Tag Archives: Conor Clarke

Dedicated Followers Of Fashion


(We nicked both these photos from James Joyner.)

Joyner also did a lot of this round-up, but we’ll just repeat it here.

Jon Stonger wants to get rid of the tie:

So the tie is traditional. So are togas, and they look comfy. Why do we still wear the tie?

One possibility is that enough people think that a tie looks good, so it stays in fashion. I understand nothing of fashion (and don’t want to) but this doesn’t seem to make sense. Ties are worn far more often in the context of business or politics then they are by celebrities and movie stars. When you think about it, a tie is really just a colorful piece of cloth hanging from someone’s throat. It makes just as much sense to find shiny objects to stick in our hair or colorful feathers to shove up our ass.

Another possibility is that men just like to be choked. After all, some people like to be tied up, and this is just a different version of that. We’re even honest enough to call it a tie (same word as tying someone’s hands or feet) rather than ‘cravat’ (or ‘noose’). Perhaps I’m deviant because I don’t enjoy the sensation of pressure around my throat. Maybe everyone else gets their jollies from oxygen restriction.

Of course, if you’re going to play S&M asphyxia games at the office, it’s important to have everyone’s consent, and they certainly don’t have mine. If there was a necktie-safeword, I would use it.

I don’t think that most people find ties to be spectacularly fashionable. I don’t think most men find them comfortable. If you had a group of 100 men and you announced that starting tomorrow, all of them were going to have to wear goofy-looking strands of rope wrapped tightly around their throats in order to come to work, they would all refuse.

John Derbyshire has an ode to ties:

I shall be sorry to see the tie disappear. I still have my school ties (both regular and Old Boys) and my college tie. The latter is a replacement. I lost the original on my travels, and went to the tie shop for a replacement. This wasn’t just any tie shop, it was the tie shop, a wonderfully atmospheric old place in Southampton Row, west-central London. The proprietor was a very old man in my college days (mid-1960s); and he was still running the place, and still looked the same, 25 years later when I bought that replacement. It’s possible my imagination has embroidered the memory, but I could swear he used to wear a tail coat in the shop. He could get you any tie at all — club, regiment, school, college, guild, lodge, . . . Last time I was there, my father had just passed away. I asked the old guy if he could supply me with the tie of Dad’s old regiment, the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, already long defunct. He tottered over to an old wooden cabinet, pulled out a drawer, and produced the tie. I almost bought it as a memento, and now wish I had. It would of course have been grossly wrong of me to wear it, not having served in the KSLI myself.

Andy McCarthy at The Corner:

Derb, I’ve noticed that President Obama frequently forgoes the necktie — lately, even in public appearances. That reminded me — I have no idea why — that the Iranian regime has shunned the necktie ever since Khomeini pronounced it a symbol of Western decadence. I’ve always assumed that’s why Michael Ledeen is often pictured wearing a big, bold tie — you know, as a signal to the other conspirators.

Conor Clarke at Sully’s place:

I too have absolutely no idea why McCarthy would draw such a connection.

James Joyner

Amanda Terkel at Think Progress brings some artwork:



One of the right wing’s favorite petty complaints about the Obama administration is over its dress code. Former Bush chief of staff Andrew Card has said that President Obama has brought a “kind of locker room experience” to the White House. The Washington Times yesterday published an account from an “observant source” who complained that “[f]lip-flops, tennis shoes, unbuttoned dress shirts with ties, and casual wear are now in style at the White House. Razors are out for men. Many male staffers seem to shave every couple of days.”

The afore mentioned piece in the Washington Times by Jennifer Harper:

“The new Obama staffers, usually no older than 30 years of age, seem to have never heard that loose lips sink ships. Instead of tucking their blue or green White House badges discretely into a shirt pocket as Bush staffers did, the Obama staffers flaunt it in public. And their loud talk is always about shop. We recently listened to White house staffers in a pizza parlor on the 1700 block of G Street discussing details about forthcoming White House policy toward communist China. On another occasion, at Potbelly Sandwiches, we overheard White House staffers discussing details of the upcoming Russian summit and policy toward the Republic of Georgia.”

“The happening and hip Obama staffers look and act like they are on campus. On the afternoon of July 31, three White House staffers were at McReynolds Liquor at 1776 G St. The three loaded up boxes of wine bottles, hard liquor and several bags of ice and carried the party straight into the Old Executive Office Building. Another July day, other young White House staffers were seen carrying two cases of Bud Light out of the White House personnel office.”

“Flip-flops, tennis shoes, unbuttoned dress shirts with ties, and casual wear are now in style at the White House. Razors are out for men. Many male staffers seem to shave every couple of days. While it might seem cute and whimsical to have a young bunch take over the reigns of power, the world is more serious than these folks seem to realize.”

Matthew Yglesias:

A few points. One: Who cares? Second: In all my interactions with White House staff they’ve been impeccably dressed. Three: Who cares? Four: It’s actually incredibly irrational for men to be walking around wearing suits and ties in the DC summer. Five: Who cares? Six: On behalf of bearded Americans I’m offended by the implication that a man with some hair on his face can’t do a serious job. Our greatest president wore a beard!

Back to the necktie debate, Shorts And Pants:

Is your place a business ever “casual” in nature? Does your Corporate policy occasionally “bend” the rules of formal dress for the sake of a more “relaxed” environment? If so, you too can be the President of Iran! Get excited, America. Our President doesn’t always wear a neck-tie, which to some apparently makes him a terrorist.

WE SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE SIGNS COMING. Ladies and gentleman, the demise of National Review continues in full swing.

How many people will rise up in rage about this issue? The pitch forks will come out of the barn, and the next episode of Animal Farm shall commence in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. That’s a hell of a lot faster than a NASA launch.

Onward from neckties to shorts (see, that’s why we ended with shorts and pants, for the nice segue possibilities.)


Robin Givhan at WaPo:

Obama, who joined the president and their two daughters for an excursion to the national park, looked like any other American tourist. Indeed, many sad-sack sightseers could take a few lessons from her style. The shorts fit her figure; she was not wearing a souvenir top that read: “My family went to Washington and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” She was not sporting a fanny pack. Or wearing beaten-up rubber flip-flops. She looked fine.

But that doesn’t make the ensemble okay.

(Kind and civil enemies of fashion: Do I have more pressing concerns on my to-discuss list? Yes, I do. But I’m sandwiching this in between negotiating world peace and restricting short selling on Wall Street.)


The image of Obama in her shorts was strikingly modern. And for a long time, modern was not a word typically associated with the role of first lady. The women who have most recently occupied that nebulous position often seemed terribly constrained by its traditions, by the contradictory demands of the public, by the desire to do the nation proud and by the need to live a fulfilling and authentic life. Balancing all that is impossible, and so these women have cherry-picked some things that are inviolable and gone on from there. The public has been free to applaud or criticize each woman’s choices. The resulting analysis has had first ladies declared, among other things: elitist, dowdy and tragic victims of chauvinism.

Bringing up the subject of the current first lady’s shorts — indeed even admitting to noticing them — already has people booting up their laptops and taking big, gulping swigs of self-righteousness before firing off e-mails and tweets declaring the whole discussion pointless. But until the West Wing — and not the East — starts regularly fielding inquiries regarding china patterns, decorators and the menu for upcoming White House dinners and luncheons, the first lady will be burdened with matters of aesthetics. And her person remains the primary device in communicating her philosophy.

Anya Strzemien at Huffington Post:

When we asked readers on Monday whether it was appropriate for the first lady to wear shorts on Air Force One, nearly 13,000 opinions poured in. In response to the question “Does Michelle Obama have the right to bare legs?,” 59% of readers voted “Absolutely,” while 25% believed it was fine, but suggested she wear longer shorts next time. Only 17% said that shorts are inappropriate for a first lady.

Joan at Right Fashions:

The Obama’s were reportedly visiting the Grand Canyon. Sounds like a reasonable place to wear shorts, eh? I personally think she has a very keen sense of fashion, something that’s very refreshing after some of the frumpy First Ladies we’ve seen recently.

But who really thought the shorts were too short? Some feel it is the product of a slow news-month, and that there is really no evidence of any outrage over the shorts at all. One poll, conducted by the Chicago Tribune, found that over 80% responded that they were perfectly appropriate.

Claudine Zap:

No doubt about it. This story’s got legs. The first lady took a look-see at the Grand Canyon with her family this weekend while the rest of the country got a good look at her gams. Michelle Obama braved the blistering Arizona sun with an even braver style of shorts.

This winter we got a view of the fashionista-in-chief’s powerful arms, and now there’s proof that she’s got stems to match. The bare legs set off a firestorm of buzz on the Web, with looky-loos typing in “michelle obama short shorts” into the Search box.

James Joyner:

This is probably a no-win situation for Mrs. Obama.  Had she disembarked wearing a sun dress or linen Bermudas, critics would have scoffed that she was an elitist who didn’t know how to dress for a hike.

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Filed under Political Figures

The Troy Davis Case


The decision at SCOTUSBlog:

The Supreme Court, over two Justices’ dissents, on Monday ordered a federal judge in Georgia to consider and rule on the claim of innocence in the murder case against Troy Anthony Davis (In re Davis, 08-1443)  The Court told the District Court to “receive testimony and make findings of fact as to whether evidence that could have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes [Davis’] innocence.”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. Some of their arguments were answered in a separate opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.   The new member of the Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, took no part in the Court’s action.

The action was highly unusual, because Davis had filed what is called an original writ of habeas corpus — that is, a plea for his release, filed directly in the Supreme Court rather than in lower courts.  Such claims rarely succeed.  Justice Scalia noted in his dissent that the Court had not taken a similar step “in nearly 50 years.”  (The documents that were before the Justices — the original writ, petition for certiorari, brief in opposition, and amici filings — can be downloaded here.)


On the power of a federal judge to rule in Davis’ favor at this stage, Scalia argued that the 1996 federal law limiting federal habeas review of state criminal convictions — the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) — barred any federal court from hearing Davis’ claim because there was no error at his trial that violated any prior Supreme Court decision.

Scalia wrote: “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”  He conceded, though, that the Court has left the issue open.

SCOTUSBlog corrects the above post

Background on the case via Paul Campos at Daily Beast:

Twenty years ago Wednesday night, Mark MacPhail, an off-duty Savannah, Georgia, police officer moonlighting as a security guard, was shot to death in a dark parking lot. MacPhail had tried to come to the aid of a homeless man who was being pistol-whipped by a local thug named Sylvester Coles.

Two years later, after what Justice Antonin Scalia described this week as a “full and fair trial,” Troy Davis was convicted of murdering MacPhail and sentenced to death. The evidence at that trial consisted of nine eyewitnesses who claimed Davis shot MacPhail (Davis had been inside a nearby pool hall and was part of a crowd that came out of the hall in response to the commotion in the parking lot where Coles was beating the homeless man).

The prosecution’s star witness was none other than Coles himself. No physical evidence tied Davis to the crime—the gun was never recovered—and in the years since Davis’ conviction, seven of the eight other eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen Davis shoot MacPhail have signed sworn affidavits recanting their claims. Several now claim Coles was the killer and that they were coerced by police threats into testifying against Davis.

In retrospect, the case against Davis, which wasn’t strong to begin with, has almost completely fallen apart. But Davis has a big problem: As an exasperated Scalia explained in his dissent from Monday’s extraordinarily unusual Supreme Court order directing a federal court to hold an evidentiary hearing on Davis’ claims, there’s nothing illegal about what has happened, and continues to happen, to Troy Davis. (The order is unusual because the court almost never entertains direct appeals by defendants in Davis’ situation.)

Alan Dershowitz in the Daily Beast:

It would be shocking enough for any justice of the Supreme Court to issue such a truly outrageous opinion, but it is particularly indefensible for Justices Scalia and Thomas, both of whom claim to be practicing Catholics, bound by the teaching of their church, to do moral justice. Justice Scalia has famously written, in the May 2002 issue of the conservative journal First Things, that if the Constitution compelled him to do something that was absolutely prohibited by mandatory Catholic rules, he would have no choice but to resign from the Supreme Court.

Unlike President Kennedy, who pledged to place his obligation to the Constitution above his commitment to his church, Scalia has insisted that in his view, “The choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral [according to the teachings of the Catholic Church] is resignation.” He put his point in “blunt terms”: “I could not take part in that process [of authorizing an execution] if I believed what was being done to be immoral.” He continued: “It is a matter of great consequence to me, therefore, whether the death penalty is morally acceptable. As a Roman Catholic—and being unable to jump out of my skin—I cannot discuss that issue without reference to Christian tradition and the church’s Magisterium.”


I am not a Catholic, yet I teach principles of Catholic morality in my Harvard Law School freshman seminar, “Where Does Your Morality Come From?” I hereby challenge Justice Scalia to a debate on whether Catholic doctrine permits the execution of a factually innocent person who has been tried, without constitutional flaw, but whose innocence is clearly established by new and indisputable evidence. Justice Scalia is always willing to debate issues involving religious teachings. He has done so, for example, with the great Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and with others as well. He also has debated me at the Harvard Law School. Although I am neither a rabbi nor a priest, I am confident that I am right and he is wrong under Catholic Doctrine. Perhaps it takes chutzpah to challenge a practicing Catholic on the teachings of his own faith, but that is a quality we share.

Conor Clarke at Sully’s place:

I’m not a lawyer and can’t speak to whether the court has “never held” what Scalia says, or whether Davis actually had a “full and fair trial.” I hope neither of these things is true. But if they are true, why would it be so surprising? Procedural rights (like the right to a lawyer or the right to avoid self incrimination) do not guarantee a specific outcome (like the correct decision in a case). It is possible to imagine a fair trial that respects everyone’s rights but nonetheless reaches the wrong conclusion.

I think procedural rights are useful in large part because they prop up substantive considerations that our society values — like guilt or innocence when guilt or innocence is deserved. But an alternate view of procedural rights — or a view that says, simply, that it’s not the role of the Supreme Court to decide these things — doesn’t seem like it’s molded out of unalloyed craziness.

More Clarke:

I got a lot of emails about that: “No no,” you all said, “the composition of Scalia’s madness is really quite pure.” And, you know what, that’s probably right. But before I backpedal completely let me offer up the main responses I received, which fall into these two categories. First:

The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. The “liberal” argument goes as follows: it is both cruel and unusual to execute someone for a crime he did not actually commit.  Period.

Check. Second:

The problem with Scalia’s quote, and by extension your post regarding it, is that Troy Davis did not receive a full and fair trial if, in fact, several of the witnesses did not tell the truth during that trial.

And mate.

I should add that I stand by the general point of my post, which was that procedural rights normally aren’t things that stand or fall depending solely on the outcomes they generate. But I read the quotes above as making two good points about this. First, it’s not clear Troy Davis’s procedural rights were satisfied. Second, even if those procedural rights were satisfied, the outcome in this case is so deeply terrible that it calls into question the value of the original procedures.

Patrick Appel has more links. Scott Horton at Harper’s:

In other words, Scalia’s Constitution does not guarantee a man who has been convicted and sentenced to death–but who is actually innocent–a review of his case. It is certainly true that the Constitution provides no absolute guarantee of justice. But Scalia’s view effectively puts an expense meter on the justice process. Once the process has run through certain steps, that’s it. In his view, it really shouldn’t matter that subsequent evidence establishes that the conviction is mistaken. It’s more efficient simply to implement the decision and execute the innocent man.

That puts Scalia on the other side of the issue from his own church—since Pope Benedict XVI is among those who have registered appeals on Davis’s behalf—as well as an impressive list of former prosecutors and judges, like former FBI director William Sessions, who may reserve judgment on Davis’s guilt or innocence but are quite convinced that his conviction was secured on the basis of false evidence.

Lee Kovarsky:

Scalia has embraced this paradigm openly for years, and his arguments embody the belief that, assuming full and fair state process, guilt determinations remain the unique province of state judiciaries. To Bator, Scalia, and others, allowing freestanding innocence relief represents an intolerable encroachment on the co-equal sovereignty of state courts. In the end, the position is really about promoting federalism and preserving a historic function of state courts, especially where incremental federal process adds little to the project of truth-seeking.

The reason Scalia is not entirely off base is that the Court has really hedged on which framing of the question it prefers. It was squarely presented with the freestanding innocence question, which it promptly ducked, in Herrera v. Collins (1993). The Court conspicuously avoided the freestanding innocence question again in House v. Bell (2005) and in District Attorney’s Office For the Third Judicial District v. Osborne (2009).

So Justice Scalia is absolutely correct when he says that “[t]his Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.” As a descriptive matter, the Court has never issued such a holding. The problem with Justice Scalia’s remark is with its implication – that the Court has sent the Federal District Court for Southern District of Georgia on a “fool’s errand.” Just because the Court hasn’t recognized freestanding innocence does not mean that it shouldn’t.

Adam Sewer at Tapped:

I’m not sure how a trial in which most of the witness testimony was the only evidence against the defendant, and most of those witnesses said they lied on the stand, some say due to police coercion, could be considered “fair”. The Times explains that as a legal matter this question actually may be unresolved, and elaborates further on the legal questions relating to habeas cases and “showings” vs “demonstrations” of innocence. But here’s your conservative jurisprudence, your defenders of individual rights and champions of the culture of life, arguing that a potentially innocent man should be executed because well, because.

Josh Patashnik at TNR:

All told, I don’t find Justice Scalia’s reasoning especially persuasive. But he does make one noteworthy point: if the evidence of Davis’s innocence is so strong that it merits this unheard-of step, how is it that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Georgia Supreme Court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit all ruled against Davis?

There are two possible answers that spring immediately to mind. One is that the Georgia judicial system and the Eleventh Circuit are some combination of nefarious, incompetent, and lazy. That’s possible, but it isn’t very likely, especially in a case that’s gotten as much attention as Davis’s has. A second answer, which seems much more realistic, focuses on the standard of review those bodies were using–that is, how much deference they granted to the jury’s determination of factual guilt. And under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), the answer is that federal courts, at least, must grant substantial deference to the jury’s findings.

Here’s what the Eleventh Circuit said: “When we view all of this evidence as a whole, we cannot honestly say that Davis can establish by clear and convincing evidence that a jury would not have found him guilty of Officer MacPhail’s murder.” Now, that may well be true–not all of the prosecution witnesses have recanted, after all. “Clear and convincing evidence” is a fairly high bar to meet. Davis must prove not merely that the new evidence, on balance, seems to raise reasonable doubts about his guilt that weren’t present the first time around. He must show, rather, that it is substantially more likely than not that the jury would have reached a different conclusion had it been presented with the new evidence.  It’s entirely possible that Davis can’t quite meet that standard. As Davis’s sister told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “I know that a lot of people still think Troy is guilty.”  If that’s correct, then the Eleventh Circuit was probably right to deny Davis’s petition even if he cleared the procedural hurdle that’s at issue here.

UPDATE: James Joyner

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Filed under Crime, Death Penalty, Supreme Court, The Constitution

“As A Usenet Discussion Grows Longer, The Probability Of A Comparison Involving Nazis Or Hitler Approaches 1.”


The title of this post is the oft-cited Godwin’s Law.

Amanda Terkel at Think Progress (video is up there):

Last week, Las Vegas radio station KDWN AM720 sponsored a “contentious” town hall, emceed by conservative morning show host Heidi Harris. At the event, local news stations were interviewing an Israeli man who was praising the “fantastic” “national health care” in Israel. During his remarks, a woman yelled out, “Heil Hitler!” The man stopped, became visibly upset, and exclaimed, “Did you hear this? She say to a Jew, ‘Heil Hitler’! Hear? I’m a Jew! You’re telling me, ‘Heil Hitler’? Shame of you!” After he angrily confronts her, the woman mocks him by making a crying sound to imply he is a whining baby.


William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection:

How many people who shout “Heil Hitler” go around in an Israel Defense Forces t-shirt? How convenient that this shout was made only when the Israeli was being interviewed for television.
Given the imposters who have appeared at town halls to discredit health care protesters, anything is possible.

UPDATE: A video is available at ABC 13 in Las Vegas. The video shows the two individuals, but there is no mention of a “Heil Hitler” statement being made by the woman (the Think Progress video does not show who made the comment, and assumes it was the woman pictured). The woman is identified as Pamela Pilger, and the man as Samuel Blum.

The audio on the ABC 13 video also does not contain the “Heil Hitler” statement or show Blum conronting Pilger about the statement. (As as aside, Blum says he agrees there should be no health care support for illegal immigrants.) The ABC 13 web post on the town hall also makes no mention of a “Heil Hitler” statement.

Was the statement made, and who are these two people? Was it real or staged? Assuming this was not a set-up, why could an obvious supporter of Israel make such a statement; was it anti-Semitism, or just wrong-headed, like when blacks call other blacks the n-word? … or mayby it’s just a variation on the stupidity in which each side calls the other side Nazis, Godwin’s law gone mad.

Gateway Pundit

WaterTiger at Firedoglake:

The wingnuts carry “Obama as Hitler” signs in order to disguise their own deep-seated and lizard-brained bigotries, they openly possess and wield assault rifles at the rallies to protest some completely unfounded rumor that Obama plans to take away their right to own guns, and they attempt to silence health care reformers by drowning out any real conversation with screams that their own First Amendment rights are being abridged.

And now, onto Barney Frank:

Mark Silva at The Swamp:

The attempted equation of a health-care overhaul with Nazism, fascism or any such oppressive political mechanism probably defines the outer boundaries of the debate.

And Rep. Barney Frank figured the whole thing had gotten out of bounds when he walked into a “town-hall”-styled meeting to find a health-care protester toting a poster depicting President Barack Obama wearing a Hitler-styled mustache.

“On what planet do you spend most of your time?” Frank (D-Mass.) asked the woman, who had stepped to the podium at a senior citizens’ center in southeastern Massachusetts to ask the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee why he supports what she called “a Nazi policy.”

“”Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it,” Frank replied, while calling her ability to deface an image of the president “a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.”

Will at The League:

I won’t write this very often . . . but God Bless Barney Frank

James Joyner:

Like Will, I’m not among Barney Frank’s biggest fans. And I disagree with him vehemently on the direction we should take our health care system. But the refusal to take obnoxious lunatics seriously is fine by me.

Allah Pundit:

Hannity culled the best soundbites of Frank displaying the special charm for which he’s so well known and loathed, but you’re cheating yourself if you don’t watch this, too. The crack about how arguing with the “Obama = Hitler” crowd is like arguing with furniture is worth the price of admission.

Joseph Childers:

When a confused idiot asks you some ridiculous question comparing health care reform to the Nazi regime, shut it down.  Don’t engage, don’t apologize, and don’t debate.  It’s not a serious question and it doesn’t deserve a serious answer, only mockery.

Other Dems – are you watching?



UPDATE: On the Frank video, Nick Gillespie in Reason

Matthew Yglesias

Ezra Klein

Doug J.

UPDATE #2: More on the Frank video, Ann Althouse

Steve Benen

Conor Clarke

Charles Johnson at LGF

John McCormack at TWS

UPDATE #3: David Weigel at The Washington Independent

Rod Dreher

James Wolcott:

And so we see the rich dividends paid by Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, which painted a Hitler mustache on the smiley face of meliorist policies and helped intellectually underwrite the frothings of undisciplined minds and mouths from Glenn Beck to this Sig Heil heckler, licensing them to spot a Nazi shadow bayoneting across the White House lawn whenever the sun is at President Obama’s back. And when Obama travels abroad, why the Nazi parallels are even more striking and ominous, if you’re a loon.

Bravo, then, to Barney Frank, who, at a health-reform event, gruffly stuck a cork in the spout of one particularly egregious Hitlerizer.

UPDATE #4: The Daily What:


UPDATE #5: Stephen Colbert argues with a table.

Clark Stooksbury at TAC

UPDATE #6: Richard Spencer at Taki’s Magazine on Stooksbury

Stooksbury responds

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Filed under Health Care

Darkness Loses Its Prince


Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times:

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak, one of the nation’s most influential journalists, who relished his “Prince of Darkness” public persona, died at home here early Tuesday morning after a battle with brain cancer.

“He was someone who loved being a journalist, loved journalism and loved his country and loved his family, Novak’s wife, Geraldine, told the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

Novak’s remarkable and long-running career made him a powerful presence in newspaper columns, newsletters, books and on television.

On May 15, 1963, Novak teamed up with the late Rowland Evans Jr. to create the “Inside Report” political column, which became the must-read syndicated column. Evans tapped Novak, then a 31-year old correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, to help with the workload of a six-day-a-week column.

Evans and Novak were the od d couple: Evans a Philadelphia blue blood and Yale graduate; Novak from Joliet, Ill. who attended the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana campus.

Novak handled the column solo after Evans retired in 1993. The Chicago Sun-Times has been Novak’s home paper since 1966.

Kenneth Tomlinson at Human Events:

Throughout my life, I followed Bob Novak journalism like I followed the careers of my favorite sports figures. Later, as editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, I would become one of Novak’s nominal bosses, though the fact was that every time I worked with him or was associated with him in any way, it was I who felt privileged. Few journalists have ever affected this country like Bob Novak.

I discovered the Evans-Novak column in the summer of 1963 shortly after it was launched by the New York Herald Tribune. I was a summer intern in Washington and a Goldwater fan, and it became apparent that reading Evans-Novak was the best way of following what was actually happening in the fledging Goldwater movement.

It turns out Novak, who got to know Goldwater covering the Senate, was no fan of the Arizona senator. But he was infatuated with the brilliant work of Goldwater political operative F. Clifton White, who actually orchestrated the Goldwater nomination. And White was a close source.

Timothy Carney at Human Events:
I remember a Baltimore Orioles game in 2004.  Novak invited me to join him and gave me two extra tickets.  I took my friend Sean Rushton — a conservative who shared Novak’s enthusiasm for supply-side economics — and Rushton’s wife.  Repeatedly, Rushton plied Novak with questions about the economy or the tax code.  Novak grunted off the questions and replied with comments about Rodrigo Lopez’s change-up or questions about the Orioles’ base-running.

Frustrated, Rushton got up to buy a beer, at which point his wife mentioned to Novak that her father was a racecar driver.  This, it turns out, was Novak’s fantasy job.  Sean returned to see his wife and Novak engaged in a lively discussion about auto racing.

Novak, of course, was also a conservative.  Although always close to the conservative movement, even when he was big enough that he didn’t need it.  Novak was always independent in his thought.  At times the conservative movement has been less tolerant of dissent within the ranks.  I was working for him in 2002 and 2003 when Novak stood against President Bush and the Iraq War.

Novak’s stance led some of the more bellicose writers in the movement to assail Novak’s character.  Neoconservative writer David Frum wrote a cover story for National Review on the eve of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, calling Novak, together with Pat Buchanan and other opponents of the invasion, “Unpatriotic Conservatives.”

Novak was an unapologetic warrior for his beliefs as a pundit, having spent decades building his credibility as a journalist.  Nicknamed “the Prince of Darkness”, a title he proudly used for his memoirs, Novak did not mince words or suffer fools lightly.  He became one of the premier conservative pundits in the US, but did not hesitate to criticize the Right — or to do so with brutal honesty — when he felt it was running off the rails.  He blasted the McCain campaign for misleading him on the running-mate selection process last summer, for instance.  A couple of months before that, he ripped the GOP for feeding at the public trough on ag subsidies while claiming the mantle of fiscal discipline.

It was just a little over a year ago that Novak announced that he had inoperable and terminal brain cancer.  He retired from most of his work, but that lasted only a few weeks before he began penning columns once again.  Novak had an indefatigable spirit and a drive that would have shamed men in perfect health half his age.  Unfortunately, Novak didn’t have much time left.

RIP, Mr. Novak, and thank you.

David Weigel at The Washington Independent

UPDATE: Conor Clarke at Sully’s place:

Novak was, to be perfectly honest about it, the least pleasant person I’ve ever interviewed. He didn’t shake my hand upon entering or leaving his office, and expressed fairly open contempt when I asked him a question about the Valerie Plame affair. His response was: “You can’t imagine how tired I am of answering those questions.” And then he proceeded not to answer the question.

I don’t mean to rag on the guy. It wasn’t his job to be pleasant — certainly not to the kind of nervous and uppity young reporter he ate for breakfast — and I didn’t get the sense he tried to give anyone an impression to the contrary. I hope it’s fair to say that he embraced the reputation that preceded him, and that the face grew to fit the mask. You don’t call your memoir “The Prince of Darkness” if you’re hoping to make new friends. (And on the day that I sat down with him I remember, distinctly, that he was wearing the same suit and tie that he wore glowering on the cover of his new book.)

Matthew Cooper at The Atlantic:

Novak’s worthy of a good biography. His life spanned the rise and fall of modern journalism. His own career was multiplatform long before it was cool. His religious journey from Jew to Protestant to Catholic is interesting and he’s there are a ton of source materials to work with. I hope someone writes it. I’m glad though it won’t be me

K-Lo at The Corner:

I did not know Bob well (he was always gracious when I encountered him in and around Washington and I always read him though!), but some close friends of mine did. And they loved him. Working for Bob Novak always seemed to inspire great loyalty to the man and a great love of politics and America

James Joyner:

I’m sure plenty of other remembrances will be fortchoming; Novak had a long and distinguished career.

Somewhere in the early paragraphs of most, I suspect, will be the name Valerie Plame.  His offhand mention of the CIA operative whose role in sending her husband, Joe Wilson, to investigate the “yellowcake” matter sparked the biggest domestic scandal of the Bush Administration and ultimately landed Scooter Libby in jail.

While I would later discover his columns, I got to know Novak over the years as a viewer of the various CNN talking heads shows on which he appeared, most notably “Crossfire.”  He played a caracature of himself, “The Prince of Darkness,” and was frankly not a very good commentator.   He was, however, a superb columnist and reporter.

The Plame matter will likely overshadow most of that, though, especially for those under 35 or so who never knew Novak for anything else.

Isaac Chotiner at TNR:

Novak had a reputation around Washington as a grumpy and dyspeptic personality, and his television co-hosts would always mock his “prince of darkness” image. Still, Novak was someone who clearly loved politics, and this made him easier to swallow. What was most striking about Novak–at least when I started watching CNN around the time of the 2000 election–was his absolute unwillingness to sound warm and cuddly. George W. Bush was elected as a compassionate conservative that year, and you could hardly get any Republican to sound nasty or angry. The lessons of Gingrich had been learned, and Bush and his allies loved talking about education and diversity. But then there was Novak: He wanted a big tax cut because he was wealthy and he felt he had earned it. He didn’t care much for programs that helped the poor–and not because he had a sophisticated neoconservative critique about their effectiveness. No, Novak just did not seem to care much; what’s more, he didn’t care that he appeared uncaring. As someone who always suspected that many people in the Republican Party wanted their tax cuts above all else, Novak was revealing and somehow refreshing. All Republicans weren’t like this, to be sure, but some were, and yet Novak was their only representative on television (Pat Buchanan is interesting to watch for precisely this reason–a lot of people think like he does, but they rarely share their opinions on network TV).

Crossfire was a lousy show and I’m glad it’s gone, but The Capital Gang–despite its reputation–was actually a mildly informative and very enjoyable debate show. And unlike too many panel shows these days, it was filled with ideological pundits who were not partisan hacks. Even though it only went off the air a few years ago, it feels like the product of a completely different era.

John Podhoretz in Commentary:

He was a difficult man in many ways, but I always found him interesting, lively, and friendly. And I have to say that, toward the end of his life, he wrote a riveting I-can’t-quite-believe-I’m-reading-this memoir entitled The Prince of Darkness, which may offer, in its unsparing portrait of his own character and how he maneuvered his way through a 50-year career, the most accurate (and most dispiriting) picture of life in Washington and the journalism game published in my lifetime. It was an unexpected achievement, because he surely knew he was leaving his readers with a bad taste in their mouths. But he was determined to get it all down and get it right, and he did.

Kate O’Beirne at The Corner:

My dear friend Bob Novak faced his illness with a remarkable fortitude and his typical forthright honesty. Incapable of ignoring the facts, he recognized what he was up against. In conversations with him over the past months, he gave short shrift to the kind of daily political news he once followed so intently, in favor of reminiscing about his earliest days in journalism. He would rather talk about his beloved grandchildren than how the Obama Cabinet was shaping up. It was once impossible to have a casual conversation with Bob without him pouncing on a random remark if he spotted that a tidbit of news had been shared. For decades, his work ethic was legendary, his schedule exhausting. He was a voracious reader. His illness exposed what he held most dear, and that was his family, his faith, his Army service. He never failed to express his gratitude to Geraldine. In the midst of such suffering, there was such grace. Bob Novak was a devoted husband and father, a loving grandfather, a loyal friend — and an extraordinary journalist. He will be missed terribly.

UPDATE: Jack Shafer in Slate

David Frum at New Majority

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It’s Dead, Jim

Did the public option die this weekend?

Ed Morrissey:

Sebelius signaled a big shift in the White House position today.  It looks as though Barack Obama may have realized that the failure to get the bill finished before the summer recess has killed the Trojan horse through which the White House hoped to accomplish the nationalization of health care. It sounds as though Obama wants to alert Democrats at town-hall meetings to stop defending the public option and expect to see it removed from the bills when Congress returns in September.


It’s time to go to the Nelsons and Conrads and Blue Dogs of the world and say, “if we do this, are you going to get on board?”  (Or at least support cloture).  The public option is the only even remotely plausible justification for saying the reform bills are “government takeovers” (and even then, it’s still a bad faith argument).

But if these legislators are not going to support the bill anyway, there’s no point in dropping the public option.  At that point, they’re probably never going to support it anyway.  And so the Dems will have to use reconciliation (which would require 50 instead of 60 votes).  That’s going to be controversial in any circumstances, so it’s important to get the best policy possible.

The worst of all worlds, though, is to drop the public option and have the Nelsons of the world continue to be unhelpful.  Heck, if we’re really going to drop it, the Dems should at least coordinate, so that these holdout Dems can have a PR rollout and take credit for killing the provision in their states and with the insurance companies whose interests they care so deeply about.

Shameful, yes.  But perhaps necessary.  Plus, as I see it, the public option can be added through reconciliation down the road.


Moe Lane at Redstate:

I could be cruel about this, but if it turns out that the title here (”Party leaders prepare liberals to accept a health care reform deal“) is accurate then I see no particular reason to gloat over the fact that the quote-unquote ‘public option’ will be sacrificed for the sake of ‘conservative’ Democrat, Republican, and popular opinion. We’re all one country and we’re all Americans, after all, so I’d just be glad that we’ll be able to move on from having health care hung up on this particular controversy. That being said, once we remove the public option from consideration we will have to move on to discussing why on earth we’re talking about revising health care without first discussing the blatantly obvious need for tort reform.

This is not really negotiable, I’m sorry to say.

Steve Benen:

Which then leads to the question of whether reform can still be worthwhile without a public option. Opinions, obviously, vary quite a bit, but I’m reminded of something Paul Krugman said recently: “It’s not so much that the public option has to be in the final bill, but if it’s not in, there better damn well be something else, some really serious reforms. In a sense, it has become a litmus test. If the bill does not have a public option, it’s going to take a much, much higher bar on the rest of it to get me to accept it.”

From where I sit, I really want a public option. I think a public option makes a lot of sense, it should be in the bill, and I applaud those who are fighting tooth and nail to get it in the bill. That said, as per Krugman, if lawmakers drop the public option, the rest of the legislation better be pretty damn amazing.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Before long, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod are going to warn Obama that he needs to back off and settle for a token health care “victory” to stop the bleeding. Then we’ll find out whether Obama’s pledge to be a one-term President rather than abandon his drive for government-controlled medicine is sincere.

UPDATE: Wow, that was quick: White House appears ready to drop “public option.”

Taylor Marsh:

That we’re just now getting an op-ed from Pres. Obama, all these months after the health debate began, with the Democratic message long ago hijacked, illustrates that whatever the Administration thought would be the battle line in health care, they didn’t learn from Clinton era mistakes in the 1990s and preemptively prepare for the foreseen onslaught.

Will get a health care bill? I still contend they will. Is it health care reform? It depends on how hard you want to push the partisan rhetoric compared to what actual health care reform should look like.

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder on the misspeaking of the Secretary

Nate Silver

Michelle Malkin

More Morrissey

Patrick Appel

More Benen

UPDATE #2: Allah Pundit

David Frum at New Majority

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake

Matthew Continetti at TWS

UPDATE #3: Conor Clarke

Karen Tumulty at Swampland:

Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein has become an imporant voice in the health care debate, with President Obama at one point declaring him “required reading” in the White House. In today’s column, Pearlstein argues that the public plan has become a “a political litmus test imposed on the debate by left-wing politicians and pundits who don’t want to be bothered with the real-life dynamics of the health-care market. It is the Maginot Line of health-care policy, and just like those stubborn French generals, liberal Democrats have vowed to defend it even if it means losing the war.”

He also offers what he says are more effective ways of introducing real competition into the health care market. You can read his column here.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum makes a similar point.


Filed under Health Care

This Is All Very Heavy, Man


Andrew Sullivan rounds some of this up for us. Atlantic bloggers are all talking about fat. No, this isn’t some delayed MJ punditry going on here.

Megan McArdle interviews Paul Campos:

Megan: Let’s start with the first. If there’s one thing that everyone in America knows, it’s that being fat is really unhealthy. Why do you call it a fake problem?

Paul: The correlations between higher weight and greater health risk are weak except at statistical extremes. The extent to which those correlations are causal is poorly established. There is literally not a shred of evidence that turning fat people into thin people improves their health. And the reason there’s no evidence is that there’s no way to do it.

So saying “let’s improve health by turning fat people into thin people” is every bit as irrational as saying “let’s improve health by turning men into women or old people into young people”. Actually it’s a lot crazier, because there actually are significant health differences between men and women and the old and the young — much more so than between the fat and the thin.

Campos links to the interview at LGM:

An interesting ideological aspect of this is the degree to which lefty folks who usually have no trouble understanding structural arguments turn into the offspring of Horatio Alger and Ayn Rand when it comes to fat. For instance, if you said to such people “We know how to end poverty. Just tell poor people to do X and Y, and as long as they do X and Y they won’t be poor,” and then it turned out that a social policy based on telling poor people to do X and Y resulted in failure 98% of the time, and in fact produced a net increase in the poverty rate, they would consider your opinion to be idiotic on its face.

Conor Clarke:

As someone who feels totally fine slapping additional taxes on soda or cigarettes — in part to reduce public health consequences like obesity and lung cancer — let me say that I don’t think the best justification for this policy has a whole lot to do with to do with reducing health spending. A less obese population that doesn’t die young from fast-onset lung cancer might end up spending more on health care. Totally possible.

Brad DeLong:

Four comments:

(1) Both Paul Campos and Megan McArdle appear to have missed the point by several quadrants. We have managed to turn thin people into fat people–a great many Americans today who are fat would be thin if they had lived forty years earlier in the America-that-was a generation ago. Surely if we can do this, we can undo it?

(2) Both Paul Campos and Megan McArdle appear to have missed the point by several quadrants. Changing sedentary, high-cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar fat people into more active, low-cholesteral, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar fat people certainly does improve their health.

Democracy in America at The Economist:

Part of Mr Campos’s opposition to controlling obesity stems from a quibble over the definition of “obese”. The definition applied by the medical profession since the 1980s has been a body-mass index (BMI, or weight over height squared—kg/m) of 30 or greater. At 203 lbs for a 5’9″ man, that definition seems reasonable, but Mr Campos says serious health effects don’t set in until BMI hits 35. His claim seems to be belied by the study in Health Affairs to which he was responding, which found that annual health costs for the obese, ie those with a BMI above 30, were 42% higher per capita than those for someone of normal weight. Even if most of that higher spending and reduced health were clustered at BMI 35 and above, the relevance seems unclear: the incidence of the 35-and-up BMI group has risen dramatically over the past 30 years as well.

A related argument seems to be based on poor mathematical thinking. The huge rise in “obesity”, Mr Campos says, merely reflects the fact that millions of people have risen from BMIs in the high 20s to BMIs in the low 30s; and those two groups show no measurable difference in health. But this would be true no matter where one set the obesity marker. If it were set at 35, a huge rise in obesity would mean millions had shifted from 34 to 36, and there might be little health difference between those two groups, taken in isolation. But in fact, the huge shift from high-20s BMIs to low-30s BMIs is one part of a massive shift towards higher BMIs all across the spectrum, with all the expected health consequences; and looking at the rise in obesity is a fair way of summing that shift up.

The real problem with Mr Campos’s stance is in the way he phrases the issue: the impossibility of “turning fat people into thin people.” He is right that it’s almost impossible for an obese person to get to normal weight and stay there. But most of the public-health attention isn’t focused on getting people who are already obese to lose weight. It’s focused on making sure that people who are normal or overweight get no fatter. It’s true that who is fattest among us is determined by environmental and genetic factors over which we have little control, and it is thus very hard for people who are fat to lose weight. But this is irrelevant to the issue of the massive population-wide shift that has pushed the BMIs of all Americans up. The statistics on that shift are stunning, as this PowerPoint display from the Centers for Disease Control shows. In 1985, not a single American state had a prevalence of obesity over 14%. In 2008, not a single American state had a prevalence under 15%; six states had prevalences over 30%. If the problem is less evident to Mr Campos, it may be because he lives in Colorado, the only state in the country where obesity prevalence remains under 20%.

Marc Ambinder:

Nonetheless, a dose of Campos in one’s anti-obesity cocktail keeps one humble about assuming too much. The academic world tends to lump together the slightly overweight, the unhealthy people who have large body sizes, the pre-obese, the active obese and the sedentary obese all into one category. Doing this inevitably leads to public interest group fear-mongering and implies that the problem is unipolar and thus solvable by their preferred approach. Campos — and McArdle — are right to approach the obesity issue with a skeptical, critical eye. But even Campos — and you can see this in his interview with McArdle and in his book, The Obesity Myth — does not make the claim that food consumption and lifestyle aren’t public health problems.
McArdle approaches obesity as if it were a Foucauldian construct: a category invented by the government to justify an exercise of power. The government has no business intervening on the level of individual choice and it shouldn’t get into the business of behavioral suasion because it always fails. She’s right to note that information about health risks associated with overconsuming fat and sugar and salt are saturated throughout society, even supersaturated. Everyone knows how bad this stuff can be. For her, that’s the end of the argument. Government can help to provide information about how to make better choices, but it cannot and should not try to persuade people to make better choices. Indeed, the push for people to make better choices produces the stigma that makes the bad thing bad in the first place.
This assumes that the stigma itself is misplaced. It isn’t. Fat stigma is bad and harmful, and it ought to be reduced. But reducing fat stigma doesn’t reduce the incidence of obesity; it actually seems to increase it in certain populations. What produces fat stigma is not a government or culture that hectors people to lose weight and exercise and then excoriates them when they can’t; it’s a government that expects individuals to lose weight on their own (which is next to impossible) while making policy that keeps people fat. The discrepancy between expectations and reality is cruel, especially for children.

McArdle responds to Ambinder’s first post:

I don’t really care if the government tries to persuade people to make better choices.  But in general, government efforts to persuade people have failed. Government efforts at transparency are useful–it was the surgeon general’s report on smoking and cancer that started the downward trend in cigarette consumption (and, natch, some of the upward trend in our waistlines).  Government coercion has also proven somewhat effective–cigarette taxation and anti-smoking laws have, as far as I can tell, helped cut into smoking quite a bit.

[…] I’m not disputing that the environment has changed in ways that seem to make people get fatter–indeed, you’d have to be a total moron to dispute this.  Nor am I disputing that some of this can be laid at the door of government, like our ridiculous agriculture subsidies, and even our zoning laws.  On the other hand, it’s also true that people really liked riding around in cars even before zoning–unless the landscape makes car ownership prohibitively expensive, people tend to embrace it, which is why car ownership is increasing so fast even in places like Europe.  Either way, this cannot be the only reason.  US government policy and bad zoning is not making people fat in Britain or Australia.

More McArdle (posted before Ambinder):

To put it another way:  I have NEVER had a BMI above the normal range.  How much more awesome am I than you?  30%?  After all, you have to work at it.  My willpower is apparently 100% natural.

I fearlessly predict that more than one person will respond with some variation on “there were no fat people in concentration camps/but I told you, I totally lost 20 pounds last year by taking up marathon running!”  Yes, we could solve America’s obesity problem by putting everyone in the country on sawdust bread and cabbage soup.  We could also just shoot anyone whose BMI is over 28.  Are these good solutions?  Because short of that, we don’t have much.

Ambinder responds to McArdle’s second post:

If everyone responded to the pressures of (a) a corn diet (b) TV advertising (c) the ubiquity of fat and sugary foods (d) the information disseminated by the government and the diet industry (e) technological enabling of a sedentary lifestyle in the same way, it is relatively easy to answer the question. If you tend to blame individuals for their choices, then your answer will be no. But the crucial fact is that obesity does not treat everyone equally. It discriminates according to status, class and geography. And its negative externalities are absorbed by these vulnerable populations.  And in children, being overweight is increasingly become the default. Unless someone intervenes, if you go with the flow,  if you live in a vulnerable population, you’re going to be quite vulnerable to an obesogenic lifestyle.  This debate isn’t about government dictating lifestyle choices to adults. It’s about whether changing policy can reduce obesity among children.

James Fallows weighs in:

Our basic nature as human beings can’t have changed in that time. Nor can our genetics. If you’ve lived in Asia, you know that Japanese and Chinese people are on average taller and much heavier than they were a generation ago. I have met old women in China who looked barely four feet tall. In Beijing or Tokyo 25 years ago, I was always the tallest person on the subway or in a crowd; now, I usually see a few young men over 6’2″. But in these countries there’s an obvious explanation: poor nutrition artificially limited people’s growth before, and the limit is being removed.

Exactly what this means in policies is beyond my time or ambition here. Basically I agree with Marc Ambinder’s statement below. I chime in on the issue mainly to express this view: denying that America’s obesity situation has changed; or that it has harmful consequences; or that it could, like smoking, be affected by public policies strikes me as antifactual denialism.

McArdle responds:

So it seems that James Fallows and Marc Ambinder and I all agree that the increase in obesity in the American population is environmental, though they seem to think I disagree, despite my having made this point several times, and have thus spent a fair amount of time disproving a point no one has made.  The very point of the height example offered in my first post was to note how environment interacts with genes.

It still remains to figure what the environmental change in America is that has caused this:  whether the government is largely responsible, and regardless of that, whether the government can stop it.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think the government is all that plausible as the primary source of the problem.  Obesity is rising everywhere, even in poor countries.  It seems to be rising fastest in the anglosphere, but then, most countries outside the anglosphere rely on self-reporting data, which produces lower estimates.  Eyeballing it, people in other countries are a lot thinner.  But there are also a lot more fat people in Europe than there used to be.

But leaving culpability aside, what can the government reasonably do to make us healthier?  We could change our road building and build denser.  But of course, as I pointed out elsewhere, while being rural is correlated with being fatter, it’s also correlated with being healthier (though that advantage may be eroding).  It’s impossible to tease out the countervailing effects, so which should we do?  Build up dense areas in which people will be thinner, but maybe sicker from the stress hormones of living in a noisier, more crowded area?  This might be liking taking up smoking to lose weight.

Ezra Klein:

I actually do talk to public health experts. Frequently. I know, for instance, that the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, which is based out of Yale, has policy briefs arguing that weight discrimination is real, it is pervasive, and it is properly understood as a social justice issue. Does Megan? If she does, she’s not mentioning it. But it seems like the sort of thing you’d want to address if your argument is that obesity researchers are simply revolted by fat people and want them to face more social stigma.

Indeed, none of my many talks with obesity researchers have touched on the issue of the poor being idiots. Nor do they seem to think that the obese are insufficiently aware of society’s aesthetic standards. Megan doesn’t have straw men here. She has invented imaginary friends for her argument.

Rather, the obesity researchers I know believe a number of complicated and dispiriting things. One is that the human brain is wired to protect against the dangers of caloric scarcity. As a species, we have evolved to maximize caloric intake, to make the most of periods of abundance.

The problem is, we now live amid constant abundance. Food is not only available, but cheap. It is the center of our social lives and the respite from our workdays. It is the way we spend time with our families and the way we connect with our culture. It is how we meet mates and hang out with friends. Corporations spends hundreds of billions of dollars developing ways to make food taste better and creating advertising campaigns to make us want it more. Restaurants and drive-throughs and frozen foods have reduced the energy required to create a meal. Portion sizes have shot up. And even as our caloric inputs have grown, our expenditures have decreased. We drive rather than walk. We sit rather than stand. We work at desks rather than in fields. This is why obesity experts think Americans are fatter. Megan may, again, be aware of this research. If so, she’s not letting us know about it.

Matthew Yglesias:

One can do this over and over again. I think there’s decent Campos-style evidence that policy initiatives that amount to government hectoring of people about their wastelines is going to be at best useless. But there’s much more to the policy world. The government provides lunch to tons of children, and determines what stuff is in their school’s vending machines and apples are better for you than Fritos; baked potatoes are better for you than french fries.

The Opinionator at NYT picks up the conversation.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry at The American Scene reads McArdle and takes the conversation somewhere else (cigarette taxes). The post ends:

One of the reasons I don’t think of myself as a libertarian even though they’re the group whose actual policy preferences most closely mirror mine is because of things like this. Legislation reflects a society’s moral values. In fact, it should reflect a society’s moral values, consistent with individual freedoms, because it is what a democratic polis is all about: a nation deciding by which rules it wants to live.

Government can’t and won’t “just get out of our lives”, simply because what you describe as “getting out of our lives” isn’t the same thing as what I describe as “getting out of our lives”, and, until Jim Manzi finally succeeds at creating evidence-based social science, there is no scientific way to decide what government should or should not do — and nor should there be.

So if you want to disincentivize smoking through sin taxes, that’s perfectly fine. It’s okay to have public policy that disincentivizes bad things just because they’re bad, without having to make budget projections over the next 30 years. I’m willing to pay extra to feed my addiction. But don’t lie about the real reason you’re doing it.

And remember, next time you see me light up — I’m doing my part to save healthcare and pensions.

Joe Carter at First Things:

While I agree with Gobry that disincentivizing smoking through sin taxes is legitimate and that we should be honest about our reasons, I think it can be taken too far. Taxation shouldn’t be used as means of instituting a Healthocracy in which the government uses the tax code to enforce a particular view of health-based morality. From a purely moral point of view, sin taxes are an illegitimate means of controlling the behavior of the citizenry. We should not rely on the state to use its tax code to intervene in an area that is the responsibility of society’s mediating institutions.

From a purely economic standpoint, though, sin taxes make more sense. This form of taxation can be an effective means of reimbursing the state for the cost incurred by participating in a particular negative behavior that it wishes to disincentivize (there is a moral component to disincentivization, of course, but that is true of all legislation).

John Schwenkler

UPDATE: McArdle responds to Klein and others

UPDATE #2: McArlde’s second post on the subject

Alex Tabarrok on McArdle

Ezra Klein responds

And more Klein, linking to Mark Ames, who goes very personal. Klein:

The contracts McArdle pere won as managing director for the General Contractor’s Association have no bearing on Megan McArdle’s argument that health-care reform will reduce private-sector profits and suppress drug innovation over the long term. Megan is either wrong about that or she’s right about it. As I’ve argued at length, I think she’s wrong. But I don’t need to drag her family into that argument. And nor should I.

UPDATE #3: McArdle and David Frum argue at Bloggingheads

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Filed under Conservative Movement, Economics, Food, Go Meta, Health Care, Public Health

The Battle Of The Charts, Top Marginal Tax Rate Edition


James Joyner already collected posts on this, but we’ll do it here, anyway. The chart comes from Conor Clarke:

When I read propaganda about how Obama will bring us tax rates of 60% during a recession I try to remember that: (1) There is a difference between marginal and effective tax rates; and (2) None of these proposals takes effect for the next couple of years (so it is not “a scary prospect in the midst of a recession”). And let me say it again: The effective federal rate for top earners — the rate we should care about — will still, with this surtax, be lower than it was in the mid-90s.

Kevin Drum:

The basic story is simple: As their incomes have gotten ever higher, their tax rates have gotten ever lower.  So if tax rates on the rich are raised to help pay for healthcare reform, as some Democrats are proposing, it would just return us to the rates of the early 90s, not some hellish confiscatory dystopia.

Drum quotes and links to Bruce Bartlett:

In the end, higher tax rates on the rich are inevitable if only because of expiration of the Bush tax cuts next year. Since that would just return rates to where they were in the 1990s when growth was robust, any claim that this will destroy the economy should be taken with many grains of salt.

Still, it would be better to pay for health reform some other way. But if Republicans refuse to propose any alternative, insisting instead that taxes should never be raised for any reason, they pretty much guarantee that Democrats will raise the top rate. If that happens, Republicans will bear some responsibility as well.

Ezra Klein interviews Bruce Bartlett:

One reason is I am disturbed that we have a large percentage of the population that pay no income taxes. And I know many of those people pay payroll taxes. But income taxes fund the general government. According to a study by the Tax Policy Center, 47 percent pay no income tax, or have negative liability. And I think it’s bad for democracy when people get into the position when a majority can vote benefits for themselves but not pay for it. And that should disturb liberals as much as conservatives.

The VAT would necessarily be a broad-based tax. It would be a way of getting people to pay for the benefits they themselves receive. People like Len Burman and Rahm Emmanuel’s brother [Ezekiel Emmanuel, a health care adviser to Peter Orszag] have supported this for some time. Len argues that if people knew the VAT was dedicated to health-care reform, and the rate rose and fell automatically with the spending of the system, they would have an incentive to hold down taxes. They would have some positive reinforcement we do not now have with Medicare. I hope that’s right. You know, every other major developed country has a VAT: The parties of the left in Europe made a deal a long time ago: If conservatives will let us have a welfare state, we’ll fund it conservatively. And I think that’s still a good deal.

Back to the Conor Clarke chart, E.D. Kain comes up with a new chart:


Going back to Clinton level tax-rates is not the doomsday scenario so many tax-hawks claim it is.  Then again, it’s also important to remember that the rich already pay a great deal more than any other demographic, and there’s only so much revenue that can be raised by taxing them while doling out services to the rest of the population.  At some point, taxes will simply have to go up across the board.

That’s the sad fact about free lunches.  They are never, ever actually free.

Joyner also points us to Catherine Rampbell in NYT, who has this chart:


And Joyner, on Clarke’s graph:

I’d note that the curve is wildly exaggerated because the Y axis starts at 28 percent. All the variation is between 31.5 percent and 36.1 percent or so; the drop has hardly been precipitous. In addition to the Bush tax cuts, most of the difference is lowered capital gains taxes.

More on taxes. Bryan Caplan:

The Krugman we’ve got is sold on the House health bill.  But the Krugman we had, the thoughtful economist who wrote The Accidental Theorist, would have responded differently.  Krugman Past, unlike Krugman Present, would have pointed out that when the unemployment rate is 9.7%, it’s a bad idea to legislate an 8% payroll increase on businesses that fail to offer health insurance.   Employers are reluctant to hire workers at today’s wages; how are they going to feel once the marginal worker gets 8% pricier?

Kevin Drum:

I think I’ve read critiques similar to this about a thousand times now.  I guess it sounds mighty clever, hoisting Keynesians by their own petard or something.  But it’s nonsense.  The “pay-or-play” payroll tax increase doesn’t go into effect until 2013 — and if the recession isn’t over by then we’ve got way bigger things to worry about than a minor increase in payroll tax receipts.

Matthew Yglesias:

Something they taught me back at Emerson Hall was that before you jump on a major philosopher for having committed an elementary mistake, you ought to consider the possibility that you are the one making the mistake. It seems to me that the same principle applies here. Caplan knows Paul Krugman is a good economist. And he knows that it would be odd for a Keynesian like Krugman to advocate for a tax increase amidst a recession. But instead of considering the possibility that it was he, Caplan, who’s not understanding the situation he assumes that Krugman is blundering.

And Paul Krugman:

As Kevin points out, the provisions wouldn’t take effect for several years; it takes real chutzpah, given that obvious point, for Caplan to accuse me of being disingenuous.Actually, it’s even worse: Caplan frames the argument in terms of the nasty effects of raising labor costs. Um, we have a problem with demand, not supply; time to reread Keynes on wages.

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All Things Equal And Unequal


Will Wilkinson has a new paper out at Cato on inequality. He has a blog post up about it,  with this excerpt:

Recent discussions of economic inequality, marked by a lack of clarity and care, have confused the public about the meaning and moral significance of rising income inequality. Income statistics paint a misleading picture of real standards of living and real economic inequality. Several strands of evidence about real standards of living suggest a very different picture of the trends in economic inequality. In any case, the dispersion of incomes at any given time has, at best, a tenuous connection to human welfare or social justice. The pattern of incomes is affected by both morally desirable and undesirable mechanisms. When injustice or wrongdoing increases income inequality, the problem is the original malign cause, not the resulting inequality. Many thinkers mistake national populations for “society” and thereby obscure the real story about the effects of trade and immigration on welfare, equality, and justice. There is little evidence that high levels of income inequality lead down a slippery slope to the destruction of democracy and rule by the rich. The unequal political voice of the poor can be addressed only through policies that actually work to fight poverty and improve education. Income inequality is a dangerous distraction from the real problems: poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and systemic injustice.


Jim Manzi:

To put my cards on the table, I think that inequality, as it interacts with other facts about contemporary American society, is a problem. But, I think that, even more fundamentally, it is an indicator of a much more severe problem. As globalization continues inexorably (in practical terms, this has very little to do with McDonald’s in France, and almost everything to do with the economic rise of Asia), U.S. income inequality is a demonstration that many – probably most – Americans don’t have the capabilities required to maintain anything like their current standard of living in competition with a global labor force. Does Will think this is accurate, and if so, is it a problem?

Arnold Kling:

I think that the main issue with inequality is not the gap between the rich and the poor. It is the gap between the earnings of top business leaders and the salaries of academics and journalists.

Matthew Yglesias:

And you really don’t want to find yourself suggesting, as I think people sometimes do, that we ought to be monomaniacally focused on the income gap question. After all, consider an African-American woman working as a nurse in North Carolina in the late 1950s relative to a white male executive at North Carolina’s largest bank. There would have been a substantial gap in their incomes. But if you flash forward to today and compare an African-American woman working as a nurse in North Carolina to a top executive at Charlotte-based Bank of America you’ll find a much larger gap.

Thinking about the issue more comprehensively, though, it’s of course clear that the overall gap in social equality between two such people is smaller today than it was in the days when the African-American woman would be explicitly excluded from a wide range of social practices and opportunities open to the banker. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that the decline of Jim Crow caused income inequality to grow thus forcing us to make an explicit tradeoff, but it’s still worth understanding which aggregate sets of social changes have and haven’t been for the better. What’s more, I have heard credible arguments that the successes of feminism in the late 60s and 1970s did play a role in increasing income inequality. I’m not sure whether or not that’s right, but if it is right you’d still want to say that feminism was an egalitarian force.

Free Exchange:

But there are shortcomings in the piece. A number of the measures Mr Wilkinson uses to show that recent growth in inequality has not been particularly bad reveal less than that. He cites statistics on equality of happiness from Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers and acknowledges that happiness inequality has grown since the 1990s but doesn’t seem to reflect on whether that might be a looming issue. He cites recent work from Christian Broda and John Romalis on diverging inflation rates across income levels, which suggests that recent Chinese economic growth, which resulted in heavy imports of cheap goods, was very good for low-income consumers. But as I argued last spring, China’s role in the economy is likely shifting from deflationary to inflationary, which may begin to undo these gains; rising prices for energy and food, among other things, will disproportionately affect lower income households.

Mr Wilkinson seems to too easily brush off concerns about economic immobility, which is increasing in America. A recent Pew study on the issue revealed, for instance, that a child from the lowest income quintile who gets a college degree is less likely to wind up in the highest income quintile than a child from the highest income quintile who does not get a degree. Sometimes differences in income are everything.

Nick Schulz at The Enterprise Blog

UPDATE: Ezra Klein

UPDATE #2: Megan McArdle

Wilkinson responds to Manzi

UPDATE #3: Conor Clarke

UPDATE #4: Clint at Why We Worry

Matthew Yglesias

UPDATE #5: Jon Chait at TNR

Will Wilkinson asks for questions

Conor Clarke asks one

Wilkinson responds to Clarke and Yglesias

Clarke responds

Freddie at The League

UPDATE #6: Lane Kenworthy


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It Costs A Pretty Penny To Get That Psychiatrist For The Ant Farm


The chart comes from Andrew Biggs at the American Enterprise Institute Blog:

The same factors impact healthcare services for our pets. And unlike human healthcare, veterinary care has almost no government provision and very little insurance. In other words, almost all health spending on Fido is paid out of pocket.

And yet we continue to spend more.

The chart below shows spending on veterinary care, which I pulled from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, and national health expenditures (for people) from the National Income and Product Accounts. Two things are interesting here: first, the rate of growth of spending from 1984 to 2006 wasn’t all that different—and in both cases, spending grew faster than the rate of economic growth. As new technologies are developed for humans, we adopt them for Bowser and Fifi—because we can afford to and we think it’s worth it. I personally took my Alaskan Malamute to a Washington-area practice that was known as the “Mayo Clinic of veterinarians” —and I suspect this wasn’t because, like the real Mayo Clinic, it keeps costs low.

Megan McArdle:

Kudoes to AEI for publishing a graph that seriously undercuts one of the major conservative arguments about health care:  that the main problem is consumers who don’t bear their own costs.  Veterinary spending is subject to few of the perversities that either left or right suppose to be the main problems afflicting health care spending.  Consumers pay full frieght most of the time.  They are price sensitive, and will let the patient die if keeping him alive costs too much.  There is no adverse selection.  There is no free riding on mandatory care.  Government regulation is minimal.  Malpractice suits are minimal, and have low payouts.  So why is vet spending rising along with human spending?

Two reasons, presumably:  technological change and rising income.  As we get wealthier, we spend more of our income on former luxuries, like keeping our pets healthy–nineteenth century veterinary care for sick cats consisted of a sack and some stones to weight it down with.  And improvements in health care technology are giving us more things to spend that money on.  With the help of my family, I bought my dog five extra years of life with an MRI that diagnosed his slipped disk; without it, we’d have had to put him to sleep when he was three.  Worth it?  I think so.  But in 1950, I couldn’t have afforded it, even if it had been available.

Arnold Kling:

There is no “we” that spends too much on vet care. Individual owners make the decisions. Whether those decisions are foolish or wise is none of my business. As long as we don’t have government-funded pet health insurance, then I don’t care if the owners spend a fortune on veterinarians. Serves them right, as far as I’m concerned.

But with human medical care, we spend each others’ money, and that is the problem. The Democrats insist that “we” should share even more of our health care expenses. And then they will turn around and complain about how much “we” spend.

Tyler Cowen

John Schwenkler:

Crucially, it seems clear to me that the numbers should at least be calculated in terms of per capita expenditures, since as it stands we aren’t shown how much of the total growth in each case is due to simple increases in human and non-human animal populations. And based on what I could glean from a quick search, the U.S. pet population increased by about 17% from 2001 to 2007 alone, which would give an annual growth rate of almost 3% in contrast to a U.S. population growth rate of about a third of that. Biggs’s graph (I couldn’t figure out how to dig his original data out from the Consumer Expenditure Survey) does suggest an increase in veterinary expenditures more on the order of 30% or so during that same stretch, so it’s clearly not as if there hasn’t been a notable increase in veterinary expenditures per pet, but not accounting for this sort of complicating factor seems a significant omission, no?

Greg Mankiw:

These data are consistent with what I wrote a couple years ago: “The reason that we spend more [on healthcare] than our grandparents did is not waste, fraud and abuse, but advances in medical technology and growth in incomes. Science has consistently found new ways to extend and improve our lives. Wonderful as they are, they do not come cheap. Fortunately, our incomes are growing, and it makes sense to spend this growing prosperity on better health.”

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias:

But look at the Y axes. They don’t match up! This is almost a chart in which the same vertical distance that denotes a $2 billion increase in veterinary expenditures represents a $500 billion increase in human health care expenditures. But not quite. Note that the distance between $2,000 billion and $2,500 billion on the right axis is clearly larger than the distance between $10 billion and $12 billion on the left.

I’m not sure what difference cleaning the charts up would make, but it would certainly make them a lot easier to interpret. One would also want to do some kind of normalizing by population size. Has the number of pets grown relative to the number of people? Shrunk? We know that the demographics of the human population has been aging, but probably not the pet population.

UPDATE #2: Kevin Drum:

As John Schwenkler points out, a big part of the increase is accounted for by a large increases in the number of pets.  We aren’t necessarily spending a lot more per pet, we just have more pets.  In fact, he points to some market research that suggests cats have actually gotten cheaper over the years: we spent $85 per cat in 2001 but only $81 in 2007.  (Dogs, conversely have gotten a little more expensive, but only by 11%, not the 30-40% the chart suggests.)

So which data is correct?  Beats me.  But considering the high-pressure sales job vets have adopted in recent years, I have a hard time believing that cat expenditures have gone down.  After all, we didn’t use to get their teeth cleaned or spend a couple hundred bucks a year on fancy flea/heartworm/hookworm/etc. goop.  Now we do.  Caveat emptor.

UPDATE #3: Ezra Klein:

But whatever the graph’s problems, the sudden acceleration in medical spending on pets does offer insight into spending on people. If you took a limping Fido to the vet and were informed he had a malignant tumor in his foot and three months to live, you would cry, and feel terrible about it, but that was basically that. But what if you were told that there’s a $5,000 treatment that could potentially save your dog?

Suddenly, you have a choice. It’s not just how much your dog’s life is worth to you. It’s how much it’s worth to you to feel like you didn’t decide to let your dog die. A treatment that isn’t strictly “worth it” in economic terms — a treatment that may not even save your dog — may be worth it to you, because you want to feel like you did everything you could. You want your economic decisions to line up with your emotions.

The rise in health-care spending is not simply that we have trouble saying “no.” It’s that the march of health-care technology has forced us to make a lot more decisions. Conditions that would have simply, sadly, killed people 30 years ago have treatments — which may or may not be effective — today. And it’s hard to say “no” to those options. But the crucial point isn’t when we accept or reject the treatment. it’s when we’re faced with a treatment to accept or reject. It’s when death begins to look like a decision.

Jim Manzi:

By my calcualtions, over this period aggregate spending on companion pet care (dogs, cats, birds and horses) has risen 23%. Aggregate medical expenditures rose more than 50% over the same period. So, first, if we use the AVMA actual tabulation, rather than asking people what they spent in a survey, a normal-English definition of vet spending rose at less than half the rate of medical spending.

Second, pet population grew a lot faster than human population over this period. There were about 16% more companion pets in 2007 than 2001, while there were only about 6% more people. The net result is that the growth in mean vet services per animal was only about 6% over this period (from about $120 to $127 per animal per year), while growth in medical spending per person over this period was well over 40% (from about $5,200 to $7,400 per person per year).

In some sense, of course, this is partially a product of rising income: people have more money to spend on pets, and this drags along some vet costs with it. But there is not a lot of evidence (at least from this chart) that disproves the idea that making people pay for healthcare out of their own pockets would lead to a ceteris paribus reduction in health care expenditures.

UPDATE #4: Conor Clarke brings a new chart:


I’m not sure why the growth of veterinary spending is a point in favor of conservative theories about the growth of health-care spending. Two of the most commonly cited conservative reasons for the rise in health-care spending are (1) The tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance; and (2) malpractice liability, which is supposed to lead to defensive medicine and higher costs. But neither of those things happen in the veterinary market! If the original chart is correct, then are these things not really problems?

My overwhelming suspicion is that the chart does not tell us much that is useful about the market for medical care. I spoke with Andrew Biggs yesterday, and he very kindly shared his data from the expediture survey (which is not publicly available). He also cautioned against taking any of this too seriously. 700 words and two charts later, I agree.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

Not only has pet ownership surged, but Americans’ attitudes towards their pets has been changing quite a bit as well. (My internet connection is slow and spotty, so forgive me for not linking to evidence backing this up as much as I’d like). If you read up on these trends, you’ll find that more and more people are treating cats and dogs like members of their families. Tens of millions of people now get their dogs and cats Christmas presents. And huge percentages of those people even wrap them! What this says about the culture or the specific pet owners is a discussion for another time. But it seems that if you have growth in the number of people holding such views, spending more on animal care would follow, particularly when there’s so much more vets can do to extend and improve the quality of life of their pets. Maybe Mark Steyn can make a point about childless couples transferring parental impulses to their dogs and cats.

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The Green Depends On Whether You’re Red Or Blue


USA Today:

Counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, a USA TODAY analysis of government disclosure and accounting records shows. That money includes aid to repair military bases, improve public housing and help students pay for college.

Michelle Malkin:

Porkulus One was a massive payoff to special interests and political constituencies (and dead people!) disguised as a job generator. A General Accounting Office analysis this week revealed that stimulus dollars allocated to states and localities are not being spent on what they’re supposed to be spent on. States are making up their own criteria for spending. The most economically distressed parts of the country are getting shortchanged. School and transportation bureaucrats are using the money to preserve their own jobs instead of “stimulating” others. And assessments of the stimulative effect of the package are a joke. As House Republicans noted: “The Administration has essentially “rigged the game’ of reporting the tangible effects of its stimulus program by creating an immeasurable metric – ‘jobs created or saved’ – that no one can disprove.”

Irked by the mounting evidence of stimulus failure, Vice President Joe Biden griped at a spending event on Thursday: “This ain’t about swimming pools and frisbee parks and polar bear exhibits. This is about stuff that not only passed the test of jobs, but passed the smell test. … All the talk about how we’re gonna waste all this money, that’s a dog that ain’t barked yet. And it’s not gonna bark on my watch.” Yet last month, Sen. Tom Coburn exposed 100 smelly stimulus projects worth $5.5 billion, including $3.4 million for a wildlife “eco-passage” in Florida to take animals safely under a busy roadway; nearly $10 million to renovate an unused train station; and a $2 million “weatherization” contract awarded to a Nevada non-profit recently fired for doing the same type of work.

After failing to recognize the inevitable and inexorable political forces that turned the stimulus into the Mother of All Beltway Boondoggles, media outlets are now playing catch up:

USA Today reported this week that “counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain.”

Ed Morrissey:

There’s no politics at work in spending the money?  The White House wants people to believe this is a statistical anomaly.  It may not have been a deliberate calculation, but the disparity comes from the nature of the stimulus, and it shows just how political Porkulus was.  It wasn’t a stimulus package at all –  most of the money gets spent after the first year — but a collection of Democratic Party ideological wish lists and pork projects.  Districts that voted Obama get twice as much money per person because Democrats controlled the pork projects and got the money into their districts.  That’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s certainly revealing.


Conor Clarke

And about that factual content: The Heath piece basically says (1) counties that voted for Obama get more money than counties that voted for McCain; (2) pretty much all of this money “has followed a well-worn path … guided by formulas that have been in place for decades and leave little room for manipulation.” There is no theory presented for how the spending could have been manipulated.

The article concludes by noting that “From 2005 through 2007, the counties that later voted for Obama collected about 50% more government aid than those that supported McCain, according to spending reports from the U.S. Census Bureau.” Yikes! Either that completely destroys the premise of the article, or this pro-Obama conspiracy runs far deeper than even USA Today can imagine…

Matthew Yglesias:

The secret to the riddle seems to be that areas that benefit from federal spending formulae tend to support the Democrats. Not as a result of short-term fluctuations in voting patterns or federal spending levels, but as a structural element of American politics.

That said, this is the sort of thing that I’m glad people are looking into. Politicians obviously are cognizant of the fact that measures may or may not direct funds to their supporters. But it would be nice to see it done in a less sloppy manner. For one thing, though the press likes to talk a lot about who’s the president and who might be president, when it comes to the details of domestic policy the authority lies almost entirely with congress. Obviously, there’s substantial overlap between the areas that voted for Obama and the areas that elected a Democratic member of congress. But you’d probably get a more enlightening result if you specifically zeroed in on the congressional issue. Or maybe even looked at particular members of congress. Is what was done unusually favorable to David Obey’s constituents relative to other plausible opportunities? What was the impact of the changes forced by centrist senators?


Filed under Political Figures, The Crisis