May 31, 2005
Non -- Oui!
The WSJ Ed Page makes a good point: that French voters may have done the right thing for the wrong reasons. Anti-capitalists helped pus the "Non" vote over the top. As Miles would say, "So What?"
The French vote is a victory of democracy against an opaque and elite process that few people really understood. It is also a defeat for those leaders, notably French President Jacques Chirac, who have been unable to deliver on what they promised from a united Europe. The defeat shouldn't be seen as a renunciation of "Europe" writ large, so much as for a particular narrow vision of the Continent.
They can try again with a better Constitution, or exist longer as sovereign states. I think the EU Constitution was a bad deal all around, and its defeat in France is well worth celebrating.
May 29, 2005
Memorial Day weekend isn't about the start of summer and barbeques.
The Library of Congress has undertaken a project to get the stories of veterans and record them digitally.
Audio, video and text versions of their memories are being recorded for the future.
Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone. And now, for something a little different...
Philosophically, the actions of the US government following the Great Depression were deplorable. But that judgment is somewhat mitigated by the fact that other equally deplorable government policies helped create the miserable situation in the first place. But this is not meant as a discussion of the New Deal, rather an appreciation of some of the artwork that resulted from it.
The Loveland, Colorado post office, where thousands from around the world send their mail for a unique postmark on Valentine's day, displays a mural that captivated my spirit. This inspired me to learn more about it, and it's creator, 'R. Sherman' or James Russell Sherman, I came to learn.
Some time on the internet allowed me to discover an entire website dedicated to art of this nature, as it was funded by several New Deal programs.
The Colorado page listed all of the New Deal artwork on display in Colorado post offices and linked to photos of some of them, but not the Loveland mural. Seeking to rectify this, I emailed a photo to the webmaster and she posted it thusly.
This painting moves me because of its rich color, romantic realism, and its subject: The industrious harvest of nature's bounty by enterprising and creative individuals. My newfound side profession as a hay farmer dependent upon irrigation water probably has a lot to do with the joy I find in this painting, along with my romantic attitude toward the realm of industry.
James Russell Sherman, aka Russell Sherman, studied art in Chicago before moving to the American Northwest. Other works include "At the Brook." ('Continue Reading' to see short bio from this source.)
Reprinted from: http://www.artoftheprint.com/artistpages/sherman_russell_atthebrookquietpool.htm
Russell Sherman: A fine twentieth century American lithographer, illustrator and painter, Russell Sherman studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. His first exhibited works of art date from the early 1930's and at this time he moved to the American north west. His landscapes deal mostly with this region and British Columbia. During the following years Sherman's original lithographs were shown at exhibitions in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York.
A number of this artist's lithographs were commissioned by the Associated American Artists of New York. Since its founding (in the mid 1930's), the A.A.A. was responsible for the publication of many important etchings and lithographs by such major American artists as Reginald Marsh, Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. Both by its printing techniques and by the quality of paper (a sturdy white, wove), At the Brook is most probably an Associated American Artists commissioned lithograph.
At the Brook is a superb, original example of Sherman's lithographic art. Using strong contrasts of light and dark and decorative art deco elements, Sherman created a landscape of unforgettable purity and beauty. It is in every regard a most spectacular image.
Edition: As mentioned earlier, At the Brook is most probably a publication of the Associated American Artists. If so, it would have been printed in a limited edition of 250 impressions.
Image Size: 7 7/8 X 10 3/4 (Sizes in inches are approximate, height preceding width of plate-mark or image.) Matted with 100% Archival Materials
Price: $225.00 US
Condition: Printed upon sturdy wove paper and with full margins as published around 1940. Signed by the artist in pencil along the lower margin. A strongly printed impression and in flawless condition throughout. This original lithograph represents a prime example of the art of Russell Sherman.
Note: The artist biography and information pertaining to this work of art has been provided for the benefit of our viewers. Check our site periodically for new additons. There are new biographies and works of art for sale posted every month.
May 27, 2005
Janice Rogers Brown STILL Rocks!
As I read JK's post on the "Great Fillibuster Compromise of 2005" I was a little concerned about TNR's reference to "higher law than the Constitution" on the part of Bush judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown.
Loyal readers will recall my May 18 posting, All Hail: Janice Rogers Brown, wherein I praised the jurist vociferously for her individual rights views while expressing uncertainty about her social sensibilities (i.e. should the government tell people how, when and why they may reproduce.) These two factors compelled me to learn more about the woman's judicial philosophy.
I googled the "Janice Rogers Brown" search results for "higher law" and found two articles of interest. From the conservative point-of-view, FrontPage Magazine tells us:
Brown's judicial philosophy amounts to what is sometimes called the "Madisonian" view, because it reflects the allegiance to higher law and transcendent rights embraced by the "Father of the Constitution." Not everything is open to majority rule, and courts must ensure that the majority does not run roughshod over groups that are unpopular or lack political power. As Brown put it in another dissenting opinion, "Courts must be especially vigilant, must vigorously resist encroachments that heighten the potential for arbitrary government action."
Very well. So far, so good.
Then I found this whining essay on something called "counterpunch" that characterized Rogers Brown's legal philosophy as "bizarre."
Virtually every court that has considered the matter has concluded that racist speech can create a hostile, abusive and discriminatory work environment, and that when it does so, a court can stop it. No court in recent decades has held that the First Amendment gives people the right to use speech to harass fellow workers on racial or religious grounds at work.
How very matter-of-factly this liberal corpuscle tramples the boundary between speech and action, and denies freedom of speech as a right to those whose speech he disagrees with. A "whites only" sign is speech, but its removal is predicated on the presumption that discriminatory action will follow. The entire post-modern notion of "hate speech" as an act of agressive physical violence is preposterous.
But I digress. Here is the corpuscle's passage on higher law:
Justice Brown's bizarre view that this social contract constitutes "collectivism" is much more than a curiosity because her appointment to the important D.C. Circuit (and possibly thereafter to the U.S. Supreme Court) would give her the power to try to reverse these "socialist" triumphs.
Well bully once again. Brown adheres to an individual's natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and apparently manages to say so without mentioning "God" or "Creator." This Supreme Court Justice from the Golden State is my kind of girl!
I feel a little better about the Senate Compromise now that I have read how much the "moderates" over at TNR hate it:
When the Americans and the Soviets retreated from the brink of nuclear war after the Cuban missile crisis, jubilation followed. The world had not ended! Life would go on! But, of course, that was hardly the end of the story. There was still the matter of the cold war to settle. Similarly, the Senate's retreat this week from its own nuclear confrontation, in the form of a compromise crafted by 14 so-called moderates, is grounds for some Democratic relief. Republicans were denied a total victory, and they failed to set the alarming precedent of changing Senate rules by fiat. But, just as John F. Kennedy knew the Soviets were hardly vanquished, so Harry Reid knows that the war is not won. And, while he's been publicly praising the moderates who cut this deal, we wonder whether he will not come to curse them.
And they don't wait too long to curse
This compromise was a classic case of moderate deal-making in Washington--and we don't mean that as a compliment. Congressional moderates are forever celebrated for "bucking their parties" and "standing on principle," regardless of what they actually accomplish (or what principle they stand on).
They’re decrying that the Bush tax cuts weren't trimmed enough and Medicare spending was cut, and that John Bolton will be confirmed. A WaPo hailed "principle over self-protection." TNR wonders:
Really? We fail to see how that's true. Compromise itself, after all, is not a principle. And the chief principle at stake--that every extremist should not be elevated to the federal bench--has been trammeled. Nor has the life of the filibuster (itself not a principle either, just a procedural tool) been guaranteed. Signatories merely agreed to filibuster future nominations only in "extraordinary circumstances." Everything depends on the interpretation of this absurdly fuzzy clause--a matter upon which Republicans and Democrats will most certainly differ. Which means what the moderates have come up with is not a resolution so much as a postponement.
Well, if TNR is this unhappy, maybe we didn't do soooo bad. Here's the close.
Moreover, when the filibuster fight comes to a head again--as it will--the Democrats' task will be made all the more difficult not only by the need to demonstrate "extraordinary circumstances," but by the implication that the three Bush nominees the deal effectively confirmed, whom the liberal establishment treated as something close to worst-case picks, did not constitute "extraordinary circumstances." That sets the bar awfully high. (Even some conservatives have fretted over Brown's onetime suggestion that she observes a higher law than the Constitution.) Furthermore, what happens should Bush choose one of these three to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy?
Feelin' better all the time!
May 26, 2005
Amnesty International Reports
Amnesty International came out with it's 2005 report recently.
It's broken down by global region, as well as nation. Pretty handy.
Here's a pop quiz.
Given four nations, tell me which has the longest report about human rights abuses.
Well, it shouldn't be hard.
D of course.
Allegations of torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay as well as 40 taser fatalities and using the death penalty draw more ire (as measured by report length) than things like brutally starving an entire nation; genocide (though non dare call it so); honor killings, anti-Christian imprisonment and woman's suffrage.
I'll leave it as an excersize to the reader.
The actions of a few, a very small few, soldiers (to be punished) seems to rate more words than the official policies of some nations.
May 25, 2005
JohnGalt posted a few days ago on the economic meltdown in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. It astonishes me that the man is still welcomed as a world leader in European Capitals.
While his may be the worst example, most of the sub-Saharan region struggles under the yoke of collectivism. When the young men who would become the post-Colonial leaders studied in the West, they went to Oxford and Cambridge, where they were inculcated in the miracles of Socialism.
Nima Sanandaji, a student of biotechnology at Chalmers University of Technology (located in Gothenburg, Sweden) and who has been accepted at Cambridge for graduate studies in biochemistry, has an article in TCS stating that what ails Africa is not capitalism but its absence.
Africa is poor because most countries in the region lack the fundamental elements of a capitalist system: property rights, free markets, free trade and the rule of law. Africans are like everybody else, and ideas that did not work in China, North Korea and the Soviet Union will not work in Africa either. The blame for the present situation in Africa does not lie with capitalists. It lies with corrupt politicians, who have implemented bad economic policies, together with leftist intellectuals who convinced African politicians to implement anti-capitalist economic policies. The west is also responsible, by enforcing trade barriers. It is ironic that anti-globalization movements are frequently opposed to abolishing tariffs and import quotas.
The US should lead the way, not in aid that will line corrupt pockets, but in free trade.
It is Not Miles's Birthday
I said it last year but here's a reminder: if some lowlife DJ says that today is Miles Davis's birthday, call the station and assure them that they're wrong -- tomorow: John Wayne, Peggy Lee, Miles Davis, and jk!
Posted by John Kranz at 1:27 PM
At last count, I had convinced one ThreeSources reader to experience the wondrous joy of Joss Whedon's "Buffy, The Vampire Slater" and had one other on the ropes. (I'm watching Season 2 of "Angel" now; the first shows would be a good choice for a newcomer who wanted to check it out.)
Whedon's big failure was "Firefly" which ran a half a season on Fox. It's a little too complicated for broadcast TV, though I am surprised that a guy with 12 seasons of hits under his belt didn't get a longer leash.
Whedon has made a movie with the original cast. "Serenity" opens September 30 and the trailer is here. There's plenty of tie to buy the Firefly DVDs and be fully prepared for the opening weekend.
Firefly is an adult show (the teenagers on "Buffy" scare people away) with a terrific ensemble cast. The message is of freedom and independence. Our heroes have lost a war of independence to the alliance (U.N.) and have taken to the outer planets to preserve their freedom.
Kurt Vonnegut was an avowed Socialist yet wrote the greatest opposition piece to in "Harrison Bergeron." In the same manner, Whedon is liberal who hosted fund raisers for Senator Kerry's presidential bid, and an avowed atheist. Yet his scripts are beloved by both libertarian and social conservatives. They lack moral relativism. There is duty, honor, right and wrong, and actions have consequences.
September 30. I am scared that the role of villain may be shifted from the Kofi-Annanesque Alliance to the mysterious Blue Sun Corporation, but it will be fun whatever goes down.
I think it is too soon to say who "won" in the great filibuster compromise of 2005. Like most things out of the US Senate, the only clear winners were US Senators. Senator McCain won additional media points, as if he needed them.
But the can was simply kicked down the road. It is good to get some judges a vote, but the Democrats can and will filibuster future nominations.
I will throw in my lot with my buddy, Larry Kudlow
Thank heavens the filibuster on judicial nominations has been taken care of, at least for now. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a key issue. All judicial nominees should be voted on in my view. And there are important business issues such as tort settlements and private property rights on the judicial agenda.
Normally, I'd be all for the idea of tying up the Legislative Branch with procedural busywork, but Kudlow is right, there are important issues to address.
May 23, 2005
To this day I refuse to use the name "Zimbabwe" to refer to the nation formerly known as Rhodesia. This is because Zimbabwe is the name given by its current dictator, Robert Mugabe.
In Ayn Rand's seminal novel 'Atlas Shrugged' the men (and women) of ability voluntarily withdrew themselves from the unjust collectivized society in which they lived. The result was the collapse of that society. But this is just fiction.
Now in Zimbabwe, err... Rhodesia, we have a real-life example of what happens when the producers are removed from society. The difference is that the moron Mugabe removed them himself!
Courtesy of Cox&Forkum, here is the story of Mugabe's admission of failure.
Herr Scroeder is in a little trouble in German Politics.
Larry Kudlow points out an interetsing trend:
It's also interesting to note that Bush, Howard, and Blair -- all pro-war heads of state -- won re-election. With this defeat, Schroeder's hopes are dimming. Chirac is in trouble too. Maybe the war isn't as unpopular internationally as the press would have us believe. Could it be that, even in the heart of Old Europe, pro-war capitalism trumps anti-war socialism?
Big "R" Prosperity
I think it was Jay Nordlinger who opined that, while President Bush seems to get a lot of things wrong -- steel tariffs, Senator Kennedy's Education Bill, fat farm and highway bills -- the President gets the big things right: Iraq, freedom, tax cuts.
His signature tax cuts were brutally derided by the Democrats in the last election. But the stats are up, and the Laffer Curve trumps Rubinomics. WSJ Ed Page:
So we thought our readers might like to know that so far this year federal tax revenues are booming. Overall, in the first seven months of Fiscal Year 2005 through April 30, they climbed by $146 billion to a total of $1.216 trillion. That's an increase of 13.6% over a year earlier, some four or five times the inflation rate, and the kind of raise that most American families can only dream about. Income tax receipts are driving this windfall, with individual revenues up $66 billion, or 16%, to $547 billion. Corporate income taxes are rolling in even faster, tsunami-like in fact, rising 48% to $134 billion.
May 22, 2005
Big "R" Collectivism
JK just wrote about the principles behind the modern "D" and "R" parties, and how the Republicans have co-opted all of the popular ideas of the old Democrat party for their own. (No, he didn't actually say that but this is the gist of the matter.) Now I'll show you why it's true.
I realize that the President was making his remarks to the graduates of a Christian college, and he did say that "...ultimately, service is up to you. It is your choice to make." But this short commencement speech contains the nutshell version of what is wrong with the philosophy of President Bush and the faith-based Republican party.
On an occasion where the leader of the free world is giving advice to those about to "...take your rightful place in a country that offers you the greatest freedom and opportunity on Earth" he advises them to, "...use what you’ve learned to make your own contributions to the story of American freedom." What contributions does he have in mind? Invent the next cotton gin? Find a cure for cancer? No. Instead he advises them, "...we must never turn away from any citizen who feels isolated from the opportunities of America."
The President claimed, based in part upon the writings of de Tocqueville, that:
Our Founders rejected both a radical individualism that makes no room for others, and the dreary collectivism that crushes the individual. They gave us instead a society where individual freedom is anchored in communities. And in this hopeful new century, we have a great goal: to renew this spirit of community and thereby renew the character and compassion of our nation.
This simple phrase lumps individual accomplishment with the horrific failures of communist and socialist societies, and is an affront to the sacrifices of those who fought and died for the ideals this country truly represents - chief among them, liberty. Individual freedom is anchored not in "communities" but in capitalism, property rights and objective law. To say it is based in "communities" is little different than the collectivist mantra that our duty is to "the state" or "our comrades."
Again, there is nothing wrong with voluntary charity and assistance to others, provided that the individual doing the giving has made a judgement that doing so is of personal value to himself. And the President isn't seeking to make such "service to others" mandatory, at least not yet. But the message is clear: Service to others is more important than service to yourself and your own family.
For all of this president's virtues, this philosophical weakness is deeply troubling. It's what has me leery of his judicial appointments, although Janice Rogers Brown gives me great hope.
UPDATE (23 May, 3:08 pm): Emphasis in sixth paragraph added in response to JK's comment.
May 20, 2005
Culture note: Am I the last guy who doesn't get the poker craze? I watched a little on TV last night, and I'm not sure I understand the fascination.
Dan Henninger of the WSJ Ed Page does, and he pens a nice riff on the Democrats' hand after the past few elections:
If the nation's most popular sport now is poker, then the Democrats have become the party of the constant inside straight. They hold a politically competitive hand, but not a winning hand. They've got public-sector labor unions and a re-energized left that is young, willing and wealthy. But as luck would have it, we've entered the post-public era.
Balloon Juice provides a list of principles abandoned by the current Republican Party. But I don't see much in the list that the Democrats can use to their advantage.
There are large rifts in the GOP these days, and a smart opposition party could exploit them. But I think that the Ds are so tightly-coupled to their constituency groups, that they are unable to make a serious play for any disaffected Rs.
I tell people that "Republicans promise more liberty and frequently fail; Democrats promise less and frequently succeed." They cannot become the party of liberty and keep the progressives and the public sector members, they cannot be the social conservatives, cannot become the party that is tough on immigration.
They can play the separation of church and state angle, but it is hard to see them parlaying that into a plurality. That would be like drawing an inside straight.
Senator Santorum said the following on the floor of the Senate...
Everytime Hitler or Nazism is invoked, it never looks good for the speaker. This is just another example of the stupidity of it.
That being said, the point he so clumsily was trying to make would have been the same if the Senator had said, "It's the equivalent of Saddam Hussein in 1991 saying: 'I'm in Kuwait City, How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city?"
Or, "It's the equivalent of Tojo in 1941 saying: 'I'm in Seoul, How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city?"
You can replace any leader with a year and an invaded city.
I probably would NOT have chosen Hitler and the Nazis, but that's the thrust of it. No. I'm not excusing it.
Now the Senator is already regretting it.
Predictably though the left wing of the blogosphere is a little upset.
DailyKos did some linking.
Now we have the junior Senator from Pennsylvania comparing the entire Senate Dem caucus to Adolf Hitler. Will the "Move On" standard of the liberal media still apply?
How easily he compared his collegues to oh, Nazis. You mean John Kerry and Tom Harkin are gonna show up to his house with some of their war buddies and toss hin into a van? He's gonna do slave labor for Micahel Moore? Clean Barbra Streisand's house? Exactly how are his Democratic collegues like the Nazis? Are they meeting at Greenbrier for the final solution of the Republican Party? Are camps being built in the Sonoran desert for Republicans and will they have their property stolen?
Santorum, like so many Republicans, forget that being a public official has responsibilities which go beyond party. One of them is to not unfairly malign the loyal opposition. That is a responsibility of goverrnment, of his office. And he seems not to get it.
Late Update: It seems he really did. Amazing.
It was bad enough when Bill Frist suggested yesterday that Dems want to “assassinate” Bush nominees, but Santorum’s Hitler analogy suggests Republicans have really lost all sense of perspective and decency.
Now, our good friend Rick Santorum, he who compared being gay to practicing beastiality, has compared Senate Democrats to... Adolf Hitler. Imagine, just imagine, the reaction if Harry Reid or Dick Durbin did this. We need to push this far and wide, and demand that the Media pays attention.
As Chuck Pennacchio says:
As an historian of Holocaust-era Germany, I find Rick Santorum’s comment to be offensive, divisive, and destructive. Rick Santorum should immediately issue a public apology, and then retreat with conscience to consider the lasting damage he has done to the United States Senate and to the memory of 12 million Holocaust victims.
His number is 202-224-6324. Call him tomorrow, and let him know how inappropriate his remarks were.
Casual followers of the filibuster debate will remember that this was not the first time that Nazism and Hitler were invoked.
But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.
Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.
And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.
Given that Santorum had asked for a retraction of Byrd statement, it's even dumber for him to use a similar analogy. What was he thinking?
Out of curiousity, I went to google, and tried to find equivalent denunciations of or indignation at Senator Byrd's speech.
I searched for Byrd hitler and using the site: operator in google. The actual searches are linked, as well as links to early march posts (where available). I also searched those pages for any mention of Byrd.
Here's what I found:
Kos: byrd hitler had a lot of links... so I searched part of Byrd's speech. Nothing.
Obviously, if I can be pointed to the right post, I will link it with retraction.
For all of the sturm und drang (and I think rightly so) over Rick Santorum's dickstepping, there is very little comment about the former Klansman's comments just over three months ago.
And in a similar context.
Maybe he's just the old crazy drunk uncle they'd prefer to lock in the basement.
Or maybe it's just hypocrisy.
Addendum: The more I think about it, the more I think that if there were no Hitler mention, this would have been a pretty unremarkable statement.
May 19, 2005
Saddam - Zarqawi Connection
Abdullah said Jordan was the first target for Zarqawi before he found safe haven in Iraq.
"Since Zarqawi entered Iraq before the fall of the former regime we have been trying to have him deported back to Jordan for trial, but our efforts were in vain," Abdullah added.
That's interesting. Zarqawi was in Iraq long enough for the Jordanians to find out, and try to negotiate his deportation/extradition.
(tip to CQ)
Gold Plated Bus Stop
File this under Are You F*cking Kidding Me?
Wilson, Anchorage's director of public transportation, has all that money for a new and improved bus stop outside the Anchorage Museum of History and Art thanks to Republican Sen. Ted Stevens - fondly referred to by Alaskans as "Uncle Ted" for his prodigious ability to secure federal dollars for his home state.
Wilson is prepared to think big.
The bus stop there now is a simple steel-and-glass, three-sided enclosure. Wilson wants better lighting and seating. He also likes the idea of heated sidewalks that would remain free of snow and ice. And he thinks electronic signs would be nice.
Much like West Virginia and Robert Byrd, Alaska is becoming one giant monument to Senator Uncle Ted Stevens.
It's senseless spending like this that is really making a lot of people disillusioned with the Republican party.
What ever happened to fiscal restraint?
Sure, it's great if you're an Alaskan, but for the rest of us, I say, "what the f*ck?"
The party of smaller government starts with cutting taxes. But it shouldn't end there. Cutting spending is the next step.
We're not seeing it. The Democrats certainly aren't going to provide it. The Libertarians are far too academic and weird to get it done.
Where's the party of financial restraint?
Oh, well that's a relief. Only $500,000 for a bus stop. Glad to know that they're going to show self-control.
Thanks to Alaska-born ATG, who writes "The current bus stop works fine, I drive by it every day!"
I don't call for boycotts lightly. There is usually a better way -- BUT, I don't think I'll be buying Pepsi products (I don't consume much).
Have you seen the story of PepsiCo president Indra Nooyi at the Columbia Business School MBA recognition ceremony? She likened the five continents to the five fingers and cautioned the students that the U.S. appeared to "give the finger" to the world. (I wonder that she wasn't making hateful remarks about the great nation of Mexico...)
A soldier writes to PowerBlog with a different interpretation:
I found Ms. Nooyi's graduation comments offensive, not to mention off-base, because the central theme of her speech was that America is, in essence, "flipping off the world."
Stunning. This reminds me a bit of "The Dixie Chicks" contretemps. Nothing illegal, but you should know your market a little better -- I don't think Pepsi wants to be labeled anti-American.
Only Ten Percent?
The WSJ Ed Page is on my favorite soapbox again today: The FDA vs. Cancer Patients. The piece ends with "Who would have thought that, five years into a Republican Administration, the FDA would be staffed by people who regard industry as an adversary, not a partner, in the anti-cancer fight."
It seems that the gains made by Dr. McClellan that I supported are being undone by anti-business bureaucrats.
The next thing to watch for is the fate of AstraZeneca's lung-cancer drug Iressa, which Dr. Pazdur is signaling he may actually pull from the market as one of those "low efficacy" drugs. True, Iressa helps only about 10% of patients. But those who respond to it respond massively. "I've had patients who have gone from being on oxygen to skiing at altitude," says one doctor of the drug. Genetic tests are being developed to better predict who will respond to Iressa. Yet Dr. Pazdur seems to regard the FDA's Iressa approval in 2003 as an instance of the drug industry getting away with one. Incredible.Imagine that -- it only helps 10% of cancer patients and our government still allows it to be sold!
Maybe I am too close to this. I know there's a war on and I know we have justices to confirm. But how long can we allow our government to kill innocent citizens and chase capital out of the pharmaceutical sector?
May 18, 2005
All Hail: Janice Rogers Brown
JK brought us Glenn Reynolds attitude on the Senate confimation battle over Federal judges today: "If I thought that Bush were likely to nominate actual small-government strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, perhaps I'd care more, but I've seen no sign that he's likely to do that."
I'll admit to a certain apathy as this week's showdown approached. "Who are these judicial nominees" I wondered. "Do the liberals oppose them because they want to overturn Roe or because they want to roll back the welfare state?" In one instance I would be supportive, but in the other I'd probably side with the fillibusterers. In the four years since the disputed nominees were first presented I don't recall seeing or hearing much about their views. There was much about who liked them and who didn't, but little by the way of describing why.
Right on cue, it's Rush Limbaugh to the rescue. On his show today he read aloud from the transcript of a speech to the Federalist Society in Chicago. To wit:
The great innovation of this millennium was equality before the law. The greatest fiasco — the attempt to guarantee equal outcomes for all people. Tom Bethell notes that the security of property — a security our Constitution sought to ensure — had to be devalued in order for collectivism to come of age. The founders viewed private property as "the guardian of every other right."9 But, "by 1890 we find Alfred Marshall, the teacher of John Maynard Keynes making the astounding claim that the need for private property reaches no deeper than the qualities of human nature."10 A hundred years later came Milton Friedman's laconic reply: " 'I would say that goes pretty deep.'"11 In between, came the reign of socialism. "Starting with the formation of the Fabian Society and ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall, its ambitious project was the reformation of human nature. Intellectuals visualized a planned life without private property, mediated by the New Man."12 He never arrived. As John McGinnis persuasively argues: "There is simply a mismatch between collectivism on any large and enduring scale and our evolved nature. As Edward O. Wilson, the world's foremost expert on ants, remarked about Marxism, 'Wonderful theory. Wrong species.'"13
For a reason I could only speculate, Rush skipped the middle paragraph that cited Rand. The important thing is, Brown didn't.
The rest of this speech is insightful, intelligent and witty. She even references Procol Harum! I can't wait to read it in its entirety. More importantly, upon brief review Janice Rogers Brown appears to be a perfect choice for the federal bench and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.
I've been pretty kind to the President of late -- it's time for "equal time."
Seriously, I was very impressed with the Russian trip (as was Natan Sharansky -- did you catch him on Kudlow & Co.?) but it is hard to argue with Perfesser Reynolds
[...]but this seems to me to be a purely political fight, and one I'm not terribly interested in. If I thought that Bush were likely to nominate actual small-government strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, perhaps I'd care more, but I've seen no sign that he's likely to do that.
May 17, 2005
But Is It Really?
One for Best of the Web....
I owe a heavy debt to Jonah Goldberg of NRO. He has made me laugh for many years, he got me to break down and read Burke, he has published serious,. substantive pieces on Title IX and ANWR, his "The Simpsons" references are always spot-on -- and he helped push me over the line into watching "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."
One of his best NRO columns was a taxonomy of conservatives. I disagreed with some fine points, but he described neocons, paleocons, crunchycons, et cetera cons... pretty accurately, with his trademark wit.
When I saw his "What Is a Conservative" column last week, though, I thought "Brother Jonah, you may have gone to the well with this one too many times." But I retract that. A) It's a reprint of an earlier essay, and B) His thesis has really stuck with me and haunted me. Conservatives, Goldberg points out, have "Comfort with contradiction."
But move away from philosophy and down to earth. Liberals and leftists are constantly denouncing “false choices” of one kind or another. In our debate, Jonathan Chait kept hinting, hoping, and haranguing that — one day — we could have a socialized healthcare system without any tradeoffs of any kind. Environmentalists loathe the introduction of free-market principles into the policy-making debate because, as Steven Landsburg puts it, economics is the science of competing preferences. Pursuing some good things might cost us other good things. But environmentalists reject the very idea. They believe that all good things can go together and that anything suggesting otherwise is a false choice.
The rap on the right has always been that they see the world in black and white because they abhor moral relativism. But the real grey area is deciding what level of inequality is acceptable for freedom, what level of protection can be traded for national affluence?
Well done, Jonah.
May 16, 2005
$1100 per Square Foot
If I may try to tie together a few recent ThreeSources posts, the common theme of late seems to be Donald Trump. Don't look at me -- I am as surprised as you!
I had passed along the WSJ Ed Page's suggestion that Mr. Trump should complete Ground Zero renovations. Today, Johngalt links to an awesome Mark Steyn column on U.N. Perfidy and incompetence. I must tie in John Hinderacker (of PowerLine fame)'s expose of the next scandal -- a $1.2 Billion renovation of the U.N. Headquarters at Turtle Bay.
That's over $1100/ft2 and Donald Trump says the only explanation why this renovation will cost three times the new construction of his "Trump Tower" is either incompetence or fraud (a Hobson's choice at the ol' UN -- take the first one you find!)
It appears there are serious questions about the U.N.'s renovation project. Depending on which assumptions one accepts about cost and square footage, anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion in expense is unaccounted for. Given the U.N.'s history, is there any reason to doubt that the costs projected by that organization include substantial sums representing, as Trump put it, incompetence or fraud? Given what we know about the oil-for-food program, is there any reason to trust the U.N.'s business or accounting practices?
When President Bush addressed the U.N., many commentators remarked on the splendor of the U.N. facilities. They feature marble and monarchically-high podiums (podia?) which look out of place to Americans.
I think I've found some budget we can cut, Mr. President!
Bolton's International Form "RU1-2" Not in Order
In America, "money talks and bullshit walks." Seems it's exactly reverse from that at the UN: "Bullshit talks and the money walks" anywhere except where it's intended to go. Mark Steyn writes:
"Which brings me to the John Bolton nomination process, which is taking so long you'd think the U.S. Senate was run by Indonesian customs inspectors. Writing of near-Ambassador Bolton's difficulty getting his paperwork stamped by the Foreign Relations Committee, National Review's Cliff May observed that "the real debate is between those who think the U.N. needs reform -- and those who think the U.S. needs reform.''
Any more excerpts than this wouldn't do the piece justice. The whole thing is noteworthy. Enjoy.
Sorry We're with the Taliban
Newsweek lied People died.
NEW YORK - In an apology to readers this week, Newsweek acknowledged errors in a story alleging U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Quran. The accusations, which the magazine vowed to re-examine, spawned protests in Afghanistan that left 15 dead and scores injured.
May 15, 2005
Governor Dean becoming the DNC Chairman was the best thing that could have happened for the Republicans in the past few years.
Not surprising anymore, I guess.
But this is...
If only Chairman Dean would listen to a sound voice from within his own party.
May 13, 2005
Below the Border-Above the Law
I have to ask, why would any Mexican national ever want to become a U.S. citizen? They have more rights as illegal aliens than we do as citizens!
Driving without insurance or a license in America? No problem, just show your Mexican driver's license (ink need not be dry) or your Matricula Consular card. It worked for one Raul Garcia-Gomez, and kept him out of jail and unmolested by federal immigration agents while he lived and worked freely in Denver, Colorado.
Why is Garcia-Gomez of particular note? Because he murdered a police detective last Sunday and has since fled the state and, almost certainly, left the country bound for safe-haven in Mexico. Having done so, and since Mexican nationals have more rights than US citizens, he will likely get away with murder. Not because he has the wealth and celebrity of OJ Simpson. Not because he has connections through his employment at a restaurant co-owned by Denver's mayor. But because the Mexican government will not extradite capital criminal suspects to the US for fear they may be put to death if found guilty. Even worse, Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo informed Denver radio listeners this week that Mexico even refuses if the possible sentence is life in prision. It seems that is "cruel and unusual punishment" in their eyes as well.
That settles it. A national neighbor that is so intransigent on cooperative criminal justice will just have its citizens declared personna non-grata in our country, right? Wrong. Major cities across America, including Denver, actually ENCOURAGE the immigration of those citizens, despite Federal laws that forbid it. Worse than that, the President of the United States knows that hundreds of thousands of people illegally cross the border from Mexico into the US every year, despite federal border agents whose principal duty is to prevent it. He also knows that this illegal entry could be virtually eliminated with a stroke of his pen, yet he calls private American citizens who volunteer their own time and resources to stem the tide "vigilantes." This is disgraceful.
Mister President, I am your most ardent supporter, but if you don't reverse your position on this aspect of securing the homeland then you are ignoring the most basic aspect of individual liberty - the right to be secure in your person and your property and to seek justice against those who violate that right.
As I drove north along Interstate 25 this morning, on my way to work in Loveland, I saw a procession of police cars headed south that was over a mile long. With sirens silent and overheads blinking, officers from Weld and Larimer counties, cities of Fredrick, Dacono, Fort Collins and Cheyenne, and certainly dozens more I didn't identify made the solemn journey to Denver for the funeral of a slain officer. As I was witnessing this tearful sight I heard Peter Boyles report on KHOW that a Fox News reporter had learned that Garcia-Gomez's mother had purchased a bus ticket from L.A. to Mexico on Monday. Garcia-Gomez's car was found in L.A. this week. Justice for dective Young's family? No cuente en él.
UPDATE: JK asks "what draconian order do you want pen-stroked that would comport with your idea of a free state?" My answer, in a nutshell, is "direct your officials in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create and institute plans to ensure that foreign nationals who attempt to cross our borders without permission will be (a) detected, (b) apprehended and (c) either removed from this country or detained for appropriate punishment under the law." This language comes from a petition to the President. Go here to add your voice to the call.
William Kristol compares "The Borking of Bolton" to the Borking of, er, Bork.
In this respect, the fight over Bolton is like the fight over Bork. One hoped-for effect of Bork's defeat was to deter possible candidates for the Court from even considering certain judicial interpretations--just as the assault, in different circumstances, on Lawrence Summers at Harvard is intended to rule out of bounds the raising of certain questions in the academy. Bork's defeat had real consequences: 18 years of intellectual mediocrity and constitutional incoherence from the Supreme Court. Only now do we have the prospect of once again advancing a constitutionalist reformation for the courts.
I hope Bolton is confirmed. He's the right man for the job. I also hope that a lot of vulnerable Democrat Senators vote no, and must explain why they thought John Bolton wasn't nice enough to represent our interests at the corrupt U.N.
Posted by John Kranz at 12:25 PM
I love TechCentralStation.com. You get an adult daily dose of economics, market news, and junk-science-debunking from a libertarian perspective.
The last couple of days have included a few good health care pieces. One discusses European drug manufacturers' choice to focus on generics. This will help them with the bottom line in price-controlled, socialist markets. But this will not provide capital for R&D, so we should not look to the EU nations for any more medical innovation.
Another discusses "Activist Medicine." Unlike Activist judges, activist medicine is not necessarily a pejorative, just a reference to using all resources to diagnose and treat every illness. My wife's life was saved six weeks ago by activist medicine but I still see Kling's point: Can we afford to throw everything at every case?
But the one that gets excerpted is A Passage to Indian Health Care which describes the advantages of traveling to India for inexpensive, high quality health care.
Medical tourism to India started fairly recently when NRIs (non-resident Indians -- those living and working in the West) began to go "home" to India seeking not just their roots, but root canals. They returned with killer smiles and tales of the staggering savings in costs -- even factoring in airfares -- and excellence of treatment. NRIs, aware from their families of India's state-of-the-art technology and the level of surgical skill, also head off "home" for more critical treatment, like kidney transplants, hip replacements and open heart surgery. Indeed, India's 20 million diaspora returning to the US and Britain after successful treatment are India's best ambassadors.
Comparative advantage. Free movement of labor and capital. Let India perform non-emergency health care, EU nations manufacture generic drugs and we will have the money to develop new treatments and perform cutting edge emergency medicine at home.
May 12, 2005
Condi '08 Part LXVI
Our diversity is our strength here at ThreeSources, but one thing we tend to agree on is support for our Second Amendment rights.
I humbly submit this as yet another reason to support our Secretary of State in oh-Eight.
"Gay gun nut" Alphecca agrees:
Rice said the Founding Fathers understood "there might be circumstances that people like my father experienced in Birmingham, Ala., when, in fact, the police weren't going to protect you."
I know johngalt likes Rudy (as do I) but he has not been a friend to the "Freedom Firsters."
May 11, 2005
Wow. When you've got 15 minutes for some serious contemplation I submit Roger Kimball's ascerbic dissertation on the self-destructive virus that has infected American academia. It's got it all, from gender studies to Ward Churchill, concluding with advice to reform (or abolish) academic tenure and to cut off the capitalist life-blood from these dysfunctional institutions.
I offer a few morsels:
With a few notable exceptions, our most prestigious liberal arts colleges and universities have installed the entire radical menu at the center of their humanities curriculum at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. Every special interest--women's studies, black studies, gay studies, and the like --and every modish interpretative gambit--deconstruction, post-structuralism, new historicism, and other postmodernist varieties of what the literary critic Frederick Crews aptly dubbed "Left Eclecticism"--has found a welcome roost in the academy, while the traditional curriculum [mathematics, history, literature, science] and modes of intellectual inquiry [logic and the scientific method] are excoriated as sexist, racist, or just plain reactionary. (Examples mine.)
Ms.--or is it Mr.?--Currah is quite right to conjure up Herbert Marcuse. The German-born radical, who died in 1979, was indeed an important '60s guru. But he was more than that. In his "protests against the repressive order of procreative sexuality" and insistence that genuine liberation requires a return to a state of "primary narcissism," Marcuse sounds a very contemporary note. Such a "change in the value and scope of libidinal relations," he wrote in "Eros and Civilization," "would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the private interpersonal relations have been organized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family."
Said disintigration of the private interpersonal organization called the monogamic and patriarchal family is precisely the goal of the present-day "gay marriage" movement, and is precisely why that movement must be firmly opposed. "Civil unions" are just fine, but the "gay marriage" "right" they insist upon has no purpose but to destroy traditional marriage as an institution.
John Silber, the former president of Boston University, summed up the fate of academic freedom in his essay "Poisoning the Wells of Academe." Originally, Mr. Silber observed, academic freedom "entailed an immunity for what is said and done by dedicated, thoughtful, conscientious scholars in pursuit of truth or the truest account":
One corollary of society's natural obedience to the unenforceable is the tendency to assume that those institutions in which we have invested great trust are inherently trustworthy. "Academic institutions are expensive, socially respected bodies whose imprimatur is a powerful door-opener and tool of accreditation, ergo they must be doing a good job." Some such sentiment is the prevailing one, so when someone like Ward Churchill comes along to remove the scab, the shock is great--and unwelcome. One of the chief tasks for critics of what has happened to academic life in this country is to show the extent to which Ward Churchill, the Kirkland Project, the transgender follies at Smith College and elsewhere, and similar deformations are not exceptions but the predictable result of institutions that have gradually abandoned their commitment to education for the sake of radical posturing. The prime difficulty facing the aspirant diagnostician is not the elusiveness of symptoms--they are florid and ubiquitous--but the patience required to set forth chapter and verse repeatedly and in language that effectively conveys the depredations on view.
Amen, NED, amen.
May 10, 2005
Georgia On His Mind
Sorry to be so in the pocket of a politician, but this President continues to impress with his brave stands for freedom, and what Sharansky called "moral clarity."
Gateway Pundit sez
George and Laura Bush were treated like rock stars in the fledgling democracy of Georgia today. And, George gave one of his amazing speeches to the people of this former Soviet State.
Follow the link for pictures and quotes. This is an incredible trip. And -- I have to say -- would not have happed with Secretary of State Powell.
Let Freedom Reign!
Still a Hole in The Ground
A consortium of business and government leaders took on the awesome responsibility to rebuild the World Trade Center area. As readers of this blog can imagine,"3 1/2 years after the 9/11 attacks Ground Zero remains just that: a hole in the ground."
So sez the Wall St Journal Ed Page in a plea to have their old neighborhood rebuilt by Donald Trump:
As for us, we'd like to steal a line from Mr. Trump and say to Governor George Pataki, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the Ground Zero redevelopment team that has failed the city, the state and the country in this important effort: You're fired. This is a job for a man who knows what he's doing, not for a bunch of bungling apprentices. Mr. Trump's detractors hate him because he puts up impossibly tall, glassy, gaudy, sightline-destroying buildings. In other words, given the current failed thinking about Ground Zero, he's the perfect man for the job.
It seems "The Donald" is not too keen on the current plan for "Freedom Tower" (but it is rumored that he loves the fries...)
"I think the World Trade Center should be rebuilt on the site, only stronger and a little bit taller, even if it's only one story taller," the billionaire builder told the New York Post last week. Asked for his opinion of architect Daniel Libeskind's Freedom Tower, the centerpiece of the redevelopment plans, Mr. Trump said: It's "an egghead design, designed by an egghead, which has no practical application and which, frankly, didn't look very good."
I'm not a huge fan nor adversary of Mr. Trump. But he certainly seems a good choice for this job.
May 9, 2005
The AP Headline is "Reid Offers Olive Branch on Bush Nominee"
WASHINGTON - Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Monday offered the Democrats' support for one of President Bush's judicial nominees, former Senate lawyer Thomas Griffith, as a goodwill gesture in the confrontation over banning judicial filibusters.
But the ThreeSources headline is "Ried Blinks!"
Same story, different headline...
May 7, 2005
The Soul 6f Sharansky
His wife might be the comedienne, but President Bush bas got some serious stones, saying:
"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability. We have learned our lesson; no one's liberty is expendable. In the long run, our security and true stability depend on the freedom of others."
So...FDR gave away too much at Malta -- the emperor has no clothes -- the President this President has finally said it.
May 6, 2005
The Future's Getting Brighter
... and I might have to wear shades.
Reductions in industrial emissions in many countries, along with the use of particulate filters for car exhausts and smoke stacks, seem to have reduced the amount of dirt in the atmosphere and made the sky more transparent.
That sounds like very good news. But the researchers say that more solar energy arriving on the ground will also make the surface warmer, and this may add to the problems of global warming. More sunlight will also have knock-on effects on cloud cover, winds, rainfall and air temperature that are difficult to predict.
I've gotten this in email many times today (thanks!), and as I work in the oil industry, legions of fans are clammoring for my commentary.
Allow me to preface my statements. As a supporter of big business, free-market economic controls and especially a supporter of capitalism, I do not endorse wanton environmental destruction.
I do not see being anti-Kyoto, as being pro-pollution.
Drinking water quality was not an issue until the previous President made it one in his final days. That doesn't make me pro-arsenic.
I'm not pro-pollution, I'm pro-common sense.
A couple of things strike me as funny.
"Our planet's air has cleared up," Damn. Big polluters burn less, or burn we burn it cleaner, or cars don't spew like they used to.
Who do we have to blame for that?
The environmental movement!
We can also blame Ronald F'ing Reagan. Perhaps the last century's greatest President.
Maybe in this light, liberals will finally give the man the credit he's due.
Equally interesting is the admission of "cloud cover, winds, rainfall and air temperature that are difficult to predict."
That's good to know. Because, if I didn't know any better, and believed the environmental litany, if we didn't act now (and in a big way) we were going to be +2 degrees in year X and plus +5 in year Y and plus +10 in year Z, if we didn't ratify Kyoto. Think of the children!
Now we listened to the greenies. They got their way. In fact, we listened so good, that now we're going to be +2 in year X-a, in +5 in year X-b.
The level of arrogance of the environmental movement and their models is astonishing. With the tens or hundreds of thousands of data points in a climatological model, to think that they can provide an accurate forecast of climate in 25 or 50 or 100 years is simply staggering.
"I can't tell you the weather next week, but f*ck, it's going to be hot in 2037."
I'd like to see a study of climate models from 1970, 1980 and 1990.
Based on the previous forecasts, I reckon we're overdue for an ice age.
To finish. Everyone knows the dinosaurs lived in a tropical clime, and we all know that man found his way into the New World on a land bridge caused by receding water being frozen by glaciation during our last ice age.
More recently, ice covered Greenland was named so, because the Vikings discoverers farmed on it. Unlike now, it was green. Elizabethian Britain witnessed the "little ice age."
This planet's temperatures have moved up and down for a myriad of reasons unrelated to humanity.
Maybe it's happening now, and we have nothing to do with it.
Maybe it's happening now because an industry of chicken-littles would be out on their asses eating granola in the woods if they weren't getting money for "ongoing research."
If the environment got better, these people would be out of work. It's in their interest to scare us. It keeps them with steady work.
The future's supposedly getting brighter. But that's ok. I've always been an optimist.
May 5, 2005
A Million Here...
... and a million there.
There are indications of fraud in the use of the $96.6 million, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. A separate investigation of possible wrongdoing continues.
More than $7 million of the total is unaccounted for, the report said. An additional $89.4 million in payments do not have the required supporting documents.
The report accused civilian contract managers of "simply washing accounts" to try to make the books balance. Staffing shortages and the quick turnover of those responsible for the cash contributed to the problems, the report said.
Col. Thomas Stefanko, the official now in charge of the program, wrote the investigators that he agreed with their conclusions. Stefanko said his office had corrected or was in the process of fixing or investigating the problems identified in the report.
That's f*cking embarrassing, though not unimagined. When you have the hundreds of millions and billions that are spent, some will disappear.
The difference is that we've admitted something's wrong, and we're persuing it.
How about you Kofi?
Before and After
Arthur Chrenkoff has pictures of Abu Faraj (alQaida #3), Kalid Sheikh Muhammed and Saddam Hussein.
The first is when they're having a good day.
Having the globe's most powerful military force looking for you really does tend to put a on strain you.
Chuck Pennachio press release...
Isn't that in New Jersey? He's running Pa, last I checked.
I'm sure the two Senators are friends. He's got that right.
Here's where he goes wrong.
Nominees to the federal bench have never been filibustered. Held up in the Judiciary committeee, yes. Filibustered on the floor of the Senate? No.
Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, both "evil conservatives," never faced a filibuster. Fair and square vote in the full Senate. Up or down.
"Over two centuries"? I beg to differ.
There was a legitimate offer by the GOP to end the impasse. One hundred hours of debate. One hour per Senator. Surely the Democrats would be able to convince everyone in 45 of them that these nominees should not be seated.
Except that the Dems offered a deal where they would pass five, if Bush dropped two names.
So they're obviously qualified. So why hold them up?
Some interesting history I came across...
In 1917, isolationist Republicans used the filibuster to make it more difficult to President Woodrow Wilson to prepare for war. Using the threat of eliminating the filibuster rules altogether, a compromise change in rules was agreed to. Two-thirds of the members of the Senate could vote "cloture" to end the filibuster.
But wait! There's more.
I'll be damned. Robert Byrd, historian of the Senate, doesn't remember changing the rules?
I'm going to guess the Democrats were in the majority in 1975.
Just a guess.
May 4, 2005
Oil For Food Scandal Increases in scope
Claudia Rosett is on the case again. It now seems the amounts are in the $470 million range, that a French Bank was used (Mon Dieu!) and that the accounting was seriously shady:
Mr. Schenk further noted that some of the third-party payments went to companies, or to "affiliates" of companies, authorized by the United Nations via separate contracts to sell goods to Saddam's regime under oil for food, and that BNP had relied on the United Nations to vet such companies. He added, "We do not believe that any of these departures from procedures that we've identified today have caused or contributed to corruption under the program."
It's dull as bilgewater but you have to read the whole thing. Then try to imagine that John Bolton might not be nice enough or diplomatic enough to represent our interests to this corrupt institution.
Hat-tip: Larry Kudlow, who says not only "Kofi Must Go!" but now "Volcker must Go!"
Not Enough Taxes!
I usually avoid direct exposure to Mainstream Media. I read critiques in the blogs and catch the occasional glimpse, but I usually just think "imagine the poor people who have to read-watch-listen to that."
Hanging around in hospitals is the great equalizer. The rich occupy the same waiting rooms as the indigent (John Edwards would love it). And we all get stuck watching Katie Couric and reading the local rag.
In Boulder, that is "The Daily Camera." Imagine a bad newspaper in a small city. Then imagine how much worse it would be in Boulder, Colorado. It's a joke to me but a lot of folks believe it. A half-dozen copies are brought into the dining room every day, and I had ten minutes yesterday. The front page had a story about "Mothers Acting Up" and their march down canyon to promote all things that are good for children (no mention as to what legislation was good for kids and bad for parents). And the horror of horrors [young readers might wish to avert their eyes here] Coloradans don't pay enough taxes!
A ballot issue will go before voters in November that, if approved, would allow the state to keep $3.1 billion of the TABOR surplus over five years. Without that, the state would have to find places to reduce the budgets of its already thin departments and programs, including higher education and the judicial system, Mullis said.
The accompanying graphic shows Colorado’s rank among the five least taxed states. To the Camera, this is clearly an embarrassment.
TABOR (The Taxpayers' Bill Of Rights) is a bit of genius that was passed by referendum several years ago to limit growth of Government spending. The WSJ Ed Page credited TABOR with keeping Colorado out of the boom-bust trouble experienced by California.
People want to debate it, fine. Even Governor Owens has lobbied for breaking it (Bye bye Owens08). But to assert that our economy is threatened by lack of taxes, without any other view is just, well, um...really, ah.
I hope my wife comes home soon and I can restore my protective shield. I read TNR and much of the NYTimes Ed Page -- it's not that I never see an opposing view. But the jejune stupidity of the News page of a Daily is just , well, um...really, ah.
May 3, 2005
Good Monetary Policy But...
Larry Kudlow calls it a disgrace.
This is a real outrage. Paul Volcker, the highly respected former Fed chairman, apparently made calls to various congressmen, lobbying them not to speak to or ask questions of the two investigators, Miranda Duncan and Robert Parton, who resigned from his commission on the UN and Oil-for-Food. We are making our own inquiries to find out precisely who Volcker called. It is shameful to see Volcker wallowing in the partisan political mud in this way.
Chairman Volcker's strong monetary policy was a potent weapon in the 80s as President Reagan used tight money and tax cuts to beat "stagflation."
Like Jack Kemp, you gotta ask "What happened?" A great American saw fit to sell his country down the river. Sad.
Posted by John Kranz at 1:13 PM
May 2, 2005
Fraud in WA
According to AP today the Washington State GOP has scored a few points en route to a desired recount/revote:
WENATCHEE, Wash. - The Republicans won an important victory Monday in their legal challenge to the election of Gov. Christine Gregoire when a judge allowed them to use a type of statistical analysis to try to prove illegal votes swayed the race.
We've been around this topic before. Like Hugh Hewitt, I am pretty tired of electoral chicanery on the Democratic side -- and I clearly think they stole this election.
All the same, I am not sure that a new election is the proper remedy. I would prefer a John Thune-style attempt in the next election, winning it beyond their ability to cheat.
Give Me a Break, Duluth
Having passively observed the Jennifer Wilbanks "runaway bride" saga last week and over the weekend, I now see that authorities are considering both civil and criminal charges against her.
The mayor of Duluth, Georgia, a niggling busybody if I ever saw one says, "We feel a tad betrayed and some are very hurt about it." Well boo hoo. "In addition to the potential for criminal charges, Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter said she is looking into the possibility of suing Wilbanks to recover the cost of the search that was mounted after her disappearance. Lasseter estimated the cost at $100,000."
Then there's the local DA Danny Porter. "Porter said Wilbanks could face a misdemeanor charge of false report of a crime or a felony charge of false statements. The misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to a year in jail; five years in prison is the maximum sentence for the felony. "If there's criminal responsibility, that's something I have to do something about," Porter said.
But who launched such a wide-ranging government search effort within 24 hours of her disappearance? Certainly not Wilbanks. No, that honor likely goes to whichever family member decided the national media needed to run semi-hourly updates on the status of her "abduction." And when Wilbanks finds out about the hullabaloo 3 days later (the typical waiting period before police will act on missing persons reports) and adds that to the sense of shame she feels for what she's done to her extended family, she makes up a false report of kidnapping that she recants only hours later. For this she could go to prison for 5 years? Get real people.
In typical western fashion, Albuquerque authorities are more circumspect. "We have discretion. We are human beings. We have feelings and we are professional at the same time," said Albuquerque police spokeswoman Trish Ahrensfield.
Less effort should be expended on investigating "the circumstances on how this was done" than figuring out the specifics of the intended nuptials. It has many hallmarks of an arranged marriage, and given our distant introduction to her fiancee, Mr. Personality, I can see why she'd have misgivings.
Rolling 9-11 Memorial
May 1, 2005
SS: Private Accounts through Benefit Cuts
Having watched the President's news conference Thursday night, I wanted to blog its most important element - a suggestion to cut SS benefits in order to mitigate the transition cost to private accounts. Before I could do so, I received a TIA Daily email from Robert Tracinski (I subscribe to his print publication, but not the email service) with a thorough treatment of the event. On the subject of benefit cuts Tracinski said:
The news from the press conference is that Bush has fully embraced "progressive indexing," an idea put forward by economist Robert Pozen (see http://tinyurl.com/dekan). The idea is to increase Social Security benefits at the current, higher rate (indexed to growth in wage rates) for low-income retirees, while increasing benefits at a lower rate (indexed to keep pace with inflation) for higher-income retirees.[Remainder reprinted in "Continue reading."]
To this I will add that the important change is reduction in benefits (in conjunction with private accounts, of course) and not the way in which the reductions are structured. Yes, the egalitarian element of this proposal is objectively immoral, but as a political tactic to compel Democrats to accede to benefit cuts it is masterful. (As is Senator Grassley's appeal to altruism, referenced by Tracinski above. In context, he directed it toward those who oppose reform.)
And the value of private accounts more than outweighs the reduction in benefit growth as proposed. To the extent that our tax policies are compromised philosophically and can only change incrementally, the President's reform plan is a substantial increment of change in the proper direction - toward individual liberty.
UPDATE: May 2, 2005 - The WSJ editorial page makes a similar observation this morning. 'President Bush calls the Democrats' bluff on Social Security.'
Top News Stories:
The biggest news today is the president's press conference from last night, and there is a great deal in it that is worth commenting on. So all five news links today will be items from this transcript. (First, an apology: in yesterday's TIA Daily, I passed on an Associated Press report that the president's press conference would be held at 8:30; it actually started at 8:00. I will be less trusting of AP in the future.)
Bush offered fewer specifics than expected. One commentator, at http://tinyurl.com/93mnn, offers a good guess as to why: offering a specific plan allows Democrats to claim they oppose it because of a flaw in the plan. Offering a general direction but no specifics means that the Democrats come across (accurately) as being "obstructionists," dogmatically opposed to any change to Social Security.
The news from the press conference is that Bush has fully embraced "progressive indexing," an idea put forward by economist Robert Pozen (see http://tinyurl.com/dekan). The idea is to increase Social Security benefits at the current, higher rate (indexed to growth in wage rates) for low-income retirees, while increasing benefits at a lower rate (indexed to keep pace with inflation) for higher-income retirees.
On the negative side, this is an appeal to altruism (as when Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley admonishes retirees not to be "selfish"; see http://tinyurl.com/a8bqp, and thanks to TIA Daily reader Erich Veyhl for sending me this link). But over decades, Social Security payments will become relatively insignificant for most workers, making it an expensive, onerous, and (it is hoped) unpopular welfare program for the poor.
Combine that with House legislation in the works that increases 401(k)-style investment programs and which Rep. Bill Thomas describes as "a retirement bill" and not "just" a Social Security bill (see http://tinyurl.com/8yxep), and what do you get? You get a proposal to phase out Social Security--over a period of 30 to 70 years. It looks like that's the boldest thinking we'll get from our leaders at this time.
"Transcript of President Bush's Press Conference," New York Times, April 28
"Our duty to save Social Security begins with making the system permanently solvent, but our duty does not end there. We also have a responsibility to improve Social Security by directing extra help to those most in need.... I believe a reformed system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off. By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we'll make this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty. This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security.... [I]n terms of the definition of whose benefits would rise faster and whose wouldn't, that's going to be part of the negotiation process with the United States Congress. As a Democrat economist [a reference to Robert Pozen] had a very--he put forth this i!
The other half of any presidential press conference is the games the White House press corps play to try to push their own agenda. The most obvious game was a concerted effort to prevent President Bush from talking about Social Security by asking him about Iraq and al Qaeda--an attempt to push the discussion into the familiar "quagmire" territory that the mainstream press prefers.
The first two question were about public opinion polls, the third was about Iraq, and it wasn't until the eighth question (asked by conservative reporter Bill Sammon) that the discussion briefly returned to Social Security--then the next question immediately steered back to Iraq. Some reporters criticized Bush later for offering few specifics on Social Security--so why didn't they press him for details at the press conference?
But the most interesting trend was a series of questions and answers in which Bush explained how he was pursing plans (on gasoline and Iraq) that would lead to success over the long term--explanations the reporters brushed off impatiently while demanding to know what effect those plans would have today--which, come to think of it, integrates with the reporters' obsession with the very latest public opinion polls.
"Transcript of President Bush's Press Conference," New York Times, April 28
"BUSH: The legislative process is just getting started, and I'm optimistic we'll get something done.
"QUESTION: Polls... (OFF-MIKE)
"BUSH: Polls? You know, if a president tries to govern based on polls, you're kind of like a dog chasing your tail. I don't think you can make good, sound decisions based upon polls. And I don't think the American people want a president who relies upon polls and focus groups to make decisions for the American people....
"QUESTION: Can you explain for us how, if it were passed soon after it were introduced, the energy bill would have an effect on the current record price of oil that we're seeing out there?
"BUSH: Actually, I said in my opening statement that the best way to affect the current price of gasoline is to encourage producing nations to put more crude oil on the market.... But, listen, the energy bill is certainly no quick fix. You can't wave a magic wand. I wish I could.... It just doesn't work that way. This is a problem that's been a long time in coming. We haven't had an energy policy in this country. And it's going to take us awhile to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.... So these are longer-term projects, all aimed at making us become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
"QUESTION: Do I read you correctly that the energy bill would not have had an affect on today's high gasoline and oil prices?
"BUSH: It would have 10 years ago.... It's taken us a while to get there, it's going to take us a while to get out....
"In the long run, like I said earlier, the way to defeat terror, though, is to spread freedom and democracy. It's really the only way in the long term. In the short term we'll use our troops and assets and agents to find these people and to protect American. But in the long term, we must defeat the hopelessness that allows them to recruit by spreading freedom and democracy. But we're making progress.
"QUESTION: So in the near term you think there will be more attacks and more people dying?"
President Bush is certainly sympathetic to the religious right, giving it crucial aid and comfort, as when he flew back from Texas last month to sign the unconstitutional edict about Terri Schiavo. But when he is asked directly about his views on religion in politics, what he has to say is often, paradoxically, quite good--as in this answer that ought to (but won't) put the kibosh on what I have dubbed the Jihad on the Judiciary.
"Transcript of President Bush's Press Conference," New York Times, April 28
"QUESTION: Mr. President, recently the head of the Family Research Council said that judicial filibusters are an attack against people of faith. And I wonder whether you believe that, in fact, that is what is motivating Democrats who oppose your judicial choices. And I wonder what you think, generally, about the role that faith is playing, how it's being used in our political debates right now.
"BUSH: I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated. And some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That's not my view of the proper role of a judge....
"Role of religion in our society? I view religion as a personal matter. I think a person ought to be judged on how he or she lives his life or lives her life. And that's how I've tried to live my life: through example. Faith plays an important part in my life individually. But I don't ascribe a person's opposing my nominations to an issue of faith.
"QUESTION: Do you think that's an inappropriate statement?
"BUSH: No. I think people oppose my nominees because of judicial philosophy.
"QUESTION: Sir, I asked you about what you think of...the way faith is being used in our political debates, not just in society generally.
"BUSH: Well, I can only speak to myself. And I am mindful that people in political office shouldn't say to somebody, You're not equally American if you don't happen to agree with my view of religion. As I said, I think faith is a personal issue. And I take great strength from my faith. But I don't condemn somebody in the political process because they may not agree with me on religion. The great thing about America is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want. And if you chose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship. And if you choose to worship, you're equally American if you're a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim. And that's the wonderful thing about our country and that's the way it should be."
I hate to admit it, but occasionally I learn something from President Bush. One little-noted point that he made last night speaks to a profound insight in his thinking on the war: that success against terrorism cannot be achieved merely through a negative--through the destruction of existing terrorist groups--but has to be achieved through a positive: the spread of opposing political (and, I would add, philosophical) ideals.
His approach to this positive goal (as to the necessary but "negative" tasks of "homeland defense" and killing terrorists overseas) is riddled with errors. But it is, nonetheless, an important truth.
"Transcript of President Bush's Press Conference," New York Times, April 28
"QUESTION: Mr. President, your State Department has reported that terrorist attacks around the world are at an all-time high. If we're winning the war on terrorism, as you say, how do you explain that more people are dying in terrorist attacks on your watch than ever before?
"BUSH: Well, we've made the decision to defeat the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action. And we're relentless--we, America and our coalition partners. We understand the stakes. And they're very high, because there are people still out there that would like to do harm to the American people.
"But our strategy is stay on the offense, is to keep the pressure on these people, is to cut off their money and to share intelligence and to find them where they hide. And we are making good progress. The al Qaeda network that attacked the United States has been severely diminished. We are slowly but surely dismantling that organization. In the long run, like I said earlier, the way to defeat terror, though, is to spread freedom and democracy. It's really the only way in the long term.
"In the short term we'll use our troops and assets and agents to find these people and to protect American. But in the long term, we must defeat the hopelessness that allows them to recruit by spreading freedom and democracy."
The reason President Bush's push for a partial quasi-privatization of Social Security is faltering is that he has not challenged the altruist morality behind the system--indeed, he has embraced that morality. So the only hope of passing his plan will be if he can make headway on a new theme he has been emphasizing recently: the metaphysics of Social Security.
He certainly doesn't put it this way, but there is a clear, deliberate trend in his statements of emphasizing the fact that Social Security represents "promises" and "a filing cabinet full of IOUs"--while private accounts represent "real assets" that won't "just go away" because of an arcane government rule (as Social Security benefits do when a spouse dies before age 62).
"Transcript of President Bush's Press Conference," New York Times, April 28
"BUSH: I feel strongly that there needs to be voluntary personal savings accounts as a part of the Social Security system. I mean, it's got to be a part of the comprehensive package. And the reason I feel strongly about that is that we got a lot of debt out there, a lot of unfunded liabilities, and our workers need to be able to earn a better rate of return on their money to help deal with that debt.... Now, it's very important for our fellow citizens to understand there is not a bank account here in Washington, DC, where we take your payroll taxes and hold it for you and then give it back to you when you retire. Our system is called pay as you go. You pay into the system through your payroll taxes and the government spends it. It spends the money on the current retirees and with the money left over, it funds other government programs. And all that's left behind is file cabinets full of IOUs.
"The reason I believe that this ought to work is not only should a worker get a better rate of return, not only should we encourage ownership, but I want people to have real assets in the system. I want people to be able to say, Here is my mix of bonds and stocks that I own, and I can leave it whomever I want....
"One other point on Social Security that people have got to understand is that the system of today is not fair for a person whose spouse has died early. In other words, if you're a two-working family, like a lot of families are here in America, and two people working in your family, and the spouse dies early--before 62, for example--all of the money that the spouse has put into the system is held there, and then when the other spouse retires, he or she gets to choose the benefits from his or her own work or the other spouse's benefits, whichever is higher, but not both. See what I'm saying? Somebody who's worked all their life, the money they put into the system just goes away.... If you have a voluntary personal savings account and you die early, that's an asset you can leave to your spouse or to your children."
Fast Food Überzeugungkrieg
Wells Fargo (formerly Strong Funds) analyst and daily update author Peter Nulty wrote, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of McDonald's restaurants, that the advent of "copious protien for a pittance" helped end the Cold War. [Full text of emailed essay from 14Apr05 reprinted in "continue reading."]
Nulty's contention was that a capitalist economy could provide better and more plentiful food to consumers than a socialist one, and when the subjects of Soviet socialism experienced this first-hand they demanded change, and economic freedom.
I will dub this the "cheeseburger bomb" and it is the weapon of choice in waging Überzeugungkrieg, or 'persuasion war.' Such a tactic would not have worked in oil-rich totalitarian Iraq, because Saddam was wise enough to keep his citizenry well fed. (Except when it was expedient not to.) DPRK, however, is an excellent target for such a 'weapon.' Unfortunately, the only mechanism for delivery requires voluntary cooperation of the target regime. Don't expect Baby Kim to go along the way the Hungarians did.
Saying good things about McDonald's isn't popular these days, but Friday is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first McDonald's, and I have some good things to say.
Let's remember (if you are old enough) what the world was like on April 15, 1955. Very few families could afford to eat out more than once or twice a year. My family rarely went to restaurants, and when we did it was considered a major extravagance. When I went to college in the early ‘60s, my parents gave me the equivalent of $2 a week in spending money. But on Sunday evenings, the dining facilities were closed and students had to fend for themselves. So I would go to a local diner with my friends for the cheapest blue-plate special in town: It cost $1.75, and left me with 25 cents to last the rest of the week. Eventually I found a part time job and life got easier, but for a while there I was pretty crimped.
Then, in 1962, a McDonald's opened up on the edge of town, and I could get essentially the same meal – a burger, fries, and a cola – for 35 cents, leaving me enough pocket money to go to a movie and hang out for a few hours at the local student coffee house. For me in those years, McDonald's was a miracle of efficiency and consistency that raised my standard of living.
I wasn't the only one impressed. My wife's cousin, who lived behind the "Iron Curtain" in Hungary, got a three-week visa in 1972 to visit America, and my wife drove him to California and back to see the sights. Even in those early days, my wife was no fan of McDonald's, but her cousin wouldn’t eat anywhere else. Why? He was amazed at American bounty. He had been told that capitalist workers were wallowing in the gutter. Instead he found them chowing down at clean, friendly, brightly-lit McDonald's for a fraction of the price he was used to paying in the Socialist paradise back home. Also, he thought the food tasted good. So the socialist and the capitalist ate at McDonald's all the way to California and back, and even today he says that the most surprising thing about his first view of America was McDonald's.
Soon after the cousin returned to Budapest, his father, who was the vice premier of Hungary at the time, instituted economic reforms that allowed entrepreneurs in Hungary to own their own small businesses. Those reforms energized the Hungarian economy and became the model for Gorbachev's "perestroika" reforms that began to thaw the Soviet Union in the ‘80s. I don't believe it's going overboard to say that the success of companies like McDonald's played a major role in bringing an end to the Cold War.
By providing copious protein for a pittance, McDonald's (and restaurants like it) enriched us all. But it also raised a new problem that we are now struggling with: Many of us consume more food than we need and we have to learn how to rein in our appetites somehow. But I'd rather have today's dilemma than the one we faced in 1955, when only the wealthy had to worry about being overweight. I don't blame McDonald's for making food affordable for me; I blame myself for lack of discipline. But I'm confident we will, um, lick this eventually.
Thank you, Richard and Maurice McDonald. Thank you Ray Kroc. And happy birthday, Mickey Dee's. Oh, yeah: Would you do something about that silly clown, Ronald What's-His-Face? He's really annoying. (Kidding!)