Archive

  • 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...
  • THESE WERE THE...

    THESE WERE THE BEST OF TIMES. David Leonhart says Americans have never been better off than they are today. There's a certain amount of truth to this, but also a great deal of non-truth. I think Brad DeLong lays out the real shape of the situation pretty well. I would also say that, to me, a lot less hinged on the question of whether or not the average American is better off today than he was 30 years ago than most people seem to think. Conventionally, your more lefty liberals offer a very gloomy account of recent decades while people further to the right have a more sunny view. But it sort of doesn't matter. Implementing, say, a universal health insurance scheme will either improve most people's lives or it won't. If it will improve people's lives we should do it, and if it won't we shouldn't. And so on and so forth down the line for your major progressive policy ideas. I'm a liberal because I mostly think the stuff liberals want to do will improve most peoples' lives. So what does...
  • THE GORE BACKLASH....

    THE GORE BACKLASH . Only a matter of time until it started in earnest, right? First up is Jonah Goldberg with an attempt to reactivate the Gore -as-exaggerator storyline. Turns out Arianna Huffington , swooning over her new crush at Cannes, reported Gore saying "'This is my second visit to Cannes. The first was when I was fifteen years old and came here for the summer to study the existentialists � Sartre, Camus... We were not allowed to speak anything but French!' Which may explain his pitch-perfect French accent." Goldberg grabs this and, under the title "There He Goes Again," compares it with reports that Gore was working on his family farm at age 15. More damning, Gore got C's in French at St. Albans, which spurs Goldberg to snort that "presumably somebody who can ribbit fluently about Camus, should be able to get a B � even at St. Alban's." Sometimes it's tough to know where to start. Goldberg didn't seem to notice that the quotation marks ended before the line about Gore's...
  • American Idol Special: Was the Vote Kosher?

    First, Beat the Press extends its congratulations to Taylor Hicks, the new American Idol. Now, for the serious question, was the vote fair? The issue here has to do with the voting mechanism. As we know the vote took place through phone-in voting. (People could also text message in their favorites). The problem is that the enthusiastic response by Idol fans often left the phone lines busy. For example, the Washington Post Idol wrap-up reported that a special on-line speed dialing service was able to get through with less than one-quarter of its calls. If most calls don't get through, then the votes recorded for each contestant will end up being roughly the same, regardless of how many people intended to vote for them. This can be seen with a simple example. Suppose the system accepts 10 calls a minute for each contestant (they had separate phone numbers). Now suppose that Katharine McPhee had 1000 calls and Taylor Hicks had 2000 calls. Since the system will only accept 10 calls a...
  • TWO QUICK SCANDAL...

    TWO QUICK SCANDAL FOLLOW-UPS. Regarding Mike 's take on Charlie Rangel , Nancy Pelosi , and Bill Jefferson , tensions between Pelosi and the Congressional Black Caucus (including Rangel) have indeed exploded since her move yesterday to have Jefferson step down from his Ways and Means Committee post. As for ABC News's afternoon report about Dennis Hastert being targeted in the federal Abramoff corruption probe, a Justice Department spokesperson released a statement soon after saying "Speaker Hastert is not under investigation" by the department. -- Sam Rosenfeld

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