August 2 roundup


  • The New Jersey anti-smoking verdict spun my head. What is going on?

  • “?How easy is it to get a free federal cellphone ….”
    I think Jillian meant “that darned Kenyan, not a US citizen, communist, 666, socialist, military hating, liberal, infesting the white house obama”phone. You know, the program that started with the 1985 bill when ol’ whats-his-name was president.

  • I agree that the term “Obamaphone” overplays Obama’s role. The fateful expansion of the Lifeline program a few years back was pushed by many different political forces, including crucially the companies that stood to profit from it, not just the White House. At the same time, we should not minimize the extent to which the extension of the program from landlines to cells made for a difference in kind, not just degree. Quoting the Baltimore Sun (h/t reader M.S.): “The Lifeline program, created in 1984 to soften the impact of telephone deregulation on low-income families, had nearly 509,000 subscribers in [Maryland] last year, up from 5,821 in 2008.”

  • Incidentally, Bloomberg reports that the biggest single beneficiary of the LifeLine program’s expansion is Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, billed as the “world’s richest man,” whose business dealings tend to get little scrutiny in much of the American press, perhaps not entirely unrelated to his large shareholding in the New York Times (more).