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Showing posts from October, 2011

Even Paul Krugman thinks Max Boot sounds like Paul Krugman

I've poked fun at conservative defense writer Max Boot lately because of Boot's recentassertions that cutting defense spending would end up cutting American jobs in a soft economy. I noted that Boot sounded like liberal columnist Paul Krugman, and suggested that "mainstream conservative Republicans—whatever their fiscal rhetoric—have long favored the soft socialism of big defense spending."

Krugman sounds the same theme this morning, not mentioning Boot specifically, but otherwise making the same point. He calls this crowd "weaponized Keynesians," a term borrowed from Barney Frank.
First things first: Military spending does create jobs when the economy is depressed. Indeed, much of the evidence that Keynesian economics works comes from tracking the effects of past military buildups. Some liberals dislike this conclusion, but economics isn’t a morality play: spending on things you don’t like is still spending, and more spending would create more jobs.

Beyond t…

Shut up and be happy, you ungrateful Occupy Wall Street protesters!

A conservative friend posted this to Facebook a couple of days ago, and it's been gnawing at me a bit:

The suggestion here being that the Occupy Wall Street crowd is selfish and ridiculous to be protesting.

This is both right and wrong. We should all be grateful in a cosmic sense for what we do have, of course. But "being a starving baby with ribs showing" shouldn't be the only grounds for complaint. (If it is, the Tea Party might want to pipe down as well.)

If you believe that your betters are tilting the playing field not through luck, not through accident, not merely through hard work, but through the greasing of palms and the escaping of the same rules that apply to you—then I think it's fine and appropriate to speak up.

This is a similar logic to those who suggest (say) American women shouldn't complain about disparities in the United States because, hey, Afghanistan! Burkhas! It's a logic that allows the people at the top to deflect the complaints …

The flat tax is bad

So says I in this week's Scripps Howard column with Ben Boychuk:
The flat tax is Republican-led class warfare. It makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, for no better purpose than making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

We have progressive taxation -- in which people with higher incomes pay a higher tax rate than those at the lower end of the scale -- for a reason: People on the low end are less able to pay. Flat taxes invert that logic, giving the rich a huge tax break and often burdening the poor.

The Tax Policy Center says a low-income family making $31,000 a year would lose its $5,147 tax return under Perry's plan, for example.

(Herman Cain's plan is worse. Nearly everybody making under $50,000 would see a huge tax increase.)

Perry's plan was unveiled the same day as a new Congressional Budget Office report showing economic inequality is widening in this country.

From 1979 to 2007, people in the richest 1 percent grew their after-tax income by 275 percent. T…

Rich Lowry: The poor have only themselves to blame

I wondered where National Review editor Rich Lowry was going with this. He spends the bulk of his column conceding that, yes, the American Dream is "raggedy around the edges," that if you're born poor in America, you're all too likely to stay poor, that "picking the right parents" seems to make more of a difference here than it does in (say) Finland for your future economic prospects.

So, God bless Lowry for providing some conservative reality-based pushback to Paul Ryan's fantasy of an economically mobile society.

But Lowry arrives at the end of his column—just two paragraphs to go!—and concludes that despite all this, one shouldn't blame America's economic structure—really, the poor have only themselves to blame:
This stagnation is less a statement about the structure of America’s economy than about its culture. As Ronald Haskins, also of the Brookings Institution, wrote in an essay for National Affairs, “economic mobility is constrained above…

Surprise me

Forgive me a brief, personal interlude, but something I've noticed about myself: I enjoy reading conservative writers like David Frum, Conor Friedersdorf, Rod Dreher, and Nicole Gelinas because, frequently, they stray off the reservation. I thought I just appreciated un-orthodoxy, but now I suspect that I enjoy reading them (too) because they sometimes agree with and confirm my own personal biases.

I'm trying to think of any writers I enjoy who might be described as A) liberal and B) unorthodox. No names come to mind. And that worries me about my own writing here, to be frank: I try to be on guard against hackery and tribalism, but it's damned hard to avoid those temptations when writing about politics.

Contrarianism for its own sake is just as lazy as any other unthinking ideological conformity, of course. But who can I read who will surprise me? How can I train myself to surprise myself on occasion?

Regulatory uncertainty: Still not the problem

Kevin Drum sums up a new report: "I'm not sure how many ways it's possible to debunk a single meme, but in this case it's a helluva lot. It turns out that (a) Obama has issued fewer regulations than Bush, (b) adjusted for inflation, they cost less than the average over the past 30 years, (c) this doesn't take into account the benefits of any of his regs anyway, and (d) only about 0.3% of mass layoffs during the Great Recession were related to new regulatory issues."

Read the whole thing.

Philadelphia: Does George Bochetto really pay more than half his income in taxes?

Stu Bykofsky, always the contrarian, uses his perch in the Philadelphia Daily News today to let the "Top 1 Percent" respond to the Occupy Wall Street protests. I found this excerpt to be particularly confounding:
How do the members of the "1 percent" feel? I asked three - Renee Amoore, Tom Knox and George Bochetto - each a local, unapologetic, self-made millionaire. They believe they already pay their "fair share" in federal taxes.

"I don't only pay the 35 percent," says Center City lawyer Bochetto, who was raised in an orphanage. "I also pay Social Security tax, state and city income tax, property tax. More than half of my income goes to the government. That's my fair share."
Due respect to Bochetto and his rise to riches from the orphanage. Good for him! But does he really pay more than half his income to the government? If so, he needs to hire a new accountant—immediately.

Why do I say that? Because the effective tax rate fo…

Did the Bush tax cuts increase or reduce revenue?

During my segment on the Morning in America show with Steve Hayward today, I tossed out the idea that—contrary to Laffer Curve expectations—the Bush tax cuts didn't actually increase revenue to government. That apparently resulted in some controversy after I left the air, with callers saying that I'm dead wrong on the topic.

The easiest response here is to note that before the Bush tax cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003, the federal government had a surplus of money to fund its operations and pay down the country's debt. After the tax cuts were enacted, we started borrowing money on a full-time basis.

That's not proof on its own, of course, because we tacked on some new spending obligations during the Bush Era—most notably the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, increased national security spending aside from those wars, and the expansion of Medicare benefits to cover prescription drugs.

So, hey, let's look at the revenues:

Bruce Bartlett writes: "According to a rec…

More guns, more death

Whenever a gun massacre happens—at Virginia Tech, say, or someplace else—we usually get a revival of the mostly neutered gun debate in this country. Some liberals decry lax gun laws, some conservatives suggest that if only everybody was armed you'd somehow see less gun violence.

A new study from the Violence Policy Center suggests the conservative analysis is wrong:
States with higher gun ownership rates and weak gun laws have the highest rates of gun death according to a new analysis by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) of just-released 2008 national data (the most recent available) from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The analysis reveals that the five states with the highest per capita gun death rates were Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Wyoming. Each of these states had a per capita gun death rate far exceeding the national per capita gun death rate of 10.38 per 100,000 for 2008. Each state …

Andrew Stiles is wrong: The problem with the economy is lack of demand.

At NRO, Andrew Stiles tries to prove the "regulatory uncertainty" canard is actually true:
A new Gallup survey asked small-business owners an open-ended question about what they viewed to be “the most important problem” facing the small-business community. It’s not “lack of demand,” as Democrats like to argue. In fact, 22 percent of respondents listed “complying with government regulations” as their top concern.Here's the graphic that Stiles uses as supporting evidence:

Notice anything about items 2 and 3 on that list? "Consumer confidence" and "lack of consumer" demand" are parsed out as two different items, but the effect is the same: Consumers who aren't confident are consumers who aren't buying stuff—thus, they're not demanding the products that businesses provide. Add those two up, and 27 percent of small-business owners see some variation of the demand side as being the biggest problem with the economy.

Which is, ahem, more than …

At the pizza joint.

Taken at Lazaros Pizza House

On gay marriage: Civil liberties are not a zero-sum game

I respect Rod Dreher's work on most things, even though I disagree with much of it, because he's thoughtful and eloquent and tries to think outside his own biases. Except when it comes to matters of sexuality: Then turns a bit shrill. So it is today, when he posts the story of a U.K. "housing manager" who received a demotion for criticizing gay marriage—on his own time. Says Dreher: "Move along, nothing to see here. It didn’t really happen, and if it did, this man, History’s Greatest Monster, must have deserved it for his thoughtcrime."

This is part of the argument made by Dreher—and anti-marriage conservatives more generally—that allowing gay marriage will necessarily entail a restriction on the rights of Christians to hate gay marriage. There's just one problem with the evidence they marshal in support of the argument: It's almost always from Europe, and Europe has a very different tradition with regards to civil liberties than the United States.

Mitt Romney, public health, and illegal immigrants

Kevin Drum takes stock of the "controversy" surrounding RomneyCare and the fact that illegal immigrants can get some medical care on the tab of Massachusetts taxpayers:
Somebody in a rival campaign presumably thinks this is a useful campaign issue because the slavering masses of the tea party base won't be appeased until illegal immigrants are literally writhing in the streets while doctors walk by and pointedly ignore them. Allowing them access to even last-ditch health services is unacceptable, even if the pointy-heads insist that we're saving money in the long run because it keeps them out of emergency rooms.At the risk of sounding collectivist, one of the reasons we have public health efforts is because health is so often collective. That illegal immigrant writhing in the street—and this imagery might be unfortunate—might have a communicable disease, and refusing to offer care to that person might end up communicating that disease to you. Giving them a free dose o…

Jonah Goldberg: Capitalism loves you, baby

Jonah Goldberg this morning delights in his own prescience in writing this 2008 column about how the children of capitalism are spoiled and ungrateful:
In large measure our wealth isn’t the product of capitalism, it is capitalism.

And yet we hate it. Leaving religion out of it, no idea has given more to humanity. The average working-class person today is richer, in real terms, than the average prince or potentate of 300 years ago. His food is better, his life longer, his health better, his menu of entertainments vastly more diverse, his toilette infinitely more civilized. And yet we constantly hear how cruel capitalism is while this collectivism or that is more loving because, unlike capitalism, collectivism is about the group, not the individual.

These complaints grow loudest at times like this: when the loom of capitalism momentarily stutters in spinning its gold. Suddenly, the people ask: What have you done for me lately? Politicians croon about how we need to give in to Causes Larg…

Bag O' Books: 'Moonlight Mile' by Dennis Lehane

Three thoughts about the novel 'Moonlight Mile' by Dennis Lehane:

• This is Lehane's most recent novel, but the first I've ever read. I'm not so ignorant of culture, though, that I don't know that his books have been adapted into acclaimed movies like "Mystic River" and "Gone Baby Gone," or that Lehane himself was a writer on "The Wire." Since I haven't read those earlier works, all I can say is that I can see how Lehane ended up so loved by Hollywood. His writing is cinematic—lean, funnier than I expected, full of violence. Plenty of internal monologues by the narrator—longtime Lehane hero Patrick Kinzie—that, in your head, you can easily hear as voiceover narration by Robert Downey Jr. It's easy, breezy fun.

• That said, this novel got me thinking about the distinction between genre fiction and literary fiction. "Moonlight Mile" seems a fairly straightforward pulp noir novel to me, yet Lehane seems to have cros…

Drop out of school, become a billionaire

Michael Ellsberg argues in the New York Times that we should emphasize entrepreneurship over education:
I TYPED these words on a computer designed by Apple, co-founded by the college dropout Steve Jobs. The program I used to write it was created by Microsoft, started by the college dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

And as soon as it is published, I will share it with my friends via Twitter, co-founded by the college dropouts Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and Facebook — invented, among others, by the college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, and nurtured by the degreeless Sean Parker.

American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.College isn't for everybody, sure, but this line…

The problem of humanitarian interventions

Something I've been wrestling with since I posted my opposition to the Uganda intervention is whether I could ever support an American military intervention on purely humanitarian grounds. I came of political age around the time of the Rwandan genocide, and I can say that it truly troubled my conscience at the time—and angered me greatly that the West stood by and watched while an entire region descended into hell. If my framework for supporting a military intervention wouldn't allow the United States to get involved, then two possibilities exist: The United States should never intervene on humanitarian grounds, or the framework doesn't work.

Spencer Ackerman today gets at the trouble inherent with humanitarian interventions conducted under a doctrine known as "Responsibility To Protect" on his blog today:
The uncomfortable truth is that a belief in human rights is a disruptive force in global affairs. It scrambles ideological boundaries and takes people down inte…

The 'regulatory uncertainty' canard

Ben and I discuss whether regulatory uncertainty is holding back the U.S. economy in this week's column. My take:
Let's be honest: "Regulatory uncertainty" is a euphemism for "regulations." Businesses -- and their mostly Republican allies -- don't want them.

We have regulations for a reason. The Dodd-Frank law passed because the financial industry proved it couldn't police itself and nearly destroyed the American economy. Richard Nixon created OSHA at a time when 14,000 employees were dying in the workplace every year; that number dropped 60 percent over the next 30 years. Left to their own devices, businesses often cut corners, resulting in financial and even physical harm to the rest of us.

Overregulation can stifle the economy. The Obama administration recognizes this -- and in August announced a reform effort to reduce regulatory burdens on business by $10 billion a year, mostly by streamlining required health, labor and tax paperwork. Obama even…

Does intervening in Uganda meet the Mathis Test?

Ooh. Self-referential headlines are ugly, aren't they? But back when President Obama announced the United States would intervene in Libya's civil war, I set out a list of questions to help guide me through decisions on supporting or not supporting America's military interventions abroad. Now that Qaddafi is dead, it's a good time to apply those questions to America's latest intervention—the sending of 100 troops to Central Africa to aid the fight against the brutal Lord's Resistance Army.

Here are the questions, slightly revised:

A: Does the party against whom the United States is considering military action threaten U.S. security? No. The Lord's Resistance Army isn't attacking the United States or United States' interests. Now that the U.S. is getting involved, though, maybe that changes.

B: Is the party against whom the United States is considering action committing genocidal-levels of violence, such that even by the standards of war or civil war t…

John Yoo: Obama didn't kill Qaddafi enough

Torture advocate John Yoo gives Obama some credit for Qaddafi's downfall, but with a caveat:
But Obama does not get full credit, I think, because he took so long to intervene. Recall that the U.S. intervened only after the U.N. Security Council approved intervention. Obama chose to wait until Qaddafi had driven the rebels into a last holdout in Benghazi. He chose to restrain our operations along the lines set out by the Security Council, which forbade ground troops. This prolonged the ouster of Qaddafi into a full-blown civil war and resulted in more disintegration of the nation’s institutions than was necessary. To the extent that it is harder to get a new government to stand up and to collect and control Libya’s arms, part of the blame must also go to Obama’s delay because of his undue sensitivity to foreign opinion and the U.N.Yoo doesn't really offer a basis for American intervention into Libya's foreign affairs that would demand unilateral American action, though. In …

The British Empire was the 'good' empire, right? Right?

In the British case, wherever they sought to plant their flag, they were met with opposition. In almost every colony they had to fight their way ashore. While they could sometimes count on a handful of friends and allies, they never arrived as welcome guests. The expansion of empire was conducted as a military operation. The initial opposition continued off and on, and in varying forms, in almost every colonial territory until independence. To retain control, the British were obliged to establish systems of oppression on a global scale, ranging from the sophisticated to the brutal. These in turn were to create new outbreaks of revolt.Over two centuries, this resistance took many forms and had many leaders. Sometimes kings and nobles led the revolts, sometimes priests or slaves. Some have famous names and biographies, others have disappeared almost without trace. Many died violent deaths. Few of them have even a walk-on part in traditional accounts of empire. Many of these forgotten pe…

Is it time to outlaw spanking?

The Welsh assembly seems to think so. And admittedly, I thought the idea sounded silly—like a bit of overwrought European do-gooderism, until I hit upon this quote:
Christine Chapman, one of the backbenchers who put forward a motion to the assembly to outlaw smacking, said she was delighted that members had backed the principle of a ban. She said: "This is a moral victory, an important step. But in the end we must get legislation against smacking."

Chapman said the UK was "out of step" with many countries around the world that had outlawed slapping. It was against the law to hit adults and it was "nonsensical" that it was deemed acceptable to hit children, she said.And that's a good point. Generally speaking, it's illegal for me to hit a person not in my care—but it's legal (within parameters) for me to spank a small, mostly defenseless person who depends on me for life?

I haven't spanked my 3-year-old son for while. But. There was a short …

In the age of the Internet, why does it matter than I live in the city?

A friend passes on a link to this interview with Witold Rybczynski, author of "Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville." This passage stood out:
Think of the difference between “town” and “country” one hundred years ago. It was absolute and affected what you ate, how you lived, the amenities to which you had access, and much more. I would argue that today the differences between amenities, resources, etc. available to someone living in an exurb outside Denver or Pittsburgh, and living in downtown Denver or Pittsburgh, while they have not disappeared, are slight. The fact that information, medical care, education, entertainment, and so on have dispersed is significant. I am not aruing that there are no differences at all, but rather that they have, for most people, diminished to the point of being trivial. Nor is the balance weighted to the city, as it once was. Suburban Philadelphians, for example, have more choice in department stores or food stores, than those living …

Why so many cops at Occupy Philly?

Juliana Reyes reports police lamentations that they're spending so much of their time and energy on the Occupy Philly protests:
For the first week and a half that Occupy Philly held court in City Hall, the Police Department's entire Neighborhood Services Unit was detailed to the protest to watch over its participants. That means for that week and a half, the roughly 30-officer unit, whose responsibilities include responding to abandoned vehicle complaints, recovering stolen cars and investigating reports of short dumping and graffiti, didn't exist in the rest of the city.

NSU's Sgt. Frank Spires said that all 3-1-1 complaints, as well as direct calls to the unit, were shelved until the detail was over.It's a shame that neighborhoods will go without the service—but is that necessary? Consider this: The entire Philadelphia Police Department has roughly 6,650 officers to police a city of 1.5 million people—roughly one officer per 225 residents.

The population at Occu…

Yeah, I like 'Amelie.' What of it? (Or: It's OK if you like the 'Star Wars' prequels.)

This Guardian essay on the 10th anniversary of 'Amelie' has me a little defensive, casting the movie as syrupy and cloying:
Amélie didn't bother to adjust to the 21st century at all. It revelled in its Eurodisneyfication of Montmartre, as Libération's Philippe Lançon put it. At the start of a decade of strife and realpolitik, it was already a film out of time, for the dreamers only. There is a pivotal scene where Audrey Tautou realises there is a banal explanation for the man who appears repeatedly in the album of discarded photobooth headshots: he is a photobooth repairman. This peek-behind-the-curtain feels like a Wizard of Oz homage, but unlike Dorothy, it doesn't liberate Amélie. She still needs someone else to shove her out of clotted fantasia, even when it threatens her happiness.You know what? I still love 'Amelie," still adore Audrey Tatou's performance in the film. It is charming and winsome—and yeah, more than a bit precious. But so what? It&#…

Is Goldman Sachs quarterly loss due to 'regulatory uncertainty?'

Maybe. But the New York Times doesn't offer any evidence to back up this assertion:
To improve their profitability, banks have three main options: increase revenues, cut expenses and reduce the shareholder base. But the first method is not working at a time when earnings have been crimped by regulatory uncertainty and economic woes.The reason I ask the question is that "regulatory uncertainty" is one of those Luntzian phrases—like "death tax," say—that Republicans toss around cavalierly. And it's true that Dodd-Frank regulations are altering the investment banking landscape. But is that the reason Goldman Sachs lost $428 million during the quarter?

Consider the very next paragraph in the Times' article:
Goldman reported a loss of $428 million during the third quarter, compared with a $1.74 billion profit a year ago. The firm was punished by its holdings in stocks and bonds, losing $1.05 billion on its holdings in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, …

Commenter's Corner: Andrew on Starbucks and small-biz credit

This is in the comments on my Starbucks post, but I think Andrew S. offers some good and interesting commentary that I want to highlight:
It really doesn't reduce new and small businesses to charity cases. It treats CDFIs--and the services they provide in the form of technical assistance and low-cost credit--as charity cases which almost all of them have always been. That's the innovation. I think this effort does a good service by recognizing that not all sources of credit are the same and that getting a loan as a small business is not merely a matter of declaring your interest in getting one. If you have a sexy internet company with high growth potential, money can be easy to come by. If you want to start a lawncare business, not so much. The "technical assistance" part of the picture is important as well. There are lots of people with great ideas for starting their own businesses who don't really know how to use debt effectively. Coupling loans with that kind o…

Michael Gerson on Uganda and the president's conscience

Michael Gerson offers what I think is the best defense of the president's decision to send 100 American soldiers to Africa to aid in the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army, but I think he makes a slight misstep at the end:
Some critics insist that military force should be used only to secure the narrowest definition of national interests. But it is the president, not his critics, who must live with the ethical consequences of inaction. And most presidents conclude, as Obama has done, that a broader national interest is advanced when America aids its friends and shows its decency.I think most of us want our president to have a conscience. But the presidency isn't about the president's conscience—few men or women who hold the office will leave the White House with their souls unbruised, I suspect. The president, to some extent, is required to get away from the mushiness of his own feelings and make cold, clear-eyed decisions based on A) what is allowed and permitte…

Starbucks becomes a microlender? (Or: Capitalism becomes a charity case)

Joe Nocera highlights Starbucks' new effort in the NYT:
Here’s the idea they came up with: Americans themselves would start lending to small businesses, with Starbucks serving as the middleman. Starbucks would find financial institutions willing to loan to small businesses. Starbucks customers would be able to donate money to the effort when they bought their coffee. Those who gave $5 or more would get a red-white-and-blue wristband, which Schultz labeled “Indivisible.” “We are hoping it will bring back pride in the American dream,” he says. The tag line will read: “Americans Helping Americans.”

It didn’t take long for Starbucks to find the perfect financial partner: Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs. These are lenders, mostly under the radar, that specialize in underserved communities. Most, but not all, CDFIs are nonprofit, and their loan default rates are extremely low. “We specialize in expending credit, getting paid back, and paying back our investors,” sa…

Dennis Prager: Occupy Wall Street is like Hitler

Dennis Prager goes there in his column for NRO today:
The major difference between Hitler and the Communist genocidal murderers, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, was what groups they chose for extermination.

For Hitler, first Jews and ultimately Slavs and other “non-Aryans” were declared the enemy and unworthy of life.

For the Communists, the rich — the bourgeoisie, land owners, and capitalists — were labeled the enemy and regarded as unworthy of life.

Hitler mass-murdered on the basis of race. The Communists on the basis of class.Yes, this is a column about the Occupy Wall Street movement. And it's clear that Prager would rather resort to tired old anti-Communist tropes rather than seriously examine the complaints of the protesters. Here's Prager, not getting it:
Being on the left means that you divide the world between rich and poor much more than you divide it between good and evil. For the leftist, the existence of rich and poor — inequality — is what constitutes evil. More than …

Today in Philadelphia police corruption

A 21-year veteran Philadelphia police officer was arrested Monday and charged with theft, receiving stolen property, and related offenses. Kevin Workman, 47, was arrested following an investigation conducted by the Internal Affairs Bureau and the District Attorney's Office. The Police Department did not provide further details about the case.via

No, college doesn't guarantee you a good job. But that's missing the point of Occupy Wall Street.

Many of the protesters I have met are understandably ruffled that they are unemployed, and they often finish their remonstrations with a non-sequitur, delivered as if it were a knockout blow: “And I went to college!” Well, one might ask, “So what?” I first noticed this “college = good life” fallacy back in England. A close friend of mine was looking for a job straight out of college, and remained unemployed for six months while he searched for what he described as a “graduate job.” Outside of those careers that rely on specific skills and expertise — doctors, veterinarians, and so forth — I have never been sure quite what this term means. My friend has a degree in modern history. Congratulations! But there is no obvious career path for this qualification. Why should it lend itself more to working in, say, finance than to working in a 7-Eleven? Compare this attitude to that exhibited by another friend of mine — a recently naturalized American citizen. After her parents escaped from th…

Stu Bykofsky's really bad bicycling idea

Traffic Court President Judge Thomasine Tynes, the new love of my life, wants to require the registration of bikes, just like other vehicles. When that idea was proposed two years ago by Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney, pedalists howled like coyotes. How dare they be asked to register? Condensed, and translated, the cyclists said, kind of like Dr. Seuss: "We are green! We are keen! We do not pollute the air! Registration is not fair!" Bicycling for Dummies 101 (There may be a quiz at the end): Under Pennsylvania law, bicycles are vehicles and must obey vehicular laws. That includes riding in the same direction as traffic, no blowing red lights, full stops at stop signs, no sidewalk-riding in business districts unless, chronologically, you are a child. (Acting like a child isn't good enough). If bikes are vehicles, you logically can ask why they shouldn't be registered like other vehicles - and the judge has. Tynes' reasons include the ability to retu…

We're at war in Afghanistan. We're at war *with* Pakistan.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan — American and Afghan soldiers near the border with Pakistan have faced a sharply increased volume of rocket fire from Pakistani territory in the past six months, putting them at greater risk even as worries over the disintegrating relationship between the United States and Pakistan constrain how they can strike back. Ground-to-ground rockets fired within Pakistan have landed on or near American military outposts in one Afghan border province at least 55 times since May, according to interviews with multiple American officers and data released in the past week. Last year, during the same period, there were two such attacks.via

'The Beautiful Struggle,' Occupy Wall Street, and the task of preparing for adulthood

Today I finished Ta-Nehisi Coates' memoir of growing up in West Baltimore in the 1980s, "The Beautiful Struggle," and found myself quite unsettled. Coates is of my generation, but his urban upbringing is about a million miles away from my rural Kansas adolescence. He had aging Black Panthers, the crack epidemic, and Chuck D. I had Friday night high school football games, spinning donuts in the county fairgrounds parking lot, and hair metal. And yet, in some respects, I identified: I too was often lost in a sci-fi fog, not really seeing the world around me clearly, and sometimes I got by on what other people perceived as my potential smarts rather than on clearly and efficiently applying those smarts to the tasks at hand.

Why would that unsettle me? Because, frankly, I'm not sure I've ever emerged from that fog the way Coates seems to by the end of the book. That troubles me for myself, but that also troubles me as I seek to guide my own young son in his growing p…