February 28, 2005
Flat Tax Fever
I posted about Slovakia's Flat Tax and private pension system. John Fund at OpinionJournal documents its success in the former Soviet Union as Estonia, Romania, Georgia, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine have all implemented flat rates.
Despite all of its advantages, the flat tax faces enormous ideological opposition. Envy and the lust for the political control that complicated tax regimes can provide are powerful motivations to keep progressive tax systems in place. Karl Marx in "The Communist Manifesto" was among the first to call for "a heavy progressive or graduated income tax" at a time when a flat rate was the norm in advanced countries. He listed it as second in the list of priorities for a new society based on the class struggle.
Clinton '08 Receives Key Endorsement
No surprise, but I do like the headline: Yahoo! News - Clinton: Hillary Would Be Great President
TOKYO - Former President Clinton (news - web sites) said Sunday that his wife, Hillary, would be an excellent choice as the first female leader of the world's most powerful nation.
Hangin' with the 87.5%
I like movies, but there's no way I could sit through more than 20 minutes of the Oscars. Music is my life and I can take far less of the Grammies.
I watched zero of last night's show. I'm glad Jamie Foxx won; he was born to play Ray Charles.
And I have always been a Chris Rock fan. That'll get me kicked out of the conservative club. But, Zogby International says most of my GOP buddies were not tuned in last night either.
The survey finds that 25% of American adults plan to watch the annual awards show, while nearly two-thirds (63%) say they do not plan to. Another one-in-eight (12%) have not decided whether they will watch the Oscars or not.
Watched Buffy Season Two, Episodes six and seven, "Halloween" and "Lie To Me." I'd make that same choice any night of the year.
Ward Churchill: Principle vs. Principal
Belmont Club links to a Denver Post story about The University of Colorado's latest attempt to extricate itself from the Churchill contretemps. (Whoa doggies -- that's a bad sentence!)
But the good perfesser has his principles. He is making a brave stand for free speech and the values of anti-capitalism. And he will not be bought, er, cheaply:
University of Colorado officials are considering offering Ward Churchill an early retirement package that could end an increasingly uncomfortable standoff with the controversial professor. ... David Lane, Churchill's attorney, said he has not been contacted about a buyout offer. But, he said, while his primary focus is on protecting Churchill's constitutional right to speak out, he would be willing to listen to a university proposal. "If they offer $10 million, I would think about it. If they offer him $10, I wouldn't," Lane said.
I wish I could really believe that Churchill is an outlier. My guess is that a large portion, if not a majority, of liberal arts instructors at major universities hold similar thoughts. I hope most of them hold more academic credentials but don't guess that they hold wiser opinions.
Being a drop-out feels pretty good this week, perhaps I am just enjoying the sour grapes.
UPDATE: Maybe CU can save a million or two if they can fire him for plagiarism.
February 27, 2005
A Real American Hero
Saturday evening, I met someone you don't meet everyday.
A real American hero.
After our SePA YCOP kickoff meeting, I and three other compatriots (one of which was frequent pstupidonymous commentor and Montgomery County Vice Chair Mark Haupert) went over to Bryn Mawr's Great American Pub for some brews and political conversation.
Whilst the four of us were drinking and discussing the battles of the Revolutionary War (of all things), a young Marine in full uniform walked in, alone, and sat down. A chest full of medals, including a Purple Heart on top of them all.
Immediately the four of fell over ourselves thanking him for his service and buying him drinks. We rearranged ourselves to include him in the middle of our group.
He spoke of General Washington (not President, but General as Washington himself had preferred), and his role in the revolution, as well as the founding of the Marines, and the significance of the decor on an officers hat.
Eventually we got to asking about his medals, particularly the Purple Heart.
The level of humility he showed was incredible. Very humble, speaking very softly, he was just there doing his job, doing what he was asked to do.
As it turns out, he was with one of the first groups of Marines into Baghdad, and was wounded when changing the barrel on a 50 caliber machine gun. A thirteen year old kid fired an RPG at him. He woke up in Germany.
What struck me the most when speaking to him was how young he looked. He was drinking, so he had to be 21, but he looked like a kid; but most importantly and perhaps most inspiringly, a hero.
February 26, 2005
Egyptian Elections (Yawn)
Yahoo! News - Mubarak Orders Egypt Election Law Changes
Hmm. I wonder what prompted that?
UPDATE: Tigerhawk thinks it may have been Secratery Rice's "displeasure..."
February 25, 2005
Bush's Europe Trip
Larry Kudlow posts a complimentary report of the President's European trip and speech in Brussels.
He compliments the Sharanskyesque focus on Democracy, the nod to the Slovakian flat tax -- all worthy of high marks.
He then closes with W's view on climate change, praising his Schumpeterian approach over the European regulatory method.
Then Bush shows his hand on global climate change. But it is not the Kyoto version, which would punish economic growth and drive up unemployment. Instead, the President relies on “Emerging technologies, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources, clean coal technology, will encourage economic growth that is environmentally responsible.”
On Hating Hillary
James Taranto at the WSJ expands a Political Diary post from a couple of days ago into a full column today. In "Hillary's Secret Weapon" he lays down a very plausible GOP failure in '08.
They may help her in the general election, too. One reason Democrats failed to unseat President Bush was that they were blinded by their hatred for him. This made them overconfident, as they mistook their emotions for facts, assuming that because they couldn't stand him, he must be (as one candidate put it) a "miserable failure." They obsessed over nonissues (Halliburton, Mr. Bush's National Guard service), and they failed to realize that their totally negative campaign reflected badly on them, not on Mr. Bush. If Mrs. Clinton is the nominee in 2008, Republicans risk repeating these mistakes.
Sanator Clinton can capture the nomination in spite of some moderate stances, then run right in the general. I am frequently pessimistic in politics, but I think she is virtually unbeatable. Unless the GOP runs Secretary Rice.
The WSJ Ed page wonders abot a Solvakian import...
President Bush got the warmest European welcome of the week yesterday in Slovakia, where he returned the compliment by hailing its tax reform. "I complimented the Prime Minister on putting policies in place that have helped this economy grow," Mr. Bush said about Mikulas Dzurinda. "The most important responsibility we have at home is to make sure our people can find work. And the President put a flat tax [at 19%] in place; he simplified his tax code, which has helped to attract capital and create economic vitality and growth."
Corporate vs Community
Karl at phillyfuture.org asks (or cites)...
That's what Free Press asks in a recent piece.
I think WiFi as a public utility makes sense and if you foster decent competition between public and corporate as in the UPS/FedEx model, great innovation will occur.
Federal law dictates that you if want to ship a letter via UPS or FedEx (or any third party), they must charge you twice the USPS or three dollars. Which ever is greater.
Doesn't exactly meet my standard of competition.
Not exactly the same thing, but it would be if....
Competition and innovation online occur not in delivery, but on content.
The question is, do I want community or corporate control? With community control, it immediately becomes a political question. And you can get nonsense like this. Corporate control means open the taps, I can sort it out, and if I don't like it, I have options and I can take my business elsewhere.
But around here, I'm preachin' to the choir.
February 24, 2005
Che - No!
Here is a free blog ad for a great product. I am buying one but we'll see whether or not I have the stones to wear it around Boulder. I'll try the Trident Bookstore/Coffeehouse/CommunistHQ -- that'd be fun.
Alex chimes in:
When I read Jonathan Chait's TNR piece I knew I had to blog it. My first thought was "this is the craziest thing I have ever seen, I have to show everybody how wacko these folks are!"
And I still think they is.
Then reading AlexC's excellent post on Social Security and basic Democratic intransigence, I was tempted to add this as a comment.
But it needs its own post and what I hope will develop into its own comment thread. TNR is not "The Nation;" they are partisan but they are thoughtful. So hear it is. Folks really believe this to be true.
The Cliff Note version is that God comes down (see, we already lost JohnGalt) and tells one political party that the other one is right. Chait is well balanced in his summaries and descriptions, but the thesis is that the thoughtful lefties all say "it's a fair cop!" and turn Conservative ---- but those ideological right wing moonbats, boy...
Now imagine the opposite were to happen. God appears in order to affirm liberal precepts: Current tax levels barely affect economic incentives, social programs provide tremendous economic security at modest cost to growth, and most regulations achieve their intended effects without producing undue distortions. Would economic conservatives likewise abandon their views? Some certainly would, but a great many would not. Economic conservatism, unlike liberalism, would survive having all its empirical underpinnings knocked out from beneath it.
I'm no less a partisan hack than Chait (and, yes, he's a much better writer) but I would have little difficulty asserting the exact opposite. The left is driven by ideology and the right wants to optimize growth and have the trains run on time.
My example would be globalization. It has brought untold wealth and diversity to rich and poor, but the left fights it because it doesn't measure up to their standards of fairness.
Hearts and Minds
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page sums up (free site) a story that was traversing the blogosphere this week.
Druze leader and Lebanese parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt opposed the Iraq war and described Paul Wolfowitz as a "virus." But he has had a change of heart:
"It's strange for me to say this," he recently told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, "but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing."
Lebanon has a great history of pluralism and openness. Restoring it by way of yet another MidEastern democracy would be a huge advancement.
February 23, 2005
The Social Security Debate
From Daily Kos:
Today, I picketed at one of Rick Santorum's Privatization town hall meetings at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Anti-privatization forces and Drexel Dems out-numbered Pro-privatization forces and College Repubs. 6 to 1. There were about 40 of us total -- but CNN, the Washington Post, ABC were all covering our anti-privatization protest.
CNN started filming, so we started to chant "Hey-Hey Ho-Ho, Rick Santorum has got to go!" In response, the Drexel Republicans retorted with their own chant: "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Social Security has got to go!" Our jaws just about jawed as CNN continued to film. We stopped our chant, and let the Repubs take over -- they were doing our job for us!
Who has been feeding Drexel Repubs the lead paint???
Well, at least they are honest. Ha.
Of course it's about ending Social Security. As we know it. You really can't chant that, I suppose.
Ulitimately, it's quite simple. With George Bush's ownership society idea, we'll start putting more of our own money into more of our accounts. Sure, now it's 1/3 (or 2/3 depending on your point of view), but sooner or later as the personalization catches on, it'll ratchet up to 4/5, 9/10s, maybe even 100%. At that point, Social Security would become a government mandated personal retirement account.
Despite my conservative neoliberalism (government is not always the best answer), it has to be government mandated because there's always going to be a knucklehead NOT saving for the future and we'll end up footing his bill anyway. Tragedy of the Commons in a way.
I'm a bit of a pessimist, so we should really account for future governments screwing it up, but that's the direction we're heading in right now; and it's a good thing.
Now, if your view of Social Security is a massive government run safety net for all individuals to contribute, and only some to collect from, then yes, Social Security is going to end. But fear not, fellow compassionate American, we're always going to support the handicapped or the infirm, or the tragically wronged with government funds. That's not going away. The ponzi scheme called Social Security is.
One question I'm left with is more of a meta-question.
February 22, 2005
I have a new favorite magazine. A few years ago, it was "National Review." Then "The Weekly Standard" overtook it. Now, I gotta say I get pretty excited when a new "The American Enterprise" rolls in.
It only publishes eight times a year, so it lacks the news quality of the other two. Yet TAE takes one topic on per issue and brings a dozen great thinkers and writers together to really flesh it out. Then the "Bird's Eye" column contextualizes all of them.
The March 2005 issue, From Alms to Ownership, is a perfect example. Social Security reform is examined from a market perspective by James Glassman, historical perspective by Stephen Moore et al, and a philosophical perspective by William Tucker.
The "Bird's eye" overview is interesting as it describes the America of 1935, giving us perspective on when the plan was engineered. "What a year," it starts out:
The world's first full-color feature film has just been released. Now there are whispers of special-effects-laden Hollywood blockbusters to come over the next several years. Two projects thought to be gestating: an adaptation of a much-anticipated new book called Gone With the Wind, and some kind of musical based on the Wizard of Oz children's stories. More films are also expected from the sensationally popular new comedy team that debuted last year: The Three Stooges.
And while America is wiring itself for majority telephone ownership, it is deeply into economic depression and as yet-undiscredited Stalinism holds sway as the wave of the future.
So: Do you want to base your security in old age on a program engineered at the same time as the Model A and the vacuum-tube radio? Has work changed much since the era when slopping pigs for Auntie Em was a typical job? Does the boundary between state and individual look different now that the USSR has gone from progressive polestar to oppressive flop? Has American finance advanced from the decades when the only choices for ordinary savers were the passbook, the mason jar, or the mattress? Are the retirement goals of Americans still the same as in the days when the Bambino retired? Or is it time for Social Security to enjoy a major-league update?
This is the big domestic political issue for this next Congress and this Presidential term. You can read a sampling of these articles online but I would encourage anybody to purchase and read this issue cover-to-cover. You will not see a better exegesis on the conservative position on Social Security reform anywhere.
Threesources regulars: holler and I'll buy it for you or take you out to lunch when you're finished so we can discuss it.
Success has many fathers
Trying to honestly appraise the "US went it alone in Iraq" argument, I had to admit real disappointment with our friends to the North. Sure, France and Russia were bought off by UNScam, but the Anglosphere was broken. It should have included Britain, Australia and Canada.
I know Canada has moved left and I know the conservatives up there have failed to construct a national party, yes, I do read Mark Steyn. But that was one country I felt should've been on freedom's side.
Martin will announce 30 troops and a million Canadian dollars (I would normally make a weak currency joke about Canada here, but with the dollar trading at 1.32 Euro today I'll pass...)
Paul Martin to announce that Canada sending 30 soldiers to train Iraqis
Well done, eh!
Hat-tip: Belmont Club
Hey The FDA Did Something Good!
This would be the second time I have written something good about the FDA. I wrote favorably about Dr. Mark McClellan's appointment to be Food and Drug Administration commissioner. Dr. McClellan tried his best with the giant bureaucracy and I was sad to see him leave.
Yet, there is a bright moment at the FDA under acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford. The WSJ Ed page points out (paid site) that at a three day hearing, those who would keep a drug off the market for fear of whom it would harm were forced to account for those whom it could help.
Particular credit here goes to acting FDA Commissioner (now the official nominee for the job) Lester Crawford, for convening an unprecedented three days of open hearings on the issue. Cox-2 critics -- including the FDA's own David Graham, who has been feted as heroic in the press -- were given a fair hearing. But in front of the panel of distinguished outside statisticians and clinicians (read: doctors who actually treat patients), he came off as less than fully scientific and, well, a bit uncaring.
Grin and bear it. Unless you died of colon cancer while the FDA was dreaming up more hurdles for Erbitux. The drug was finally approved, but 15,000 people died and Sam Waksal and Martha Stewart went to prison. Another day's work for the FDA.
February 21, 2005
Death of a Playwright
Arthur Miller died last Thursday. The playwright most famous for "Death of a Salesman" received a lot of accolades, yet some conservative press has veered off "de mortuis nil nisi bonum" and pointed out some problems with his work and his philosophy.
Sugarchuck e-mailed me about Terry Teachout's Wall Street Journal Piece -- he found it very harsh.
Well, Mark Steyn is no friendlier. In today's Spectator, he has a go at Miller's anti-Americanism and the esteem to which he is held in Britain. I liked this line:
Even in his disparagement, Miller was right to grasp that the salesman is a critical American archetype. In the dictatorships he admired, from the USSR to Cuba, you don’t need them: there’s no competition, no choice, nothing on the shelves, and every checkout line in the supermarket is perforce for five items or less. And in a one-party state, politicians don’t need to be salesmen, either — or at least not to their own people: Gorbachev and Castro were very canny in the way they flattered Miller, understanding that a man of such unbounded self-regard judged the health of nations and political systems in the same way he did the health of the American theatre — by how fulsomely they acknowledge his genius. And Fidel and Gorby were applauding long after Broadway had fallen silent.
It's just one more work of art that leans left: I can't not read Steinbeck -- or Stephen King -- because I disagree. I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" every year with my internal economist bound and gagged. I enjoy the art and just know that they're wrong.
Willy Loman is one of the archetypical characters in American fiction. Sugarchuck ranks him with Huck, Tom Sawyer and Gatsby You create a character like that and as Lileks would say you've proven you can "hit the right keys."
Requiescat in pace.
Happy Presidents Day
Well, I'm working but the market is closed and the blogosphere is silent -- a pretty dull day. My friends at research arms of major Universities are working today, though they got MLK day off. Worthy of a blog post? We couldn't have had Dr. King without Presidents Washington and Lincoln. Naaah.
But here is an interesting fact: this lawyer claims that there is no paper trail for a legal change from Washington's Birthday to Presidents Day. We all act like it happened, but Jason Bezis says it didn't:
For instance, it has been widely accepted as fact and reported -- by numerous major newspapers and educational Web sites -- that Richard Nixon dubbed the holiday Presidents Day in 1971.
Kurt Vonnegut made a passionate stance for not replacing Armistice Day with Veteran's Day. I think he and Mr. Bezis both have uphill battles.
I cannot think of two men more worthy of honor than Lincoln and Washington but feel both would be more inclined to have us go to work in their honor -- not hang out at the mall. For the record, I would apply that to Dr. King as well. It would be better to send children to school to learn of his works. That's honor.
Uncle Duke, RIP
I was a big Hunter S. Thompson fan way back when. But the last couple of his books I read not only made me question whether he had lost it -- they really made me question whether my original approbation was well placed.
But I don't have to think or write. Lileks has nailed it:
HST killed himself. He never would have “turned his life around” – that’s a hard thing to try when the room’s been spinning for 40 years. Depression? Wouldn’t be surprising. A bad verdict from the doc? Wouldn’t be surprising. A great writer in his prime, but the DVD of his career would have the last two decades on the disc reserved for outtakes and bloopers. It was all bile and spittle at the end, and it was hard to read the work without smelling the dank sweat of someone consumed by confusion, anger, sudden drunken certainties and the horrible fear that when he sat down to write, he could only muster a pale parody of someone else’s satirical version of his infamous middle period. I feel sorry for him, but I’ve felt sorry for him for years. File under Capote, Truman – meaning, whatever you thought of the latter-day persona, don’t forget that there was a reason he had a reputation. Read "Hell's Angels." That was a man who could hit the keys right.
I'll go with that assessment. Requiescat in pace.
UPDATE: When I die, I wish Tom Wolfe would write my obituary
Yet he was also part of a century-old tradition in American letters, the tradition of Mark Twain, Artemus Ward and Petroleum V. Nasby, comic writers who mined the human comedy of a new chapter in the history of the West, namely, the American story, and wrote in a form that was part journalism and part personal memoir admixed with powers of wild invention, and wilder rhetoric inspired by the bizarre exuberance of a young civilization. No one categorization covers this new form unless it is Hunter Thompson's own word, gonzo. If so, in the 19th century Mark Twain was king of all the gonzo-writers. In the 20th century it was Hunter Thompson, whom I would nominate as the century's greatest comic writer in the English language.
February 20, 2005
Will Europe warm up to Bush climate change?
Don't ice it, Mark, tell us how you feel!
February 19, 2005
Syrians Want Syria Out
Publius Pundit sees two ironic threads in the latest news from Lebanon. One, that Jacques Chirac stands accused (j'accuse?) of instigating the rebels. (Oui, oui!). The second is that the Syrian people would like their government’s occupation to end. He links to this New York Post story
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- The barrage of criticism aimed at Syria after the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has some Syrians saying it's time to withdraw the 15,000 troops their country has in Lebanon.
Ending this occupation seems an achievable goal, and would insert yet another democracy into the region.
February 18, 2005
Isn’t that an odd headline for a story about a bad headline? Maybe I can get an editing job at Associated Press.
The headline reads: Bush Says U.S. Won't Attack Iran This disappointed me -- why would you take something off the table? What about the inaugural address? Is Sharansky out and Brzezinski in?
Turns out that was pretty much the opposite of what the President said:
WASHINGTON - President Bush said Friday the United States does not intend to attack Iran to crush its suspected nuclear weapons project but added that "you never want a president to say never." He expressed hopes that a European diplomatic initiative would persuade Tehran to abandon any such program.
They same folks did the same thing to Secretary Rice.
Larry Kudlow has fixed his CAPS lock key and has written a nice piece on the UN.
He had Claudia Rosett on his show last night. I think it is significant that she wrote about UNscam, not only in the Wall Street Journal, but also in The New Republic. I don't think other non-right-of-center outlets are covering this story.
Who can deny that the ultimate responsibility lies with Kofi Annan? He knew he was helping Saddam Hussein to survive. He knew the program undermined U.N. sanctions. And he knew the U.N. secretariat was living off the corrupt financial benefits of this misbegotten deal.
Laser Virtual Keyboard
A Canton woman who got a state bill last weekend for $2,500 in back cigarette taxes is among the bulk cigarette buyers learning that avoiding taxes -- the state can go back up to four years -- can be expensive in the long run.
The state's lost tax dollars were estimated at $1.7 million from just one of 13 online cigarette retailers.
In a bold push to catch tax scofflaws, the state Treasury Department has subpoenaed the online retailers in other states to get the names, addresses and purchase records of Michiganders who bought cigarettes from them. In virtually all cases, such sales do not include the cigarette tax that must be paid to the state, regardless of who the seller is or how much is purchased.
So far, the sweep has resulted in letters sent to 533 people the state says bought from just the one online seller.
If the government of Michigan were really interested in stopping people from smoking (as all good governments claim), they would have sent these people "How to Stop Smoking" packets or something.
Instead, they reveal themselves to be what we all knew... just out for the money.
And how long till we all get subpeonaed for purchases on eBay or Amazon or anyone of hundreds or thousands of online retailers?
A Win! (I Think)
We're all jawing about Social Security and permanent tax cuts, but we should take a moment to celebrate a win.
Bush Signs Bill Curbing Class-Action Suits
This was an important part of the second term agenda and those of us rooting for the President should be glad for the win.
My sole concern is how happy I am about an anti-Federalist measure. Class action suits are national in scope and clearly belong in Federal court. I am not keen on the good folks of Beaverditch, Mississippi shutting down a major pharmaceutical firm.
And yet, celebrating the motion of authority from state to federal seems importune.
Publius Pundit says "I guess moral support really does help."
It helped Sakharov and Sharansky when President Reagan called evil by name -- why wouldn't it work in Lebanon.
BEIRUT (Reuters) - President Bush called on Syria on Thursday to withdraw its forces from Lebanon as Lebanese opposition leaders vowed to topple the country’s pro-Syrian leadership.
Look around the PubliusPundit site. It is dedicated to the advancement of democracy and freedom around the globe -- good stuff!
February 17, 2005
A National Party No More?
It seems like there are at least a few Democrats who learned a lesson from November.
Mr. Casey is the son of former Gov. Bob Casey, a hero to abortion opponents inside and outside the Democratic Party. After trying unsuccessfully to have the party's 1992 platform state that Democrats did not support "abortion on demand," Governor Casey denounced the party for refusing to let him speak at its convention in New York on behalf of other Democrats who shared his views.
In contrast, the younger Mr. Casey said that Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the party's senatorial campaign committee, had encouraged him to run as an opponent of abortion rights.
"He was very welcoming and very candid about the party's need to speak for a broad section of Americans," Mr. Casey said in an interview.
But Mr. Schumer's overture has roiled party loyalists who remain unyielding in their support for abortion rights, exposing a deepening rift in the party. Abortion rights groups that are major financial donors to Democratic campaigns say they may fight Mr. Casey in a primary with a candidate who shares their beliefs.
At least one early (like 18 months early) poll has Casey ahead of Santorum, 46% to 41%.
Great NYTimes Editorial
I have given Thomas Friedman a few thumbs-ups on his NY Times columns, and he deserves another today
There is no excuse anymore for Syria's occupation of Lebanon, other than naked imperialism and a desire to siphon off Lebanese resources. If the U.S. government and media really care about democracy in the Arab world, Mr. Hariri's envoy said, then the U.S. has to get behind those trying to rescue the oldest real Arab democracy, Lebanon, from the Syrian grip.
Fouad Ajami has a guest editorial in today's Wall Street Journal (Paid site only)
There is talk nowadays of spreading liberty to Arab lands, changing the ways of the Arabs, putting an end to regimes that harbor terror. The restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty ought to be one way for the Arabs to break with the culture of dictators and police states, and with the time of the car bombs. Hariri sought for his country a businessman's peace. His way was a break with the politics of charisma and ideology that has wrecked the Arab world; he believed in philanthropy and practical work. His vision may not have been stirring. But there was dignity in it, and a reprieve from the time of darkness.
Is it my mood today? The most liberal and the most conservative major editorial pages in the country today are calling for war with Syria as surely as William Randolph Hearst called for war with Spain.
As a Sharansky devotee and neo-Wilsonian, I can't run from it, I am just surprised at the idea's velocity.
Sit Down Before Reading This
In policy terms, Kerry probably had a more serious democratization agenda than Bush. But, rhetorically, he never matched Bush's grandeur.I sent this quote to James Taranto at Best of The Web (did I mention the two times that I was in BOTW? 1 2 Oh. I did?) and said "I don't know which part is funnier."
Kerry's audacious plan to democratize the Middle East? I somehow missed that one, Peter. And I never, never, never, thought even Beinart would say about a Democrat "rhetorically, he never matched Bush's grandeur." (Nuke-uh-ler...)
As usual, Beinart makes other good points in his piece but I wonder if this isn't a fundamental shift in the left. They don't plan to misunderestimate the President. I wonder if we won't see a grudging respect.
Lord STanley Weeps
The WSJ Ed page is a little disrespectful of my favorite sport, but their middle editorial today contains bitter truth.
As newspaper readers, we have a special fondness for headlines that disclose the end of something we didn't know was taking place. Such as, "Drought in Burma Finally Over." Millions of Americans may have a similar reaction today when they read that "NHL Commissioner Cancels Season." You mean they weren't playing hockey? We hadn't noticed.
Hardy har har...But the analysis is spot on:
The more fundamental problem is that both sides failed to appreciate that in today's competitive sports world they aren't "management" and "labor." They are, or should be, business partners. The National Hockey League is just one of many pastimes bidding for the scarce entertainment dollar. Across a normal season hockey competes with basketball (pro and NCAA), golf, football, professional wrestling, figure skating, and for that matter the circus -- any spectator activity that North Americans pay to watch.
I played, as a kid and a grownup, and do love the sport. Missing a season has been disappointing but strangely not devastating.
It seems a drug company improved their product to help patients but -- they did it for money!
The Wall Street Journal broke this story (I remember reading it and thinking about the disparity between the News and Editorial staffs). But it took the New Yorker's anti-capitalist condescension to do it justice.
A friend sent me a link to the Critic At Large column, remarking "I am astonished at the level of bitterness towards drug companies, given that the people I know involved in drug research and development are so committed to improving the lives of patients."
Well, yeah, if they gave it away...
In short, AstraZeneca, launched an internal project to patent an improvement to its Prilosec so that the firm could continue to profit when the patent expired. They modified its structure to seek improvements.
Here's Malcolm Gladwell's take on this nefarious scheme:
AstraZeneca then had to prove that the single-isomer version of the drug was better than regular Prilosec. It chose as its target something called erosive esophagitis, a condition in which stomach acid begins to bubble up and harm the lining of the esophagus. In one study, half the patients took Prilosec, and half took Son of Prilosec. After one month, the two drugs were dead even. But after two months, to the delight of the Shark Fin team, the single-isomer version edged ahead—with a ninety-per-cent healing rate versus Prilosec’s eighty-seven per cent. The new drug was called Nexium. A patent was filed, the F.D.A. gave its blessing, and, in March of 2001, Nexium hit the pharmacy shelves priced at a hundred and twenty dollars for a month’s worth of pills. To keep cheaper generics at bay, and persuade patients and doctors to think of Nexium as state of the art, AstraZeneca spent half a billion dollars in marketing and advertising in the year following the launch. It is now one of the half-dozen top-selling drugs in America.
Oddly enough, the article eventually comes around to defending some pharmaceutical firms, pointing out that doctors or insurance companies could use the generic Prilosec.
Mr. Gladwell may not need Nexium (I could use a hit, reading his column) and feels that isomer selection doesn't rise to his high standards of chemical discovery, but the product was improved. It took scientists and lab techs and time and electricity and lawyers. Shouldn't he be glad it's there if he needs it?
He also hits the "cox-2 inhibitors are no better than Advil unless you have stomach ulcers" meme. Once again, these bastards are just trying to sell us $5 aspirin! I dare say if you have thin blood, ulcers, and are in extreme pain, it is might handy to have it around.
Yes, they're oversubscribed, yes a less expensive alternative probably works 90% of the time. But what if it's for your spouse and the Insurance company says use the cheap one. What are you going to say? What's your attorney going to say?
February 16, 2005
I don't mind being a contrarian, but when nobody agrees with me, I have to question my position and maybe even keep my mouth shut.
But, now that I have one guy to back me up (and a serious guy at that), I will speak my peace (piece?)
I have always been a fan of Carly Fiona of HP. I thought the Compaq merger looked good on paper, and that her refusal to spin off the printer biz augured well for long-term viability of HP.
It's not like some folks disagreed -- all of Wall Street disagreed. And the Hayekian in me has to believe that the market is right. I was disappointed when she agreed to step down -- but again, Wall Street loved it.
Homan Jenkins, Jr. writes a WSJ Editorial that, mirabile dictu, shares my vision:
HP's printers were already going from being appendages of computers to being appendages of digital cameras, with or without a computer involved. The company argues, as a stopgap, that printers help sell computers and vice versa. That's why archrival Dell has recently added printers to its line-up. But, in the long run, HP is positioning itself for the digitization of all media, redrawing the boundaries between computers and consumer electronics. It's already used the imaging lessons gained from printers to roll out a line of plasma TVs.
Jenkins wonders if you can build a business around proprietary ink cartridges (a great cash cow, but HP?) and states that her vision will remain for awhile, even though she has gone.
UPDATE: WSJ sez
Hewlett-Packard Co., a week after directors ousted Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, posted better-than-expected revenue for its fiscal first quarter and offered a relatively strong sales outlook.
No wonder she was fired...
It's just anecdotal, but the summary in the WSJ caught my political eye: "Housing starts rose 4.7% in January to the highest level in nearly 21 years as booming activity in the South offset the effects of soggy, stormy weather elsewhere."
WSJ.com - Housing Starts Jump 4.7%, Bucking Forecast for Drop
Ummm, isn't that a signal of more than expected growth for the most GOP dominated part of the country? Already, as Joel Kotkin writes in the Weekly Standard, folks are moving out of the Euro-cities to Cities of Aspiration
What differentiates these two Americas is not so much politics, but perspective on the future. Cities of aspiration like Reno accommodate job growth and attract young families who hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.
Demographics definitely favors the red states; the WSJ article makes me wonder if it's not more pronounced than previously thought.
The Social Security Fight
Pete du Pont (I supported his brief Presidential bid way back when...) nails it in his OpinionJournal piece today. The solidarity seen in opposition to President Bush's Social Security reform is philosophical:
Ultimately the argument isn't about investment accounts, or stocks or bonds or "gambling" or "insecurity." It is about socialism versus individualism, about Attlee's social justice and Hillary's common good and Chomsky's economic solidarity. AARP CEO William Novelli is in favor of allowing the government to invest Social Security surplus funds in the stock market, but against allowing individuals to do so--exactly the socialist argument, that government should control the distribution of the nation's wealth.
Along the way, he points out that the AFL-CIO, AARP and government employees all use the type of plan W is proposing, even as they fight it.
I'll go further and point out that they have a lot to lose. Much of the government control agenda has been repudiated of late; Social Security remains one of the few popular forms of coercion. Any individualization would severely damage the progressives' agenda.
In the words of my wife, who is a genuine genius, this is "not my style" but I find it interesting anyway. And it's timely, being that V-Day is the counter-culture, feminist, alternative to St. Valentine's Day.
I am, of course, familiar with The Vagina Monologues and considered it a feminist "feel good" play. Having no interest whatsoever in seeing or reading it, I hadn't realized it's philosophical vacuity. I'll leave it to Christina Hoff Sommers to give us the gory details in Sex, Lies and the Vagina Monologues (warning- adult language) but, as I mentioned in the comments to Competence below, the play dramatizes and glorifies statutory rape. The enobling aspect in this instance is that said rape is a lesbian affair.
But worse still, in my (ahem) "humble" opinion, is VM author Eve Ensler's least common denominator treatment of romantic love between men and women, popularly celebrated by Valentine's day. Because there exist men who commit violence against women, she says, no one should celebrate the existence, or value, or joy that results when any man treats a woman with reverence.
This attitude is the manifestation of collectivist ideology in the subject of human sexuality - "No woman may be desired so long as any are undesirable!"
February 15, 2005
The Laffer Curve
It always works -- and yet everybody is still surprised.
Well, not Larry Kudlow. His new blog is now providing follow up commentary for his new show (sniff! The one without Jim Cramer). It is a very effective format: watch the show, read the blog, buy the economist action figures...
He blogs about a great segment with Senator Jon Kyl and his effort to extend the Bush tax cuts. Here's the close:
Meanwhile dividend and capital gains tax collections are rising at a double-digit pace according to the most recent monthly Treasury statement in the non-withheld personal income category. At lower tax-rates, more investment is generating higher tax collections. Sound familiar? That's right, the scenario conforms to Arthur Laffer's curve.
Always works, always surprises...
For This We Elect Republicans?
Sensing that the government was not doing enough to hamper innovation and destroy valuations in the pharmaceutical sector, Congress has sprung into life:
Yahoo! News - New Board to Check Drugs After Approval
I guess I'll just short Pfizer and learn to live with Multiple Sclerosis -- they got a public to protect!!!
I don't do it often, but if I ever blog an NRO piece I feel like I'm trespassing on JK's turf. Forgive me, JK.
William F. Buckley, in atypical brevity, lays out the interests of the Six Parties of Asia-Pacific nuclear detente. In a nutshell, America has much to lose from a North Korean nuclear first strike, but our friends in South Korea and Japan, and our "friends" in China and Russia have much more at stake. You see, while the American heartland is some 10,000 miles from the potentially charred and radiating remains of North Korea's industrial and population centers, the other four parties are not.
This is encouraging for America's safety, and does much to explain why W can afford to direct his attention toward Iran and Syria while Baby Kim dithers and babbles. But there's another tactic Mr. Bush may be applying, most likely in private, with the Chinese. If not then Jonah Goldberg suggests in today's Corner he give it some thought. Borrowing from a 2003 Charles Krauthammer column:
What to do when your hand is so poor? Play the trump. We do have one, but we dare not speak its name: a nuclear Japan. Japan cannot long tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea. Having once lobbed a missile over Japan, North Korea could easily hit any city in Japan with a nuclear-tipped weapon. Japan does not want to live under that threat.
The War on Terror is a global campaign and it's time the Chinese started pulling their weight.
February 14, 2005
I'll Miss the Team
I was suspicious last week. Now it looks official. The CNBC website is promoting Kudlow & Company James Cramer has his own show called Mad Money.
I'll still gladly watch Larry, but I will miss Jim's influence as a pro-growth, pro-business Democrat. I'll try his show as well but my hunch is that I'll turn more toward Larry.
Posted by John Kranz at 6:29 PM
Vote With Your Feet
Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata catches an interesting ratio. It seems 500 protestors marched on the US Embassy in London, taking exception to America's decision to back out of Kyoto.
Yet the same BBC estimated "thousands flocked" to the opening of a new Ikea store. Brian sez:
I think this contrast well illustrates the relative pulling power of shopping for bargains compared to political demonstrating, and shows that Western Civilisation will not necessarily be collapsing under the weight of its idiocy any time soon.
Happy Valentine's Day
I hope all (both) readers have a great Valentine's Day, with just enough candy and affection.
Accused of injecting politics into everything, I will link to Reason Magazine's My Privatized Valentine: A martyr for state-free marriage In this piece, John Coleman posits that St. Valentine himself would have supported less state intrusion into marriage:
In his second inaugural address, President Bush highlighted the preeminent importance of liberty and individual responsibility noting, "In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character—on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self."
Amen to that! Hat-tip: Glenn
February 12, 2005
Douglas Adams was wrong. The answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is not 42, but 72.
Seventy-two is the number of compounded APR-years it takes for the value of an investment (or debt) to double. A thousand dollars invested at 4% APR will become two thousand in 18 years. At 12% APR it takes only 6 years. But the real difference in these two investments is revealed when you consider not how fast it doubles, but how many times it doubles in a given amount of time. That thousand dollar investment doubles only once in 18 years at 4%, but three times at 12% - a six thousand dollar difference in the same amount of time.
This little example of Benjamin Franklin's 18th century principle illustrates why it is so much better to invest in stock mutual funds than in bonds or CDs or savings accounts. It also reveals the critical importance to investment success of the other exponential term in the compounding equation - TIME.
I'm making this point now because of a critical flaw in the SSSP (Silence Socialized Savings Plan) as revealed on these pages as a comment to JK's pointed critique of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Silence wrote:
Now, the Silence Socialized Savings Plan (SSSP) is not a tax, but annual dues to be a member of the "Ownership Society". Instead of having social security deducted from your paycheck, you will be presented with a bill along with your 1040 form for your portion of support for social security. These funds can be withdrawn tax and penalty free from a 401K, IRA, or other tax free or tax deferred plan. During the year you may invest the money you otherwise would have had deducted in any way you choose. In April (or pick a month) you pay your annual dues to social security. Any excess you have earned due to wise investments is yours to keep. In this manner everyone is guaranteed a social security benefit as is the case today and yet has the opportunity to control those funds and possibly earn a profit.
First there are the obvious criticisms, like changing what it's called from "tax" to "dues" and the fact that while some may earn a profit, many will suffer losses making this essentially a margin call against your own money. But there's also a structural flaw in the plan, since it only allows individuals to keep their money invested for a maximum of 12 months, and with an average balance of one-half the ending "dues" payment. One could easily dwarf the return on reinvestment of the annual proceeds of this plan by investing their monthly cigarette or lottery ticket budget instead.
Ben Franklin's "Rule of 72" is a powerful concept that belongs in the curriculum of every primary school, middle school and high school. I find it appropriate that it's mention on this blog was inspired by the namesake of Franklin's nom de plume.
February 11, 2005
The Blogosphere Claims Another...
I hate to be this flippant. But Eason Jordan, like Dan Rather, would have "gotten away with it" without a blogosphere to hold him accountable.
Larry Kudlow notes that this story was driven exclusively by the blogs, yet somehow everybody knew it -- even US Senators!
The blogosphere has gained near immediate influence and credibility with its ability to widely disseminate alternative media coverage. (These days, “alternative” more often than not means “true.”) Powerhouse bloggers such as John Hinderaker, Glenn Reynolds, and Hugh Hewitt, among many others, have flexed their muscles and badly bruised CNN on this story.
Dan Henninger has a great idea for the Nobel Peace Prize this year: The Iraqi Voters.
While the Nobel Committee has made some bad decisions in the past (Henninger also says they could give it to Arafat again for dying...) they have occasionally made good choices -- and this would be one:
"Abdul Karim Abboud, 54 years old, lives close to the Abu Hanifa mosque in the district of Azamiya, an area of Baghdad inhabited by a Sunni majority. Early in the morning, the man left his home accompanied by his wife to cast their votes. On their way to the polling center and not far from their home, gunmen started to shoot randomly to scare people and prevent them from voting. The wife received a bullet in her shoulder. Abdul Karim carried his wife back to their home and left her with their daughter. He left his home again, heading for the polling center. After casting his vote, Abdul Karim went back to his wife. He said: 'This is for Iraq and its freedom.'"
The whole column is, of course, great.
February 10, 2005
Bret Stephens of the WSJ Ed Page says he was there in Davos and was an eyewitness to Easongate.
His short piece is worth a read as a balanced view from someone who was actually there. He doesn't call for Jordan's head but he closes with a good point:
And that was it--the discussion moved on. I'll leave it others to draw their own verdicts, but here's mine: Whether with malice aforethought or not, Mr. Jordan made a defamatory innuendo. Defamatory innuendo--rather than outright allegation--is the vehicle of mainstream media bias. Had Mr. Jordan's innuendo gone unchallenged, it would have served as further proof to the Davos elite of the depths of American perfidy. Mr. Jordan deserves some credit for retracting the substance of his remark, and some forgiveness for trying to weasel his way out of a bad situation of his own making. Whether CNN wants its news division led by a man who can't be trusted to sit on a panel and field softball questions is another matter.
The more I read on the Ward Churchill story, the more I get the same feeling. How did this academic lightweight become a tenured professor and department chair at CU?
Neither of them should be fired for their stupid and false comments, but clearly, neither has earned his rank.
February 9, 2005
On my second day in confinement, I asked a guard, "Do you know why I am here?"
This is the story of a young Iranian woman who spent 36 days in prison for blogging.
Sharansky talks about free societies and fear societies but it is so easy to forget.
I had a European houseguest last week who thinks that poverty in the former Soviet Republics is just as bad as Communism was. It pained me that a young man who had lived under tyranny did not really value liberty. But this is the difference. Times can still be hard but when you can speak up in the public square, where you could not before, you have made progress.
I cannot help but feel that President Bush was speaking to this woman in his inaugural address. Those who didn’t get the speech didn’t understand.
Hat-tip: Virginia Postrel
Those Sophisticated Europeans
How dare we think that our upstart society has anything to teach them:
She said the man was taken to Heath Hospital but could not confirm his condition.
Whew, Alex, aren't you glad the Eagles lost, now?
Hat-tip: Pillage Idiot
Dear Leader Upset at Film's Depiction
Surprisingly, North Korea is upset about Team America.
Sometimes the truth hurts, Kim.
Apparently rampant starvation doesn't hurt the image of his country.
In related news, Michael Moore was also upset about his role in the film, joining international Islamo-fascists, the Film Actors Guild and their members Hollywood and the French.
What Happens in Davos...
Instapundit linked this, but in case you missed it, go read Iowahawk's What Happens In Davos, Stays In Davos Funny!
Posted by John Kranz at 11:24 AM
W's Book Club
I read Sharansky's "The Case for Democracy" because I had heard how much the President had enjoyed it and believed in its content.
The WSJ Ed Page today gives us two more titles on the Presidential book list (paid site, sorry!): Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, and the surprise entry of Tom Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons." While many are stunned by the last pick, my buddies at Dow Jones (and I) defend it:
Our reaction is a little different. For starters, it's hard to credit the idea that Mr. Bush is a cretin when Mr. Wolfe is a favorite author. On the contrary, both men have succeeded largely because they are in touch with the kinds of cultural currents the liberal establishment rarely notices (or considers beneath notice). Mr. Wolfe himself noted just before the election that "I would vote for Bush if for no other reason than to be at the airport waving off all the people who say they are going to London if he wins again."
I'm holding my head high because I have read and enjoyed each of these. I am learning just enough history after a life of ignoring it to become intrigued with a specific period. The rise of factionalism and party politics over Jefferson's two terms is full of interesting characters like Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, George Clinton, &c. But it is also the time when the ideals of the revolution were put into pragmatic application.
And the Wolfe book is important because it is popular. Zeitgeist is a pretentious word even for a pedantic buffoon like me, but Wolfe has captured it in the 80'2 with Bonfire, the 90's with "Man in Full," and now the 00's.
Lastly, I am not claiming that the President is an intellectual, but I think it is time for those who claim that he is not intellectually curious to tame their attacks a bit. So, I'll just sit around and wait for that to happen...
February 8, 2005
I can't let Johngalt get all the posts in the "Philosophy" thread. I followed an Instapundit link to What's the Rumpus?: "My duty is to my heart" . . . Kate Marie says:
I just watched Mulan II (I have two young girls), and -- I kid you not -- "my duty is to my heart" appears to be the explicit message of the film (as it was in the Princess Diaries II). In the immortal words of Ryan O'Neal at the end of What's Up, Doc? -- that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If you want a succinct and hilarious refutation of the idiotic notion that one's duty is to one's heart, watch the "Be Like the Boy" episode of The Simpsons.
If you want, however to really understand duty, watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." There are a million good reasons but the over-arching theme is the metaphorical weight of her preternatural abilities.
I enjoyed the first Mulan, and think that most people are too hard on Disney. My liberal friends thought that white people weren't evil enough in "Pocahontas" and my Second Amendment friends bristle at "Bambi."
Yet "My duty is to my heart" sounds like the motto of the times. At least one friend of this blog that I know has instead chosen to show his daughters a real female role model: Buffy!
February 7, 2005
Kudlow on Condi
It's great when your heroes support each other. Larry Kudlow writes a fantastic and well deserved paean to out new Secretary of State. I have to reproduce it in full:
Sec. of State Condi Rice is fast becoming my new hero. News reports of her earliest public diplomacy during her trip to London, Europe, Turkey and Israel show clearly that she is following Pres. Bush's vision of freedom, democraticization and liberty in her conduct of US foreign policy. She chided Russian backsliding. Also cited Ukraine, Afghanistan, Georgia and Iraq as places that were building the institutions of democracy. She also said America and Europe should work together in "the great cause of the spread of freedom and liberty."
We talked about Ms. Noonan before. Sugarchuck and I are convinced that she is indeed smoking crack...
George Will has done yeoman work on Social Security reform. He uses his trademark historical erudition to deflate the arguments of those who oppose assetization.
In his Newsweek column, he voices a belief of mine: Progressives, by not trusting, understanding, or believing in capital markets demonstrate themselves unfit to lead. Will whacks the four most visible Democrats: Gov. Howard Dean, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Barabara Boxer, and...
The fourth, and most important, is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who seems determined to earn the description Teddy Roosevelt applied to President John Tyler—"a politician of monumental littleness."
Amazing, indeed. Our capital markets are superseded only by liberty itself as the growth engine of our prosperity.
These people want to lead us through the forest at night, but they do not believe in light.
Hat-tip: WSJ Political Diary
A writer for San Fransisco's Chronicle makes another comparison to Vietnam.
No. South Vietnam in September 1967.
As we now know, South Vietnam's experiment in democracy didn't work out well. Communist forces launched the Tet Offensive four months later, forcing the U.S.-backed government almost to its knees, and finally conquered the nation seven years afterward.
Except that Tet was a victory for the US. It was the media's perception of the Tet Offensive and it's biased reporting in the direction of a loss that made it a "victory" for the Vietcong.
So I guess in that respect, Iraq is a lot like Vietnam. Left wingers and their useful idiots in the media are trying to beat us at home.
The Power of Pride
Iraq hasn't fallen apart yet...
In the week since national elections, police officers and Iraqi National Guardsmen said they have received more tips from the public, resulting in more arrests and greater effectiveness in their efforts to weaken the violent insurgency rocking the country.
Nothing like a personal investment a system to bring out the pride in people. Iraqis' are now sure that their country belongs to them, and now they want to clean it up. Really clean it up.
February 6, 2005
Ward Churchill-Absolutely Wrong
The past week has been entertaining, enlightening and maddening for all of us who call the University of Colorado at Boulder "alma mater." Although I attended CU over twenty years ago, I consciously restricted my presence on campus to the engineering and sciences buildings. I knew that there was something wrong on the A&S side of campus but I didn't understand what it was. Now, 20 years later, I understand it completely.
Ward Churchill is not an anomaly, he's just not as patient as the rest of his Marxist brothers. He says things like "US out of Iraq"..."US out of Europe"..."US out of South America"..."US out of North America"..."There are no absolutes"..."The 9-11 attacks were correct"..."Bond traders killed at the WTC were little Eichmanns"..."I've engaged in armed rebellion for over 20 years"..."Your homework assignment is to carry out follow-on attacks to 9-11." (In his own words.) For anyone to believe that Professor Churchill is the only one preaching these anti-life ideals to our college youth is to miss the entire raison de etre for liberal academics: The destruction of right and wrong. One-time liberal feminist Tammy Bruce wrote a book about it. While not precisely identifying the causes she does a good job of documenting the result. Bruce cites "...a slippery slope of selfishness, immorality, and cultural laziness" as well as "moral relativism." But selfishness (even in her definition of the word) immorality and cultural laziness (whatever that is) do not excuse acts of murder. What is necessary to bring about this travesty is to first convince our so-called "enlightened" citizenry that "there are no absolutes" and that "every action and idea is subjectively moral. This is the true threat of Ward Churchill and his ilk.
In defense of the self-styled Cherokee anti-American insurgent, the Faculty Assembly of the University of Colorado has issued this academic gobbledygook statement. I have summarized each of their paragraphs below, in English:
Diversity of ideas is the lifeblood of a strong university environment that is necessary to advance the boundaries of knowledge.
So you can see that Churchill is certainly not the only one on the Boulder campus who believes that one man's wrong is another man's right, or that there are no absolutes. [Really? Are you sure? Absolutely sure? Absolutely sure that there are absolutely none?]
The Denver talk radio scene is ablaze with calls for Churchill's firing for a number of reasons. He is "insensitive" or "callous" or "a liar" or "advocates violence." Colorado's governor has added his substantial voice to this chorus. The problem is that these reasons are virtually impotent in the face of the "academic freedom" argument. Such arguments depend on democracy or "common sense" for their triumph, because they are only effective when the majority agrees. But the ultimate goal of the opponents of the status quo is to indoctrinate enough of our youth that eventually the "common sense" means something else.
What is needed is the moral courage to judge the professor's ideas as wrong on the basis of an individual's right to life and liberty and security in his person and effects. Yes, our Constitution guarantees an individual's right to free speech, no matter how abhorrent. But it is also the right of a free society to choose not to teach the morality of death, and give it equal footing with the morality of life, in its institutions of higher learning.
Blogs allow people to float ideas and see if they can gain currency, which is certainly a plus. Some ideas are so good and yet so unattainable, however, it makes one pine for what could be. In this pile I would place "Vaclav Havel for UN SecGen" and this concept for the Georgia State flag:
February 5, 2005
The Janitor was Otherwise Engaged
James Taranto at OpinionJournal - Best of the Web spots an interesting tale from the world of academia. A seminar is given at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, by Amy Nell of Concordia College. The description includes:
In November 2004, Osama Bin Laden released a tape giving his recipe for a healthy nation. This seminar would dissect his message and use audience participation in doing so. Discussion points would include counterterrorism methods, the possibility of peace, empathy etc. The aim of this seminar would be to help understand the position of Osama Bin Laden as presented in the video and explore in what ways the origins of terrorism are to be found, not in some foreign citizen, but in the actions we take out of fear, hate and retribution.
Save you a seat? The funny part is that a little Internet search allows Taranto to find that Ms. Nell's position at Concordia is that of photographer for the school newspaper.
It has been suggested that the newest Tom Wolfe book "I Am Charlotte Simmons" might start to turn some away from the classic idea of higher education. The book is of course fictional but it's not, which is Wolfe's gift as a novelist. I don't have kids but I would have to ask if this were what I am saving money to provide? Is this what my child is working for?
The big contretemps in Boulder this week is the cancellation of Ward Churchill's speech in New York and efforts to fire him from the University.
Professor Glenn sez that firing Churchill is too far and risks academic freedom to fire a tenured professor.
It may be too much, even for a dorky idiot as Churchill (there's a phrase I never thought I'd write) but I think that the tenure system and general protections afforded professors is exactly what has tarnished the franchise of academe. Another CU prof told a friend that the female students he was coarsely harassing could complain all they wanted -- he, as a tenured professor was untouchable. As Taranto says, "Great Moments in Higher Education..."
If these professors are damaging the franchise, they should not be permitted to hide under the protection of tenure.
There is very little alternative market for parents or undergraduates, but at what point does one balk from a Charlotte Simmons experience and opt for a small private, religious or specialty school?
February 4, 2005
I have a few gripes with the crew at National Review. I have enjoyed the magazine for some time, worship William F Buckley, and especially appreciate their principled, libertarian stand on drugs.
But I cannot join them on immigration. Reasonable people may differ on the benefits vs. cost, or discuss the rate of assimilation. Professor Hansen certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt for his "Mexifornia" thesis.
Yet Rich Lowry's "Mow Your Own Lawn" piece is now regaining currency as John Derbyshire and one of his readers noticed a reference in the State Of The Union:
A reader: “I'm writing to you hoping that you will be most likely be sympathetic to my gripe with one small portion of the SOTU speech last night... How has it suddenly become acceptable that if you are American it is OK to turn your nose up at certain types of jobs. I work in the investment business now but I would say the majority of jobs that I have had since the age of 15 fall into the category of occupations that the President of the United States has implicitly granted me permission to say that as an American I am to good for: house painting, construction, landscaping, dishwashing and shipyard work. Are America's teenagers all taking internships at Goldman Sachs during the summer or are they sitting on the couch playing video games while ‘guest workers’ mow their lawns?”
Of course Derb agrees, saying "I shovel my driveway, mow my lawn, and crimp my own RJ45s!"
That's swell if it makes you happy (and who doesn’t enjoy crimping a new CAT-5 cable...) but do you want the person who is going to cure Cancer shoveling her walk? The guy who is going to make a 2 ounce laptop mowing his lawn?
It's called comparative advantage, gang. We ALL get richer when we let Bill Gates popularize computers and have Al Gore invent the Internet. Let the workers who need the other work have the opportunity.
Name the Dissidents
Dan Henninger wonders why we don't know the names of Iran's Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov or Sharansky.
It's a failing of western media but it is also a failing of the State Department. I don't think most Americans realize that Iranian democracy dissidents exist -- and those that do don't realize their numbers. A few high-profile dissidents would captivate the national attention and further draw the parallel see between the two fronts for liberation: Reagan's Eastern Europe and Bush's Mideast.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell, Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and others were already household names in the world. In 1968 the New York Times had published Sakharov's essay, "Reflection on Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom." These were the years in which the word "dissident" entered the lexicon. What has the West--governments or media--done for the dissidents of the Middle East? Very little.
Jay Nordlinger has done yeoman work on this topic in Cuba and China. It's time we know some names.
February 3, 2005
In all, the President's State of the Union Address was a stunning model of a better future for America and the world. For nearly an hour on Wednesday night, George Bush outlined his vision of reforms in taxation, regulation, health care, torts, Social Security, immigration, government spending (finally!) and more.
While I strongly support and endorse meaningful reforms in all these areas, the most striking words I heard were the ones that challenged our "allies" in the middle east to increase liberty in their own societies.
"To promote peace and stability in the broader Middle East, the United States will work with our friends in the region to fight the common threat of terror, while we encourage a higher standard of freedom. Hopeful reform is already taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain. The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."
And his warning to hostile regimes in the region:
"To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act -- and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.
Like the man said, "Talk is cheap" but this is the kind of talk that I once feared I'd never hear from an American president in my lifetime. It appears the successes in Iraq have given him the confidence to press on with his ambitious agenda. An agenda that, if successful, is destined to make him one of the greatest presidents in history.
February 2, 2005
One hundred years ago today Ayn Rand, Alisa Rosenbaum, was born in Soviet Russia. The suffering she witnessed in that socialist "utopia" convinced her that collectivism is an evil, i.e. anti-life, ideology. Obviously the experience alone was not enough to provoke that conviction, since her own sister emmigrated to America years after Ayn but preferred to return home instead. Ayn was a unique individual who possessed an important belief, acquired in her youth and held to her dying day. That belief was that ideas matter.
A senior fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute writes of this "youthful" belief that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one's mind matters, in 'The Appeal of Ayn Rand.'
The conviction that ideas matter represents a profound dedication to self. It requires that one regard one’s own reasoning mind as competent to judge good and evil. And it requires that one pursue knowledge because one sees that correct ideas are indispensable to achieving the irreplaceable value of one's own life and happiness. "To take ideas seriously," Rand states, "means that you intend to live by, to practice, any idea you accept as true," that you recognize "that truth and knowledge are of crucial, personal, selfish importance to you and to your own life."
Do not confuse this simplification of the idea of "independence of mind" with the relativism of modern liberals, which holds that every idea is valid to the person who holds it and therefore no idea is any better, nor any worse, than another. One's mind must be independent of obedience to any authority, human or divine, but tirelessly connected to objective reality by reason, logic, and the scientific method.
The advice Rand offers the young? Think, reason, logically consider matters of truth and morality. And then, because your own life and happiness depend on it, pursue unwaveringly the true and the good. On this approach, the moral and the practical unite. On this approach, there exists no temptation to think that life on earth requires compromise, the halfway, the middle of the road. "In any compromise between food and poison," she writes, "it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit."
...Hold your own life as your highest value, follow reason, submit to no authority, create a life of productive achievement and joy--enact these demanding values and virtues, Rand teaches, and an ideal world, here on earth, is "real, it's possible--it's yours."
Is there any wonder why Rand is so reviled among the men who preach any of the various forms or degrees of collectivism?
February 1, 2005
Senator Kennedy Was Right
Actually, the senior Senator from Massachusetts spoke erroneously, misled, and showed very poor political form speaking against the war on the eve of the first free elections. But:
I could support his call for an immediate troop reduction. Would it not be an important symbol of our desire to hand the country back? I don't want to cut and run, but if we brought 10,000 troops home and positioned it as bringing fighters back and sending trainers in, it would accomplish several objectives:
No schedule for removing future troops, no deadlines. Just a good faith show of returning power to Free Iraq.