National Dems—Pay No Attention to That State Way Out West! The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee gives a friendly plug to ABC's report on "gerrymandering"—the disreputable practice of drawing legislative districts to protect incuments or to favor one party over another. But I wish the DLCC would get in touch with Democrats out here in California, who are supporting a ballot effort to re-install gerrymandering at the state level, and preserve it at the Congressional level . . .
P.S.— Gerrymandering Achieves Middle-East Peace: Opponents of "pro-peace" lobbying group J-Street—quietly funded, it turns out, by billionaire George Soros—might see Soros as "virulently anti-Israel." Meanwhile, billionaire Haim Saban is a major supporter of AIPAC, the pro-Israel group that J-Street was formed to combat. But Soros and Saban apparently agree on one thing: Dem politicians in California must be able to gerrymander their districts! Both have bankrolled the pro-gerrymandering Prop 27 . . . Luckily, they have to contend with the son of billionaire Charles Munger . . . 11:48 p.m.
Car and Driver grades auto stylists and more or less proves we are in an Era of Bad Taste in car design—not unlike the '70s in architecture. Nobody seems to have a good idea of what to do. Even Audi has lost its way. GM's design team is actually doing better than most (exception: the insulting Cartoon Camaro) but mainly because it's stuck in the Euro-style past . . . 11:45 p.m.
Cheap Date No. 1—Megan McArdle: If libertarian Atlantic writer McArdle wants to take a trip to Lansing, Michigan, and suddenly be impressed with GM's industrial vigor, deciding that maybe the bailout wasn't such a bad idea after all--well, OK! I once visited a GM plant as a journalist and was impressed with its vigor, and the innovative new car they were about to manufacture. The name of that car? Pontiac Fiero. It had an alarming tendency to catch fire . . . Also:
1) McArdle makes much of the new, small Chevy Cruze, and how it has features (like a "sophisticated new rear suspension" and "better noise reduction") the competing Toyota Corolla doesn't have. But of course people don't buy the Corolla for its sophisticated suspension (it doesn't have one) or its noise reduction. They buy the Corolla because it's bulletproof. We don't know if GM and the UAW can build a bulletproof Cruze at their notorious Lordstown plant. If so, it will be a first.
2) The Cruze and all the other cars GM is now selling were designed under the old, pre-bankruptcy regime. We don't know how the new regime will do.
3) I recently rented a Buick Enclave, the car McArdle enthuses over. My reaction: eh. A reasonably nice $25,000 car with a bunch of shiny bits added that they want $35,000 for . . .
Cheap Date No. 2—Jacob Weisberg: If my friend and former boss Weisberg wants to claim that Aaron Sorkin's hack line in The Social Network about Peter Thiel ("We're in the offices of a guy whose hero is Gordon Gekko") brilliantly "demolishes" Thiel's character—hey, go ahead! It reminds me more of one of Sidney Blumenthal's scripts—not a joke but a code that triggers a mirthless gag reflex in those who already agree with the writer . . . Also:
1) When I saw the subhed of Weisberg's piece, I figured Thiel must be promoting some vicious Darwinian scheme to get thousands of theoretically unqualified people to drop out of college. It turns out it's a scholarship program that offers 20 awards to people under 20 so they can "stop out" of school to start businesses. Twenty. A number Weisberg conveniently omits! It's hard to see how a program that only affects a maximum of 80 people (teams of 4 can apply) is going to undermine our humanistic system of higher education;
2) They can always go back to college later! That's why Thiel calls it "stopping out" instead of "dropping out;"
3) Does Weisberg really think there aren't 20-80 kids a year in the U.S. who wouldn't thrive at college but might contribute a lot to society if they immediately plunge into business while they still have all that youthful energy? We can't all be culture-drenched Jacob Weisbergs, reading Homer for an hour a day at the age of 2. And I read somewhere—must have been in college!—that even self-interested businessmen unaccountably wind up "helping others" through some mysterious mechanism or other. I forget what Bill Gates did before he ran the Gates Foundation—but I bet some people benefitted!
4) Why be so certain about the wisdom of our current assembly-line meritocratic protocol where we load you up with a lifetime of learning at the beginning like a tank of gas?
5) Don't you think it's the rush of rich people to high-profile charity—egged on by Slate's annual "Slate 60" feature—that threatens to spark a wasteful overallocation of resources, with too many people chasing after glory the way too many kids spend their school years trying to make the NBA? . . .
[Note: I once ate dinner as part of a group that included Thiel. He very kindly picked up the tab. I admit I can be bought for a free N.Y. apartment. But not dinner!] . . .
Update: Peter Thiel emails:
One critical point, that I have perhaps not stressed enough: We have a runaway debt bubble in education, and the costs of servicing these debts makes it much harder for students to take a number of lower-paying salaries (in non-profits, in start-ups, and indeed in a range of intangibly rewarding jobs). Effectively, our education system is steering people away from the high-risk careers that will take our civilization to its next level. This is a relatively recent change, and I don't think the debt levels were so daunting in the 1970s or 1980s.
Simon Rosenberg's New Democratic Network, in a release urging Latinos in Nevada to vote for Harry Reid, declares:
Additionally, there is perhaps no Senator in the US Senate today who has done more to try to get immigration reform passed than Harry Reid.
Hmmm. That's not what I remember! I remember the 2007 immigration debate, as run by Reid, as more of a controlled implosion, or engineered train wreck on the Kabuki Line! The bill effectively died when the leadership gave Sen. Byron Dorgan a second chance to offer a deal-killer amendment, which unexpectedly passed despite opposition from Sen. Edward Kennedy. As recounted by Politico, Reid patted Dorgan on the back and said, "Excellent!" . . . 9:42 p.m.