WORST. PROGRAM. EVER.ViaTyler Cowen, Human Eventslists the "ten most harmful government programs," two of which -- income tax withholding and earmarking -- aren't programs at all. The super-popular pillars of the social insurance state -- Social Security (#1), Medicare (#2), and Medicaid (#7) -- all make the list, along with genuinely harmful farm subsidies at number five in a tie with "contraceptive funding." Rounding things out are affirmative action and the obscure-until-last-fall Davis-Bacon Act.
THE SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION AND CONGRESSPEDIA. Today Jeff Birnbaumreports on the activities of the interesting new Sunlight Foundation, financed by securities bigwig Michael Klein and headed up by goo-goo veteran Ellen Miller. I was briefed on some of Sunlight's activities a few weeks ago; certainly one of their most compelling visions, looking forward, would be the expansion and perhaps integration of the valuable campaign finance information currently available in disparate databases like OpenSecrets.org (which is run by Miller's old shop, the Center for Responsive Politics).
CHIMP RIGHTS.Andrew Stuttafordnotes that Spain's Socialist Party is pushing a bill to give great apes legal rights in part on the grounds that "humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans." Jonah Goldbergobjects to the whole DNA-sharing methodology, and I think there are some good reasons for doing so. That said, I think the eye-opening genetic fact, apes-wise, is that chimpanzees and bonobos are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas or any other animal.
BRAVE, NEW ECONOMY. This post of Andrew Sullivan's reminds me of a point I've been meaning to make for awhile now. Memory jogged by a book on world opinions towards America, he rhapsodizes, "twenty-one years ago, six weeks after arriving here, I wrote to tell my parents: no offense, but I've found a home. Two key characteristics that distinguish Americans are religious belief and the notion that the individual is responsible for his own destiny." True enough. Though, it's worth saying that the Middle East is pretty heavy on religious belief, and Andy never seems too sold on that. In any case, this is going to be sort of wonky, but bear with me, it's important stuff.
THE GOOD SPIN. Notwithstanding earlier positive remarks about the Post opinion page, they've chosen to run another David Ignatiuscolumn in which he simply repeats, utterly uncritically, whatever Zalmay Khalilzad told him yesterday afternoon. Spencer Ackermangets at some of the issues, but I don't even understand why it's a good thing that new boss Jawad Maliki doesn't enjoy Ibrahim Jafari's close relationship with Iran.
WHO IS THE BLOGOSPHERE?Chris Bowers's analysis of the demographics of the progressive blogosphere is well worth a read. In sum, "Active readers of Democratic political blogs are very highly educated, highly politically active, quite well-to-do, voracious consumers of media, not very young, and skew male." Bowers thinks this runs contrary to stereotype, but to me the only surprising thing about this was the median age (46.4 years) which was quite a bit higher than I would have expected. This is, interestingly, more or less the demographic profile of professional journalists, which perhaps accounts for the mutual antagonism (narcissism of small differences and all that).
CROOKS AND LEAKERS. The Post editorial page often disappoints, but yesterday's missive on Porter Goss's zealous pursuit of CIA employees who blow the whistle on illegal torture and detentions is a good one. The only thing I would say is that it's past the time to drop the pretense that the administration's problem is, say, an objectionable nonchalance about torture or an unwillingness to take the problem seriously. They're just for torture and secret, illegal detentions.
Proponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are happy to make whatever outlandish claims are convenient to advance their cause. A few years ago, they were pushing the line that drilling in the Refuge would generate 500,000-750,000 jobs, citing a study by WEFA, one of the country's leading economic forecasting firms. We did a short analysis showing the faults of this study. When WEFA refused to stand behind its study, this outlandish job claim quickly disappeared from the debate.