February 2, 2018

QotD: Infrastructural sclerosis

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I have an op-ed in the Boston Globe today on infrastructure, addressing the issue of quality rather than quantity of investment. Rachel Lipson, a graduate student at Harvard, and I describe the fiasco that has emerged from what should have been a routine maintenance project on the Anderson Memorial Bridge over the Charles River next to my office in Cambridge. Though the bridge took only 11 months to build in 1912, it will take close to five years to repair today at a huge cost in dollars and mass delays.

Investigating the reasons behind the bridge blunders have helped to illuminate an aspect of American sclerosis — a gaggle of regulators and veto players, each with the power to block or to delay, and each with their own parochial concerns. All the actors — the historical commission, the contractor, the environmental agencies, the advocacy groups, the state transportation department — are reasonable in their own terms, but the final result is wildly unreasonable.

At one level this explains why, despite the overwhelming case for infrastructure investment, there is so much resistance from those who think it will be carried out ineptly. The right response is to advocate for reforms in procurement policies, regulatory policies and government procedures to make the investment process more efficient and effective. This is all clear enough.

At another level, though, our story may illustrate phenomena that go way beyond infrastructure. I’m a progressive, but it seems plausible to wonder if government can build a nation abroad, fight social decay, run schools, mandate the design of cars, run health insurance exchanges, or set proper sexual harassment policies on college campuses, if it can’t even fix a 232-foot bridge competently. Waiting in traffic over the Anderson Bridge, I’ve empathized with the two-thirds of Americans who distrust government.

Larry Summers, “Why Americans don’t trust government”, Washington Post, 2016-05-26.

May 4, 2016

QotD: The Puritans

Filed under: Britain, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I hear about these people every Thanksgiving, then never think about them again for the next 364 days. They were a Calvinist sect that dissented against the Church of England and followed their own brand of dour, industrious, fun-hating Christianity. Most of them were from East Anglia, the part of England just northeast of London. They came to America partly because they felt persecuted, but mostly because they thought England was full of sin and they were at risk of absorbing the sin by osmosis if they didn’t get away quick and build something better. They really liked “city on a hill” metaphors.

I knew about the Mayflower, I knew about the black hats and silly shoes, I even knew about the time Squanto threatened to release a bioweapon buried under Plymouth Rock that would bring about the apocalypse. But I didn’t know that the Puritan migration to America was basically a eugenicist’s wet dream.

Much like eg Unitarians today, the Puritans were a religious group that drew disproportionately from the most educated and education-obsessed parts of the English populace. Literacy among immigrants to Massachusetts was twice as high as the English average, and in an age when the vast majority of Europeans were farmers most immigrants to Massachusetts were skilled craftsmen or scholars. And the Puritan “homeland” of East Anglia was a an unusually intellectual place, with strong influences from Dutch and Continental trade; historian Havelock Ellis finds that it “accounts for a much larger proportion of literary, scientific, and intellectual achievement than any other part of England.”

Furthermore, only the best Puritans were allowed to go to Massachusetts; Fischer writes that “it may have been the only English colony that required some of its immigrants to submit letters of recommendation” and that “those who did not fit in were banished to other colonies and sent back to England”. Puritan “headhunters” went back to England to recruit “godly men” and “honest men” who “must not be of the poorer sort”.

Scott Alexander, “Book Review: Albion’s Seed“, Slate Star Codex, 2016-04-27.

August 22, 2015

Coming soon to Massachusetts (maybe) – pot pubs

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Forbes, Jacob Sullum looks at the finalized ballot initiative to be presented to Massachusetts voters in the next general election:

When the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts unveiled the text of its 2016 legalization initiative this month, the group highlighted several features of the measure but omitted the most interesting one. The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would allow consumption of cannabis products on the premises of businesses that sell them, subject to regulation by the state and approval by local voters.

That’s a big deal, because until now no jurisdiction has satisfactorily addressed the obvious yet somehow touchy question of where people can consume the cannabis they are now allowed to buy. The legalization initiatives approved by voters in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska all promised to treat marijuana like alcohol, which implies allowing venues similar to taverns where people can consume cannabis in a social setting. Yet all four states say businesses that sell marijuana may not let customers use it on the premises.

Although a few “bring your own cannabis” (BYOC) clubs have popped up to accommodate people who want to use marijuana outside their homes from time to time, the legality of such establishments is a matter of dispute. The result is that people can openly buy marijuana without fear, but they still have to consume it on the sly, just like in the bad old days. The problem is especially acute for visitors from other states, since pot-friendly hotels are still pretty rare.

December 3, 2014

The Tech Model Railroad Club’s role in the rise of the hacking community

Filed under: Railways, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Steven Levy talks about one of the less likely origins of part of the hacking world — MIT’s model railroad club:

Peter Samson had been a member of the Tech Model Railroad Club since his first week at MIT in the fall of 1958. The first event that entering MIT freshmen attended was a traditional welcoming lecture, the same one that had been given for as long as anyone at MIT could remember. LOOK AT THE PERSON TO YOUR LEFT … LOOK AT THE PERSON TO YOUR RIGHT … ONE OF YOU THREE WILL NOT GRADUATE FROM THE INSTITUTE. The intended effect of the speech was to create that horrid feeling in the back of the collective freshman throat that signaled unprecedented dread. All their lives, these freshmen had been almost exempt from academic pressure. The exemption had been earned by virtue of brilliance. Now each of them had a person to the right and a person to the left who was just as smart. Maybe even smarter.

There were enough obstacles to learning already — why bother with stupid things like brown-nosing teachers and striving for grades? To students like Peter Samson, the quest meant more than the degree.

Sometime after the lecture came Freshman Midway. All the campus organizations — special-interest groups, fraternities, and such — set up booths in a large gymnasium to try to recruit new members. The group that snagged Peter was the Tech Model Railroad Club. Its members, bright-eyed and crew-cutted upperclassmen who spoke with the spasmodic cadences of people who want words out of the way in a hurry, boasted a spectacular display of HO gauge trains they had in a permanent clubroom in Building 20. Peter Samson had long been fascinated by trains, especially subways. So he went along on the walking tour to the building, a shingle-clad temporary structure built during World War II. The hallways were cavernous, and even though the clubroom was on the second floor it had the dank, dimly lit feel of a basement.

The clubroom was dominated by the huge train layout. It just about filled the room, and if you stood in the little control area called “the notch” you could see a little town, a little industrial area, a tiny working trolley line, a papier-mache mountain, and of course a lot of trains and tracks. The trains were meticulously crafted to resemble their full-scale counterparts, and they chugged along the twists and turns of track with picture-book perfection. And then Peter Samson looked underneath the chest-high boards which held the layout. It took his breath away. Underneath this layout was a more massive matrix of wires and relays and crossbar switches than Peter Samson had ever dreamed existed. There were neat regimental lines of switches, and achingly regular rows of dull bronze relays, and a long, rambling tangle of red, blue, and yellow wires—twisting and twirling like a rainbow-colored explosion of Einstein’s hair. It was an incredibly complicated system, and Peter Samson vowed to find out how it worked.

There were two factions of TMRC. Some members loved the idea of spending their time building and painting replicas of certain trains with historical and emotional value, or creating realistic scenery for the layout. This was the knife-and-paintbrush contingent, and it subscribed to railroad magazines and booked the club for trips on aging train lines. The other faction centered on the Signals and Power Subcommittee of the club, and it cared far more about what went on under the layout. This was The System, which worked something like a collaboration between Rube Goldberg and Wernher von Braun, and it was constantly being improved, revamped, perfected, and sometimes “gronked” — in club jargon, screwed up. S&P people were obsessed with the way The System worked, its increasing complexities, how any change you made would affect other parts, and how you could put those relationships between the parts to optimal use.

March 9, 2014

QotD: Puritan art

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:35

The saddest thing that I have ever heard in the concert hall is Herbert K. Hadley’s overture, “In Bohemia.” The title is a magnificent piece of profound, if unconscious irony. One looks, at least, for a leg flung in the air, a girl kissed, a cork popped, a flash of drawer-ruffles. What one encounters is a meeting of the Lake Mohonk Conference. Such prosy correctness and hollowness, in music, is almost inconceivable. It is as if the most voluptuous of the arts were suddenly converted into an abstract and austere science, like comparative grammar or astro-physics. Who’s Who in America says that Hadley was born in Somerville, Mass., and “studied violin and other branches in Vienna.” A prodigy thus unfolds itself: here is a man who lived in Vienna, and yet never heard a Strauss waltz! This, indeed, is an even greater feat than being born an artist in Somerville.

H.L. Mencken, “The Allied Arts: The Puritan as Artist”, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920.

July 3, 2013

The most blatant display of “one law for the rich, one law for the poor”

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:54

Reason‘s Mike Riggs points out the most amazing part of the Aaron Hernandez case:

Let me paint the scene for you: It’s broad daylight out. A group of six Massachusetts State Police officers in suits and ties approach Hernandez’s North Attleborough mansion from the front. Three of them walk up the steps of his porch, and — with their guns holstered — knock on the door. After roughly 50 seconds of knocking and doorbell-ringing, a shirtless Hernandez opens the door and lets six suited staties, plus a cop in uniform, come inside. As one officer starts to cuff Hernandez right there in the foyer, another officer closes the door, presumably to provide Hernandez with some privacy. A few seconds later, Hernandez — now with a tee-shirt pulled over his handcuffed arms and torso — is led outside to a cop car, where officers gently lower him into the back seat and put on his seatbelt.

No battering ram. No flashbangs. No paramilitary gear. I was shocked.

Compare and contrast this arrest — for homicide — with this arrest first reported by Radley Balko:

In 2011, a SWAT team conducted a midnight raid on Stamps’ home in Framingham looking for a couple of small-time crack dealers. In the chaos and cloud of adrenaline that results from knocking down someone’s door and flooding his home with men dressed like soldiers, an officer shot Stamps in the neck, killing him. The city’s chief of police would later say that Stamps was “tragically and fatally struck by a bullet which was discharged from a SWAT officer’s rifle”; as if guns fire themselves.

When police eventually found who they were looking for — not Stamps, but his stepson and the stepson’s cousin — neither of them was armed. Nor did police find any firearms in the house.

It almost sounds backwards, doesn’t it? Killing an unarmed senior citizen in the process of arresting two unarmed kids holding a couple hundred bucks and some crack, while sending guys in their Sunday best to bring in a man allegedly involved in not just one violent, gang-related murder, but three?

[. . .]

This trend isn’t limited to Massachusetts. Across the country, poor people experience an entirely different criminal justice system — from arrest to prosecution — than the wealthy. Oftentimes, this means blacks are treated more harshly than whites and that the people who sell illegal drugs for money are treated differently than bankers who launder that money.

While football fans are free to care about whatever they want, the most shocking aspect of the Hernandez case isn’t that an incredible athlete killed anywhere from one to three people, it’s that the location of his home and the name of his employer bought him courtesies that poor, nonviolent offenders committing consensual crimes seldom experience.

Update: The Hernandez case gets even more weird:

Investigators in the Aaron Hernandez murder case were prepared to interview a Bristol man who was killed early Sunday when he crashed a car registered to his father-in-law, the former New England Patriot tight end’s uncle.

Multiple law enforcement sources said Massachusetts investigators were interested in speaking with Thaddeus Singleton III, 33, because he was associated with Hernandez. Singleton, who records show has served time in state prisons on various drug-related convictions dating to the mid-1990s, was killed when the car he was driving shot 100 feet through the air and hit the Farmington Country Club 6 feet off the ground.

Maybe this is something new in Nissan automotive technology, but it’s a rare vehicle that can shoot 100 feet through the air and impact a building six feet up? Impressive.

April 19, 2013

Tracking the Boston Marathon bombers

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:07

As a one-man blogging operation, I won’t even pretend to stay on top of the story from Boston. Colby Cosh, on the other hand, has a useful post at Maclean’s to bring you up to date on the news so far:

It has been a night of extraordinary scenes from Boston as the late shift gawps at an unfolding true-crime story as extraordinary as any since the O.J. Simpson saga. Earlier in the day the FBI published photos of two suspects in Tuesday’s bombing attack on the Boston Marathon. Men closely matching the description of those individuals knocked over a 7-Eleven in the city Thursday night, then are alleged to have slain a transit cop on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and briefly taken a hostage. They were tracked to the suburb of Watertown, where they engaged in a spectacular firefight with at least a dozen different police forces. One man, the suspected marathon bomber depicted wearing a black cap in the FBI photos, seems to have rushed the police with an explosive attached to his chest; he was dead on arrival at hospital and doctors said he presented with “blast injuries to the trunk” along with an uncountable number of bullet holes. The other man, the one supposedly spotted at the marathon wearing a white cap, clambered into a vehicle, drove through the police cordon, and remains at large.

The entire city of Boston has been locked down while they search for the surviving bomber, identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The dead suspect was his older brother.

September 30, 2012

If you’re not getting enough convictions on drug charges, tamper with the evidence at the lab

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:56

The war on drugs is already insane enough, with civil liberties being curtailed in pursuit of drug dealers and even drug users. The number of US citizens in prison for drug charges helps make the US one of the most-imprisoned societies in the world. But even with all that, things can still get worse, as this story from the Huffington Post shows:

“Annie Dookhan’s alleged actions corrupted the integrity of the entire criminal justice system,” state Attorney General Martha Coakley said during a news conference after Dookhan’s arrest. “There are many victims as a result of this.”

Dookhan faces more than 20 years in prison on charges of obstruction of justice and falsely pretending to hold a degree from a college or university. She testified under oath that she holds a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, but school officials say they have no record of her receiving an advanced degree or taking graduate courses there.

State police say Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the fallout.

[. . .]

Verner said Dookhan later acknowledged to state police that she sometimes would take 15 to 25 samples and instead of testing them all, she would test only five of them, then list them all as positive. She said that sometimes, if a sample tested negative, she would take known cocaine from another sample and add it to the negative sample to make it test positive for cocaine, Verner said.

September 5, 2012

“What kind of Mormon is Mitt Romney?”

Filed under: History, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:41

L. Neil Smith says that — unlike most of the Mormons he’s met in real life — Mitt Romney “has the same respect for individual liberty and the Bill of Rights that a dog has for a fire hydrant.”

Now I asked jokingly a while back on FaceBook, what kind of Mormon is Mitt Romney? One side of his family let the United States Cavalry drive them into Mexico (despite the constraints of the First Amendment), rather than give up what they believed in. But if Romney was a Mormon like that, at his age, with his wealth, he’d have sixteen wives by now.

Instead, he’s the kind of Mormon who rolled over like an obedient cur and changed their customs so they could be a state. The irony is that, hating gun ownership as he does (the list of his crimes against the Second Amendment is as long as Brigham Young’s wagon train) and favoring abortion and government healthcare, as he has, he couldn’t get himself elected in Utah even throwing around the kind of money he has.

So, skipping Michigan, where he grew up, he went to the Massachusetts S.S.R, and began the sort of lying and cheating that recently got him his Presidential nomination. He claimed to have “fixed” the Olympics, but the numbers are in now, and the man’s a fraud. He couldn’t make the residence requirement in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts so he most likely bought his way around the ballot laws, as he buys his way around everything, exactly like a Kennedy.

The silliest, most dangerous thing in the world is a communist with money. Look at Michael Moore. Look at Bono. Look at Rosie O’Donnell. No, you don’t really have to. It was just a rhetorical exercise. Twenty years ago, I heard Cher admit on TV that she was a grown woman and married before she realized that Mount Rushmore is not a natural phenomenon. These people have the intellect of a boiled onion.

August 20, 2012

The butterflies of doom

Filed under: Environment, Media, Science, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:57

In The Register, Lewis Page tries to round up the varied results of some recent biodiversity/climate change reports:

A volley of studies into the likely effects of climate change on various animal species — and thus on biodiversity worldwide — have come out in the last few days. The headliner, examining butterflies in Massachusetts, seems to indicate that rising temperatures are having powerful ecological effects: but another pair of studies showed that other factors may be more powerful than warming, and yet another appears to indicate that dangers are being overblown.

[. . .]

“For most butterfly species, climate change seems to be a stronger change-agent than habitat loss. Protecting habitat remains a key management strategy, and that may help some butterfly species. However, for many others, habitat protection will not mitigate the impacts of warming,” comments study author and Harvard postdoc Greg Breed.

Open and shut, then — the warming seen from the 1980s to the turn of the century has already seriously affected butterflies, and projected future warming will surely mean more serious consequences. Many people, indeed, have not hesitated to link recent severe weather events in the States to global warming — despite a refutation of this idea from no less a body than the IPCC. But as it is well known to all followers of pop-science coverage that just one butterfly beating — or not beating — its wings can have major effects on the weather in the northeastern United States, it seems only reasonable to suggest that the invading Zabulon Skippers, apparently wafted into Massachusetts by global warming, are responsible for recent storms, floods, heatwaves etc.

[. . .]

Or, in summary, scientists don’t really know what will happen to any given species in future.

“Taken together, these two studies indicate that many species have been responding to recent climate change, yet the complexities of a species’ ecological needs and their responses to habitat modification by humans can result in unanticipated responses,” says Steven Beissinger, professor at UC Berkeley and senior boffin on both studies. “This makes it very challenging for scientists to project how species will respond to future climate change.”

Yet another recent study announced in the past week goes still further, suggesting that the danger to Earth’s biodiversity posed by rising temperatures has been exaggerated.

May 5, 2012

The “Fauxcahontas” affair

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:44

Mark Steyn on the controversy swirling around Massachusetts senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren over her on-again-off-again claim to having First Nations ancestry:

How does she know she’s a Cherokee maiden? Well, she cites her grandfather’s “high cheekbones,” and says the Indian stuff is part of her family “lore.” Which was evidently good enough for Harvard Lore School when they were looking to rack up a few affirmative-action credits. The former Obama Special Advisor to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and former Chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel now says that “I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group, something that might happen with people who are like I am,” and certainly not for personal career advancement or anything like that. Like everyone else, she was shocked, shocked to discover that, as The Boston Herald reported, “Harvard Law School officials listed Warren as Native American in the ’90s, when the school was under fierce fire for their faculty’s lack of diversity.”

So did the University of Texas, and the University of Pennsylvania. With the impertinent jackanapes of the press querying the bona fides of Harvard Lore School’s first Native American female professor, the Warren campaign got to work and eventually turned up a great-great-great-grandmother designated as Cherokee in the online transcription of a marriage application of 1894.

Hallelujah! In the old racist America, we had quadroons and octoroons. But in the new post-racial America, we have – hang on, let me get out my calculator – duoettrigintaroons! Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when men would be judged not on the color of their skin but on the content of their great-great-great-grandmother’s wedding license application. And now it’s here! You can read all about it in Elizabeth Warren’s memoir of her struggles to come to terms with her racial identity, Dreams From My Great-Great-Great-Grandmother.

Alas, the actual original marriage license does not list Great-Great-Great-Gran’ma as Cherokee, but let’s cut Elizabeth Fauxcahontas Crockagawea Warren some slack here. She couldn’t be black. She would if she could, but she couldn’t. But she could be 1/32nd Cherokee, and maybe get invited to a luncheon with others of her kind – “people who are like I am,” 31/32nds white – and they can all sit around celebrating their diversity together. She is a testament to America’s melting pot, composite pot, composting pot, whatever.

Just in case you’re having difficulty keeping up with all these Composite-Americans, George Zimmerman, the son of a Peruvian mestiza, is the embodiment of endemic white racism and the reincarnation of Bull Connor, but Elizabeth Warren, the great-great-great-granddaughter of someone who might possibly have been listed as Cherokee on an application for a marriage license, is a heartwarming testimony to how minorities are shattering the glass ceiling in Harvard Yard. George Zimmerman, redneck; Elizabeth Warren, redskin. Under the Third Reich’s Nuremberg Laws, Ms. Warren would have been classified as Aryan and Mr. Zimmerman as non-Aryan. Now it’s the other way round. Progress!

May 30, 2011

Licensing Salem’s witches

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:20

Katie Zezima reports on the surge of witches looking to be licensed in Salem, Massachusetts, after the city council made it easier to get a license:

“It’s like little ants running all over the place, trying to get a buck,” grumbled Ms. Szafranski, 75, who quit her job as an accountant in 1991 to open Angelica of the Angels, a store that sells angel figurines and crystals and provides psychic readings. She says she has lost business since the licensing change.

“Many of them are not trained,” she said of her rivals. “They don’t understand that when you do a reading you hold a person’s life in your hands.”

[. . .]

But not everyone is sure that quantity can ensure quality. Lorelei Stathopoulos, formerly an exotic dancer known as Toppsey Curvey, has been doing psychic readings at her store, Crow Haven Corner, for 15 years. She thinks psychics should have years of experience to practice here.

“I want Salem to keep its wonderful quaint reputation,” said Ms. Stathopoulos, who was wearing a black tank top that read “Sexy witch.” “And with that you have to have wonderful people working.”

Under the 2007 regulations, psychics must have lived in the city for at least a year to obtain an individual license, and businesses must be open for at least a year to hire five psychics. License applicants are also subject to criminal background checks.

October 3, 2010

Personal responsibility is key

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:41

A post at The Economist looks at the ongoing debate on liberal/libertarian joint concerns:

My colleague noted the other day the discussion Matthew Yglesias has been having with his readers over whether liberals and libertarians can agree on some regulations they both hate. So, here’s a regulation I hate: you’re not allowed to swim across the lake anymore in Massachusetts state parks. You have to stay inside the dinky little waist-deep swimming areas, with their bobbing lines of white buoys. There you are, under a deep blue New England summer sky, the lake laid out like a mirror in front of you and the rocks on the far shore gleaming under a bristling comb of red pine; you plunge in, strike out across the water, and tweet! A parks official blows his whistle and shouts after you. “Sir! Sir! Get back inside the swimming area!” What is this, summer camp? Henry David Thoreau never had to put up with this. It offends the dignity of man and nature. You want to shout, with Andy Samberg: “I’m an adult!

I would gladly join any movement that promised to do away with this sort of nonsense. For example, Philip K. Howard’s organisation “Common Good” works on precisely this agenda. Common Good’s very bugaboo is useless, wasteful legal interference in schools, health care, recreation, and so on. But what you quickly note with many of these issues is that they’re driven by legal liability concerns. You have a snowblader in Colorado suing a resort because she crashed into someone. You have states declining to put up road-hazard signs because the signs prove they knew the hazard was there, which could render them liable for damages. You have the war on children’s playgrounds. The Massachusetts swimming ban, too, is driven by liability concerns. The park officials in Massachusetts aren’t really trying to minimise the risk that you might drown. They’re trying to minimise the risk that you might sue. The problem here, as Mr Howard says, isn’t simply over-regulation as such. It’s a culture of litigiousness and a refusal to accept personal responsibility. When some of the public behave like children, we all get a nanny state.

As Robert Heinlein put it, “The whole principle is wrong; it’s like demanding that grown men live on skimmed milk because the baby can’t eat steak.”

January 19, 2010

QotD: Time to panic

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 13:11

Jonathan Cohn headlines his latest plea to ignore a Brown win and pass health care anyway “Pelosi Isn’t Panicking. Her Party Should Listen.” Umm, call me cynical, but maybe the reason Pelosi isn’t panicking is that Pelosi’s got one of the safest seats in the country? I mean, take this for what it’s worth but if Brown wins today, my advice to Blanche Lincoln, and Ben Nelson, and their counterparts in the house? You should panic. They’re coming for you next.

Hell, If I were Blanche Lincoln, anyone in the leadership who wanted to get me to the floor for a health care vote would have to pry me out of the darkened room where they’d find me huddled in the corner, rocking back and forth and crying. Maybe Cohn’s right and the thing’s too far gone to save, so you might as well vote for it anyway. But that’s not exactly soothing, is it?

Megan McArdle, “Time to Panic”, Asymmetrical Information, 2010-01-19

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