Somehow, I've wound up on Ralph Nader's press-release email list. I'm not sure how, since I certainly never signed up for it. At first I was annoyed, but it's become a reliable source of entertainment. In the latest episode, Nader casts his lot with Tim Donaghy--the disgraceful match-fixing ex–NBA referee facing up to 33 years in prison--against commissioner David Stern: Back in 2002, Ralph was sitting at home watching game six of the NBA playoff game between the big TV market Los Angeles Lakers and the small TV market Sacramento Kings.
The bulk of the discussion this afternoon at the Plug-In Vehicles 2008 conference focused on the enormous hurdles that stand in the way of plug-in vehicles significantly increasing their market share in the near future. These include developing better batteries (appropriately, Nissan and Toyota both claimed today to be making progress, and in this month's Atlantic Jonathan Rauch profiles GM's effort), and eventually providing incentives for consumers to trade in their gas-powered cars for plug-ins.
This isn't something you hear every day: One of the highest-ranking federal judges in the United States, who is currently presiding over an obscenity trial in Los Angeles, has maintained a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos. Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, acknowledged in an interview with The Times that he had posted the materials, which included a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal.
I'm here at Plug-in Vehicles 2008 conference, sponsored by the Brookings Institution and Google.org, which features a whole bunch of cool-looking plug-in hybrids and a roster of big-name speakers discussing the promises and challenges involved in transitioning from a gasoline-based to an electricity-based auto industry. Up first was Jim Woolsey, former director of the CIA and current advisor to the McCain campaign, who delivered an impassioned plea for energy independence.
Dani Rodrik and Tyler Cowen are having an interesting back-and-forth over Cowen's New York Times column this past weekend, in which he argued that anxiety about globalization is mostly an irrational frenzy of xenophobia. No doubt Rodrik's right that protectionism is an entirely rational response from workers whose jobs are at risk of being shipped abroad, but in general I'm more persuaded by Cowen that most of the anti-globalization sentiment out there is driven by visceral feelings toward foreigners.
Bill Galston's piece yesterday over at the American Prospect yesterday on the enduring popularity of big government ends with this interesting nugget: [W]e cannot expand government indefinitely without reducing long-term economic growth. ... To be sustainable and pro-growth, we will need a new approach toward the large entitlement programs--especially Medicare and Medicaid--that drive so much of the long-term increase in the federal budget.
On Friday, Marc Ambinder raised the specter of a "constitutional crisis" that would result from a situation in which Barack Obama were to win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College. Ambinder says unnamed strategists from both campaigns are "chewing over" what would happen in this scenario. As I've written before, this is exceptionally unlikely to happen. But don't take my word for it--check out Nate's stats over at FiveThirtyEight.com, which is quickly becoming the authority in terms of Electoral College projections, for what they're worth.
One of the first things you learn upon becoming a political journalist in Washington is that, if you happen to be covering an event on Capitol Hill around lunchtime, you want to go out of your way to eat on the House side rather than the Senate side. Whereas the House cafeterias are pretty good, the Senate cafeterias are to be avoided like the plague. A few times I've wondered why this is, and today the Washington Post provides the answer: The House cafeterias are privatized, while the Senate's are run by...the Senate, which, shockingly, turns out not to be the world's best restauranteur.
It's been a year of ups and downs for the Iraqi national soccer team. Last summer, you may recall, their improbable victory in the Asian Cup captured the hearts of soccer fans everywhere. (Well, everywhere outside of Asia, anyway--I happened to be in Seoul when Iraq beat South Korea on penalty kicks in the semifinals, and the stunned locals were not amused.) The team's success came in the face of numerous death threats and kidnappings of high-profile athletes. Unfortunately, it's been a rockier road since.