THE SCENE |
Comments on current ideas and events
CHOOSING A DOCTOR: Here's an email from reader John Lanius that I wish I'd gotten months ago, when I was making my physician selection. I could have avoided a lot of aggravation, not to mention time in extremely crowded waiting rooms. I pass it on both for Dallas readers considering Lasik and, more important, for the information John's surgeon provided on what was going on.
Congratulations on the Lasik surgery. I hope your recovery proceeds well. I had the surgery two and a half years ago, in Dallas. Pre-operation, my prescription was -5.00 diopters in my right eye and -4.5 in my left (not sure how that works out in the 20/xxx terminology).
John's mention of water-skiing reminds me of one of my motivations for getting the surgery. I am hoping when all this is over that I can go to the beach, and even in the water, and see where I am. Thanks to my book's publication delay, a Hawaiian vacation looks like a possibility.
But now I'm off to Washington for a Hoover Institution/Policy Review conference on "The Politics of Prosperity." I'm on the opening panel with David Brooks, HOlman Jenkins, and Sebastian Mallaby. (It's at the St. Regis tomorrow. I can't find information online, but if you can email Kerrie Rezac at email@example.com or call 202-380-0620.)
I won't have a chance to post more until Friday at the earliest. If you want to know my thoughts about the SOTU, listen to Hugh Hewitt's show this evening at 7:30 Easter. And look for my NYT column on Thursday. [Posted 1/29.]
SECOND THOUGHTS: President Bush was winding up the discussion of AIDS in Africa when I finally got in to see Dr. Boothe for the final stage of my 4:45 Lasik follow-up appointment. Like many other patients, I'd spent nearly four hours in the waiting room. (We'd bonded to the point of applauding whenever someone's name was called.) Then they jerked me out right as the president was getting to the important part of the speech.
I was doubly grumpy because my corrected eyesight has deteriorated so that by evening I'm almost certainly driving illegally. (If they'd told me my 4:45 appointment wouldn't start until at least 7:00—instead of insisting that 4:45 was as late as they could possibly take me—I could have gotten Steve to drive me.) I wake up with contact-lens-level correction, but it declines within an hour to maybe 20/70. By the end of the day, I'd guess it's at about 20/200. Not that the doctor or his staff would share any numbers with me.
Now I'm triply grumpy because Dr. Boothe snappily diagnosed my problem as dry eyes, despite my frequent use of artificial tears, and said, "You'll need plugs." "What are plugs?" I asked. "These. I use them," he said, showing me a mysterious green plastic implement, which, I later surmised,contained a tiny plug that jams up your tear duct. The next thing I knew, his assistant was stretching my lower lid and he'd stapled something into place. And the next thing I knew after that, the assistant was less successfully pulling the other lower lid and getting yelled at by the doctor for not knowing what she was doing.
Very reassuring—insufficiently trained staff, an abusive boss, and a doctor who doesn't tell patients what the hell he's doing to them. (The assistant did give me a brochure on the plugs, which are removable but designed to be permanent.) Now my lower lids hurt.
Despite dangerously bad vision, I made it home without incident. I'm hoping to catch the rest of the SOTU speech on a replay. I'll be on Hugh Hewitt's radio show tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. [Posted 1/28.]
RICHARD MITCHELL MEMORIAL: Reader Kevin Sterner writes with news of a memorial service honoring Richard Mitchell: "A little snooping has revealed that there will be a memorial service for Dr. Mitchell at 7 pm on Wednesday, February 19th, in the small concert hall of the Wilson Music Building at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. (Thanks to Prof. Nathan Carb, chairman of the English Dept. at Rowan, for that information.)" [Posted 1/28.]
"JEWISH PRACTICES": My friend Xavier Lewis, who works for the European Commission in Brussels, sends the following historical footnote to the appearance of yellow stars and a dollar-decorated golden calf among anti-globalization protestors:
Your recent post on anti-semitic undercurrents (or blatant anti-semitism) in anti-globalisation protests leads me to reflect on an interesting—and seldom mentioned—aspect of the history of European integration.
According to this Newsweek report on Davos, the U.S. and China are the only countries in the world with healthy growth (not that Americans feel all that economically healthy). And Germany is in deep trouble, facing stagflation. A McKinsey Quarterly analysis of European productivity (abstract online, full article available only with pricey subscription) reports that despite productivity growth, "In most sectors in France and Germany, productivity was 10 percent or more behind US levels. Some European sectors, such as retail banking, continue to close the gap; others, such as retail trade, are falling further behind." Keeping out the "Jewish practices" that make companies like Wal-Mart engines of economic growth is exactly what anti-globalization protestors want—no matter what the cost to the country's standard of living. [Posted 1/28.]
GET THE VALIUM: Blogger Chad "The Elder" recounts his Lasik experience in a clinic where they made the drugs optional. [Posted 1/28.]
I am, while fully agreeing with everything you say about the miralce of the technology and the retail economic nature of the whole thing, a bit frustrated myself. I did what you did—selected the best (and most expensive—$2250 for one eye at about -6 diopters) surgeon in the area, and they managed to screw it up precisely because of the "shut-up, cattle, and move through the assembly line" nature of the office management.
Despite the cattle call nature of my own experience, the record-keeping seemed a lot better, as did the effective use of optometrists to do basic exams and answer questions. I go back to the doctor this afternoon for another post-op exam. In the meantime, I've got a NYT column to write. [Posted 1/28.]
LASIK ILLUSTRATED: Nick Perdiew sends a link to his site documenting his significant other's Lasik surgery:
I put this site up for everyone interested in Lasik and what all is involved. I also deliberately left my first hand commentary in there and any perception issues or errors it may have to communicate what it's like to watch the surgery.
Nick's notation that Amy received 10 mg of Valium reminded me of a funny aspect of our procedure. Some people lied about their weight. One overweight woman trimmed her poundage, risking undermedication, while a skinny guy exaggerated, risking overmedication. According to the emergency room physician who sat next to me during some of the between-procedures waiting, the 15 mg most of us got is three times the normal dosage. No wonder we were all falling asleep. [Posted 1/27.]
MORE DIPLOMACY: Reader (and blogger) Zach Barbera writes: "You couldn't be more right. I used to live in Singapore. Talk about a stalwart ally. The Ambassador himself wasn't too bad and the Consulate staff seem okay most of the times I had to go there. But, the Ambassador's wife was another story. She demanded to be addressed as the Ambassadress and friends I know who worked in some of the stores on Orchard Road had some terrible horror stories about her forcing them to shut the store while she shopped. She was an embarrassment and the people of Singapore (and most of us ex-pats) pretty much used her as the butt of most of their jokes." [Posted 1/27.]
As a former member of the U.S. diplomatic corps, (for 26 years; retired last year and writing from my office in my second career) I must say that you were quite kind in your short blog about diplomatic behavior. What you were talking about is a matter of "diplomatic courtesy" that many take advantage of, but some of us merely tolerate.
American diplomats have a responsibility to uphold American values abroad, and that includes treating locals as individuals worth of respect as equals. If locals like a lot of diplomatic protocols, observe them. But don't treat people in ways you wouldn't want to be treated yourself. [Posted 1/27.]
DISCONCERTING: When I woke up this morning, I could see as well as I used to with my contacts. But after an hour working at the computer, my distance vision is back to slightly blurry. Something to ask the taciturn doctor about tomorrow. [Posted 1/27.]
MENTAL TREATMENTS: Mike Fumento has a persuasive, provocative article in TNR about the common conservative (and, he might have added, libertarian) faith that ADHD is just a myth and Ritalin just a treatment for ordinary boyishness. What's interesting to me is how resolutely the supposed foes of "therapeutic culture" also oppose biological treatments that, by their nature, undermine the claims of therapists.
I don't know much about ADHD, although the anecdotal experience I've heard from parents backs Mike's case. But I do know about depression, and it's completely distinguishable from ordinary sadness. The paralyzing despair it induces has absolutely nothing to do with anything happening outside your head. You can have a perfectly happy life and be depressed and, conversely, a miserable life with no depression.
Like the scattered attention of ADHD, the despair of depression is actually more "objective," in the sense of being visible to third parties, than myopia or migraines. "Where are the lab tests for headaches and multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's?" asks a medical professor Mike quotes. "Such a standard would virtually eliminate all mental disorders."
And if Francis Fukuyama thinks women need Prozac to get "more of the alpha-male feeling," let me reassure him. I had plenty "alpha-male feeling" before Prozac was ever invented. It has, if anything, the opposite effect (although that's awfully mild). It simply restores my normal equilibrium, allowing me to keep the depression that does arise under rational control. As Fumento writes of ADHA:
In any case, Ritalin, when taken as prescribed, hardly stupefies children. To the extent the medicine works, it simply turns ADHD children into normal children. "ADHD is like having thirty televisions on at one time, and the medicine turns off twenty-nine so you can concentrate on the one," [conservative activist and mother of a son with ADHA Kerri] Houston describes. "This zombie stuff drives me nuts! My kids are both as lively and as fun as can be."
Any drug can be improperly prescribed. Antibiotics are all the time. But what's great about the growth of psychopharmacology is the very thing that worries the critics: The drugs work well enough, with few enough side effects, to be used to effectively treat mental conditions that don't stem from personal trauma or rise to life-threatening levels. Like ibuprofen for menstrual cramps, Imitrex for migraines, lithotripsy for kidney stones, high-tech dentistry for toothaches, or epidurals for the pains of childbirth, they ameliorate suffering that was once thought part of the human condition. The world may lose a little art in the process (Montaigne got a great essay out of those kidney stones), but that's a trade only the profoundly selfish would refuse to make. [Posted 1/27.]
IDEALISM IN ACTION: Via other bloggers, by now you've probably seen this photo of anti-globalization demonstrators. With its overtly Nazi anti-semitism, it's scary. (At least they equate Jews with apes rather than rats, taking the Islamofascist line rather than the Nazi one.) It's also inevitable. Opposing Jews and opposing trade, opposing trade and opposing America, opposing Jews and opposing America—it all goes together. I do have one question: Do these people think Donald Rumsfeld is Jewish? My guess is yes. [Posted 1/26.]
WHY THEY HATE US: Over the past several months, I've had a chance to observe the everyday behavior of the U.S. embassy in one small, friendly country and to hear about it from a very pro-American university official in another. And I've come to the conclusion that a little humility and routinely better manners would go a long way toward improving U.S. diplomatic relations. Never mind Iraq, what about taking all the good parking places? In small countries at least, U.S. embassy personnel routinely throw their weight around, getting all sorts of special privileges that have nothing to do with our national interest. Special parking places, special escorts through airport security, a thousand minor irritations that tell the locals our officials (no matter how personally nice and well-intended) aren't guests and equals but lords and masters come to call. The State Department needs to remind our diplomatic corps that they should not demand, or even request, privileges unavailable to the locals merely for their personal convenience. Only in matters of serious national, as opposed to personal, interest should the U.S. government ask for special treatment. [Posted 1/26.]
VISION REPORT: Thanks to everyone who wrote in with good wishes for my laser eye surgery. Since the interest extends beyond my personal eyesight—as reader Gavin Lemieux put it, "I doubt I'm the only one of your readers who wears glasses"—I'll give a somewhat detailed report.
First the good news: I had surgery at about 11 a.m. on Friday. It took us about 30 minutes to get home from the doctor's office in Plano, and by then my eyesight was probably about 20/200, good enough to see the big E on the eye chart. To people with good eyesight, that may sound terrible. But my vision hasn't been that good since third grade. At least I could now see the clock next to the bed. Within a few hours, I could see well enough to drive. I'm still not to perfect vision, though I'm approaching my contact-lens level (about 20/25). It's amazing.
Now some gory details: Since my nearsightedness was pretty extreme (minus 10 diopters), I had the relatively new Intralasik procedure, rather than regular Lasik. What they don't tell you about this procedure is that it's a two-step process, and the first step hurts, because they put some sort of clamp around your eye socket. Or something (they don't say, and you can't see). The pain is less than a migraine and just lasts a few minutes, but if you're not expecting it, it's pretty disconcerting.
The other thing they don't tell you, at least not in most sales material, is that this surgery is expensive. Mine cost $3,950, plus some for various drugs and artificial tears. Figure $4,000. It's well worth it, but don't be fooled by ads promising Lasik for 500 bucks an eye. That's for people who barely need glasses.
I have to be super-careful with my eyes for the next several weeks: putting in artificial tears every 15 minutes or so, sleeping with protective eye shields that leave weird lines on my face, wearing goggles when I go outside, and eschewing eye makeup. Worst of all, I can't rub my eyes for a full month. Just think about waking up in the morning with the usual gunk in your eyes and not being able to do a thing about it. You definitely need both self-control and a willingness not to look your best. (My eyes are bloodshot and my lashes tend to accumulate salt from the artificial tears—lovely.)
Minor annoyances aside, the surgery was a smashing success and nothing short of a medical miracle. I'd highly recommend it. And, despite the cost, it's wildly popular. Another patient told me that the surgeon, Dr. William Boothe, had done 120 procedures (about 10 an hour) on Friday, one of two days a week on which he does surgery as opposed to various pre- and post-op exams. Doing a lot of these procedures is important to success rates, which is one reason I chose him (another is his UCLA training). It's a good thing he can deliver great results, because he has no affect and doesn't explain a thing he's doing, hardly a prescription for success with most patients.
And now for the political angles. First, there's the obvious economic fact that this booming health care service operates almost entirely outside of third-party payment systems; at best, you can pay for part of the cost with pre-tax "Flex Plan" dollars, which is what we're doing. Yet despite having to pay for this care themselves, patients are demanding as many procedures as this busy doctor can provide.
Second, and more fundamental: One of the great fears of advancing biomedical technologies is that they will eliminate the conditions that form our personalities, that make us who we are. Being profoundly nearsighted has been a defining aspect of my life since I was a little girl. If my myopia could have been cured at an early age, I would have turned out different in some way (and so would chapter three of TFAIE, where contact lenses play a major illustrative role). But now that my near-sightedness is mostly gone, I don't miss it a bit, or feel any less authentically myself. The same is true of migraines and depression, two other personality-shaping ailments I've mostly eliminated with drugs in the past six months. Suffering doesn't build character; it warps it. [Posted 1/26.]
WRESTLE MANIA: Charles Oliver, who knows everything about wrestling, fact-checks the NYT obit of pro wrestler Eddie "The Sheik" Farhat. It's amazing enough that the Times ran the obit. It's hardly a surprise they screwed it up. (Charles's own obit of Farhat is here. [Posted 1/26.]
HISTORIC PERIODICALS: On behalf of my mother-in-law, I'm selling all sorts of historic magazines and newspapers on E-Bay. The current auction list is here, but there are more where that came from, so if you're interested in anything in particular (e.g., the moon landing, Johnny Carson's last show, Hinckley shoots Reagan), let me know. [Posted 1/24.]
RICHARD MITCHELL, R.I.P. I was sorry to read on Ian Hemet's new blog that "Underground Grammarian" Richard Mitchell passed away in late December. Like Ian, I was a long-time fan of Richard's, interviewing him occasionally in my WSJ days and occasionally publishing him in Reason. He also wrote one of the first nice and unsolicited pieces in praise of my work as a young editor and writer, for which I will always be grateful. Spend some time perusing his works at the links above. He was one of a kind. [Posted 1/23.]
OLD CAR: Judging from Damien Penny's research, I must be the blogger with the oldest car: a 1986 Civic with about 85K miles on it and, as of earlier this week, no radio. (I replaced the original one about a year ago.) Lots of petty crime in Dallas. I didn't even bother with the police.
BTW, I loathe SUVs. I know it's politically incorrect in my circles to have that opinion, since all the wrong people are against them. But they're ugly, dangerous, and rude. They erect huge opaque barriers that force you to pull into traffic blind and as often as not they're driven by women on cell phones who are barely paying attention to the road. [Posted 1/23.]
CREATION ECONOMICS: Economics is far from a perfect science, but the French Marxist-led "Post-Autistic" movement chronicled here reminds me of "Creation Science." You take real criticisms of a field, from knowledgeable practitioners (such as Deirdre McCloskey, in the case of economics), and use them to attack research that empirically discredits and theoretically undermines your religious beliefs.
None of the legitimate criticisms are new to economics, nor have they gone unnoticed and unincorporated by mainstream economists. Ed Leamer's "Let's Take the Con Out of Econometrics" is a famous paper from 1983 (i.e., 20 years ago) and was published in The American Economics Review, the profession's leading general journal. Heterodox ideas like the limits of knowledge and "bounded rationality" are associated with Nobel laureates (F.A. Hayek and Herbert Simon, respectively). The hottest young fields in economics include behavioral economics (which, along with equally upstart experimental economics, garnered the most recent Nobel) and the New Institutional Economics (which also has a couple of Nobels to its name). Sure, you can get ahead in economics tweaking static models. But to pretend that economists are uninterested in economic change is ridiculous.
Economics is a rich field. Take a look at the range of subjects and methodology chronicled in my NYT columns. The economically curious, including me, do draw from other social sciences; my column-in-progress uses work done in marketing. That points up another phenomenon ignored by the folks who want to make economics more literary and less rigorous: Once you get into business schools, you find all kinds of interesting cross-currents, plenty "heterodox" without the Marxist b.s. Here's a cool management syllabus I came across while unsuccessfully trying to Google my old blog entry on Herbert Simon's death. It turned up because it features a heterodox article by Professor Postrel analyzing management as a response to individuals' desire for outwardly imposed discipline to make them do what's in their long-run best interest (translation: management as a market response to the demand for paternalism). The syllabus lineup is heterodox compared to the standard models taught to freshman econ students, but the works on the list are generally well-known in the field, and some of them are very famous.
These refinements to economics add nuance drawn from other social sciences, including history. But they do not do what the "Post-Autistic" crowd really wants. They do not deny the value of free trade or the reality of economic agency, even when bounded by the limits of human psychology. None of these criticisms validates the junk they teach at "centers of heterodox [i.e., Marxist]: practice New School University and the Universities of Massachusetts at Amherst and California at Riverside."
They teach biology at Bob Jones University too, and many other similar institutions. Some of the criticisms these "heterodox" biology professors make of evolutionary theory are valid and come from within the field. But that doesn't make BJU bio true. Nor does it get laudatory coverage in The Chronicle of Higher Education. [Posted 1/23.]
TITLE TK: Now the marketing powers that be have decided that Look and Feel isn't a good enough title (at least they like the contents!). So it's back to the title factory for my book—and, most likely, back to the computer for HarperCollins' talented art director Roberto de Vicq. I hope he can do as well as he did the last time around. [Posted 1/23.]
STILL BLOGGING: Don't worry. I'm not throwing in the blogging towel, like my friend Dan Pink. But I've always promised to post at least once a week (unless I give notice otherwise), not to post daily, much less to do a hyperactive InstaPundit imitation. Jim Henley calls it the Virginia Postrel Magazine, which is OK with me.
I like blogging, but I prefer writing articles with research and with beginnings, middles, and ends. (Attention editors: After two columns and two speeches between now and February 3, I have time available for new assignments.) And I like being able to do things that don't involve writing, like fixing up my house, helping my mother-in-law move, and going to interesting Liberty Fund conferences with lousy Internet connections. If I wanted to work all the time, I wouldn't have quit editing Reason, a never-ending job. Nick sounded awfully tired the last time we talked. [Posted 1/23.]
COOL NEW BLOG: My new friend Andrew Zolli has a cool new blog full of the sort of futurism that isn't just b.s. [Posted 1/16.]
MEDIA BIAS: Hugh Hewitt is so, so right about the East Coast media's refusal to acknowledge the existence of West Coast pundits (or Los Angeles-based think magazines). What's worse is that many of the L.A. media have the same bias. [Posted 1/16.]
LOOK AND WAIT: The marketing powers that be have decided that Look and Feel should be held until September rather than published in June. I hate the wait, but they're probably right. Fall makes more sense than summer for my book, and the trend it analyzes is a long-term phenomenon that isn't going away.
Amazon, meanwhile, promises early delivery: "This title will be released on December 31, 1969." Two weeks before my 10th birthday! What a prodigy! [Posted 1/16.]
STATE OF THE STATES: Every day brings more bad fiscal news out of state capitals, especially Sacramento. My favorite news report is this LAT story on Gray Davis's staunch denial that the sales tax will go up more than another penny on the dollar:
Gov. Gray Davis distanced himself Tuesday from a proposal by his own Finance Department to raise the sales tax by an additional $900 million next year as a way of ensuring local government will be able to pay for health-care programs.
The California sales tax is already high (8.25% in L.A. County), and it includes a quarter cent originally passed to cover rebuilding from the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. In addition to the sales tax hike, Davis wants to raise income tax rates, just to make sure it's too expensive for me to ever move back. (An income tax is unthinkable in Texas, which is also facing a budget crisis.)
USA Today's Dennis Cauchon offers a contrarian take in Wednesday's lead feature:
State and local governments are spending more money and hiring more people than last year, even as governors and mayors warn of draconian cuts in public services because of the economic slump.
A sidebar inside the paper documents the many ways states got in trouble, with California even managing to pile up deficits when revenue was booming:
California in 1996 began paying schools an extra $850 for every student from kindergarten through third grade who was in a class with 20 or fewer children. Cost: $1.6 billion this year.
The printed sidebar includes a great chart, unavailable online, that shows the average annual change in each state's budget from 1997 to 2002 and the projected change for 2003. Examples: California's state budget grew 9.4% a year from 1997 to 2002 and is projected to shrink by 0.2% this year; Colorado's grew 8.1% a year and is shrinking 2.7% this year; Virginia's grew 8.0% a year and is projected to grow 1.6% this year. Major outliers: Florida, which grew 4.4% a year from 1997 to 2002 and is supposed to grow 8.0% this year, North Dakota (3.5% vs. 15%), and West Virginia (2.8% vs. 10.8%). [Posted 1/15.]
new blog devoted to considering video games as an art form. (Via Gary Farber.) [Posted 1/16.]
SO CRAZY IT JUST MIGHT WORK: What does Kim Jong Il want? Apparently diplomats have to engage in mind reading to figure that out. But based on press accounts, he seems more interested in enjoying himself than in dominating his region. In other words, he's more like a drug lord than Saddam Hussein. That means his nuclear capability is more dangerous as a way to generate hard currency (by selling to terrorists) than as a threat to, say, South Korea or Japan.
Here's my crazy idea: North Korea has 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods that could be converted to plutonium for weapons. Let's save the North Koreans the trouble and buy the fuel rods and the plant that reprocesses them. (To seal the deal, maybe we could get some Hollywood types to entertain Kim's thoughts on cinema for an evening or two.) Yes, buying the spent fuel rods would be giving into nuclear blackmail. But that's probably going to happen anyway—nuclear blackmail is tough stuff, which is why I don't want an ambitious Saddam Hussein in the position to dish it out. This way, we at least limit the opportunity for future blackmail.
I'm sure there are horrible flaws in this plan, which strikes even me as nuts. But I can't see what they are. North Korea is an evil regime, but nobody's talking about liberating the North Koreans. The question is how to reduce the threat North Korea poses outside its borders.
David Frum, who has not in any way endorsed this idea, makes a good (and, one would think, obvious) point in his latest blog posting: "The United States has as many different standards as it has problems. North Korea, Iraq, and Iran are not America's children, who must all get the same treat or the same punishment. They are America¹s enemies and must be handled with all the cunning Americans possess. If that means using different tactics against one enemy, so be it." [Posted 1/16.]
AWAY: I'll be at a conference through Tuesday (not the American Economic Assn., in case you're wondering) and don't expect to be blogging. Blogging will most likely be light over the next couple of weeks, as I'm incredibly busy with personal and book-related projects. [Posted 1/4.]
TAKING EDWARDS SERIOUSLY: My old friend John Hood, a clear-eyed observer of North Carolina politics evaluates John Edwards's presidential prospects. I can't agree more with John's warning that "trial lawyer" is not a bad thing to call someone in a campaign. There's a reason successful trial lawyers are successful: They're good at persuading voters (a.k.a. jurors) to join their side. [Posted 1/2.]
ADVANTAGE, VIRGINIA: On July 11, I predicted that the Philippe Starck line of products for Target would be a loser. Now Slate's Bradford McKee skewers the Starck line, with pictures. To repeat (some of) myself:
When Target launched its Michael Graves collection, it knew that the products had to sell themselves, regardless of whether the customer had ever heard of Graves—and it knew that the typical customer hadn't heard of Graves. The advertising and promotion featured the products, not the brand name. You bought the toaster because it looked cute, not because it had a big shot's name on it. You bought more Michael Graves because you liked your first purchase....
Contrary to what the social critics always say, most people these days don't buy aesthetic goods for status. They're not impressed by Philippe Starck's name, unless they come to associate it with goods they like. Pretentious, ugly, nonfunctional goods do not create pleasant associations, even if they come from Target. [Posted 1/1.]
SCOTT VS. DICK: Philip K. Dick fans keep writing to protest my description of Blade Runner as "Ridley Scott's vision." Well, I've read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and I'm sticking to the attribution of the movie's vision. The book and the movie are both great works, but they're quite different from each other. [Posted 1/1.]
TAX TRAPS: My latest NYT column runs on Wednesday rather than the usual Thursday because tomorrow's Times won't have a regular business section. The new column is about how political considerations are warping, and in some case ruining, otherwise good tax-cutting ideas. I've long advocated a cut in the payroll tax, for instance, but the form now being discussed could actually make matters worse, especially for low-wage workers:
Congress and the Bush administration are promising Americans tax cuts in the new year. What form those cuts take will spark fierce debate.The rest is here. [Posted 1/1.]
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