From the monthly archives:

May 2010

Come in Agent Netanyahu, mission almost accomplished

by Chris Bertram on May 31, 2010

I’m sure I’m not capable of putting the point better than Flying Rodent:

bq. Let’s say you were a cartoonish, Ahmadinejadesque lunatic fixated on destroying Israel. How would you go about achieving your goal?

Read the rest.

More Liberals In the Mist

by John Holbo on May 28, 2010

Rick Perlstein showed up in comments to my “Liberals In the Mist” thread – after I sort of roped him into it all – providing thoughts on his anthropological interest in conservatism and a confession of longstanding interest in primatology.

And over at the Corner K-Lo links to an interview with Andrew McCarthy on the Bill Bennett show, about McCarthy’s new book – Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. Round about minute 10 Bennett asks a ‘quick question’: “Does Barack Obama want the imposition of Sharia Law?” (Tough, but fair.) [click to continue…]

Shappi Khorsandi’s Teenage Diary

by Harry on May 27, 2010

It’s always nice when one’s parents arrive at a taste that one has also arrived at, but independently. Neither my dad nor I read a lot of fiction, but once a year we find out that we’re reading the same novel, rarely a recent one. With my mum its usually the radio — and she told me the other day that I might like Shappi Khorsandi (whom I am on record as adoring). She caught her on teenage diary and, indeed, she is not only loveable, but there are two moments when I started crying with laughter. Sorry, its only available for a few more hours.

Update: aha — and here she explains that her teenage poetry was inspired by Adrian Mole, which, indeed, it sounds like it was.

Stuart White on “Orange Book” liberalism

by Chris Bertram on May 27, 2010

I know, a second successive post linking to Stuart White at Next Left, but his analysis of “Orange Book” liberalism and its distance from egalitarian liberalism is deadly accurate, especially regarding David Laws (Chief Secretary to the Treasury and former VP at JP Morgan). Laws may not be a libertarian, but he may be the closest thing to it in the British political mainstream: certainly more Hayek than Hobhouse:

bq. Reading someone like David Laws, for example, there is at times a clear sense that the free market produces a distribution of income and wealth which is a kind of natural or moral baseline. It is departures from the baseline that have to be justified. Laws and other Orange Bookers are of course not libertarians, so they are prepared to allow that some departures – some tax-transfers/tax-service arrangements – can be justified. (This is the sense in which they remain social liberals, albeit not egalitarian ones.) But the presumption, for Laws, is clearly for ‘leaving money in people’s pockets’. This presumption runs completely counter to one of the basic claims of contemporary liberalism as developed in the work of such as Rawls, Dworkin and Ackerman.

White is quite right to say, of course, that egalitarian liberals also have serious difficulties with Labour on account of its dreadful record on civil liberties. But my sense is that quite a lot (though not all) of that record was the result of channeling the permanent agenda of the Home Office (note the way in which the Tories, in power advocated ID cards with Labour opposed, with the position reversing some time after 1997).

Liberals in the Mist

by John Holbo on May 27, 2010

Jonah Goldberg makes an interesting point, but I’m not sure it was quite supposed to come out the way it did. Namely, there is a recognizable sub-genre of liberal-progressive journo-punditry that might be termed ‘conservatives in the mist’. [click to continue…]

Conor Friedersdorf showed up promptly in comments to my last post, which was a response to his post, which was welcome. Dialogue! Unfortunately, we weren’t prompt in welcoming him. I think he got stuck in the queue for the longest time. Either that or I just missed him sitting up there at the top. Anyway, his response deserved something better than a 100-comments-late comment afterthought from me, when at last it came to my attention. So here goes. [click to continue…]

This post is theme-and-variations on my previous one. The issue: Barry Goldwater is lionized as an icon of conservative high principle and true philosophy. But his signature domestic issue was opposition to integration and civil rights legislation. If – like Rand Paul a week ago – you think his opposition was philosophically and Constitutionally correct and admirable, then bully for you. But if – like Rand Paul today, like most conservatives – you think Goldwater was wrong to oppose integration and civil rights legislation, then you need to explain how Goldwater’s conservative conscience failed him so utterly and comprehensively. One possibility: he was personally just a racist or opportunist, and that overrode his principles. But no, this answer is not accepted (by conservatives). Well then: either 1) he espoused wrong principles, or 2) he mis/over-applied them in some way. [click to continue…]

Trotsky discusses the Economic Crisis on Fox News

by Kieran Healy on May 25, 2010

The “Double Irish”

by Henry on May 24, 2010

Apropos of my piece on Ireland’s bubble economy for the _Washington Monthly,_ it does no good thing for a country’s reputation when they start naming tax dodges perfectly legitimate tax avoidance strategies after you.

bq. On advice from Ernst & Young, Forest Laboratories Ireland reorganized that year, dropping the country from its name. The newly dubbed Forest Laboratories Holdings Ltd. established a registered office in Hamilton, Bermuda, declaring the island its tax residence. This unit took control of licensing the patents. A second subsidiary in Ireland inherited the old name. It handled the manufacturing, sublicensing the rights to the patents, according to a corporate disclosure and an internal Forest flow chart tracing the arrangement that was reviewed by Bloomberg. The change helped the Irish subsidiary cut its effective tax rate to 2.4 percent from 10.3 percent the year before the reorganization, according to its annual reports. It did so by deducting from its taxable income the fees that went to Bermuda, which has no corporate income tax. Charlie Perkins, a spokesman for Ernst & Young, one of the so-called Big Four accounting firms, declined to comment on its work for Forest. International tax planners have a nickname for the type of structure the drugmaker adopted: the Double Irish. …

bq. Even though Forest described its Bermuda office as the Irish subsidiary’s “principal place of business” in a 2008 court filing, it has no employees on the island. The closest it comes to an actual presence is its registered office at Milner House, at 18 Parliament Street in Hamilton, a beige building nestled among the pastel structures of the island’s main commercial area. There, Coson Corporate Services Limited, part of law firm Cox Hallett Wilkinson, provides “corporate administrative services” for Forest Laboratories Holdings, according to Jeannette Monk, who identified herself as the company’s corporate administrator. Asked whether Forest had any employees there, she said, “This is a law firm.”

But perhaps “Double Dutch” would be better …

bq. To avoid another Irish tax, Forest’s profits don’t fly direct to Bermuda. They have a layover in Amsterdam. Fees paid to the Bermuda unit pass through yet another subsidiary, Forest Finance BV in the Netherlands, according to the internal Forest document, Dutch corporate records and a person familiar with the transaction. That route bypasses a 20 percent Irish withholding tax on certain royalties for patents, according to Richard Murphy, a U.K. accountant who worked on similar transactions and is director of Tax Research LLP. The structure takes advantage of an exemption from the levy if payments go to a company in another EU member state, Murphy said.

A really good article from Bloomberg – go and read it.

The shameful axing of the Child Trust Fund

by Chris Bertram on May 24, 2010

The Lib Dems (for it was their policy and not the Tories’) have axed the Child Trust Fund, which, as Stuart White points out over at Next Left, was one of those rare policies directly inspired by the egalitarian liberal theorizing of the past forty years. (h/t Virtual Stoa). (To discuss, head over to Next Left).

The Rand Paul vs. Civil Rights Act business has been fascinating.

I have particularly enjoyed attempts by Paul defenders to brush off the significance of his initial comments as ‘merely philosophical’ – as college bull-session irrelevancy, for which he is being unfairly held accountable. When, of course, the whole Tea Party point of Rand Paul’s candidacy is his libertarian-conservative philosophy, and his promise to stay true to the implications of it, as a legislator. (So the whole thing has been like this American Elf strip, but substitute ‘philosophy’ for ‘costume’.)

In walking this stuff back – in saying he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act, after all – Paul is walking back his longstanding, core philosophical commitments. So now we know: he is willing to vote for things things that, by his own lights, go against the Constitution and reduce individual liberty, in the most essential sense (freedom = unencumbered enjoyment of private property rights). This retreat really ought to be worse than out-and-out liberalism, again by Paul’s own lights, because liberals at least have the decency to be confused about what the Constitution says, having hallucinated commerce clause penumbrae that make it all ok. And liberals don’t value freedom all that highly, supposedly, so it’s not surprising that they are perfectly willing to chuck liberty into the fiery maw of the Moloch of ‘social justice’. At least there’s a failed god of socialism that they are doing it for. What’s Paul’s philosophical excuse? Why aren’t conservative-libertarians up in arms, complaining about this cowardly betrayal of Paul’s whole philosophy, after he got the nomination on the strength of his philosophy? Is no one willing to shout from the rooftops that Jim Crow – privately and informally enforced! – is the price we should be willing to pay for freedom? What’s the point of equating liberty with private property rights if you aren’t going to equate liberty with private property rights? Why are Paul’s defenders scrambling to make out how, plausibly, libertarianism should eliminate informal/social Jim Crow, once you clear away all legal, institutional, governmental forms of it? The essential point should be: even if it doesn’t, that’s not so important, because it’s not unjust. (Why would you be a propertarian sort of libertarian if you didn’t think so?)

Indeed, isn’t all this what Jonah Goldberg derides as ‘sherpa conservatism‘ – that is, the canard that conservatism is only acceptable as a more sure-footed means to liberal ends? So libertarian-conservatism is only acceptable if it conduces to a ‘nice’, racially-harmonious, integrated, multi-culti, ‘socially just’ society? When will libertarian-conservatives finally be willing to stand up for what their principles imply? Healthy civil society is based on bedrock respect for individual property rights. Period. [UPDATE: And formally equal political rights, true. But that doesn’t really change the equation.] It’s invidious to insinuate that a ‘nice’, integrated, racially harmonious, multi-culti, ‘socially just’ society must be our sole model of healthy civil society. (Yes, all that’s fine. But it’s not required, in principle, so you shouldn’t sacrifice principle for the sake of it. Sheesh. Barry Goldwater is spinning in his grave.)

Let’s consider David Bernstein’s latest post. [click to continue…]

Dog whistling from Labour’s would-be leaders

by Chris Bertram on May 23, 2010

So we have a reasonable range of would-be Labour leaders to choose from now: two Milibands, Andy Burnham, Ed Balls, Diane Abbot and John McDonnell. For US readers I should explain McDonnell – deputy to Ken Livingstone in the old GLC days – has no chance and Abbot almost none. Which is a pity since at least she’s refusing the distasteful dog-whistling on immigration that is central to the Burnham and Balls campaigns. There’s a good piece on the issue in the Guardian by John Harris (h/t MoN). Harris goes a bit easy on Miliband E’s for my liking – and that’s even though I’m backing EM myself.

The case of the disappearing teaspoons

by Kieran Healy on May 23, 2010

Morning and Afternoon Tea are the twin social hubs of Australian academia, so it’s only natural that a disturbing tearoom phenomenon would be noticed, investigated and subsequently published in the British Medical Journal: The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute.

Objectives To determine the overall rate of loss of workplace teaspoons and whether attrition and displacement are correlated with the relative value of the teaspoons or type of tearoom. Design Longitudinal cohort study. Setting Research institute employing about 140 people. Subjects 70 discreetly numbered teaspoons placed in tearooms around the institute and observed weekly over five months. Main outcome measures Incidence of teaspoon loss per 100 teaspoon years and teaspoon half life.

Results 56 (80%) of the 70 teaspoons disappeared during the study. The half life of the teaspoons was 81 days. The half life of teaspoons in communal tearooms (42 days) was significantly shorter than for those in rooms associated with particular research groups (77 days). The rate of loss was not influenced by the teaspoons’ value. The incidence of teaspoon loss over the period of observation was 360.62 per 100 teaspoon years. At this rate, an estimated 250 teaspoons would need to be purchased annually to maintain a practical institute-wide population of 70 teaspoons.

Conclusions The loss of workplace teaspoons was rapid, showing that their availability, and hence office culture in general, is constantly threatened.

Follow the link and scroll down for the long correspondence that followed. Notable contributions include “Teabags and forks are confounding factors“, “Communism and Biros“, “Global Implications, Impending Catastrophe“, and “Could teaspoons be the larvae of some unrecognised adult?

Martin Gardner has died

by Henry on May 23, 2010

Details “here”:http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/05/22/martin-gardner-1914-2010/. Michael Dirda “wrote a lovely article”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/21/AR2009102103700.html on his last book (which I haven’t read) a few months ago. I don’t know whether I prefer Gardner’s “Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science” (one of the two lodestones of this literature, along with Sladek’s “The New Apocrypha”), his collections of light articles on mathematics, or the “Annotated Alice.” They were all wonderful.

J.A.G Griffith is dead

by Chris Bertram on May 21, 2010

The Times has an “obituary for J.A.G. Griffith”:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article7130873.ece , whose _The Politics of the Judiciary_ was required reading for a whole generation of students of politics and law. A sad loss, and especially at a time when there are renewed signs of judicial activism against the trade union movement in the UK.