Saturday, May 10, 2008

Let's comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted

Sam Smith has no use for either of the Clintons -- hasn't for many years -- but he also has no use for the media piling on Mrs. C to get out of the race:

Under the rules of traditional journalism a fight is always better than its resolution. The former can last forever; the latter is stale news in a day or two.

But ever since the media became indentured servants of the powerful, this is no longer true. As soon as it seemed Obama would win the nomination, the media was out to show it recognized the fact and Clinton, like a bleeding, losing canine in a dog fight, was to be put to rest. Little things like the practice of democracy and the intrinsic purpose of even having a convention are placed aside out of respect for the presumptive winner.

You see this same creepy coddling of power in the way the media makes fun of third party candidates, worthy causes that lack major power, or singers who get kicked off American Idol. ...Let's hope the political media doesn't start covering sports events. You'd end up paying for nine innings and only getting five.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Foreign policy as if the people were consulted

Public Agenda notes in a recent email that
Americans balk at being the world’s policeman, but they wouldn’t mind being the world's firefighter, moving in with humanitarian aid in a crisis. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) say helping out in natural disasters should be a "very important" priority, according to our Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index. That puts disaster relief on a par with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons for the public. While few foreign policy experts would frame disaster relief in these terms, the public has been quite consistent on this. ...
whether or not disasters were in the news.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Getting the lead out = getting the crime out?

The National Bureau of Economic Research, a dependable source of reading on topics you hadn't thought of, summarizes recent work by Amherst economist Jessica Wolpaugh Reyes on the relationship between reduced lead in the environment and reduced crime a generation later:

In her state-by-state analysis, Reyes controls for other possible determinants of crime rates, including the unemployment rate and per capita income, the number of prisoners and police, gun laws, beer consumption, welfare generosity, the teen pregnancy rate, the population age distribution, and the effective abortion rate. The results suggest that a 10 percent increase in the grams of lead per gallon of gasoline leads to a 7.9 percent increase in violent crime. These results are subjected to a number of sensitivity tests, with particular attention paid to the importance of certain states, the possibility of a non-linear relationship, and the role of alternate lead measures....

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Local burgers worse than chicken from far away

The latest from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh:
Substituting chicken, fish, or vegetables for red meat just once a week can help combat climate change — even more dramatically than buying locally sourced food, according to scientists in Pennsylvania who studied the environmental impacts of food production and distribution in the United States. The study is scheduled for the May 15 issue of ACS’s bi-weekly journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Full article here.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Michael Axworthy makes several good points at HNN, of which this is one:

The fundamental problem with Iran is not that the Iranian government is stuffed with fanatics (for the most part, despite the rhetoric, Iranian foreign policy has been pragmatic, notably in helping to get rid of the Taliban and set up a democratic regime in Afghanistan), nor that it is hell-bent on getting a nuclear weapon (important Iranian religious leaders have declared that nuclear weapons, and all weapons of mass destruction, are immoral and unacceptable). The problem is the dysfunctional US/Iran relationship. If that were resolved, the other problems (nuclear, Iraq) would fall away.

Ms. Clinton could use such an advisor.

Friday, May 2, 2008

When Clinton and McCain agree, run for the hills

Fact Check's quick summary:

Hillary Clinton and John McCain are offering overburdened motorists a federal "gasoline tax holiday." But economists say that the proposal is unlikely to actually lower the price of gasoline. McCain's plan would essentially give federal funds to oil refineries, while the net effect of Clinton's plan probably wouldn't be much at all, although it would create a lot of new administrative work.

(BTW, in the worm's-eye view of the Indiana primary, our household has received six calls of various kinds on behalf of Clinton, none on behalf of Obama.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ike foreshadowed

President Eisenhower's notorious reference to the desirability of "a deeply felt religious faith and I don't care what it is" supposedly appeared in the New York Times of 23 December 1952, but I am too cheap to check. This reductio ad absurdum of Protestantism has a longer pedigree than I had imagined. The following comes from A.T. Andreas's History of Chicago, volume 2, page 439, about the First Unitarian Church founded in 1857. BTW, this was no fringe outfit; one of it stalwarts was early railroad executive William M. Larrabee:

"Early in its history this Church attempted to formulate a creed, but found its belief too inclusive, and so abandoned the attempt. The only article of faith upon which all could unite was, that each member might entertain his own belief."