Iran

by Ted on February 25, 2005

I recently wrote about seeing Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations, speak about the nuclear threat from Iran. At the time, he mentioned that he would be publishing a piece with Ken Pollack on the subject. I see, via Belgravia Dispatch, that it’s out.

The authors argue that the West cannot force Iran to stop their weapons program; they rule out a full-scale invasion, targeted bombing, or wishful thinking about a coup. But a combination of incentives and sanctions that provide Iran with significant economic benefits for nuclear compliance can make butter more appealing than guns. It’s a serious and detailed piece, well worth printing out and reading.

How likely is it that the Bush administration will pursue this path? I doubt that anyone has any better ideas, but after their pointed rejection of the comparable North Korean framework, it’d cause a bit of whiplash.

Absolute

by Ted on February 25, 2005

Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money has an interesting (and to me, convincing) case against Justices Thomas and Scalia, regarding California’s unofficial policy of bunking new inmates by race for the first 60 days. The court found, in a 5-3 decision, that the practice must stop unless it can meet the “strict scrutiny” standard. “As a result, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must now scrutinize the 25-year-old policy for hard evidence that it is necessary and works — a burden that will be hard to meet.” Thomas and Scalia dissented.

Says Lemieux:

The big problem is that it is egregiously inconsistent with (Thomas’s) previous reasoning in affirmative action cases, in which both he and Scalia (who joined Thomas’s dissent here) have argued that the “Constitution” is color-blind, with no exceptions.

Here’s Thomas in Grutter v. Bollinger. If segregation can, in extreme cases, be defensible, then surely the Court should defer to university officials (as well as the United State military and many Fortune 500 corporations) who deem that simply considering race as one factor among many accomplishes crucial goals, right? The answer, of course, is “no”…

Not only do Thomas and Scalia find that the “color-blind” Constitution permits state-mandated racial segregation, they don’t even believe the policy should be subject to strict scrutiny. “The Constitution is color-blind….unless you’re a prisoner, in which case racial classifications don’t even require heightened scrutiny” is a risibly untenable position.

Personally, I’m more than a little uncomfortable with racial segregation of prisoners, and it’s not obvious to me how the policy would reduce violence. However, I’m willing to accept that California’s prison officials know more than I do, and would have been willing to give them leeway; I’m making the assumption that the prison system showed evidence of the policy’s effectiveness to the circuit court. Luckily, I’m not philosophically wedded to colorblindness as an absolute good.

Moore Brothers

by Belle Waring on February 25, 2005

Because I love them so much, I want to throw the Moore Brothers a little CT whuffie. They are so awesome. Now they’ve gone in a more folk direction, but my favorite album is the rocking Thumb of the Maid album, a one-off from 1998. (I’ve talked to them about it, and for some reason they think of this as a partial failure, when it’s actually their best album. Go figure.) Thom Moore’s Spitting Songs is also amazing, and a few of the best songs are reprised on 2004’s Now Is The Time For Love. I’m trying to think how to describe their style, and it’s difficult. I once read a review that compared them unfavorably to Guided By Voices, and I was like, WTF does Guided By Voices have to do with anything? They have that family member harmony going on, the one that makes the Carter Family send chills up your spine. Funny lyrics: “took her to the beach/she thinks it’s Berkeley Bowl.” Also, the song “Hey Twelve”, which I assume is a joke about Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen”, and is one of the great songs of all time. My friend Daniel had the (I think brilliant) suggestion that they should take over from Phish on the continuous concert circuit, but they don’t actually sound anything like Phish. Anyway, despite my faults as a rock critic, you just have to take my word for it that they are great. You can listen to lotsa streaming mp3’s on their site. Go send them some love. (Also, did I ever tell you that you should love the High Llamas? That seems relevant somehow.)

Another pointy-headed post about the issues

by John Quiggin on February 25, 2005

After a longer break than I’d planned, I’m back for the second and final instalment of my series on the efficient markets hypothesis and its implications for Social Security reform and other issues. The first instalment is here.

Last time, I pointed out that, under the strong assumptions needed for the efficient markets hypothesis to hold, the diversion of social security funds to personal accounts makes no difference at all, since everyone can already choose their optimal portfolio, borrowing if necessary to finance equity investments. A more realistic version with borrowing constraints or high borrowing costs implies that either private accounts or diversification of the holdings of the Social Security Fund can be beneficial, and also that a range of other government interventions will be beneficial. (See also Matt Yglesias

In this post I want to look at the case I think is actually relevant, namely, where the efficient markets hypothesis is violated in so many ways as to be a poor guide to economic policy of any kind.
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