Meghan Neal flags a new study finding “that vaping makes adolescents more likely to start or continue smoking tobacco, and less likely to manage to quit”:
That’s after surveying 40,000 middle and high school students, first in 2011 and then again in 2012 to follow up. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco parsed the data and published their grim results in the journal JAMA Pediatrics[yesterday].
Highly publicized research claiming that e-smoking gets teenagers addicted to cigarettes deals a tough blow to e-cig advocates, who strongly believe that puffing on vaporized liquid is a healthier choice than inhaling burning tobacco, and that making the switch from analog to digital cigs can help wean smokers off the habit.
I understand that’s a ridiculously broad question, but it arises from a ridiculously broad analysis:
Obama says Putin is on the wrong side of history and Secretary of State John Kerry says Putin’s is “really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century.” This must mean that seeking national power, territory, dominion — the driving impulse of nations since Thucydides — is obsolete. As if a calendar change caused a revolution in human nature that transformed the international arena from a Hobbesian struggle for power into a gentleman’s club where violations of territorial integrity just don’t happen.
Is it possible things are just a little bit more complicated than that? It could be that the impulse for national power, territory, dominion is now not obsolete, but simply much more attenuated now than it once was (and that argument is easily compatible with Kerry’s phrase). And the case for that is pretty strong. I mean: if nations have one driving impulse – “seeking national power, territory, dominion” – and if the record shows no change or evolution in this eternal truth, how do we explain huge tranches of recent history?
Why on earth, for example, would European countries pool sovereignty in the EU? How could they be deluded into thinking that giving up “national power” could be a good thing? And why, for that matter, would this arrangement remain attractive to other countries as well, not least of which Ukraine? Why on earth did the US invade and conquer Iraq only to leave it a decade later? Why did we not seize the oil-fields with our military might to fuel our economy? What was Krauthammer’s hero, George W Bush, doing – singing hymns to human freedom rather than American hegemony?
Why, for that matter, have military incursions into other countries become rarer over time? Why has the level of inter-state violence in human affairs declined to historically low levels?
The answers to that question are, of course, legion, and I’m not trying to settle the debate here. I’m just noting that if the classic aims of territory acquisition and dominion never change, Krauthammer has a lot of explaining to do.
Even with Putin, I think it’s worth noting that his current Tsarist mojo is not exactly triumphalist. Krauthammer concedes as much:
Crimea belonged to Moscow for 200 years. Russia conquered it 20 years before the U.S. acquired Louisiana. Lost it in the humiliation of the 1990s. Putin got it back in about three days without firing a shot.
So this is less like Hitlerian aggression and more like a sad attempt to re-seize one tiny portion that was part of Russia proper far longer than it was “lost”. More to the point, Putin “got it back” only in the wake of Ukraine deposing its democratically-elected, Russophile leader in a violent, popular putsch. Yes, if your contention is that the desire for territory/dominion/power is “obsolete,” you’re a fool. But if your contention is that this impulse plays a much less critical role in international affairs than in almost all previous periods in human history, you’d be merely making an empirical observation.
The truth is that global interdependence – the immensely complex and proliferating global economy that vastly expanded as communism collapsed under the weight of its own lies – clearly mitigates the classic impulse that Krauthammer approves of. It doesn’t abolish it – but it shapes it.
John O’Sullivan is impressed at how the new Ukrainian government has pulled itself together amid Putin’s provocations:
[I]t has maintained a lively democratic unity; passed a series of reforms leading to a more liberal constitution, fresh elections and a new government; discussed these proposals with great transparency (its parliamentary proceedings are televised); won over the main oligarchs, who prefer even a Kiev regime hostile to corruption to a Putin-esque world in which the government is a rival oligarch; and responded firmly but not rashly to Russia’s invasion of Crimea and other provocations.
It has, accordingly, been accepted as legitimate throughout most of Ukraine even before the elections. Attacks on its supporters, attempts to seize official buildings, demonstrations by crowds calling for Russian intervention there have been seen in some eastern cities, but on a smaller scale than most experts predicted. Most Russophone Ukrainians seem to support Kiev — which suggests that a distinctly Ukrainian nationalism has spread eastwards in the past 20 years. And when they switched sides, the oligarchs ensured that much political and public opinion switched sides, too.
All of which means that there is simply not enough disorder and anarchy in Ukraine to provide [Putin] a pretext for any further incursion.
“Calm,” Massie adds, “even of a relative and tense kind, is Russia’s enemy”:
The U.S. added a solid 175,000 jobs in February, despite the nasty spate of winter weather that some thought would put more of a damper on hiring. But the real relief may be that in spite of that growth, the unemployment rate actually ticked up slightly, to 6.7 percent. Why celebrate a rising jobless rate? Because it gives the Federal Reserve an excuse to lean back and let the economy keep gathering steam without worrying too much about inflation.
Bill McBride, who provides the above chart, zooms out:
This graph shows the job losses from the start of the employment recession, in percentage terms – this time aligned at maximum job losses. At the recent pace of improvement, it appears employment will be back to pre-recession levels mid-year (Of course this doesn’t include population growth).
Kilgore wonders if the weather is depressing jobs numbers:
MPs [in the Crimean parliament yesterday] voted by 78 votes to nil for the territory to leave Ukraine, further escalating what has become the most serious crisis in Russian relations with the west since the cold war.
At the same time, a referendum on more autonomy for the region due on 30 March was brought forward to 16 March, and the question was changed to give residents the option to unify the Black Sea peninsula with Russia. Crimea’s deputy prime minister, Rustam Temirgaliev, said the referendum was now only to “confirm” parliament’s decision, and he considered Crimea to be part of Russia already. He said that all Ukrainian troops on the territory should either leave or be treated as occupiers. Crimea is planning to introduce the rouble and readopt Russian state symbols.
Brian D. Taylor’s sees the referendum as a Kremlin provocation:
[The] fast-tracking of a Crimean referendum on unification with Russia, if Putin is behind it, suggests that he decided to speed right past the “off ramp” and head straight for formal annexation.
I argued that opponents of marriage equality should stop playing the victim and instead of focusing on gays “make a positive argument about the superior model of a monogamous, procreative, heterosexual marital bond”:
There is enormous beauty and depth to the Catholic argument for procreative matrimony – an account of sex and gender and human flourishing that contains real wisdom. I think that a church that was able to make that positive case – rather than what is too often a merely negative argument about keeping gays out, or the divorced in limbo – would and should feel liberated by its counter-cultural message.
Andrew asks us to make a “positive case,” but I submit to him that this is impossible now. The climate that now exists, and that will only grow in intensity, is one in which any dissent from the pro-gay consensus, no matter how nuanced or irenically stated, amounts to “hate” that cannot be tolerated. … If Andrew believes that Christians should tell positive stories, then the best thing he can do for us dissenters, now that he is on the verge of victory (and I can’t think of a single figure who has done more than he has to achieve victory), is to explain to his side what he perfectly well knows from being friends with Ross and me: that not every Christian who opposes same-sex marriage is a hater, and it does none of us any good to pretend that they are.
Well, I have done so on many occasions, did so in my books from the 1990s onward, and will continue to do so. I’ve spent a large part of my career angering gays by insisting that a crude “hater!” response to arguments about homosexuality is both deeply flawed and counter-productive. That was the whole point of Virtually Normal – and why it provoked such ferocious hostility from the left. Here’s an essay I wrote for the NYT attacking the whole concept of “hate” as a legal or political phenomenon. My record against “hate-crimes” is also pretty clear. I’ve aired vital reporting that complicates the iconic case of alleged anti-gay hate, in the Matthew Shepard case. Rod knows all this. He must also know that maintaining my loyalty to the Catholic church has not made my life easier in the gay community these past few decades. Why, given some social ostracism in the gay world for being a believing Christian, would I have clung on to a church that I believe is motivated by “hate”? Human beings – and hostility or opposition to gay civil rights – are much more complicated than that absurdly reductionist label. I am not Mark Joseph Stern.
But it remains the case that hatred and fear of gay people is deep and real and alive among many of Rod’s allies on the Christianist right. Not all, by any means. But it would be crazy not to acknowledge this. Rod wants to divide the anti-gay-rights coalition into a tiny fringe of Westboro Church loons and otherwise reasonable, nice Christians who oppose marriage equality for principled reasons. But this is a whitewash. The way gay people have been denigrated, derided, trivialized and demonized by mainstream figures in the Christianist right is appalling. The Christianist campaign to persecute gay people in Africa is horrifying. The callousness and double standards of Pope Benedict XVI – the man who declared gay people inherently sinful in our nature – cannot be denied.
And the only way to distinguish yourself from these hateful factions is to make a positive case for your position. That’s always possible. From the very beginnings of our faith, Christians have made such a positive case, even as they were being thrown to the lions. And Rod won’t do it because someone might say something mean at the office! How delicate and sensitive these Christianists can be.
John Cassidy watched McConnell’s performance yesterday:
[W]hen you want to boost your bona fides with conservatives, many of whom regard you as a hopelessly compromised establishment figure, there’s still nothing like putting on your hunting jacket, grabbing your rifle, and paying homage to the N.R.A.
This being the Gaylord Convention Center rather than a rifle range or a field in Kentucky, McConnell went without the hunting jacket. His official purpose was to present a “lifetime achievement award”—that would be the rifle—from the National Rifle Association to Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma senator who is retiring this year with a hundred-per-cent approval rating from the gun-rights lobby. McConnell handed Coburn the gun, they both admired it, and then McConnell delivered a lengthy attack on President Obama and the Democrats.
Paul Waldman is jealous that conservatives get all the cool props:
[C]onservatives have lots of these kinds of identity markers that can easily and quickly communicate a whole set of beliefs to an audience when they’re mentioned, like the Bible or Ayn Rand or country music.
Mark Kleiman, fast becoming the biggest buzz-harsher on the planet, worries that our state-by-state approach to legalization will end badly unless the federal government steps in to regulate the pot market:
The systems being put into place in Washington and Colorado roughly resemble those imposed on alcohol after Prohibition ended in 1933. A set of competitive commercial enterprises produce the pot, and a set of competitive commercial enterprises sell it, under modest regulations: a limited number of licenses, no direct sales to minors, no marketing obviously directed at minors, purity/potency testing and labeling, security rules. The post-Prohibition restrictions on alcohol worked reasonably well for a while,but have been substantially undermined over the years as the beer and liquor industries consolidated and used their economies of scale to lower production costs and their lobbying muscle to loosen regulations and keep taxes low (see Tim Heffernan, “Last Call”).
The same will likely happen with cannabis. As more and more states begin to legalize marijuana over the next few years, the cannabis industry will begin to get richer—and that means it will start to wield considerably more political power, not only over the states but over national policy, too. That’s how we could get locked into a bad system in which the primary downside of legalizing pot—increased drug abuse, especially by minors—will be greater than it needs to be, and the benefits, including tax revenues, smaller than they could be. It’s easy to imagine the cannabis equivalent of an Anheuser-Busch InBev peddling low-cost, high-octane cannabis in Super Bowl commercials. We can do better than that, but only if Congress takes action—and soon.
Kleiman makes some good points about the radical insecurity of the legal regimes in Colorado and Washington, but I have to say I find his worst case scenarios a stretch. This, for example, is Kleiman’s understanding of federalism:
Justice Louis Brandeis’s praise for states as the “laboratories of democracy” has been widely quoted … Dr. Frankenstein also had a laboratory.
Oy. Pete Guither offers a must-read and detailed rebuttal. On the federalism point, is Kleiman honestly saying that the federal government is to be trusted in this area? The entire reason the states have taken the lead is that the feds still can’t change its absurd classification of the drug. Then Kleiman has a bugaboo about marketing, as if nurturing and cultivating a customer base for marijuana is some kind of a crime, or inherently damaging. Guither responds:
More and more, a new study finds, people around the world are eating like we do:
Between 1961 and 2009, the global consumption of soybeans, sunflower, and palm oil-based products—”staples” of a classic Western diet—grew several orders of magnitude, while traditional diets based on crops such as sorghum, millets, sweet potatoes, and cassava declined, according to researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. The data, gleaned from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, backs up the idea that the world is increasingly relying on processed and other “Western” foods. Lead researcher Colin Khoury calls it “Western plus,” because foods like potatoes, rice, and wheat are still eaten worldwide. But, more than ever, humans are now using those big three: soybeans, sunflowers, and palm oil, to create processed foods for people around the world.
Dan Charles discusses the problems of over-reliance on mega-crops:
The trend toward greater dependence on fewer crops continues, Khoury says. And so do the risks. It’s dangerous to depend on just a few crops because any one of them could be hit by some disaster, such as disease. But governments and international organizations can still help to safeguard diversity in our food sources. They can act to preserve the many genetic varieties of mega-crops that still exist, and also preserve and encourage cultivation of minor crops, he says.
Today a representative answers to over 700,000 constituents, well over 10 times the number of constituents deemed appropriate by the First Congress. While it seems unwise to adhere to the strict letter of Article the First, the time has likely come to abide by its spirit and increase the size the House.
The United States is supposed to be the world’s premier representative democracy, yet India’s Lok Sabha is the only lower chamber on the globe where representatives have more constituents. Indeed, Pakistan’s National Assembly and Indonesia’s People’s Representative Council are the only other lower chambers with a population-per-seat ratio exceeding even 400,000.
Among his reasons for increasing the size of the House:
Few events are more central to the history of the 20th century than the First World War. Without Sarajevo, Tannenberg and the Somme, we have no Hitler, no Lenin, no Hemingway. The history of the past hundred years flows directly from the happenstance series of events that led to Europe destroying itself for little reason between 1914 and 1918.
And yet, if we imagine a German diplomat or general falling asleep in February 1914 and waking up today to see a prosperous Germany dominating a peaceful Europe, he would be pleased but not be surprised. The fall of the multiethnic Austrian Hungarian and Ottoman empires and their replacement by nation states was also predictable. No one in 1914 would have been astonished to learn that 100 years later Russia would remain an exporter of raw materials and its politics would be authoritarian, oligarchic, and corrupt. Britain’s half-hearted relationship towards the rest of Europe would startle no one. What would shock our German general is the realization that it took two brutal world wars and the rise and fall of communism to achieve this outcome. Disastrous defeat twice over did not impede Germany’s rise.
Cory Doctorow explains why Keurig is planning to fight off-brand coffee pods:
The reason they’re adding “DRM” to their coffee pods is that they don’t think that they make the obviously best product at the best price, but want to be able to force their customers to buy from them anyway. So when, inevitably, their system is cracked by a competitor who puts better coffee at a lower price into the pods, Keurig strikes me as the kind of company that might just sue. And not only sue, but keep on suing, even after they get their asseshanded to them by successive courts. With any luck, they’ll make some new appellate-level caselaw in a circuit where there’s a lot of startups — maybe by bringing a case against some spunky Research Triangle types in the Fourth Circuit.
Now, this is risky. Hard cases made bad law. A judge in a circuit where copyright claims are rarely heard might just buy the idea of copyright covering pods of coffee. The rebel forces that Keurig sues might be idiots (remember Aimster?). But of all the DRM Death Stars to be unveiled, Keurig’s is a pretty good candidate for Battle Station Most Likely to Have a Convenient Thermal Exhaust Port.
McArdle compares Keurig’s move to that of printer companies:
That’s why printer manufacturers have been waging a long war against knockoff toner cartridges. Most people think that this is a case of companies trying to “gouge” you on the ink, but from the firms’ point of view, if they can’t make it on the consumables, they have to charge more for the printer, which consumers hate. However, the reason that printer manufacturers have been waging such a long war against knockoffs is that it’s hard to win. “Educate” the consumer all you want about the benefits of genuine Hewlett-Packard Co. ink; a lot of them still want to save a few bucks.
Olivia Solon notes that coffee makers are “quite the litigious bunch”:
Ukraine was badly hit by the financial crisis and plummeting steel prices. GDP fell by 15% in 2009. That made it a prime candidate for economic streamlining. In 2010 the IMF agreed to loan Ukraine $15 billion—with conditions attached. A major target for reform were Ukraine’s cushy energy subsidies. The state gas company, Naftogaz, only charges consumers a quarter of the cost of importing the gas. Cheap gas discourages investment: Ukraine is one of the most energy-intensive economies in the world and domestic production has slumped by two-thirds since the 1970s. The IMF ended up freezing the deal in 2011 after Kiev failed to touch the costly subsidies.
This is not quite as generous as it seems – the aid is tied to the implementation of an IMF restructuring campaign that is sure to be almost as destabilizing in the short-run as the aid is intended to be stabilizing. If the goal was simply to strengthen the Ukrainian state in the near future, the aid should have been offered with fewer if any strings.
Yesterday the College Board introduced an overhaul of the SAT, with a return to the 1,600-point scoring system, a revamped and now-optional- essay section, and a new emphasis on American “founding documents” as source material. Todd Balf offers a “simplistic example” of a new SAT prompt:
Students would read an excerpt from a 1974 speech by Representative Barbara Jordan of Texas, in which she said the impeachment of Nixon would divide people into two parties. Students would then answer a question like: “What does Jordan mean by the word ‘party’?” and would select from several possible choices. This sort of vocabulary question would replace the more esoteric version on the current SAT. The idea is that the test will emphasize words students should be encountering, like “synthesis,” which can have several meanings depending on their context. Instead of encouraging students to memorize flashcards, the test should promote the idea that they must read widely throughout their high-school years.
Elizabeth Kolbert, who last week panned the current version of the exam, thinks the timing is interesting: