April 29, 2005

Video Games vs. Movies

Props for James Pinkerton. In his TCS column he quotes both Marx and Schumpeter effectively. I couldn't do that. No way.

More importantly, he digs deep into the news that video game revenues have now eclipsed movies.

First, studio execs as a group have never known anything about videogames, and can't ever be expected to learn. Movie makers, after all, think of themselves as being in the movie business, as opposed to being in the overall entertainment business. And so just as the railroads ignored the automobile -- because railroad men could not see that their business was transportation overall, as opposed to simply railroading -- and just as autos similarly ignored airplanes, so it is that movies are mostly clueless about the new entertainment platform, videogames. Long ago, management guru Peter Drucker made the point that a new technique would not be adopted until it was obviously and demonstrably ten times better than the old technique. Since then, much work has been done about the impact of "disruptive technology"; the general lesson seems to be that it's the rarest of companies that can make the jump from one way of generating profits to another.

I think this is a big story. The formulaic approach to movies has got to run out of steam someday. And I like the idea that young people would rather participate less passively in their entertainment.

I'm too old and dull for most movies and video games, but I cannot believe that the impulse is much different from blogging.

And, hey, when I was a touring musician I got quite good at "Tempest." Stop laughing!!!!

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 6:59 PM

Gloom And Doom

Larry Kudlow wonders why the MSM is so quick to pounce on a 3.1% GDP growth number as bad, and not look at the Western Europeans they wish to emulate and their 1% growth.

What is it about the mainstream media and the American economy? Why are they always looking for slowdowns, soft patches, double dips or whatever? If anybody bothered to look under the headline 3.1 percent GDP report yesterday, they’d see that 1.5 percentage points were lopped off because of the $660 billion increase in real net imports. But that’s a sign of strength. Consumer and business activity is strong, that’s why they’re buying foreign goods.

Core growh is 5%, profits are good, interest rates are low. Times aren't too bad unless you are a Democrat politician...

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 6:46 PM

April 28, 2005

EU Constitutional Crisis

As waves of liberty wash over the Middle-East, as they did in "New Europe" after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where else do you suppose their effects are being felt? Why, in "Old Europe" too!

This AP report from two days ago reveals that the socialist citizenry of the socialist state of France, regarded as the principal force behind the EU unification effort, may be getting cold feet.

French polls have shown a steady opposition to the charter. A poll published Friday, indicated 62 percent of voters will reject the constitution in France's May 29 referendum — the highest figure so far.

All 25 European Union members must approve the text for it to take effect. A French rejection could spur "no" votes elsewhere.

Opposition is attributed to the anticipated loss of "French jobs and sovereignty in the EU's giant market." Well, DUH! (On the sovereignty part anyway.)

But what of the poor Germans? They won't even get a vote in the matter: "Germany, the most populous EU member with 82 million people, is submitting the charter to lawmakers for approval and does not plan a referendum." Never fear, after France chooses self-rule, the Germans can always stage a popular "Deutsche Freiheit" revolution.

But jk thinks:

And Andrew Stuttaford has a piece from the London Times about Holland:

"Europe, for the Dutch, has lost its allure. Few politicians now call for an ever-closer union. Even fewer see in Brussels a model of efficiency, probity or accountability. The Dutch are to vote on the European constitution three days after the French referendum. Disillusioned with EU bureaucracy, resentful that they pay a disproportionately high share of the EU’s rising costs and fearful of losing their national identity, the Dutch may vote decisively against...Above all, the country is reacting to years of stifling liberal consensus. There is a backlash against the assumptions that The Hague should pay generously for other Europeans, take a lead in development aid or make concessions to a club dominated by larger members determined to have their own way. The Dutch want to concentrate on priorities at home. What they dislike is not the idea of a constitution, but the accretion of more power to an unaccountable Brussels. The Netherlands has the chance to speak for Europe. The Dutch should vote “nee” in the referendum."


Posted by: jk at April 28, 2005 5:24 PM
But AlexC thinks:

A French "non" vote would have a significant impact on the continent's EU fetish. It might derail the whole experiment.
A question then to ask is, will the Euro currency be affected negatively?
If it is, what's that going to do to the rest of the world? I understand that some markets have moved off of the dollar infavor of the Euro as their currency of choice.

Posted by: AlexC at April 28, 2005 10:23 PM
But jk thinks:

Schadenfreude is a bad thing. I am happy to see the EU constitution fail because I think it is an anti-liberty structure.

Yet to completely unwind the EU Federation, including the common currency, would restrict free movement of goods, labor and capital. I don't want to unwind it, but I don't want to wind it more tightly, unless the constitution were completely restructured.

Posted by: jk at April 29, 2005 1:33 PM
But johngalt thinks:

It is instructive to note that, on the subject of a governing Constitution, the EU is not much more advanced than Iraq, and less so than Afghanistan. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/fields/2063.html As the march of freedom leads to more and more new constitutions across the world, they all face the same difficulty. How to empower a government that doesn't infringe upon individual liberty.

The founders of the USA had it right - government power must be EXPRESSLY limited. Meddlesome bureaucrats and politicians must be held in absolute check when it comes to issues of liberty. America's Constitution is the best model for all the rest, but not in its current form. Most of the amendments should be tossed out. And then we have to reform our courts to ignore the relativistic urge to redefine the Constitution by redefining the words with which it is written.

Posted by: johngalt at April 29, 2005 3:43 PM

Quagmire Alert

Instapundit linked to this NYTimes Editorial as an example of historical revisionism, which it is.

But I read the same editorial and was glad the good folks at the NYTimes were not around for the creation of our Constitution. Heavens! Months have gone by and they're still not done? The war was obviously a waste!

The Bush administration has, understandably, stopped trying to disguise its frustration and concern. Granted, Iraq's politicians are new to the challenges of parliamentary give-and-take. But if they manage to squander the aura of democratic legitimacy conferred on them by January's election, it will become radically harder to bridge ethnic and religious divides, build a national army and police force, and repair a still shattered infrastructure.

Dear Timesers: Self rule is a messy business. If it is successful in ten years, we should be happy, five ecstatic. Sorry that only Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan have held elections. And that only Lebanon and Egypt are showing direct leaning toward freedom in the mideast. But what can you expect when the President is a moron!

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 10:24 AM

April 27, 2005

Private Accounts

My mentor and hero, Larry Kudlow is concerned that Senator Chuck Grassley is discussing a Social Security reform plan that would restore solvency, “with, or without, private accounts.”

Respectfully, I would suggest to Mr. Grassley, and to the White House, that you cannot solve the pending financial storm in social security without personal savings accounts.

The reason? The private account option would finance benefits through stock and bond market returns. Without private accounts, benefits will be funded only by higher tax payments from the government.

Higher taxes will stall the economy and benefits will suffer accordingly. But the thrift savings account model of benefits throws off a 6.7% yearly inflation-adjusted return, far superior to the 1.8% post-inflation estimate of future social security.

The market is more reliable over the long run than the government. As more and more people choose market benefits from private accounts, fewer and fewer will demand government benefits. Over 50 years, government benefits will shrink from lack of demand. And so will the unfunded future liabilities of the system.

Call it the substitution effect. Not until the White House or Congress moves to private accounts will social security insolvency ever be solved.

As usual with economic issues, Mr. Kudlow is spot on. Politically it has been pointed out that freedom is more desirable than solvency. Private accounts are part and parcel of the ownership society and the President should not proceed without them.

But johngalt thinks:

Let's compare those two investments, shall we?

A twenty year-old invests $100 per month until he retires 45 years later. His total contributions are $100x12x45=$54,000. For purposes of comparision, figure his investment at half that, continuously invested over the entire period of 45 years. (Not quite the same, but it's just an example.)

In the Thrift Savings Plan at 6.7% per year, the principal will double in 72/6.7=10.7 years, or about 4 times in 45 years. In Social Security it doubles in 72/1.8=40 years or about, once.

Which would you rather retire on, $432,000 or $54,000?

Democrats and the AARP oppose reform on the grounds that "it's a guarantee that you've earned, don't let them turn it into a gamble." Fine. The plan is VOL-UHN-TARE-EEE. Don't like the "odds" then don't play. As for me, cash me in.

Posted by: johngalt at April 28, 2005 2:02 PM

Worse Than the WaPo Poll

Patrick Ruffini has an online poll for the GOP '08 run, but I don't like the questions.

He puts Rudy Giuliani in 1:1 matchups with Senators McCain, George Allen, and Bill Frist. Man I like Rudy well enough, and I could support George Allen -- but can we (sorry to use the GOP in second person Silence) please not follow the Democrats' losing strategy of choosing which weak Senator we want?

Mitt Romney, Bill Owens, Jeb Bush (no, but yes), Condi (I can dream), &c. We have a deep bench and I look forward to a tough primary that leaves a strong candidate standing. Rudy vs. McCain is fun for the hopeless political junky in me, but I would not extrapolate it into anything resembling important sentiment.

Condi in '08; the absolute end of the Democratic party as we know it...

Hat-tip: Perfeser Glenn

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:35 AM

April 26, 2005

Pharma Culture

Were one sufficiently starved for entertainment to read my entire Pharmaceuticals category on this blog, and then go back to my writings on Berkeley Square Blog, you'd find a tireless and pedantic advocate of the pharmaceutical companies. I defend them and smite their opponents, be they politicians, lawyers, or journalists.

Give me my cred -- if I got money, you'd say I was in their pockets. Yet even I am disturbed at the prevalence of chemical solutions to life's vicissitudes (did somebody say "pedantic?") I don't doubt ADD is real but suspect it is highly over-diagnosed and over-prescribed.

My wife is in rehab for a stroke, and all the nurses are amazed that she is not on any regular medication. They think we're lying. "Every woman your age in here is at least on anti-depressants," we were told.

Last weekend's on call doc is a bright and professional woman who is very easy to talk to and very compassionate. But I have to relate two stories about her. She casually prescribed anti-depressants for my wife, based on "situational depression." The nurse described them to us as the doctor didn't even think it was important enough to discuss. These were non-narcotic, non-addictive, and they're not happy pills. You'd probably get off them in six months.

Wow. "Do you want those?" I ask. "No, I am pretty scared of that," she says. We decide to pass but know that these are on her chart and she can request them at any time.

The second story happened earlier, but I have withheld it for dramatic effect. This same doctor had a fit that my wife was drinking a smoothie I had brought in. "What's in this? Do the nurses know you brought this?" "I really suggest you stick to the dietician's plan! (of a lot of stuff she won't eat)."

So fruit juice is the devil's weed and should be considered seriously, but a half a year's anti-depressants are prescribed without patient input, request, or the suggestion of medical staff who have worked with her longer.

I guess I am naive. Am I nuts?

But AlexC thinks:

No, you're nuts. ;)

You see, there wasn't anyone from Orange Julius buying your doctor dinner or taking her out for a round of golf.

I have no problem with a company advertising their products, but a lot of pharma-reps are little more than bribers, and some Doctors are willing to be shills for a perk or two.

Power and all that, ya know.

I don't go to doctors, except for extremis (or regular visits to pediatrician), and yet when I'm there, inevitably there's some jack-off (male or female) peddling their wares, aggressively.

Standing their like a pinhead for what could be hours waiting to "talk."

Some doctors even have weekly scheduled "take me out to dinner sessions".

Makes used car salesmen and lawyers look upstanding.

But maybe I'm just embittered!

Posted by: AlexC at April 26, 2005 11:14 PM
But jk thinks:

Don't ice it, man, tell us how you feel.

I cringe a little, because the evil Pharma reps you describe are employed in selling a legal product. If it works, doctors should know about it. In short, it's part of the ugly rough-and-tumble of the free market, is it not?

If you are going to have competition in the sector -- an unadulterated good -- you will have to make room for some Willy Lomans to distribute it.

Posted by: jk at April 27, 2005 11:44 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I think what you experienced is a more general trend toward the "black box" treatment, or "experts know best." Contemporary consumers have little or no interest in the how, what, and why of the services they receive, be it medical care or an oil change. Hell, I even ASK repair shops to keep the old parts for me and they pitch them anyway. It's just not conceivable to them that someone would want to know what they did or why.

Why is this? I haven't pondered it deeply but in general I can say that knowledge is power. Insecure people don't go around sharing either of them without putting up a fight.

This must not be Riza's regular doctor. If so, it's time to get a new regular doctor - one who knows her patient at least tangentially.

Posted by: johngalt at April 27, 2005 3:37 PM

April 25, 2005

State Coercion: Two More Years

I have been blogging a long time to be such a nobody, but that's a harmless aside, not the thesis of this post.

Two years ago, I wrote some longer posts and kept them around as essays. This one compared the service and decor of the free-market enterprises offering oil changes with the state-monopoly-dictated provider of emissions checks.

It’s been two years and the State still dictates emissions tests. It is a grisly experience. Government appointed bureaucrats get into your car and treat it roughly on a dynamic test bed. I expect they still don't take credit cards, and I expect the facilities are still dingy and uninviting. Why fix it? Customers are forced to visit you every two years.

But I am going to reopen the whine because of my situation. I have Multiple Sclerosis and my wife has been in the hospital for more than four weeks. I leave the house at 7:00 am to see her; I juggle as much time as I can at work, rush home to let out and comfort the dog, rush back to the hospital for every meal and come home late every night.

Sorry to get out the violins, but now I have to find time for this insane government mandate. It will take two-three hours out of my day that I would love to have for laundry, or to get a haircut, or some other frivolous thing.

I'm not the only busy guy in town. Everybody has got something. Why do we allow the State to waste our time so? I cannot imagine anybody is left who believes that these exams reduce half the pollution generated by everyone driving 20 extra miles to get them.

I have always joked that I wanted to open a GOP registration office next door. We’d offer coffee and sympathy and an ATM machine to the deer caught in gub’mint headlights. It’s a great place to catch people who might be receptive to the idea of a little more freedom.

But Silence Dogood thinks:

Technology trumps bureaucracy yet again!


Drive by testing eliminates the need for the old inspection station. Of course currently you probably have to drive on a highway of some sort to pass one of these. I have passed them on US36 entrances and on ramps to Foothills Blvd in Boulder.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at April 25, 2005 6:40 PM
But AlexC thinks:

In PA it's every year, part of your annual inspection, IF you live in the metropolitan counties... loosely defined as "around Philly" and "generally around Pittsburgh."

The registration office is DAMNED good idea.
You don't need an office.
Just a sandwich board and stack of forms...


Emissions stations, DMV, unemployment offices.

Posted by: AlexC at April 25, 2005 10:31 PM
But dagny thinks:

Yet another reason why many, including us, are moving to the country and the red counties are growing.

Posted by: dagny at April 26, 2005 10:37 AM
But jk thinks:

I thought that this was just a Colorado problem and that Pennsylvania was better...

Dagny is right. If I were one mile East I would be in Weld County and off the hook.

Posted by: jk at April 26, 2005 9:30 PM
But AlexC thinks:

PA was better! Ha! Ha!
Ha! I say.

This is the state where the Dem gov wanted a tax hike, and the GOP run assembly gave him half of what he wanted, and they issue press releases about how much they saved us!

At least the emissions stations are in actual garages. So they do have to compete to get your business.

I understand that leaving $20 in the ashtray makes your car run "cleaner."

THAT's my kind of competition.

Posted by: AlexC at April 26, 2005 11:24 PM
But jk thinks:

Graft in Philadelphia? You really are changing my preconceived notions...

Posted by: jk at April 27, 2005 11:46 AM


It would be funny if there weren't serious and responsible adults involved.

    ''He yelled that if I didn't obey him, he would fire me," [former Bolton employee and accuser Lynne Finney] wrote. ''I said I could not live with myself if even one baby died because of something I did. . . . He screamed that I was fired."

    Bolton has declined to comment on allegations during the confirmation process.

    The State Department would not comment last night. But Friday, spokesman Adam Ereli said once the allegations are explored, it will lead to the ''inescapable conclusion that Mr. Bolton would be an excellent ambassador."

    Finney, a therapist who has written about ''recovered memories" in childhood sex-abuse cases, said Bolton was not allowed to fire her, but he moved her to a basement office in retaliation. She said that the top USAID administrator at the time, Peter McPherson, came by after the clash to assure her that her career wasn't over.

That event happened in 1982 or 1983!

In related news, in 1974, Hillary Rodham Clinton allegedly called a campaign worker "a f*cking Jew b*astard."

Like the Bolton-Finney allegation, there are also a number of witnesses to that event. There was also an alleged First Lady lamp-throwing incident early in the Clinton White House.

House Majority Whip Senator Mitch McConnell (R - Kentucky) counted the votes, and thinks that they can end the filibuster, and miraculously Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) thinks the Senate can to make a deal.
    Biden, appearing on ABC's "This Week," said, "I think we should compromise and say to them that we're willing to -- of the seven judges -- we'll let a number of them go through, the two most extreme not go through and put off this vote" to end the filibuster.
Astute readers may recall that in November of 2003, Senator Kennedy (D - Tanqueray) called these nominees (when the President last submitted them)neanderthals.

Apparently, all but two have evolved into human beings, with only two remaining in their pre-historic non-evolved form.

But johngalt thinks:

I don't quite get the segue but this is two, two, two great blogs in one. And all for absolutely NO CHARGE! This is obviously the greatest blog in the world. Brilliant!

On the Bolton half of the post, I notice that when Hitlary's trasgression became a public allegation her response was very sensible, and entirely applicable in Bolton's case. "She went on to say, "I just find it really pathetic and very sad that this is the way that people are attempting to influence politics, and I don't think we should stand for it."

As for the fillibuster/judicial nominees issue, it will be a dark day for the Republic if the fillibuster provision is modified as is being discussed. That procedural measure is a major factor in preventing the bogeyman of democracy - tyranny of the majority. If it is a divisive enough issue to engage in fillibuster then let the Senate sit on their hands until fair (choking up my lunch) 'compromise' is reached. One change I will endorse is to go back to the original procedure for fillibuster, i.e. hold the floor continuously, 24/7 for as long as it takes. Then we can trust that they REALLY mean it. No more drive-thru fillibusters!

Posted by: johngalt at April 25, 2005 8:51 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Thanks.. yeah should have been two posts... i put the horizontal bar in... now it's a little more separate.

Posted by: AlexC at April 25, 2005 10:25 PM

David Brooks

The (deservedly) much maligned NYTimes really does deserve props. A) C'mon, face it, it is an amazing newspaper. I wish they were fair, too. But it defines the news for the entire country and employs (face it again) the best writers. B) David Brooks was a great pick for token Conservative. He is a Conservative that doesn't frighten the NYTimes reader and that's good -- a little right-of-center thought for these folks is better than none.

Today he has a hilarious column on the CDC's "re-calibrating" obesity statistics.

The release of a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that overweight people actually live longer than normal-weight people represents an important moment in the history of world civilization. It is the moment when we realize that Mother Nature - unlike Ivy League admissions committees - doesn't like suck-ups.
If the report from researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is correct - and it is the most thorough done to date - then it seems that Mother Nature has built a little Laffer curve into the fabric of reality: health-conscious people can hit a point of negative returns, so the more fit they are, the quicker they kick the bucket. People who work out, eat responsibly and deserve to live are more likely to be culled by the Thin Reaper.

The whole piece is funny and smart. But I think the lede is correct. It is important. They were off by a factor of 14 and their basic premise was completely wrong. That will be remembered, and the expert's advice will be further discounted in the future.

But Silence Dogood thinks:

Woo Hoo, donuts on me! With all the medical evidence of the power of genetics you would think the fitness folks would get a clue that was is good for one person may not work so well for another. By the way, if you are a fitness guru I am betting that your genetic makeup allowed you to have that body and that without it you could starve and crunch yourself to eternity and never get abs of steel. At least I feel there has to be some good from genetics, I have enough trouble remembering my own medical history without also that of my parents and siblings, not to mention those oh so comfortable phone conversations like hey big bro, how did that colonoscopy go, because it affects how soon I need one. My secret belief is still that they will discover that cancer is genetic in rats and it will throw out 30 years of research.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at April 25, 2005 6:28 PM


During a rare face-to-face meeting of ThreeSources folk, Johngalt and I had a good squabble about trade with China. I was listing President Clinton's accomplishments in the free-trade arena, wilting poor jg with every kind word about a President neither of us admire. When I got to China's entry in the WTO, I was interrupted.

I have blogged some good things about China of late, and have blogged nothing about the anti-Japan protests, saber-rattling across the Taiwanese Straights, or any of China’s bad behavior.

Why does a freedom lover give this despotic nation a pass? Maybe I need to rethink it, but the answer is clearly self-interest. Dallas Fed President Richard W. Fisher spells it out today in a guest ed for the Wall Street Journal, Protect Us From Protectionists

Financial markets deplore protectionism, and even talk of it can send stocks into retreat. In the days after the tariff measure survived its first Senate vote on April 6, the Dow Jones industrials tumbled 400 points. Import-bashing preceded the market crash in 1929 and Black Monday in 1987. The market knows the value of imports.

The U.S. followed the domestic deregulation of the early 1980s with deregulation at the border through trade liberalization in the late '80s and into the '90s. Presidents of both parties delivered Nafta, the Uruguay Round, China's entry into the World Trade Organization and free-trade agreements with Singapore, Chile and Australia. Our markets opened wide. Imports came rushing in. Americans bought a record $1.9 trillion from other countries last year -- or 16% of GDP, nearly double the 8.5% of a decade ago.

And all the while, our economy has strengthened. Output has grown 3.3% a year since 1994. Despite a recession, we've added nearly 16 million jobs, and unemployment has been low. Productivity has been the best in decades. No other major country matches our economic performance during this period of rapidly rising imports.

The protectionists think exports are good and imports are bad, but as Fischer states, "When consumers pay less for clothes, shoes and electronics, they have money to spend elsewhere -- to the benefit of local businesses."

If the US wanted to discourage trade formally with this human rights abuser , for political reasons, I'd be all ears. But don't let the ghosts of Smoot-Hawley choose military might or human rights as an excuse.

Lastly, I will cede to no one my dislike for El Jefe, but I am forced to compare the embargo of Cuba with the engagement of China. Which one has freed more people and elevated human rights? Clearly, trade with China.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 12:05 PM

April 23, 2005

Blogging For Bolton

Here's a blog dedicated to getting John Bolton confirmed as an ambassador to the United Nations.

The Democrats strategy on blocking Bolton is an interesting one, only because it's stunningly weak.

Step one was to block him because he's got beef with the UN.
That's like saying our ambassadors to the Soviet Union should have been pro-Communist.

No. They should be pro-American interests.

Maybe chemotherapy is what the United Nations needs. From his rhetoric, John Bolton appears to be the guy to give it.

That strategy didn't seem to work. So on to plan B.

Step two is to block him because he's allegedly mean to his subordinates. Which is pretty weak. But currently it's all they got.

As brought up on Powerline thursday,

    "With all the huffing and puffing of Democrats over whether John Bolton threatened a civil servant's job, I have to ask...What exactly happened with Hillary Clinton and the White House travel office a few years ago? Does this disqualify Bill and/or Hillary from ever working @ the U.N.?"

And the answer...

    There is one obvious difference between what Hillary (with help from Bill) undoubtedly did, and what John Bolton allegedly did: Hillary actually got someone fired. Seven people, if my memory is correct.

    Well, I guess there is another difference, too. Bolton had reason to be upset with under-performing employees. Hillary just wanted to install her own cronies.

Put him in.

Maybe someone will then say, "Hey.. Libya shouldn't be on the human rights commission."
or "Where's all that oil for food money go?"

The question to ask now is, will step two work? Well, it's appears to sticking right now. Senator Voinovich came out of nowhere to hold things up. I guess we'll see.

It's funny that during the Condi Rice hearings, the argument from the Democrats was that the Secretary of State should question the President's policies. That a Secretary of State should not tow the line... Suddenly, here's a candidate for an office that will *question* the status-quo and question the direction of the United Nations, yet somehow this is not a good thing.

The Democrats are not a party of ideas and positive direction. The Democrats have become a party of "We're not George Bush, and we'll do the opposite."

It's a shame.

But jk thinks:

Alex, you don't understand. There are allegations that Mr. Bolton amy have thrown a file folder in 1994. Pretty serious stuff.

Posted by: jk at April 23, 2005 4:09 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Good blog Alex. I have to believe that JB will be confirmed in the end. The R's seem willing to let the D's have their show hearings, but the President has proven he can get his way in the senate when he really wants something (unless it's a circuit court judge). Cheney came out and reiterated WH support late last week. W isn't going to throw Bolton under the bus.

Cox and Forkum had a great cartoon showing what all the UN apologists are afraid of (although I think they missed the bet by not making Kofi the old lady: http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/000568.html

Posted by: johngalt at April 23, 2005 5:53 PM

April 21, 2005


I scanned this from my friend's New Yorker for him. I don't truck with their politics, but I have always dug their cartoons (James Surowiecki's book is pretty good). Enjoy:


Posted by John Kranz at 12:56 PM

April 20, 2005

Welcome Home

So good to have LILEKS back:

The selection of Ratzinger was initially heartening, simply because he made the right people apoplectic. I’m still astonished that some can see a conservative elevated to the papacy and think: a man of tradition? As Pope? How could this be? As if there this was some golden moment that would usher in the age of married priests who shuttle between blessing third-trimester abortions and giving last rites to someone who’s about to have the chemical pillow put over his face. At the risk of sounding sacreligious: it’s the Catholic Church, for Christ’s sake! You’re not going to get someone who wants to strip off all the Baroque ornamentation of St. Peter’s and replace them with IKEA wine racks, okay?

Said just what I wanted to say, better of course. I don't get a vote. It's political but it’s not a democracy.

Best of luck to Pope Benedict XVI

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 5:29 PM

TNR Bashes Bush

Hold the presses. A Democrat magazine has a beef with a GOP President!

But wait -- I agree. TNR charges that the Bush administration cannot be trusted to put free trade over politics.

It would be one thing if Bush were acting to protect a growth industry. But domestic textile manufacturing has been on the wane for decades--not only because of competition from abroad, but because, as textile industry CEO Gary Heiman wrote in The Washington Post earlier this month, "American textile companies didn't discard failed business models and evolve when they had a chance." Unlike other sectors, the textile industry has been slow to invest in research and development and switch to higher-end products, in which it might hold a competitive advantage. Thus a supposedly principled conservative administration is willing to go to the mat for an industry that has proved unwilling to keep up with the rest of the economy. Bush has often espoused a God-helps-those-who-help-themselves economic philosophy. But, apparently, he's not above giving an undeserved handout to those who can help him politically.

The trade deficit, or as the WSJ Ed Page calls it "The Capital Surplus," will continue to scare average Americans who do not understand comparative advantage. Will W and GOP Senators stick to principles or bow to political pressure?

Yup. Smoot-Hawley II

Hat-tip: The Corner

President Bush Posted by John Kranz at 5:17 PM

April 19, 2005

On Second Thought, Make that a Cheeseburger!

Huh? Government wrong? Maybe they didn't kill as many of us as previously thought with their ridiculous "Four Food Groups," and its moronic successor, "The Food Pyramid."

The AP reports Yahoo! News - Obesity Danger May Have Been Overstated

CHICAGO - Being overweight is nowhere near as big a killer as the government thought, ranking No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation's leading preventable causes of death, according to a startling new calculation from the CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Tuesday that packing on too many pounds accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States. As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher: 365,000 deaths.

The new analysis found that obesity — being extremely overweight — is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight.

Biostatistician Mary Grace Kovar, a consultant for the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center in Washington, said "normal" may be set too low for today's population. Also, Americans classified as overweight are eating better, exercising more and managing their blood pressure better than they used to, she said.

Anybody can miss a prediction, but it takes a government agency to miss by a factor of 14. Whadaya say we let the private sector handle diet concerns, and have the government stick to important things like the mohair subsidy.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru links to the mypyramid.gov site and asks "WHAT WOULD WE DO without the federal government telling us what we should eat?"

But johngalt thinks:

Sounds good to me... Lyle. (Make that a cheeeeeese burger.)

Posted by: johngalt at April 20, 2005 1:43 AM
But jk thinks:

Nice. I expected Sugarchuck to get the allusion, but I wasn't sure who else.

Posted by: jk at April 20, 2005 11:53 AM

US Economic Power

That right-wing-rag, the New York Times is at it again, delivering yet another hit piece against statism.

Bruce Bawer, an American living in Oslo, delivers the bad news to his neighbors who are quite convinced that they are "the richest country in the world."

Alternatively, the study found, if the E.U. was treated as a single American state, it would rank fifth from the bottom, topping only Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia and Mississippi. In short, while Scandinavians are constantly told how much better they have it than Americans, Timbro's statistics suggest otherwise. So did a paper by a Swedish economics writer, Johan Norberg.

Contrasting "the American dream" with "the European daydream," Mr. Norberg described the difference: "Economic growth in the last 25 years has been 3 percent per annum in the U.S., compared to 2.2 percent in the E.U. That means that the American economy has almost doubled, whereas the E.U. economy has grown by slightly more than half. The purchasing power in the U.S. is $36,100 per capita, and in the E.U. $26,000 - and the gap is constantly widening."

Growing up in the 70's, I was forced to tolerate Disco music; polyester leisure suits; dire warnings of global cooling, the 80s world famine and overpopulation; and liberal glee over the utopias of Sweden and Norway.

Hard to say that music has improved a lot, but it's now Global Warming, underpopulation, people are eating well everywhere there is some degree of freedom, and the light of truth has been shown on the true effects of statism.

Hat-tip: Samizdata

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 1:14 PM

Be Very Freaking Afraid...

I got an email about this this morning, but it had no link, and I just tripped over the story at DailyStandard.com. Wow.

IF THE IDEA OF A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to government-funded child care, "adequate" recreation, and $80,000 in cash seems outlandish, remember that these concepts are no more eccentric than the idea of a right to abortion was, prior to Roe v. Wade. As a law school exercise in 1973, my class was charged with trying to formulate an argument for a constitutional right to abortion. We were stumped. None of us could think of one. A few months later, the "right" to abortion was born.
So Republicans are right to put top priority on the president's ability to get a vote on his judicial nominations. Liberal interest groups have flatly declared their intention to filibuster any nominee to the Supreme Court whom they regard as conservative. The stakes couldn't be higher.

It was kind of Yale's chapter of the American Constitutional Society to explicitly tell us what their goals are for a progressive Constitution and a new bill of rights:
* Economic citizenship--stakeholder society in which every young adult gets a form of citizenship inheritance of $80,000, funded by a wealth tax . . .

* Vision here is a citizenship agenda . . . preliminary to rehabilitation of privileges of 14th Amendment which have never been redeemed.

* Idea of a national citizenship is powerful and underdeveloped legal resource . . . .concept that national citizenship has privileges--we need to make this a reality--cure disenfranchisement for felons.

* Equal Protection clause is inconsistent with state that does little or nothing about social and economic inequalities. Implies the existence of positive welfare rights--education, police protection, healthcare, childcare, etc.

* 14th Amendment delegitimizes social and economic inequality.

* We need to develop argument that Constitution requires this type of legislative response (protect vs. winner take all economy).

The Constitution of 2020, if these folks get their way.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 12:41 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

To see the potential of a progressive Constitution of 2020, we need only look to the EU Constitution of 2004.


Posted by: AlexC at April 19, 2005 11:06 PM

April 18, 2005

EU Socialism is Dead

I posted an item about Mark Steyn's "Sovereign Citizen" last night. In this piece Steyn finds portentous signals in globalization. Not the Jose Bove, college kids' concerns but whether new opportunities in formerly un-entreprising nations will stem the flow of human capital required by Western Europe and Canada. (Canada is a Western European Nation anymore, that last phrase may be redundant.)

Today the WSJ Ed Page features a Guest Editorial about rapprochement between China and India.

No doubt, China and India are competitors. China has already become the factory of the world, while India is gradually becoming the world's laboratory and back-office. China is seeking to emulate India's remarkable surge in software and IT-enabled services, while India is aiming to match China's stunning success in manufacturing. Both China and India are aggressively seeking hydrocarbon concessions in Central and East Asia, West Asia, Russia, Latin America and Africa -- in Sudan, they are joint-venture partners. Both countries are modernizing and expanding their military capabilities. But what Mr. Wen's visit demonstrates is that competition need not necessarily mean confrontation and conflict, and that areas of cooperation and engagement can indeed be worked out.

Clearly, trade is one such niche of mutual advantage. The two have decided to study the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement. In 2005, the volume of bilateral trade will cross $15 billion, a minuscule proportion of China's global trade but 7%-8% of India's. Contrary to Indian fears, the trade balance is in India's favor and the Indian steel industry has had an unusual degree of success in Chinese markets. The two countries have set a target of $20 billion by 2008; but going by present trends, this level will be reached next year. Investment is also taking place: Chinese companies are busy establishing their presence in areas like telecom and consumer durables while Indian companies have set up shop in pharmaceuticals, engineering and IT. Most importantly, while China is the leading target of anti-dumping action by India, Indian businessmen have shed their fears of China and have a degree of self-confidence missing five years ago when trade doors were opened fully.

You can add these two stories together in your head and see that our children will face a very different competitive picture than we have.

Many fear for the US. And seeing our education system, I should not be so sanguine. But I think we will be able to parlay current advantages for another half a century.

But "Old Europe" is toast. New economies in former Soviet republics, India and China -- these are the new trading partners. The German, French and Scandinavian economies can just wither away, new nations will take their place.

The real question is whether the US will elect to go down the socialist path, and follow these high-tax, centralized command-and-control nations down. Or will we wise up and compete with these emerging economies before it is too late? To compete we will need a new tax system and we will need privatization of pensions.

Are our legislators serious about these? It's not about the trust fund in 2042 -- it's about a company deciding where to build a new engineering center in 2008.

But johngalt thinks:


JK, this is a remarkable case for the urgency of Social Security reform, and tax reform soon thereafter. Bully!

Posted by: johngalt at April 19, 2005 2:31 PM

That's Not Funny!

Well, Mark Steyn's The Spectator.co.uk column is not a laugh riot like we've come to expect from the Master. But it is an important column: "The age of the sovereign individual."

Ireland managed to persuade its wandering sons of Erin to return. Imagine if China did the same. For two generations, as fertility rates have nose-dived in the West, the complaceniks of Canada and Western Europe have clung to the assumption that they can go on using the Third World as a farm team and denude developing societies of their best and brightest. Even if one accepts this as enlightened and progressive rather than lazy and selfish, how could anyone seriously credit it as a long-term strategy on which to pin the viability of Euro-Canadian welfarism? The most vital economic resource is people, and that’s the one thing much of the Western world is running out of. The anti-globalists can demonise sovereign states and sovereign companies — the Dells and other multinationals — but we’re entering the age of the sovereign individual, and that will be a lot harder for the anti-glob mob to attack. By 2010, a smart energetic Chinaman or Indian will be able to write his own ticket anywhere he wants. How attractive will the prospect of moving to the European Union and supporting a population of geriatric ingrate Continentals be? Not just compared with working in America or Australia but with the economic opportunities in his own country?

Here’s a prediction: Europe’s dependence on immigration will in the end prove far more catastrophic than America’s dependence on oil. The immigrants will run out long before the oil does.

Read the whole thing. Steyn nails some important topics -- and don't worry, there are some laughs to be had.

Hat-tip: Samizdata

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 12:05 AM

April 17, 2005

Paris Airport Collapse - Final Report

I noticed on Friday that the unsustainable Amtrak railroad's flagship Acela service had to be shut down because the Canadian made brakes on these French made trains were fracturing. (Affecting 300 of the 1200 total brake rotors in the Acela fleet.) I see today that Amtrak COO Bill Cosbie, errr, Crosbie, has several estimates for when the trains might resume service ranging from next Wednesday to two months or more.

My immediate reaction on Friday was, "another fine example of French engineering" which reminded me I hadn't heard any more news about the Paris airport terminal collapse since my blogs on the subject last August and May. So I Googled news for "paris airport terminal collapse." Only 4 hits - clearly not a hot news story any more - and one of them is actually relevant.

Paris Airport Roof Structure to be Replaced, from the 'Insurance Journal' website. The story cites a February 2005 report by an expert commission that concluded, "both structural and design faults were the underlying cause of the collapse." I suppose that means structural construction and structural design.

The story also references a February 16 IJ article on the release of the report, which I found in the site's International News Archive. From that story we find this summary:

An investigative commission under the direction of Jean Berthier, engineering Professor at France's Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausées, concluded that the building's structure had been fragile from the outset. It then progressively degraded under use - principally from the side walkways - to the point where the structure gave way.

Berthier's report pointed to four connected causes: 1) insufficient or badly positioned structural steel; 2) lack of mechanical "redundancy," in that the stresses were concentrated and could not be shifted to other structural components; 3) concrete beams that offered too little resistance to stress and use, and 4) the positioning of metal supports within the structural concrete.

OK, so there's no direct mention of square windows in a concrete arch leading to its failure, but this sure seems to be an indictment of the structural design. A design which relied upon steel, and apparently not enough of it, to help concrete do a job that it wasn't suited to. If I ever get my hands on the complete report I might find more details to support my original hypothesis.

Another connection I tried to establish was between this engineering failure and the Socialist system in France that advances individuals into positions of authority for reasons other than merit. That charge is echoed by a commentor to the IJ piece from February.

After giving his own explanation for the failure (Structural Instability of the Euler Buckling or P-Delta Effect) Dr. Michael P. Hogan added, "Someone should check the other buildings this designer has "created" - before the next insurance claim." This was answered by a Dr. Doug Shamanon with, "It is clear that you just have a personal axe to grind, this is unprofessional on your part." This really got Dr. Hogan fuming:

"I do have an axe to grind Dr. Shamanon.

There is a pattern of incompetence in the design of major public structures.

The Inquiry into the collapse of de Gaulle Airport says the structure was too weak to sustain itself and progressively collapsed.

We had a similar problem here in Canada when the roof of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal was not able to support itself.

We all pay insurance and we all pay for and use public buildings.

Is it too much to expect them to be able to stand up under their own weight?

When Architects stop playing God I will no longer have an axe to grind.

Too many times, the Structural Engineer (i.e. me) has been told by the Architect - "Make it work or I will find another Engineer". Architect's audacity compromises the safety of structures and there seems to be no check on them.

In the case of de Gaulle Airport Collapse, M. Andreu is BOTH the Architect and Engineer of record."

The only thing I would add is if you're going to make one man both the architect AND the engineer on your project you'd better make damn sure he knows what he's doing. If your choice happens to be a government official then by all means, don't just go by his "credentials."

Posted by JohnGalt at 7:49 PM | What do you think? [4]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I think we agree JohnGalt on Architects, or as my brother (a civil engineer by profession) would call them "Art-chitects" where the emphasis is on the art of the structure rather than the engineering. The architect does often call the shots as Dr. Hogan laments. Look at any major civil project and you will see the architect's name listed, often as designer. Rarely do you see the same for the structural engineer. These high profile guys do call the shots, and often stretch the boundaries of engineering to make their mark with their designs. All fine if as Dr. Hogan states the engineering is valid, for on civil projects all taxpayers are financier's of the project. Civil engineering is also the only branch of engineering that does not routinely perform testing on the actual product. Everything else from your dishwasher to your car to the aircraft you fly on undergo extensive testing to prove the design and verify the structural analysis. Buildings and bridges do not and so should have even more emphasis on rigorous design analysis.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at April 18, 2005 11:53 AM
But jk thinks:

I'm going to try and goad Johngalt into saying something bad about Howard Roark...

Yes, gang, architects can fail but are not the best designs those where form follows function? In the software world, I love to throw out a design because "it's too hard." If you have to make a lot of special exceptions and epicycles and question things every step of the way, your design is bad and needs to be scrapped. Hard for me to imagine that architecture is that different.

Lastly, I will make a Virginia Postrel case. I can imagine structural engineers not seeing the value in design and aesthetics and needing a little push sometimes by a good architect.

"Did you say knives?" "Rotating knives, yes."

Posted by: jk at April 18, 2005 12:45 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Roark would agree with "the best designs [are] those where form follows function" and so would I.

As for your criticism of (overly conservative) structural engineers, a good architect will encourage him to consider innovative structures but will NEVER threaten him to "make it work or I'll get another engineer." The problem with that attitude is that every engineer competent enough to know it's a bad idea will reject it, until the architect finds an engineer not competent enough. Then we have a disaster. And yes, Roark would agree with this as well.

Try again! :)

Posted by: johngalt at April 19, 2005 2:27 PM
But jk thinks:

Nah, I'm beat. Did you see the episode of "Barney Miller" where the suspect calls himself "Roark" and Dietrich caught the allusion and foiled the bomb plot?

Posted by: jk at April 20, 2005 11:56 AM


The next book I buy will be Steven Levitt's Freakonomics. In the proud tradition of Thomas Sowell (although apparently without the pious undertones) Levitt applies the hard science of economics to the squishy questions of American life.

Steven Landsburg highlights some of the puzzles that Levitt solves in his review of the book. Like the patterns of test score data that prove certain Chicago public-school teachers guilty of inflating their students standardized test scores. Most importantly, Levitt applies the scientific method to reach objective, indisputable conclusions, based on causation and not merely correlation.

Other of life's little puzzles are addressed by Mr. Levitt, such as "why do so many drug dealers live with their mothers" and which parenting strategies work and which don't?" (The teaser on this last one is "it turns out that reading to your children has no appreciable effect on their academic success.") But the issue that really grabbed my attention is related to a favorite topic on these pages of late - Roe v. Wade.

Why, Levitt wondered, did crime rates fall precipitously in the 1990's, just 18 years after the Roe decision? As Landsburg summarizes, "Did crime fall because hundreds of thousands of prospective criminals had been aborted? Once again, the pattern by itself is not conclusive, but once again Mr. Levitt piles pattern on pattern until the evidence overwhelms you. The bottom line? Legalized abortion was the single biggest factor in bringing the crime wave of the 1980s to a screeching halt."

So-called "pro-life" activists argue that every infant should be born because there is a loving and caring home waiting for him somewhere in the world. But what about the millions who are born into disfunctional families of one sort or another, and have the additional misfortune of being "unwanted?" Each is at much greater risk for anti-social behavior in his later years, including the casual sex that breeds future generations like himself.

Some people may not "like" the conclusions that a method like this comes to but as Landsburg says, "economics is about what is true, not what ought to be true." If you genuinely want to do something about one of reality's problems it is indispensably helpful to know what that reality is.

But jk thinks:

Harrumph! I haven't read any of the author's work, but you can color me skeptical.

One who claims to use the hard, empirical science of economics would seem to be taking a big leap with this theory. Reading to kids does not affect their test scores, yet a parent who practices abortion would have raised a criminal?

Lastly, you again conflate your support of legalized abortion (which I can appreciate at some level as a little-l-libertarian), with the bad law that Roe v. Wade is, claiming a Constitutional right from eminumbras and premanations.

I'm tempted to stick with Dr. Sowell...

Posted by: jk at April 17, 2005 5:38 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I wait for four days and still, only ONE comment on this topic? Our advertising dollars must be wasted when that's all the action I get with a blog that claims abortion is "good" for "society."

Very well then.

As a political realist JK certainly can't argue that our 'three branches' governmental system is perfect. So why would he take offense at Roe for reaching the right decision (even he agrees with "at some level") for the "wrong" reasons? (Which I'm not stipulating are wrong, by the way.) I'm more concerned with wrong conclusions for the wrong reasons. (Yes, I know some people believe Roe is "wrong" but they are mistaken.)

The review author's claim, based on the book author's evidence, is hardly that "parents who practice abortion would have raised a criminal." It is that abortion has reduced the ratio of criminals in society. Surely this is not unfathomable, given that a large share of abortions are performed for economic reasons.

I too found myself in complete agreement with Sowell, until his columns on Terri Schiavo. Now I know where one boundary of his rationality lies, beyond which his conclusions are suspect.

Posted by: johngalt at April 21, 2005 2:40 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Goading us into commenting now are we? I think Steven Levitt may be able to interpret details in statistics, but he completely missed the bigger picture. Legalizing abortion has also lead to the increased size and power of the religious conservative movement. Birth rates of heathen atheists and liberal scum have dropped due to wanton abortions thus now a generation on the religious and the conservative who kept plopping out kids are taking the majority. Fear not however as this phenomenon is naturally self limiting. Soon the religious conservatives will have enough of a majority to criminalize abortion. Then atheistic and liberal birth rates will again rise until a new majority is formed and abortion will be legalized and the cycle will repeat.

Ah, Friday fun.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at April 22, 2005 9:39 AM

April 15, 2005

Friday Fun

Take the Monday Morning Test

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 1:35 PM


Running with AlexC's riff, I'd like to point out Andrew Coors's article on TCS: "Why We Need Personal Tax Savings Accounts."

He proposes a personal account to collect one's withholding. That way, you have the money to pay your taxes on April 15, but you have access to those funds and earn interest on them.

With the current focus on "ownership society," ownership of withheld income should be restored back to the rightful owners--the taxpayers. Money withheld from paychecks should be an asset of the taxpayer, rather than the government, until the time that the tax burden becomes due. Ownership means letting workers have their withheld income as an invested asset until they rightfully belong to the government. Abolition of withholding is out of the question from a political standpoint; the mention of it raises opposition from multiple fronts. Can you imagine the fallout if every American had to write a check for the full amount of their tax liability on April 15th?

A possible solution does exist. The government could create a vehicle like a health care savings account called a personal tax savings account where withheld income is held until tax time. Taxpayers would have the option of placing withheld income in either the government's hands (the current system) or a personal account, which yields a return, for use in paying future taxes. With a personal tax savings account, any overpayments would yield a tax deferred return for payment of future tax liabilities.

You write a check to the government for your tax bill (accountability and transparency!) and then write your own refund check to yourself of what remains. And the interest is yours.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:45 PM | What do you think? [6]
But johngalt thinks:

Doh! Mr. Coors has been reading Three Sources Blog (back when it was still Berkeley Square.) Our own Silence Dogood proposed this idea on these pages months ago. The problem is that the power of compound interest is dramatically emasculated when the principal goes away after 12 months or less.

Posted by: johngalt at April 15, 2005 2:48 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I am just ahead of my time. Actually I suspect that the federal government spends my interest as well as my principal, so if I keep my interest then they will have to raise my taxes to compensate. (Or cut spending, but I am not holding my breath) I have come to beleive that all tax changes need to simplify the system. Complexity breeds loopholes and then another round of complexity to fill those and repeat ad infinitum.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at April 15, 2005 3:22 PM
But jk thinks:

I do remember Silence's social security plan.

I am thinking of a private account for Federal tax withholding as well. No, you're not going to get rich off the interest, but you are going to have to write a check of sorts, to the gub'mint for your annual tax bill.

This will cause Republican and Libertarian landslide victories.

Yes, Silence, they will have to raise more to compensate for their disappearing free float, but after the first couple of elections, they will find fewer and fewer willing participant legislators.

Posted by: jk at April 16, 2005 10:48 PM
But johngalt thinks:

You are correct that if taxpayers wrote checks for their civic dues there would be more scrutiny of how it was spent, and fewer wealth redistribution politicians would find their way into office. But why on earth would you advocate a government run "private" account when every taxpayer already has one or more truly private accounts with check writing privileges?

Do you suppose that such a scheme could "trick" unwary politicians into supporting the cessation of witholding? My dear friend, the common trait of the politician is shrewdness, not stupidity!

Posted by: johngalt at April 17, 2005 10:47 AM
But jk thinks:

I am thinking of private accounts at a private bank that are dedicated to save withholding until tax time. These are already used by businesses for the business' share of the tax.

I don't know if we'll "pull anything over" on our legislators (Senator Debbie Stabenow doesn't strike me as overly shrewd...) but it will answer the complaint that "you won't be able to collect if you don't withhold because folks will spend all of the money on archtop guitars!"

I like it because it cancels out objections yet still inches us closer to a "taxpayer writes a check" system.

Posted by: jk at April 17, 2005 10:12 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

The reason to have a special account is to prevent adding the cost of collections against deadbeat taxpayers. Perhaps then the IRS would take Visa and you privatize the collection cost as well? Hmmm, I could get airline miles by paying my taxes...

Posted by: Silence Dogood at April 18, 2005 3:04 PM

Tax Freedom Day

No, it's not today.
It's sunday.
Today is merely tax day.

Incredibly, I managed to provide an interest free loan to our friends at the federal government to the tune of five large.

Being a small business owner, I get to experience the Internal Revenue Service like few others. I get to pay my taxes quarterly.
Which means I don't pay taxes with every paycheck, I get to save my money in the bank, and wait until April, June, Sept and January to make my payments.

Which makes me extra specially grumpy then.

If I'm ever elected to anything, removing withholding will be high on my agenda. Nothing can make a person more expectant of their government than actually writing them a sizable check and wondering where that money is going.

Demanding accountability from your government, Republican or Democrat, will do nothing but strengthen us as a nation.

Sunday will also mark the earliest tax freedom day since Richard Nixon was the President in 1970.

Posted by AlexC at 12:00 AM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

Hallalujah brother! And while you're at it, change election day from the first Tuesday in November to the third Tuesday in April.

Posted by: johngalt at April 15, 2005 2:13 AM
But jk thinks:

Yup -- the single, best change we could make to promote smaller government and domestic liberty. If folks made out a check for their taxes, Phil Grahm would be president.

Posted by: jk at April 15, 2005 11:53 AM

April 14, 2005

Spouse's Passwords

Here's one for you. You should keep your email passwords and the like in some sort of escrow (with a friend?). This would allow you to keep privacy but still allow your spouse to access accounts in the event that you, say, had a stroke or something.

What about a web service that does this? You can enter your passwords and a master password that is required to access them. If the passwords are accessed, email is sent to the primary account holder. That would come in handy even for the slightly forgetful.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 10:37 PM

The Elephant in the Room

Being otherwise occupied (My wife is doing pretty well, thanks!) I did not subject myself to the Senate preening session known in some circles as John Bolton's confirmation hearing.

But I'll bet Larry Kudlow is not far off the mark with his critique of the Democrats. In their rush to slam a Bush appointee, they ignored the fact that, er , maybe the UN needs a tough ambassador?

What is utterly astonishing is the failure of the Democrats to even discuss the scandal-ridden Kofi Annan regime at the UN. Not just oil-for-food, which is bad enough, but also the sexual misconduct charges, the institutional corruption, and of course the ultimate issue which is the disproportionate power held by totalitarian states under current UN rules. The UN should be run by democracies, not terrorist dictatorships. What is more, so far I haven’t heard any Democrats acknowledge that it was John Bolton as a State Department official who succeeded in overturning the anti-Israel zionism is racism resolution that stood for so many years. Bolton did this. An incredible accomplishment. Where are the Democrats on this issue now as they attempt to derail Bolton’s bid?

Another great comment is to remember that our ambassador represents us to the UN, not the other way around.

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 5:51 PM

Just There to Draw the Chalk Outline

You may have heard about this story: Two weeks ago a 5 year-old girl called 911 to report that her parents were "dead" and "there is blood coming out of my dad's mouth."

According to UPI, "a man broke into a New Smyrna Beach, Fla., home and killed a couple he believed had turned him in on drug charges and then killed himself." The story goes on, "The Hernlens had nothing to do with Johnson's arrest, the deputies said." In addition, "The couple had asked for an injunction against Johnson in January, but a judge denied it. The couple said Johnson was stalking them by driving by their house and making threats."

Now, here's the rest of the story. Last night, the father of 29 year-old Aeneas Hernlen, the man of the house that was invaded and in which he and his wife were murdered, was interviewed on the O'Reilly Factor. The elder Hernlen, Tracy, told Bill that his son had sought a restraining order against the suspect three times. He also said that a couple of weeks before their murder, Aeneas had called him and asked him for a gun. Tracy Hernlen happens to be a retired police officer. He told his son, "No. You need to let the police protect you." Stiffling tears, Tracy then said, "They let him down. The system failed them."

Knowing all of this you have to ask yourself, whose hands do you want YOUR safety in? Your own, or the cops? I'm no cop basher but they just can't be counted on unless they happen to be there at the time. As my father-in-law puts it (and his son happens to be a cop), "When it comes to self-defense, the only thing the police are good for is to draw the chalk outline around your dead body."

Remember this every time you get to vote on a gun rights issue.

Gun Rights Posted by JohnGalt at 3:09 PM


You didn't expect me to keep quiet about Bextra, did you?

The FDA have pulled this compound because of a one in a million risk of severe toxicity. Dr. Gilbert Ross has an National Review Online piece. recounting those who lose in the regulation:

So Bextra is gone, joining Vioxx on the pharmaceutical museum shelf. Of course, there is a theoretical possibility that one or both of these drugs, and the unique benefits they hold for many, may someday return. Meanwhile, what about the many thousands of patients who got relief of pain and no untoward effects? Too bad — they have been regulated out of the picture. Bextra’s only a “me-too” drug, after all, and one person in a million may get a skin condition, so out it goes. Activists have advocated, regulators have regulated, and patients will now pay the price. The choice to use this drug in appropriate populations — in bygone days, a choice made between doctor and patient — is no longer to be an option. Someday, regulators and consumers will learn that nothing is risk-free.

Of course another loss is $1.3 Billion in revenue for Pfizer, plus countless resources for compliance, and extreme exposure to lawsuits.

Wouldn't this money be better spent, say finding a cure for MS? Or better recovery from stroke?

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 1:38 PM

Another Cost of the Drug War

Is there anything more redundant and coals-to-Newcastleish than blogging Instapundit stories? Well, yes, blogging yesterday's Instapundit stories.

But I can't let this go by. Glenn linked to a The Volokh Conspiracy posting. If losing Bork wasn't bad enough, this country appears to have lost a good second choice.

Supreme Opportunity Cost: Sometimes we overly diminish the role of individuals when assessing historical developments. That Ronald Reagan was in a position to be President when he was probably changed the direction of the Republican party (and the US) for decades. Because of his distinctive personal characteristics, Bill Clinton was able to get elected when other Democrats of similar views are not. As President, he also signed on to a welfare reform bill—and brought along enough Democrats in Congress—that contains far more radical reform than anything President Bush has managed to achieve. In short, individuals matter.

I have long bemoaned the opportunity cost of the aborted Supreme Court nomination of Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals. Nominated in the wake of Robert Bork's defeat, Ginsburg was pressured (rumor has it by then-Drug "Czar" Bill Bennett) to withdraw his name when it was disclosed by Nina Totenberg (whose speaker's agent brags about it here) that he had smoked marijuana in the presence of law students when he was a professor at Harvard Law School. Anthony Kennedy was nominated in his place.

What happened to Judge Ginsburg was a tragedy for liberty, and a terrible injustice to a very decent man. Without casting any aspersions on Justice Kennedy, I really wish that now-Chief Judge Ginsburg, the most libertarian Supreme Court nominee in the modern era, had been on the Court these past 15 years. At any rate Ex Post yesterday posted a nice talk by Judge Ginsburg.

But, hey, we got Souter, right!?

This is an uncounted cost of the drug war. Many have chosen not to seek elected office or decline an appointed permission because of past drug use.

Note that an update to the Insty post from John Podhoretz seems to exonerate Bill Bennet. That's almost a shame, because he is an iconic figure of the drug war in the GOP. I like and respect him, but he and I strain the seams of the big tent on drug policy.

Posted by John Kranz at 1:00 PM

April 13, 2005

AG Spitzer is the Devil Incarnate

Yes, I'm a partisan hack, but anybody who doesn't think the Attorney General of New York is the scariest guy in politics is not paying attention.

Eliot Spitzer has a wall filled with trophy scalps from prominent businesspeople and these are a substantive political advantage (cf. Rudy Giuliani).

The trouble is that a prosecutor should follow due process, yet Mr. Spitzer's modus operandi is to make defamatory comments to the media, and force nervous boards to capitulate before risking (further) bad publicity or ensnarement. Today's victim is Hank Greenberg. As Larry Kudlow has pointed out, this man landed at Omaha Beach, and served with distinction in Korea.

The ideals he risked his life for, however, will not be afforded to him. AG Spitzer smears him, but will not charge him with a crime.

The WSJ Ed Page sez: "So Indict Him Then."

And yet you don't have to belong to the ACLU to wonder about the lack of due process here. Mr. Spitzer uncovers questionable accounting about an insurance transaction and demands that the board fire the CEO. He then uses that firing to justify a public accusation of "fraud" that he hasn't yet proven to anybody, much less to a jury of Mr. Greenberg's peers.

More fundamentally, there is an issue of whether the underlying AIG accounting was in fact illegal, or merely a matter of "reasonable" interpretation. Allow us to offer a short primer on "finite" insurance products to elaborate. In traditional insurance, a company pays small premiums to cover itself in the event of a future loss. Finite reinsurance, in contrast, often starts with the recognition that a loss has already happened but that its ultimate cost may not be known for a long time.

Gubernatorial candidate Spitzer can subpoena email records from any New York business and have his government staff sift through all of them to look for malfeasance -- or simply an embarrassing thing to leak. No firm could withstand that scrutiny from a dedicated enemy.

I like a hockey player that pushes the rules a bit to win, or a tax attorney, or a brain surgeon. But prosecutors must be forced to follow the rules.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 7:51 PM

April 12, 2005

Automotive "Nirvana"

I recently received an emailed Business Week article, "Giving Hybrids A Real Jolt." (Subscription required - Click "continue reading" to see the full text.)

I have several quibbles with this story but for now I'll focus on one: The viability of electric cars. The article champions a "new" strategy for making cars that "use almost no oil products at all." It impressively boasts about "a converted Toyota Prius that gets 100 to 180 mpg in a typical commute." (Italics mine)

"What's the secret" the author asks? "It's as simple as adding more batteries and a plug to hybrids such as the Prius." Simply replace the Prius' existing 1.3-kilowatt-hour nickel metal hydride battery with an advanced 9-kWh lithium ion battery pack. And the only penalty appears to be... it is 170 pounds heavier.

But let's look at some science:

The "revolutionary" Prius' 9 kwh battery pack can hold a charge equal to 3.6 million Joules, or MJ (megajoules). If that sounds like a lot, consider that a single gallon of gasoline has an energy content of 121 MJ. Therefore, this 9 kwh battery pack has an energy equivalence of 3.6/121 = .03 gallons of gasoline (3.84 ounces), based on these conversion factors.

Now consider the costs. 1 kwh costs 6.66 cents retail. (national average) 1 gallon of gas costs 2.217 dollars retail. (national average, 23% of which is tax) This means that electricity is .0666/(3.6/9) or .1665 dollars per MJ, while gasoline is 2.217/121 or .0180 dollars per MJ. The 825% cost premium for electricity is largely due to the inefficiencies of generating electricity by burning fuels such as... oil. (Just because electricity is clean, reliable and plentiful doesn't mean it is economical.)

There is an area where electric motors have an advantage over internal combustion engines, and that is operating efficiency. The energy conversion efficiency of internal combustion engines is roughly 30%, while that of electric induction motors is 78-95%. Here is where electricity can gain a cost advantage over gasoline. When your real cost of electricity reaches 95/30 or about three times the cost per Joule of gasoline, you are at the break-even point. At today's prices this translates to about 5.4 cents per MJ, or 2.16 cents per kWh.

This is about 1/3 of the current retail cost. If you can produce electricity that cheap then forget about cars, sell it onto the grid and pocket the 4.4 cents per kWh profit!

But this ratio doesn't account for the portion of the gasoline cost that goes to taxes to (supposedly) build and maintain roads (about 23% as mentioned earlier) or the efforts to improve efficiencies of internal combustion engines to around 45%. And it also doesn't account for the high cost of these advanced batteries, and the fact that batteries have a limited useful lifetime after which they must be replaced (and recycled.) These factors tip the balance even more in favor of gasoline power.

Finally, don't forget that even when (or if) the cost equation turns in favor of electricity, I can still carry the equivalent of 533 full battery charges of energy in my 16 gallon fuel tank. Batteries clearly have a long, long way to go to make up for this shortfall.

APRIL 11, 2005


Giving Hybrids A Real Jolt

A plug-in gas-electric vehicle may be key in saving fuel and cutting pollution

Is there a car that can cut America's oil imports to a trickle, dramatically reduce pollution, and do it all with currently available technology? Greg Hanssen thinks so. His company has already built one such car -- a converted Toyota Prius that gets 100 to 180 mpg in a typical commute. Andrew A. Frank thinks so, too. The University of California at Davis professor has constructed a handful of such vehicles. His latest: a converted 325-horsepower Ford Explorer that goes 50 miles using no gas at all, then gets 30 mpg. "It goes like a rocket," he says.

These vehicles are quickly becoming the darlings of strange bedfellows: both conservative hawks and environmentalists, who see such fuel efficiency as key to ensuring national security and fighting climate change. Reducing dependence on the turbulent Middle East "is a war issue," says former CIA Chief R. James Woolsey, who calls the cars' potential "phenomenal."

What's the secret? It's as simple as adding more batteries and a plug to hybrids such as the Prius. That way, the batteries can be charged up at any electrical outlet -- letting this so-called plug-in hybrid travel 20 to 60 miles under electric power alone. Since most Americans drive fewer than 30 miles a day, such a car could go months without visiting the filling station. "The only time you would have to gas up is when you go out of town," says Felix Kramer, who founded the nonprofit California Cars Initiative to promote plug-ins. Run the internal combustion engine on a blend of gasoline and biofuels like ethanol, and it would use almost no oil products at all. "That changes the world," says Frank J. Gaffney Jr., president of the Center for Security Policy.

Professor Frank, 72, first began thinking about a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) years ago. "But now all the pieces are here," he says. Toyota Motor Corp. (TM ) has solved the big engineering problems with the Prius, so "it's a trivial matter to make a plug-in," says Joseph J. Romm, a former Energy Dept official. Greg Hanssen and his colleagues at EnergyCS, for example, replaced the Prius' existing 1.3-kilowatt-hour nickel metal hydride battery with an advanced 9-kWh lithium ion battery pack. They hope to offer a conversion kit to Prius owners. The weight penalty? About 170 pounds.

Car owners might not want to try this at home. Such a conversion will probably void Toyota's warranty. But big companies are building their own vehicles. In a project sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), several utilities, government agencies, and DaimlerChrysler (DCX ), the carmaker is building a fleet of up to 40 PHEV delivery vans.

Four will be coming to U.S. cities for tests starting in June. Research at EPRI predicts that the plug-in vehicles, based on DaimlerChrysler's popular Sprinter van, will get a gas mileage boost of at least 50% over conventional vans.

EPRI Program Manager Robert Graham is convinced that Toyota already has prototype plug-ins running. Toyota says no. "We keep looking at the concept, and at some point it might be feasible, but it isn't there yet," says David Hermance, Toyota's executive engineer for environmental engineering. For its part, DaimlerChrysler sees its van project "as a great opportunity to develop the vehicles we foresee in the future," says technology spokesman Nick Cappa. The company's first hybrid offerings will be conventional, but plug-ins might eventually be an option, he says.

Auto makers' reluctance to plunge in quickly frustrates evangelists like Professor Frank. "If it is such a damn good idea, why are the car companies not adopting plug-ins?" he asks. "The simple answer is that they don't want to change what they are making." But it's also not clear how much more people will pay for the cars. Hybrids are estimated to cost $2,000 to $5,000 more than conventional cars to make, and the larger batteries for plug-ins would add several thousands dollars more.

Proponents predict costs will drop with high-volume production. But making the investment to build hundreds of thousands of PHEVs is a giant risk, especially since there are competing approaches to higher fuel efficiency, such as advanced diesels or upgraded gasoline or hydrogen engines. Plus, no one knows if gas prices will rise enough to spur demand for high mileage cars. "All these technologies are great. But there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty," says David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research.

That's why some plug-in advocates are striving to create a market for auto makers. On Mar. 3, the city of Austin, Tex., passed a resolution calling for rebates for plug-in purchases and asking local businesses and governments to buy the vehicles. "We can reduce costs [of driving] to consumers, improve the air quality, and increase revenues to the city," says Roger Duncan, deputy general manager of city-owned Austin Energy.

Ordinary hybrids such as the Prius are already popular. Moving to plug-ins is the next logical step -- and the idea is getting high-level endorsements. Last December, the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy tapped plug-ins as a key part of its energy strategy. The Set America Free coalition, a group of conservatives and enviros, is pushing for $2 billion in incentives, pointing out that "if all cars on the road are hybrids and half are plug-in hybrid vehicles, U.S. oil imports would drop by 8 million barrels per day." Americans will be "gassing up" their cars with electrons, predicts Romm: "I would bet the mortgage on it." But not quite the whole house.

By John Carey in Washington

But jk thinks:

James Woolsey (whom I admire greatly) was on Kudlow & Company last week touting the benefits of these wonderful machines. All they need is *ahem* government subsidies for the auto manufacturers.

The wild card would be nooc-yoo-ler power. If folks wanted to make a massive shift toward building a thousand new nuclear plants, then plug-in electric-hybrids might be worth another look.

Posted by: jk at April 13, 2005 11:50 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

If electric cars use almost no petroleum products at all then I'm a vegetarian because I did not participate in the actual slaughter of the animal.

Of course there is nuclear, or geothermal, or other methods to generate electricity but as JohnGalt said, the battery technology is the hurdle. We can generate it reasonably efficiently, and use it for motive force very efficiently, it is the storage of the energy that is the problem. I used to be very skeptical of hybrid technology as potentially having all the failure points of both an IC engine and an electric motor, then I looked at it as a stop gap between IC and a pure electric vehicle, but now I think they may be around for quite a while, barring of course that quantum leap in battery technology. Electric motors have another attractive feature, near instantaneous torque at nearly zero rpm. This may be the real use, effectively adding electric turbo charging if you will to a small high revving IC engine. Additionally the concept of in wheel motors would enable 4 wheel drive without the complexity and power losses of transfer cases, shafts, and other transmission components.

I have also read that hybrid technology is almost efficient enough to use as a micro generator, especially if you could tap off the heat of the engine instead of wasting it. Think about parking your hybrid in the garage at night and hooking up a cord and a heat duct and leaving it running to power and heat your house.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at April 14, 2005 12:38 PM

Pope John Paul

De Mortuis nil nisi bonum or "do not speak ill of the dead" should probably apply double to a Pope, and to a Pope who helped free much of the world from Communism.

But my thought has been echoed eloquently by Joseph Braude in TNR's Power Failure

It's impossible to know for sure why so many Islamist leaders and Arab heads of state were so generous in their praise of John Paul this week. But here's one theory: They liked him because he didn't hold them to the same standards to which he held Poland's Wojciech Jaruzelski and the USSR's Mikhail Gorbachev. They liked him because whereas he successfully fought for religious freedom, equality, and social justice in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East he did not.

As a political figure, I think it is right to question JPII's stance on the mideast. As Braude ends, it is worth considering the point for a successor:
But in the long run, the Pope's soft stance toward dictators and Islamists hasn't served anyone well--not Christians, not Jews, not Muslims. In Latin America, the Pope spoke clearly for social justice; in Eastern Europe, he spoke clearly for religious freedom; but in the Middle East he allowed himself to be lectured by Bashar Assad about how the Jews killed Christ, and bad-mouthed by some of the very Islamists whom he had welcomed into the Vatican. His successor must be shrewd and demanding in the Middle East--and willing to be loved a little bit less by the region's self-appointed leaders.

But AlexC thinks:

That's why my money's on Arinze from Nigeria. He's seen Islam at work in his home country.

Posted by: AlexC at April 12, 2005 2:35 AM
But sugarchuck thinks:

I'm not sure this criticism is fair. I didn't see Reagan, Thatcher, Bush I, or Clinton pushing hard for democracy in the Middle East either. The Pope was a product of his times, as Goerge W. is a product of his.
I'm also not sure that the leader of one religion should take on the leaders of another, especially when there is no real seperation of church and State in the Mid East. We might make a political distinciton, as Goerge W. has taken great pains to do, but chances are very good the Muslims wouldn't and the Pope would be seen as starting a religious confrontation. As it stands, his overtures to the Mid East, modest as they may have been, set the stage for a more explicit diaglouge to come, as Nixon's trip to China opened doors that had been closed in his day.

Posted by: sugarchuck at April 12, 2005 10:29 AM
But jk thinks:

Your points are well taken, sc, but PM Thatcher and President Reagan watched the Iraq conflict from the extreme sidelines. PJPII was still in power and spoke out against the war.

I hardly expect another crusade, but I never really got over the appeasement.

Posted by: jk at April 12, 2005 11:05 AM
But sugarchuck thinks:

Your point on Iraq is also well taken. Communism imploded rather than exploded, because the United States was willing to arm itself for conflict and was willing to use arms if need be. Iraq is free becuase of armed intervention and the Pope's position was wrong. Prayer has it's place, and it is an improtant one, but the willingness to fight has it's place too.

Posted by: sugarchuck at April 12, 2005 12:11 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Other than the Kantian "uncertainty" angle, this is an insightful analysis. As the non-subscriber article summary states: "The leadership of Hamas conveyed its condolences to the press and urged the Vatican "to maintain its position in support of our people and our cause, and focus its efforts on steering its followers to defend the rights of our Palestinian people to confront the continuous Zionist aggression, which targets Muslims and Christians..."

Certainly there is a measure of self-serving recharacterization of the Vatican's position here, but it is essentially accurate. And how can there be any doubt why so many Islamists and Arab dictators were generous in their praise?

An honest evaluation of the Pope's legacy must recognize the fact that his objective was never liberation of Eastern Europe, described by Braude as "religious freedom, equality, and social justice." The Pope's mission is to expand the influence of religious faith throughout the world. He cares less if you call God "Allah" or follow the teachings of Muhammad rather than Jesus, than if you are not permitted to worship or pray at all. He worked toward freedom of religion in secular Eastern Europe. The fact that individual liberty accompanied it to some extent was a collateral development that proved more notable to us than to the Pope.

Posted by: johngalt at April 12, 2005 2:47 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Wow, good comments all. My two cents is that this is a concrete example of the need for seperation of church and state. The Pope is a religious leader after all, his political power comes through the ability of Catholics to exert political pressure on their political leaders, something not possible without political freedom and ironically seperation of church and state. Thus his influence in a non-Catholic theocracy is extremely limited. He has a grand bully pulpit of course but to whom does he preach to bring about change?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at April 14, 2005 6:01 PM

April 9, 2005


Okay, I am going to take the word of my respected pals at the WSJ Ed page, and drop my pursuit of the Sandy Berger Conspiracy Theory

The confusion seems to stem from the mistaken idea that there were handwritten notes by various Clinton Administration officials in the margins of these documents, which Mr. Berger may have been able to destroy. But that's simply an "urban myth," prosecutor Hillman tells us, based on a leak last July that was "so inaccurate as to be laughable." In fact, the five iterations of the anti-terror "after-action" report at issue in the case were printed out from a hard drive at the Archives and have no notations at all.

Fair enough, I quit. However this thing about Janet Reno's involvement with the Michael Jackson trial is really starting to get interesting...

Posted by John Kranz at 11:52 AM

April 8, 2005


A small rant. By the way, Riza has had a great week -- thanks to all for the kind words. Those interested can follow her (considerable) progress on her blog, tat ergo sum.

In the six block drive from the hospital to the office, I have XM-radio "Real Jazz 70" on. They do an hour of music from jazz women between 9 and 10. They call it "Chick jazz." In a promo today, some artist says "Women in Jazz have never gotten their due -- and that's a fact!"

I know it's black-helicopterish to blow up at a stupid radio station promo, but it reflects something larger.

I've said before that Jazz is one of the last true meritocracies. The cats who make it can play, and I think most cats who can play make it. Women have been represented pretty fairly. Billie Holliday and Ella and Sarah Vaughn are legends. Dianna Krall has had a great career including crossover into popular music.

You earn your stripes in Jazz, the sisters have not been shut out.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:05 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

I referred back to last month's post, "Why Men Earn More than Women" (http://www.threesources.com/archives/001491.html) to see how this particular example of the "glass ceiling" was keepin' the "chicks" down. I don't know much about jazz musicians, men or women, but I'd guess there would be more women in jazz if they followed suggestion number 2: Put in more hours.

Posted by: johngalt at April 8, 2005 3:28 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, jg, we drift into Larry Summers territory here, and I'm in no mood to face censure by the ThreeSources faculty.

Women do well in jazz, but only a handful have broken into that sacred echelon of "jazz greats."

There are a gob of good female players, but there is a top shelf in jazz of people who completely change the way that people who come after them play.

This is Einstein land and I am not even sure that the sisters are even underrepresented there.

Posted by: jk at April 9, 2005 11:17 AM

April 6, 2005

Not as Nice

Crime and punishment is a funny thing. (Dostoevsky certainly thought so) There is no objective scale for what is fair and what is not.

Andrew Sullivan thought that Charles Graner was let off easy for his role in Abu Ghraib. I pointed out that his ten year sentence was probably more than somebody would get for shooting me in my house tonight.

I think most Americans have come to believe that Martha Stewart's sentence was too harsh. I don't have any polls to back that up, but I think the sentiment has drifted her way.

Today, the WSJ Ed Page agrees with the leniency shown to former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger;

More than a few conservatives have been crying foul, or whitewash, in part because Mr. Berger's plea means he'll likely avoid jail and lose his security clearance for only three years. So we called Justice Department Public Integrity chief prosecutor Noel Hillman, who assured us that Mr. Berger did not deny any documents to history. "There is no evidence that he intended to destroy originals," said Mr. Hillman. "There is no evidence that he did destroy originals. We have objectively and affirmatively confirmed that the contents of all the five documents at issue exist today and were made available to the 9/11 Commission."

Foul! A former National Security Adviser knows better, and while I'm glad the commission is convinced that history wasn't compromised, it seems that, like the U.N., we don't know what was on documents that were destroyed.

I don't need to see Mr. Berger in the hoosegow, but I'm not the first to make the comparison to Martha Stewart. I think he should receive a serious censure and a LIFETIME disbarment from obtaining a security clearance.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 12:17 PM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

What I'd like to know is how can it be "objectively and affirmatively confirmed" that no originals were destroyed? The mere "lack of evidence" is not enough when it comes to official documents of Presidential record.

Who does this guy think he is, Dick Nixon? Apparently Noel Hillman is certainly no Archibald Cox.

Posted by: johngalt at April 6, 2005 2:58 PM
But JJR thinks:

Remember, part of getting a security clearance is a background investigation. I can't imagine that he really is going to be able to get one without serious political involvement anyway. I'm not trying to excuse his actions or minimize what he should have gotten, but saying he's not going to be able to obtain a clearance for only 3 years sounds like BS to me. Sure, he might be able to get a secret clearance, but just about everyone can get one of those. To get a top-secret or higher, the FBI is supposed to do an thorough investigation of your complete backgound. ANYONE with a conviction will find it difficult to get one forever. For him, I really don't see him ever getting one again, no matter what his plea agreement says.

Posted by: JJR at April 8, 2005 9:42 AM
But jk thinks:

I hope you're right, JJR. With considerable political muscle behind him (President Clinton laughed when he heard the news) I wonder if he wouldn't be able to get what he wants.

It still strikes me as pretty light sentence, and like many on the right, I don't think that Secretary Rice would have had access to the same free pass.

Posted by: jk at April 8, 2005 12:10 PM

April 5, 2005

Another El Jefe Crime!

Manolo's Shoe Blog lets Fidel Castro have it:

As the end it approaches for this evil man, he must worry that there is the special place reserved for those who would deny the super fantastic shoes to others.

Beautiful! Hat-tip: Galley Slaves

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 11:51 PM

Supply Side Tax Cuts

Anna Bernasek of the New York Times claims that there is no empirical proof that lower tax rates spur economic growth. My buddy Larry Kudlow respectfully disagrees

First, I will cite the work of Harvard economists Martin Feldstein and Greg Mankiw, along with numerous articles published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Then there's the work of Columbia economist Glenn Hubbard and Princeton economist Harvey Rosen. All show a high correlation between lower tax-rates and higher economic growth.

Then there's the Nobel prize-winning Edward Prescott of Arizona State and Robert Mundell of Columbia. Some will respond that these are Republican advisors.

There's also work from the Paris-based OECD, the IMF, and the Congressional Budget Office.

Then there's the real world evidence. Both the Reagan tax cuts and the George W. Bush tax cuts triggered economic growth. President Clinton raised taxes in his first term, but lowered them in his second term, contributing to a burst of investment and growth.

At the NYTimes, Reubenomics is taken as fact because it worked once, yet supply-side cuts that always work need to be looked at under a partisan economic microscope.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 11:54 AM

April 4, 2005


John Fund crunches the numbers of the 2004 election and finds some portentous signs for Democrats.

President Bush won in a lot of Congressional Districts which re-elected a Democratic incumbent. That augers poorly for Democratic hopes of keeping the seat when the incumbent retires. (Due to gerrymandering, of course, that's the only way a seat ever changes hands...)

W also made impressive gains among Hispanics. Fund concedes that this may not transfer to another Republican politician, but it also puts the whole demographic in play, contrasting to the monolithic African-American vote.

It looks bad for the House, and re-apportionment in 2010 will help the GOP as "cities of aspiration" bleed population from democratic urban areas. Fund is also right that Dean-Moore-ism isn't the answer:

It's no accident that Mrs. Clinton, who will be running for re-election in New York next year before she launches her presidential campaign, is talking about the importance of religious faith and reaching out to moderate voters. "She pores over political data as carefully as Bill Clinton ever did," says New York Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. A close look at the Congressional district results from last year is convincing many Democrats that a move to the middle may be more than a smart media strategy. It may be a matter of political survival.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 12:16 PM

Applied Economics

I really enjoy Thomas Sowell's columns. Here's a collection of quotes from his most recent book, Applied Economics

    "Another major difference between private and governmental institutions is that, no matter how big and successful a private business is, it can always be forced out of business when it is no longer satisfying its customers -- whether because of its own inadequacies or because competing firms or alternative technologies can satisfy the customers better. Government agencies, however, can continue on despite demonstrable failures, and the power of government can prevent rivals from arising." -- P.13

Ahh.. the government monopoly
    "After the Atlanta suburb of Kennesaw passed an ordinance requiring heads of households to keep a firearm in their homes, residential burglaries dropped 89 percent." -- P.48

Very Swiss.

    "Some uninsured people have low incomes but others with incomes sufficient to purchase health insurance simply choose to use their money for other things, especially they are young and feel less at risk of medical problems. Forty percent of uninsured Americans are under the age of 25 and more than 60 percent are under the age of 35. Fewer than 10% of people over 55 are uninsured, despite the widespread political use of an image of old people who may have to choose between food and medical care. That may be the image of the uninsured, but it is hardly the reality." -- P.79

Go figure. It's been so demogogued to the death, who knew?

    "If we were in fact approaching those ultimate limits, whether in food supply, natural resources, or other necessities of life, their rising prices would not only inform us, but force us to change course, without public exhortations or politically-imposed limitations." -- P. 216

Sage advice for the chicken littles.

Can't wait to get the book.

But jk thinks:

Sowell is a deity! The old saw is that he and Walter Williams cannot ever fly on the same plane because we could never lose them both.

He has a lot of educating to do. My morning email included a chain-letter to buy from the companies that do not import oil from the mid-east. Yup, that'll work!

Posted by: jk at April 4, 2005 11:55 AM

April 3, 2005

Free Market at Work

Okay, hear me out on this. Among the many benefits of a free market, perhaps the best is that it directs capital to the best use. This is why I won't discuss the 90's Internet "bubble" without the scare quotes. Capital was made available to build and populate the Internet, some folks got rich, some folks did not, President Clinton kept his approval ratings up with minimal achievements -- what’s the problem?

Anyway, wiping out SPAM I saw this jewel:




REF: MLI/231-ILGI0431/03




We are pleased to inform you of the result of the Lottery Winners

International programs held on the 5th of Jan 2005.
Your e-mail Address Attached to ticket number 20711465897-6291 with serial number 472-971102 drew lucky numbers 9-66-97-22-71-64, which consequently won In the 2nd Category, you have therefore been approved for a lump sum pay out of US$ 500,000. (Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars)


Due to mix up of some numbers and names, we ask that you keep your Winning information very confidential till your claims has been processed And your prize/money Remitted to you. This is part of our security Protocol to Avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some Participants. All participants were selected through a computer ballot System Drawn From over 200,000.00 company and 300,000.00 individual email addresses And Names from all over the world. This promotional program takes place Annually. We hope with part of your winning you will take part in our next year USD $5million(Five Million United States dollars) international lottery.

I purport that anybody who loses money to as scam this bad is really not fit to hold capital. The crooks are far more likely to put it to better use. And better use of capital tends to improve people's lives.

SPAM cons: Darwinian economics, directing the world's capital to better uses!

But johngalt thinks:

I have the counter-example for your theory, JK. The "Ionic Breeze Quadra" air "purifier." Whatever capital 'The Sharper Image' reaps from this marketing amplification of a subtle scientific phenomenon is NOT put to better uses. It's just used to pay for more commercials making more misleading claims to dupe even more people into becoming customers.

Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2005 4:11 PM

The Country Springs Forward

-- and jk falls back. I showed up to the hospital at 7:50 this morning, and rang to be let in, as I must always do on the ICU wing. "Well, okay," they said, "but make it short, we have a shift change coming up."

These people think I don't know how it works. Shift change is at nine. What's the matter with these people?

Welcome to Daylight Savings time, Americans (the UK changed last week). Arizona readers: as you were...

Silence, this is all the fault of your hero, Ben Franklin as I understand (and everybody's Hero, President Richard "We're all Keynesians Now" Milhous Nixon for extending it). Is it still a good idea in 2005?

Posted by John Kranz at 11:46 AM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2005 3:43 PM
But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2005 3:43 PM

If Nominated I Will Not Run

If elected I will not serve.

VATICAN CITY - Roman Catholics and others began to speak out Sunday about their hopes — and expectations — for a new pope, as the intense guessing game began over who would succeed John Paul II in leading the Church.

I celebrate the pope's life, specifically for his contributions to freedom. His support of the Solidarity movement in his native Poland did much to bring down the Soviet Union. Sharansky and Sakharov write that tyrannies are more fragile than they look and find it difficult to weather a strong voice for freedom.

I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but I was extremely disappointed when John Paul II could not see the same need in Iraq. It frustrated me to no end that the man who stood up to the USSR could not stand up to a tinpot depot like Saddam Hussein.

Hugh Hewitt credits the triumvirate of Reagan, Solzhenitsyn, and Pope John Paul II with the victory in the Cold War. I'll take nothing from those guys, but how can he not put PM Thatcher in their camp? No Maggie, no victory. When the men wavered or "went wobbly" the Iron Lady held strong.

But johngalt thinks:

The Pope can do a good job of advocating liberty, but is worthless when it comes to defending it - other than rhetorically, at least.

This morning I heard William Krystol say that John Paul II believed that war was never the answer because in his lifetime he saw Nazism and the Soviet Union fall "through prayer and love" or something to that effect. I don't think the Pope actually believed that, and I hope Krystol doesn't. He must have misspoke, mustn't he?

The next time you hear a world leader say, "We have to love those who hate us" just tell him, "That's the Pope's job. Your's is to kill them before they kill us."

Sometimes it takes homicidal maniacs too long to "find God." Sometimes they need a little help, the hard way.

Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2005 3:38 PM

April 1, 2005

Coming Out

After years of tiresome conservatism, always siding with big business against the little guy, I've decided that I'm going to see the error of my ways, and become a liberal.

I'm burning my NRA card, and replacing it with an ACLU card.
And I'm turning in my guns, replacing them with hugs.

Environmental issues always will trump economic interests and I'm ready to raise taxes on the rich. Social Security needs no repair, and Medicare as well.

I retain my membership in the Roman Catholic Church, however it's tempered with my own blend of abortion on demand and interest in hemlock.

I'm tired of tirelessly defending the Bush Doctrine and all of it's attendant and necessary lies.
We should have left Iraq alone. North Korea and Iran were needlessly antagonized when the President Chimpy McBushitler labelled them the Axis of Evil.

I think that our military should only be used at the behest of the UN, and only with their blessing. A corollary to that is that I believe Neville Chamberlain was misunderstood and peace should have been given another chance to work.

And don't you dare call me unpatriotic!

I'm out and I'm a proud liberal!

Of course, before the process is totally complete, I'm going to need a government run health care system to cover my lobotomy, as my government paid prescription of stupid pills are only a temporary fix.

But jk thinks:

Tinfoil hats all around!

Posted by: jk at April 2, 2005 11:35 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Sorry AlexC, I don't buy it. You made no mention of pushing your obscene Hemi Magnum off a cliff to prevent its ever wasting another gallon of non-sustainable fossil fuel. REAL liberals drive a Prius!

Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2005 1:11 PM
But AlexC thinks:

pshaw. what's good for me is not good for thee!

Posted by: AlexC at April 4, 2005 2:49 AM

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