July 29th, 2008

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Somehow, I doubt Sean Hannity Is the Fisher King

Am I the only one struck by the similarity between the tragedy of the Knoxville church shooting and the movie The Fisher King?
(I also note that the shooter, a conservative opponent of government entitlement programs supposedly beloved of liberals, was apparently triggered by the news that he would get his food stamps reduced. Psychotics are not known for their consistency.)

As a general rule, we do not hold people responsible for when they go totally nut-bar and start blasting away. Nor would I support such a rule here. But there is a difference between what I would have as a rule of law and what I would hope for a rule of conscience. I do not expect Savage, O'Reilly or Hannity to engage in any serious soul searching or introspection about maybe they should ease back on the rhetoric -- even if they think others are worse. (I confess I am an outlier these days in my belief that one's personal ethical behavior, while informed by societal norms, really is you own responsibility, so that the argument "they do even more heinous things" is generally suspect.) To the contrary, I expect them to be highly offended that anyone would even suggest that they should have even a smidgen of second thought about what they say and how they say it -- without, of course, troubling to extend similar courtesies to their opponents.

But if conscience does not move the conservative noise machine, might I suggest that self-preservation might? Nutbardom knows no bounds. The next psycho might well decide that evil plutocrats are responsible for destroying America and decide to take an AK-47 to the local country club, or Fox News event. As we have seen in politics, what comes around goes around. Not that they seem to have learned much from that one either. The power of stereotyping is such that these guys apparently cannot dream of some bleeding heart liberal deciding to take "direct action" -- historical examples not withstanding.

Once again, I experience cassandrafruede, as I note that a return to the environment of the Guilded Age, complete with demagoguery as well as economic disparity, may reawaken our rich tradition of political violence that has mercifully lain dormant for so long.
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Merril Sells Debt Below My Proposed Price, Proof Coase Never Considered The Problem of Delay.

My thanks to goldsquare for the pointer to the NYTimes piece in question, validating yet another cassandrafruede moment. For those who missed it when I coined the term, "cassandrafruede" is the feeling of grim pleasure you get from other people's pain because you warned them about this and they refused to believe you, even though you are caught up in the mess yourself through no fault of your own.

In this case, it also provides a useful illustration of the problem with reliance of the the Coase Theorem, although I suppose folks will argue this is captured in Coase's followup The Problem of Social Cost. But it isn't, because in this case responsibility was delegated to the market via property rights in the first instance, and the outcome was still significantly less efficient and imposed greater social cost than the proposed government intervention.

But I shall leave the math to fatlefty and simply content myself with the observation.
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"What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?"

--Standard question by Monica Goodling for Department of Justice job applicants, according to the Washington Post.

Even Stephen Colbert never went this far!
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Writer's Block: In the Event of a Zombie Emergency

Are you prepared for a zombie outbreak, or are you just going to wing it?
You will be given instructions by me, your evil overlord. Remember to keep hands and feet visible at all times, especially if they are bing carried off by faithful zombies. It will be much harder to retrieve them if they get mixed in with the general pile.

Thank you. Had this been an actual Zombie Emergency, John Coulter would be played incessantly. Remember, in the event of a real zombie emergency, obey my orders and no one gets hurt.