Man Without Qualities

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Free Krugman? III

OOPS! It's a little after 7:00 pm in Los Angeles, September 24th, the day after Herr Doktorprofessor's latest column hit the screen (fan?), and it's completely gone from the list of 25 Most E-Mailed Articles - although that dog virus story really has legs and is holding on at No.3! Today's disengagement from reality by Maureen Dowd clocks in at No. 5 - the only TimesSelect item among the "Most E-Mailed." (Who's on that subscription list? Would the reader want to sell or advertise anything to someone who would e-mail a Maureen Dowd column, except, maybe, a certain type of ... err ... pharmaceutical?)

So it comes to this: Herr Doktorprofessor's Sept. 23rd column was outclassed by Bob Herbert's day-old Sept. 22nd leavings until well into the afternoon of the 23rd. Herbert had better shelf-life, too, since his product lasted for two days on the "favorites" list, where, after a brief spell circa No. 14 during the later evening hours on the 23rd, Herr Doktorprofessor vanished entirely. Nothing. Kaput. Nada. Zingo! And, on top of all that, Herr Doktorprofessor seems never to have risen into the top ten, either.

What other measures of on-line value might apply here? How about "stickiness?" Remember "stickiness" from the dot-com era - Herr Doktorprofessor's salad days, his days of greatest glory!!? Is Herr Doktorprofessor "sticky?"On the other hand, maybe it's better not to go down this track.

Maybe "eyeballs?"

Anyway, I think it's going to be a bad night for the cat. Sad. I like cats.

(1) comments

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fancy Women

This New York Times article regarding a Yale University poll in which 60% of the 138 female respondents said that they intend to stop working when they have children, and then to work at most part time once their children are in school, has occasioned lots of commentary from the blogosphere (more here) and the mainstream media, such as this fairly representative, huffy Los Angles Times item:.

[A] new crop of college undergrads seems less interested in the professional stratosphere than in a soft - a cushy - landing. .... These future moms betray a startling combination of naivete and privilege. To plot this kind of future, a woman has to have access to a pool of wealthy potential husbands, she has to stay married at a time when half of marriages end in divorce, and she has to ignore the history of the women's movement. (Homework assignment: research Betty Friedan's motivation for writing "The Feminine Mystique"). It's also helpful if she ignores the following: The number of dual-working couples is on the rise. Ditto, the number of women in the work force. The one number that's dwindling? Households supported by one adult, who in the current fantasy would be the extremely well-paid husband. ... If the undergrads still believe they can beat the odds, they must've slept through statistics. Or worse, they think they're above the fray. They seem to have learned one lesson - "I'm in it for me" - far too well, confusing personal comfort with social progress. .... [E]very step of this retro scenario requires capital, from law school - a popular goal for most of these aspiring if temporary professionals - to the husband with bucks.
I suppose a Yale woman who aspires to earn, say, $1 Billion a year managing other people's money in a hedge fund isn't looking for a "cushy landing" - but should be counted as having kept her sights firmly on "social progress?" Whatever.

Reactions from the left side of the blogosphere are even more ascerbic, including sweeping criticisms of the story's "methodology" as well as that of the survey to accusations that the Times is "colluding" with elite colleges by running such stories. The Times story is pretty clear as to what it is describing - and that is not just a single Yale survey, contrary to much of the criticism. We are invited by some critics on the left to suspect that in the ultra-PC environment of Yale, a disproportionate number of female undergraduates aspiring to non-maternal careers declined to return the survey. Sure. The story has clearly touched a left wing nerve.

Oddly, the commentary focuses on the current aspirations of the undergraduates surveyed, and includes relatively little attention to article's coverage what older female alumni are already doing:
There is, of course, nothing new about women being more likely than men to stay home to rear children.

According to a 2000 survey of Yale alumni from the classes of 1979, 1984, 1989 and 1994, conducted by the Yale Office of Institutional Research, more men from each of those classes than women said that work was their primary activity - a gap that was small among alumni in their 20's but widened as women moved into their prime child-rearing years. Among the alumni surveyed who had reached their 40's, only 56 percent of the women still worked, compared with 90 percent of the men.

A 2005 study of comparable Yale alumni classes found that the pattern had not changed. Among the alumni who had reached their early 40's, just over half said work was their primary activity, compared with 90 percent of the men. Among the women who had reached their late 40's, some said they had returned to work, but the percentage of women working was still far behind the percentage of men.

A 2001 survey of Harvard Business School graduates found that 31 percent of the women from the classes of 1981, 1985 and 1991 who answered the survey worked only part time or on contract, and another 31 percent did not work at all, levels strikingly similar to the percentages of the Yale students interviewed who predicted they would stay at home or work part time in their 30's and 40's.

What seems new is that while many of their mothers expected to have hard-charging careers, then scaled back their professional plans only after having children, the women of this generation expect their careers to take second place to child rearing.
The Harvard Business School survey is particularly interesting. I recently spoke with a woman who graduated from that school in the 1980's who had recently returned from a reunion in Alston. She reported that it appeared that she is now one of only two female members of her "section" (the large HBS classes are broken down into more manageable "sections" - the business school version of "home rooms") who is still really in the work force. She noted that the there seemed to be a fair number of women from her section who claimed to be working "on contracts" or "as consultants" or "part time" - but that many such women were generally believed to be actually not working at all or only on projects that a typical, well-to-do intelligent "stay-at-home-mom" would be expected to do in any event, such as serving unpaid on not-for-profit boards (the Girl Scouts came up) and the like.

One might also ask about the "methodology" of the HBS survey in the sense that it seems likely (at least to me) that women who attended HBS would not quickly return a survey admitting that they were not working. In other words, it seems likely that the HBS survey (and for the same reasons, the Yale alumni surveys) seriously understates the percentage of women HBS (or Yale) graduates who have actually have dropped out of the work force.

Of course, what is key here seems to be that pool of rich husbands. It may be that the number of single-earner, two-parent families is declining. But that's irrelevant to a special population such as the women who attend Yale or fancy professional schools. There's no shortage of men at HBS who are perfectly capable of supporting a "traditional family" with a non-working wife. Divorce? For a great many HBS graduates, 10 years of marriage and career means that 50% of the marital estate leaves quite enough for both spouses to live on quite handsomely for the rest of their lives. Of course, business school isn't the only place to meet rich (or soon-to-be-rich) men. Jack Welch met his second wife Jane Beasley, at the time a mergers-and-acquisitions associate lawyer at Shearman & Sterling, on a blind date arranged by Walter B. Wriston, longtime head of Citicorp who was then a GE director, and wife Kathy (some say Robert Dineen, a senior S&S partner, played the yenta). Jane didn't do so badly on the financial front when that marriage later broke up.

A startling combination of naivete and privilege? Leave it to the lawyers to work out the details.

UPDATE: A thoughtful reader notes:
Interesting take the LA Times has is the quote you post regarding the Yale poll. They see women who want to stay at home and care for their childrenduring the formative years as selfish. I always thought that was true ofwomen who put their careers in front of their children's interest.

Traditionally, mothers have been thought of as paradigms of selflessness with respect to their interest in having and caring for children. But to Karen Stabiner, the LA Times author, Yale women who wish to focus on children are selfish. By the same token, a Yale co-ed contemplating joining, say, Mother Theresa's order of nuns in Calcutta in service of the poor should be castigted in Ms. Stabiner's thinking as desiring a career that's "all about ME."

And Ms. Stabiner and other such left wing critics indeed display an immense capacity for castigation, even loathing - and while they dish it out they're not about to let any foolish notion of consistency haunt their big picture minds. Ms. Stabiner, for example, argues that such maternally-oriented Yale women display "a startling combination of naivete and privilege" because they don't think enough about "numbers" - such as the shrinking number of single-earner/two-parent families, the number of divorces, etc.: "If the undergrads still believe they can beat the odds, they must've slept through statistics," she rails. But Ms. Stabiner also intones:
The choice of law is a little chilling in its practicality: You can't take 10 years off from biomedical research or orthopedic surgery and fit right in when you choose to go back to work, but the law is more of an evergreen profession.
Castigated for ignoring "the numbers" and castigated for having an approach that's chilling in its practicality when they pay attention to the number (10) of years one might practically have to exit the job market. Yes, indeed, Ms. Stabiner and her ilk are not about to give these Yale co-eds and their ilk an even break.

But that's OK. From the looks of the other Yale and HBS surveys noted in the NY Times article but ignored by Ms. Stabiner and most of the other left-wing critics here, Yale co-eds and HBS women don't really give a fig about what Ms. Stabiner and her ilk think, anyway.
(3) comments

Free Krugman? II

This is a sad day for intellectual property thieves on a budget everywhere. The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archives is dark with respect to Herr Doktorprofessor's new column (although the site itself is still up)! Actually, its fine with me if TimesSelect does a better job of containing the flood of Krugmaniacaldrivel gushes from Princeton than the Industrial Canal does shielding the Ninth Ward from surging Lake Pontchartrain. But what effect is Herr Doktorprofessor's TimesSelect ghettoization having on what his former student Greg Mankiw suggested as a reason for Herr Doktorprofessor's intellectual disintegration (here or here):
Mankiw: I guess if you're a columnist, you want to be widely talked about and be the most e-mailed. It's the same thing that drives talk show hosts to become Jerry Springer.
Well, OK then! Here's something we can check. Herr Doktorprofessor once routinely ranked at the top of the Times Most E-Mailed Articles list, week after week. He has a new column out today. Here's a redacted version of what the Most E-Mailed Articles list looks like at the moment:

1. A New Deadly, Contagious Dog Flu Virus Is Detected in 7 States
6. Movie Review 'Good Night, and Good Luck': News in Black, White and Shades of Gray
9. Where's the Party? Scottsdale!
10. Oprah's Book Club to Add Contemporary Writers
11. Art Review: At the Gothic Crossroads of Prague
12. (Published September 22, 2005) Voters' Remorse on Bush By BOB HERBERT Americans are finally catching onto the utter incompetence of the Bush administration.
13. Supersize Strollers Ignite Sidewalk Drama
18. Need Answers? Ask Anybody
23. (Published September 23, 2005) Op-Ed Columnist: The Big UneasyBy PAUL KRUGMAN Hurricane Katrina did more than physical damage; it was a blow to our self-image as a nation.
24. Miles of Traffic as Texans Heed Order to Leave

This is just one snapshot, of course, and it's far too early in the game to see what effect actually charging people to read Herr Doktorprofessor's columns will have on his readership and his own thinking and writing. But on the readership front early signs are good: Within the TimesSelect dogpile, Herr Doktorprofessor is being outclassed by day-old Bob Herbert (the only other TimesSelect to make it into the top 25) by a big margin. Overall, the pack is led by a hot story on a dog virus, and Herr Doktorprofessor is being hammered by everything from "Where's the Party? Scottsdale!" to "Need Answers? Ask Anybody." The latter article notes among the online information-and-expertise crowd a certain admiration for the psychics and relationship advisers who sell their time on ..., [whose] advisers seem to ... [be] charging ... $3 to $4 a minute, and some even $7.99.

A consequence of the "Need Answers? Ask Anybody" vogue may be that on-line psychics are cleaning up. But at the moment relatively few paying TimesSelect customers seem to be looking to Herr Doktorprofessor to answer their questions (or at least e-mailing those answers). On the other hand, Herr Doktorprofessor admits that he has never been very good with predictions. So on-line psychics may have an edge on him.

UPDATE: Its 8:00 pm in Los Angeles. Herr Doktorprofessor's column has risen to number 14 on the chart. But he's still being dominated by the same stories on that dog virus, Scottsdale parties and, of course, Prague gothic style - among others. But his column is the only TimesSelect item making the top 25! He's a player!


(0) comments

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ah, Yes. The Old Damning Self-Indictment, Petty Partisanship, Comically Overwrought Strategy! II

A prior post considered the amazingly self-destructive opposition to John Roberts maintained by some Senate Democrats at the behest of their leader, Harry Reid. Although judge Roberts has received some Democratic support (mostly from Senators facing election in swing-states), Senators Boxer, Kennedy, Kerry, Corzine, Feinstein, Biden and Lautenberg are following their leader and opposing Roberts. Now the Washington Post warns Democrats of what Senator Reid's approach actually means, especially the next time a Democratic President attempts to fill a Supreme Court vacancy:

IN ANNOUNCING his opposition yesterday to the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice of the United States, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) made a remarkable statement: "The president is not entitled to very much deference in staffing the third branch of government, the judiciary." ...[T]hese are dangerous words that Democrats will come to regret. ... [I]f the presidential election means anything in this arena, it must mean that the president's choice has a heavy presumption of confirmation. That is the way the system works. ...[D]uring six years of Republican control over the Senate ... the Senate confirmed 245 of President Bill Clinton's judges. If Republicans had been applying Mr. Reid's standard, they would have been within their rights to reject them all. ... Is it now okay for [Democrats] to vote against a person who -- as Mr. Reid put it of Judge Roberts -- is "an excellent lawyer" and "a thoughtful, mainstream judge" who may make "a fine Supreme Court justice" simply because the nominee doesn't represent their ideal? When that day comes, and Democrats cry foul, remember what Mr. Reid said about how little deference he believes he owes Mr. Bush concerning Judge Roberts.
As scathing as the Post's take is, by focusing on the next Democratic President the editorial overlooks the damage already done, and being done with every passing hour, to the Democrats' current ability to affect the identity of Sandra O'Connor's replacement. The self-destruction already wrought by Senator Reid is perhaps most clearly seen by imagining him at the Democratic helm if the next confirmation battle results in a filibuster. The Post points out that if the presidential election means anything in this arena, it must mean that the president's choice has a heavy presumption of confirmation. That is the way the system works. Quite correct. And that "system" happens to be the United States Constitution. It is hard to imagine how Senator Reid could have made it any easier for the Senate to declare that judicial filibusters are not permitted by the very same Constitutional system whose workings are opposed by the very same Harry Reid last heard chanting "The president is not entitled to very much deference in staffing the third branch of government, the judiciary." His comments have made Nevada Senator Harry Reid the perfect man to play the Senatorial Major T. J. Kong (played by Slim Pickens in the movie), joyously riding from the sky, agendas of liberal pressure groups clutched between his legs, to detonate the "nuclear option" doomsday machine. Some Sunny Day.

This is the man the Senate Democrats have chosen to lead them. One would think that can't go on for very much longer with this kind of reaction from much of the liberal media, with the likes of Senator Leahy breaking ranks and the ability of Democrats to influence the next Supreme Court appointment melting under his "leadership."

And, of course, there's the longer-term damage to the Democratic cause noted by the Post.

UPDATE: Five Democrats — Sens. Feinstein, Biden, Kennedy, Schumer and Durbin — opposed Roberts in the final committee vote, with Democratic Sens. Feingold, Kohl and Leahy voting in favor of the nomination. Of the three Democrats, only Sen. Leahy holds a safe seat.
(0) comments

Mr. President, Your Legacy Is Assured

From the Los Angeles Times:

A new line of condoms is grabbing headlines in China even as its sparks a debate about trademark law and promotion campaigns. The products' brand names: "Clinton" and "Lewinsky."The condoms are sold in boxes of 12, with the brand named after former President Bill Clinton priced at $3.70 and that of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky at $2.25. Guangzhou Haojian Bioscience Co. said it registered both trademarks and is pricing the brands differently to reflect the higher quality of the Clinton line.

Guangzhou Haojian Bioscience did not address rumors that a "John F. Kennedy Double Gross Value Pack" is expected to hit the Beijing store shelves sometime next year, a reticence some attribute to technical restrictions arising under Securities and Exchange Commission Rule FD and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
(1) comments

Why So Modest?

Many bloggers have commented on Sen. Cornyn's federal bill (S. 1313, "The Protection of Homes, Small Businesses, and Private Property Act of 2005") that would bar a few "economic development" takings - those by the federal government and those by state and local governments that actually use federal funds. (WILLisms, SCOTUSblog, Coyote Blog, A Stitch in Haste and Out of Control, for example. The Volokyries oddly go on at considerable length abut Kelo, while contributing very little in the way of practical, remedial suggestions. Why is that so often the case?)

The Cornyn bill is obviously a very modest restriction on "economic development" takings. The restrictions on state and local governments contemplated by the bill would be easily avoided, since money is fungible. ("O, no, your honor, that federal dollar financed the purchase price of the concrete in the casino, not the purchase price of the home that used to stand there! It says so right here in the budget!") In fact, the bill looks more like silly grandstanding against an unpopular Court decision than a serious attempt to address that decision.

If Congress and Senator Cornyn are serious about reigning in Kelo, the obvious federal action would be to (1) bar all "economic development" eminent domain takings by the federal government and by any state or local government to the fullest extent Congress may do so pursuant to the commerce clause or the 14th amendment, as either is construed by the Supreme Court from time to time, (2) deny all federal highway (and perhaps other) funds to any state that does not itself bar such takings across the board (not just in highway construction).

As Coyote points out, the Court's dreadfully reasoned and written Raich decision would give such a federal law very wide sweep under the commerce clause - at least while that case remains law. But there is no need to hitch a Kelo rollback to Raich. Regardless of what happens to Wickard and its illegitimate progeny such as Raich, the power of Congress under the commerce clause to prohibit "economic development" takings is certainly a lot broader than the sweep of Senator Cornyn's proposal. Why not use the full, legitimate power of the Congress here?

It may be that conservatives such as Senator Cornyn are well intentioned, and don't want an expansive Raich-like construction of the commerce clause to be established in the public mind as the key to limiting Kelo. And conservatives often aren't too happy about the federalism considerations inherent in denying states federal money unless they take some explicit action themselves. Fine. But it is certainly possible to construct a bill that depends on the commerce clause (Kelo is, after all, mostly about economic development) with whatever narrower pre-Wickard construction of the commerce clause with which someone such as Senator Cornyn feels comfortable. And it would also be possible (for example) to deny federal funds to states who use federal funds to facilitate directly or indirectly "economic development" takings without violating federalism principles. Other variants - some obvious, some clever - are also possible.

Then there is the curious condition of the 14th amendment. The Supreme Court seemed to once suggest (in Katzenbach v. Morgan, to be exact) that Congress could (1) construe constitutional rights broadly through 14th Amendment legislation and (2) exercise its discretion as to what constituted appropriate legislation to enforce such 14th amendment rights. If that were the law now, Congress could presumably pass a bill under the 14th amendment expressing a broad construction of the "takings clause" and simply bar states and localities from "economic development takings."

But that all changed when the Court struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) in City of Boerne v. Flores. Bourne had little use for Morgan: "There is language in our opinion in Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. 641 (1966), which could be interpreted as acknowledging a power in Congress to enact legislation that expands the rights contained in §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. This is not a necessary interpretation, however, or even the best one." Bourne held that the Court has the sole power of defining substantive rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (which would include defining the scope of the 5th amendment "takings clause" as applied against the states) and that RFRA did not have necessary "congruence and proportionality" with the substantive rights that the Court had defined. In other words, Bourne (1) ejected Congress from any role in defining substantive rights under the 14th Amendment and (2) seriously restricted Congress's discretion as to what constituted appropriate legislation to enforce 14th amendment rights.

But even Bourne allowed that "the line between measures that remedy or prevent unconstitutional actions and measures that make a substantive change in the governing law is not easy to discern, and Congress must have wide latitude in determining where it lies" and that "preventive rules are sometimes appropriate remedial measures, [although] there must be a congruence between the means used and the ends to be achieved." So there seems to be at least some room for Congress to enact "preventative rules" protecting individuals from "economic development takings."

Of course, Congress can act - and has acted in the past - under its commerce clause and 14th amendment powers at the same time to protect civil rights. The 1964 Civil Rights Act is expressly based on both the 14th Amendment and the commerce clause, as can be seen in this provision from the Act: "Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action."

The Court upheld the "public accommodations" provisions under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary & Proper Clause - with Douglas saying that the Court should have cited to the 14th Amendment and Goldberg saying either the 14th Amendment or the Commerce Clause would do (I assume the Necessary & Proper Clause will also have to be cited in each case). Of course, the majority didn't hold that the 14th Amendment wasn't enough - only that the Commerce Clause was sufficient to support the Act's "public accommodation" provisions. This article pretty well spells out why even those who would like to limit the Commerce Clause to overturn cases like Wickard v Filburn (to which Heart of Atlanta cites) don't want to limit it so much that the Civil Rights Act would be threatened.

So why the heck is Senator Cornyn being so modest?
(0) comments

Ah, Yes. The Old Damning Self-Indictment, Petty Partisanship, Comically Overwrought Strategy!

These just in:

Los Angeles Times:
IT WILL BE A DAMNING INDICTMENT of petty partisanship in Washington if an overwhelming majority of the Senate does not vote to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. to be the next chief justice of the United States. As last week's confirmation hearings made clear, Roberts is an exceptionally qualified nominee, well within the mainstream of American legal thought, who deserves broad bipartisan support. If a majority of Democrats in the Senate vote against Roberts, they will reveal themselves as nothing more than self-defeating obstructionists. ... The angst expressed by some senators who feel caught between the pressure of liberal interest groups and their own impression of Roberts is comically overwrought
Washington Post:

JOHN G. ROBERTS JR. should be confirmed as chief justice of the United States. He is overwhelmingly well-qualified, possesses an unusually keen legal mind and practices a collegiality of the type an effective chief justice must have. He shows every sign of commitment to restraint and impartiality. Nominees of comparable quality have, after rigorous hearings, been confirmed nearly unanimously. We hope Judge Roberts will similarly be approved by a large bipartisan vote. ... [B]road opposition by Democrats to Judge Roberts would send the message that there is no conservative capable of winning their support.
Minneapolis Star Tribune(!):

This week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings have been fascinating on several fronts, not the least for their jab-and-parry-exchanges between senators and Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Whether you liken the proceedings to a fencing match or a "subtle minuet," as did Chairman Arlen Specter, they ultimately -- if messily, and sometimes testily -- accomplished their purpose. They showed that Roberts is both qualified and fit to serve as chief justice of the United States.
Yet, despite all this support from left-leaning media outlets, Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Tuesday that he would oppose the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice - and there are increasing rumors that some Senate Democrats are trying to engineer as narrow a confirmation vote for Judge Roberts as possible.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this emerging Democratic strategy is its sheer, remorseless, counterproductiveness. In the presence of so much public liberal support for the Roberts nomination, as the Los Angeles Times(!) so ably notes, there could hardly be a more effective way for Senate Democrats to issue to themselves a damning indictment of petty partisanship and reveal themselves as nothing more than self-defeating obstructionists.

Yet, it seems increasingly likely that a good many Senate Democrats, perhaps a big supermajority of them, will do exactly that - with Senator Harry Reid leading the charge over the cliff ... and the New York Times (opposing Roberts) taking the hindmost.

As I noted previously:

Yes, it's a remarkable man, almost a unique man, that the Democrats of the Senate have chosen as their leader. Vain, violent, ignorant, insecure, vindictive, small minded, corrupt, emotionally bitter and incoherent, ineffective, insightless and unwilling or unable to suppress his own petty feelings for the good of the nation or his colleagues. A man who seems to believe that the world owes him a living and hasn't yet paid out enough in dividends and interest. Why did the Senate Democrats elevate him to be their leader?

That's a secret; and that would be telling.
And it is a secret never more impenetrable than it is today.

Odd the way the word "petty" seems to attach itself so naturally to the man's thinking and approach - even at the Los Angeles Times.

UPDATE: Perhaps the Damning Self-Indictment, Petty Partisanship, Comically Overwrought Strategy chosen by the Senate Minority Leader was just too dumb for him, or he decided that some liberal Democrat has to retain a bit of credibility for the next confirmation fuss, but Senator Leahy now says that he will support John Roberts.

(1) comments

Monday, September 19, 2005

Louisiana Democratic Party: Swept Away (By an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August) III

Parallels between what happened in Santa Monica following the 1994 earthquake and what is going on now in New Orleans may be increasing. As noted in a prior post, the 1994 earthquake seriously damaged many rent controlled apartment buildings in Santa Monica, and elected officials in that city pressured building and safety workers to permit residents to reoccupy damaged and dangerous structures. Those Santa Monica elected officials were justifiably concerned that their core voters would have to leave their rent controlled apartments and the city itself if the residents were not allowed back into their old apartments. The ploy did not work, the officials were right, and many lost their jobs in the following elections.

Louisiana Democrats are now justifiably terrified that the displaced and overwhelmingly Democratic New Orleans voting base may not return to Louisiana at all. Indeed, prior posts have noted that many former New Orleans residents who have been evacuated to other states are telling pollsters that they do even want to return to Louisiana. What are a mayor and an increasingly desperate governor to do?

Well, the mayor of New Orleans thinks it would be just fine for almost half the evacuees to move back right away - notwithstanding the absence of an assured clean water supply, emergency services, safe levees, completed drainage of the city or any ability whatsoever of the governments involved to assure the safety or well being of those returning. Louisiana governor Blanco didn't object to hizzoner's proposal. Indeed, she hasn't even gotten around to requiring state agencies to limit spending and focus on essential needs, including the rebuilding and recovery. Let "les bon temps roullez!" Only the dour federal killjoys have been complaining about the obvious madness of an early reoccupation of the city, complaints that drew no public support from the governor and tart responses from hizzoner, who has nevertheless had to reverse himself:
Under pressure from President Bush and other top federal officials, the mayor [of New Orleans] suspended the reopening of large portions of the city Monday and instead ordered nearly everyone out because of the risk of a new round of flooding from a tropical storm on the way. .... The announcement came after repeated warnings from top federal officials — and the president himself — that New Orleans was not safe enough to reopen. Among other things, federal officials warned that Tropical Storm Rita could breach the city's temporarily patched-up levees and swamp the city all over again. ....Nagin said he had wanted to reopen some of the city's signature neighborhoods over the coming week in order to reassure the people of New Orleans that "there was a city to come back to." .... Under the mayor's plan ... a total about 180,000 of New Orleans' half-million inhabitants [would have been allowed] back. ... Nagin saw a quick reopening as a way to get the storm-battered city back in the business of luring tourists. But federal officials warned that such a move could be a few weeks premature, pointing out much of the area does not yet have full electricity and still has no drinkable water, 911 service or working hospitals. .... The concerns were also echoed by the top federal official in charge in New Orleans, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, who went on one news show after another to warn that city services may not be able to handle the influx of people. Before reversing course Monday, a clearly agitated Nagin snapped that Allen had apparently made himself "the new crowned federal mayor of New Orleans." .... But officials with the Army Corps of Engineers said the repairs to the levees breached by Katrina are not yet strong enough to prevent flooding in a moderate storm, much less another hurricane.... Earlier in the day, as residents began streaming in at the mayor's invitation, cars were backed for two hours at an Interstate 10 checkpoint into the city. ... It was clear that at least some of the traffic was headed to sections of the city that had not yet officially opened.
Is it too much to ask whether hizzoner's plan - and the governor's failure to object to it, despite its obvious lunacy - might have something to do with the desire of Louisiana Democrats to get that core constituency back into New Orleans before they get used to living somewhere else?

Just asking. I have no proof, of course. Just asking! Really!
(1) comments

Free Krugman?

For peculiar, unstable and probably wrong reasons of its own, the New York Times has placed its columnists - including Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and the rest of the motley gang - behind the "For Pay Only" wall of "TimesSelect."

Is TimesSelect a good thing for Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman? Well, my guess is that for reasons discussed below the answer may be that TimesSelect will be a very good thing for Herr Doktorprofessor - and for his readers and the Times, too.

No less an authority than Herr Doktorprofessor's former student Greg Mankiw has addressed the reasons for Herr Doktorprofessor's intellectual disintegration since he became a Times columnist (here or here):
Mankiw: I had Paul as a teacher at MIT. And when I was at CEA in '82 and '83, he was there as well. ... It's strange what's happened since then. When he became a New York Times columnist, he decided to abandon writing about economics as an economist does. He's very liberal, which is fine - most of my friends at Harvard are liberal - but whenever someone disagrees with him, his first inclination is to think that person is either a liar or a fool. It's amazing to me that an academic would behave that way. The one thing that I value about academia is open-mindedness, the premise that all ideas and different points of view should be considered. No one has a monopoly on the truth. The one defining characteristic of a good professor is to be open to all viewpoints.

Q: How do you explain what you describe as this change in Krugman?

Mankiw: I guess if you're a columnist, you want to be widely talked about and be the most e-mailed. It's the same thing that drives talk show hosts to become Jerry Springer.
If what Professor Mankiw said here is right, TimesSelect should create at least two very important changes for Herr Doktorprofessor. First, it is highly unlikely that Herr Doktorprofessor's column will remain among the "most e-mailed" items throughout the Times, simply because the TimesSelect fee will probably reduce his readership dramatically compared to the portions of the Times that are not hived off into TimesSelect. This should help reduce the impact of what Professor Mankiw notes may be one of the most pernicious factors leading Herr Doktorprofessor to become the Times/Princeton version of Jerry Springer.

In addition, Herr Doktorprofessor will now likely focus on becoming the most e-mailed and read columnist behind the TimesSelect scrim. But that means he will be competing for readers who are willing and able to pony up the rather stiff TimesSelect fee. That's probably going to be a very different type of reader than he has had in the past. People who pay more will likely expect more than the paranoid rantings, distorted or outright misrepresented pseudo-facts, embarrassing arguments, and endless doom sayings that have become Herr Doktorprofessor's stock in trade.

Can he do it? Will such shock therapy set Herr Doktorprofessor free from his demons? Or will TimesSelect just reduce him to a passive, vegetative state? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, it appears that for the moment at least one can still obtain Herr Doktorprofessor's columns for free at the Unofficial Paul Krugman Archives! (Lucky us!) Today, Herr Doktorprofessor is peddling the contemptible line that "The truth is that there's no way to know" whether "federal aid took so long to arrive in New Orleans in part because the city was poor and black."

Today's column, like almost every one of Herr Doktorprofessor's columns recently, is ineffectual drivel whether considered from a political or an economics perspective - and for that reason is not worth rebutting. But as long as I'm here (lucky me!), why not address at least this one bizarre assertion of Herr Doktorprofessor?

Perhaps there is no way to "know" such things as the effect of racism on the Katrina federal aid timetable with the certainty with which one "knows" that, say, Haley's comet visits the Earth every 76 years as a result of the laws of universal gravitation. But one can surely "know" that the federal government didn't screw New Orleans because its citizens are (were?) largely African-Americans with a great deal more certainty than one can "know" most of the things Herr Doktorprofessor has made his entire academic reputation proclaiming as "knowledge" - such as whether a particular country dominates international trade in a particular good because of "home market effects" or "comparative advantage" - the very topic that won Herr Doktorprofessor whatever shred (fig leaf?) of reputation he retains as an economist (as discussed here and here and here) .

How can one "know" whether racism was a factor? One can compare what happened in regions in which African-Americans were not such a large percentage of the population. One can look at the effects of local incompetents (the mayor and governor - who presumably were not motivated by racism) and try to estimate the extent of those effects in comparision to supposed federal failings. One can check around FEMA and other federal agencies for memos indicating racial considerations, and ask FEMA and other affected federal agency employees whether they witnessed examples of racism in action during the decision making. One can ask what benefit the perpetrators of such dastardly decisions had to obtain, and what costs such decisions would entail. One would be especially interested in that last line of enquiry if one were a serious economist - but of course we're not discussing any such person. Many, especially in the media and Democratic Party, have searched for such evidence of racism - and no such evidence has been adduced to the public.

Nor does Herr Doktorprofessor adduce any such evidence. He relies on "larger factors:"
And who can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? ... Above all, race-based hostility to the idea of helping the poor created an environment in which a political movement hostile to government aid in general could flourish.
That's it! No need for evidence. No need to compare anything to anything. No need for economic theory.

Will people pay for that kind of drivel? Herr Doktorprofessor's new TimesSelect therapy session is just beginning, so he and we are about to find out.

I can hardly wait!

(0) comments