By Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt:
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Thursday, December 29, 2011
The New Republic lists the year's "most overlooked stories," one of which is "Obama’s Failed Fireside Chat."
Historians may someday recall that on July 25, 2011, the bulk of the American people stopped listening to Obama when he spoke about the economy.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
17. Why don't they ever use “presents” in advertisements? It’s always about “gift”-giving, and “gift” ideas, never a “they'll love these as presents.”IN THE COMMENTS: My mom, Ann Althouse, answers that question:
"Gifts' is clearly the better word. Lots of crisp consonants. One short vowel.
"Presents" has a near homophone: "presence." So it can be confusing. It also has other meanings. And if people are reading the ad, their brain might pronounce it "pree-ZENTS" and that would make it hard to construct the meaning.
"Gift" also has much nicer connotations. I think of "gift of God" and a "gifted artist." There's something exalted and in touch with the divine.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
1. The Wall Street Journal, in a piece on Gingrich's unconvincing defense against the attacks over his work for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (see my live-blog of the last debate at "9:31"), perfectly sums up the lack of principle at the core of his candidacy:
The real history lesson here may be what the Freddie episode reveals about Mr. Gingrich's political philosophy. To wit, he has a soft spot for big government when he can use it for his own political ends. He also supported the individual mandate in health care in the 1990s, and we recall when he lobbied us to endorse the prescription drug benefit with only token Medicare reform in 2003. . . .That sentence I put in bold seems like the key to understanding Gingrich's approach to government. And needless to say, anyone who becomes president has many, many opportunities to use government to their own political ends! So I can't understand why conservatives would view him as the serious conservative candidate in this race. Frankly, I can't understand why Republicans would nominate him at all. He's far from the most electable or the most conservative candidate.
If Americans elect a Republican in 2012, it will be someone who can make the case for reviving economic growth, but also for restraining and reforming government so it doesn't bankrupt the country. If Americans want more "bold" government experiments, they'll re-elect Barack Obama.
2. Libertarian blogger Alex Knepper makes the case against Ron Paul:
Sunday, December 18, 2011
North Korea is by far the most repressive and totalitarian country I've ever visited; it makes Syria or Burma seem like democracies. In North Korea, homes have a speaker on the wall to wake people up with propaganda in the morning and put them to sleep with it at night. The handicapped are sometimes moved out of the capital so they won't give a bad impression to foreigners. And triplets, considered auspicious, are turned over to the state to raise. And now this nuclear armed country is being handed over to a new leader, presumably Kim Jong-un, still in his 20's. The last transition was a dangerous time, as Kim Jong Il tried to prove his mettle by challenging the world, and this one may be as well. Look out.
"The life of the human being . . . is completely pointless. The concept of liberty or humor or irony or happiness or love doesn't exist. You are there simply as a prop for the state. And though it used to be, as with any slave system, that they would feed you in return for your services, that compact broke down a couple decades ago. Now they don't feed you either."
The murderous dictator of North Korea has died at 69 or 70.
A comment in my Facebook feed says this almost makes up for the loss of Christopher Hitchens and Vaclav Havel.
I'm afraid that of the three of them, Kim Jong Il will be the easiest to replace.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
Christopher Hitchens died yesterday of pneumonia due to esophageal cancer. (Wikipedia.)
His last published article — an extended refutation of the adage, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" — conveys the agony he was in at the time:
I am typing this having just had an injection to try to reduce the pain in my arms, hands, and fingers. The chief side effect of this pain is numbness in the extremities, filling me with the not irrational fear that I shall lose the ability to write. Without that ability, I feel sure in advance, my “will to live” would be hugely attenuated. I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking.Last year, he wrote:
In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light. But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? . . . To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?He wrote about death and the afterlife in his memoir from last year, Hitch-22 (at 337, taken from The Quotable Hitchens, at 85):
I do not especially like the idea that one day I shall be tapped on the shoulder and informed, not that the party is over but that it is most assuredly going on — only henceforth in my absence. . . . Much more horrible, though, would be the announcement that the party was continuing forever, and that I was forbidden to leave.He wrote this about George Orwell (in Why Orwell Matters, at 211, taken from The Quotable Hitchens, at 210-211):
[W]hat he illustrates, by his commitment to language as the partner of truth, is that "views" do not really count; that it matters not what you think, but how you think; and that politics are relatively unimportant, while principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.
(Photo by meesh via Wikimedia Commons.)
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I'll be live-blogging here once the debate starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. Keep reloading for more updates.
For more live-blogging, I recommend checking TalkingPointsMemo, National Review, and Althouse (my mom).
9:03 - The moderator tells Newt Gingrich: "You're now physically at the center of the stage, which means you're at the top of the polls." That's the first time I've heard them admit that this is how they choose where to place the candidates.
9:04 - Gingrich is asked about electability. He says he'll win against President Obama in "seven three-hour debates." Huh?
9:06 - Ron Paul gets the second question! That must be a first. He's asked if he'll support whoever ends up being the Republican nominee. "Probably anybody up here could beat Obama." I didn't hear him answer the question.
9:07 - Rick Santorum is asked why he's doing so badly when he's spent more time in Iowa than any of the other candidates. "I'm counting on the people of Iowa to catch fire for me." He says he presents a "clear contrast" with the others because he's been a consistent conservative. If that's so clear, yet he's going nowhere, doesn't that imply that hardcore conservatism isn't the voters' top priority?
9:09 - Mitt Romney is asked why he would be better than Gingrich at "making the case" for Republican policies when debating President Obama. This is essentially inviting Romney to attack Gingrich. Romney doesn't take the bait; he strings together a bunch of his talking points that we've heard in past debates, which are all about his positive qualities, not shortcomings with Gingrich.
9:11 - Michele Bachmann: "I spent 50 years as a real person." Has she been a robot for the past 5 years?
9:12 - Moderator to Rick Perry: "You've admitted yourself that you're not a great debater. . . . You'll be going up against Barack Obama, an accomplished debater." Perry: "I'm kinda gettin' so I like these debates. I'm looking forward to debating President Obama, and I'll get there early, and we will get it on." He's much more lively than he's been in some of the past debates. [UPDATE: Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo says:]
Apparently Gov. Perry saved all the energy from the first 57 debates and packed it all into that one answer.9:14 - Jon Huntsman: "I am the consistent conservative in this race. . . . We are getting screwed as Americans."
As always, I'm writing these quotes down as I hear them (without the use of a transcript or a rewind button), so they might not be verbatim.
9:18 - Romney seems to be self-consciously shifting to the general election, talking about how he repeatedly "found common ground" with the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in Massachusetts. Gingrich takes a similar tack, invoking "bipartisanship" and talking about the times he "worked things out with Bill Clinton."
9:22 - The moderator says that after the commercial break, they'll talk about something that hasn't been talked about in any of the past debates.
9:27 - Romney is asked about the fact that his business laid a lot of people off. Romney handles this deftly. He says we're getting a preview of the general election, when Obama will ask him the same thing. "I'll tell him, 'How did you handle General Motors when you were running it? You closed down factories. You closed down dealerships.' He'll say: 'We had to do that to save the business.' 'Same with us, Mr. President.'"
9:31 - Paul savagely goes after Gingrich for his lobbying, saying he's been involved in "government-sponsored enterprises" that are dangerously close to "fascism." Gingrich defends government-sponsored enterprises since they do a lot of wonderful things. Bachmann says she's surprised Gingrich is still defending Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Gingrich says Bachmann made "wild allegations" by saying he lobbied for Fannie and Freddie. Bachmann: "You don't need to be within the technical definition of 'lobbyist' to be peddling influence to Washington." [UPDATE: The New Republic's Noam Scheiber thinks Gingrich's defense was so weak it shows he doesn't really want to win:]
[A]nyone who actually wanted to be president and had made $1.6 million lobbying for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have come up with a better defense of it by this point than Gingrich's two-pronged "government-sponsored entities do lots of good things" and "I was a national figure doing just fine so I couldn't have been a lobbyist" line of attack. Clearly it's more important to Gingrich to insist on his righteousness than to come up with a defense that might sound semi-plausible, even if it had the collateral impact of conceding he did something slightly dodgy. I'm fairly certain that last night's excruciating (for Gingrich supporters) Fannie/Freddie exchange officially doomed him as a candidate. Well, that's not entirely true. I think his candidacy was already doomed, but this made the doomed-ness really hard to deny.9:39 - Paul says he "never voted for an earmark," but he will accept the earmarks he gets. "When you fill out your taxes, you take the deductions." He says he would be a completely different president from everyone else: he wouldn't try to be powerful.
9:43 - Perry says we should have a "part-time" Congress so that members of Congress would work at other jobs and "live within the laws they pass." Moderator: "They worked 151 days last year. How much more would constitute part time?" Perry says 140 days every other year!
9:47 - Romney is asked what sector of the economy will be the most dominant in the next 10 years. Romney says he has no idea; the market will decide that. He criticizes Obama for trying to pick and choose winners in the economy, especially the energy sector. [CLARIFICATION: I shouldn't have said that Romney said he has no idea. He said there's no need for government officials to figure out the answer to that question, but that if he has to make a prediction, he expects the dominant sectors to be manufacturing, high tech, and energy.]
9:49 - Gingrich calls for an "uprising" to "rebalance the judiciary." He criticizes "law schools" for making courts feel "empowered" to write the law.
9:51 - The topic that hasn't been talked about in any past debate is the judiciary. This is a dull topic; it just prompts everyone to say judges should be restrained and must follow the Constitution.
9:53 - Paul correctly says it would be an "affront to the separation of powers" to follow Gingrich's preposterous proposal to abolish courts that issue rulings that offend him.
9:55 - Romney points out that we already have a check on the courts: if they incorrectly interpret a statute, Congress can amend the statute to clarify what it's supposed to mean. That's an important point, but it's also a way to avoid talking about Gingrich's proposal to stamp out supposedly bad judicial rulings on constitutional interpretation. Romney has a clear strategy tonight: never attack.
9:56 - All the candidates are asked to name their favorite Supreme Court Justices. Santorum: Thomas. Perry: Alito, Roberts, and Thomas. Romney: Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Scalia. Gingrich: same as Romney. Paul won't answer, because "they're all good and they're all bad." Bachmann: Scalia. Huntsman: Roberts and Alito.
10:04 - The moderator asks Paul about the fact that he would be running "to the left of President Obama" on Iran. Paul says our current policy encourages countries to acquire nuclear weapons. "What did we do with Libya? We talked them out of having nuclear weapons. And then we killed 'em!" He praises Obama for apparently backing off from sanctions on Iran.
10:07 - Santorum on Iran: "They've been at war with us since 1979." He calls Iran a "radical theocracy" and says they're founded on "martyrdom." "Their objective is to create a calamity. . . . We need to make sure that they do not have a nuclear weapon."
10:11 - Bachmann: "I have never heard a more dangerous answer for American security than the one we just heard from Ron Paul."
10:18 - Hunstman goes way overtime in a rambling answer on foreign policy. Moderator: "OK, 2 dings in that one."
10:21 - Gingrich: "I'm very concerned about not appearing to be zany."
10:33 - Perry: "If I'm President, and I find out that the Justice Department has a program like 'The Fast and the Furious,' and my Attorney General says he didn't know about it, I will have him resign immediately." Santorum agrees.
10:38 - Gingrich sticks with his past comments that he'd give some kind of amnesty to an illegal immigrant who's been here for 25 years and has ties to the community, but puts more emphasis on cracking down on "sanctuary cities" and dropping federal lawsuits against states for excessive immigration enforcement.
10:43 - Romney is asked why he flip-flopped on gay rights, and Romney denies the charge. He says he's always been against discrimination based on sexual orientation . . . and opposed to same-sex marriage.
10:47 - Bachmann attacks Gingrich for missing an "opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood."
10:50 - Gingrich defends himself for supporting Republicans who have supposedly favored partial-birth abortion: "I don't see how you're going to run the country if you're going to go around figuring out who to purge." Too bad he doesn't understand that point when it comes to the courts.
10:52 - Romney: "President Obama has unveiled himself as someone who's not the right person to lead the country." Interesting word choice.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
That's the headline of this piece, in which Penelope Trunk (who's founded three startups) argues:
If you are worried that women don’t feel capable of doing whatever they want, you can stop worrying. Women outperform men in school at such a huge rate that it’s easier to get into college as a male than a female. And women take that to the bank by earning more than men in their 20s. Women would probably continue out-earning men except that when men and women have kids, women choose to downshift way more often than men do.The whole thing is worth reading. Of course, the real point is much broader than just startups and venture capital.
Clearly, women have a choice. There are plenty of opportunities out there for women if the women would just continue working in their 30s the same way they did in their 20s. So clearly, women don’t want to. Women are choosing children over startups.
So it seems that women are making decisions for themselves just fine. It’s just that they are not the decisions that men make. This should not surprise anyone. Men and women are different. So what?
On top of that there is evidence that the members of the VC community go out of their way to attract women. Of course, this makes sense. VCs look for underserved markets. Women are likely to address different markets than men, and since there are so few women founders compared to men founders, it’s likely that women are addressing an underserved market. So VCs want to talk to women.
So VCs are definitely giving women a fair shake, it’s just that women don’t pitch. And women are definitely feeling that they can do whatever they want, it’s just that women aren’t choosing to create tech startups. . . .
I have an idea: How about giving some respect to women who grew up in the 1970s, with feminist revolution baby boomer moms, and are still brave enough to say “I don’t want to work full time. I can work full time. But I don’t want to.“
Saturday, December 10, 2011
I won't be able to live-blog tonight's debate. I'll update this post if I have anything to say when I watch the debate later.
I recommend checking TalkingPointsMemo, National Review, and Althouse (my mom) for live-blogging.
You should be able to watch the debate live online, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, on ABC News.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
President Obama said in his recent speech in Kansas:
Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans. . . .If you're going to make such a stark claim and phrase it in pragmatic terms of what has "worked," you should at least make sure the facts are on your side with respect to your own specific examples. But Matthew Yglesias disproves Obama's claim about ATMs replacing bank tellers with one simple chart (from this site):
If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs or the internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China and India. And if you’re someone whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages and benefits — especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.
Now, . . . there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. . . .
It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked.
[I]t's true that since the recession started, we've seen fewer people on the job as tellers. But that's not a decades-long technologically induced trend. It's a recession. The [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics] continues to project long-term growth in the number of bank tellers presumably because banks like to open branches to attract deposits. It's true that bank tellers as a share of the labor force should shrink but that's different. Banks are doing more with a little bit more, not doing more with less.The relatively trivial point is: why didn't Obama have anyone fact-check his speech?
More importantly, this exemplifies Obama's attachment to left-wing ideology. He has faith that technological progress destroys jobs, so it doesn't matter what the statistics say. If you believe that advances in technology are actually setbacks to society, then it's easy to believe that the whole idea of an efficient free market doesn't make sense. That is a hugely consequential error about economics for the president to be making, and it goes far beyond whether he knows the right statistics about bank tellers and ATMs.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Here's a survey of liberal Democrats' and conservative Republicans' favorite TV shows. (via) Liberals prefer Letterman and Conan; conservatives prefer Leno.
Entertainment Weekly's headline says:
Lefties want comedy, right wingers like workThat leaves out the fact that liberals like sitcoms about work: The Office, Parks and Recreation, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Mickey Kaus picks apart President Obama's call for "American business leaders to understand that their obligations don’t just end with their shareholders."
[R]ebuilding this economy based on fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share will require all of us to see the stake we have in each other’s success. And it will require all of us to take some responsibility to that success. . . .Kaus's whole post on that section of Obama's speech is worth reading. He makes several points, but here's the main one:
[I]t will require American business leaders to understand that their obligations don’t just end with their shareholders. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel put it best: “There’s another obligation I feel personally,” he said, “given that everything I’ve achieved in my career and a lot of what Intel has achieved…were made possible by a climate of democracy, an economic climate and investment climate provided by…the United States.”
This broader obligation can take different forms. At a time when the cost of hiring workers in China is rising rapidly, it should mean more CEOs deciding that it’s time to bring jobs back to the United States – not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s good for the country that made their business and their personal success possible.
How likely is this to happen on the scale that is necessary? Something close to zero. It’s one thing to rely on the generosity of rich people when it comes to funding new hospital wings and small magazines. It’s another when it comes to the basic success of the American economy—which (reminder) has been reliably achieved over the centuries because we have relied on sturdy, universal drive of self interest.Kaus's "(reminder)" is a devastating rebuttal to Obama's economic worldview. Obama doesn't seem to understand how markets can do good through lots of people acting in their self interest, so he feels it must be the obligation either of charitable individuals or benevolent government to make sure the system is "fair." Of course, as Kaus says, charity can be very effective. But the president isn't going to inspire people to be more charitable than they already are. The only way any president can increase the level of charity is through economic policies that cause people to have more money to give away.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Saturday, December 3, 2011
With about as much dignity as he could have mustered, given the circumstances:
As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign. I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused on me and my family — not because we are not fighters, not because I'm not a fighter. It's just that when I went through this reassessment of the impact on my family first, the impact on my supporters, . . . as well as the impact on my ability to raise the necessary funds to be competitive, . . . we had to come to this conclusion, that it would be best to suspend this campaign.
Fark.com announces the news with a less dignified but inevitable headline:
Herman Cain suspends campaign to spend more time with your wife
Friday, December 2, 2011
In a long endorsement of Romney in National Review (which endorsed Romney in 2008), Ponnuru argues:
Governor Romney’s political career may not reflect the ideal balance between conviction and calculation. But a presidential primary offers a choice among imperfect alternatives, not embodied ideals. Weighed against the available alternatives, Romney comes out ahead — way ahead — because he is the only one of the primary candidates with a good shot at achieving a prerequisite for advancing a conservative agenda as president: namely, actually becoming president.
Huntsman is highly unlikely to win the nomination because Republican voters divine in him a disdain for them, and return it. The others, even if they got the nomination, would be almost-certain losers in a general election. They are either too out of sync with the electorate, too personally erratic, or both.
Representative Bachmann says that President Obama is certain to lose reelection, so Republicans should feel free to nominate the candidate of their dreams, without regard to electability. The president certainly looks beatable. But writing him off is unwise. His approval numbers are weak but not disastrous, the Republican party remains unpopular, incumbency almost always carries advantages, and the composition of the electorate is likely to be much more Democratic than it was in 2010. If the bottom drops out of the economy, perhaps as a result of Europe’s disorders, then maybe even Gingrich or Perry could win the race. But the stakes are too high for that kind of gamble.
Even if one of them did win the White House, what we have seen of their campaigns suggests that his presidency would be a bumpy ride. In Perry’s case, the problem would be an apparent unfamiliarity with national issues that looks good only in comparison with Herman Cain’s proud ignorance. Gingrich, meanwhile, is a constant reminder that political leaders can have too much, as well as too little, imagination. His recent proposals on immigration are classic Gingrich: innovative-sounding, accompanied by high-tech gadgetry, and wholly absurd. Local community boards will decide which illegal immigrants to expel! We will be “humane,” while denying temporary workers the vote and stripping their children of citizenship!
The last time Gingrich held office, he reached a depth of unpopularity that suggested that the public did not merely disagree with his policies but disliked him as a person. . . .
There is another issue with Gingrich, the broaching of which risks cruelty but cannot be avoided in the cold analysis Republicans have to perform. We don’t know whether Gingrich’s marital history will weigh heavily on voters, but we know it won’t help. The contrast to President Obama’s family will tell against him. Gingrich’s election would represent several firsts. He would be the first president with multiple ex-wives, and the first president with any ex-wives who speak negatively about him on the record. He would bring with him the first first lady who could be labeled a “home wrecker.” . . .
[Romney is] reasonable, articulate — phenomenally articulate, by the standards of recent Republican presidential candidates — and reassuring.
"I don’t have to go around and point out the inconsistencies of people who are not going to be the nominee. They are not going to be the nominee. . . . I’m going to be the nominee. . . . And the guys who attacked each other in the debates up to now, every single one of them have lost ground by attacking. So they should do what they and their consultants want to do. I will focus on being substantive and I will focus on Barack Obama."
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Does it make sense for conservatives to complain about almost half of Americans paying no federal income taxes?
Nope, says National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru.
One especially clever point by Ponnuru, in response to the argument often made by conservatives that "the more people fall off the income-tax rolls, the more will support federal activism":
The story . . . relies on implausible psychological assumptions. It assumes that people who pay payroll taxes but not income taxes make a sharp distinction between the two. But what if they, or many of them, simply think that they have paid taxes? It assumes, further, that immediate circumstances matter more than long-term ones. When conservatives argue for tax cuts for high-income voters, or against tax increases for them, we often point out that some people who are “rich” today will not be in ten years, and vice versa. We argue, further, that high taxes reduce the incentive to work, save, and invest, which presupposes that people can anticipate the taxes they will pay if they gain income. But if they can anticipate future taxes, then the fact that they do not happen to pay income taxes at the moment should not matter.
That point has special relevance for parents who are paying no taxes because of the child tax credit. That credit will not be available to them when their children have become adults. Parents are almost by definition more oriented to the long term, on average, than other voters. They ought to be able to see that their taxes are going to go up when their children grow up, and that if they vote for big government now they will have to pay the bill later. . . .
To seek to raise taxes on poor and middle-class people would be a terrible mistake. The idea is bound to be unpopular. And it would alter the character of conservatism for the worse . . . [by] becom[ing] a creed openly focused on helping one group at the expense of another, a kind of mirror image of egalitarian liberalism.