Topless Taxes, Really

A proposed bill in the Texas legislature known as the "Topless Tax" would tax patrons a $5 cover charge to enter strip clubs. The cover charge would then go directly into sexual-assault prevention and counseling services. This makes a certain amount of sense to me. Just as sin taxes on cigarettes end up funding everything from health care programs to education spending, taxing strip-club patrons to support worthy state mandates like assault prevention has a certain symmetry to it. Taxing the sex trade is as natural as taxing casinos and booze.


The Politics Of Spite

A few days ago, Matt Yglesias wrote the following about global warming: One doubts that any of these various rightwingers were actually humming along and then got bribed by energy companies to come up with the outlandish conservative arguments you here on this score. Rather, the money's just sort of out there ready to flow to individuals who make outlandish arguments and to publications and institutions that associate themselves with such people and such arguments. Under the circumstances, the human mind proves remarkably supple and creative.


Who Needs Experts?

The biggest problem in Washington, of course, is that President Bush's crack team of political appointees doesn't have enough power. Luckily, help is on the way: In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries.


What 'really' Ails Ford?

So Ford Motor Company posts a staggering $12.7 billion loss in '06 and all the usual explanations make the rounds: SUV sales slumped thanks to high gas prices; Toyota and other rivals have been making better cars; the company's weighed down by health and pension costs. No doubt. But here's yet another theory, via Focus on the Family's always-fabulous newsletter: The American Family Association (AFA) said last year's $12.7 billion loss by Ford Motor Company is no surprise.


Merle Haggard's already come out against the war in Iraq. Now it's Toby Keith's turn. From a Newsday profile of The Angry American: Keith doesn't support the Iraq war -- "Never did," he says -- and he favors setting a time limit on the occupation. He says he suspects civil war in Iraq is inevitable and predicts the Kurds will be the victors: "I promise you, they'll end up with it all." The article goes on to mention that Keith is buddies with Bill Richardson. I do think "How Do You Like Me Now" would make a pretty good theme song for Richardson's presidential campaign. --Jason Zengerle

Refugees Everywhere

A few weeks ago, George Packer argued that if and when the United States finally pulls out of Iraq, the country should offer visas to those Iraqis who collaborated with us during the occupation, seeing as how they'll all be in grave danger when we leave. As an aside, he noted that last year the United States accepted fewer than 200 Iraqi refugees (and looking around, it seems that most of those had applied for admission before the current war).


by Eric Rauchway I'd like to root for Steven Pinker in the Pinker/Lakoff quarrel, if only because Steve's a fellow Open U faculty member. (Go, Virtual Dons!) But then he trotted out this point: Whose Freedom? shows no trace of the empirical lessons of the past three decades, such as the economic and humanitarian disaster of massively planned economies, or the impending failure of social insurance programs that ignore demographic arithmetic.


by Richard Stern How wonderful it would be if all things were governed by Intelligent Design, and that we were intelligent enough to figure out the design. As far as the universe is concerned, my guess is that we have about the same sense of its ultimate design that a worm has of relativity theory or Hamlet. As for matters closer to home, the record is not all that great. Predictions about the outcome of major policy decisions are not all that brilliant. Henry Kissinger's gloomy assessment of the U.S.


The Diversity Plutocracy

by John McWhorter Having participated in the debate over racial preferences and "diversity" for a while, I approach new books on the topic expecting variations on a few key positions. However, in The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality, University of Illinois at Chicago English Professor Walter Benn Michaels has an interesting take on the terrain. Michaels condemns the diversity regime for its social calisthenics about our cultural differences while turning a blind eye to class-based inequity.


Illustrating The Abstract

by Eric RauchwayOn seeing Marginal Revolution's item about a beautiful Flash animation explaining ten dimensions and superstring theory (with a narrator who sounds like--is?--Peter Coyote), I was sad to discover it's possibly not very good in terms of actual physics. Which brings up the challenge of illustrating abstract concepts, which educators increasingly face as we use computer presentations in class.