URLs du Jour

2011-12-01

  • I had to look twice to make sure I wasn't reading the Onion:
    A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 43% of Likely U.S. Voters agree with [Newt Gingrich] and think the [Occupy Wall Street] protesters should take baths and get jobs. But an identical number (43%) disagree, and 14% more are undecided.
    (Via Commentary.)

  • In today's cheap-laff department, it turns out that the IRS really is infested with blood-sucking parasites.
    The Internal Revenue Service office in Seattle is investigating an infestation of possible blood-sucking parasites -- bedbugs -- in its downtown office, after an employee complained of insect bites at work, federal officials said Monday.
    The author of that article deserves the Pulitzer for that paragraph, even if they have to invent a new category for it. (Via Dave of course.)

  • At the NYT, Nate Silver is impressed with the power of the New Hampshire Union Leader's endorsement in past contested GOP primaries. You can read his article and make your own call, but… here's (my version) of the data:

    Election YearUL EndorseePrimary Winner
    1980 Ronald Reagan Reagan
    1988 Pete DuPont George H.W. Bush
    1992 Pat Buchanan Bush
    1996 Buchanan Buchanan
    2000 Steve Forbes John McCain
    2008 McCain McCain

    So, as much as I love the Union Leader: since 1980, they are (a) only two-for-five in endorsing the eventual primary winner; (b) batting .000 in endorsing anyone who went on to become President.

  • Reason editor Matt Welch has an article in his magazine's latest issue, about "do-something punditry", the call for increased state authoritarianism to accomplish grand strategies via vague tactics, with emphasis on a couple of NYT chin-strokers, David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, current experts in the genre.
    Do something. Is there a two-word phrase in politics more loaded with disguised ideological content? Embedded within is both an urgent call for powerful government action and an up-front declaration that the policy details don’t matter. The bigger the crisis, the more the urgency, the sparser the detail. On September 30, 2008, in a classic of the do-something genre, Brooks argued that the Troubled Asset Relief Program should be rammed through Congress over public objections because the federal government needed “to give people a sense that somebody was in charge, that something was going to be done.” Did that “something” involve buying up toxic assets? Introducing or relaxing certain banking regulations? Taking over or winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Not important. “What we need in this situation,” Brooks declared, “is authority.”
    As someone once said: read the whole thing. (Also, subscribe to the magazine, cheapskate!) If the clarion call to "do something" didn't spike your blood pressure before, it will do so afterward.

  • Pun Salad officially recommends "Don't just do something, stand there!" as a proverb for would-be government policymakers. Believe it or not, the earliest appearance of this guideline was apparently from the 1950 Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, spoken by the harried and confused White Rabbit. William Safire's Political Dictionary attributes it to (1) Adlai Stevenson in 1956, deriding Ike's domestic policies; but also to (2) George Shultz in 1970, objecting to some Nixonian scheme. Good for George! In 2008, GMU Econ prof Russell Roberts advised it for the then-recent economic crisis, and it's a damn shame that we went and Did Something instead.

  • While you're at Reason, Steve Chapman has a good column about Your Federal Government's efforts to curb Your consumption of sodium chloride. He notes (convincingly) that the science behind such efforts is shaky. (Heh.)

    But (more importantly) even if it weren't, it's not a proper role for government:

    Classifying excess sodium consumption as a "public health" danger mutilates a useful concept. Air pollution, West Nile virus, and E. coli are matters of public health because they inflict harm on broad groups of people against their will and often without their knowledge. No one, however, ingests salt without raising fork to mouth.

    If I burn toxic waste in my yard, I may force you to inhale compounds that cause illness or death. If I make a meal of pretzels and Virginia ham, by contrast, I pose no hazard to anyone but myself. You can avoid this "public health" threat without the FDA barging into your kitchen.

    Eating foods with salt is not a public decision but a private one. That's private, as in: Keep out.

    Could apply to a number of things besides salt.

  • And combining the last few items, here is a still-timely 2005 column from Jacob Sullum, taking on Paul Krugman and Michael Fumento, who both bemoaned American health habits and—guess what?— demanded that the state "do something" about it.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:39 PM EST