner. Those with a more intimate knowledge of the subject matter will see that Lewis's understanding of the topic is somewhat superficial, but the book is still a great read, and it provides a window into the behind-the-scenes operations of a baseball team that you can't get from the sports pages.

November 20, 2003

Teach Your Children Well

The Guardian has printed 60 open letters to President Bush. As can be expected, some of the letter-writers are talking out their arse. Sneers "Mickey":

I would just like to say how much I hate you. You have done nothing positive in your whole time as president. You are the reason for the poverty in the Middle East. You have no idea what you are doing. You're killing loads of people, and that is not excluding your own nation too. There are still lots of very poor people in America, and they are getting poorer.

And "Richard Dawkins" commands from on high:

Go home. You aren't wanted here. You aren't wanted anywhere else either, but you may have been misunderinformed that Britain was the one place where you would be welcomified. Wrong. Well, presumably your best pal Tony welcomes you. But that's about it.

Mickey is only 12 years old, so while it's frightening how well he's been indoctrinated, we can forgive him for being young and impressionable. However, Richard claims to be a "Scientist". What's his excuse?

(Thanks to Harry's Place)

November 21, 2003

Hey Everyone, Look At Me!

So I was watching HardBall the other day, and there was an exchange that disgusted me, and captured the bankruptcy of certain segments of the anti-war left. Chris Matthews was discussing the possible British reaction to the then-upcoming Bush state visit to the United Kingdom, and he asked Labour Party MP Jeremy Corbyn about his opposition to the war. Corbyn denounced it repeatedly, but then felt compelled to add:

CORBYN: He doesn't publicly share that mission.

But I just want to go back slightly here. The arming of Iraq, the funding of Iraq, the support for Saddam Hussein and his internal coup in the Baath Party, where did all that come from in the late 1970s and '80s? I've been in Parliament since 1983 as a member of the British Parliament.

I was almost alone in condemning the gas attacks at Halabja in 1988.

There weren't hundreds of people demonstrating, like I was, outside the Iraqi Embassy at that time. I went to Northern Iraq in 1991. I saw the results of that. I am not a spokesperson or support in any way Saddam Hussein.

In other words, Corbyn wants to point out that just because he is vehemently anti-American and anti-Bush, he isn't pro-Saddam. And his evidence for this, the thing he's so proud of? He demonstrated outside the embassy. In short, ineffectual public displays are sufficient to demonstrate one's morality; actually taking steps to accomplish the goal, on the other hand, is completely wrong. I have no doubt that this Corbyn guy is anti-Saddam; that's not the issue here. The issue here is that his opposition to Saddam Hussein was apparently motivated not by a desire to help Saddam Hussein's victims, but to make him feel better about himself. He could pat himself on the back and say, "I demonstrated." That's all that really mattered to him. Whether he helped a single person was unimportant.

I know I'm beating a dead horse here, particularly since Saddam Hussein has about as much chance of making a comeback as Cop Rock does. But I think it's important to point out that the debate over Iraq was not, as some portrayed it, merely a debate over means. It was not a debate where both sides agreed upon what needed to be done, and disagreed only about how to achieve that goal. Rather, it was a debate between people who wanted to say something and people who wanted to do something. Members of the former group were motivated by a desire to improve their self-esteem; members of the latter group wanted to achieve a goal (for good or ill). It's a substantive difference.

November 24, 2003

Conservatives think liberals are stupid, and...

I happened to be reviewing an old piece in the American Prospect about Paul Krugman, and his reply, and perhaps have a little bit more insight into Krugman's shrill partisan rhetoric. It might seem as if what separates Republicans from Democrats is the policies they prefer. But Krugman explicitly rejects that:

But the important point is that this objection presumes that we are agreed on what must be done--which brings me to the question of what it means to be a liberal.

To Bob Kuttner, liberalism means supporting more government intervention in the marketplace. Above all, it means supporting managed international trade and deficit-financed public investment. In fact, not only does Kuttner know what needs to be done: He knows, in advance, what the conclusions of future cutting-edge economic theory will be. He knows that I must have stopped being an innovator after the mid-1980s, because my work no longer seemed to provide a rationale for neo-mercantilist trade policies; and he knows that the remarkable revival of Keynesianism is a rarefied academic affair of no real importance, because the new Keynesians still think that we ought to reduce the budget deficit. (Why is it illiberal to think that monetary rather than fiscal policy can be used to increase aggregate demand?)

So if policy prescriptions don't define liberalism to Krugman, what does? Simple:
Somehow, though, I always thought that liberalism was about compassion and justice, and have never understood what import quotas and budget deficits have to do with it.
There you go. Liberalism is about "compassion" and "justice". By implication, then, conservatism must be about cruelty and injustice. When a conservative opposes the welfare state, it isn't because he thinks it creates a culture of dependency which is bad for its recipients. It isn't because he thinks that private charity can do a better job of helping the poor than the government can. It's just because he's mean.

Now, it's hardly a surprise to hear that some (many?) liberals think this way. But one might think that Krugman, a highly educated, supposedly worldly, academic, would be a little more sophisticated than that. One would, apparently, be wrong. Krugman's philosophy is that liberalism is defined by compassion. Which explains why Krugman is the second most partisan pundit out there.

Calling all cars

How do you write a 40 paragraph, 2500 word article about changes to taxicab licensing in New York City entitled Finding the Intersection of Supply and Demand, and never once mention the possibility of actually letting supply and demand dictate the number of taxicabs in New York City, and the fares they charge?

In an era where even rent control is beginning to disappear, how can New York City still have such a command-and-control program as the Taxi and Limousine Commission, deciding how many sellers there should be to service customers, and how much they must charge?

Our legal system's new motto?

In an episode of the Simpsons entitled Bart the Genius, Bart Simpson switches his aptitude test with that of the class genius, causing him to be mistakenly placed in a school for gifted children. All the other schoolkids are real geniuses, and know things Bart doesn't. But he does manage to answer one question:

Ms.M: Bart, what other paradoxes affect our lives?
Bart: [looks around nervously; all stare at him]
Well, you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.
For some reason, that little vignette came to mind when I read Overlawyered.com's latest legal horror story. A telemarketing firm attempted to punish a racist employee, but ran into difficulty because a federal court bought the argument that the racism was actually the employee's religion.
A law firm newsletter comments that henceforth employers "may risk allegations of religious discrimination if they fail to protect employees' religious rights to believe in white supremacy. At the same time, they may risk allegations of race discrimination by nonwhite employees supervised by white supremacists.
Damed if you do, damned if you don't.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. If a judge doesn't buy the argument that racism is a religion, trial lawyers can always turn to the racism as mental illness theory, and then the Americans with Disabilities Act can kick in.

Of course, in this instance, we are talking about a telemarketing firm, so they deserve whatever happens to them. But unfortunately, I think the law may not be quite so industry-specific in its application.

November 25, 2003

Smoke 'em if you've got 'em

Except, of course, in New York, where the supposedly cash-strapped city has managed to find the money to fight public enemy number one:

In the corner office of Vanity Fair, on the 22nd floor, sits Graydon Carter. He is editor of the magazine and a liberal with libertarian tendencies who enjoys an occasional Camel. Although he keeps his door closed, someone at the magazine - no one knows who - called the city's health department more than once this fall. City inspectors visited Vanity Fair in September, October and November, and issued citations each time, said Sandra Mullin, communications director at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
How much do you think those inspectors get paid?

But that's okay, because at least they caught this dangerous criminal in the act, right? Well, not exactly:

She said no one was seen smoking when the inspectors made their unannounced visits, but that the presence of ashtrays and the absence of no-smoking signs represented a violation of the ban.
Uh oh, it's the Absence of No-Smoking Signs Police!

November 26, 2003

You're A Mean One, Mr. Green-ch

Mark Green, the former New York City public advocate who came scarily close to being our mayor, recently appeared on the O'Reilly Factor to defend the placement of religious symbols in public schools. Fair enough. One can in good conscience disagree with the ACLU and believe that a Christmas - or Hanukkah - play does not violate the First Amendment prohibition on the establishment of religion.

Yet Green is not defending *all* religious symbols. Just non-Christian religious symbols. Apparently, in the New York City public schools, menorahs and Islamic star-and-crescents are allowed, while Nativity scenes are a no-no. Green, supporting this rule, reasons thusly:

I was a city official, and I got a hundred thousand complaints over 10 years about all kinds of city services. Not one person said, you know, one of the biggest problems in New York is those Jews like Mayor Bloomberg and Joe Klein trying to trick 95 percent majority Christians into converting to Judaism. Bill, get a life.

So according to Green, the rule is okay because Christians don't complain enough. And when they do, he dismisses the complainer as someone who needs to "get a life". Clayton Cramer comments well on the obvious double standard. But he doesn't comment on Green's closing statement:

The ayatollahs of the Republican Party support your point of view, and I support the Bill of Rights.

Clayton doesn't comment probably because such stupidity practially defies comment. Never mind that nowhere in the Bill of Rights does it state that Jews and Muslims are entitled to their religious symbols, but Christians aren't. But come on, "ayatollahs"? As in the Republicans are going to repeal the Constitution and impose an Iranian-style theocracy?

That's patently absurd. Republicans aren't ayatollahs. Everyone knows that Republicans are Nazis.

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 29, 2003

Clocking in

Earlier this year, Megan McCardle coined Jane's Law:

The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
More evidence for the latter, courtesy of blogger Brian O'Connell, who discovered an entire Bush-bashing article at CounterPunch based solely on the CounterPunch columnist's inability to tell time.

Now, I'd be the last person to deny that the media sometimes gets stories very wrong. But if you weren't insane, wouldn't you pause before writing/ranting like this...

And the abysmal and sycophantic Washington and New York press corps seems to have completely missed the Thanksgiving "breakfast dinner."
...to consider that perhaps they "completely missed" the scoop you've come up with because you've gotten your own facts wrong? (To be "fair" to the Counterpunch crowd, Mr. Madsen and the others are so far left that they're perpetually out of power, so they're perpetually insane; it really has little to do with George Bush.)

About November 2003

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in November 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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