Friday, September 17, 2010


O'Donnell the new media darling.

Sensible of the Dangers

The law as written, I suspect, is competent to deal with restaurants that follow unsafe food handling practices without the addition of some regulatory regime or another.  After all, it must be illegal to poison someone.  The purpose of the regulation of food handling is, of course, to limit the instances food borne illness as are the regulations that one or more employees are aware of the best practices in food handling.  It might even have been in the interests of already existing restaurants that these standards be rigidly enforced because they bolster  restaurants' reputation as healthy food providers.  Its true, as well, that forcing new entrants into the restaurant market to build safe and clean kitchens increases the cost of opening the business; consequently you could, if you squinted, make the regulations out to be designed by an association of already existing restaurants to limit competition and not protect consumers. But who, other than an ideologue, wants to squint that hard.

Let's say you read an article about fraud committed on consumers based on the use of fake addresses, inflated prices, and other skulduggery.  Would your first reaction be to call the practices "an innovative business model." Would you assert in the face of evidence to the contrary that the problem is limited to "simply lying" about where your shop is. Is that lie so simple?  Surely, the existence of a shop means all kinds of things to a consumer, local, a place were I can go to to complain, under the jurisdiction of my law enforcement agencies, etc.  Indeed, the lie is central to the business "innovative practice."  Surely, you would want to include the price gauging and other corrupt practices in your account.  If you didn't it might almost seem that you sought to minimize the damage done to the consumer because it conflicted with your ideologically driven conceptualization of the free market. And, relatedly, isn't the conclusion that
[i]t’s almost as if the locksmithing industry is trying to leverage some legitimate complaints into a tool they can use to stifle competition! 
Is only coherent if you leave out the point that the stifled competitors are the kind innovative businessmen and women whose practices more easily enable fraud?

Trade associations, regulatory regimes, and the state's criminal sanction of corrupt practices are different things and need to be thought about differently. So, for example, the fact that funeral homes have a lock on the coffin business strikes me as wrong and silly; however, regulating the construction of coffins strikes me as sensible and including in those regulations some minimum standard of woodworking competence and related requirements strikes me as equally sensible.  The independent creation of a United Association of Coffin Makers which disciplines its members, in terms of training and quality of output, is fine by me. The legitimacy, illegitimacy, or silliness of what happens next depends on what happens next.

 bit of counter-contrarianism to some of this blog’s recent content, let me say that one thing emerges when you meld the AFT’s massive expenditures on the DC mayor’s race with an awareness of the nefarious antics of the locksmith’s association, the tour guide guild, and the barber’s cartel is a realization that the standard center-left critique of teacher’s unions is almost 100 percent off-base.
requires some kind of discussion of the center-left critique of teacher's unions especially when what follows is a center-left defense of unions.

Bikes and Dogs


David Brooks: Inmates and the Asylum

As near as I can make out, David Brooks today argues that just because the inmates have taken over the asylum it doesn't mean that the inmates have taken over the asylum.  Why?  Because their rise hinges not on their popular appeal but rather because the last Republican administration and its supporter destroyed the economy. And, despite all evidence to the contrary, they have yet to inject their crazy virus into the Republican Party.  Reading it is sort of like watching a worm wriggling on hook; only in this case the worm has impaled itself.

 Murkoski's write in campaign is not evidence of a civil war inside of the Republican Party, and Karl Rove's recanting his claim about O'Donnell's unfitness for office is not evidence that the inmates have taken over the asylum.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Little Deregulation Never Hurt Anyone

Recently a pipeline blew up in California and it has come to light that from
a consumer advocacy group [that] has discovered that the company that operated the faulty pipeline, Pacific Gas & Energy (PG&E), had classified it as “high risk” and failed to utilize the funds it had collected from a rate hike to repair it. The Utility Reform Network (TURN) has obtained documents detailing the energy giant’s request to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a rate hike in 2007. PG&E asked the PUC for permission for a $5 million rate hike to “replace a section of the same pipeline that blew up in San Bruno.” The PUC approved PG&E’s request, allowing it to hike its rates so that it could repair the line in 2009.

Yet the energy giant failed to go through with its scheduled repairs. And in 2009, it once again requested a rate hike from the PUC, again for $5 million. In its request, PG&E warned that if “the replacement of this pipe does not occur, risks associated with this segment will not be reduced. Coupled with the consequences of failure of this section of pipeline, the likelihood of a failure makes the risk of a failure at this location unacceptably high.” Despite these admitted risks, the company could only promise to make its repairs by 2013.
There is considerably more skulduggery available at the link.  One might wonder why the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) didn't intervene and force the PG&E to fix the damn pipeline. It couldn't be because for the past 30 years or so all the cool kids having screaming like a bunch of flying monkeys that regulation of industry is unnecessary, stupid, and wasteful.  Could it?  It couldn't be because if you shout that kind of stuff loud enough and long enough regulators become ever laxer. Could it?

More Neoliberal, Reaganite, and (possibly) glibertarian complaints about regulation
Coburn's office said Wednesday the senator will object to bringing up the bill if his concerns aren't addressed. His objections are a major blow to supporters' chances of passing the legislation this year.

The legislation would give the agency more power to recall tainted products, require more inspections of food processing facilities and require producers to follow stricter standards for keeping food safe. Currently, the FDA does not have the authority to order a recall and must negotiate recalls with the affected producers. The agency rarely inspects many food facilities and farms, visiting some every decade or so and others not at all.
As Tom Scocca, from whom I found out about this, puts it
This is just hostage-taking. Coburn's concern about the deficit is one-sided—he's not asking for taxes to go up to cover the cost of the bill, which is a scary-sounding $1.4 billion, or a considerably less scary $4.67 per American citizen. Taxes are bad. He is expressing the political opinion that removing disease-ridden feces from the food supply is a responsibility that the government should not take on. This is what Tom Coburn stands for: he believes that, on top of everything else, you can actually go eat shit.

If they are not tired, why all the lying around?

Reps. Joe Barton, Marsha Blackburn and Michael Burgess argue that the "ban," which really isn't a ban, on the sturdy and patriotic incandescent light bulb has led to the loss of some 200 jobs. The job loss results, they assert, because the more energy efficient compact florescent light bulbs "can't be produced cheaply enough in America so we’ve turned to China" from whence come virtually all of the compact bulbs. This is further evidence, as if any was needed, of the dangers of government interference in the great free market.

This and some other American-based manufactures of compact bulbs might tend to disagree about the impossibly high cost of making the bulb in these United States. And sensible people might suggest that the 200 jobs are just the latest casualty in capitalism's long war on everybody as its acolytes pursue the goal of profit maximization.

Renounce, Denounce, and Condemn

I agree that the fatwa against this cartoonist is beneath contempt and ought to be condemned by all right thinking people. This is  completely harmless.

On the advice of counsel, I would also like to denounce, renounce, and condemn those who make it harder to raise taxes on millionaires, billionaires, and other malefactors of great wealth through the use of misleading arguments and misrepresenting the goals of progressive tax reform as soaking the rich.  

Stop Doing That

Seqway riding guy, please stay off the multiuser path you are going too fast and taking up way too much space. Woman driving your car with no hands so that you could read the paper, stop doing that.

Matthew Yglesias: Glibertarian Gibberish

Ygleasias eats lunch with some glibertarians and comes away livid that tour guides are required to prove that they are competent to be tour guides.  He doesn't, please not call for the reform of the regulations, reduction of the cost, the scope of the exam, or anything like that because
[y]ou don’t need a license to be a tour guide in Boston and as best I can tell everything’s fine. I’ve taken tours in Boston, and I’ve heard of any time of people visiting the city without incident.
Customers there are protected by the general laws against fraud and other forms of criminal misconduct as well as whatever discipline the marketplace and people’s concern for their reputation provides.
If the past 30 years have proved anything it is that an unregulated market is a recipe for disaster, even the glibertarian in chief figured that out. His Yglesias' glibertarian friends are going to sue DC because " the government is not allowed to require people to get a license in order to talk.”  The government can and should, however, act to ensure that people peddling their expertise are, in fact, at least moderately competent, which is what tour guides do.  If you want to stand on the corner and misinform people go right ahead. if you want to claim to know enough to be a tour guide the state has every right and an interest in ensuring that you aren't a mountebank.

There is a larger point here, regulatory regimes have a history and a purpose.  It is not the case that regulators are, as Yglesias suggests, busybodies who unfairly unnecessarily interfere with genius of the market. When Philadelphia was developing its regulations regarding tour guides, it was to end this kind of disinformation
[t]hey'll stop saying that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln once dined together. Or that Ben Franklin had not one, but 69, illegitimate children. That basement kitchens had outdoor exits so as to spare the furniture should the cook's skirts catch fire. Or that a house would be left to burn if it didn't display an insurance company fire mark.[link added]
Now I'll grant that Yglesias may have had a great time in Boston, but how on earth would he know that what heard is or isn't true. And how on earth can it be "bad for visitors" to DC or any city to be assured that their tour guide is able to score 70, which is a low C- at best, on test concerning the city's history?


Harvey Mansfield is a famous and important Conservative professor at Harvard, of all places.  Apparently try to prove that education can't make a silly person smart, he argues that "[t]he feminist movement has instructed young women to act like men.  In the meantime, manliness itself is under a cloud of suspicion, to put it mildly." What on earth can that mean?  Perhaps something like: All them women acting like men by doing what they'd like with their lives instead of doing what they're told offends Mansfield and his fellow tough guy conservatives.  Is that it?

Cool Shoes

These cycling shoes look very nice:

They cost 110.00 US.  That's nuts.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Matt Yglesias: Against Neoliberalism and Reganite Solutions Except When He Isn't

Matt Yglesias,points out that states run on Conservative principles are less economically successful than those run along some other lines, although he is unclear about which lines.  He then instances the really crappy postal service in the Confederate States of America, no really he does, and mentions that
[s]omewhat awkwardly for the purposes of the polemical point I’m trying to make here, I’m open to postal privatization in the contemporary United States along the lines being implemented (PDF) in Europe.
He is quick to point out that the mail no longer really matters so letting private enterprise get its hands on it isn't a big deal, because?  Because he says so.

To sum up, he wants to deregulate industries about which he knows nothing, thinks that city planing ought to be managed by the market, and is convinced that we could have better health and educational delivery systems if only both would abide by the great god of maximizing profits by skimping on quality, because -- after all -- the endlessness of the pasta bowl makes up for the crappiness of its contents.  He is, in other words, definitively against Conservative methods of governance and definitively in favor of some other undefined method of governance, which I dub Yglesiasism.  This ism enacts Neoliberal, Reaganite solutions and methods of governance but isn't, some how or another, Conservativism.

He concludes that the foregoing "is all just to say that investment in infrastructure and public services is important and always has been." See? Unless it is spending and investment he doesn't like or public services like regulating business, creating zoning restrictions, providing non-skimped education, or developing licensing regimes he hasn't bothered to research, Yglesias is a full on liberal lion.

Which Video Advances the Cause of Civilization?

Glenn Beck:

Or this one:

I say less blather and more hand dancing.

Jonah Goldberg on Journalism

Searching for hard evidence of the upcoming Republican victory, Goldberg dons his investigative reporter's hat, which comes with a pipe and magnifying glass if you send in three extra box tops, and all reporterlylike reports that
[l]ast night I attended a book party for Young Guns. While there, I heard an interesting tidbit from a couple people I trust. Apparently the Judiciary Committee’s majority staff approached the minority staff with a seemingly gracious offer: Why don’t we refurbish the digs for the minority staff? They look a bit rundown.

This was welcome news since the minority staff (i.e., the Republicans) has been asking for a spruce-up for four years but got nothing from the Dems. But now, suddenly, the Democrats are very concerned about the quality of the digs they will have to use if they lose the majority. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence and it was all out of the goodness of their hearts.

One person I talked to said that they heard something about another committee where a similar offer was made, but I couldn’t confirm it.
It's journalism 101: If you hear something from two or more people at a partisan event concerning the coming defeat and general mendacity of your shared opponents: it is a confirmed fact; however, if you hear it from only one person at a partisan event concerning the coming defeat and general mendacity of your shared opponents:  it is an unconfirmed but still comforting fact. Both are facts just  like the missing Ws and general trashing narrative concerning the Clinton/Bush transition was a fact.

I just reread the Salon article and its simply amazing how the trashing narrative and its dissemination are a nearly perfect microcosm for the whole of Bush administration's notion of the truth. That was published in May of 2001, and yet the press corps as a whole seems to have not internalized its meaning.

And there is this stunning little nugget:
To its credit, Fox acknowledged on . . . the same day the GAO report became public -- that there had been little evidence to support its vandalism claims. Later "Fox News Sunday" host Tony Snow went even further, apologizing to former Clinton staffers for his error. "OK, I'm sorry," Snow said on the program. "The ex-president's pals have a legitimate beef."

Thomas Friedman Still Dumb.

Nobody likes Thomas Freidman and they're right not to.

Pearls of Wisdom or the Perils of Perdiction

Charlie Cook writes that
House Minority Leader John Boehner was smart to dodge the tax cut fight by saying that while he preferred to extend all of the tax cuts, he would not vote against one for the 98 percent making less than $250,000 just because it didn't have one for the highest 2 percent. The last thing the GOP needs to be doing is giving Democrats ammunition for their "Republicans only care about the rich" attacks.
He is a very serious person writing for other very serious people, who stroke their chins and wonder what is to be done about Hmer Simpson.  The article came on September 14th. On September 15th Boehner said
TPM REPORTER QUESTION: But if it's your only option, as you said Sunday, would you vote for...

BOEHNER: I want to extend all of the current tax rates. I want the speaker to allow a fair and open debate on our two-point plan, because if we extend the current tax rates and we're able to cut spending, we'll reduce some of the uncertainty coming out of Washington, D.C., and employers will then have the ability to continue to create jobs in America.
And the other Republicans all chimed in about their unity in the face of the possibility of the rich paying a slightly hirer tax, which -- presumably -- means that they would vote against the extension of just the middle-class tax cuts.  This, in turn means, that Cook made the elemental mistake of thinking that the Republicans aren't dumb.  They are.

What's Wrong With These People

This morning Jonah Goldberg weighs in on last night's primaries noting, among other bits of wrong-headedness,  that even if we
say the “establishment” turns out to be right about O’Donnell’s chances in the general. That proves what about the tea parties? That they are a liability for the GOP and conservatism?


What it proves is  that amidst a massive and massively successful grassroots uprising, the tea parties miscalculated in one race. Unfortunate, but hardly calamitous.
. . .
When you have an organic grassroots uprising, it’s sort of silly to expect that it will make every decision with surgical skill and perfect foresight. Indeed, the attempt to play mincing games of compromise threatens to cool the very passions that have gotten us this far.
O'Donnell has the support of Senator Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin.  The Tea Party Patriots are the work of Dick Armey's Freedomworks, Glenn Beck, and Fox News. How "massively successful" have the Tea Party Patriots been?  So far they have successfully chased out "moderate" Republicans who didn't say crazy things on a daily basis for radical nutcases who say crazy things on an hourly basis.

But why stop with O'Donnell one of the other Tea Party Patriot's winners was Carl Paladino.  He is as famous for his ability to forward emails as was Michael Scott. Recently it came to light that

[a]lthough many of the emails included anti-Obama birther claims, and others were just pictures of naked women, (one of each was sent to Paladino by a current Republican candidate for Volker’s seat in the State Senate).
Some of Paladino’s emails contain hardcore pornography. One contains a video clip involving bestiality. Other emails display an attitude of misogyny or blatant racism – the latter being an issue with which Paladino already has a problem, given his past dealings with, and criticisms of Antoine Thompson, Jim Pitts, Byron Brown, and Dr. James Williams.
Some of the emails and associated content are provided after the jump, since they’re dramatically unsafe for work. Frankly, a few are unsafe for anywhere.
Or Sharron Angle's descent from sure-fired winner to likely loser who is now afraid to open her mouth.

Goldberg and Co. have to redefine massively successful to mean  Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin made some money and helped to nominate a bunch of crazy people to run for offices in which they would be able to do crazy things. Americans aren't crazy, however, so we should be safe.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And So to Bed

Matt Yglesias:

Yum Brands combo restaurants aren’t especially rare or problematic in my view, but I was interested to learn about the general existence of this restriction. The rule (which you can look up here) is a generalized restriction on takeout and delivery operations, whether chain or otherwise, but it also allows for the granting of a “special exception” to especially favored business operations.

At any rate, I can see why people might favor a rule like this. But something that comes to mind naturally is to wonder how many people who live in the area actually know that any such rule exists? My guess is “not many,” which is often the case with this sort of thing, which I think is a problem. Democracy is great, rule by a handful of busybodies who are doing all kinds of things most people never hear about is not so great. 
One might just as easily wonder if people who move into an area without Yum Brand combo restaurants are aware that the area into which they are moving doesn't have any Yum Brand combo restaurants. And one might profitably wonder if they moved there because the area didn't have any Yum Brand combo restaurants, or hog farms for that matter, and after finding some evidence one way or another, one could profitably comment on soundness of the regulations that helped created the neighborhood into which they moved. And one might then extra profitably wonder if calling city planners who seek to create the kind of neighborhoods that the people move into  because they like them busybodies is evidence of a kind of knee-jerk, Neoliberal, Reaganite disdain for sensible rules and regulations. Matt Yglesias the Last Liberal Lion.

I really do wonder at what point he is just going to come out and say that "[t]he nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Defeat Through Victory

The various Tea Party Patriot victories this evening mark the end of our long national nightmare.  For far too long crazy people have stood on street corners and shouted crazy things crazily.  Now, however, they have been reintegrated into society and will now try to convince the vast majority of non-crazy Americans to entrust their future into the hands of a bunch of crazies.  Fortunately, the percentage of crazies in any given society has been shown to be 27.  Therefore, no Democratic rout in November. What is more, the Conservatives are already trying to distance themselves from the crazies.  Some of them not so much.

Sometimes what appears to be the top of the world is really a fireball of failure and madness.

According to Sarah Palin and others Karl Rove is fat. But don't let this fool you into thinking that the Republican Party  has fallen into disarray because of internal warfare between crazy people and "moderate" Republicans.

How Not to Walk on a Multiuser Path

Hey two guys walking one on either side of the yellow line with large shopping bags filling most of the rest of the path.  I dinged the bell and you didn't respond, you were lost, no doubt, in contented contemplation of the contents of your really large bags.  I had to say something to get your attention so lost in thought were you.  Next time, you might stop and think about the multi aspect of the multiuser path before you begin to amble contentedly while taking up 80% of the space.

Rule Breaking Pedestrian and Automobile Edition

A couple of days ago or so, I suggested an overarching rule that helps avoid lots of stupid behavior. It runs:
Most people don't know you and consequently most people don't particularly care if you live or die. So for god's sake stop acting like the opposite were case.
The people in this video never heard of the rule.

What an Odd Thing to Say.

In today's column David Brooks' argues that Republicans are "surging" toward victory because of their narrative of the danger that our Muslim in chief poses for all that it is good and pure about America.  In the course of recounting the ins and outs of this narrative he mentions Paul Ryan and  Arthur Brooks who insisted
in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, “The road to serfdom in America does not involve a knock in the night or a jack-booted thug. It starts with smooth-talking politicians offering seemingly innocuous compromises, and an opportunistic leadership that chooses not to stand up for America’s enduring principles of freedom and entrepreneurship.”
He loves them; he adores them; they're smart, articulate, and kinda of hunky. They
are two of the most important conservative thinkers today. Ryan is the leading Republican policy entrepreneur in the House. Brooks is president of the highly influential American Enterprise Institute and a much-cited author. My admiration for both is unbounded.
  However there is a bit of a downside because
the story Republicans are telling each other, which Ryan and Brooks have reinforced, is an oversimplified version of American history, with dangerous implications.
Leaving aside Brooks' own tendency to oversimplify history in the service of bad policies, is it possible to find   a duo of smart sexy beast of a thinkers smart and sexy despite finding their overly-simplified narrative dangerous your country's political, economic, and social life?  Wouldn't the responsible, intellectually honest, and serious thing to do here be excoriate them and the Tea Party Patriot nut cases who represent the surgers in the Republican's surge?  The answer is yes, of course it would be.  And that means that Brooks' isn't a responsible, intellectually honest, and serious person.  He a flying monkey.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Property is Theft

Remember a while ago when everyone freaked out over Google's decision to play along with China's censorship regime? What will be the response to MicroSoft's playing nice with Russia's attempt to stifle dissent? The shorter version is that MicroSoft is collaborating with Russia's authoritarian state to stifle dissent but is doing so in the interest of defending against piracy. MicroSoft claims that they have no interest in stifling dissent.

In southwestern Russia, the Interior Ministry declared in an official document that its investigation of a human rights advocate for software piracy was begun “based on an application” from a lawyer for Microsoft.

In another city, Samara, the police seized computers from two opposition newspapers, with the support of a different Microsoft lawyer. “Without the participation of Microsoft, these criminal cases against human rights defenders and journalists would simply not be able to occur,” said the editor of the newspapers, Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev.
And although
[n]either Microsoft’s Moscow office nor its local lawyer contacted Baikal Wave to hear its side. [Microsoft's] lawyer did provide testimony to the police about the value of the software that Baikal Wave was accused of illegally obtaining.
Baikal Wave sent copies of its software receipts and other documentation to Microsoft’s Moscow office to show that it had purchased the software legally. The group said it believed that the authorities would be under pressure to drop the case if Microsoft would confirm the documents’ authenticity.
Microsoft declined to do so. In a letter to Baikal Wave, the company said it would forward the materials only to the authorities in Irkutsk, which already had copies of them.
Microsoft has hired numerous private lawyers across Russia who represent the company in piracy cases. Several of the lawyers have cropped up in these politically sensitive inquiries.
 Even more interestingly

This year, prosecutors in the southwestern city of Krasnodar brought a piracy case against an immigrant rights activist named Anastasia Denisova. She said in an interview that she was surprised at the aggressive posture of Microsoft’s local lawyer.
In an official document, the Interior Ministry said the case against Ms. Denisova was begun “based on an application” from the lawyer. (Microsoft’s Moscow office said that statement was not correct.)
Ms. Denisova said the lawyer overestimated the value of the allegedly pirated software. As a result, the accusations were more serious.
“The Microsoft lawyer was very active, coming to the court all the time, even though he was not summoned,” she said. “He also claimed that he was going to sue me, despite the fact that Microsoft had publicly stated that it would not do so against an advocacy group.”
In May, after Ms. Denisova had spent several months under the threat of a prison sentence, the charges were dropped. Prosecutors acknowledged that the investigation had been mishandled
Is it okay to participate in the stifling of dissent when it is in service of intellectual  property rights?

Reactions to This Ought to be Interesting.

TPM reports that
A Saudi Arabian diplomat is seeking political asylum in the United States because he is gay and befriended a Jewish woman, and fears for his life if he returns, NBC News reported Saturday.
This throws conservatives into a quandary.  He's a moderate Muslim who despises his country's "backwardness" and who doesn't hate Jews.  On the other hand, he's gay and he has "embarrassing" info on Saudi royalty in the USA, who are -- after all -- George Bush's bestest buddies.

Maybe they should denounce him for being gay while insisting that his gayness is evidence of Islam's intolerance.

Matthew Yglesias: Liberal Lion Part II

Yglesias likes to pretend to be a competent critic of education. He is not.  He is a silly little man making insipid, pseudo contrarian points that support, what this guy correctly calls, neo-liberal reforms.  In addition, as the linked critique of Yglesias points out, he has never taught a course in his life. He also knows next to nothing about what is driving the cost of higher education and, as is his wont, makes Reaganeque arguments about the necessity of providing public goods as if their purpose was making a profit.  He is, in short, incompetent when it comes to discussing this issue and clearly hasn't spent any time educating himself on the reality of higher education.

Yglesias replies to the linked post by arguing that
[w]e could try to debate the difference between this kind of “transparency” and the dream “accountability” model, but I think they amount to the same thing.
The problem here is that the "accountability" model isn't what is being criticized; what is being criticized is this kind of claptrap:
To throw a couple of bold claims out there that probably nobody agrees with, brands, chains, standardization, and replication are some of the most underrated economic phenomena and single-establishment retail businesses among the most overrated. There’s an association between multiple-establishment restaurants and low quality, but I think that if you take a broad view you’ll see that this is both a contingent phenomenon and a waning trend. Darden’s own Capitol Grille chain is excellent and Olive Garden is better than you care to admit. Besides which, all the legitimately first-rate chefs are branding and franchising these days, they’re mostly just a bit hesitant to get entirely above-board about what they’re doing.
 The first, and most obvious, question is underrated by whom?  The economic success and often dire consequences of chains has been one of the most debated issues ever.  Wal-Mart versus main street, supersized us, and so on.  Olive Garden isn't better than I think it is, it is much worse; he most likely knows that.  Osteria Papavero is a stand alone restaurant and it is excellent, because the chef and the staff focus on that restaurant.  If there were three the focus shifts and quality suffers.  As for the first-rate chefs, they aren't trying make seventy bazillion restaurants and they hire and supervise other first-rate chefs trained at top the culinary schools or trained in the finest restaurants in the world.  They are not trying to replicate Olive Garden; they are trying to make replicate their success at creating and running A-list restaurants that spend a lot on products, staff, and etc.

What, you ask, does the Olive Garden have to do with education?   It is the focal point of the famous Yglesias pivot in the course of which he takes a completely unrelated topic and uses it to make a totally inapt analogous argument. To wit:
The point, however, is not to argue the merits of these restaurants but merely to observe that they’re successful. And in particular, they’re successful at exactly what our health care and university systems are terrible at, namely actually balancing cost and quality or even at times finding innovative ways to skimp on quality.
See what he did there?  Education and health care systems ought to be more like for-profit enterprises because for-profit enterprises are successful because they can find "innovative ways to skimp on quality," like fake cheese and the like.  University systems should rely on more fake cheese, say hiring under-qualified instructors, or increasing class room size, or more internet-based education. Hospitals should limit the time patients spent in the hospital or not worry so much about testing, use poor quality drugs, pay staff less, and so forth, both could be cheaper too.

He goes on to argue:
If you look at the trajectory of college tuition, it’s clear that we’re not going to be able to simultaneously stay on that pace and expand the number of people who go to college. But a college degree seems to be very valuable. If it were possible to provide even a fraction of that value to more people cheaply, we’d be making major progress.

Shouldn't the first step in an exercise in lower cost work on disaggregating costs as means of identifying those areas in which cost cost can innovatively be cut? Wouldn't it be nice if there was some way of getting at the what was driving the rising cost of education instead of engaging in faulty neo-liberal criticism that treats not-for profit enterprises as if they ought to be for-profit enterprises when experience with the actually existing world shows that for-profit health care and education institutions quickly become a hot bed or sink hole of crappy products, like the endless pasta bowl?

What has been driving increased cost to education? The rise of the university as the cash cow for administrators.  They earned much more than faculty and, increasing, there are nearly as many of them as there are instructors and, much worse, they are fewer tenure track professors and more ad hoc instructors who earn nearly nothing and who cannot afford, quite literally, to oppose the crazy stuff administrators do

A chart:

Administrators make a lot of money, have assistants, and both have offices.  Although some faculty do very well, most earn considerable less than administrators, and most share an assistant.

Rather than insisting that education follow the Olive Garden model, paying workers less, skimping on quality, and generally crapping all over Italian food, Ygelsias might want to spend ten minutes learning something about what is driving the rising cost of education.

Yglesias might also consider that professors and lecturers spend a great deal of time justifying their work and worrying about how to improve their teaching and assessment practices.  He might also consider that as the state offers ever less funding, faculty have learned to much more with much less.

Yglesias temporizes
I’m glad that Tom Philpott took the bait on my praise of chain restaurants and went in with a bit of snark:
A few weeks ago, Think Progress star blogger Matt Yglesias penned a paean to mediocre strip-mall chain restaurants, calling for “more Olive Gardens” and deeming the the faux-fancy steakhouse chain Capital Grille “excellent.” So impressed is Yglesias by the food system that he would apparently like to model the education system after it!
Well that’s not really what I said about education, and the Capital Grille is neither mediocre nor located primarily in strip malls. I’ve been to locations in downtown DC and downtown Pittsburg, and their Porcini-Rubbed Delmonico is both delicious and—at $45 a pop—seems genuinely fancy to me.
Two quick points, he did, in fact, argue that education would benefit from the adaptation of Olive Garden like methods.  And his claim about chains was that the provided good food at reasonable prices.  45 bucks for a steak isn't cheap.

The whole post is worth a read because of its stunning incoherence and absurd unprovable assertions.

What does Yglesias mean by "took the bait"?  Was he intentionally being stupid in order to goad critics to criticize him for being stupid?  Isn't this Limbaugh's preferred method of criticism deflection?  You know when he says something too offensive for even his audiences, Limbaugh will claim to have played the media like a fiddle.  Is this what Yglesias is claiming here:  I wrote something ignorant, illiberal, and generally risible and critics took the bait by pointing out that it was illiberal, ignorant, and generally risible.  Way to go Yglesias and Think Progress by employing him.

He's Got a Master's Degree in Communication

And he loves him some Einstein quotes:

UPDATE: Fiction and Fact, which is funnier?

Or a more reasonable conservative

The original via everyone in the known universe

Federal Government: What is it Good For?

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced recently that it had invented a new kind of air conditioner
that promises to cut electrical demand by up to 90 percent — and it works well in both Gulf Coast humidity and desert heat.
[i]n addition to reducing the load on the electrical grid, which should translate into lower carbon emissions, DEVap cooling eliminates the need for ozone-depleting CFC and HCFC refrigerants. Judkoff notes these compounds are actually worse greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. For each unit of mass, “they can be 10,000 times more debilitating to the atmosphere,” he says.
That's right the damned Federal Government that does nothing but steal our hard-earned dollars to fund things like highways and education now adds insult to injury by being more innovative than the air conditioner industry.  What's next?  Are Obama and Co. going to continuing working on our current economic problems until they get it right?  I just bet they will.


This is an Odd Verb Use.

In a book review in the NYT this Sunday we learn that Liz Murray's father was "continually renewing his library card in a new name because he never returned the books"  Initially, this struck me as odd.  How do you renew something yet change the name? 

Then I thought that the reviewer, Tara McKelvey, was unaware of the difference between renewing and reapplying. That seemed unlikely because she is
a fellow with the Alicia Patterson Foundation, is a frequent contributor to the Book Review and the author of “Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.”
Then I thought the editor was unaware of the difference, which also seemed unlikely because it's the NY Times.

Then I thought, aha, the memoir or parts of it are fake.  I checked, however, and Murray wrote applying not renewing in different names. 

So what you ask? It is more evidence that the decision to reduce copy editing was wrong.

Jonah Goldberg is Getting Dumber

Today Jonah Goldberg "argues" that 
 There’s a powerful upside to the downside of higher education: conservative students tend to come out of universities sharper, more self-confident and more ready to rumble in ideological debates because as members of a disfavored minority, conservative students have their preconceived notions tested every day.
Obviously, there’s no shortage of sharp liberal students on college campuses, but even the sharpest ones get a lot more of their education passively, because they largely agree with what their professors and textbooks say. Their prejudices and convictions are more likely confirmed, not tested. They can go with the flow never questioning the received wisdom because the received wisdom is what they brought to the classroom in the first place.
Meanwhile, conservatives — and right-leaning libertarians — must swim upstream. Some can’t handle it. Others simply avoid courses where their philosophical views might create headaches. But the righties who stick it out, graduate with four years of Socratic learning under their belts.
 Those unfavored minority conservatives have their beliefs tested, liken global warming, but they emerge stronger because they have to fight continually to prove that global warming is figment of your imagination and, besides, you shouldn't try and do something about it because of sun spots. Or they learn how to prove over and over again that Obama is too a socialist, fascist,  baby-eating, secret Muslim, who is probably gay.

Meanwhile those liberals are all ready surfeited with knowledge about global warming and so they just nod their heads to what they already know and never get the gumption to even consider that Liberalism and Fascism are the same thing.  Sheeple.

What, exactly, do Conservatives think goes on in a university classroom?  Herr Professor Doktor Stalin Lenin  von und zu Marx stands in front of his willing acolytes and leadenly intoning the tenets of Marxist Leninism, except when its Maoism.  Furthermore, is Goldberg's demonstrable inability to think critically about nearly[1] anything evidence that he went through an educational system run by Conservatives?

Goldberg prints a long response from an allegedly Conservative, Evangelical professor that is a marvel of nonsense. For example:
Conservatives, by contrast, don’t think, “[Evil laugh.] How can we keep the [discrete and insular minority] down for a few more decades?” but rather, “I’m not sure it CAN be fixed, and we sure as heck need to think about unintended consequences and our own limited resources before we throw taxpayer money at it.”  The better among us follow that thought up with, “What can I personally do to change things for the better?  If I am the change I seek, why do we need the government as middleman?”
See what he or she did there?  If you ignore the progress the Civil Rights Act and related Federal legislation accomplished, you can argue that social problems can't be tackled through legislation but one can hope that Nice Guy Eddies will stop being racist pigs. The problem, he seems to think, is the insularity of a group not the legal structures that limited their full entrance into citizenship.  Plus and also, notice how legislation making it illegal to discriminate amounts to throwing money at a problem.  Here is a perfect example of a Conservative not sharpening his or her arguments because he or she faced continued intellectual assault as a undergraduate and graduate student.

[1] He's not especially good at it but his writing on movies, tv, and popular culture more generally is better than his seriously serious stuff on everything else.


Dinesh D'Souza in Forbes on Obama:
Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father's dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost.

Obama's dad's essay on African Socialism is available here.

 Ramesh Ponnuru:
I think that it is a mistake to imagine that Obama is a deeply mysterious figure, as opposed to a conventional liberal. He is no stranger than contemporary liberalism is.
Of course, he is something of a flying monkey himself.

Or maybe Ponnuru thinks that "contemporary liberalism" really does want to destroy America and there is not reason sound like a deranged mad man, when you can just point out that Liberalism wants to destroy America, which doesn't sound crazy at all.

An erudite rejoinder to D'Souza from The Economist.

Tit for Tat

Hey older guy on the bike path, I didn't cut you off and what were you sorry for?  Line jumping?  If you knew it was wrong, why do it? And, for the record, if you think the world is a giant game of tit for tat, which it isn't, if you don't tit no one else will tat; however, if someone tats because of your tit, you really can't complain, can you?

The Right Explained

John Derbyshire, a man who has rather perverse taste in women, today explains the current state of Conservative politics:

I made the same point on NRO a while ago:
“The sustained exercise of thought” is not entirely “unknown to me.” The number of times I have experienced it, though, is so small I believe I can remember every one of them. I think there have been around six. They ranged in length from one to about five hours — say a lifetime total of twenty hours. The rest of the time, I have been pretty much on cruise control, or asleep, or having, like Sir Edmund [Gosse], small, unconnected, inconsequential thoughts about “little palpable things.”
People’s claims to have arrived at some conclusion or other by sustained, connected thinking should always be received with skepticism.
The you have it.  His thought process: I am mortal, I am incapable of sustained thought; everyone else is mortal, therefore everyone else is incapable of sustained thought.  Except, of course by his own admission he can't, or in any event doesn't, think. So, I guess, his thought process would be more like this:

Not only does this method explain trickle down but it also explains Sarah Palin's selection.