Archive

  • JOHN MCCAIN'S CONSISTENT OPPOSITION TO REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM.

    JOHN MCCAIN'S CONSISTENT OPPOSITION TO REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM. Given the news that John McCain has forcefully denounced Roe v. Wade , the understandable liberal reaction is to point out the inconsistency of this legendary Straight Talker (TM). And I agree, in general, that the media myths about McCain's increasingly risible claims to independence need debunking. Given the unpopularity of his position, though, when it comes to forced pregnancy it should be pointed out that his record is in fact fundamentally consistent: he's for it . He has a 0% NARAL rating. He's never met a federal abortion regulation he doesn't like . He voted for Robert Bork , which would have meant Roe being overturned 15 years ago. He favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion . It's true that he has said that he wouldn't want his daughter forced by the state to carry a pregnancy to term, but basically all American social conservatism comes with an implicit self-exemption for rich white people, and John...
  • The NYT Endorses Protectionism

    The NYT editorial page can always be counted on to harshly condemn protection for agriculture or manufactured goods, but when it comes to much larger economic distortions that are generated by copyright and patent protection, the NYT tells its reporters to look the other way. Today�s article on the development of new software that can detect the presence of copyrighted material on the web provides yet another example of the NYT�s selective protectionism. The article includes no discussion whatsoever of the economic losses that result from imposing copyright protection. Think of the enormous gains to the economy and society if all books and articles, music and video were available to everyone in the world at zero cost over the web. These gains would dwarf any potential gains from eliminating trade barriers in manufactured goods or agricultural products. In addition, think of how much we would gain by eliminating all the rent-seeking behavior associated with copyright protection. For...
  • WE ARE THE DEADLY WARRIORS.

    WE ARE THE DEADLY WARRIORS. David Brooks's recent column (behind a firewall but I summarize it here sufficiently, I hope) on how the conservatives are correct about human nature is hilarious. In short, he argues that we humans (though I think he really means male humans) are malevolent brutes, intent on status competition and clubbing the cavewoman out before dragging her off to a life of housewifery in the cave. Well, I added that last bit, but I have an excuse, because the whole article encourages such humorous additions. Take this paragraph , for example: Over the past 30 years or so, however, this belief in natural goodness has been discarded. It began to lose favor because of the failure of just about every social program that was inspired by it, from the communes to progressive education on up. But the big blow came at the hands of science. From the content of our genes, the nature of our neurons and the lessons of evolutionary biology, it has become clear that nature is filled...
  • AN UNREASONABLE ARGUMENT:

    AN UNREASONABLE ARGUMENT: So I saw "An Unreasonable Man," the documentary on Ralph Nader that is coming out this week. From the previews I was expecting a sharply produced even-handed examination of Nader and his legacy. What I got instead was a kitschy piece of propaganda. The film, which was filled with unintentionally comical images flying across the screen and oddball music choices, gave an impression of Nader that was absurdly skewed in his favor. While the early parts of the film that discussed his work as a consumer advocate were reasonably interesting, its second half was totally bizarre. It said nothing about what Nader has done since the mid 1980s besides run for president four times. It treats the fact that Nader runs every four years with a seriousness it would never show other perenial candidates like, say, Harry Browne . Most egregiously it gives considerable air time to factually false and intellectually dishonest arguements in support of Nader's 2000 presidential...
  • Clinton and Executive Power -- Enough, Already!

    Clinton and Executive Power -- Enough, Already! The Times’ man on the Clinton beat, Patrick Healy , has an interesting story this morning on Senator Clinton’ s new approach to the question of whether she should apologize for her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq War, and the fight within Hillaryland on the subject. Apparently the winning strategy is to use a firm refusal to apologize as a symbol of her toughness and resolve. I have a feeling that strategy won’t hold for long -- not just because it won’t satisfy Democratic primary voters, but because it is exactly the definition of toughness that got us into this mess -- but I was more alarmed by the following passages: Mrs. Clinton’s belief in executive power and authority is another factor weighing against an apology, advisers said. As a candidate, Mrs. Clinton likes to think and formulate ideas as if she were president - her ’responsibility gene,’ she has called it. In that vein, she believes that a president usually deserves the...
  • WHITE HISTORY MONTH?:

    WHITE HISTORY MONTH?: I think Gary Younge is really onto something in his column in this week's Nation . Writing about how February is Black History Month, he arges that there is a crucial component missing: examination of who the pepetrators of racism themselves have been. For instance, there is much discussion of Rosa Parks and what motivated her, but none of James Blake , the bus driver who told her to give up her seat. Says Younge: So much of Black History Month takes place in the passive voice. Leaders "get assassinated," patrons "are refused" service, women "are ejected" from public transport. So the objects of racism are many but the subjects few. In removing the instigators, the historians remove the agency and, in the final reckoning, the historical responsibility. Younge argues for a new approach to American historical education that takes equal responsibilty for the bad as well as the good. Though its a little unclear what he actually argues for as policy proposal, (does...
  • The Dynamics of a Collapsing Housing Bubble

    Economic analysts are now acknowledging the shake-up in the sub-prime mortgage market. Lenders had used ridiculously lax standards, and a high percentage of recent loans are now at some point in the foreclosure prcoess. However, the conventional wisdom assures us that this will only affect the sub-prime market, not the larger mortgage and housing market. I remain a skeptic. Consider that nearly 20 percent of the mortgages issued in the last two years fell in the sub-prime category. This is a large segment of the market. Now suppose that many of these borrowers can no longer afford to buy homes or at least must pay much lower prices. The homes that sub-prme borrowers would have otherwise bought are the homes that other potential buyers would be selling. Without the sub-prime buyers, many homeowners looking to move up will be getting far less money for their current home. This will affect what they can pay for their move-up home. Of course, mortgage lenders across the board are also...
  • More Tired Cliches on Globalization at the NYT

    The NYT has yet another columnist ( Roger Cohen ) telling the fairy tale about how the market processes underlying "globalization" led to greater inequality between rich and poor. Of course, people who actually know anything about globalization, know that we have not had a market driven process, but rather one that was explicitly designed to redistribute income upward. If globalization was purely market driven, we would have removed the barriers that prevent smart people in Mexico, China, and India from working as professionals in the United States. If globalization was purely market driven, we would have eliminated the antiquated patent system of financing drug research, which makes life-saving drugs unaffordable and creates enormous economic distortions. If globalization was purely market driven, we would have promoted efficient 21st century models for financing creative and artistic work and software design, instead of tightening the patent and copyright protections that make Bill...
  • Combating Drug Counterfeiting: Big Pharma and the Soviet Union

    Parade Magazine had a two page spread this weekend warning their tens of millions of readers of the evils of drug counterfeiting. While the article correctly pointed out the risks, the article never discussed the obvious solution -- a free market. Government patent monopolies allow the pharmaceutical industry to charge prices that can be ten or even a hundred times the actual cost of production. This provides enormous incentives for people to manufacture unauthorized copies of patented drugs. Given these incentives, the United States government will be no more able to stamp out unauthorized copies of patented drugs than the Soviet Union was in banning black market sales of blue jeans. Any believer in free markets should recognize this fact. If you get rid of the patent monopoly, Wal-Mart will sell all drugs for $4 a prescription, and the incentive for counterfeiting disappears overnight. Of course, we do need to finance drug research, but the patent system is an incredibly corrupt and...
  • A BLAST FROM...

    A BLAST FROM THE PAST. One of the many list-servs I'm on is the Women, Action, & the Media list run by The Center for New Words in Boston. In the context of a broader discussion about women's worries about being seen as too pushy, I remarked that virtually every powerful woman in Washington about whom I know anything has a behind the scenes reputation as being either crazy or a bitch, and so perhaps people ought not to be so cowed by that word. In reply, Catherine Orenstein suggested that it has been ever thus, and that I read "Joreen" Jo Freeman 's 1968 "The BITCH Manifesto" . And so I did. Freeman wrote :

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