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  • CLINTON VERSUS THE...

    CLINTON VERSUS THE SLACKERS. Further efforts by New York's junior senator to alienate me as she decides that young people these days are just all too lazy. "They don't know what work is. They think work is a four-letter word." Who, exactly, does she think is fighting her regret-free war? The legendarily hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone baby boom generation? --Matthew Yglesias
  • Right Wing Law and Economics: Free Market Economics at NPR

    National Public Radio had a piece this morning about how some think tanks committed to "law and economics" (applying economic principles to the law) were hosting seminars for judges. The segment asserted that these think tanks, which purportedly receive large contributions from the tobacco industry, the oil industry, and other industry lobbies, are committed to free market economics. This should have been one of those paid public relations spots that helps NPR pay the bills. The tobacco industry does not want to be held responsible for things like marketing to children or concealing evidence of the danger of cigarettes. The oil industry doesn't want to be held accountable for the damage that oil does to the environment. Since when is the effort to avoid being accountable for the damages you cause free market economics? If I burn down by neighbor's house (accidentally), and then argue in court that I shouldn't have to pay for rebuilding, is that free market economics? According to NPR...
  • THE DAY AFTER....

    THE DAY AFTER. More interesting than the state of Hillary Clinton 's marriage is the state of her foreign policy thinking: But on Tuesday, she was also forced to deal with Iraq when two women protesting the war interrupted her speech. The protesters, who yelled, "Stop the war," were dragged from the room, leaving Clinton to explain in a question-and-answer session that she did not regret voting for war but opposed the way the president has conducted the conflict. She said the United States could begin thinking about "making other decisions" about Iraq once an Iraqi government is "fully formed." So . . . she thinks Bush has handled the war badly but doesn't regret authorizing him to handle the war? On the forward-looking issue, this is going to get us nowhere. If you want the Iraqis to move more quickly on forming a government, promising to withdraw American military support if and only if they accomplish this isn't going to get the job done. At any rate, I have longstanding beef with...
  • SO NOW IT'S...

    SO NOW IT'S SAFE. Within hours of Ken Lay 's and Jeff Skilling 's guilty verdicts coming down, the MSM had begun to form their inane analysis. No less a barometer of conventional wisdom than Newsweek 's Howard Fineman wrote : If you want a date to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush Era in American life, you may as well make it this one: May 25, 2006. The Enron jury in Houston didn�t just put the wood to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. The jurors took a chain saw to the moral claims of the Texas-based corporate culture that had helped fuel the rise to power of President George W. Bush. Ha! I would that it were so, but this is utter nonsense. If Enron was going to bring down the Bush presidency, it would have done so a long time ago. It was a much bigger news story a few years ago when it broke. And remember, back then Enron was Bush 's largest donor throughout his political career. He still won re-election, and Enron barely even figured into the 2004 campaign. Now, several years of...
  • THE BENEFITS OF...

    THE BENEFITS OF SOFTWARE PIRACY. Via the Technology Liberation Front, a study was released claiming that software piracy "resulted in a loss of $34 billion worldwide in 2005, a $1.6 billion increase over 2004, according to a study commissioned by the Business Software Alliance." This is moronic. As is typically the case with these industry sponsored surveys the method seems to have been to add up the number of pirated units, look at the retail price of one unit, and multiply the two together. Obviously, though, many of the people who have unlicensed copies of intellectual property wouldn't have acquired the property if they needed to pay full retail price. As noted here , the survey "says the highest piracy rates are found in Zimbabwe and Vietnam, where it reckons 90 percent of the software in use is illegitimate." Virtually nobody in those countries could actually afford retail software. Windows Home Edition costs 33 percent of Zimbabwe's per capita income. What these surveys mostly...
  • WALKING IT BACK....

    WALKING IT BACK. I want to retract my instapunditry of Tuesday morning about the New York Times article on Hillary Clinton 's marriage. I momentarily forgot to put on my political journalist hat and reacted to it as a woman. As a woman, I find it impressive and admirable that she's been able to preserve her marriage and turn it into something that, by all accounts, works for her. She has a friend, advisor, and peer in Bill Clinton , and the article's unprecedentedly detailed accounting of their days showed that they somehow manage to find a way to spend a substantial amount of time together for a congressional couple, while still being mindful of not getting in each other's way. It may not be perfect, but whose marriage is, marriage being the union of two imperfect beings after all? She has a real marriage, and if you consider only her role in it -- which is the only thing that ought to matter at this point, since she is the political candidate, not her husband -- it's hard not to be...
  • THE ECONOMICS OF...

    THE ECONOMICS OF SELF-INTEREST. I tend to agree with the consensus in the economics profession in general, and with Alex Tabarrok in particular, in the current immigration debate. But this is a bridge too far for me: "Economists are probably also more open to immigration than the typical member of the public because of their ethics -- while economists may be known for assuming self-interested behavior wherever they look, economists in their work tend not to distinguish between us and them." That's a mighty generous self-interpretation. A skeptic might think that this has less to do with "tend[ing] not to distinguish between us and them" than with the fact that economists reap benefits from high levels of Mexican immigration. I'll believe that this is all about altruism when I see an open letter from economists demanding that we scrap the complicated H1B visa system and instead allow unrestricted immigration of foreign college professors without all these requirements about prevailing...
  • MORE ON PROTEST...

    MORE ON PROTEST MUSIC. Fellow haters of Neil Young 's thuddingly literal-minded and reductive new Bush -bashing album might appreciate this SNL sketch plugging Young's follow-up record, I Do Not Agree With Many of This Administration's Policies ( Andy Samberg , as Conor Oberst , makes a guest appearance.) I should note that, contrary to the thrust of the spoof, lack of subtlety isn't really the core problem with Young's album as a piece of political art; of course totally unsubtle protest music can be terrific. Meanwhile, given the continued flood of protest music-related media pieces that lump the Dixie Chicks in with Young, Oberst, Green Day, Pink , and others, it's sort of worth at least noting that the Chicks (who are great, I hasten to say!) have, I believe, never recorded a political protest song, either related to this administration or anything else, ever, in their entire careers, including for the new album that's just earned them the cover of Time under the headline "Radical...
  • THOSE WHO IGNORE...

    THOSE WHO IGNORE HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO NOT DISCREDIT IT. I'm going to go ahead and disagree with Matt 's admonition to leave the last 30 years alone when arguing economics. I certainly agree that liberal policies shouldn't be sold on a platform of "your life sucks," but certain strains of recurrently ascendant conservative policy-making do need to be discredited, and there are few ways to do that without going to the tape. That's not to say, of course, that we're not better off than we were 30 years ago. We are. But our growth is being shared less and less equally, and our economy is ever more oriented towards facilitating remarkable success for the lucky few. Every time we elect a serious conservative, the deficit explodes and some hapless sap needs to painstakingly put it back together a couple years later. Large negative income shocks are far more frequent, upward mobility is significantly less common, and recoveries aren't producing anywhere near the growth in median household...
  • THE END OF...

    THE END OF LEGAL BRIBERY? I have to say, I'm a little concerned with this "end of legal bribery" business. The thing smart people say after some pol goes down in a corruption scandal is that the real scandal is what's legal -- the perfectly ordinary day-to-day business of favor granting, cash-for-access, blah, blah, blah. I've always understood that clich� to mean something like "the biggest problems need to be solved through the political process (i.e., elections) rather than the legal system." The FBI seems to have taken it in the opposite spirit to mean "we ought to start treating things formerly understood as legal as, in fact, illegal." The upshot of that is going to be to concentrate an awful lot of practical political power in the hands of the FBI's public integrity division. So far, they're targeting people I don't like, so it all seems perfectly fine. But it makes me nervous about the long term. After all, a newspaper headline screaming "Congressman X Under Investigation on...

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