April 4, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Santorum slips into irrelevance as Romney vs. Obama kicks into gear (David Chalian, April 4, 2012, Yahoo!)

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum verbally circled April 24 (the Pennsylvania primary, 71 delegates at stake) and May 29 (the Texas primary, 155 delegates at stake) on his nomination calendar Tuesday night in his speech to supporters. But those goals fail to reflect the reality that he has now slid into irrelevancy in the race. [...]

 A Quinnipiac University poll out this week showed Santorum's lead in his home state has dwindled down to six points as he heads into a three week stretch without any debates or intervening primary nights to inject new momentum into his bid.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM


Is the Term 'Government-Centered Society' Too Polemical? (Reihan Salam, April 4, 2012, National Review)

But Romney is actually advancing a more ambitious idea, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the thesis of Alberto Alesina and George-Marios Angeletos's essay on "Fairness and Redistribution." The abstract is below:

Different beliefs about how fair social competition is and what determines income inequality, influence the redistributive policy chosen democratically in a society. But the composition of income in the first place depends on equilibrium tax policies. If a society believes that individual effort determines income, and that all have a right to enjoy the fruits of their effort, it will chose low redistribution and low taxes. In equilibrium effort will be high, the role of luck limited, market outcomes will be quite fair, and social beliefs will be self-fulfilled. If instead a society believes that luck, birth, connections and/or corruption determine wealth, it will tax a lot, thus distorting allocations and making these beliefs self-sustained as well. We show how this interaction between social beliefs and welfare policies may lead to multiple equilibria or multiple steady states. We argue that this model can contribute to explain US vis a vis continental European perceptions about income inequality and choices of redistributive policies. 

Essentially, Alesina and Angeletos are contrasting a government-centered society and a market-centered society. They're suggesting that a society can shift from one to the other as taxes increase, as the state takes a larger role in aiding politically favored firms, etc. Some will argue that the stylized portrait offered by Alesina and Angeletos is oversimplified. But it does seem like a good way to think about the political evolution of market democracies. Is there some point at which a shift to a government-centered society because irreversible? How long does it take for the new worldview to become entrenched?

Something like the Alesina-Angeletos thesis might explain the generational divide in U.S. politics. Older people tend to favor low redistribution and low taxes, yet many of them are the beneficiaries of large transfers, both direct (in the form of Medicare and Social Security) and indirect (in the form of housing wealth that flowed from tax expenditures, exclusionary zoning, etc.), that have effectively disadvantaged younger voters, who will be forced to pay higher lifetime net tax rates than their parents and grandparents. It thus seems important to make younger people understand this complex interaction between social beliefs and welfare policies. Instead of embracing more redistribution to counter the (arguably) unfair redistribution of the past, perhaps they should favor reforming redistribution policies so that they are more genuinely equitable and less tilted against the young, rolling back licensing restrictions and other measures that undermine open labor market competition, etc. But first someone has to make the case that layering more redistribution on top of the old system without reforming it might make matters worse -- that is, it might get us mired in an ugly equilibrium. 

...as jobs--the traditional means of redistributing wealth--become less important.  And the GOP can argue that by distributing more to the young--guaranteed contribution--we can distribute less to the old--guaranteed benefit.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:58 AM


The cry of the anti-abortion feminist  (Lila Rose, April 2, 2012, Politico)

[T}here is a growing group of passionate young women who are transforming what it means to be a woman. Allow me to introduce them to you. We are women who reject both the anti-male feminism of the 1960s and the "girls gone wild" mentality that's pervasive today.

We are women for whom the idea of artificial birth control as "preventive care" is deeply insulting.

We are women who view the intentional killing of children not as a constitutional right, a matter of privacy or a necessary evil but, rather, as profoundly anti-woman and the antithesis of love.

We are women whose lives contradict the idea of an inevitable clash between religious liberty and women's health. We are women who believe that something precious is lost when fertility is intentionally excluded from marriage, a sacred bond and a total giving of each spouse to the other.

We are women who believe that sex and pregnancy aren't just health issues; they are also inextricably linked with family, morals, faith and values. And we are women who love everything about being a woman, including being mothers. We have noticed that the rise in the availability and use of cheap birth control coincided with increases in the rates of sex addiction, divorce, unmarried childbearing and abortion.

We have also noticed that while contraceptives and legal abortion promised to eliminate the exploitative attitude of men toward women, they have had the opposite effect.

It was never about giving women control over their own bodies, it was about taking control over the bodies of others.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 AM



Well, we can finally add another band to the list of astonishingly talented acts to emerge from the volcanoes and fjords of Iceland, six person folk pop act Of Monsters and Men, whose debut album My Head Is An Animal marks the band as a force to be reckoned with. 

Of Monsters and Men rose to prominence after winning the 2010 Musiktilraunir, which is Iceland's national battle of the bands-esque competition. Before long, this led to a major label signing, Universal, before they had even released their first real album. The band is that good, and if you were worried that a major label debut from a mostly anonymous band stateside would lead to a sloppy and amateurish premiere, you can rest those worries aside. My Head Is an Animal joins Cults' self-titled debut as an album that will instantly shoot Of Monsters and Men to the top of everyone's watercooler music conversation. With a sound that can only be described as Arcade Fire's more folk-oriented younger brother, Of Monsters and Men craft their own musical soundscapes to create an album experience that is as familiar as it is unknown. 

As soon as the acoustic guitars of "Dirty Paws" segue into its more uptempo and semi-electric counterpart full of communal sing-alongs, you know you're in for something different. With often dueling male and female vocals, a regular interplay between acoustic and rustic instrumentation alongside expansive sonic flourishes, and the distinct, almost otherworldly voice of male singer Ragnar Porhallsson, My Head Is An Animal's ability to transport you to a fantasy realm is only partially dependent on its often esoteric and whimsical lyrics. The album feels like the soundtrack for a descent into the imaginative worlds of authors like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, with a sound that transports you to a world beyond the one you currently inhabit. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 AM


The folly at the heart of the US healthcare debate (Bruce Bartlett, 4/04/12, Financial Times)

What neither party has made any effort to grapple with is the extraordinarily high cost of health, public and private. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US spends more of its gross domestic product on health than any other country by a large margin. Americans spent 17.4 per cent of gross domestic product on health in 2009 - almost half of it came from government - versus 12 per cent of GDP or less in other major economies. Britain spends 9.8 per cent of GDP on health, almost all of it through the public sector. The total government outlay is almost exactly the same in the US and the UK at 8.2 per cent of GDP. This suggests that for no more than the US government spends on health now, Americans could have universal coverage and a healthcare system no worse than the British.

However, the option of a completely government-run health system was never seriously considered in the US when the Affordable Care Act was debated in 2009. Americans are too convinced that everything government does is less efficient and costs more than if the private sector does it. The fact that this is obviously wrong in the case of healthcare has never penetrated the public consciousness.

Except that W, Paul Ryan and others in the GOP have worked to expand the use of HSAs which will reduce costs once they are mandated.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 AM


Social Issues Drive Jews To Back Obama: Israel Counts Little as President Opens Up Big Lead in New Poll (Nathan Guttman, April 04, 2012, Forward)

Jewish voters also check all other boxes when it comes to defining liberal political positions. They strongly support abortion rights (93%), same-sex marriage (81%) and environmental regulation (69%)

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 AM


Sarah Palin on Today vs Katie Couric on GMA: Are They Objectified? (Norma Kamali, 4/04/12, Daily Beast)

Sarah Palin may not totally represent my beliefs, but she represents a case study of empowerment and objectification to the nth degree. Someone in your office may bring objectification to themselves by simply wearing a low-cut dress. She then may suffer the consequence of being known as the "easy" one with absolutely no proof exhibited. Sarah Palin may say things that are as provocative as the low-cut dress, but she, too, has to live with the consequence of her intellect and good judgment being questioned and criticized.

In many ways, Katie Couric is no different from Sarah Palin. They share in common the line we ride between being objectified and empowered. We may all think Katie is as empowered a woman as you can get, but I'm sure she experiences objectification and empowerment slipping back and forth in her day, well after the outrageous criticism of her performance on nightly news. Katie was the person no one could dislike and a part of everyone's morning when the Today show ruled the morning time slots. The move to nighttime was not only an emotional breakup for a lot of people, but also a challenge to test her abilities to tell the news with credibility in a serious demeanor, without her friendly smile.

I thought in no time everyone would be as comfortable with her in the evening, and it would be over, but it seemed that the ratings kept dropping as time progressed. Then, the glasses appeared and her hair kept changing. Her clothes evolved, and there was no smile. Here was an example of what could be one of the most empowered women on television being horribly objectified. Public objectification is usually relegated to scandalous celebrities, but Katie and Sarah both have this unique experience to be part of a club of women who were at the height of empowerment and, then, the height of objectification.

It is ironic that it was the Katie Couric interview of Sarah Palin that created the shift for Katie to be seen in a light of empowerment--and when Palin began to be seen as an object during her Vice Presidential run. Looking back on it now, both were objectified and used as pawns, one against the other, all in the name of ratings. But they both allowed it. Is it any different than when we create an atmosphere for us to be judged and scrutinized when we wear a low-cut dress?
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Posted by orrinj at 5:33 AM


Medical group takes up the fight against unnecessary tests (Tom Avril, 4/03/12, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The patient suffers from headaches and wants to undergo the dull roar of an MRI machine to make sure everything is all right. Good idea?

Probably not.

How about the drip-drip of chemo for the cancer patient who is near death? A CT scan for someone who has fainted but shows no neurological symptoms? Or an annual electrocardiogram for a person with low risk of heart disease?

No, no and no.

These are among dozens of recommendations that nine medical societies are announcing Wednesday, in an effort led by the ABIM Foundation, an affiliate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, based in Philadelphia.

With governments and insurers bemoaning the soaring costs of health care, the medical profession is increasingly offering its own solutions. The new campaign, dubbed Choosing Wisely, is not the first such effort but is among the most comprehensive.

Now comes the tricky part: getting patients and doctors to go along with it.

Various estimates have pegged spending on unnecessary tests at $200 billion to $250 billion each year in the United States, a phenomenon blamed on such factors as overcautious doctors who seek to avoid malpractice claims and patients who don't realize how much their treatments cost.

Organizers of Choosing Wisely say the goal is not cutting costs, strictly speaking, but achieving the best value and the best care. If an expensive test is necessary, then full steam ahead. Conversely, some tests are cheap but still should not be done because they can subject the patient to needless anxiety and risky follow-up procedures that turn out to be unnecessary, the groups say.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 AM


Romney sweeps three more primaries (Stephanie Condon, 4/03/12, CBS News) 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney scored a high-profile victory Tuesday night in the politically-charged state of Wisconsin.

Romney is also the winner in the Maryland and District of Columbia primaries. At this point in the race, the former Massachusetts governor has secured more than half the delegates needed to win the GOP nomination outright and the increased momentum that could help him eclipse his main GOP rival, Rick Santorum. [...]

CBS News exit polling out of Wisconsin shows Romney winning across voting blocs: He is winning among college graduates and those without a college degree, as well as among those making more than $50,000 and less than $50,000. He also has the most votes from both men and women. Romney is tied with Santorum among those who describe themselves as "very conservative" and wins among conservatives overall.

Romney is winning among voters who say they support the Tea Party movement, though Santorum has the most support so far from Wisconsin voters who say they oppose the movement. 
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