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Big-Box Blues



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As part of that weird fraction of humanity who have read Austrian economists for fun, it is most unsettling when the magic of a free market doesn’t quite extend to “pool shoes,” those clingy $5 monstrosities worn mostly by the girls. (I certainly would have shamed my son out of that shopping trip a few years ago.) I spent two hours on Sunday with my daughter learning that the big-box retailers (Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, K-Mart and several other lesser retailers in northern Virginia) carried every size of these from March to mid-July, as if these are the heavy swimming months. Apparently, once retailers have the whiff of August, you can buy a protractor in seven colors, but forget the pool shoes. I’m sure this is smart mass-retailing, but it can leave the average consumer with a sense of advanced-calendar whiplash. (No pool shoes, but would you like a Halloween costume?) Luckily, the girl found a pair of mirrored goggles and forgot all about the shoes.

Which Economy Is Krugman Watching?



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There’s no shortage of good economic news nowadays — except in the mind of Paul Krugman, where hopelessness springs eternal. In his New York Times column Friday, the Princeton economics professor closed his eyes to economic reality and cried, “There is very little evidence in the data for a strong recovery ready to break out.” Huh? What about rising durable goods orders? A huge spike in new-home sales? Falling new jobless claims? Sadly for Krugman, the recessionary dreams of the Left are fading. Don Luskin and the Krugman Truth Squad have the full story.

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More Re: Gay Marriage



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As I said earlier, by traditional standards, my views on marriage are fairly liberal. For a more detailed statement of what I see as my middle ground position, see “That Other War.” Still, I don’t want to slight the views of traditionalists–particularly religious traditionalists. The traditional religious position on marriage and sexuality is all too often caricatured and slighted. I have immense respect for the power and value of that point of view. For more, see my “Freedom and Slavery.”

Web Briefing: September 18, 2014

Legal Question



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Any lawyers out there in Cornerland? I’d love to have your best judgement on likely legal scenarios for the enforcement of divorce agreements, as well as child custody and support agreements, in the wake of legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts. Here’s the problem. Let’s say George and Ted marry in Massachusetts, where they live, but buy a vacation home as joint tenants in Texas. After some time, the couple separates. George stays in Massachusetts, while Ted moves in to the second home in Texas. Meanwhile, George files for divorce in Massachusetts, which decrees that the Texas home be sold and the proceeds divided evenly between George and Ted. Ted down in Texas refuses to cooperate, so George hires a Texas lawyer. Now what? If the Texas court enforces the Massachusetts judgement (which is entitled to full faith and credit under Article IV, but arguably wouldn’t be so entitled under the Defense of Marriage Act), then the legal impact of same-sex marriage has crossed state lines. Or, if Texas refuses to support the Massachusetts judgement (in light of state and/or federal DOMA’s), we have a potentially very messy situation on our hands. And what do we make of this sort of scenario in cases of child custody and support? So do you lawyers out there see any relatively simple way to resolve the potential confusion here, or do you see ongoing conflict and a lack of clear resolution? Again, I’d love to have your best judgement on the likely legal scenarios.

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Gay Marriage



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My new article, “Beyond Gay Marriage,” is the most thorough statement of the slippery-slope argument on gay marriage I have ever made. If you have any interest in the controversy over gay marriage–particularly if you are undecided–I hope you will read this piece. This article contains a lot of new material. But there is plenty more to say. In the months ahead, I will be expanding on the points raised here. And sometime in the next month or two, I expect to come out with another ambitious piece that approaches the gay-marriage issue from a new direction. That piece will show, even more dramatically than the slippery slope argument of “Beyond Gay Marriage,” that the virtual disappearance of marriage, both legally and socially, is all too realistic a possibility.

All parties to our disputes over marriage agree that the institution is undergoing rapid, even drastic, changes. On both the left and the libertarian right, the argument seems to be that, given all the changes, we might as well keep going. The social right sometimes echoes that view, noting sadly that, having discarded so many props of traditional marriage, further radical changes are bound to follow. All that may be true. Yet I have argued that a middle ground position, between the family system of the fifties and the utopianism of the sixties, is in principle sustainable.

By traditional standards, my position on marriage is fairly liberal. While I do think we should consider a waiting period for divorces in which children are involved, I see a fundamental rollback of no-fault divorce as neither possible nor desirable. Nor do I think it either possible or desirable to eliminate premarital cohabitation. On the other hand, I believe we need to draw a bright line between marriage and cohabitation–particularly when it comes to having children. I oppose the recent and ill-advised proposals of the American Law Institute to treat cohabitation more like marriage. The question in all this is whether it is possible to find a middle way. Can we accept and embrace the benefits of our increased freedom and privacy, while also drawing some lines to prevent a further weakening of marriage as an institution? This will be tough to do. Fortunately, the American public would like a middle ground solution–one that accepts many of the changes in marriage, while also setting limits to reform.

Land of The Giants



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Nick, assuming that this human growth hormone is safe I can see no possible sensible objection. If we were to ignore centuries of medical progress and keep the human race ‘as nature intended,’ our streets would be a sad spectacle of deformity, disease and disability. Of course, being short is not a disease, but, like it or not (we are little more than highly competitive apes, after all), it can be a ‘disability’, at least of sorts. If taking this product could make people taller, why not? Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind being six feet tall myself…

Bob Hope, Rip



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He died last night.

Rip



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Matt Jeffries, the designer for the original Star Trek, has died. The New York Times obit is fine, but for some reason it leaves out that the “Jeffries Tube” was named after him.

Ap Is Getting Foxy



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Fox Butterfield of the New York Times is famous for his ongoing astonishment that crime can fall while prison building increases. In August 2000, he wrote a story: “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction.” In 1998 he wrote “Prison Population Growing Although Crime Rate Drops.” In 1997 he observed: “Crime Keeps On Falling, but Prisons Keep On Filling.” Well, it looks like the Times has been selling it’s Kool Aid: here’s the headline for an AP story in today’s Washington Post : “Number Of Prisoners Rises as Crime Drops.” Here’s how it begins:

America’s prison population grew again in 2002 despite a declining crime rate, costing the federal government and states an estimated $40 billion a year at a time of rampant budget shortfalls.

The inmate population in 2002 of more than 2.1 million represented a 2.6 percent increase over 2001, according to a report released yesterday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Preliminary FBI statistics showed a 0.2 percent drop in overall crime during the same span.

Will Berkeley Apologize?



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The U.C. Berkeley College Republicans are seeking an official apology from the UC Berkeley administration over the press release accompanying the infamous “conservatives are pathological” study.

Peter Singer, Meet Edward Said



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The Volokh Conspiracy has a stimulating post on the Palestinian refugee question and a USC Law prof who advocates “suicidal liberalism.”

Professor Andrei Marmor of USC Law School, who also teaches in Israel, argues that under the principles of liberalism Israel has a moral obligation to commit suicide by permitting Palestinian refugees from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and perhaps their descendants to “return” to Israel.

The smartest Goldberg on the planet who is not also a wrestler, Sidney Goldberg, wrote this important piece helping put the refugee question in its proper perspective.

Short But Not So Sweet



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A human growth hormone has been approved to boost the height of kids who are short but not in bad health. According to Reuters:

The FDA said it approved the treatment for the shortest 1.2 percent of children. For 10-year-old boys and girls, that would correspond to a height of less than 4 feet 1 inch. Their expected adult height without treatment would be less than 5 feet 3 inches for men and 4 feet 11 inches for women.

Corante’s Arnold Kling then makes this astute observation:
OK. Now, once those children have been given growth pills, somebody else will be in the bottom 1.2 percent. And once those children have been given growth pills…

Randy Newman once sang “Short people got no reason to live.” Don’t worry, Randy. We are about to be engineered out of the human race.


This is the kind of development in biotech that sets conservatives [e.g. Kass] and libertarians [e.g. Reason's Ron Bailey] against each other. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Do Cornerites think this is a good thing or a bad thing?

Crypto



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I’m a sucker for cryptozoology, which is not to say I believe in Big Foot–just that I’ll almost always read a newspaper article on the subject (see my Nessie post, below). Or a take interest in a novel. A few days ago, I picked up a copy of Meg, by Steve Alten. It presumes that the megalodon shark (think great white shark, only much bigger) survived its presumed extinction. In the book, of course, one of these “jurassic sharks” turns into a rogue killing machine, and it’s up to the heroes to stop it. Not an outstanding book by any stretch, but ideal for lazy summer reading. At any rate, there was a wonderful laugh-out-loud moment for me. At one point, our fearsome Meg, after killing several dozen people, swims into a federal marine sanctuary off the California coast. So what happens? A judge declares it a “protected” species and can’t be killed. Isn’t that a perfect caricature of judicial liberalism?

Train From Nyc to Toledo



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A Quebec reader writes in response to one of Saturday’s Amtrak posts:


NOT roundabout at all. Presume you were traveling from New York City. The principal rail route to Toledo would always have been the New York Central (slogan “The Water Level Route — You Can Sleep”), which would take you through Buffalo. Other routes such as the Lackawanna would wiggle through mountains. The NYC’s biggest competitor, the Pennsylvania, was shorter to Chicago by 13 miles (so their slogan was “You Sleep Restfully”) but that would not take you to Toledo. The Hudson valley is indeed lovely but best by car when we drive south towards NY on one side and return north on the other, avoiding both the NY Thruway and the Taconic Parkway. But come up this way and admire Interstate 87’s scenic Adirondack route north towards Montreal (or the day train if you must).

Gop & Hispanics



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Steve: Thanks for making that point about Hispanic voters in California. The state’s changing demographics clearly have played a role in the state’s liberalization, but something else is at work there, too. You can’t just blame immigration. Also, consider this. If no Hispanics had voted in the 2000 presidential election, George Bush would have won the popular vote nationwide but Al Gore would be president–because the absence of Cuban voters would have switched Florida from Bush to Gore. Having said all this, Republican success among Hispanics requires Hispanic assimilation. That’s why the Bush administration should pull the plug on bilingual education, which is something that it won’t ever do. Unfortunately.

Nessie



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I disagree with the BBC over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–I think some will be found, or at least evidence of some. But I agree with the BBC on the vitally important subject of the Loch Nech Monster–it doesn’t exist, as this upcoming documentary will show.

A Woman in The Arab News



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Kinda a surprise to read, considering the source:


What is the difference between the picture on a passport and the picture on an ID card? The only logical conclusion I can come up with is that the people objecting to women’s ID cards are doing it for another reason: to restrict a woman’s freedom and make her dependent on a man. That is not religion. That is pure male chauvinism.

Applebaum Vs. Coulter



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Steve, Anne Applebaum had some words for Ann Coulter this weekend in the Washington Post: “the more successful she becomes, the more damage she will do to her own cause. If her ravings become confused with the work of serious historians, it’s possible that the serious reading public will wind up dismissing all of them. I noted, after finishing this book, that a number of prominent conservatives have dissociated themselves from it. With any luck, others will too. Coulter will, of course, start screaming that she’s become the latest victim of the left’s ongoing secret campaign against McCarthy, but at least that will prevent her from spoiling serious historical investigation into anything else.”

Nro Weekend



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I hope NRO technical problems didn’t put a kibosh on some of your weekend NRO catch-up plans. (Also, if you tried to email and got a bounceback.) Our apologies for the annoyance.

Oh, What a Tangled Web Davis Weaves



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Ah, what informed and literate readers visit this happy Corner. As you may recall, 48 hours ago I asked for information concerning a) California’s budget, b) the state’s population, and c) just how big the deficit would be if Gray Davis had only increased spending by the same amount as the increase in the population. I’ve received half a dozen emails that make the answers clear.

For detailed information on the budget, take a look at the state’s own website–you’d think the administration of Governor Davis would be too embarrassed to publish the numbers, but there they are, in all their brazenness, for the world to examine, at. And for detailed information on the population, take a look at the Rand website, ca.rand.org (subscription required). There are all kinds of ways of playing with these numbers, of course–was it Disraeli who said there are lies, damned lies, and statistics?–but the general point is quite clear: Davis outspent the growth in population by an amount that was truly enormous and obviously unsustainable. Revenues shot up during Davis’s first term, largely as a result of the Internet bubble. But danged if Davis didn’t find a way to outspend the growth in revenues, too.

As my friend John Fund put it in one of his recent columns for the Wall Street Journal Online (and I’m indebted to a reader for sending this along, as also to John, obviously, for getting to his homework before I got to mine):

“California’s general budget grew by an average of 9.4% a year from fiscal 1997 through 2002. Revenues grew dramatically too–by 27% during Mr. Davis’s first term. But spending went up 36% during the same period. If the state had only held spending growth to the increase in population and inflation, it would be enjoying a $5.5 billion surplus now.”

What we need here in California isn’t a recall (although I’m a lot less pessimistic about the recall than most). What we need is a constitutional amendment–just like the one in Colorado that John Miller describes below.

Darryl Issa, call your office.

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