Monday, September 26, 2005


Judge Richard Posner enters the fray sparked by the New York Times article about the work expectations of young women at "elite" colleges with his own pragmatic (some call it "loony") twist:
... the fact that a significant percentage of places in the best professional schools are being occupied by individuals [such as women who are not going to have full working careers] who are not going to obtain the maximum possible value from such an education is troubling from an overall economic standpoint. Education tends to confer external benefits, that is, benefits that the recipient of the education cannot fully capture in the higher income that the education enables him to obtain after graduation.
Less participation in the work force by professionals = fewer external benefits to society.

Posner proposes a gender-neutral solution to this dilemma, a back-door increased tuition for education "wasters":
... raise tuition to all students but couple the raise with a program of rebates for graduates who work full time. For example, they might be rebated 1 percent of their tuition for each year they worked full time.
But higher income taxes paid by higher-paid workers are only one external societal benefit we'd want to encourage. The societal costs of single parent headed families is well known. So all those hyper driven law firm partners and businessmen who shed their first wife and family should forfeit their 1% rebate. Furthermore, as Posner himself points out, a good education can act as a "hedge against divorce or other economic misfortune." Avoiding the costs to society of impoverished families is an external benefit as well. So women who return to the work force to support their families after divorce or widowhood should get an additional 1%. How about a half percent to post-grads who stay married in the first place?

When do the transaction costs of administering such a rebate program exceed its benefits? Pretty quickly, I'd say. If you want more women to work despite being married (with or without kids), it'd be easier to just get rid of the "marriage penalty" tax.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Christmas is exactly three months away. My wish list begins here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


The arabic inscription for Allah apparently resembles a spinning ice cream cone. Burger King has let the cat out of the bag:

(Via Agenda)

A "business development manager," Rashad Akhtar, 27, of High Wycombe, spotted the sacrilege and called on Muslims to boycott Burger King. Burger King, showing its independent-minded nature, promptly withdrew the product from the market.

But you can't put the cat back in the bag. Allah = ice cream. It explains a lot.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The New York Times reports that the young 'uns have figured out it's tough to be a good parent at the same time you're climbing the corporate ladder at break-neck speed:
Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.
The old-time feminists are aghast that the girls are already thinking about their baby-making function and are making plans to solve the age-old bringing-up-baby problem by taking a break from the rat race themselves.

The article also threatens future mommies with the idea that these expensive educations may be wasted on them:

"It really does raise this question for all of us and for the country: when we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?" said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of undergraduate admissions at Harvard, who served as dean for coeducation in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

It is a complicated issue and one that most schools have not addressed. The women they are counting on to lead society are likely to marry men who will make enough money to give them a real choice about whether to be full-time mothers, unlike those women who must work out of economic necessity.

The article ignores this sudden reinvocation of the neanderthals of previous generations who refused to waste time and effort on educating their daughters.

It's nearly impossible to predict how one will choose to solve dilemmas that are five to twenty years in the future, but at least these kids know the dilemma is out there. Pretending a gal can have it all, both satisfying full-stop career and yummy family, is just setting up the vast majority for bitter disappointment.

For the record, my solution has been part-time work and a supportive extended family. I hope that this flexible work arrangement becomes available to more women. Perhaps employers will get over their allergy to part-time schedules as their labor needs confront the waves of aging baby boomers. Something is going to have to give and it won't be the boomers. It never is.

Good discussions of the article at: Ann Althouse, Number 2 Pencil and The Anchoress.

UPDATES: (1) The New York Times has certainly accomplished its goal of getting people to talk about its articles (this what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up write-up became a "Most E-Mailed" article on the newspaper's Web site). So what if much of the talk is criticism? Jack Shafer of Slate claws at the lack of data supporting the piece. (2) Michael of 2Blowhards enjoys watching the defiance of '70s-feminist dogma but bristles at the Times' focus on "elite" schools.

Monday, September 19, 2005




Sunday, September 18, 2005


Yesterday (Saturday) our concrete guy:
  1. Showed up, unannounced, at 7:45 am. Household was still abed/wearing jammies, etc.
  2. Without copy of plans for porch (seems to have "lost" them). Also, no estimate for costs of work.
  3. Dropped sample brick on my shoeless left foot.
But we still think he's great. Go figure.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


. . . which I listened to off and on this week (a little too on for my own good work-wise, frankly):
  • Roberts' extraordinary adroitness at parrying the senators' questioning owes itself to his own personal skill, of course, but it is also rooted in his long pre-bench experience as an appellate litigator, particularly before the court which he will undoubtedly soon be joining. Effective oral argument in such forums is really nothing more than answering questions, sometimes quite unpredictable ones, with grace and persuasiveness. As such, it's ideal preparation for the confirmation process. Combine this with the fact that most appellate litigators are usually far too busy with their work to create the unfortunate paper trails that so often dog those promising judicial candidates who have either taught or served on lower courts for many years (*cough* Richard Posner *cough*), and one wonders why more of them aren't tapped for the Supreme Court.

  • If the senators had really been interested in drawing out Roberts on his judicial philosophy in the face of his nimble (and well-advised) avoidance of all live or incipient cases and issues, they'd ask him about some prominent dead ones--the original, economically-oriented version of substantive due process espoused in Lochner v. New York, for instance, or the long development of the "clear and present danger" strand of First Amendment law that culminated in Brandenburg v. Ohio, or the Warren Court's revolution in criminal procedure emblemized by Miranda v. Arizona. By "dead" I mean only that these cases are no longer (as far as I am aware) subject to serious challenge on a doctrinal level; they are still very much alive in the competing concerns they embody. Roberts said a little bit about Brown v. Board of Education, Griswold v. Connecticut, and a few other such cases, but there was much, much more he could have been probed about along these lines, and in a way in which I think he could have felt comfortable in responding. That the senators--on the left and the right--had no apparent interest in walking down this road speaks volumes about their true concerns.

  • Joe Biden makes my skin crawl. His faux folksiness, his strangely binary stances of genuflection and condescension ("oh, Judge, Judge"), his petulance ("but my time is almost up!")--all of it is off-putting to the extreme. When Dana Milbank has the same reaction, I know I'm not imagining things. And this guy is thinking of running for president?

  • Charles Schumer's comparison of Roberts and his deft sidestepping to the position of someone who professes to be a film fan without ever revealing which movies he likes, and Roberts' quick-witted response, were genuinely amusing. While we're talking movies, let me nominate The Third Man, not because it's a great one (though it is), but because Roberts:

    is a dead ringer for Joseph Cotten:

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Look, this happens all the time. Someone has a brand name and enough cash to register it as a trademark. Someone else without a lot of cash makes fun of the trademark. The trademark owner has his attorney send a scary "cease and desist letter" because he's pissed at being made fun of and the attorney doesn't know enough to control his client. The recipient feels bullied (he's right, that's the point of the letter) but has to cave because he doesn't have the resources to fight.

In this case, the pissed guy is (liberal comedian) Garrison Keillor and the guys who made fun of him by selling "A Praire Ho Companion" t-shirts are the proprietors of (liberal) local blog MNSpeak. And they've given in, for now.

This is a dumb fight. The t-shirts aren't so clever (MNSpeak admits they haven't sold many of them and didn't planned to reorder) but no one was going to think they were endorsed by Garrison Keillor, so trademark law (which is intended to prevent consumer confusion) shouldn't apply. A kinder letter could have easily persuaded MNSpeak to stop selling the t-shirts without making them feel like the school yard bully has just shaken them down. Minnesota Nice is a useful skill not apparently practiced by Mr. Keillor and his counselor.

Finally! Liberals now have a rock solid example of where diplomacy might have worked but instead they sent in the troops to stop the WMD's (which, as it turned out, were not being replenished). Yes, they can declare victory. But are Mr. Keillor's approval ratings slipping?

MNSpeak may not have money to hire a lawyer to defend it, but it owns a modern-style printing press and the possibility of sparking a blogswarm (Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has done his part). Here's our contribution: back off Garrison!

Sunday, September 11, 2005


My favorite north-of-the-border blogger, Colby Cosh, has been a gusher of fresh insights lately. Besides noting yet another reason why the Strib is the king of the "jerkwater newspapers," he keeps coming up with interesting things to say about Hurricane Katrina, and that's no mean feat. Last week, for instance, he pointed out (a) that looters should perhaps be praised as providers of free salvage services for New Orleans-area retailers and (b) that those who fault The Big Easy for not adopting Dutch-like solutions to the dangers of living below sea level are retarded. Now, in response to those who hold up the disaster of the disaster-response as a rebuke to small-government libertarian types, he gives us this bravura paragraph:
So let's just recap briefly, shall we? We've got a million or so human beings living in a low-lying area created in the first place by government engineers. The local government of New Orleans, apprised of an approaching storm, summarily orders everybody out of the city about 36 hours too late without lifting a finger to provide the means to do so. At the last minute it occurs to somebody to herd those left behind into a large government-built structure, the Superdome; no supplies are on hand for its inhabitants, and the structure itself is rendered--according to the government's assessment--permanently useless. Even though the storm misses the city, government-built levees fail in unforeseen and catastrophic ways. Many of the New Orleans cops opportunistically quit their jobs, many more simply fail to show up for work, others take the lead in looting supplies from storm-stricken neighbourhoods, and just a few have the notable good grace to shoot themselves in the head. The federal government announces that assistance is on its way, sometime; local and state authorities--who have the clear-cut burden of "first response" under federal guidelines nobody seems to have read--beg for the feds to hurry up while (a) engaging in bureaucratic pissing-matches behind the scenes and (b) making life difficult for the private agencies who are beating the feds to the scene. Eventually the federal government shows up with the National Guard, and to the uniform indignation and surprise of those who have been screaming for it, the Guard turns out to have a troubling tendency to point weapons in the general direction of civilians and reporters. I'm not real clear on who starts doing what around mid-week, but the various hydra-heads of government start developing amusing hobbies; confiscating guns from civilians, demanding that photographers stop documenting the aftermath of America's worst natural disaster in a century, enforcing this demand by seizing cameras at gunpoint, shutting down low-power broadcasting stations in shelters, and stealing supplies from relief agencies and private citizens. In the wake of all this, there is probably no single provision of the U.S. Constitution left untrampled, the Posse Comitatus Act appears destined for a necktie party, and the 49% of Americans who have been complaining for five years about George W. Bush being a dictator are now vexed to the point of utter incoherence because for the last fortnight he has failed to do a sufficiently convincing impression of a dictator.
And then there's former Canadian Alex Tabarrok from Marginal Revolution, who has penned the best September 11th post of the day.

Nice job, you hosers!

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Two camps have developed about who is to blame for the catastrophe sparked by Hurricane Katrina. One camp fingers President Bush and his FEMA and Homeland Security cohorts. The other is down on state and local errors. It looks to us that there's a lot of ammunition for both groups' theories.

But a dark horse has now emerged. Championed by a meteorologist from Pocatello, Idaho: the Japanese mafia or gangster group known as the Yakuza. Plus, he warns, we ain't seen nothing yet:
The Yakuza can shoot another Katrina anytime they wish. Watch for yet another one, which is probably being debated right now.
He also recommends everyone stock up on precious metals.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Our favorite sourpuss, Judge Richard Posner, explores the question that got Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, into such hot water last week: should New Orleans be rebuilt?
To decide whether to rebuild or abandon the City, the cost of reconstruction, plus the expected cost of a future such disaster, should be compared to the cost of either building a new city or, what would be cheaper and faster, simply relocating the present inhabitants to existing cities, towns, etc., a solution that would require merely the construction of some additional commercial and residential facilities, plus some additional infrastructure. Of course New Orleans has great historic and sentimental value, and this should be factored into the analysis, but it should not be given conclusive weight. Perhaps it should be given little weight, since the historic portions of the city (the French Quarter and the Garden District) might be rebuilt and preserved as a tourist site, much like Colonial Williamsburg, without having to be part of a city.
Posner has never been accused of being sentimental. Or shy of controversy. Mardi Gras-land, anyone?

After the horror of last week, he heaps another worry on my fretfire: "Breaches similar to those that caused the recent flood, but created without warning by terrorist bombs, would cause much greater loss of life because there would be no time to evacuate the population."

Now that makes me want to down a Hurricane.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Much has been written in the wake of Katrina about what could have and should have been done. But this "before it happened" account was so prescient that it gave me the creeps. Hope everyone has contributed to the agency of his/her choice for disaster relief. In addition, The Monk may have to give up his predilection for oysters and eat nutria instead (tastes like turkey!).

Friday, September 02, 2005


I am riveted and horrified by the news of the post-Katrina disasters. I am angry at what seems to be the poor planning, or perhaps poor execution by authorities, and the failure to prevent what is becoming a Southern hellhole. I don't even know anyone from the affected area. If I'm angry, I can't imagine how someone closer to the catastrophe feels.

What good has the wake-up call of 9/11 been? Where has the money we've poured into preparedness efforts gone if this is the result? How can the residents of any city or town feel at all safe if this most predictable disaster has caused such havoc?

If someone told me I was to be punished for some infraction with exile to either Baghdad or New Orleans, I would choose Baghdad.