Archive

  • FRIDAY AFTERNOON METAETHICS...

    FRIDAY AFTERNOON METAETHICS HOUR. I don't want this to be misunderstood, but I'm a moral relativist. Or, rather, I reject moral realism , the view that "moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Moreover, they hold, at least some moral claims actually are true." This is a much-debated philosophical issue, but in punditland, it's just a term of abuse. Ergo, Fred Siegel writing in Blueprint about the least-significant challenge currently facing America -- college professors who are too left-wing for Siegel's taste: If, as Michel Foucault told the Berkeley faculty in 1983, "There is no universal criterion which permits us to say, this category of power relations are bad and those are good," then there is no way to prefer a liberal society to fascism, communism, or Islamism. Tragically, I don't have time for a full-throated defense of my meta-ethical views at the moment. But this kind of claim, oft-made, is clearly false. Is there a universal...
  • TOTALLY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY...

    TOTALLY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY AFTERNOON POST. Some of my old New York friends and I have gotten into a discussion about the most popular television shows of all time. I made the case for The Flintstones . Hear me out. Fred & Crew debuted in 1960 as a prime-time sitcom -- the first prime-time cartoon in TV history. It ran for six seasons on ABC, with 166 episodes produced. Since then, it has never been off the air. Ever. In fact, Rick discovered with some quick Googling that the Bedrock gang is on television in 80 different countries in 22 languages. Every single second of every single day, somewhere in the world, The Flintstones is airing. Rick countered with I Love Lucy , and I confess that he may well have a point. Lucy debuted in October 1951 and, according to Rick�s research on the TV Land Web site, it has never been off the air since then. But I wonder: Is Lucy on every second of every day? I kinda doubt it. So I think I�m on reasonably solid ground, although the nine years�...
  • EASY THERE ECONOMY,...

    EASY THERE ECONOMY, EASY... Paul Krugman is in fine form today , letting his inner economist roar forth for a quick lecture on the state of the economy, and why the stock market's drop over the last few days is worrisome. "The rise in stock prices that began last fall," he writes, "was essentially based on the belief that the U.S. economy can defy gravity -- that both individuals and the nation as a whole can spend more than their income, not on a temporary basis, but more or less indefinitely." And then comes the bad news. The dollar's dropped a bit less than 10 percent against the euro and yen in the last month, the housing market is rapidly decelerating, and do we really need to talk gas prices? Consumers have been surprisingly resilient against their rise, but there's evidence that the tipping point is near. Back to Krugman: "We [have become] a nation in which people make a living by selling one another houses, and they pay for the houses with money borrowed from China. Now that...
  • THE APPLE FALLS...

    THE APPLE FALLS FAR FROM THE TREE. Sounds like Labour's scion isn't too into, well, laboring. Euan Blair , progeny of Tony , has been stateside for the past couple of weeks, interning for Jane Harman . He lasted two weeks. According to subscription-only Roll Call , "Sources contend that it�s because the 22-year-old lad was a wee bit on the spoiled side. One source says Blair, who already had been accepted to graduate school at an Ivy League university this fall, seemed �bored� and uninterested in doing the work of other interns. A source who knew of Blair�s short tenure in Harman�s office said, 'He was a dilettante.'" Sounds charming. I can offer some reportorial substantiation in this case: A friend of mine happened upon him in an elevator recently, and hearing his accent, mentioned that he'd spent some time living in Oxford. "Oxford, aye?" Snorted Blair. "'ome of the gays, that is!" He should try interning for Barney Frank . --Ezra Klein
  • THE MCCAIN BACKLASH...

    THE MCCAIN BACKLASH CONTINUES. First Richard Cohen , now Michael Kinsley ? That's bad new for the straight talk express, which relies on precisely these folks for fuel. Indeed, my hunch is that the McCain phenomenon is beginning an almost perfect reversal: as fresh and counterintuitive as lauding his 2000 candidacy was, the cool kids are going to grow proportionately alienated by his 2008 steamroller. Too much pandering, too much politics. And, sadly for McCain, his main policy break with independents and the left is on the country's most salient issue, the war. As Kinsley wonders, "how many Americans and Iraqis should die so that we can enjoy entertaining presidential speeches?" That question is going to grow a lot louder, and even though there are, as Matt says , a couple leftie pundits looking to McCain to rescue their own hawkishness, when Kinsley, Krugman , and Cohen are all writing anti-McCain pieces in 2006, the next two years look like a loooong time for John. --Ezra Klein
  • MCCAIN AND WAR....

    MCCAIN AND WAR. I loved this line from Michael Kinsley on John McCain : He "has a unique genius for telling the truth from his heart and making people believe that he is lying. And these people are his supporters! They admire him as a straight-talking truth�teller, and they forgive him for taking positions on big issues that they find repellent on the grounds that he doesn't really mean what he says." I do think, though, that Kinsley actually misses part of the dynamic here. He writes that lots of folks are eager to excuse McCain's misdeeds on the grounds that, "Oh, he has to say that to get the Republican nomination," where "'That' might refer to McCain's strong right-to-life stand on abortion, or his strong support for the war in Iraq, or his recent rapprochement with Jerry Falwell." On abortion and Falwell, that's correct. But with regard to the war, I think it's wrong. Many Democrat-favoring journalists forgive McCain's views of foreign policy because they agree with McCain's...
  • WHY NOT SANCTIONS?...

    WHY NOT SANCTIONS? Canadian immigrant Charles Krauthammer wants to build a wall across our southern border, rehashing the usual arguments and remarking, "Opponents pretend that these barriers can always be circumvented by, say, tunnels or clandestine entry by sea. Such arguments are transparently unserious. You're hardly going to get 500,000 illegals lining up outside a tunnel or on a pier. Such choke points are exactly how you would turn the current river of illegal immigrants into narrow streams -- which is all we need to turn the illegal immigration problem from out of control to eminently manageable." This I genuinely don't understand. Obviously, anyone who says a giant wall would have no impact on illegal immigration is being silly. But it's seriously not all that difficult to circumvent a wall either. Unless we want to make it much harder for people to visit the United States, it's going to need to be fairly easy for people to legally enter the country. Once in the country,...
  • The Power of the Press: Congress Takes Back Tax Breaks for Big Oil

    The New York Times had an article this morning about efforts in Congress to renegotiate federal oil and gas leases that gave the industry a windfall projected to be $20 billion over the next 25 years. The sums at stake are not huge for the country or the industry (the $800 million annual windfall is less than 1 percent of the industry's current profits), but the story does show the impact that the media can have when they do their job. The windfall was part of the energy bill approved by Congress last year. It included a provision that gave an incentive for the industry to drill in deep water off the U.S. coast, by not requiring royalty payments. The prior energy bill also included this incentive, except royalties would be required if the price of oil crossed $34 a barrel. The new energy bill dropped the $34 threshold provision, making all oil and gas from these wells royalty free. Times reporter Ed Andrews wrote a series of pieces earlier this year exposing this little-known clause...
  • PELOSI GOES SOFT....

    PELOSI GOES SOFT. I agree with Ezra �s take on the Conyers plan and what it says about Pelosi �s possible tenure as Speaker. Perhaps this wouldn�t be the approach taken for all committee investigations, but Pelosi does seem intent on reinstating bipartisan cooperation. This morning�s CongressDaily (subscription only) reports that Pelosi says she will continue to support a Minority Bill of Rights, even if Democrats take back the House in November. This includes �guaranteeing the minority at least one-third of committee resources, a revamped work schedule, a commitment to moving legislation through regular order, and allowing at least 24 hours before voting on conference reports.� It continues: Pelosi said her time as minority leader has been spent "learning in the minority how you don't want to be treated, and that's how we would not want them to be treated." In perhaps the biggest break from the current practices of GOP leaders, Pelosi said she would be willing to lose votes on the...
  • YOU DON'T HATE...

    YOU DON'T HATE WHAT YOU DO KNOW. Bryan Caplan offers data showing that the more immigration in your state, the likelier you are to be pro-immigrant. "The simplest interpretation of this result," he writes, "is that people who rarely see an immigrant can easily scapegoat them for everything wrong in the world. Personal experience doesn't get in the way of fantasy. But people who actually see immigrants have trouble escaping the fact that immigrants do hard, dirty jobs that few Americans want - at a realistic wage, anyway." Speaking of realistic wages, it's a point I've made before, but Matt has more on the likely effect of closed borders: not better paying jobs, but fewer jobs. And while he focuses on services that demand will simply dry up for, I'm more concerned about industries where we're barely out-competing global competitors, like agriculture. As The New York Times wrote, if the migrants weren't coming over the border to pick strawberries, it would be the strawberries coming...

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