The Playstation Proof

by Henry Farrell on January 4, 2007

One of the more annoying libertarian shticks to us lefties is the “increasing poverty and inequality don’t matter because consumer spending is going Up! Up! UP! ! !” three card monte routine. I think it must surely have reached its apotheosis in this “failed November hack job on Edwards”: by Jeff Taylor in _Reason Online_ which I didn’t see until Nick Gillespie linked to it today.

However, the slapstick of the Edwards misstep should not obscure the really big picture, the fatal flaw in his “Two Americas” spiel. Many thousands of Americans evidently have $600 to spend on a video game machine. What’s more, this Christmas is expected to usher in the year of the flat-panel. With price points dropping below the $1000 mark, high-end TVs are moving down-market fast with Wal-Mart leading the way. Contrary to the Edwards’ pitch that labor-hostile companies are leaving American workers destitute, somebody is making some money out there in America. More importantly, they are making it in many, many cases without a union card. This reality will very hard [sic] for union-funded Democrats like Edwards to ignore as the 2008 presidential campaign unfolds. Hewing to the union rules, clear evidence of prosperity, like perhaps a shortage of $600 game machines, will have to be swept out of the campaign.

It isn’t hard for me to believe that someone would make the hilariously cackleheaded argument that because “many thousands” can afford a Playstation 3, economic inequality is a non-issue; I see this kind of guff in the comment sections of blogs all the time. But it is rather surprising that it’s being published by a sometimes quite interesting website as a purportedly serious contribution to political debate.

(As an aside, Taylor also introduces us to the interesting sounding concept of ‘Pythonseque depravation one-upsmanship;’ a spelling error trifecta unless depravation is a portmanteau term indicating Taylor’s opinion of the moral qualities of those wicked enough to be poor. Someone really needs to be proofreading the contributions to Reason’s website a little better).


by Jon Mandle on January 4, 2007

The Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association had its annual meeting last week. This year it was in Washington, and for the second straight year I attended but went to exactly zero sessions – I was conducting interviews. But the real excitement was at 4:30 am on Saturday when the fire alarm went off in the hotel. I basically assumed somebody had pulled a switch in a drunken stupor, but my wife and I decided not to take the time to get our 6-year-old dressed, so we just wrapped her up in her sleeping bag and I carried her down the hall to the stairs. We definitely smelled something burning when we passed the seventh floor, and as we waited outside some people were saying that they had crawled through part of the hall on the seventh floor because the smoke was so thick. The rumor was that one woman was taken away by ambulance after breathing in smoke, but I didn’t see that.

After about an hour (I’m guessing – I didn’t have a watch), we were allowed to go into the ballroom where we waited for another hour before being allowed back into our rooms. On the ground floor, there was some water damage from the sprinklers on the seventh. On our way back to our room we peeked into the seventh floor where the smell of smoke was strong and several of the doors had been broken down. No word on how it started, but I’m sure grateful that the alarms and sprinklers worked.

Last spring I put up a post about Randy Cohen, the NY Times Magazine “ethicist”, and I quoted the following passage from his book: “real virtue lies not in heroically saving poor orphans from burning buildings but in steadfastly working for a world where orphans are not poor and buildings have decent fire codes.” Let’s hear it for decent fire codes.

The Tipping Point

by Scott McLemee on January 4, 2007

warbler.jpg This YouTube video of our calico cat and a wind-up toy bird has had just over 9,000 hits. My wife initially put it up expecting that just a few friends would take a look. At some point, it went from a few dozen hits to several thousand. For the past couple of months, it has been poised to break the 10k barrier, but lost a lot of momentum somewhere along the way.

This is where you can help.

Besides, it seems like time finally to do my first CT post of 2007, and it was either this or something about the late Seymour Martin Lipset‘s place in the history of the Shermanite faction following its departure from the Workers Party. A tough decision. But I find that the video does not actually decrease my will to go on, so here it is.