Reading Week

February 24, 2012

Some stuff I enjoyed reading from this week:

1. John Sides had a two-part series — here, and then responses to criticism here — on the obsession with negative political ads and the reality of their effectiveness. I suspect the Daisy ad from the ’64 election is one of the most overrated campaign messages of all time. As if that is what sunk Goldwaterism.

2. Seth Masket has normed the data by votes on that excellent David Gilson chart of spending in presidential elections. I’d still like to see something that took GDP or GDP/capita into account, but it’s one of the more fascinating “in one chart” links I’ve seen in a while.

3. Tom Pepinksy reviews a new paper on language and economic behavior. I’m not sure there’s more than a handful of people in America besides Tom who have the precise background — linguistics and political economy — necessary to give you that sort of analysis.

4. John Bernstein¬† had a nice quick hit knocking down the idea that Ross Perot had a substantive impact on 90′s budget politics. I’m not quite as sure that there was no effect — the man did spend millions of dollars on a campaign — but his point is dead-on relevant regardless: Ross Perot was not much of a policy factor, ever.

5. The guy who invented pinball — yes, that pinball — died … last Sunday! He was 100.

6. Ta-Nehisi Coates on good writing, and the authenticity of Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs. I discovered Grant’s memoirs one morning while cruising the stacks in Sterling Library at Yale. Destroyed an entire day (not that it’s hard to do that in graduate school, but) sitting there reading them. Absolutely wonderful writing.

7. Of course I agree with Matt Yglesias on the absurd food truck bans in many cities. Having lived in two sweet food truck towns — Albany, NY and New Haven, CT — I can personally vouch for their awesomeness.

8. I’m normatively against affirmative action, but only mildly; it’s within the nexus of my cost-of good-intentions objection to liberalism. I have, however, been saying for over a decade that, as a positive matter, it will fall once it starts to pit minorities against each other. To that end, I agree pretty much entirely with Ilya Somin’s predictions about the Fisher v. Texas case.

9. I’m bored with most of the writing about contraception. As a libertarian, Connor Friedersdorf’s tweets yesterday struck a cord with me — that we should subsidize birth control for the poor, and make it over the counter, but it doesn’t seem like a health insurance company not offering it is somehow a denial of “access” — but mostly I’m just resigned to the idea that taking health care public means these fights are going to be the norm. And that liberals need to be very careful: requirements that things be covered can quickly be converted into requirements that things not be covered.

10. Kevin Drum on the Death Star. One of the best first sentences I’ve read in a long time. “There’s been a lot of loose talk about the Death Star lately.” It’s great because it’s so true. Of course, my contention would be that there will never be a piece of Star Wars writing that tops this.

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