"This is the man that Bill Gates thinks you absolutely should be reading," Wired, by Clive Thompson [Interview with Vaclav Smil]
"Which side of the barricade are you on?" Politico, by Doug Sosnik
"America's coastal royalty," Real Clear Politics, by Victor Davis Hanson
"The French connection: how the Revolution, and two thinkers, bequeathed us 'right' and 'left'," The Weekly Standard, by Gertrude Himmelfarb [Review of The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth of Right and Left, by Yuval Levin]
"Arendt and Eichmann: the new truth," The New York Review of Books, by Mark Lilla [Review of film and book about Arendt]
"Fifty years later, why does 'Eichmann in Jerusalem' remain contentious?" The New York Times, by Adam Kirsch and Rivka Galchen
"The museum of the revolution: the life and work of Victor Serge represents the Russian democratic revolution that never was," The Nation, by Sophie Pinkham [Review of books on Serge]
Chicago, New York and other major American cities are considering proposals to prohibit e-cigarettes in public places. The move is another step by authorities to use public health as an excuse to treat us as less than autonomous individuals.
About 4 million Americans use battery-powered cigarettes, according to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association. The growing use has got some politicians worked up. New York City councilman James Gennaro, one of the sponsors of the city's proposed ban, says "We see these cigarettes are really starting to proliferate, and it's unacceptable. I get reports of people smoking cigarettes in public libraries. Certainly, they're becoming more common in restaurants and bars."
The proposed bans essentially treat electronic cigarettes the same as tobacco ones, even though there is no evidence that e-cigarettes cause cancer. The rationale for prohibiting tobacco cigarettes in public spaces is primarily based on the claimed dangers of second-hand smoke, but it is not possible to make such an argument with e-cigs. But that hasn't stopped some people. Erika Seward of the American Lung Association deploys the precautionary principle in support of the ban: "We don't want to have people now exposed to e-cigarette second-hand emissions until we know more about them." In other words, ban until we can prove they are 100 percent safe. But that is not how things are supposed to work in a free society, where you are allowed to act freely unless you cause harm to others.
E-cigarettes do contain nicotine, which is, for some, part of the appeal - they can get the nicotine buzz, and other pleasurable aspects from smoking, without worrying about a risk from cancer. A minority partake of e-cigarettes because they are trying to wean themselves off tobacco. As it happens, if you are going to ban e-cigarettes, you might as well ban nicotine patches or gum (not that I'm advocating that... treating e-cigarettes as a medical product is problematic as well).
Another argument rolled out by the proponents of the ban is to protect children. Gennaro said that children were getting the message that smoking is socially acceptable. But this hiding behind kids is one of the oldest claims of prohibitionists over the years. There is no reason why adults should be denied the right to enjoy something just because it's not appropriate for children. The same argument could be made about alcohol: how can we allow the kids to watch us lift a bottle of beer? Or to extend the analogy to e-cigarettes: how can we allow adults to drink from bottles that look like they have beer in them?
As it happens, most people simply enjoy the experience of "vaping". And so far, it seems that most patrons of restaurants and bars are relatively relaxed about it. There is really no need for killjoy politicians to butt in.
For more on what's driving today's trend towards paternalism, see my recent essay in spiked.
"The nuclear option undermines our institutions," The American Interest, by Walter Russell Mead
"Doris Lessing and the left," Real Clear Politics, by Cathy Young
"Why the future looks sluggish," Financial Times, by Martin Wolf
"Common Core and the American republic," The American Conservative, by Patrick Dineen
"A curious form of 'populism': Bill de Blasio and Wall Street," The Weekly Standard, by Fred Siegel
"Man vs. corpse," The New York Review of Books, by Zadie Smith
In our cynical, downbeat era, we long for some Kennedy positivity.
Read my spiked article in full here.
"Hillary's nightmare? A Democratic Party that realizes its soul lies with Elizabeth Warren," The New Republic, by Noam Scheiber
"The spirit of secession sweeps the Red States," American Conservative, by Patrick J. Buchanan
"Political divide hurts college free speech," USA Today, by Patrick Maines
"What happened in Laramie: everything you know about Matthew Shepard is wrong," Weekly Standard, by Andrew Ferguson
"Liberal echo chamber," New York, by Frank Rich [on "12 Years a Slave" and liberal feel-bad movies]
"Should literature be useful?" The New Yorker, by Lee Siegel
"Media bias ignites Dolphins firestorm," Real Clear Sports, by Samuel Chi
Far from being a socialist, New York City’s new mayor is Bloomberg Take 2.
You can read my spiked article in full here.
"Fixing California: the green gentry's class warfare," New Geography, by Joel Kotkin
"The Blue Model needs Wall Street to survive," The American Interest, by Walter Russell Mead
"Big Mother is watching you," The New Republic, by Judith Shulevitz
"Interest fading in the humanities, colleges worry," The New York Times, by Tamar Lewin
"If teens don't think that Facebook is cool anymore, should Facebook worry?" The Atlantic, by Derek Thompson
"Boston Strong: music to fans' ears," Real Clear Politics, by Carl Cannon
Whenever a new problem emerges - and there have been a lot of them over the past year - President Obama seems to say that he had no knowledge of it before it was in the media.
As the video here highlights, on issue after issue - from the IRS's targeting of conservative groups to NSA eavesdropping on Angela Merkel to the malfunctioning Obamacare website, and more - the President's standard response is "I didn't know, I found out when you did". This has led to charges that he is a "bystander" President, and not only from Republicans. A front-page article in the New York Times earlier this week discussed growing talk of Obama the Onlooker:
As a practical matter, no president can be aware of everything going on in the sprawling government he theoretically manages. But as a matter of politics, Mr. Obama’s plea of ignorance may do less to deflect blame than to prompt new questions about just how much in charge he really is.
Although "I didn't know" is a type of defence, the cumulative effect is to make the President appear clueless.
"A blue state's road to red," Washington Post, by Karen Tumulty
"Democrats are stupid, too," Bloomberg View, by Clive Crook
"Bill de Blasio and the new urban populism," The New York Times, by Thomas B. Edsall
"The case for hate speech," The Atlantic, by Jonathan Rauch
"Of course the world is better now than it was in 1900," Slate, by Bjorn Lomborg
"From the department of petty controversies: schools cancel Halloween," Time, by Nick Gillespie
"Only disconnect: two cheers for boredom," The New Yorker, by Evgeny Morozov
I had the pleasure of discussing the US government shutdown and aftermath with Amanda Vanstone on ABC Radio National’s “Counterpoint” in Australia.
You can listen to the interview here. I recommend that you check out Counterpoint, which provides a fresh take on the news from a fellow great Pacific country.