Friday, April 27, 2012

Jonah Goldberg has a very sensible post on the Arizona immigration controversy:
If there were one thing I could impress upon people about the nature of the state, it’s that governments by their very nature want to make their citizens “legible.”

I borrow that word from James C. Scott, whose book Seeing Like a State left a lasting impression on me. Scott studied why the state has always seen “people who move around” to be the enemy. Around the world, according to Scott, states have historically seen nomadic peoples, herdsmen, slash-and-burn hill people, Gypsies, hunter-gatherers, vagrants, and runaway slaves and serfs as problems to be solved. States have tried to make these people stay in one place.

But as Scott examined “sedentarization” (making mobile people settle down), he realized this practice was simply part of a more fundamental drive of the state: to make the whole population legible to the state. The premodern state was “blind” to its subjects. But the modern state was determined first to see them, and then organize them. This is why so many rulers pushed for the universal usage of last names starting around 1600 (aristocrats had been using family or clan names for centuries already). The same goes with the push for more accurate addresses, the standardization of weights and measures, and of course the use of censuses and surveys. It’s much easier to collect taxes, conscript soldiers, fight crime, and put down rebellions if you know who people are and where they live.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

David Bernstein schools Dahlia Lithwick on basic history:
Actually, support for women’s suffrage didn’t break down along Progressive/non-Progressive lines. For example, Senator George Sutherland of Utah, later to gain fame as a “conservative” Supreme Court Justice, introduced the women’s suffrage amendment in the Senate. His “progressive” Supreme Court colleague, Louis Brandeis, was not a feminist and was a belated and somewhat reluctant supporter of women’s suffrage.

With regard to the Equal Rights Amendment, it was drafted by Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party with advice from, you guessed it, George Sutherland. While some feminists who were also progressives supported the ERA, individuals who primarily considered themselves progressives, such as reformer Florence Kelley, opposed the ERA because it made no exception for “protective” labor legislation that only applied to women. Prominent Progressives like Felix Frankfurter condemned “the Alice Paul theory of constitutional law, which is to no little extent a reflex of the thoughtless, unconsidered assumption that in industry it makes no difference whether you are a man or woman.”

Conservatives looked at the Constitution in the 1920s and 1930s and thought it chock-a-block with ill-advised amendments. There was plenty of grousing on the right about the 14th and 15th (establishing civil rights for African-Americans),

Putting aside the fact that “conservative” natural-rights believing Congressmen pushed these amendments to begin with, it was progressives (again including Brandeis), not conservatives, who wanted to repeal the Fourteenth Amendment in the 1920s. While progressive objections primarily related to the protection of property and contract rights under the amendment, the Supreme Court’s first major case enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment to the benefit of African Americans, Buchanan v. Warley, met with general condemnation in Progressive circles.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What are the returns to education?
To start with, note that the data are 2010 median weekly earnings for persons age 25 and over, and earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers. So, everyone is lumped together—regardless of age, the school they attended, their major discipline, their academic performance, and even the field in which they’re working. And anyone working part-time is excluded entirely.

Breaking the data down further is illustrative. Among workers making $20,000 or less annually, 6 percent have master’s degrees or higher, 14 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and 9 percent have associate’s degrees. Among those making between $20,000 and $35,000 annually, 5 percent have a master’s or higher, 15 percent have a bachelor’s, and 11 percent have an associate’s degree...

Earnings also vary greatly depending on the student’s major. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that median earnings run from $29,000 for counseling-psychology majors to $120,000 for petroleum-engineering majors.

Is it “worth it” to spend the time and money for a degree in petroleum engineering? If you can do it, probably “yes.” But is it “worth it” to get a counseling degree? That’s far from clear.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recent excitement in Beijing opens a window on Chinese Politics:
Behind closed doors, it is fair to assume that politics in China are no less vicious than in the Rome of Julius Caesar. The sacking on March 15th of Bo Xilai as party chief of the south-western region of Chongqing provided a rare glimpse inside those doors. The son of Bo Yibo, a leader of the Party’s Long March generation, Mr Bo had seemed destined for the zenith of power in China—the nine-member standing committee of the party’s Politburo. His downfall represents the biggest public rift in China’s leadership for two decades. There are reasons to celebrate it; yet the manner of his going is a sharp reminder of what’s wrong with China’s political system...

Welcome, too, is the little window the affair opens into the corrupt, fratricidal ways of party politics. Mr Bo’s downfall was precipitated by the flight to an American consulate of Wang Lijun, his former police chief and right hand in the anti-mafia drive. Mr Wang is now under investigation in China. Mr Bo, too, may soon find himself answering awkward questions. That Chongqing’s dirty linen was aired in front of American diplomats on his watch may matter more than the dirt itself.
But, there's a lot of backstory to this little affair, well laid out by Foreign Policy:
Wen Jiabao and Bo Xilai have long stood out from their colleagues for their striking capacities to communicate and project their individual personalities and ideologies beyond the otherwise monochromatic party machine. The two most popular members of the Politburo, they are also the most polarizing within China's political elite. They have much in common, including a belief that the Communist Party consensus that has prevailed for three decades -- "opening and reform" coupled with uncompromising political control -- is crumbling under the weight of inequality, corruption, and mistrust. But the backgrounds, personalities, and political prescriptions of these two crusaders could not be more different.

Bo has deployed his prodigious charisma and political skills to attack the status quo in favor of a more powerful role for the state. He displayed an extraordinary capacity to mobilize political and financial resources during his four and a half year tenure as the head of the Yangtze River megalopolis of Chongqing. He transfixed the nation by smashing the city's mafia -- together with uncooperative officials, lawyers, and entrepreneurs -- and rebuilding a state-centered city economy while shamelessly draping himself in the symbolism of Mao Zedong. He sent out a wave of revolutionary nostalgia that led to Mao quotes sent as text messages, government workers corralled to sing "red songs," and old patriotic programming overwhelming Chongqing TV.

From his leftist or "statist" perch, Bo has been challenging the "opening and reform" side of the political consensus that Deng Xiaoping secured three decades ago. Wen Jiabao, meanwhile, who plays the role of a learned, emphatic, and upright Confucian prime minister, has been challenging the other half of Deng consensus -- absolute political control -- from the liberal right. He has continuously articulated the need to limit government power through rule of law, justice, and democratization. To do this, he has drawn on the symbolic legacies of the purged reformist leaders he served in the 1980s, particularly Hu Yaobang, whose name he recently helped to "rehabilitate" in official discourse. As every Communist Party leader knows, those who want a stake in the country's future must first fight for control of its past.

Until last month Bo appeared to hold the cards, with his networks of princelings -- the children of high cadres -- and the gravitational force of his "Chongqing Model" pulling the nation toward him, while Wen's efforts had produced few practical results.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The astroturf NGAC has a classic strawman on "Common NRA claims":

The NRA claims that if we pass sane gun laws only criminals will have guns (they do not follow laws.) FACTS: 1) In England, where they have sane gun laws, no one can legally own a handgun or an assault rifle. Only criminals have them. 2) England has 75 gun homicides per year. Adjusting for population, if we had England’s gun laws—and only criminals had guns—we would expect 375 homicides per year. 3) But because U.S. “law abiding citizens” have handguns and assault rifles—as do our criminals—we have 12,000.

Notice the qualifier "gun" homicides, when the only thing that matters is overall homicide. And also remember that crime in England started out lower, before the bans. What has happened since then? The BBC reported back in 2001, "A new study suggests the use of handguns in crime rose by 40% in the two years after the weapons were banned." More recently:
Britain's violent crime record is worse than any other country in the European union, it has been revealed.

Official crime figures show the UK also has a worse rate for all types of violence than the U.S. and even South Africa - widely considered one of the world's most dangerous countries.

The figures comes on the day new Home Secretary Alan Johnson makes his first major speech on crime, promising to be tough on loutish behaviour. (emphasis added)

Most of the rest of the article is similarly factually challenged, and offers facts without citation.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A fascinating story about early Soviet espionage:
"The Trust," Rocca explained, lighting up a professorial pipe, was a clandestine organization that operated in the Soviet Union from 1921 to 1928. Its official title was the Monarchist Union of Central Russia. Supposedly, its purpose was to overthrow the Communist regime in Russia and restoring the Czarist Monarchy. Since its headquarters, and cover, was a municipal credit association in downtown Moscow, it became known among anti-communist conspirators outside of Russia as "The Trust."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Have middle class incomes stagnated over the last 30 years?

Basically, only if you ignore demographic change, non-monetary compensation (health care benefits) and tax effects. As far as gains being concentrated among the richest Americans, while their gains were larger, median American income grew nearly 40%, and even the poorest saw gains of 25%.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Over at Forbes is a fascinating analysis of the Massachusetts health care reform law, Romney's proposals vs the state legislature:
Romney’s big idea was to free insurers from the state’s costly 1996 insurance mandates, allowing individuals to buy inexpensive insurance that would meet their most urgent needs. But the health law he signed in 2006 did not specify the types of plans that insurers were required to offer. “The specific definition of [minimum creditable coverage under the mandate] was left to the board of the Health Connector to decide,” recounts Josh Archambault.

Romney’s goal, with the individual mandate, was to require people to buy catastrophic insurance that would cover emergency care. Romney’s version of the mandate was designed to compensate for the effects of the federal EMTALA law, that requires hospitals to provide emergency care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. “Therefore,” writes Archambault, “the original 2005 legislation filed by Governor Romney required that Massachusetts residents carry, at a minimum, catastrophic medical coverage, or in lieu of such coverage, a $10,000 bond…an approach that tracked the Commonwealth’s requirement for automobile insurance coverage.”

However, the bill that emerged out of the Democratic legislature contained a different mandate. The Democratic version did not restrict the mandate to catastrophic insurance, and it replaced the bond provision with a direct fine. Furthermore, according to Archambault, when Deval Patrick assumed office, he populated the Health Connector board with progressives who favored mandating costly comprehensive insurance, instead of cheaper catastrophic coverage.

Romney was up against a heavily partisan legislature,
In the end, it didn’t matter what Romney thought about the employer mandate. The Democrats controlled 85 percent of the legislature. After the bill-signing ceremony was over, they went back to the State House and overrode each of Romney’s eight vetoes.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Somalia needs a chamber of commerce before it needs a cabinet.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The New York Times on willpower:
One of their newest studies, published last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, tracked people’s reactions to temptations throughout the day. The study, led by Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of Chicago, showed that the people with the best self-control, paradoxically, are the ones who use their willpower less often. Instead of fending off one urge after another, these people set up their lives to minimize temptations. They play offense, not defense, using their willpower in advance so that they avoid crises, conserve their energy and outsource as much self-control as they can.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Media Myth Alert: Did Thomas Jefferson have a child with Sally Hemings?
“While the tests were professionally done by distinguished experts, they were never designed to prove, and in fact could not have proven, that Thomas Jefferson was the father of any of Sally Hemings’ children.”

The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy addresses the DNA evidence in some detail, noting that the tests “did no more than establish that Eston Hemings’ father was almost certainly a Jefferson.”

A Jefferson.

More than two dozen Jefferson men, including Thomas, could have been the father.

By then, though, Thomas Jefferson was 64-years-old — scarcely a leading paternity candidate...

Evidently Thomas' younger brother Randolph was known to carouse with their slaves-- making him a somewhat more likely candidate.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Andrew Stuttaford points us to the WSJ and reminds us of the perverse unintended consequences of regulation:
Under the Basel rules [broadly speaking, the global regulatory system for banks], sovereign debt—even the debt of countries with weak economies such as Greece and Italy—is accorded a zero risk-weight. Holding sovereign debt provides banks with interest-earning investments that do not require them to raise any additional capital.

Accordingly, when banks in Europe and elsewhere were pressured by supervisors to raise their capital positions, many chose to sell other assets and increase their commitment to sovereign debt, especially the debt of weak governments offering high yields…

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Medicaid hurts the poor. The now-infamous University of Virginia study "Primary Payer Status Affects Mortality for Major Surgical Operations.”:
The study evaluated 893,658 major surgical operations occurring between 2003 and 2007, stratified by primary payer status, on three outcomes endpoints: in-hospital mortality, length of stay, and total costs incurred.

Despite the fact that the authors controlled for age, gender, income, geographic region, operation, and 30 comorbid conditions, Medicaid fared poorly compared to those with private insurance, Medicare, and even the uninsured. Relative to those with private insurance, Medicare, uninsured, and Medicaid patients were 45%, 74%, and 97% more likely to die in the hospital post-operatively.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In a lecture [in 2004] before a group of journalism students at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications, Sean Treglia, a former program officer for the liberal Pew Charitable Trusts, claimed credit for co-coordinating a multi-year effort to secure the passage of the political-speech-curtailing McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill.

Make no mistake: Pew and other liberal foundations successfully avoided any transparency in their financial dealings with propaganda organizations like National Public Radio (NPR) and the American Prospect (a left-wing magazine). Their funding of campaign-finance “reform” groups like Democracy 21, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Public Integrity and People for the American Way also managed to avoid exposure.

According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Political Money Line, Campaign Finance Lobby: 1994-2004, Pew spent an average of $4 million a year over 10 years promoting reform. Seven other foundations — including the Carnegie Corp. ($14 million), the Joyce Foundation ($13.5 million), George Soros’ Open Society Institute ($12.6 million) — cumulatively ponied up another $83 million over 10 years for the same purpose. In his March 2004 lecture at USC, curiously titled “Covering Philanthropy and Nonprofits Beyond 9/11,” a tape of which was recently uncovered by Ryan Sager of the New York Post, Mr. Treglia explained how he operated. “The strategy was designed not to hide Pew’s involvement,” he said, “but most of Pew’s funding.” To accomplish that goal, “I always encouraged the grantees never to mention Pew,” whose tactics were evidently copied by the others. Sure enough, the American Prospect neglected to mention a $132,000 payment from the Carnegie Corp., which financed the magazine’s special issue, “Checkbook Democracy,” which focused on campaign-finance reform.

(emphasis added)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Who Is Most Likely to Oppose Totalitarianism?
I have been struck repeatedly by a certain fact about episodes of sudden or extraordinary expansion of the state: when push came to shove, those who resisted—often to the death—tended to be people of faith. In U.S. history they included primarily Anabaptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other marginalized Protestant sects. In Nazi Germany, many of the regime’s opponents were Roman Catholics, as were the opponents in Poland under Communist rule. Atheists as a class did not distinguish themselves as resisters of tyranny or totalitarianism, although some individual atheists did resist.
Copyright © Swing Right Rudie
A notebook to myself