No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Radley Balko is right.

In his recent Fox News article, he laments the departure from the U.S. Senate of Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill). Apparently, Fitzgerald has been punished by his party leadership for committing the sin of refusing to go along with the standard behavior of trying to bring as much pork-barrel spending as possible back to his home state.

It’s understandable, but wrong, for representatives to reason that as long as others are doing it they should try to get as much for their own districts as possible. But, in order for things to improve, we need principled politicians to go against the grain and refuse to participate in wasteful spending. Eventually, this might become recognized as good behavior and those who continued to try to fleece the nation’s taxpayers for their own districts’ sake (really, their own sake) would be ridiculed.

A good party would support someone like Fitzgerald and promote progress. The Republican party doesn’t.

Public Universities

There’s a great debate going on between Jack Balkin (here and later here), and the forces of reason: Sasha Volokh (here and here), David Bernstein (here and here), “Juan Non-Volokh” (here and here) and Glen Whitman.

I’ve long been intrigued by the “liberal” infatuation with state education, because it seems like such an incredibly illiberal idea to me. The last thing a genuine liberal should want to do is institutionalize state control over the indoctrination of our youth (I’m thinking of all public education here, not just universities). I understand that they’re comfortable with it now because their views are the dominant ones in academia, but that might not always be true. Do they really want supporters of a state whose policies they vehemently disagree with to be dictating the content and slant of education?

And, while Balkin’s view (that the essential public good of helping people participate in culture and democratic debate is necessarily provided by the state) could have had some appeal in the past; I find it hard to believe that as sensible a person as Balkin is could think that’s true today. Interested people can learn and discuss whatever they want today (both online, and in real-life meetings organized online). All without forcing others to pay for it, and without the coercion and hassles that schools regularly inflict on their victims students.

Howard’s End

Now that Howard Dean has officially dropped out of the race (sort of), I thought I’d point out Clay Shirky’s interesting analysis (from a couple of weeks ago) of what happened from the perspective of internet-based campaign organization. Lots of interesting observations like:

The easy thing to explain is why Dean lost – the voters didn’t like him. The hard thing to explain is why we (and why Dean himself) thought he’d win, and easily at that. The bubble of belief, which collapsed so quickly and so completely, was inflated by tools that made formerly hard things easy, tricking us into thinking that getting votes had become easy as well — we were all in Deanspace for a while there.

Bush Lied!

Jacob Levy explains why Bush’s “biggest spender” answer on his Meet The Press interview was both technically false, and intended to deceive.

Bush’s spending record, with a Republican controlled congress, has been disgraceful. I suspect that if he can’t convince genuine fiscal conservatives that he’ll be different next term, they might not be enthusiastic enough to help him win re-election.

I still think that the election is his to lose. But it’s losable.


Lileks is nice and screedy today. That’s the way I most enjoy his writing. I don’t mind reading about his family and work once in a while, but I love it when he uses his enormous talent to expose stupidity.

First, he skewers Patrick Stewart for being against manned space exploration. Then he goes after John Kerry for, well, being so much like John Kerry.

“I’m waiting for a Kerry speech in which he seems angrier about 9/11 than he does about tax cuts.”

As they say, read the whole thing.


I’m referring, of course, to anybody who is outraged by the baring of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl half-time show and thinks that the FCC needs to perform a swift investigation and punish CBS and MTV, etc.

What real harm did this event actually do to anybody?

I think that this is the kind of thing that makes Republicans seem like idiots. Yes, I know there are some non-Republicans who were offended too, but this kind of reaction is more strongly associated with the religious right.

I propose that every dollar that the FCC spends on this episode should be removed from their next budget, because clearly they have at least that much to waste.

25 pounds!

I’m sure you’re all incredibly interested in how my weight-loss endeavor is going.

I got on the scale this morning to find that I’ve now lost 25 pounds. Somehow it seems significant. Maybe because it’s a factor of 100.

I had stopped losing for a while after about 15 pounds. Then I started exercising more and the weight started to come off again. I back-slid a bit during my vacation, recently; but not too badly and I quickly recovered from that.

Anyway, I’m happy about it and am willing to lose more slowly now (a pound a week or so?) and still feel good about it as I approach my ultimate goal.