Showing posts from January, 2014

Lawful Evil

Should Stephen Glass be a lawyer? Natasha Lennard argues that he's no worse than most: The [legal profession] is littered with self-interested careerists willing to put themselves above all else. But here’s the difference between a Glass and, say, a John Yoo. The latter used the letter of law to enable evil. Glass went against the rules of his profession. The law makes room for evil before it will make room for rebels.

Newsflash: Politics is Rife with Hypocrisy and Cynicism

Every once in a while, some says something that I have thought about for ages but have never been able to phrase so eloquently. Kevin Drum : [L]iberals and conservatives tend to be tolerably consistent and principled on matters of policy. Working politicians obviously tailor their messages depending on when, where, and to whom they're speaking, but generally speaking, liberals aren't going to suddenly oppose national healthcare just because Obamacare is having some growing pains and conservatives aren't going to suddenly favor high capital gains rates just because bankers have become a wee bit unpopular. However, when it comes to matters of process , neither liberals nor conservatives tend to be very principled. Both sides have switched their view on filibuster reform based on who happens to be in power, for example. Likewise, they've traded places on their tolerance for broad claims of executive power between the Bush and Obama administrations.

Rhetorical Bestiary: Social Engineering

On social engineering, I must defer to Aimai 's eloquent definition : It's “social engineering” to try to get people to share but it's just nature to let the free market reign. It's “social engineering” to try to stop bullying but it's just nature to let the jocks and the high status people bully the gays and the outcasts. It's social engineering to institute Title 9 and affirmative action policies but it's not social engineering to have legacy acceptance criteria for private schools or for there to be all male organizations.

Unemployment is Down, Hooray!

In most of the employment reports over the last year, the headline unemployment rate has declined. This is almost invariable coupled with the caveat that the decline did not come from more people finding work, but from more people choosing not to look. (The denominator in the unemployment rate excludes anyone who is not trying to find work, such as children, the retired, and anyone who has given up looking.) There have also been monthly employment reports where the employment rate ticked up due to an increase in the number of people looking for work. I hope you will forgive me for not recalling which months, or whether the uptick was lost in the revisions. If a declining unemployment statistic is often a bad thing, and an increasing unemployment statistic is often a good thing, why is the statistic even being reported? It is clearly unable to convey how well the economy is doing. One common alternative is the employment-to-population ratio. Unfortunately, the employment-to-populatio

No, It Will not Be Mandatory to Hire Potheads. Why Do You Ask?

Douglas Wilson is even more worried about marijuana legalization than David Brooks. [W]hat we are seeing is not an expansion of personal choice, but rather a transfer of personal choice away from responsible citizens and to irresponsible ones. Perhaps Douglas Wilson has a different definition of personal choice than I do? In my definition, personal choice means that you get to make personal choices. In Douglas Wilson's definition, you apparently get to make personal choices only if Douglas Wilson approves of the choices you make. Suppose an employer does not want to employ potheads.... [For] a job that the employer believes (rightly) will be affected negatively by the pot.... Suppose... [the employer] has sound reasons for his concern about likely impairment. He has a factory full of very expensive and high-precision equipment. Or he is a hospital administrator writing standards for the neurosurgeons. Or he hires airline pilots who fly passengers around the country. I

David Brooks v. 21st Amendment

In a recent column, David Brooks writes with melancholy about the spreading decriminalization of marijuana. Some people will read it and nod sympathetically through the whole thing; I did to a degree. Many will still favor decriminalization, even after accepting Brooks’ premise. Perhaps because there is another drug with similar effects that is legal to use for those older than 21. For a while in my teenage years, my friends and I drank liquor. I have fond memories of us being silly together. Those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships. But then we all moved away from it. We didn’t give it up for the obvious health reasons: that it is addictive; that drinking and driving kills you; that young people who drink go on to suffer I.Q. loss and perform worse on other cognitive tests. We gave it up, first, because we each had embarrassing incidents. Drunk people do stupid things (that’s basically the point). I took a few shots one day during lunch and then had to give a

Fuzzy Math

In 2012, the mean annual income of the bottom quintile of American households was $11,490. In 1979, the comparable figure (adjusted for inflation) was $11,808. Seeing that $11,808 is bigger than $11,490, I am at a loss to explain how Bret Stephens thinks that the mean annual incomes of the bottom quintile of American households have increased by 186% since 1979.