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  • JimHarrison commented on the diary post Did Public Schools Fail David Brooks? by Dean Baker.

    2012-09-14 15:00:29View | Delete

    It’s usually conservatives who appeal to Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction, but creative destruction is precisely what we need now to eliminate the private health insurance business. Supporting these guys is like subsidizing the horse shoe business. They’re obsolete. Brooks, on the other hand, is not obsolete since he was never useful in the first [...]

  • JimHarrison commented on the diary post For Nuclear Power This Summer, It’s Too Darn Hot by Gregg Levine.

    2012-08-01 16:02:56View | Delete

    It isn’t just nuclear plants that have problems because of higher temperatures. Over and beyond the need for additional water to cool plants in hot climates, the laws of thermodynamics guarantee that you get less useful energy out of a system when the difference between the input and the output temperatures are smaller. You can [...]

  • JimHarrison commented on the diary post The Bad Faith of the Elites by masaccio.

    2012-06-21 11:48:21View | Delete

    I largely agree with this post, but you got one thing wrong: Krugman won his Nobel Prize while he was writing for the New York Times, not before. He was already a very well known economist, of course, and widely considered a candidate for a Nobel; but his academic status rose during his tenure at [...]

  • I don’t think the Obama administration is going to start a war with Iran; but if and when this administration or the next does decide it wants a war, provoking the Iranians into blocking the Straits is surely the way war would be made inevitable. Even the Republicans are going to want to make sure that the Iranians fire the first shot.

  • JimHarrison commented on the blog post 1% Is A State Of Mind

    2011-11-11 18:09:53View | Delete

    It needs to be repeated over and over that talking about the 1% is misleading because the overwhelming concentration of wealth is further north in the region of 1/10 of 1%. You could even make a case that the ordinary rich, i.e. the millionaires, have a bitch coming against the super rich. The effect of many Republican policies is to shift tax incidence from the hyperwealthy, who can have the resources necessary to evade almost all taxes, to the merely wealthy, who don’t have the political pull to protect themselves from the IRS.

  • It’ll be different this time. The first catfood commission recommended that grandma be forced to eat catfood. The second will recommend that grandma be made into catfood. We should really call it the Soylent Green commission. If we’re going to cut the money we squander on the nonrich, the only rational solution is to shorten lifespans; and if you’re going to do that, it would be a shame to waste a potential nutrient, which even if it may be a tad low in proteins, fats, and calcium, could certainly be used to fatten hogs.

  • JimHarrison commented on the blog post The Drone War on Westphalia

    2011-07-05 07:23:47View | Delete

    I also take offense that governments don’t feel obligated to honor contracts with weak parties. I would have assumed that you would have understood where I’m coming from, but I guess not.

  • JimHarrison commented on the blog post The Drone War on Westphalia

    2011-07-04 13:38:40View | Delete

    Two points:

    1. Westphalia didn’t usher in an age of respect for the sovereignty of nation states. Only states of comparable power dealt with each other as equals. In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the great powers routinely interfered in the internal affairs of weaker states–a series of wars grew out of meddling in the Balkans long before the fall of Yugoslavia. It’s like what happens in domestic law: contracts with weak unions or Indian tribes don’t have to be honored.

    2. Military technology does change the rules, but drone weapons merely continue a trend that goes back several decades. In the era of mass armies, states had a far greater need to appease their populations than they do now that conscript armies would simply be slaughtered by high tech weapons and no state is wealthy enough to arm World War II-size forces with advanced equipment or train them adequately. Democracy, whether in authoritarian or republican form, is probably obsolete now that elites have every reason to prefer professional forces backed up with modern methods of public relations and technological terror weapons. Of course, it may be that populations will find ways new ways to assert themselves as in the Arab spring. On the other hand, as folks who read a lot of history will understand, 1848 was followed by 1849 so I’m awaiting developments.

  • The notable thing about the reaction to the news from New York is not that somebody at the National Review got upset about it but that there really hasn’t been very much response at all from most of the Republicans. I really think they’re giving up on this one, perhaps because they are getting so much more traction on other culture war issues such as abortion. Then too, gay rights has the advantage of having a fifth column inside the enemy army.

  • JimHarrison commented on the blog post Surely the best reviewed movie since…

    2011-04-15 07:55:51View | Delete

    Just to make it clear to those who don’t click on the links, the quote about the orcs is actually from a blogger named John Rogers.

  • JimHarrison commented on the blog post Japan: Tap Water Too Radioactive for Infants in Tokyo

    2011-03-23 10:47:20View | Delete

    The non-snarky response to that is that Japan is going to have to build new generation to replace the nuclear plants even assuming serious conservation efforts. Using less energy is a great idea, but like wind mills and lots of other things, it simply isn’t a panacea, especially if one is talking about politically realistic levels of lowered consumption.

    The snarky response is that we should immediately undertake an emergency evacuation of Denver, Santa Fe, Laramie, and other populated areas over 5,000 feet since people there are subject to higher levels of cancer-causing radiation. And that’s just a preliminary step because there is really is no such thing as safe elevation. Meanwhile, to fight global warming, we should all agree to lower CO2 levels by not exhaling…

  • JimHarrison commented on the blog post Japan: Tap Water Too Radioactive for Infants in Tokyo

    2011-03-23 10:05:57View | Delete

    That radiation of any intensity contributes to cancer risk is apparently true, though this fact has been technically difficult to establish because at very low levels the effects are extremely small and are confounded by the effects of background radiation, which varies from place to place–living in a basement apartment in Florida is probably a lot riskier than rooming next to a power plant. The real issue is whether the burden imposed by radiation from the Japanese event is significant relative to other sources of health risk. It will surely be very minor compared to the 20,000 or so who perished in the earthquake and tsunami, but it may also be much lower than the number of excess cancer cases that will result from chemical pollution from the conventional fossil plants that replace the destroyed nuclear plants.

  • I think we ought to admit that the Libyan case, like the Kosovo case before it, is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Clinton refused to get us involved in the Balkans for a very long time, but once it became clear what the Serbs were planning in Kosovo, he finally changed his tune. I’m exceeding unhappy at the prospect of our engagement in another Muslim (heck any) country’s internal affairs, but Libya is a lot more like Kosovo than Iraq. A real blood bath is in prospect if Gadaffi reasserts control–he’s publicly promising revenge–so not acting has a ghastly cost. Like I said, tough case.

  • JimHarrison commented on the blog post The War on Thinking

    2011-03-13 09:49:37View | Delete

    Whether you’re on the left or the right, the cognitive limitations of the majority of the public remains a fact. You can’t make the issue go away by waving your hand or simply denouncing Posner. One can pretend that there are particular reasons why huge parts of the population lack basic information about the government or science and it is perfectly true that outfits like Fox routinely practice on the simplicity of their audience, but liberals need to recognize that ignorance and incomprehension are the norm and that changing that norm even a little bit takes an enormous effort—just think how much money and struggle it has taken to achieve low-level literacy in industrialized nations. People who are normal in a statistical sense are fortunate to be graded on the curve since they are actually quite dull in absolute terms. Democratic and, for that matter, every other kind of politics has to deal with this reality, though I, for one, don’t claim to understand much more than the necessity of doing so.

    It does seem to me that the genius of politicians such as Lincoln or Clinton lay in their ability to make points to the public with sound but extremely simple arguments. It takes a very rare form of intelligence to talk about intrinsically difficult things in eighth or ninth-grade English. The alternative, which is the handy fall back, is to treat the human average with cynicism as Conservatives routinely do or with barely disguised disdain as Liberals commonly do. Maybe the best the average retail politician can do is to find invalid appeals for good causes. Beats me.