From March, 2014

Quote of the Day

Universities should be citadels of open debate, even when the views expressed make people uncomfortable. Get over it. Respond with a better argument. Make your own sign. Hold your own meeting. Great universities are built on free speech, free inquiry and spirited debate. So are great countries. —Charles Lipson. Alas, the piece is behind a paywall, but if you can get through to read it, be sure to take the time to do so.

Uber, Traditional Taxicabs and the Failure of Regulation

Read Larry Downes’s comparison of UberX to a traditional metered cab, and you will readily understand why the following is happening: So traditional taxi and limo services are responding the only way they know how to—by using legal challenges and regulatory obstacles to block or even ban the services.  In some cities, including Portland and Miami, they have so far been successful.  In other locations, including the District of Columbia the start-ups have managed to deploy their fanatical customers to help put pressure on local regulatory boards to reverse earlier bans. What started out as a fight over price and…

Today in Depressing News Regarding Ukraine

Here it is: Russia may not be done conquering. In a strange way, I almost hope that the Russians try to launch an offensive to reach Transnistria, as I cannot imagine a more blatant example of overreach that might serve to further isolate Russia in the international community, and as such overreach may prove to be exceedingly costly to the Russians–provided, of course, that the Ukrainians are able to mount a stiff and effective military resistance to any new Russian offensive. The Ukrainians, for their part, are on their guard. Note that the Russian puppet in Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, is urging Russians throughout…

Strolling Down Memory Lane

Everyone remembers the time when Nate Silver predicted disaster for a particular party’s election prospects, and operatives of said party turned on Silver and denounced him for predictions inconvenient to their side, thus proving that operatives of said party are epistemically closed and live in a bubble where facts and reality are not welcome. Right? Did you think that I was writing about Silver’s opinions and predictions regarding Republican prospects in 2012? Well . . . I wasn’t. Now, let’s be fair. It’s March, 2014, not November, 2014. A lot can happen in a little over seven months. But I can’t…

In Ukraine, Tensions Remain High

I haven’t been blogging for the past two days because I have been laid low by The Worst Cold In The History Of Ever. Any hopes that in the time that it took me to recover, the Ukraine crisis could be resolved, seem to have gone out the window. Ukraine remains worried that Russia may launch an invasion of eastern Ukraine. The Obama administration shares those concerns. So, that’s hardly comforting. Demonstrations have begun, agitating for secession on the part of eastern Ukraine. I’d be very much surprised if these demonstrations were anything more than astroturf operations that the Russians have…

Purges Are Destructive Things

Many a time, I have complained about Tea Party efforts to get rid of Republican representatives and senators who are subjectively deemed to be disloyal to the right-of-center cause, even when those efforts end up throwing congressional seats to Democrats. As I have often said, only winners can afford to purge their ranks. Losers cannot. And even in the case of winners, purging ranks based on philosophical and ideological factors is not advisable; doing so will only serve to wreck whatever governing coalition a particular winning side may have been able to put together, a coalition that of mathematical necessity,…

Dear Anti-Vaccination Fanatics

Don’t ever forget that you are responsible for stories like this one: Measles, a highly contagious and dangerous virus, was thought to have been eradicated from the U.S. with vaccines — but in recent years outbreaks have been occurring at an alarming rate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports there was an average of 83 measles cases annually from 2001 to 2011, however for 2014 there have already been 79 cases reported. This is the second year in a row with an increased number of measles cases, in 2013 there were 189 cases of measles reported. The increase has left health…

The Political Crackdown Continues in Venezuela

And no chávista–inside or outside of Venezuela–has denounced it. I can’t imagine why: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has used the military, legislative and judicial power consolidated during 15 years of socialist rule in a sudden series of blows against opponents who have spent more than a month protesting in the streets, knocking down their barricades and throwing dissident leaders in jail. Thursday dawned with two more opposition politicians behind bars, one of them sentenced to more than 10 months in prison. And pro-government lawmakers had already started trying to jail another outspoken critic as well, moving to strip an opposition congresswoman…

In Memoriam: Ted Cohen

I never had the pleasure of taking any one of Ted Cohen’s classes, but I was fortunate enough to get plenty of exposure to him via the Latke-Hamantash debates at the University of Chicago, which Cohen so famously moderated. He was always funny, witty, and the life of just about every single event. I am sure that the debates will go on without him, but things just won’t be the same. Something must be said, of course, of Cohen’s professional dedication to taking jokes seriously; his willingness to do so was laudable. We cannot replicate humor unless we understand its nuances,…

When It Comes to Punishing Russia, Our Options Are Limited

I know that economic sanctions are everyone’s favorite way to punish Russia, and I allow for the possibility that over time, sanctions may well take a significant bite out of the Russian economy. But at best, sanctions are an imperfect and crude tool with which to coerce any nation-state, and when it comes to coercing Russia, the economic interests of European countries may prevent sanctions from being effective: To President Vladimir Putin, Russian billionaires are a vital constituency in a state built on cronyism and kleptocracy. To London’s luxury property dealers and high-flying bankers, the oligarchs play a different but…