Celebrating Richard Epstein

April 25, 2018 at 10:50 am

The University of Chicago Law School has posted excerpts from the book Liber Amicorum for Richard A. Epstein to mark the law professor's 50 years of teaching. They are a reminder of the possibilities in academia and that, as one of Epstein's colleagues put it, "One man can accomplish much if he sets out to do everything."

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N.Y. Times Admits Tax Cut Creates Jobs, Investment

April 25, 2018 at 10:13 am

Welcome to the latest installment of the continuing series here ("How The Minimum Wage Ruined Dessert," "How Regulation Ruined Peking Duck," "Wine Store Regulations," "Ramen and Bagels") about how the New York Times food section is willing to acknowledge and report on economic realities that the rest of the paper steadfastly denies. Today's Times food section reports:

Small craft distillers across the country have been on a spending spree since the turn of the new year.

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Bezos At The Bush Center

April 24, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was interviewed onstage at Southern Methodist University as part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center's Forum on Leadership. The video is embedded below.

A few highlights I took away:

•Bezos's father is an immigrant from Cuba, and his mother got pregnant with him when she was 16 and had him when he was 17. (Campaigners against teen pregnancy, take note: as a general rule teen pregnancy may lead to increased risks of adverse outcomes, but Bezos's life has turned out pretty successfully — by a lot of accounts he is the richest person in the world, and his company has saved a lot of people time and money.)

•A publisher once wrote Bezos a letter objecting to Amazon's publishing negative customer reviews and suggesting that Amazon would make more money if it only published positive reviews. Bezos thought about it and realized his company wasn't just there to sell things, but to help customers make purchase decisions.

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Judge Presses For Progress in FBI Leak Case

April 20, 2018 at 10:39 am

A federal judge is threatening to appoint a "private prosecutor" to press a criminal investigation about FBI leaks to the press in an insider trading case.

The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation in December 2016 into the leaks. But progress has been slow, or opaque, enough that Judge P. Kevin Castel of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York issued a two-page order on April 2, 2018, raising the prospect of hiring his own lawyer.

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The Bezos Handstand

April 19, 2018 at 9:37 am

From the annual shareholder letter of Jeff Bezos comes this piece of business — or life — wisdom:

A close friend recently decided to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand. No leaning against a wall. Not for just a few seconds. Instagram good. She decided to start her journey by taking a handstand workshop at her yoga studio. She then practiced for a while but wasn't getting the results she wanted. So, she hired a handstand coach. Yes, I know what you're thinking, but evidently this is an actual thing that exists. In the very first lesson, the coach gave her some wonderful advice. "Most people," he said, "think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks. The reality is that it takes about six months of daily practice. If you think you should be able to do it in two weeks, you're just going to end up quitting." Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards.

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New Yorker Staff Writer Health Insurance

April 18, 2018 at 9:01 am

An article in Medium by Malcolm Harris about the declining pay of freelance writers reports: "I would be remiss if I omitted that almost every person I spoke to brought up one of the industry's worst-kept secrets: New Yorker staff writers, some of the most admired journalists in the business, don't typically receive health insurance."

This may help at least partly explain two things. First, the ferocity against which the New Yorker fought the possibility of repeal of ObamaCare. Second, the degree to which it relies on writers (Princeton's John McPhee; Harvard's Jill Lepore and Atul Gawande, Columbia's Adam Kirsch and Nicholas Lemann) who have additional jobs as academics and who therefore get their health insurance paid for by alumni donors or tuition-paying parents.

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The Surprising Story Behind the Charles River Cleanup

April 17, 2018 at 9:56 am

The renewal of the Charles River is the topic of my column this week. Please check out the column in full at the New York Sun (here) and Newsmax (here).

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Elaine Kamarck on Obama's Fragile Legacy

April 16, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Clinton administration official Elaine Kamarck — now affiliated with the Brookings Institution and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government — has a review of Julian Zelizer's edited volume The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment.

She writes:

In the end there are only two ways a president can forge a legacy in U.S. politics: accomplish things with bipartisan support, or nurture his political party so that people are elected who will carry on and protect his accomplishments. Obama's legacy is in trouble because he did neither.

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Kerry Downsizes

April 15, 2018 at 5:05 pm

The Nantucket house of Democratic politician John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry has sold for $17,500,000 after being originally listed at $25 million, the Boston Globe reports. They bought a place on Martha's Vineyard last year for $11,750,000. It is worth remembering the next time someone makes fun of Donald Trump for having fancy personal real estate yet purporting to champion the common man.

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Kudlow on Growth

April 13, 2018 at 9:42 am

From a New York Times news article about an interview with the new director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow:

His glass-half-full predictions were punctuated with talk of branding and "Kudlowisms," terms he said he invents and tries to weave into the staff vernacular, like telling the press secretary to make a trade talking point "growthier."

"This administration and its economic advisers, our goal here is growth — growth, growth, growth, growth — that's the raison d'être of this administration on domestic policy," Mr. Kudlow said. "We will rise and fall politically on that."

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Prosecutor In Cohen Raids Worked For Trump's Bank

April 13, 2018 at 6:13 am

A New York Times article on federal prosecutors' raids of the offices of a lawyer for President Trump, Michael Cohen, reports:

The investigation is being run by Robert S. Khuzami, whose boss, Geoffrey S. Berman, the interim United States attorney in Manhattan, has recused himself. Mr. Khuzami is a veteran federal prosecutor who spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention in support of President George W. Bush and later led the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Obama administration.

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Trump Scooter Libby Pardon

April 13, 2018 at 5:26 am

With President Trump reportedly set to pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, it may be worth revisiting my column from September 2017, which mentioned Libby and also Sholom Rubashkin, whose sentence was later commuted by Trump. It's nice to see the president working his way through that list.

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Paul Ryan Retires

April 11, 2018 at 2:32 pm

In a column earlier this year about the "daddy track," I wrote:

It used to be that when someone publicly announced that he or she wanted to spend more time with family, most people figured that was a way of putting a polite public face on some other, less flattering story.

But in at least two recent high-profile cases, it appears to be a real part of what was actually happening. Both of the cases involve men — Republican men, even. So count it as something of a triumph for feminism, at least that part of it that demands dads do their share with the children.

On January 19, J.D. Vance, the Marine veteran and Yale Law School graduate who wrote the bestselling Hillbilly Elegy, explained that he'd decided not to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Ohio.

"I thought seriously about running in August 2017, but decided that the timing was awful for my young family," Vance wrote. "I've still got a family that needs more of my time than a political campaign would permit."

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How The Minimum Wage Ruined Dessert

April 10, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Closet libertarian and New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells writes about how rising minimum wages have ruined dessert in New York City restaurants:

According to Shuna Lydon, who has worked in or led some large and famous pastry kitchens as well as some small and obscure ones, you can learn everything you need to know about the sundae invasion by reading the help-wanted ads on Craigslist.

"The restaurants that used to be looking for pastry chefs are looking for pastry sous-chefs," she said. "It's all the same duties, all the same hours, all the same physical labor, but they can now pay you $30,000 or $40,000 less a year because you're not a chef, you're not in charge."

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David Brooks on Anti-Trumpism

April 10, 2018 at 12:48 pm

David Brooks gets it about right here in his latest column about the failures of anti-Trumpism:

Part of the problem is that anti-Trumpism has a tendency to be insufferably condescending. For example, my colleague Thomas B. Edsall beautifully summarized the recent academic analyses of what personality traits supposedly determine Trump support.

Trump opponents, the academics say, are open-minded and value independence and novelty. Trump supporters, they continue, are closed-minded, change-averse and desperate for security.

This analysis strikes me as psychologically wrong (every human being requires both a secure base and an open field — we can't be divided into opposing camps), journalistically wrong (Trump supporters voted for the man precisely because they wanted transformational change) and an epic attempt to offend 40 percent of our fellow citizens by reducing them to psychological inferiors.

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