Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hard-Hitting

The first two questions in Rolling Stone's Obama interview:

When you came into office, you felt you would be able to work with the other side. When did you realize that the Republicans had abandoned any real effort to work with you and create bipartisan policy?

How do you feel about the fact that day after day, there's this really destructive attack on whatever you propose? Does that bother you? Has it shocked you?
Via Matt Welch.

The Education Crisis

This pretty much nails it, in my opinion:

Amidst all of this talk about education this week, there’s an omission that drives me crazy. Yes, yes, the horrid state of American education is an American problem, and to that extent we’re all to blame in some abstract sort of way. But is there another major area of American public policy that is more screwed up and more completely the fault of one ideological side? Which party do the teachers’ unions support overwhelmingly? What is the ideological outlook of the bureaucrats at the Department of Education? Which party claims it “cares” more about education and demagogues any attempt by the other party to reform it? Who has controlled the large inner city school systems for generations? What is the ideological orientation of the ed school racket? Whose preferred teaching methods have been funded and whose have been ridiculed?

You know the answer to all of these questions. And yet to listen to the debate this week, you would think this is all a bipartisan problem because Republicans share the blame for refusing to fund schools enough.

There are two problems with this canard. 1) Bush and the GOP congress massively increased education spending and 2) the problems with our education system have almost nothing to do with how much money we spend.

On a related note, I'm hearing nothing but raves about Waiting For Superman.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ganging Up

"Do I wish my children were part of a street gang . . . ? I kind of do . . . ."

"A Pattern of 'Serious, Glaring Misconduct.'"

Radley Balko on prosecutorial misconduct:
There’s a presumption that because they’re public servants, prosecutors should be given the benefit of the doubt, that even grievous mistakes should be assumed to have been unintentional, or that because they’re pursuing a goal most of us consider to be in the public interest—putting bad guys behind bars—even intentional infractions should be lightly sanctioned, or overlooked entirely.

But public choice theory teaches us that public servants act in their own interest in the same way private sector workers do. There’s nothing transformative about working in a DA’s office as opposed to, say, a white shoe law firm. You don’t shed self-interest to become purely noble and altruistic once you’re sworn into office. If anything, prosecutors should be given more scrutiny and oversight than other members of the legal profession. Private lawyers at best can influence courts and government officials to move money around. Prosecutors put people in prison and, in some cases, send defendants to their deaths. When they cheat, there ought to be consequences.

Check out USA Today's six-month investigation into misconduct by federal prosecutors here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Purple Reign

This gorgeous spray-paint job makes me wish I hadn't thrown out that hideous brass chandelier we replaced last year....


From Nonpareil magazine. See the before picture at Design*Sponge.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Doings at Duke

What do black people have against Duke Law School?

Possibly related: Is Duke undergrad full of homophobic Republicans?
The future of the College Republicans at Duke University remains unclear after allegations that the club’s executive board removed a member because he is gay.

For now, despite a series of votes by the Duke Student Government, the Duke College Republicans still have student funding and their campus charter. But lawsuits are looming.

Last spring, the chairman of the chapter, Justin Robinette, was impeached and removed from office -- he says it's because he's gay, the College Republicans say he misused funds.
What stuns me is that the school's College Republicans chapter is large enough to have an executive board, and meetings, and real activities. I was briefly a member of the chapter at some point in the mid-late '90s, and my recollection is that the entire group could have met comfortably in a galley kitchen. I think our main -- perhaps only -- activity was halfheartedly passing out leaflets for the local Congressional candidate. Anything as structured as an impeachment would have been unthinkable.

The Pledge and Medicare

Peter Suderman on the Republican pledge to avoid talking about Medicare: "The GOP clearly wants to be the party of fiscal responsibility. But if it hopes to claim that title, it's first going to have to introduce a plan to be fiscally responsible."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pledge

Douthat on the GOP's new "Pledge to America":
[T]here’s no evidence in this document that the G.O.P. is serious about dealing with the real roots of America’s long-term fiscal imbalance, as opposed to simply posturing about spending discipline in the hopes of making the Democrats look bad.
And ugh, they're using that awful pandery language again: spending will be cut, but “with common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.”

More: Peter Suderman on how the Pledge is like Obamacare.
[I]f the GOP was hoping to distance itself from President Obama’s health care overhaul, it’s gone about it in an awfully odd fashion: The Pledge includes a number of promises to follow-through on some of the most problematic ideas in ObamaCare. Here’s a key passage:

Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick. We will incentivize states to develop innovative programs that lower premiums and reduce the number of uninsured Americans. [bold added]

Consult Suderman if it's not obvious to you how guaranteed issue creates an "insurance death spiral" by "turn[ing] an insurance premium into an all-you-can-eat health care buffet that you only have to pay for when you want it."

Ugh. Just ugh.

"Do-nothing-but-demagogue"

Nice response by Paul Ryan to Senator Casey's criticism of his deficit-reduction plan.

O'Donnell and the Media

I largely agree with John Podhoretz's take on Christine O'Donnell. He finds in her "little evidence of seriousness of purpose" and notes that for all the the carping she and her supporters have done -- and will do -- about the media's treatment of her, she wouldn't be the nominee for Senate without them:
[T]here would be no Christine O'Donnell without the mainstream media, and it will be to their precincts she will in all likelihood decamp in the wake of her sudden fame, turning the ideas she claims to embody into a dismissible caricature, just as she did in her youth. The same, by the way, will be true if she wins; she will be the first new senator liberal reporters turn to for a quote on something controversial, in hopes that she will step in it. The problem is not the ideas, or the Tea Party. The problem is O'Donnell and her path to the spotlight.
I wouldn't terribly mind seeing her win in November, but she'd be a one-termer, and I've no doubt she'd "step in it" frequently, to the great delight of many.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Douthat on Same-Sex Marriage

Ross Douthat has a very thoughtful post (actually it's the second of two -- part I is here, and he also wrote a column on the subject) detailing his reservations about same-sex marriage.

Douthat's concerns are fair, reasonable, and temperately and eloquently expressed, and for those reasons I commend his piece to your attention.

Ultimately, though, I come down on the other side,* based in part on a truth that Douthat acknowledges:
I suspect that the formal shift away from any legal association between marriage and fertility will eventually lead to further declines in the marriage rate and a further rise in the out-of-wedlock birth rate (though not necessarily the divorce rate, because if few enough people are getting married to begin with, the resulting unions will presumably be somewhat more stable). But these shifts will probably happen anyway, to some extent, because of what straights have already made of marriage.
Douthat's post is long, but well worth your time.

* My support for same-sex marriage as a policy matter should not be taken to mean that I believe the United States Constitution requires it.

From Radley Balko

How to record the police. "The dizzying advancements in personal technology during the last decade have slipped a powerful government accountability tool into our pockets."

Nice Jugs


Paging Catalog Living . . . .

[Image from Pottery Barn.]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Robo-Polled

Earlier this evening I was robo-polled by an organization identifying itself as "DNC Services" -- which I assume is affiliated with the Democratic Party. (This may have been the same poll that David Bernstein received recently.) A few observations:

1.) I absolutely love answering political polls! This probably makes me a non-optimal responder, from a pollster's point of view.

2.) The questions centered around how likely I am to vote in the November 2 election, whether I'm likely to vote for Democrats or Republicans for Congress, and how I feel about the President. The only politician specifically mentioned was Barack Obama.

3.) One of the questions asked which national issue most concerned me. There was a list of five or six choices, none of which was "government spending" or "deficits." The closest choice to those was "the economy and jobs," but that's not really the same thing, is it?

By leaving spending off the list, this poll is going to miss -- or misidentify -- a major source of voter discontent. For the record, I chose health care, but I would have picked spending/deficits if that had been a choice.

4.) There were a bunch of demographic questions at the end -- age, gender, race -- that the recording kept stressing were "for statistical purposes only," So . . . the other questions have nothing to do with statistics?

Good Morning

TV Quote of the Day:
"This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened."
~ Don Draper, Mad Men

Song of the Day:
Three Doors Down, "Kryptonite"

Happy Birthday:
Lauren Bacall
Nadia Boulanger
Dennis Connor
Henry V
B.B. King
J.C. Penney

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Evening

Quote of the Day:
"The worst is so often true."
~ Agatha Christie, They Do It with Mirrors

Song of the Day:
U2, "Mysterious Ways"

Happy Birthday:
Agatha Christie
Prince Harry
Tommy Lee Jones
Dan Marino
Oliver Stone
William Howard Taft

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good Morning

Movie Quote of the Day:
Sir Alexander Dane: Could they be the miners?
Fred Kwan: Sure, they're like three years old.
Sir Alexander Dane: MINERS, not MINORS.
Fred Kwan: You lost me.
~ Galaxy Quest

Song of the Day:
The Belle Stars, "Iko Iko"

Happy Birthday:
Larry Brown
Tyler Perry
Kimberly Williams
Amy Winehouse

Monday, September 13, 2010

Good Morning

Quote of the Day:
"A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer."
~ Robert Frost

Song of the Day:
The Beatles, "Penny Lane"

Happy Birthday:
Fiona Apple
Roald Dahl
Bela Karolyi
Jean Smart

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Good Morning

Quote of the Day:
"To be once in doubt
Is once to be resolved."
~ Shakespeare, Othello

Song of the Day:
Weezer, "Island in the Sun"

Happy Birthday:
Maurice Chevalier
Jennifer Hudson
Yao Ming
Barry White

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good Morning

Quote of the Day:
"Sadness flies away on the wings of time."
~Jean de La Fontaine


Song of the Day:
Beth Nielsen Chapman, "Beyond the Blue"

Happy Birthday:
Maria Bartiromo
Harry Connick, Jr.
Mickey Hart
O. Henry
D.H. Lawrence

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Every Man for Himself"

Everybody's linking to this, because it's really, really good: Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair on the Greek debt crisis:
In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms—and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year. Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece’s rail passengers into taxicabs: it's still true. "We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension," Manos put it to me. "And yet there isn't a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay." The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland's. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something.
Also, this: "The structure of the Greek economy is collectivist, but the country, in spirit, is the opposite of a collective. Its real structure is every man for himself."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Votes and Consequences

David Corn and Jim Pinkerton discuss the bleak electoral prospects of Virginia Congressman Tom Perriello:



Perriello beat the Republican incumbent, Virgil Goode, in 2008 by 727 votes -- the narrowest margin of victory in any House race that year. And even in that overwhelmingly Democratic year, Perriello's district, the 5th, voted narrowly for McCain.

So I would argue that Perriello's re-election prospects were grim from the day he took office. To put it mildly, he did not help those prospects by voting for the stimulus, cap and trade, and Obamacare.

He's a Democrat, of course, and there's arguably not much point in being a Democratic Congressman if re-election concerns prevent you from voting for much of your party's agenda. Perriello gave Nancy Pelosi his vote when it mattered, and good for him. His constituents seem poised to vote him out of office because of those votes, and good for them.

A recent issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine ran a cover story entitled The Virginia Experiment: Is Tom Perriello ’96, ’01JD, a new kind of congressman? Or just the kind who doesn’t get reelected? As much as I'm sure the liberal readership of the Yale Alumni Magazine wishes Democrats could cast vote after vote for deeply controversial liberal legislation and yet be re-elected in landslides by their conservative-leaning constituents, I'm pretty sure the answer is going to be (b).

Enough with the Plans

How nice to learn that Gregg Easterbrook, one of my favorite writers, has a blog.

Here, he boldly proposes a moratorium on bold new economic recovery plans:
Left-wing plans to incur more debt and spend, and right-wing plans to keep taxes very low, share this in common – both borrow from the future. When you borrow from the future, you make the future less valuable.

This is a core reason constant Washington “bold” economic plans don’t inspire the economy – the plans deplete the country’s future. If you believe the future will be worth less than the present then why hire, why build, why feel optimism? Investment spending can make a future more valuable. But neither party proposes merits-based investing – both just propose panicky new handouts to their constituencies and donors. Do these possible additional plans make you feel confidence — or dismay?

The best and smartest action Washington could take about the economy would be to stop declaring new plans. There are plenty of programs in place. Letting the situation stabilize is what the economy most needs – and a surer path to job growth.

And remember, you can still catch Easterbrook's hugely entertaining Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking on espn.com.

GOP Gets a Little Specific

Well, it's not a full-fledged plan, but at least it's something specific. From the office of House GOP leader John Boehner:
House Republicans are calling on Congress to take the following two actions this month:

1. Pass a bill that cuts non-security related government spending for the next year back to FY 2008 levels – before all of the bailouts, government takeovers, and 'stimulus' spending sprees began. On Monday, President Obama proposed another round of the same failed 'stimulus' spending that has led to fewer jobs and more debt. The legislation House Republicans are proposing would provide the fiscal discipline economists say is needed to promote private-sector job creation and prevent a lame-duck Congress from writing another bloated omnibus spending bill after the November elections. Exceptions should be made for programs affecting seniors, veterans, and national security.

2. Enact a two-year freeze on all current tax rates to stop job-killing tax hikes on families and small businesses. This would help ease the uncertainty employers and entrepreneurs are facing so they can get back to creating jobs. While President Obama intends to move forward with his plan to raise taxes on half of small business income in America, House Republicans will continue to fight to permanently stop job-killing tax hikes.
Emphasis on the pander-y parts is mine. Ah, "families and small businesses" -- because tax hikes on individuals and large businesses have no job-killing effects and are generally just peachy.

And seriously, why do "programs affecting seniors" get a pass on the spending cutbacks? Aside from that being an exception you could drive a truck through, this reads like just another signal that the GOP has no intention of getting on the wrong side of the AARP -- something somebody is going to have to do, sometime, if we're ever going to reform entitlements.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Gingrich on a Budget

Via Matt Welch, an excerpt from a recent Newt Gingrich interview:
[MATT] LAUER: Let's talk about cutting, cutting the deficit here. You've said, you're thinking more seriously now than ever about running for president. Let's say I make you president right now. Congratulations. And I give you what a lot of people are predicting - a Republican-controlled House and Senate. That means you've got to make some really tough choices in terms of cutting this deficit. What are you willing to say? And name it by name, that you would be willing to cut right now to cut deficits.

GINGRICH: First of all, you just may, create a nightmare for virtually every Democrat watching the show, so I apologize to them. But to, but to work out your scenario, in the four years I was Speaker of the House, the average rate of increase was 2.9 percent a year including all the entitlements. That is the lowest rate of increase since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. We did it by carefully setting priorities.

LAUER: But-

GINGRICH: Now, now just let me finish.

LAUER: Okay, go ahead.

GINGRICH: So, so we doubled, for example, investment in national health research at the National Institutes of Health while we were being very tough on other spending. I would start and I'd go through this budget pretty dramatically and I would eliminate a great deal of federal bureaucracy. I would reform unemployment compensation. I would reform workman's comp at the state level. I would have a very pro-jobs, very pro-savings, very pro-take-home pay policy. When we reformed welfare, 65 percent of people on welfare either went to work or went to school and we saved billions and billions of dollars. That's part of how we managed to balance the budget. Remember Matt...

LAUER: Would, would you make cuts in Social Security and Medicare?

GINGRICH: No, no.

This is what I find truly depressing about the prospect of a GOP takeover of Congress. Gingrich is supposed to be one of the wonkiest Republicans out there, and his solution to the yawning budget gap appears to consist of: welfare reform (didn't we already do this?), reforming unemployment compensation and workers' comp at the state level (!), and of course, "eliminat[ing] a great deal of federal bureaucracy."

But cuts to the entitlement programs that are threatening to drive us off a fiscal cliff? No, no, by God, no!

Good Morning

Quote of the Day:
"Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication, because youth is sweet and they are growing."
~ Aristotle

Song of the Day:
The Archies, "Honey, Honey"

Happy Birthday:
Alan Ladd
Charlie Sheen
Shaun White

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Facing a Tough Decision?

Gretchen Rubin has five questions for you.
When I’m reluctant to take a risk or face something uncomfortable, I ask myself these five questions which, in melodramatic form, I call the "Five Fateful Questions." They help me think clearly about a situation.
Rubin asked herself these questions when she was pondering a career switch from law to writing.

Legal Eagle Wedding Watch

My latest post at Above the Law.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Paint It White

Nicole Balch on why she's painting the wood trim in her home.
This is where my family actually lives, not a historical time capsule. I've decorated around the wood and the more I look at it, the more I can't get over the crazy grain and the stain that has seen better days. Painting the trim white will make me so much happier with the look of my home, and what good is preserving a home's features if those features don't actually make you happy?
I couldn't agree more. I waffled a bit over painting our brick fireplace, but ultimately I made the same decision for the same reason.

Interesting discussion in the comments, by the way.