Timothy Noah

Nader and the Corvair

A number of readers have expressed surprise at my statement (which I attributed to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Harvard professor and subsequently a senator from New York) that Ralph Nader was wrong about the Corvair. I thought the story was well known, but apparently it isn't. In his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed, Nader made the Corvair a case study in corporate irresponsibility. I don't know the details but the car had some sort of rollover problem. Many of the same criticisms of the Corvair were made around the same time by the journalist James Ridgeway in this magazine.

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A friend who knows my interest in how the ghastly state of the economy is turning Wall Street socialist forwarded me a commentary from William H. Gross, managing director of PIMCO, a global investment management firm.

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A new poll of 1,005 registered Massachusetts voters conducted Sept. 22-28 shows Elizabeth Warren in a statistical dead heat with Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, 38-41. That's pretty remarkable considering the fact that 37 percent of those polled still don't know who she is. The Boston Herald poll follows a Public Policy Polling survey released Sept. 20 that also showed her in a statistical dead heat, in that instance with a slight edge, 46-44. Just a few weeks earlier Brown was leading Warren by nine points. How is the Massachusetts GOP responding to this emergency?

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Debit For Debit

David Lazarus argues today in the Los Angeles Times that Bank of America has found a way to make money off Dodd-Frank. The financial reform bill directed the Fed to limit the "swipe fees" banks were charging merchants for the use of debit cards in retail transactions. Reform was needed because these swipe fees were about the same for debit and credit cards, which made no sense. With a credit card you're borrowing money, but with a debit card you're supposed to be spending only money that you have.

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The people have spoken. Averaging the 19 estimates offered by readers in TNR's comment section for this blog--including one that, annoyingly, required me to convert from kilograms to pounds--I arrive at a crowd-sourced weight estimate for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: 334 pounds.  I initially planned to lower the mean figure by 10 points to correct for liberal bias. But on reflection I think there are probably two biases at work here. One is the liberal one, which would drive the estimates up. The other is a demographic one, which would drive the estimates down.

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Michael Kinsley, my friend and former boss at the New Republic and Slate, has a Bloomberg column today arguing that Chris Christie's fatness is a legitimate issue in judging his fitness (no pun intended) to be president. Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado, argues elsewhere on this Web site that it isn't a legitimate issue, or, if it is, it isn't clear whether it's a minus or a plus. I take a more scientific approach to this question.

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Yes We Cain!

Herman Cain fever! Have you caught it? Me neither. But for some reason this is his moment. A new Fox News poll conducted Sept. 25-27 actually places him third with 17 percent, up from 6 percent the month before. Cain seems to be catching some falling Rick Perry supporters and maybe a few disenchanted Bachmannites as well. Perry's crappy debate performance has finally caught up with him, driving his poll numbers down from 29 percent last month to 19 percent. Bachmann is down 5 points.

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Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center For Global Development and the New America Foundation, has a good piece in Business Week disputing the notion that small business is the key to economic recovery. Small businesses tend to remain small, so they don't provide many new job opportunities. Start-ups begin small, but one study of companies created between 2004 and 2008 found that only 3 percent added more than 10 employees. Among small companies in their second, third, fourth, and fifth years of business, more jobs are lost to bankruptcy than are added by new hiring.

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I leave the legal analysis to my former Slate colleague, the divine Dahlia Lithwick. But surely from a political standpoint, President Obama is smart to press the Supreme Court for a health care decision this coming June, no? If the Court upholds Obamacare then we will all be reminded that this sole accomplishment makes Obama the most consequential Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to occupy the Oval Office (even if he did fail to revive the economy and let GOP bullies push him around for way too long).

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F for Effort

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy had a great idea. He would create an agency, the Peace Corps, to send idealistic young Americans abroad to spread their wealthy nation’s know-how among the impoverished peoples of the world. Lately, public schools in the United States have taken JFK’s idea and turned it around. Why not invite the impoverished peoples of the world to come here to enlighten us? America is still the planet’s wealthiest country, but it is no longer, by international standards, a particularly well-educated one.

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