November 30, 2005

Good Speech!

Thanks to digital recorders (I have the DishNetwork PVR) I was able to watch the President's speech tonight.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - President Bush gave an unflinching defense of his war strategy on Wednesday, refusing to set a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals and asserting that once-shaky Iraqi troops are proving increasingly capable. Democrats dismissed his words as a stay-the-course speech with no real strategy for success.

I thought it was very good. Not flowery or especially powerful, but very forceful, cogent arguments against the most popular criticisms

1) Quagmire? No. Significant progress in the political, economic, and security fronts. Quantitative analysis of the training of Iraqis.

2) No Plan? He's put one on the web if you don't get it. Ten points to Senator Lieberman for saying that there is a plan and it is working. I wish we had ten more Joe Lieberman's in the Democratic Senate.

3) Stubborn refusal to adapt? No, several examples of things we have changed -- no teary mea culpas, but examples of adaptation to field exigencies.

4) Pull-out? Timetables? No. Victory. Achieve our goals and bring the troops home to heroes' welcome.

Well done, Mr. President! The Democratic rebuttals seem hollow and defeatist. Leader Pelosi has endorsed Rep. John Murtha's pullout. Do they really want to be the party of defeat?

But johngalt thinks:

It is just absolutely mind boggling that not a single national democrat, save possibly Lieberman, is demanding a strategy for victory, or even national security. They merely want to "bring the troops home." And the media happilly echoes the sad refrain.

NPR reports that "Dingy" Harry Reid dismissed the president's speech as "a public relations ploy." Yeah, when he gives every American who cares to listen a point by point response to Senator Biden's whines of "what's the plan, Stan" it's not statesmanship or transparent governance... it's "spin." Bite me.

I heard Arianna Huffington on local talk radio tonight assert that the pillars of national news media "allowed the president to mislead us into an illegal, immoral and unnecessary war." Well hell, I didn't realize the only place the US Senate gets its intelligence and news is from Tim Russert. Impeach Russert NOW!

Posted by: johngalt at December 1, 2005 12:59 AM
But Sugarchuck thinks:

I am convinced that the greatest obstacle Bush faces is his own inability to transcend the MSM and get his message across directly to the American people. Kudlow has remarked on our robust economy and in spite of all the positive indicators, the MSM line is that we are failing. They have us failing in Iraq as well. Bush gave a brilliant speech yesterday and Sen. Kerry responded with his typical "I'm for it and against it" fan dance. Who gets the coverage? Kerry , Reid , Pelosi (though to Pelosi's credit she actually takes a stand and advocates a concrete position whereas Kerry et. al. are bascially saying the same thing the president does, hoping for political gain if it fails. And it just might fail. I am convinced that the MSM is going to force us into a variation of the Murtha position... large draw down after Jan., relocation of troops in other countries, a timetable for our enemies to plan on. It most likely won't be in six months, but it will be this year and then it's party time on the hell mouth. And when the conflagration spreads to other countries and Iraq suffers a military coup or civil war, Kerry, Reid, Clinton and co. will be tripping over themselves to denounce the whole thing as being Bush's fault for leaving too soon. Even the Nation will bellyache about Bush not finishing what he'd started. (Remember the PBS Frontline on the first Iraq conflict and Bush I?)

Posted by: Sugarchuck at December 1, 2005 10:01 AM
But jk thinks:

Yup. I watched that speech thinking "Who else will see it?" I think we all know it is nobody. They'll get a 90 second story spun by whomever replaced Mary Mapes at CBS, with a 20 second clip pulled out that support's the journalist's premise.

Is Bush bad or has the media just become less tethered?

[RRR! The "Frontline" piece! That ranks right up there with the grocery scanner -- like the PBS crowd was sooo anxious to roll the tanks into Baghdad and face what we're facing now. Criminal.]

Posted by: jk at December 1, 2005 10:52 AM
But Sugarchuck thinks:

Watching Bush and Kerry back to back yesterday reminded me of the old Lowell George line, "eloquent profanity, it rolls right off my tongue." Compared to Reagan and Clinton, Bush is a hillbilly, but there is an eloquence in simple, direct speech. Bush gives us a subject, a predicate and and object..."We will win this war." Kerry, on the other hand, brings Shakespeare and Faulkner to mind, "Sound and fury, signifying nothing." I have long since given up trying to parse Kerry. He abuses vocabulary and syntax to obscure meaning. I'll take Bush and his everyman bungling any day of the week. Still, I have to think Reagan could have sold this war better. You've got to love substance and style.

Posted by: Sugarchuck at December 1, 2005 11:11 AM
But jk thinks:

Virginia Postrel's "Smart AND Pretty."

I admire President Reagan to no end, but I wonder if he could have done much better with this recalcitrant media. They didn't love and support him, but these guys are much worse.

You're so right about Kerry. I watched his soundbite and just laughed at the hollowness of it. What the hell did he say? What’s he want?

Posted by: jk at December 1, 2005 11:57 AM


The Interweb continues to amaze.

Behold the latest example.

But jk thinks:

One only wishes George Orwell were alive to enjoy this...

Posted by: jk at November 30, 2005 10:09 PM

The Hand In The Cookie Jar

Before pstupidonymous closed, I blogged quite a bit about Pennsylvania's legislature's shenanigans.

You might recall that they gave themselves a 16 to 34% pay raise, attempted to take the raise before re-election (unconstitutionally), stuck with it for months of voter rage, and then bravely repealed it. Oh, and a Supreme Court Justice lost a retention election as part of the angst.

Anyway, because that pay raise was just too big, a lot of people are looking into other legislative activities.

Like this one.

    A Team 4 investigation by Jim Parsons finds that Pennsylvania taxpayers have spent more than $2 million since 2002 on the use of two state passenger planes.

    You knew state lawmakers gave themselves a pay raise. But Team 4 has learned some of them are flying around in the official state plane -- sometimes to go to resorts, and sometimes to fly home for the weekend.

    Parsons: "Why do you fly on the state planes?"

    House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese: "I think, notwithstanding the fact that you're a perfect gentleman, the question borders on vacuity."

We have two planes? Our state is not that big (Harrisburg is kind of centrally located)... and can't we contract the air services of say US Air, who's hub is in Philly (also was Pittsburgh)? They fly to nearly every airport in the state.

It's not like trains from Pittsburgh or Philadelphia aren't available either.

What a waste of money. Nevermind the abuse vacations and commuting, for which they also get $600/monthly for a car lease and a per diem travel expense.

But Alex, it's only two million dollars. Yes. But it's another symptom of the problem.

Rs and Ds in Harrisburg just don't care anymore. They're in. That's all that matters to them... and the power that position gives them.

Posted by AlexC at 3:03 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Incumbents! The real threat to democracy.

I'm not a term-limit fan, but we need to be careful of all the electoral perks given to incumbents: franking privileges and the like. McCain-Feingold si the greatest gift.

Posted by: jk at November 30, 2005 6:12 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Term-limits are the answer. While politics may be a career, representing your neighbors or your state should not be.

Do your best, vote on some laws, go home and live under those laws. No golden parachute on the way out either.

Eight or ten years, that's all you should get.

Posted by: AlexC at November 30, 2005 6:20 PM

Internet Tele

I think Sugarchuck will forgive me if I call him a luddite He'd drive 300 miles to get a pair of EV34 tubes or some original 1948 wire to wrap pickups, but wasn't sure about computers and such.

He confessed that he has finally joined been assimilated into the iPod culture. It's a slippery slope, friend. It starts with an iPod, but then descends to a Fender Telecaster with an "Intel Equipped" logo:

18 November 2005 - Intel has created probably the world’s first super-charged guitar that will allow you to surf the web in-between songs.

The company has teamed up with Fender to create a concept guitar that explores the possibilities and redefines the term ‘music on the move’ – an internet-enabled super guitar.

Beginning with the iconic FENDER Telecaster - made famous by legends from Bruce Springsteen to Franz Ferdinand – the ‘surf guitar’ is the world’s first to allow you to download and playback your favourite riffs from the Internet without touching the strings, so you can sound like Bo Diddley while doing diddly-squat.

Fight it. Fight it hard.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 2:54 PM | What do you think? [6]
But AlexC thinks:

If the fingerboard was perhaps magetized in someway so that they would "pulldown" the strings to the correct note, that would be cool.

Kind of like a player piano.

But otherwise, it looks like a six-string PDA, and nowhere near as portable or useful.

Just because you can put a computer in it, doesn't mean you should.

Like my toilet.

Posted by: AlexC at November 30, 2005 3:16 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I was going to email this to you, now I see I don't have to. Great, now concerts will have pauses while the band checks their email. Franz Ferdinand is a legend already?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 30, 2005 3:34 PM
But jk thinks:

When I think of "legendary" tele players, Bruce Springteen is a ways down the list and Franz didn't quite make my list at all -- should I know him?

Roy Buchannan Albert Lee. Keith Richards even.

Posted by: jk at November 30, 2005 3:52 PM
But jk thinks:

...and if you don't like your computerized toilet, maybe you should have gotten the 800MHz bus...

Posted by: jk at November 30, 2005 3:54 PM
But Sugarchuck thinks:

I am a luddite, no debate there. I do think that putting a computer in a telecaster is rubbish, and like JK, I wouldn't call Springtseen, or that other guy (guys?) a telemaster. But... I am very impressed with the technology used to recreate amps for recording. Pete Anderson, a true master of the telecaster, recorded his last few projects with an Amp Farm Deluxe Reverb sample and he sounded great. Jim Keltner proved, so many years ago, on Ry Cooder's Get Rhythm cd that even the dreaded drum machine can be a wonder in the right hands. My complaints with Pro Tools are all based on the producer, not the technology (if you can abide the lyrics, listen to the sound of a Steve Earle record to see how compatible state of the art technnology is with roots music). I guess in the end, computers don't kill music, people do.

Posted by: Sugarchuck at December 1, 2005 9:34 AM
But jk thinks:

Sometimes, the wrong technology makes it worse, and better technology makes it better.

To the ThreeSources engineering division: Leo Fender and his ilk created guitar sounds with very bad analog circuitry. I've seem good analog guys cry over transgressions in Leo's hand drawn schematics. For years, solid state attempts to create these pleasing sounds failed miserably.

Now, folks are using DSP to recreate these. I use a Pod for recording that allows me to select which amp and which speaker cabinet and it faithfully recreates even the hysterisis on the controls. Amazing stuff.

These have rescued recording, which has a tough time reproducing those odd tones. For live tone, it's still voodoo and karma.

Posted by: jk at December 1, 2005 10:44 AM

Long Tail in TV

Instapundit links to a New York Magazine article that captures my belief that the "Long Tail" is coming to TV. Adam Sternbergh takes the disparate occurrences of iPod video with iTunes TV shows, the Serenity movie, and fan reaction to a hiatus in FOX's "Prison Break."

I wish he'd use the term "Long Tail" because I think that is what is really significant here but he captures my ideas and predictably writes them more clearly and cleanly than I could.

He joins me as well is dreaming of a DVD only second season of Firefly. Sternbergh suggests that a million Firefly fans are out there and willing to pay $39.95 for a season (If you're listening, Joss, I'm in for $50).

Alas, Firefly, Season 2 is not likely. But the broader point of a huge shift in programming and marketing holds:

What do we know about TV? Here’s the basic model: Networks air particular shows at particular times on particular nights; say, Commander in Chief on ABC, every Tuesday at nine. These shows are available to viewers for free, subsidized by intrusive blocks of ads—a leftover from the days when TV was magically plucked from the air by your rooftop antennae, like radio with pictures. A TV show’s ratings determines both its sustainability (on the network schedule) and its profitability (in terms of how much its advertisers can be charged). These ratings are calculated by following the habits of a small number of representative viewers, tracked by the Nielsen company, whose preferences are then extrapolated for the entire audience. The prime economic directive of TV, therefore, has always been, TV doesn’t sell shows to viewers: It sells viewers to advertisers.

Why not "subscribe" to a show or network, and get all of its programming? Or a new unit, where I subscribe t6o get all of Joss Whedon's stuff or Tim Minear's, or a consortium of all?

It's coming and I think it will offer more and better choice. If I add the money I spend on Satellite (~$600/year) to my DVD purchases ($600 worth of Buffy/Angel/Firefly, tons more on British Comedy), I have a large amount of entertainment dollars I could throw at getting what I want.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:43 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

It's a cool idea. I might subscribe to some shows this way... but it would need to be DRM'd out the ying-yang. Think of the piracy.

Posted by: AlexC at November 30, 2005 3:17 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Yeah, Tivo is already getting flak about digital watermarks. Why do none of the suits get that if the price is right piracy will all but disappear? Why copy a VHS tape or DVD movie if you can buy it for less than $20? But JK is right, there is a change coming. Other than a sporting event I seriously cannot remember the last time I watched live TV. (Disclosure: I am a Tivo fanatic, I own three - so you can record multiple shows simultaneously and so I have one in the basement workout room; and a stockholder in the company) I actually no longer have any idea what time or channel the shows I watch come on. This also alleviates the ridiculous network practice of pitting popular shows directly against one another in the same time block. I love "Veronica Mars" but want to watch "Lost" too. (Hey, JK, Joss Whedon is a huge Veronica Mars fan) As I watch this way however, I rarely see commercials but just fast forward through. Advertising is going to have to become targeted or more product placement based, or a subscription style revenue system will have to come about. One big loser already showing up is theaters, the AMC folks are already feeling the pinch of earlier DVD releases and the popularity of home theater systems. But in general, the ability of movies to go direct to DVD has opened up more choices (lots of kids movies have never seen the inside of a theater) and I see no reason why the same economic model could not be used for TV programs.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 30, 2005 3:52 PM

November 29, 2005

An Immigration Win for the G.O.P.

You read that right, I'm the only one calling it and I'll be collecting I-told-you-sos next November.

The Conventional Wisdom states that immigration is a portentous train wreck for the GOP. Tommy Tancredo will split off the populists, Bill O'Reilly will stir up the pot, and the WSJ Ed Page crowd will splinter and the Grand Ol' Party is to be rend in twain. Until last night, I believed it. We cover the whole spectrum here at ThreeSources and it seems unlikely to pull us all together.

Sure, there is hand-wringing today after the president’s speech yesterday. Pat Buchanan was unhappy last night (there goes the Palm-Beach-County Vote!), Michelle Malkin is displeased this morning, Glenn Reynolds has a list of P-oh'd bloggers.

The limb
The immigration debate will close successfully because the two sides' desires are not mutually exclusive. You can't raise and lower taxes, can't pull the troops home and send more -- but you can strengthen border security and institute a guest worker program. In fact the two are complimentary and I cannot see either working without the other.

The President sends the House troops in to craft a Tancredo-esque enforcement bill. The Senate opens debate on McCain-Kennedy (Love the bill, hate the name), and (I am borrowing from Fred Barnes here) the final compromise is crafted in committee.

The President, to my dismay, has shown that he will sign anything, so an immigration bill with security and legality will be passed. The Wall Street Journal folk and I will wish it went further to provide labor, and the isolationists will wish there were more emphasis on mines for the Rio Grande. But both sides will shrug their shoulders, be glad they got a Republican bill, and move on to the next election.

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 2:38 PM | What do you think? [4]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Is it just me, or is all a reasonable compromise plan gets you these days is denigration from both sides?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 29, 2005 4:26 PM
But jk thinks:

Again, I think the compromise is possible here because the two desires are complimentary.

You'll not hear me talk so keenly about reasonable compromises on tax cuts or free trade. I think in this instance, legislators can craft a compromise, the Administration can declare victory, and government can move on to next thing it decides to ruin...

Posted by: jk at November 29, 2005 4:59 PM
But johngalt thinks:

But anything that approaches a policy success for the president (read that: anything that is popularly supported) will be - MUST be - torpedoed by congressional democrats. This "criminal" administration must not be allowed any semblance of accomplishment.

Posted by: johngalt at November 30, 2005 12:23 AM
But jk thinks:

True. But this will be tough. The GOP does control the House (if we get the Hammer's focus back), the Senate (kinda sorta) and the Executive.

It will be very hard for all Democrats to oppose a popular legislative compromise. Most will of course reflexively oppose, but in an election year, you'll be able to peel off some for border enforcement.

Posted by: jk at November 30, 2005 9:48 AM

November 28, 2005

Review Corner: Batman Begins

I blogged favorably about "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory's" displaying good, Schumpeterian economics.

Well, I saw "Batman Begins" this weekend and parity is conserved. The movie has good narrative, texture, and acting. It's well worth a look (I could not say the same for "Wart of the Worlds" but these are admittedly not my genre!).

But the Hollywood twaddle that was espoused in "Batman" is grating. The comic-book dystopia of Gotham clearly suffers from corrupt government. We are told every judge and cop is on the take -- only a brave (and cute of course) D.A. will fight crime and corruption.

Yet we are assured that people are poor and the depression continues because rich folks, unlike Bruce Wayne's altruistic dad, are too greedy and won't give to the poor. Dad rejected business to practice medicine; he gave a monorail to the city so that poor folk would have good public transportation; he begged to get the other rich people to do their part...

Good movie, bad economics, jk gives it 2.5 stars.

It strikes me that they offer DVD's in a "Director's Cut." How about an "Economists' Cut?" You would offer "Seabiscuit" with the sad bolt-on New Deal nonsense stripped out. I'd buy that. "Michael Douglas's "Wall Street" would be stripped to nine minutes.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:06 AM | What do you think? [7]
But johngalt thinks:

I forgot. I also wanted to include this link to what 'Batman Begins' writer had to say on the subject:

(About half-way down)

David Goyer: "The point is, and the main point, is that I don't think the movie necessarily falls on either side, but we wanted to engage the audience in those debates in a real way. I mean, Bruce debates with Rachel--Bruce debates with Ra's--Bruce debates with Gordon--Bruce debates with Alfred. That's the point. Some of those questions can never really be answered."

I disagree with this final conclusion, of course, but this passage and that which surrounds it is very insightful into what the filmmakers thought.

Posted by: johngalt at November 28, 2005 3:13 PM
But jk thinks:

Hmm. May have to go down to McDonalds and cough up the $1 and see it again. I was going to open the review with "Don't see it JohnGalt!" I'm glad I didn't step in that!

As I said, I liked it. And I agree that some of the complex questions were nicely left to be resolved in viewers' minds. But I never saw any repudiation or serious counter evidence to the swellness of Papa Wayne's altruism.

I'll agree as well that Ra is a better übermensch to Batman. Batman has a compassion that betrays that for me. (The best literary übermensch for me has got to be Mayor Richard Wilkins III in Buffy, but I've used my Buffy quota for the week.)

Posted by: jk at November 28, 2005 5:04 PM
But johngalt thinks:

It's called "compassion" in the movie, but what I observed in Batman should more accurately be called "optimism." He believes that mankind's heroic potential will trump its immoral baseness when given half a chance.

JK sez, "I never saw any repudiation or serious counter evidence to the swellness of Papa Wayne's altruism." Well, how about when Ra's tells Bruce, "You aren't to blame for your father's death. HE is. He and his family were threatened and he did nothing." (Hat tip: Dagny) Why did he do nothing? Maybe it was because he "disapproves" of violence (even in defense from the same) but more insightfully, he was HAPPY to just turn over his wallet to the "poor, disadvantaged, needy" street thug. It was only when his WIFE resisted doing so with her jewelry that they were both murdered. Papa Wayne was a contemptible weasel. Not because he was a billionaire, but because his altruism blinded him to the fact that his own family is far more valuable (to him at the VERY least) than the poor and downtrodden who would happily rob him blind when given the chance.

And by the way... I forgot to ask yesterday: When did you develop such a sour taste for altruism anyway?

Posted by: johngalt at November 29, 2005 3:42 PM
But jk thinks:

I would say that he is repudiating father's pusillanimity, not altruism.

Hmmm, now where could I have picked up an aversion to altruism? Seriously, you have pushed me on this. Mind you, I am still not convinced that the soldiers serving us in Iraq are not to be especially lauded for their sacrifice to me -- whom they have never met -- but rejecting Hollywood's attempts to push it down my throat? I'm there!

Posted by: jk at November 29, 2005 5:04 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Yours is certainly a valid explanation, but coupled with Ra's earlier complaint that "people like [papa] allow the corruption to continue" (by propping it up with their charity) I think my equally valid explanation is more apt.

I'm pleased that my anti-altruism rants have not been completely in vain. Thanks for clearly stating the ground yet to be covered, which I may as well start on right now: Do you also posit that Bruce Wayne's motive for becoming Batman and fighting crime in Gotham is altruism, either primariLy or tangentially?

Posted by: johngalt at November 30, 2005 12:38 AM
But jk thinks:

I have been colored and persuaded on many issues by my blog brothers and sisters. You have made many trenchant cases, even about the soldiers.

To be fair, you were able to start with an Ayn Rand fan and conservative. Let's see you bring my brother around!

Posted by: jk at November 30, 2005 9:52 AM

Review Corner: Why Buffy Matters

I'm frequently accused of taking Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Angel too seriously, but there is a growing body of scholarship on "The Buffyverse."

A good entry point to it would be Robin Wilcox's "Why Buffy Matters." Wilcox is a serious Dickensian scholar (she studied Charles; she isn't a hundred years old) and a more serious Buffy fan. She has promoted some of her college lectures to a book of literary criticism. She quotes from this growing body of work and makes quite a few associations and finds allusions that I would never have caught in a million viewings.

The language is academic and she brings her own biases. For instance she quotes some that hold the DoubleMeat Palace episodes reflect anti-globalism, though, to be fair, she doesn't quite line up for this. Every object that is not completely spherical is a phallic symbol to her (well, Ms. Wilcox, the network did not want guns on a teen show, they pretty much have to have some knives and swords...)

Anybody who can overlook some of that will enjoy it, I certainly did.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:00 AM

November 27, 2005

The jk Still Loves The Manolo

Most of you know me, and know that fashion is not a huge priority for "the jk."

Virginia Postrel's "The Substance of Style" changed my business attitudes sharply. And made me realize that I should change my slovenly nature.

More importantly, I have always belittled the vain. While the shallowly vain deserve it, I now realize that part of my over-arching philosophy is to accept the bounty of this great earth, and the affluence that our freedom has provided.

Who says it best? Today, it's definitely The Manolo as he covers Black Friday:

1) Everyone has the right to be super fantastic. The Manolo he is the proud and strong believer in the personal freedoms, in the ability of the autonomous individual to dress in manner he or she desires (even if the manner chosen it is awful).

2) Manolo loves the Capitalism! Nothing is more worthy of the ridicule than the fashion sense of the dictators, politburos, autocrats, and tyrants. For the example, the most horrible, deadening, life-sucking piece of the fashion ever invented, it is the Mao suit, for it reduces the individual to the mere cog in the ideological machine. Happily we live in the system in which the marketplace it is free to deliver to the peoples the beautiful clothes, enabling each individual to dress in the manner he or she chooses.

Of course, I'm wearing a Sam's-Club-purchased Broncos sweatshirt today. Hey, we're 9-2!

Hat-tip: Insty

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 1:24 PM

November 26, 2005

Biased Economic Reporting

Rather than hijack AlexC's post onto a tangent, let me offer my own post.

Every decline in the stock market, every piece of bad economic news is tied to the President. Every good bit of news is ignored, downplayed, or attributed to sunspots.

Tigerhawk grabs this in a great post, "The rally in the stock market: It's Bush's fault."

The stock market hit a 4 1/2 year high on Friday (Pajamas Media round-up here). The fall rally reflects the muscular American economy, which managed to produce economic growth in the third quarter at almost triple the rate of the Euro zone. The comparative American strength was particularly impressive in light of the hurricanes: As I wrote a few weeks ago, not a single European city was destroyed this year (although I suppose Paris had a close call).

Today's news also forces me to remember -- against my will, to be sure -- the tradition at the New York Times of linking short term swings in the financial markets -- at least when they are negative -- to the policies of the Bush administration. On April 16, 2005, for example, the Times ran a front page story with the headline "Stocks plunge to lowest point since election," suggesting that it was the election that had something to do with the "plunge."

We eagerly await the front page story with this headline: "Stocks soar to highest point since before September 11, 2001". We're fairly sure, however, that we won't see it in the Times.

The story I am waiting for is a report on strong retail sales for Christmas. Both online and brick-and-mortar stores are off to a good start. And after hurricanes and volatile fuel price, this is pretty big news. Pretty important news.

But to admit it, as I tried to spin the comment, would be to imply that tax cuts might have worked and we can't have that. We must raise taxes and return to Rubenomics immediately -- only then will good news make the front page.

Perhaps I am over-sensitive, but this AP headline blew me away: "Big Sales Lure Reluctant Holiday Shoppers." The implication is that consumers are "reluctant" to spend money in such turbulent times, and that steep discounts are required to pry these recalcitrant wallets open.

Clear implication, yes But the story is not about that at all. The lede is about some guy who didn't want to go shopping because of the crowds, a guy who just went to an outdoors store and bought a few presents.

[Richard] Lane didn't pick up a new iPod, laptop or plasma screen TV, but he knocked off a chunk of his shopping list with one visit to the Orvis outdoor store.

"When Orvis has a 50-percent-off sale, you can't ignore it," said Lane, who otherwise would likely have stayed home. "I never shop on this day."

By the end of lunch hour Friday, Lane stood outside and waited for his wife to pick him up. On the ground next him sat a new fly fishing rod, hip waders and a collar for his bird dog.

I wouldn't shop on Black Friday were they giving away guitars. But it would be disingenuous to cite me -- or Lane -- as an example shopper.

The sixth paragraph carries the buried lede; "Today, things look really good."

UPDATE: Irwin Stetzer's piece in the Weekly Standard is good as well:

THE WASHINGTON POST doubted that Americans would enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, announcing on the morning of turkey day that 61 percent of Americans are "anxious about money." So anxious, in fact, that the very next day between 130 million and 150 million headed to the malls to spend a sum that exceeds the GDP of three quarters of the world's countries. Wal-Mart alone racked up some $2 billion in sales.

But AlexC thinks:

So basically Mr Lane indulged his outdoor sports hobbies.

Troubling times indeed.

Posted by: AlexC at November 26, 2005 1:49 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

He is just preparing for the flooding of global warming.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 28, 2005 6:32 PM
But johngalt thinks:

This "Global Warming" crap is really making me ill. I heard on NPR yesterday morning that the city of Seattle is attempting to make it's transit system "greenhouse gas neutral" and one of the reasons for urgency is that "our local ski areas didn't have enough snow to open at all last season." Yeah, and that's because of buses and ferry boats burning diesel fuel downtown. Right. Meanwhile, back in the tax collectors office...

Posted by: johngalt at November 29, 2005 3:32 PM

November 25, 2005

Syrian Incursions

UK Telegraph

    Syria has accused the United States of launching lethal military raids into its territory from Iraq, escalating the diplomatic crisis between the two countries as the Bush administration seeks to step up pressure on President Bashar Assad's regime.

    Major General Amid Suleiman, a Syrian officer, said that American cross-border attacks into Syria had killed at least two border guards, wounded several more and prompted an official complaint to the American embassy in Damascus.

Am I the only one thinking, "what took so long?"

But jk thinks:

No. I was on board for "let's bring the troops home through Syria."

Posted by: jk at November 26, 2005 10:04 AM

The Dark Side of Capitalism

The Black Friday hype.

    The deep discounts Black Friday is known for and a shortage of those items turned people ugly Friday morning at two New Jersey stores.

    "It was a brawl, a little brawl. It was terrible," witness John Knight said.

    At the Wal-Mart in Hamilton Township, Atlantic County, witnesses said Black Friday became "Black Eye" Friday among shoppers early Friday morning.

    "Pushing, hitting, everything," shopper Yolanda Williams said.

    "It was a big crowd, like 50 people, crowded in," shopper Ivanessa Rosado said.

    Merchandise in short supply triggered very short tempers.

    "They were fighting over the laptop or the Xbox, and they ran out of both of them. I think the store should have had more on them. They knew there was going to be a big dash like that," Knight said.

Is getting a smoking deal for a low quality laptop really that important?
    Authorities said it took a dozen police officers to control a disorderly crowd in the store's electronics department after shoppers began forcibly removing items from the area and forcing their way past other people at cash registers. It was all part of a violent and chaotic morning that required police from two communities to descend on the Wal-Mart and a nearby Circuit City, after crowds of more than 1,000 people at each store engaged in what police describe as mob-like behavior, which began with a rush to get inside around 6 a.m.


I must admit, I once waited in line at 5am in front of a mall inorder to participate in the mad Furby rush of '98. It got pretty heated as the toy store was in the mall kind of between two entrances. When the doors opened, it was a mad dash for the Kay-Bee. It was ugly. But I scored two Furbies which I promptly flipped for a handsome proft.

Capitalism ain't all bad, after all.

But jk thinks:

Even when the news is good, it's bad.

The AP reports on this story and uses the headline "Big Sales Lure Reluctant Holiday Shoppers."

Are shoppers reluctant because of oil prices? Iraq? The current account deficit? No, just a guy who didn't want to go shopping (

Sorry, but the news is good. The fourth year of the "George Bush Recession" that the media love to portray is a complete fabrication. The numbers are good. Black Friday measures consumer confidence better that academics in Michigan.

If they admitted things were good, they might have to admit that tax cuts work.

Too cynical? Black helicopterish?

Posted by: jk at November 26, 2005 10:18 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Wow, all this disorderly conduct and near looting without any hurricanes? No matter... debit cards for everyone! I think that Wal Mart should be FORCED to take the names of all the "shoppers" for those products and deliver whatever they were looking for via overnight mail. For FREE. How dare they run out of desirable items for people to flip.

Posted by: johngalt at November 26, 2005 8:33 PM

Here Come Da Judge

I may be first elected official.

On election day, last November 8th, my wife wrote my name in for Judge of Elections. A position for which not a soul was running.

As luck would have it, I tied for the win with someone else. As mandated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a drawing was held today where the winners had to pull numbers out of a hat. (Not really a hat, more of a box... it might have been some sort of a candy box).

The lowest number between one and ten wins.

And I drew a one!

So what does Judge of Elections do?

    The Judge of Elections heads the election board for a given division and supervises the conduct of the polling place. He or she ensures that voters are registered within the division, prevents fraud and other errors, and accurately tabulates the votes at the end of election day. It is the responsibility of the Judge of Elections to to protect an honest election by making sure that only properly registered citizens are permitted to vote, that fraud and mistakes are prevented, and that a true and correct report of the returns is made to the county’s Board of Elections at the end of the day.

That's right. The very sanctity of American democracy lies in the palm of my hand. Bwa-hah-hah!

But seriously, if I could be the Judge of Elections for a precinct in Philadelphia, it'd be really neat. There are rumours of some amazing election chicanery. It'd be interesting to be a judge in the polling place that's a bar.

But where I live, there really isn't much (any?) electoral hanky-panky. It's pretty orderly, though the crowd was kind of close to the fire-house polling place back in aught-four.

Equally amazing is that my wife also tied, (no, not for Judge of Elections), but for Inspector of Elections.

But Rachael didn't not draw the lowest number. (A ten actually).

HOWEVER, there are two Inspectors of Elections.

    Two Inspectors are elected for each polling place. In the municipal election (1997, 2001, 2005, etc), the candidate receiving the highest number of votes becomes the "Majority" Inspector. The candidate receiving the second highest vote total assumes the position of "Minority" Inspector. The Inspectors form a bipartisan board under the Judge of Elections. On election day, typically one Inspector checks voters' registration documents while the other Inspector prepares the certificates authorizing voters to cast their ballots.

Since she drew the highest number of the two candidates, she's the minority Inspector. Though she's a Republican.... in a Republican township.

Go fig.

Amazingly, we weren't the only tied elections in the county this time. There were at least ten other races. Most seemed to be for these two positions, and I suspect they were all write-ins. There was a kid (obviously 18) there with his parents who were probably wondering what he got himself into.

In conclusion.
The write-in still works.

Every vote counts. Especially when there is only one.

Your wife will always vote for you, even if you don't. ;)

But johngalt thinks:

Good stuff, AlexC. Rachael CLEARLY thought there should be someone she could trust as Judge of Elections for your precinct. At least if you lie, she'll be able to tell. :)

Thank you for helping prevent election theft in a state with more than 10 electoral votes!

Posted by: johngalt at November 26, 2005 8:24 PM

November 23, 2005

Kaplan in TNR

Lawrence Kaplan gives the Democrats a little harsh medicine -- in their own book! Here's the start of his TNR article:

The war in Iraq has generated, among other things, a new tradition in the media. Every time former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft criticizes the war--and he has done so on nearly a dozen occasions--the press advertises his latest gripe as evidence of a split in conservative ranks. Not surprisingly, then, his latest fusillade, delivered a few weeks ago in a New Yorker article by Jeffrey Goldberg, was once more touted as breaking news. It wasn't. Far more telling was the chorus of leading Democrats, liberal columnists, and left-leaning bloggers--that is, voices that once could be counted on to condemn Scowcroft as the second-rate Kissinger he is--who emerged to applaud the octogenarian devotee of realpolitik for his candor. Which brings us to a second tradition produced by the war: liberals against liberalism.

Lest there be any confusion about the inclinations of the former general with whom so many "progressive" voices have found common cause, his approach to foreign policy resembles that of a man who, on seeing an elderly woman being bludgeoned on the sidewalk, crosses to the other side of the street. This is the man, after all, who toasted the architects of the Tiananmen Square massacre not six months after they perpetrated it. Who found it "painful to watch Yeltsin rip the Soviet Union brick by brick away from Gorbachev." Who counseled sitting on the sidelines as Saddam Hussein massacred the very Shia his administration had encouraged to rise up. Who says that "some people really don't want to be free." And who rightly calls himself "a cynic about human nature.'

Cynicism, alas, is enjoying a vogue in the party of Woodrow Wilson. "Just as Scowcroft is doing," Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen points out, "it is the Democrats who often speak the language of realism that seems downright uncaring."

It doesn't let up (holler if you want me to email the whole piece). Here's the end:
What we have in their place is a crude and cheap version of realism, which, although ostensibly a method of analysis that eschews ideology, is rapidly becoming an ideology of its own. Unfortunately, its key tenets as laid out by the Gary Harts and Paul Krugmans of this world--non-interference, narrowly defined vital interests, a foreign policy scrubbed of idealism--provide no adequate response to the war of ideas in which we're presently engaged and will be long after the war in Iraq draws to a close. Nor do its proponents factor in the steep moral price bound to be exacted by trading in Woodrow Wilson for Brent Scowcroft. Is it really necessary to point out how deeply amoral U.S. foreign policy was during the Kissinger and Scowcroft years? If idealism has failed in Iraq, the solution lies in the realm of means, not in abandoning idealism--and certainly not in the cynicism of Brent Scowcroft.

Not in '06 and likely not even in '08, but someday, the soi-disant liberals are going to have to reconcile this cynicism and isolationism with their other principles. Those, like Kaplan, that is that have principles.

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 11:02 AM

Be Thankful!

The WSJ Ed Page is! Finding five things to appreciate at the end of 2005. My favorite is the first:

Eliot Spitzer's campaign for Governor. Now that the New York Attorney General is running for higher office, especially one that would make him responsible for the state's economic progress, he seems to be rethinking his Lord High Executioner reputation. This week he dropped his case against another bit player in the mutual fund timing scandal, his second retreat in a month. If we had known his candidacy would do this much to stop overzealous prosecution, we might even have encouraged him.

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!

Posted by John Kranz at 10:35 AM

November 22, 2005

The Timetable

War on Terror Posted by AlexC at 12:31 PM

Iraq Withdrawal Timetable Set

This is a watershed moment: The timetable for withdrawal of coalition forces has now been set by the only entity capable of doing so: the Iraqi government.

Sunni leaders have been pressing the Shiite-majority government to agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The statement recognized that goal, but did not lay down a specific time -- reflecting instead the government's stance that Iraqi security forces must be built up first. [emphasis mine]


"By the middle of next year we will be 75 percent done in building our forces and by the end of next year it will be fully ready," he [Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr] told the Arabic-language satellite station Al-Jazeera.

Whether or not this move was prompted by or even orchestrated by the Bush administration, it is a necessary step for progress in the region. Iraqis are taking responsibility for themselves.

But AlexC thinks:

I wonder if Congressman Murtha had advanced warning of this. If he knew it was coming, he could look like a genius.

Posted by: AlexC at November 22, 2005 11:35 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I thought about that: Murtha called for withdrawal starting now and completing in 6 months. The timetable suggested by Iraq has withdrawal starting in a little over a year, and no timetable for completion. (My preference would be, right after our complete withdrawal from Germany, Japan and Korea.)

There's been a growing sense that withdrawal would happen before long. For Murtha to suggest immediate withdrawal was a calculation that appears to have backfired. See today's Brendan Miniter column on Opinion Journal:

Posted by: johngalt at November 22, 2005 11:44 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Thank you, now was that so hard? Now we have a definable condition, when the Iraqi government believes their own troops are ready to provide the power to enforce their rule, and a goal of a target date to accomplish this. It is after all partly their call as a new sovereign nation. There are 3 main ingredients their army must have, training, equipment, and loyalty. We can help with the first two, but the third rests on their shoulders. It really doesn't take genius to realize that the Iraqi leaders and our own military commanders knew what was required and approximately when it could be delivered, stating it publicly makes it a goal that both our citizens and theirs can use to measure success.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 22, 2005 12:14 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, yes, Silence, it was hard. We ejected a brutal dictator, installed a provisional government, elected a temporary parliament, drafted and ratified a Constitution...Only now can we point to a legitimate Iraqi government to provide this timetable.

It was not that "Bush Had No Plan!" It just had to reach this level of stability on its own schedule.

Sorry to be so argumentative when we all agree around here, but I believe the hard work this administration did got us here. Not the UN, Cindy Sheehan or Rep John Murtha.

Posted by: jk at November 22, 2005 4:45 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Sorry JK, didn't mean it wasn't hard in that respect. What I have been haranguing on about is setting the final big milestone, that of Iraqi self sufficiency, or to be blunt, the capability to make their government real in the sense that it has actual power. Did no one else notice that the recent upheaval about Iraq policy started after the constitution was signed? This feeling of interminable troop deployment was a function of lacking the stated goal and schedule for the final milestone. Putting it in place was the part that was not so hard, the experts new what the conditions were and when they could realistically be achieved but there was an insinuation that stating our goal in any way would disrupt the process and embolden the enemy. I think the opposite was true, without the stated objective there was a huge unknown about the duration of troop deployment, that they could be brought home on short notice if public opinion turned very sour or that they could be stationed indefinitely battling a decades long terror war. This goal and schedule is not an ultimatum, if we miss it we keep working, it is not a hard date after which we throw them to the wolves as johngalt would say. This has been my frustration, that not only would a goal and a date be valuable to the effort and keeping the public engaged, but that this is one of those cases where there just seems to be a standard conservative response along the lines that Chris Muir has satirized. No matter how many times or ways I try to make my point, the response seems to be that setting a date is broadcasting all our movements to the enemy and declaring a date beyond which the Iraqis are on their own and thus emboldening the insurgency that it only has to hang on for a set period of time.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 23, 2005 12:19 PM
But jk thinks:

I knew what you meant, I was just being an ass****!

My objection to your goal requires the perspective on an Iraqi who is contemplating joining the police, army or political class. If it appears to him/her that the US might pull out before the job is done, he/she will be less likely to participate.

I would say that this is where your parallel of a project plan in a corporation falls short. Many players on both sides are trying to assess the US's will and dedication. I object to your admittedly reasonable requests for goals because they show us to be more interested in withdrawal than victory.

Posted by: jk at November 23, 2005 2:36 PM

Another One Bites The Dust

To be fair, like Rep Murtha, I am not changing my position. I continue to hope that the GOP does not run a senator for president in 2008.

Senator Allen of Virginia was a darling of Conservatives and I saw him deliver a pretty good speech. He was on C-SPAN speaking to a Republican group somewhere (I know, I know, I am Mr. Excitement incarnate).

But I think he is off the list today. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page has exposed him as a protectionist: hanging with Senator Byrd to protect insane anti-dumping laws with perverse incentives (corporations can keep the fines if they get the government to sue).

Not pretty:

We're not surprised to see the signatures of Ohio Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich or Georgia's Saxby Chambliss on that letter. They're flacking for their home-state companies (see above) and no one will mistake them as Presidential timber. The really surprising name on the list, however, is George Allen, the Virginia Republican who has become the darling of some conservatives as they contemplate life after President Bush.

We wonder if Mr. Allen really knows what he's doing here. Byrd distributions in Virginia in 2004 totaled a mere $5.5 million. About $4.6 million went to Lafarge North America, and $924,000 to Titan America LLC -- both building material suppliers that stand to benefit from such protectionism as the 55% anti-dumping duty levied on Mexican cement.

In return for doing their bidding, Mr. Allen is cementing his own reputation as an opponent of free trade. No avowed protectionist has won the White House since Herbert Hoover in 1928 (and we know how that turned out), so backing Byrd doesn't look like a smart political strategy. Worse, it raises doubts about Mr. Allen's grasp of economic policy.

Modern Presidents of both parties have been ardent free-traders because they realize it is in the national interest. That's why Mr. Bush is now devoting a great deal of his time and diplomacy to advancing the Doha round of global trade talks. Byrd contradicts that policy, which is why a growing number of national business groups -- from home builders and construction companies to food processors and retailers -- are organizing to fight Byrd. They see both U.S. exports and consumers losing under Byrd to a handful of inefficient U.S. companies and their savvy Beltway lawyers. Which side are Mr. Allen and his GOP colleagues on?

Condi. Condi. Condi.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 10:28 AM | What do you think? [6]
But AlexC thinks:

How about South Carolina's governor, Mark Sanford?

Posted by: AlexC at November 22, 2005 11:36 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

How about our own governor, Bill Owens?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 22, 2005 12:18 PM
But AlexC thinks:

What's his involvement in the TABOR? It was a good idea, that somehow was totally decimated by state government and special interests.
(Gee, that's hard to believe)

Posted by: AlexC at November 22, 2005 12:32 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Before Referendum C I would have not only supported Owens for Prez, I'd have campaigned for him. Now, after he so visibly abandoned the principle of small government, he gets nothing from me.

Thanks for the Sanford tip. I'll try to learn more about him.

Condi would be great, if she's willing. I relish the thought of her reminding the world that the United States is the world's sole superpower, and don't mess with me, while wearing that black slit-skirt dress with the dominatrix boots.

Posted by: johngalt at November 22, 2005 2:36 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Sanford issued an executive order in July forming a task force to recommend reforms to SC's workers' compensation system. The final report is due by the end of the year. We'll see what it says and what he does with it.

Sanford was a US congressman for six years.

Posted by: johngalt at November 22, 2005 2:59 PM
But jk thinks:

Got to side with jg. I like Governor Owens a lot( But his backing of C & D in '05 was a deal breaker for me. He might win me back but it would take effort.

I'll keep an eye out for Gov. Sanford as well. Any governor before any senator for me.

Posted by: jk at November 22, 2005 5:37 PM


I was reading a white-phosphorus related post on Protein Wisdom this morning, and read the following in a citation from DailyKos.

    Saddam tortured, we torture. Saddam used WP chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians, we use WP chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians.

    Like torture, the apologists try to justify our use of such abhorrent techniques, oblivious to the fact that our moral standing is in tatters and our crediblity beyond repair. We aren’t just losing the war in Iraq, we are losing our credibility in the world.

I thought ever since the go-it alone invasion, the subsequent occupation, the evening at Abu-Graib, Gitmo Korans, W '04 re-election, we've been losing credibility as a nation on the international scene.

I say "losing," but by the metric of the chicken-little "falling credibility" crowd, we've actually been hemorraging it. And hemorraging it for years.

Which begs the question, "How much more credibility do we have left to lose, if we haven't lost it all?"

Either we're the nation-state equivalent of the Black Knight from Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail, or we have not really lost any.

I would venture to suppose that there are nations out there saying, "Gosh, those Americans are really paying for doing the right thing." Those nations are providing any kind of support they can to the Global War on Terror. Nations like Mongolia. Once a giant in terms of warring, now a very minor international player are pledging support... as are the nations of new Europe.

Those nations remind of the parable I once heard while sitting in a pew. (Luke 21, if you're interested) The rich man tithes a lot to the Church because he has it, the poor widow tithes to the Church because that's all she has. It's sacrifices like those from nations that don't have it to sacrifice, who understand credibility.

Credibility from those nations is important... and worthwhile.

Included in that list are our steadfast friends the British and the Australians. With whom we share a common cultural bond.

Where it has been lost, what did it matter? Those nations likely did not share common interests with us *cough*le France*cough*)... or they see advantages to staying friendly with us. (ahem, China)

Our Republic's credibility has not been lost. Not to any nation that matters. On the contrary, we have gained it in the eyes of those people who understand the fight and the sacrifices at hand.

But jk thinks:

I spent a lot of time in Ireland and England in my last job and it saddens me that even our allies have such a low opinion.

I think it has become as politicized as the Congress and that the only hope of better ties would be if we were to practice the appeasement the intelligencia and governments believe in.

What really counts are those who vote with their feet. Only one in seven European engineering students say they expect to go back. We have captured the imagination of people of the world, if not their governments.

Posted by: jk at November 22, 2005 10:39 AM

November 21, 2005

GOP Wins One

Yes, I've been hard the GOP Senate. But I must salute them when they win:

WASHINGTON -- Bruce Springsteen famously was "born in the USA," but he's getting scorned in the U.S. Senate.

An effort by New Jersey's two Democratic senators to honor the veteran rocker was shot down Friday by Republicans who are apparently still miffed a year after the Boss lent his voice to the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
The chamber's GOP leaders refused to bring up for consideration a resolution, introduced by Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Jon Corzine, that honored Springsteen's long career and the 1975 release of his iconic album, "Born to Run."

No reason was given, said Lautenberg spokesman Alex Formuzis. "Resolutions like this pass all the time in the U.S. Senate, usually by unanimous consent," he said.

Telephone calls to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office seeking comment were not immediately returned.

I'm not a big "Boss" fan. I will confess that he has written some good stuff, and I'll admit that this is probably very poor politics. But this made me laugh and I thank the leadership for that.

Hat-tip: The Corner [K-Lo]

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 4:08 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

I thought the Senate is holding up the Alito confirmation because they are "too busy."

First they want to name buildings after themselves, (Specter and Harkin) and now this?

Maybe there is an upside. With the Senate deliberating on "cupcake time in Kindergarten" legislation, they can't take time to spend more money or expand government.

Posted by: AlexC at November 21, 2005 6:02 PM

Santorum Blog

AlexC, shrinking violet that he is, is too humble to post about his new project.

He is listed as "Senior Writer" to

You gotta check it out!

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 3:15 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

Thanks for the plug. I'm not big on self-promotion.

That's one of those cases of timing being the key. I was thinking of shuttering pstupionymous for a while, and I got a call about this opportunity.

I'm proud to be on the blog roll with some real sharp minds in Pennsylvania politics.

Posted by: AlexC at November 21, 2005 6:05 PM

A Pragmatist Plea

Hugh Hewitt links to a Byron York Corner post today that is germane to our current discussions. The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is getting its ass kicked in fund raising, though neither Hewitt nor York tend to use the word "ass" in their writings.

Receipts 10/1/05 to 10/31/05:
Republican Natl Cmte $7,576,417
Democratic Natl Cmte $5,224,453

National Republican Congressional Cmte $4,210,410
Democratic Congressional Campaign Cmte $1,582,746

National Republican Senatorial Campaign Cmte $2,350,853
National Democratic Senatorial Campaign Cmte $3,030,580

I have not given a dime since the '04 elections. I gave all I could then, then health issues, then a business failure.

Now, I just cannot fathom giving perfectly good dollars that will find their way to people whose thinking is politically orthogonal to mine. I'm not going to give to the Congressional GOP Cmte and have them funnel it to the 25 losers who killed ANWR.

And the Senate? As Andrew Sullivan would say, puh-leeze! Ted Stevens’s dedication to small government, George Voinovich's dedication to cutting taxes, Olympia Snowe's devotion to energy production, the cut-and-run-lite brigade, Bill Frist's and Chuck Grassley's concept of "bold leadership.." I gotta stop, I'm in physical pain here...

I don't want Harry Reid crowned "Mr. Leader." I call myself a pragmatist and a fan of the big tent. But I have never before felt that a large swath of the party does not believe what I do.

So, ThreeSources sages, what do I do in '06? Give only to individual candidates and risk losing the Senate and House? Hold my nose and give to the national party? I don't give large amounts, but I have tried to give because I believe it to create a better country.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 12:21 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

JK, the biggest race in the country is Bob Casey vs Rick Santorum. Bob Casey, a pro-life Dem, was hand picked by Chuck Schumer to run against Santorum.

Santorum has done good against Dems lately. When all the right people loathe you, you must've done something right. ;)

The RSCC money is important, but it's not the whole story. The individual candidates have their own cash.

Full Disclosure: Today is the official launch of the new "local" blog I am contributing to.

Posted by: AlexC at November 21, 2005 2:14 PM

The Long Tail Comes to TV

After all the early jokes about "500 channels and nothing to watch," even the detractors must admit that choice has been great for TV quality. No, the sitcoms haven't gotten any better but they are sure easy to avoid. I watch clips during football games, which is just enough to remind me how bad they are.

Cable was the first Schumpeterian gale. Everybody paid attention. But the effect of TiVo has been underplayed. I now select from all the channels all week: a huge increase in choice.

When I watch a broadcast show, it's usually on DVD. People are talking about "Lost" and I just learned that David Fury is a writer; he was one of my favorite "Buffy" writers (dude wrote "Fool For Love" in Season Five!). If I watch, I'll probably just buy the DVDs (like everyone else seems to). I caught "Buffy" and "Firefly" long after they were off. Even though "Angel" was still on, I just waited for DVDs so that I could watch in order and uninterrupted.

This is "Long Tail" TV watching and the drawback is expense. Twelve seasons of Buffy and Angel at $45 or so, a rack of British Comedies and I have quite an investment in my entertainment cocoon. But this is going to bring individual control and choice without expense:

TiVo Plans to Allow Unlimited TV-Show Downloads to iPods (paid site, sorry!)
Since Apple introduced a new iPod that plays video last month, users of the device have been able to buy episodes from only five television series produced by just one media company, Walt Disney Co. Soon, virtually any show that airs on TV will be available for watching on an iPod, courtesy of TiVo Inc.

TiVo Monday announced a plan to let users of its popular digital video recorders download any TV show stored on their TiVo boxes onto iPods. The move, which TiVo is making without Apple Computer Inc.'s involvement, has the potential to greatly expand the selection of shows iPod users can watch on their devices beyond such fare as "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," the two hit series from Disney's ABC network that Apple is selling for $1.99 an episode through its iTunes Music Store. TiVo's plan is rankling some TV executives as the networks seek to habituate users to pay to download shows, beyond what they may already pay for cable or satellite-TV service.

Shares of TiVo rose Monday on the news, up 5.7% to $5.57 in morning trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

This will force more producers to offer legal digital versions of TV episodes at a reasonable cost. The medium will be further extricated from its reliance on schedule and the people will be able to buy lower down the tail, essentially freed from the shackles of popularity.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 10:22 AM

November 19, 2005

Windows XP "N" Not Selling

Thie outcome would come as no surprise to Threesources regulars.

    Three of the largest PC vendors worldwide and a major UK retail store still have no plans to sell Microsoft's media player-free version of Windows, almost six months after it was released.

    Microsoft started offering a version of Windows without a bundled media-player, known as Windows XP N, in June this year, to comply with last year's antitrust ruling by the European Commission.

Windows Media Player has always been a free (as in money) product. Free to download, free to use.

Given that the differential cost between Windows XP with WMP installed and Windows XP N (WMP not installed) is ZERO, and you end up having to download WMP anyway, what's the point?

It's not like Microsoft was making any money on selling you the media player.

Such stupidity can only spring from the loins of government.

    A European Commission spokesman refused to comment on the Microsoft antitrust case on Thursday. In June, when ZDNet UK questioned the EC about the lack of interest in Windows XP N, a spokesman said it was "too early to start drawing conclusions".

It boggles the mind that this experiment would even be allowed to run.
    The continuing reluctance of PC vendors to sell Windows XP N raises serious questions over the effectiveness of the EU's antitrust ruling, particularly as Microsoft has been allowed to offer Windows XP N for the same price as the standard version of Windows XP.

How can a vendor be "reluctant" to sell a product no one wants to buy?

Am I losing my mind? I'm not an economist, but this doesn't strike me as that complicated.

But jk thinks:

It's certainly not economics you lack, you just fail to understand collectivists. The EU bureaucrats count this as a win because they harmed Microsoft.

Bringing the powerful corporation "down a peg" is just as good to them as successfully helping a European corporation.

I wish I could simply blame the EU. This all started on our bonny shores when Jim Clarke of Netscape hired a bunch of lobbyists (including Senator Bob Dole) to try to achieve the same goal here.

Hate Wal*Mart, hate Microsoft, hate Starbucks. Big + Successful = Evil.

Posted by: jk at November 20, 2005 12:22 PM
But jk thinks:

Right after posting this comment a friend emails a CEI study on Wal*Mart.,04993.cfm

Well worth a read, but the one sentence summary is that Schumpeterian Gales in American retail have always disturbed competitors and critics, yet innovation always pays off for consumers.

Posted by: jk at November 20, 2005 12:51 PM

Cheap Politics?

Most of the Republicans around here were so happy to see a little spine in the GOP House, we may have cheered prematurely. Larry Kudlow makes a great point:

It is not serious. It demeans the House. It totally politicizes the debate. It is a ploy and a rather weak one at that.

"Calling their bluff," as so many Republicans are arguing to embarrass Murtha and the Democrats, is an exceedingly ham-handed way to make a point. Duncan Hunter is also a good man, but this is not the way to do it.

Why not state the resolution in the affirmative? " We pledge to deploy troops in Iraq until the mission of liberation, freedom and democracy is satisfactorily completed." And why not seek to gain as much bi-partisan political support as possible? This would truly help the mission, and the troops.

No question that that would have been better but I still like the message of the 403-3 vote

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 1:24 PM

Capatalism Under Fire

I blogged before about medical tourism in India. It's a great example of comparative advantage: a highly-educated sector of a developing nation creates and sells something of real value.

They make money, educated Indian medical professionals don't have to emigrate to the UK or USA, patients save money and get a renewed appreciation for Indian people and culture beyond Chicken Marsala -- it's great! Who could object?

Well, Indian socialists and the BBC. The Steel Deal links to just such complaints.

"It is time for the government to pay more attention to improving the health of Indians rather than to enticing foreigners from affluent countries with offers of low cost operations and convalescent visits to the Taj Mahal "

Enemies of modernity come in all colors and shapes. India's socialist roots will dig deep to impede progress. But I still think the nation is a real rising star. China's power without its adherence to Communism.

But Steel Turman thinks:

Most people do not grasp the speed at which India is progressing. It is leaps and bounds ahead of China in all regards except in its miitary.

India will be a good partner for us for a long long time.

Any further friction between us and China will only serve as further impetus for India's growth.

At this very moment, India is a force which China takes very seriously ... and guess what?

Any battle in the forseeable future will have India come out on top.

We, as a nation are as closely tied to India as to Israel. Most people do not grasp these things.

That is best. Better to let our relationship grow unnoticed for another 10 years or so.

Then, India will emerge as as good an ally as Japan or Australia and as potent a force.

Posted by: Steel Turman at November 19, 2005 7:28 PM

November 18, 2005

Truth in Advertising

Who said there's no more truth in advertising?

    Two Florida lawyers are in the judicial doghouse for billing themselves as "pit bulls."

    John Pape and Marc Chandler of Fort Lauderdale drew the ire of the Florida Supreme Court with an ad that featured a mean-looking, spike-collared pit bull and told potential customers to call "1-800-PIT-BULL."

The Supreme Court of Florida (yeah, that one) told them to knock it off.

Afterall, all hell might break loose.

    The court ruled the ads and phone number violate bar rules that ban ads describing the quality of the legal work offered.

That's a strange rule. No one would advertise they were a lousy lawyer. What could that possibly be for?
    Chief Justice Barbara Pariente said the ad, if allowed to stand, would open the door to images of "sharks, wolves, crocodiles and piranhas" to advertise services.

... and this is bad because?

(tip to The Steel Deal)

But jk thinks:

Anachronisms from the no advertising days. I'd like to see them have dogs, sharks, .50 cal machine guns -- whatever -- but I wish they would be prohibited from trolling for cancer patients and class action participants.

Posted by: jk at November 18, 2005 5:39 PM
But Steel Turman thinks:

Hey Alex,

Now I know where ya live. Cool.

Thanks for th TB too.

I like the way the text stands out on this site.

Posted by: Steel Turman at November 18, 2005 9:51 PM

Voting to Leave Iraq

What has happened to the GOP leadership lately?

    House Republicans, sensing an opportunity for political advantage, maneuvered for a quick vote and swift rejection Friday of a Democratic lawmaker's call for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.

    "We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. "We will not retreat."

Bush fights back, Cheney fights back, the Dems with Cong. Murtha volley back, now we'll see where we stand.

Are the Republicans going to start acting like a majority?

The Dems might regret this vote. If they vote "wrong" they will be labelled a) pro-war by the left or b) "cut and runners" by the right.

The final count won't be close. We'll stay in Iraq to finish the job.

But AlexC thinks:

If the measure fails, what will speak louder to the "Arab street"?

a) The country is behind the war again, officially.
b) Dissent gets an up or down vote.
c) What vote? A Congressman, Jack Murtha wants us to leave Iraq.

Posted by: AlexC at November 18, 2005 5:30 PM
But AlexC thinks:

The cut and run caucus has two Democrats and one Republican in it.

Posted by: AlexC at November 18, 2005 11:38 PM
But jk thinks:

No, I think the dishonor may be contained by the aisle: "Three Democrats, Jose Serrano of New York, Robert Wexler of Florida and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, voted for withdrawal. Six voted present: Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington; Jerrold Nadler, Maurice Hinchey and Major Owens of New York; Michael Capuano of Massachusetts and William Lacy Clay of Missouri."

Posted by: jk at November 19, 2005 1:18 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Damn. I coulda sworn I heard a Georgia Republican vote YEA. Damn you C-SPAN!

Posted by: AlexC at November 19, 2005 2:59 PM
But AlexC thinks:

I'm not crazy! But the brave GOPer that voted YEA later changed his vote!

Posted by: AlexC at November 19, 2005 4:28 PM
But jk thinks:

Profiles in Courage, eh?

Posted by: jk at November 20, 2005 11:54 AM

Elephants Memories

I'm really enjoying the ClubForGrowth Blog. I saw this article over there.

    An enraged Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) confronted Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) last week, excoriating them for lampooning his notorious “Bridge to Nowhere” as a multibillion-dollar boondoggle.

    The chairman of the Transportation Committee had caught wind that the $223 million bridge was indeed going nowhere — and most House members learned yesterday that the project, which has caused Republicans acute embarrassment for two months, is being killed. So is another span, the $229 million “Don Young Way.”

    According to witnesses, Young warned Flake and Musgrave that he planned to stay in Congress a long time and would not forget the stinging defeat.

Another ringing endorsement for term limits.

Republicans are the party of fiscal restraint. Not a reigning (aka eternally re-elected) monarchy to re-distribute the treasures of the nation.

Is that too much to ask?

But jk thinks:

What is with the Great State of Alaska? Too many years of Ted Stevens in the Senate?

Posted by: jk at November 18, 2005 6:02 PM
But AlexC thinks:

The threat of being cut off is causing severe nipple separation anxiety.

Posted by: AlexC at November 18, 2005 6:38 PM

Heightened Security

Iain Murray shares a funny email on the NRO Corner:

The British are feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

It's not only the English and French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "shout loudly and excitedly" to "elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain, "ineffective combat operations" and "change sides".

The Germans also increased their alert state from "disdainful arrogance" to "dress in uniform and sing marching songs". They also have two higher levels: "invade a neighbour" and "lose".

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they worry about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

Happy Friday!

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 4:01 PM

Osama & B.P.

Now here's an oil company that deserves to pay extra taxes.

I can handle almost every stripe of idiocy in Advertising: triteness, bad humor, abstruseness, snobbery -- I'm tough; I watch cable.

But these BP commercials that snivel and apologize for the business it’s in are too much. "BP: We're sorry we're in the oil biz, but kiddie-porn on the Internet was too crowded."

Sorry to those who have not seen these. The stock template is asking some "soccer mom" what an oil company should be doing, listening to her diatribe about how "they've got to make the air better for our children" and "they have to explore renewable energy..." Then the narrator says that they have invested in solar and hydrogen technology. Then the double tag line "it's a start" (we're trying to put ourselves out of business!) and bp: beyond petroleum (ohmigod! we've got "Petroleum" right in our name, we can't fool anybody!)

Yesterday, Taranto links to a Telegraph story with a menu of Osama's fiats: America must "convert to Islam, ditch its constitution, abolish banks, jail homosexuals and sign the Kyoto climate change treaty." Taranto highlights this as "Great Minds Think Alike" because VP Al Gore says that climate change is more important than terrorism.

I follow the link. Somebody's done a compendium of Osama's Greatest Hits.

Alcohol and gambling would be barred and there would be an end to women's photos in newspapers or advertising.

Any woman serving "passengers, visitors and strangers", presumably anyone from air stewardesses to waitresses, would also be out of a job.

The West must "stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you" and has become the "worst civilisation witnessed in the history of mankind".

I love it! I love to know whom we're fighting. Then, I see in the lede, the words "climate change" are highlighted. If you mouse over them, you get a link to bp's "compute your 'carbon footprint' page"

Osama and BP -- together again live!

But johngalt thinks:

You're right, JK. Those BP ads are abysmal. As for Osama's manifesto, "Osama bin Laden wants the United States to convert to Islam, ditch its constitution, abolish banks, jail homosexuals and sign the Kyoto climate change treaty." If he'd just lay off the gays he could be the Dems next nominee for president.

Just for fun I went through with the "carbon footprint" foolishness (Because the calculator does not ask you for specific data on how much fuel or electricity you consume, it is easy to use but is only intended as an approximate guide.) In other words, everyone gets the same answer: TOO BIG! Anyway, the footprint for my immediate family is "34 tonnes of CO2" (whatever the hell a "tonne" is.) All I can say is, Hey man, I'm doin' MY part!

Posted by: johngalt at November 19, 2005 10:52 AM
But jk thinks:

A tonne is a metric ton: equivalent to 26 soccer goals...

Posted by: jk at November 19, 2005 12:41 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

How dare those metric guys steal our "ton". Hey, let's see them come up with a metric second.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 19, 2005 11:52 PM

Windfall Profits Failure

Hard to believe!

    The amendment failed 35 - 64 (Corzine didn’t vote). Call me slightly surprised. All Republicans voted NO along with 8 Democrats. Two theories for this: 1) The tax reconciliation bill already has a “stealth” windfall profits tax on oil companies that might be enough to assuage moderates, and 2) the whole idea of a windfall profits tax was politically popular to various constituents, but overall, not a very good idea.

Not a good idea is a bit of an understatement of course.

But jk thinks:

I'm fairly positive on this, believing the reasons were brave and true and pure and good and honorable.

This was a REALLY bad idea: so stupid even eight Democrats voted against it...

Posted by: jk at November 18, 2005 10:47 AM
But AlexC thinks:

So what does it say about the 35 Dems? Oh wait.

Posted by: AlexC at November 18, 2005 11:25 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

All right, as the only Dem around here I'll say it, because they are nitwits.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 18, 2005 4:10 PM

The Exit Strategies

Chris Muir cracks me up.

But johngalt thinks:

Silence implores the administration to define "victory." Isn't he the one that usually says "it's more complicated than that?" Personally I like Ann Coulter's definition from September 12, 2001: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." OK, so I would obviously replace "Christianity" with "Capitalism," but you get the gist.

Just to be fair though, how did the Clinton administration define victory in Bosnia?

Posted by: johngalt at November 18, 2005 3:40 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I would say your limb is quite sturdy JK. We have toppled a tyrant and overseen the election of a new democratic government and the writing of a constitution. I have been poking you guys on this for a while, but not for the standard liberal "this is a huge mistake" reason. Would any of the aforementioned success been possible in the same time frame without President Bush setting some dates? Now, how much liberal flak do you hear about those successes? Not too much because there is not much to say, goals were set and goals were achieved. Why not do the same with the final phase of making the country self sufficient and allowing our troops to return home to their families? I think it would shut up the naysayers here and would put the insurgents on notice that we will meet our final goal. Yes johngalt victory can be complicated, but it is still definable and measurable.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 18, 2005 4:07 PM
But jk thinks:

I am not sure some of your buddies are quite as generous. The Headline of Time on Sep 26, 2005 was "Is It Too Late to Win This War?",16641,1101050926,00.html

Posted by: jk at November 18, 2005 5:31 PM
But johngalt thinks:

So your definition of victory Silence, is "We win as soon as the calendar reads July 1, 2006?" Or maybe June 1, or May 1, or April 15th. Yeah, there could be some nice marketing tie-ins with the collection of punitive taxes at the same time the marines stop "wasting" revenue.

Victory is definable and measurable but it has to do with things like sovereignty, law and order, civil society, liberty, etc. Victory is not defined by congressional resolutions or executive orders.

The problem with your analogy of elections and constitutional ratification to "victory" in the Iraq terror war is that the latter revolves around many things that we don't control. It's as if you proposed setting a goal of "replacement of petroleum distillates as motor fuels" by a date certain, or "eliminating poverty." (Don't laugh, Denver's mayor has promised just that within 10 years.)

I'll close by asking, once again, why doesn't anybody suggest that we set a goal for removing our soldiers from Bosnia? Don't we want to "win" there too?

Posted by: johngalt at November 18, 2005 9:21 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

If only we had ways to measure success other than a colander, oh wait, we do! Victory is definable by exactly those things you list, putting a date on it just gives you a goal to strive for, the victory condition is not defined by the date. Winning doesn't mean you have to pull out all troops or the entire American prescience either, comparing troop levels and function in Bosnia and Iraq is not exactly apples to apples. Speaking of which, how about Afghanistan, when we vastly reduced troop levels there to commence the invasion of Iraq was that "cutting and running"? We are comfortable with much lower troop levels there when although the central government is stronger the nation is not one of peace and prosperity. Maybe part of the reason you can't get positive media coverage is that expectations for what is success vary so widely. Lack of definable goals is the creator of the vacuum into which every interest group can insert its own view and draw its own conclusions.

Refering to Chris Muir's cartoon, the goal of landing a man on the moon within a decade was instrumental in making it happen.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 21, 2005 1:36 PM
But johngalt thinks:

You're right, Silence. Having a goal schedule can help encourage more rapid progress. But what you're asking for here is essentially an ultimatum to the nascent Iraqi state. "You will be self-sufficient by (insert date here) or else we'll leave you to the terrorist "insurgent" wolves." That's not a very diplomatic strategy, nor is it in our interest to so quickly discard what we've invested so much to create.

The course the President chose was the long-haul. It is not necessarily what I would have chosen, but you can be damn sure that if he had just gone in to depose Saddam and then split, he would be taking ten times the heat he is now. And it would be for doing what the dems would be carping for right now if he hadn't done it in the first place. They're all for foreign aid to hopeless states, but damned if they'll give a half a chance to a newly freed nation fighting for its very survival. It is that mentality that I oppose when taking the counterpoint to yours.

Posted by: johngalt at November 21, 2005 2:38 PM

November 17, 2005

Boogie to Baghdad

Remember Richard Clarke? [who? -ed]
Byron York does.

    In case you don’t remember, “Boogie to Baghdad” is the phrase that Richard Clarke, when he was the top White House counterterrorism official during the Clinton administration, used to express his fear that if American forces pushed Osama bin Laden too hard at his hideout in Afghanistan, bin Laden might move to Iraq, where he could stay in the protection of Saddam Hussein.

    Clarke’s opinion was based on intelligence indicating a number of contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq, including word that Saddam had offered bin Laden safe haven.

    It’s all laid out in the Sept. 11 commission report. “Boogie to Baghdad” is on Page 134.

Connections between Iraq and al-Qaida? Nah....

Don't destroy my carefully media/DNC/leftie crafted worldview!

So what's the "Boogie to Baghdad?"

    In 1996, after bin Laden moved from Sudan to Afghanistan, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to get along with his new Taliban hosts. So he made inquiries about moving to Iraq.

    Saddam wasn’t interested. At the time, he was trying to have better relations with his neighbors — and bin Laden’s enemy — the Saudis.

    But a bit later, Saddam apparently changed his mind. According to the report:

    “In March 1998, after bin Laden’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with bin Laden.”

    Still nothing happened. But later:

    “Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and bin Laden or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the [intelligence] reporting, Iraqi officials offered bin Laden a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Laden declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative.”

    It was in that context that Clarke believed that if the United States made bin Laden’s situation too hot in Afghanistan, then, in Clarke’s non-famous words, “old wily Osama will likely boogie to Baghdad.”

    Now, that doesn’t at all suggest that Iraq had a role in Sept. 11, but it certainly does suggest a relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Damn you Byron York for your iconclasty!

War on Terror Posted by AlexC at 3:20 PM

Victory II

Perhaps we just needed honest debate. The calls for cut-and-run are solidifying and stirring the resolve of those who understand. A new site,, recalls previous American ignominy:

Within living memory, we have seen what happens when America abandons its national commitments, and deserts the brave people who stood tall and believed its promises. The faint-hearted and the wavering painted our commitment to the people of Indochina as a cause in itself of the bloodshed and grief there — and then stood mute when they achieved their objective, forced America’s retreat, and years of genocide followed in its wake.

A generation later, they’re trying to do the same in Iraq. For the sake of an Iraqi people only now grasping the responsibilities, perils, and blessings of liberty, we cannot let them force America to shrink from the awesome responsibility it has shouldered. For the sake of American honor — and those who have died in this cause — we cannot repeat the mistakes of 1991, when the cost of our reluctance was counted in Kurdish and Shi’a dead.

This is not a partisan issue. This is not a left- or right-wing issue. This is an American and Iraqi issue, and all men of good faith must now come together to remind our leadership that whatever our politics, and whatever we thought of the decision to go to war, there can be only one end:


The anti-war, cut-and-run crowd, which fears not defeat, nor dishonor, nor an Iraq under the terrorist heel, is well-organized. Its online haunts are well-known enough: Daily Kos, Atrios, and the rest have a massive readership, and they present the appearance of representing a substantial segement of public opinion in the United States.

But AlexC thinks:

Indeed. Back to bumper-sticker debates.
"War is not the answer"
Yeah. Victory is.

Posted by: AlexC at November 17, 2005 3:21 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Homework assignment for all top administration officials: "What victory means to me" a 500 word essay.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 17, 2005 4:51 PM


I have rarely considered Senator McCain to be an ally.

But he has come through in a strident defense of the President against the "Bush Lied" crowd, and he blasts his compatriots in today in a guest piece for The New York Post.

The Senate has responded to the millions who braved bombs and threats to vote, who put their faith and trust in America and their government, by suggesting that our No. 1 priority is to bring our people home.

We have told insurgents that their violence does grind us down, that their horrific acts might be successful. But these are precisely the wrong messages. Our exit strategy in Iraq is not the withdrawal of our troops, it is victory.

Americans may not have been of one mind when it came to the decision to topple Saddam Hussein. But, though some disagreed, I believe that nearly all now wish us to prevail.

Because the stakes there are so high — higher even than those in Vietnam — our friends and our enemies need to hear one message: America is committed to success, and we will win this war.

The piece makes the point far better than I did in comments below.

Hat-tip: Insty

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 2:51 PM

Defending Oil Profits

While I may work for an oil company (well, technically sub-contracted) I make this post, not in defense of big oil and my livelyhood (though my pay rate stayed the same since Jan 1), but I make this post in defense of capitalism.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil trade association, posts a defense of "big oils" evil profits.

    The energy Americans consume today is brought to us by investments made years or even decades ago. Today’s oil and natural gas industry earnings are invested in new technology, new production, and environmental and product quality improvements to meet tomorrow’s energy needs.

    The industry's earnings are very much in line with other industries and often they are lower. This fact is not well understood, in part, because reports typically focus on only half the story-the profits earned. Profits reflect the size of an industry, but they're not necessarily a good reflection of financial performance. Profit margins or earnings per dollar of sales (measured as net income divided by sales) provide a more relevant and accurate measure of a company or an industry's health, and also provide a useful way of comparing financial performance between industries large and small.

The link (sorry an MS Word file) has a graph of the profit margins of major American industries.

The top profit maker?

Banks. There's a lot of money in money. 19.6 cents on the dollar in fact.

Pharmaceuticals. 18.6 cents. Once you develop the drug the incremental cost is low. Of course those exhorbitant profits go towards more research, but look!

Software. 17 cents/dollar. Same deal as pharm. Maintenance and mass production of existing software is cheaper than developing it.

All of US Industry.... 7.9 cents.

Oil and natural gas are actually below average! 7.6 cents return for every dollar spent.

ExxonMobil has a similar document (PDF), entitled cleverly "Oil and Apples" in it's own defense.

    Last year alone, our new capital investments approached $15 billion, primarily in new exploration and production, but also in refining capacity and new energy-saving and environmental technologies.

    While earnings rise and fall with oil prices, our investments do not. That $15 billion was invested in a year when the oil price averaged just below $40 and earnings were high. But we also invested $15 billion in 1998, when oil dipped to $10 a barrel and annual earnings — at $8 billion — were far lower. In fact, averaged over the last ten years our annual capital investments for the future of the company exceed our earnings.

    Ours is a capital-intensive business where investments can take many years to develop.

What a country we live in that a company had to put out ads to defend it's right to make an "average" profit on it's money.

Also today, the Senate finance committee decided to impose a windfall tax on oil companies!

    The measure amounts to a one-year windfall profits tax, a concept that most Republicans had until recently denounced as a discredited idea from the 1970s. It was added to a larger bill that would cut taxes by about $61 billion over the next five years.

    Conservative Senate Republicans who support the oil industry bitterly protested the measure, noting that Congress had just approved billions in new tax breaks to encourage oil and gas exploration. But every Republican on the panel voted for the overall package, which passed the committee by 14-8 and which the full Senate is expected to take up today.

I suspect the 8 Democrats that voted against the package didn't vote against because it's a dumb idea. It didn't go far enough.

Regrettably, I think the President will gladly sign this bill into law. Given that he's been painted as the "big-oil friendly" President and the VP has ties to Halliburton, using the Presidents first veto to kill this would make huge headlines.

I don't think a President who's still sore from the abuse will invite it upon himself.

Infuriating top to bottom.

But jk thinks:

I am thinking we need a new blog category "For this we elect Republicans?"

Why not just have the government take over oil production and distribution entirely? Get it over with.

Workers of the World, unite!

Posted by: jk at November 17, 2005 11:59 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Even this liberal Democrat thinks this is bunk. So is this tax specifically for the oil industry? How on earth do they define "windfall profits" anyway? This is politics at its worst.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 17, 2005 12:15 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

The Democrats really ought to change their name to the Socialst Party Of America. And no longer stand for the Head of a donkey, but the other end of a horse.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at November 17, 2005 2:59 PM
But jk thinks:

Sadly, mdmhvonpa, the operative phrase is "But every Republican on the panel voted for the overall package[...]"

Posted by: jk at November 17, 2005 3:06 PM
But AlexC thinks:

There are so many options for the category name.
"GOP, you're the majority. Act like it."
"GOP, elephants have balls, where are yours?"
I could go on.

The windfall profits tax as I understand it, would only apply to profits earned within the United States. 2/3rds of ExxonMobil's profits were from overseas.

So much for energy independence. Why produce and invest domestically when you'll be taxed more for it!

Posted by: AlexC at November 17, 2005 3:16 PM

November 16, 2005

The Continued Defense

Last week the President came out swinging, today it was Vice President Cheney's turn.

    The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone – but we’re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.

    We’re going to continue throwing their own words back at them.

Ha! Backbone!

Will there be an equally forceful Democrat response?

Update: K-Lo posts a little more. This one, IMHO, hit the jugular, and then twists.

    I see many good friends in the room, including current and former office holders. It’s a pleasure to see all of you. I’m sorry that we couldn’t be joined by Senators Harry Reid, John Kerry, or Jay Rockefeller. They were unable to attend due to a prior lack of commitment.

But jk thinks:

The plan is "victory."

I expect large troop withdrawls in 2006 and feel it is about time. But to telegraph political unease (I just read that "Hawkish Democrat" John Murtha wants an immediate withdrawl) plays into the hands of those who would wait us out.

Posted by: jk at November 17, 2005 12:45 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Kind of like a company saying its plan is "sales".

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 17, 2005 2:24 PM
But jk thinks:

GRRRR! Okay, the plan is to train Iraqi police and military units, restore infrastructure, perform joint raids against terrorist cells until we can safely leave it to the control of New Iraq.

If that sounds like stay the course, sorry. It's a good plan. Everytime a Democrat is forced to offer his/her own plan, it's what they say.

Publishing a list of goals and timetables, with an accompanying gantt chart doesn't strike me as good war strategy.

Posted by: jk at November 17, 2005 2:39 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Almost JK.
I forget where I saw this.
The plan is four parts.
1) Kill terrorists.
2) Train Iraqis to kill terrorists.
3) Rebuild Iraq
4) Leave behind another Arab Democracy.

Posted by: AlexC at November 17, 2005 3:24 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Sorry, but with goals and plans like those is it really any wonder there is so much disagreement about the success or failure of this war? In the old days of war there was a MEASURABLE goal or definition of victory. Surrender of the enemy, retaking territory or pushing enemy forces back, i.e. 38th parallel or out of Kuwait, were measurable things and something to justify further fighting or a declaration of victory. At some point victory will be declared in Iraq and our troops can start to come home. Demanding that the troops be brought home now is unreasonable, but no more so than demanding they stay until we achieve victory when you are not willing to define victory in a measurable way. This is not an immeasurable thing, and a real measurement will be taken before victory is declared, but this administration is not willing to be held to a measurable definition. Goals were set for elections and a constitution, those were met and success could rightfully be claimed, but they happened as quickly and as closely on schedule precisely because there was a schedule and a plan to meet it. I see no reason that withdrawal of US troops should be any different. How does it embolden the insurgency to make a firm commitment? I see them as being more emboldened in the current nebulous state where they might believe a few points of public opinion could force an immediate withdrawal. The only thing undefined victory conditions are good for is allowing you to declare victory regardless of the outcome.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 17, 2005 4:40 PM
But jk thinks:

Yes, the Powell Doctrine. We amassed a 500,000 troop force, ejected Saddam's army from Kuwait in 100 hours and declared victory. All very good.

Then we sat silently and unmoving as Saddam quelched a popular grassroots rebellion with poison gas. Why stop it? We had already won.

Posted by: jk at November 18, 2005 10:44 AM

Tale of Two Networks

We had some internecine disagreement yesterday about the Senate GOP capitulation compromise to Democrat calls for a withdrawal timetable. Differences were in significance and seriousness, I think all the GOPers agreed that it was bad.

I went hunting for teevee punditry last night to get other opinions. "What a difference a network makes!"

I started with "Special Report with Brit Hume" on FOXNews. They reported the big story as the defeat of the Levin Amendment (as did the AP, mirabile dictu!) and stressed that it was a "sense of the Senate" and completely non-binding resolution. The panel was ready to call this no big deal. Mara Liason of NPR thought it was significant that they broke with the White House but even she was not reading too much into it. I would have fit right in with Liason, Mort Kondracke, Hume, and Charles Krauthammer.

Then, I switched to MSNBC to watch my bow tied buddy, Tucker Carlson, on his "Situation" program. Carlson is antiwar and was happy with what he saw as a "turning point" in the war. His guest, Flavia Colgan (gratuitous side: we're losing our 90's dominance in the pundit-babe-wars) had to calm him down. "Don't do an end-zone dance, Tucker" she warned. This was not so big to her.

Then the "Hardball" commercials came on. And to Chris it is total surrender, bring the troops home, the evil neocons were wrong all along -- okay I hyperbolize but he did call it "an Exit Strategy" in the promo.

If it can be perceived that way (and it can) I must change my mind. Sugarchuck points me to Hugh Hewitt this morning. Hewitt forcefully makes the "this is real bad" case, with backup from many brilliant bloggers. I think it is possible to make too much of this usual, ordinary Senatorial preening and ass-covering.

But if it can be read suchlike by Chris Matthews, it can certainly be read the same by al-Zarqawi. Nasty email to my Senators will be leaving this morning.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:20 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

Senator Allard:

I was proud to work for your campaign in 2000 and I have NEVER before written to you to complain of a vote. But I am beside myself with frustration over the vote yesterday about Iraq.

Yes, I'm glad the Levin Amendment was defeated but the GOP alternative is still a visible sign of weakness.

The President said "We will not falter, we will not fail." Yesterday, his party in the Senate faltered badly.

The Weekly Standard carries the name of 13 Republican Senators who stood for victory in Iraq. I was saddened to see that your name was not on the list:

Yours sincerely,
John Kranz
Lafayette, CO

Posted by: jk at November 16, 2005 11:37 AM

November 15, 2005

Jacques Carter

Fox News:

    President Jacques Chirac said Monday that more than two weeks of violence in the poor suburbs of France is the sign of a "profound malaise" and he ordered new measures to reach out to troubled youths and fight the discrimination believed to be at the root of it.

I wonder if the French are going to take the serious steps of freeing up their economic system to overcome the malaise? I suspect that they're going to look right past the systemic malaise and attempt to patch up the "dissaffected youth malaise" by throwing government Euros at the problem. Building youth centers, etc...

Are they going to be integrating the native born Muslim youth population?

Likely not.

Things are improving nevertheless.

After nearly two weeks of rioting France, only 270 cars were torched last night. Compared to the nearly 1,400 at the riot's peak, so it's hard to discount the progress in the French quagmire.

Footnote: President Carter never actually used the word malaise in his speech, but history has labelled it as "the malaise speech."

But jk thinks:

I heard somebody say that 100 cars is a "normal" Saturday night in France. Not sure if this is true.

Will they reform? I think Jonah Goldberg said it best: "More chance that Velveeta will be declared the National Cheese!"

Posted by: jk at November 16, 2005 10:27 AM

Barone on "The Lie"

The best piece I have yet read on the "GOP Pushback" is from Michael Barone. He opens with McCain’s line that "'I think it's a lie to say that the president lied."

Barone lays out the history and the polities.

Of course, the Democrats are squawking. McCain and Bush are daring to call their charge—that Bush deliberately lied about intelligence—for the Big Lie that it is. The Democrats still argue that there needs to be an investigation of whether the administration lied about prewar intelligence. But, as the White House points out, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Silberman-Robb commission, and Lord Butler in Britain have conducted such investigations and have found no manipulation of intelligence—and that the raw intelligence that leading members of the administration had at the time but members of Congress did not was even more alarming than what members of Congress had.

Senator Lieberman stands up, but not quite all the way.
"'Those aren't irrelevant questions [about prewar intelligence],' says Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). 'But the more they dominate the public debate, the harder it is to sustain public support for the war.'

"What Lieberman doesn't say is that many Democrats would view such an outcome as an advantage. Their focus on 2002 is a way to further undercut President Bush, and Bush's war, without taking the risk of offering an alternative strategy–to satisfy their withdraw-now constituents without being accountable for a withdraw-now position.

The pushback is inspiring. I think this may backfire on the war's enemies in 2006.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 4:34 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

After the President's speech last week, all I could say was "It's about f*cking time!"

Posted by: AlexC at November 15, 2005 6:06 PM

GOP Pushback

I've been wanting it for some time and I am pretty pleased with the progress so far.

I think the Democrats are clearly thinking of impeachment or at least a serious administration-crippling investigation if they can get the ,"Bush Lied" meme inculcated. I liked the President's speech better than the new RNC Video but I like a fight back, about any way it happens.

Senator McCain is even on board; he could win me and a few other Republicans to support him, with a strident defense of the war effort.

I have to mention the Senate GOP alternative to the Democrat timetable that passed today. I received an email from an extremely disappointed Republican. But I cannot say I completely mind it.

Instead of calling for a withdrawal timetable, the GOP provision urged that 2006 "should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty," with Iraqi forces taking the lead in providing security to create the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces.

I think the McCain amendment is a huge mistake, but if I can borrow a line from MoDd, Senator McCain has ultimate moral authority on this topic. He has been a good voice for vigorous prosecution of the war and I have to take his disagreement seriously, although it is obvious to point out the media accolades it engendered.

I see the bill as an attempt for the Legislative branch to assert a little more control over the war effort (which won't help) but it seems short of having the teeth to really get in the way.

I also predict that the GOP can run on some success in Iraq next year and turn the tables on the Ds that align with Mrs. Sheehan.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 2:28 PM | What do you think? [12]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Seriously, now I have to ask a real question, especially for the Objectivist and absolute moral portion of this crowd - Is torture wrong? Would this not fall into that moral absolute box? Seems it either is or isn't and doesn't depend on the origin, affiliation, or crime of the accused. Johngalt doesn't want the Judicial branch deciding the issue on a case by case basis, neither does Sugarchuck seem to want the Legislative branch to do the same, but are you both comfortable with the Executive branch making the call?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 15, 2005 4:42 PM
But AlexC thinks:

I'll bite. "Is torture wrong?"

For it's own sake, yes.

But if you could torture someone who has direct knowledge of a imminent terrorist strike in the hopes of averting it? I'm popping the trunk and bringing the jumper cables.

I think a simliar Q&A happened in Congress last year, or the year before.

In general, I think the threat of torture, particularly unknowable torture is an effective one. "They might torture me in someway if I don't talk." Is probably effective.

Knowing that "they" might ship me to some country that has laxer torture standards might get me to change my mind.

To cross the line with analogies... the threat of unionization is often enough to get managment to change their attitude. I witnessed it last summer.

Posted by: AlexC at November 15, 2005 6:13 PM
But Sugarchuck thinks:

If someone were withholding information that could save the lives of innocent people, and torture were the only viable option, I think it would be immoral not to torture. This is easier to see when the information concerns a nuclear weapon and hundreds of thousands lives hang in the balance. It is more difficult when it concerns an explosive vest and the lives of a hundred wedding guests, though I am not sure why it should be. And yes, to answer Silence Dogood, I would like to see this power rest soley in the hands of the executive branch, to insure accountability. There should never be any question as to who is responsible for the decision to torture; this decision should belong to the president alone. I do not trust Congress, the Pentagon or the Courts to make this decision, though I wouldn't object to some sort of mechanism allowing for SCOTUS review to insure the legality of the decision. Torture is a very serious course of action but we live in very serious times and we face an opponent who strategically targets innocents. If torture could have prevented 9/11 then so be it; send for Alex C and his jumper cables.

Posted by: Sugarchuck at November 15, 2005 7:16 PM
But jk thinks:

Torture is wrong for the United States. We hold ourselves to high ideals and should not use physical torture.

Having said that, I still hold that the ambiguity serves us well. McCain wants to codify every interstice between what we will an won't do. Enemies could study that and be comfortable.

Loud music (up to but not including John Denver), sleep deprivation, disorientation an even the dreaded "panties on the head" do not constitute torture in my book.

The nuclear information is an extreme instance where one might push the envelope hard but I would not write a procedure to include it. Also, I question the efficacy of torture. The interviewer will be told what he wants to hear.

Posted by: jk at November 16, 2005 10:44 AM
But johngalt thinks:

As I drove home last night I listened to the local talk radio duo of "Kaplis and Silverman" (Catholic pseudo-conservative and Jewish pragmatic populist). They went through a list of "torture" techniques giving their personal thumbs up or down on each. Let it suffice to say I would not want EITHER of these gentlemen defending our country. I'd much rather leave it in the hands of someone like Bob Newman, USMC retired:

He makes it very clear that there are loads of very effective interrogation techniques that do not involve torture. The problem is that torture has been redefined to include "emotional" pain. Sorry, that doesn't wash. If placing items that have contacted some portion of a pig into a cell with a prisoner is "torture" then torture away! If wiping a red substance purported to be blood from an "unclean" woman on a prisoner is "torture" then torture away! If using ladies undergarments as headgear for a prisoner is "torture" then torture away! If stepping on a prisoner's holy book is "torture" then, by all means, torture away! So you see, in the postmodern interpretation of "torture" even the audio recordings of John Denver are instruments of torture.

But beyond this, if every other method does not work and the interviewer is as certain as can be that the prisoner is a terrorist accomplice with tactical information of value, I would even condone PHYSICAL torture as a last resort. If it comes down to the survival of free citizens versus known terrorists, the latter loses every time. Just as James Bond was said to have "license to kill" some of America's leading agents must have "license to torture."

Posted by: johngalt at November 16, 2005 3:57 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Well, at least I got someone to come close to my side - thanks JK! I will concede as well that I agree that the expansion of the definition of torture to some of the tactics that JK and johngalt list is ridiculous. I wonder what some of their Iraqi countrymen who experienced real torture at the hands of Saddam's regime think of that whining. I also think Sugarchuck makes a valid point that leaving it in the hands of the Executive Branch at least leads to accountability at the presidential level. The trouble is there seems to be a wide spread assumption that an interrogator can tell beforehand whether a suspect is concealing valuable life saving tactical information and whether torture or threat of same will elicit that information. In effect it is justifiable after the fact if it is successful, this doesn't seem like a very strong argument. So how successful is torture, is there any documentation on this? How does it compare to interrogation practices of domestic law enforcement who although bound by much tighter rules also elicit information from suspects?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 16, 2005 7:15 PM

November 13, 2005

P.J. O'Rourke

I've long been a fan. "Parliament of Whores" and "Give War a Chance" are so funny and so enlightening, they should be on the reading lists with Mises and Hayek. "Eat the Rich" is pretty good as well, although I was disappointed that he did not accept the benefits of "liquidity" professed by NYSE workers, calling it "ka-ching, ka-ching!"

O'Rourke has a piece in the Telegraph ostensibly about Tory leadership, but his small-government beliefs come shinning through.

I agree with Friedrich Hayek, who said in The Road to Serfdom that the "worst imaginable world would be one in which the leading expert in each field had total control over it".

Just once, I'd love to hear a politician say: "We're going to bring the second-best minds together to work on this." The second-best minds are all much more practical people than the first-class guys. More importantly, they are not going to try to do anything very much. They'll fix lunch or take the dog for a walk before they get on to pressing political problems of the day - and by the time lunch is over, it's time to take the dog for another walk and prepare dinner. That's the right order of political priorities. The greatest danger in politics is people who try to do things.

The second best minds, Buckley's desire to trade Congress for the first 535 names in the phone book -- there is a fundamental truth.

Hat-tip: Samizdata. I misread the post to be a critique of O'Rourke (separated by a common language and all) but the comments make clear that Pearce is a fan.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 12:51 PM

Serenity: Individualist or Altruist?

I almost did it again! Despite all intentions to the contrary, I didn't get a response to a heartfelt comment posted until its last day on the main page. Between my full-time job and serving as general contractor on a 17,000 square foot riding arena at our farm, my free time has been exiguous.

To keep the dialog open (and because I know all readers just love to hear me talk) I'll promote it once again, but this time only with a link.

Philosophy Posted by JohnGalt at 9:39 AM

November 12, 2005

Schumpeter Lives!

Even though he has said some hateful, anti-American things, I still have a soft spot for Johnny Depp. "Don Juan de Marco" with Marlon Brando is one of my faves; rent it if you haven't seen it.

I just finished watching the DVD of "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" and Riza I give it two thumbs up.

I got a little nervous when Charlie's dad loses his job at the toothpaste factory. It seems there is an uptick in toothpaste sales concomitant with greater candy consumption with Wonka's "Golden Ticket" campaign. This allows the toothpaste company to invest in a machine to screw the lids on the tubes, and beloved Pop is out of a job.

[Micro spoiler alert] Knowing the story, we expect that the family will be rescued from this hardship by the benevolence of Mr. Wonka. Yet he is actually rescued by the economic theories of Joseph Alois Schumpeter. He gets "a much better job" repairing the machine that replaced him. I was giddy as a kid with a case of chocolate bars when that happened. Well done!

But Silence Dogood thinks:

I love it, finding economic theory details in a movie! Reminds me of my dad and I picking apart erroneous aircraft details in movies. Just nerds of a different color...

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 14, 2005 12:20 PM
But jk thinks:

Yeah, but even better. Movies are bastions of anti-corporate and anti-modernity thinking. Michael Douglas looks us in the eye in "Wall Street" and says that money is a zero-sum game, what I have I took from you.

Kids movies are worse "feed the birds, tuppence a bag..." and Johnny Depp-Tim Burton are to be trusted with art and texture but not economics.

To have something so good show up so unexpectedly -- it would be as if they got the airplane details right once...

Posted by: jk at November 14, 2005 12:32 PM

November 11, 2005

Carter-sized Malaise...

I was pretty down on the current GOP in a post the other day after reading the cover story in this week's Weekly Standard. Those were happy days by comparison. An email today asks "When did [the GOP] become the party of Al Gore?" To say the least, the inevitable power struggles in a post-W Republican party are too early and not going well.

The WSJ asks why we need 55 Republican Senators.

Republican disarray on Capitol Hill reached self-ramming speed yesterday, as both the House and the Senate abandoned key policy priorities as they tried to pass a budget. Hide the children because this is getting ugly.

In the Senate, Maine's Olympia Snowe helped to scuttle even a single-year extension of the current 15% tax rate on dividends and capital gains that is due to expire in 2008. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley was thus forced to postpone a committee vote on extending a tax cut that has been crucial to an economic rebound that since mid-2003 has been marked by 10-straight quarters of nearly 4% average growth. Tell us again why Republicans need 55 Senators?

Indeed. But what about the stalwart, disciplined, ideological, GOP House? The boys who can "pass a ham sandwich." Got them, right?
The chaos was even worse in the once-disciplined GOP House, where leaders had to pull their budget from the floor for lack of a majority. The immediate cause was the revolt of the 25 House Members listed nearby, who signed a letter demanding that a provision to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be stripped from the bill.
America can survive these policy setbacks; the question is whether the Republican majority will, or even should. If a GOP Congress can't vote to sustain its own wildly successful tax cuts, or to explore for more domestic energy, let's just turn Congress over to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and at least have truth in liberal advertising.

This is the WSJ Ed Page, the last of the true believers.

Where is the White House? Bill Kristol asked why they won't defend their sacred honor, if not their successful tax cuts. Dick Morris, in an interview that precipitated my friend's email, said that the President can rescue the party with a good speech and a strong agenda. I believe this to be true but I don't know where the White House is. Neither does Bill Kristol.

Will they call the now antiwar Democrats on their disreputable rewriting of history? Incidentally, are the Democrats ready to defend the proposition that we should have left Saddam in power? Is it okay with them if Zarqawi drives us out of Iraq? Will the administration challenge them as to what their alternative is? Will the administration take the time to put spokesmen forward, and recruit surrogates, to make the case for victory? Or do they enjoy being punching bags at the White House?

Bush has been in a similar position before. We forget how much trouble he seemed to be in early in 2004. Then Kerry was nominated, and the Bush team focused the country on the real choices before it. In the contrast, Bush did fine. Bush once again needs to fight for support for his policies and to draw a contrast between his policies and those of his opponents. If you do not defend yourself against your critics, your political standing is going to erode. Bush owes it to himself, to his supporters, to the soldiers fighting in Iraq, and to the country to fight back.

The only hope for the party is bold leadership from the Executive. I have no idea if it's going to happen.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:27 AM | What do you think? [11]
But jk thinks:

We should have a blog lunch. I keep wanting to try when Sugarchuck is in town or see if Alex can find a Philly-Alaska flight with a long layover in DIA.

You capture my double-taxation argument pretty well, thanks for that. But, your suggestion to eliminate corporations so we all accept the power of the individual -- ARE YOU MAD????

Sorry, I believe the corporation to be the greatest invention between the wheel and the transistor. It enables sharing of risk and reward, empowering things (like discovering transistors) that no individual could possibly accomplish.

I am used to lefties bashing "evil corporations" but this is the first attack on this most noble institution from the right as it were.

Posted by: jk at November 13, 2005 12:02 PM
But johngalt thinks:

You know I've no hostility towards corporations, JK. It was more of an "if you don't appreciate the golden goose then you might as well kill it" sort of comment.

Posted by: johngalt at November 13, 2005 10:14 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Yes, JK I am a Democrat, no retraction needed. I have spent time as an Independent but finally realized that all it did was keep me from voting in the primaries. (Yes, yes, I should get around to giving the Republican party a try, but hey, you have to keep a few moderates inside the Democratic party too.)

Actually johngalt it was intentional my reference to the fact that taxes should be as low as possible, I rather like my paycheck and feel I am absolutely the best steward of my money - as they say, could be just 535 names out of the phone book. I was actually supporting the view that individuals and not corporations should be taxed. Knowing that views around here lean that direction my point was why support the reduction in the tax rate for dividends? It would seem that the corporation should not be taxed but the individuals that profit from their success should, and equally regardless of whether they make that money through salary or investment. If the tax rates were the same then it seems like it would be easier to sell the concept of not taxing corporations directly on their profits. The investors (in effect "the corporation") would then be paying "their fair share". It would also seem that without complicated tax reduction accounting schemes that market investing would be more transparent, rational, and probably profitable even for the "little guy", but I suppose I am preaching to the choir here. It would sure seem that a simplified tax code could be sold to the public with a good argument about how equitable it could be. For all the Republican spin machine's prowess, I think their selling of the estate tax elimination and dividend tax reduction plays right into the hands of the class warfare folks. The current system allows more tax shelters and reduction schemes for those corporations and wealthy elites. It appears that Paris Hilton (just adding some blog hits JK) is not paying her fair share of taxes. If you want bipartisan support for tax change why does it seem that no one is following this line of reasoning? If Paris was paying the same tax rate on her investment income as Joe Everyman was on his salary wouldn't a lot of the arguments go away?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 14, 2005 1:00 PM
But jk thinks:


The short answer is that if you have money to invest, you have earned it and paid tax upon it, taxing investment is double taxation. Ms. Hilton may be undertaxed but her ancestors paid taxes when they earned it and when they passed it down to the star of PARIS HILTON SEX VIDEOS HERE!

This is arcane but my real quibble is with your calls for equitable taxation. You are absolutely right that the GOP plays right into the "tax cuts for the rich" trap. The trouble is that “the rich” pay the taxes.

The Bush tax cuts made the system more progressive. When I think of equitable taxes it would be the fair or flat tax that are dismissed as regressive.

The Weekly Standard story I have been whining about suggests the GOP eliminate all taxes on sub-100,000 income households. It would be great politics but it would not be fair.

I am deeply concerned that a growing number of people have no reason to vote for limited government, fewer services or lower taxes because they pay little or no taxes and get big benefits. If you're buying for the big blog lunch and we are picking the place, we have no incentive to economize.

Posted by: jk at November 14, 2005 2:37 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Maybe I just don't get it, and it being economics that is entirely possible. The money that was invested for PARIS HILTON THE HOME VIDEO SEX STAR (how long can we keep this up really?) was taxed when it was earned some time ago but now it currently continues to earn interest. This interest seems like new income to me, certainly PARIS HILTON can spend it that way. She is also an individual and benefits from roads, national defense, and other services paid for by taxes. Why should this income or hers be taxed differently than mine? The fact that her grandfather was taxed when he originally earned the capital seems irrelevant to me. When I get my income, it is taxed, but the money I get comes from the sale of a product paid for by someone (or a corporate group of people) who were also taxed on that money when they earned it. It turn I can buy a car from Ford and my money will eventually wind up in one of their employee's salaries where it will be taxed again. This is a natural cycle of capital is it not?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 15, 2005 11:01 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Silence, the NATURAL cycle of capital is to act as a liquid medium for facilitating the free trade of goods and services. Think of it as the blood in your body. Red cells exchange CO2 for O2 in your lungs and then carry that oxygen to muscle cells throughout your body. There the red cells conduct the opposite exchange. But the important part of the analogy is between the effect of taxes on the capital cycle and arterial plaque on blood flow. They both create a restriction to flow. They retard progress. They are COUNTER productive. The analogy between taxes and arterial plaque holds when they both increase to a critical level where, the patient dies.

Your PARIS HILTON scenario is problematic, and illustrates exactly why so many of us advocate for a consumption tax to replace our current creation taxes.

In closing, we can keep up the PARIS HILTON NUDE PHOTOS ruse for at least as long as angry left-wing moonbats, many in the US Senate and House of Representatives, can continue to say with a straight face, "BUSH LIED, PEOPLE DIED." For too many people in this world there is no longer any such thing as actual truth, only perceptions.

Posted by: johngalt at November 15, 2005 2:54 PM

November 10, 2005

Windfall Profits

Instapundit and Mickey Kaus have been hyping the pro-Growth Democrat movement. I would love to see it, but I still don't believe.

The New Republic is the responsible Democratic organ, right? Clay Risen could've posted this in The Nation:

But almost across the board, Republicans have refused to back any measure requiring firms to put their money to a more socially valuable use. For that, you have to turn to the Democrats, who in September rolled out a windfall profits tax, which they reintroduced this week amid the growing public fury. Proposed by Senators Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd, the bill would tax half of all profits made above a $40-barrel baseline. Republicans and their allies immediately attacked the bill, and few observers have any illusion that it could pass. But it is one more powerful piece of evidence that, in the face of big business, Democrats are willing to put forward solutions while Republicans are content to carp and do nothing.

Gasp. Cough. Shudder.
And, of course, new oil--and new capacity to refine that oil--is precisely what we need. Even the Bush administration agrees. Which is why the windfall profits tax makes so much sense. It provides, in effect, a negative incentive to invest in the nation's strategic interests. And given that the government already shells out billions to oil companies, it seems reasonable to pressure them into giving something back, especially when that something--namely, capacity investment--is in their long-term interest as well.

Decreasing regulation would help with oil production a windfall profits tax will be no more than a regulatory-accounting burden that will force companies to move profits overseas.

Where are these pro-growth Democrats going to come from? Who will support them?

Oil and Energy Posted by John Kranz at 1:59 PM

Truth Matter At All Anymore?

Media outlets have a sacred duty to demand honesty from politicians. Let them use loaded words and biased editing, but they should point out public untruths. This not only corrects the record, it also provides a deterrent effect: I better not make stuff up, folks'll find out.

I have always uses President GHW Bush as the example. He remarked that the supermarket scanner was amazing. And it is. After decades, after working with all the components that make it work. It is still amazing. Some of his opponents, propagated this as "He had never seen one! He's so out of touch! He was amazed at something everybody else sees everyday!" I am always disappointed when this is still -- and it is -- regurgitated as fact.

But I may have to change examples to Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV. Here is Jeff Goldstein in "Weapons Grade Bullshit" (Protein Wisdom is more comfortable with that kind of language than I, but It's descriptive.)

If the Wilson and Clarke scandals taught the left anything, it is that there are no real consequences—at least to their side—for making bad-faithed charge after bad-faithed charge. Hell, even Dan Rather is sticking to his story. And yesterday, the Senate minority leader went on TV and essentially accused the Vice President of the United States of treason—with absolutely no evidence, and after a recently completed special prosecutor’s investigation exonerated him.

Reid went on to claim that that investigation concluded precisely the opposite of what it actually concluded (no one was indicted or charged with outing anyone)—yet Reid’s remarks were met with near universal approval from his fellow travelers on the left. Where were the angry newspaper op-eds denouncing such obvious falsehoods issuing from the leading Senate Democrat? Where is the outrage?

Wilson lied in his OpEd and lied in his book. This has been shown in a bi-partisan Senate Commission report. Yet this is never acknowledged by a media that suddenly has decided that he CIA is our nation's most valuable institution.

I'm outraged, Jeff! (I'm just clothed ands sober -- sorry!)

But Silence Dogood thinks:

Nope. Just repeat the lie often enough and it will fill in for the truth. As the President said in his speech today (again) the Iraq war is the center front in the war on terror.

I agree on the George HW Bush supermarket scanner reference, but I file it right next to Al Gore inventing the internet. He did as a matter of fact write and champion a bill to expand funding for what would become the internet, seeing the importance of it long before his Senate colleagues.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 11, 2005 4:54 PM
But jk thinks:

Bernie Goldberg tells of a lazy media that loves stereotypes and both played into stereotypes. A diffident, disconnected GWHB and a VP Al Gore who stretched the truth on Love Canal, Love Story, and the Internet. He deserved more credit than he got on the Internet, but his quote was "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." That was clearly too far.

Gerald Ford was perhaps the most athletic president since TR and VP Qualyle was pretty bright for a U.S. Senator. Right or wrong, the media love to pigeonhole people.

Posted by: jk at November 12, 2005 11:29 AM

November 9, 2005

4 Ways to Handle Immigration

Dick Morris, former political advisor to the Clintons, lists what the President needs to do to get serious on immigration.

  • Back the fence.

  • Establish a legal guest-worker program.

  • Prosecute visa overstays.

  • Regularize cash shipments home

Mr Morris ends...
    Combating illegal immigration need not smack of racism. It is important to all American citizens — Latinos and Anglos — and is in the national interest. But it is also in our interest to allow immigrants to come and settle here legally.

    Immigration is keeping America young and vital. If not for the annual flow of 3 million people — about half legal and half illegal — we would be much like the nations of Europe, losing population and watching their populations age. But we cannot afford the current chaotic flow of immigrants over a theoretical border. We need to enforce the law and make it fair.

But jk thinks:

I'm going to agree with AlexC on immigration, write this date down. And I'm going to agree with Morris.

My vision of "the fence" probably differs from both of these guys', but here’s mine: we legislatively empower the border patrol and INS as needed to construct barriers to illegal entry. I do not want a 3000 mile wall, but would accede to a virtual legislative wall that manages flow at popular crossing points.

The wall could also include technology to track, trace and alert without being a 12-foot concrete and barbed-wire structure.

This wall is a serious commitment to the crowd that demands more enforcement (not a show a legitimate effort). And that gives the President the bona fides to enact the guest worker and payment regularization options.

Enforcing Visa overstays is a no-brainer, that is not an economic or moral matter, it is pure law-enforcement and we have every right -- especially in present circumstance -- to prosecute it fully.

Posted by: jk at November 9, 2005 3:40 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Hmmm, need to penalize companies who hire illegals as well. Knowingly hire. Make it not very worth-while to do so, you know?

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at November 10, 2005 11:03 AM
But jk thinks:

I hesitate to make corporate america an arm of law enforcement. Willful hiring of illegals is disturbing, but are you going to ask the foreman of a painting crew or assistant department manager at Target decide if an identification is forged or not?

The guest worker program would provide employers with credentialed guest workers and obviate the need for illegals at legitimate businesses.

Posted by: jk at November 10, 2005 11:43 AM
But AlexC thinks:

I think in some ways corporate America is already a branch of law enforcement. Particular the revenue collecting side.

Some people carry "tax-exempt" cards which exclude them from paying sales taxes.

I think that having checks on citizenship / visa status should be part of a company's due diligence when hiring.

You wouldn't hire someone a pilot without checking he's got a license right? (extreme example, i know).

Posted by: AlexC at November 10, 2005 4:35 PM
But jk thinks:

Great example. The question is who benefits (or Cui Bono? if I may be the blog pedant).

For Alex's High-Flyin Jet Charter(tm), you have cause to evaluate a pilot carefully. You have legal liability and are trusting him with expensive planes. You will perform checks for your benefit.

For jk's Temp-O-Rama(tm), I need a guy who can carry out drywall in a demolition project. I'll perform reasonable checks but I am not an arm of the INS. If Jean-Michel shows me a credible looking ID, I shouldn't have to spend a day and half checking him out for the government's benefit.

Posted by: jk at November 12, 2005 11:20 AM

Dark Days for GOP

I don't mean the elections. Speaker O'Neill famously said "all politics is local" and I don't see any trends from yesterday looming large in '06 or '08. You could say that W has lost the star power that propelled the party so well in '02 and '04. That may be right but it may not.

No, today is a dark day because the GOP has no principles. AP:

WASHINGTON - The chiefs of five major oil companies defended the industry's huge profits Wednesday at a Senate hearing where lawmakers said they should explain prices and assure people they're not being gouged.

There is a "growing suspicion that oil companies are taking unfair advantage," Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said as the hearing opened in a packed Senate committee room.

Gotta love the AP. The word huge does not belong in the lede but that's not the story here. GOP capitulation is the story here. GOP capitulation is nothing new to me, but the idea that it's a successful strategy and not a mistake is.

The cover story in this week's Weekly Standard alarmed me. Is it real? Does the Weekly Standard buy it? Is it a sign of Bush weakening that it is printed now? Here is a subscriber's link. If it goes to the free site I will update, but I'd suggest you pick up a copy. (Silence, I don't expect you to support Kristol & Barnes -- call me and I'll get you my copy!)

I consider myself a pragmatist, but authors Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam -- armed with a bevy of poll data (how many polls in a bevy?) say there is no plurality for small government and that the GOP, in moving from the "party of the country club" to the "party of Sam's Club" has marginalized the portion of its base that believes in free markets, free trade and limited government.

Populism, according to the article, is now a Republican phenomenon, inherited with the less elitist base.

Wow. I agree and point with pride to the fact that the Democrats are now the elite party. But it's difficult to turn around and argue with Douthat and Salam. Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh conservatives are going to demand closed borders, won't have a problem with tariffs, and will want --um - government health care! Tuition credits for child-rearing!

I suppose that the right leader might rally these troops. But I have always held that people just need a little education and they'll all be little Hayekians. Hate to put words in another's mouth but I think Johngalt believes similarly that Randian beliefs just need a fair hearing to gain ascendancy.

Maybe these guys are all wet, but it requires some consideration -- think about it while you watch GOP Senators on TV beating up Oil Executives for making money for their shareholders. I'm going back to bed!

UPDATE: Michael Barone says: "The spin doctors of the other party quote Tip O'Neill's adage that 'all politics is local' and say that the results were due to state and local issues and have no relevance to national politics." Good to know one of my heroes is reading ThreeSources...

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:07 AM | What do you think? [4]
But jk thinks:

I'll add another dark thought to this negative post.

Republicans in Ohio (who have scored a lot of ink this decade for being more about incumbency than ideas) fought tooth and nail against an anti-gerrymandering initiative. Just as Democrats in CA fought the same.

I hate gerrymandering more than I love control of the House. If Ohio and Florida (and Colorado) lose Rs to real representative Democracy, so be it.

Posted by: jk at November 9, 2005 11:45 AM
But AlexC thinks:

Gerrymandering is a problem everywhere. It's a problem with politicians being out for politicians not being out for the people.

When the Dems and the Rs agree to carve up a town, county or state into ludicrous ways to protect each other in some sort of a horse trade, we're all losers.

Posted by: AlexC at November 9, 2005 12:32 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Gerrymandering is anti-democratic, I don't see how you argue otherwise and both parties are guilty. I had hoped with the advent of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that we would have tool to put a stop to it. Unfortunately GIS seems to just be a new weapon in increasing the effectiveness of gerrymandering. Commissions of judges would be better than the politicians at being unbiased but no where near perfect. We used to think of the Supreme Court as above politics and look where that got us. I have to believe there is a mathematical model concept that could be used to draw districts so that no (biased) humans carve the playing field. With available computer technology is a 10 year census really the best we can do as well? I can do a Google search in 1/10th of a second, surely we can update census data more than every decade?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 10, 2005 4:42 PM
But jk thinks:

The Constitution calls for a census every ten years. I fear more frequent counts would tempt legislators to more accurate gerrymandering.

Posted by: jk at November 12, 2005 4:51 PM

November 8, 2005

Where Do You Get Your News?

So asks Larry Kudlow in his poll today.

Average weekday circulation at newspapers in the United States fell 2.6% for the six months ended September, according to the Newspaper Association of America, the Associated Press reported.

Of course, 2.6% fewer people will hear about this through the AP, but that's another story...

As I vote (the show will be over in a few minutes but the polls stick around) it's 60% Internet, 25% broadcast, and 15% newspaper.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 5:46 PM

A Stunning Exegesis

I can appreciate big media's reluctance to embrace bloggers, but I'll not sit still as bloggers are denigrated as partisan hacks without ideas, talent, or editors.

I'm a partisan hack without talent or editing, but I'm frequently amazed at the quality of thought and writing to be found from the ol' pajamas crowd.

Stephen Green's The Arm of Decision must be read coast-to-coast. Grab a cup of coffee, it's longer than a blog post.

I'm not going to excerpt it, though I must throw in "Were quality weapons and winning the Cold War related? You bet your macroeconomic ass, they were."

Green describes what won WWI, WWII, what won the Cold War, and what will be required to win the War on Terror.

It's brilliant. If it lacks editing, that's on purpose:

Finally, a personal note. I shopped this thing around to a couple magazines (one print, one web) while it was in the planning stages - but ended up withdrawing it from consideration. I'm no Bill Whittle, but I wanted to write this one my own way, ramble my own rambles, and get to my point on my own time. For good or ill, that's the power of the blogosphere, baby.


Hat-tip: Insty, who also linked to the Kotkin piece in the WSJ, but I saw it saw it before. Still does make feel superfluous...

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 2:37 PM

French Riots

It's difficult to get a handle on the unrest in France. I linked to a Mark Steyn column which I found interesting for its lack of euphemism. "French youths" really doesn't capture the rioters, most of whom are unemployed, 2nd generation Muslims from North Africa.

Silence and I have compared their plight to rioters in LA.

I think it is a mistake to say "It's religious war!" (no Imams or Mosques have been shown to support it) or "It's race" or "it's economics." Much as you can attribute motives to a crowd halfway around the globe, I can't help but feel it is disaffection. These people are not poor but they have no mobility to ever expect to enter the more-privileged class of French stock professionals.

Silence asked if they were truly more disaffected than multi-generationally poor African Americans in Los Angeles. I think so and I have someone I respect who agrees with me.

Joel Kotkin is described as "Irvine Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of "The City: A Global History" (Modern Library, 2005)" but to me he is our nation's premier urbanologist. His "Cities of Aspiration" in the Weekly Standard has changed my life.

Today, he has a Guest Editorial (free site) in the WSJ subtitled "Why they are rioting in France and not in New York."

Kotkin, like me, leans economic:

Since the '70s, America has created 57 million new jobs, compared with just four million in Europe (with most of those jobs in government). In France and much of Western Europe, the economic system is weighted toward the already employed (the overwhelming majority native-born whites) and the growing mass of retirees. Those ensconced in state and corporate employment enjoy short weeks, early and well-funded retirement and first dibs on the public purse. So although the retirement of large numbers of workers should be opening up new job opportunities, unemployment among the young has been rising: In France, joblessness among workers in their 20s exceeds 20%, twice the overall national rate. In immigrant banlieues, where the population is much younger, average unemployment reaches 40%, and higher among the young.

Ouch! And with 1-1.5% GDP growth, there is almost no hope of improvement for these people.

The multi-generational poor in LA see a few folks escape. Too few escape, there is too little hope, but hope is non-zero. A thinking, ambitious, 20 year old in the Parisian suburbs has zero hope.

The contrast with America's immigrants, including those from developing countries, could not be more dramatic, both in geographic and economic terms. The U.S. still faces great problems with a portion of blacks and American Indians. But for the most part immigrants, white and nonwhite, have been making considerable progress. Particularly telling, immigrant business ownership has been surging far faster than among native-born Americans. Ironically, some of the highest rates for ethnic entrepreneurship in the U.S. belong to Muslim immigrants, along with Russians, Indians, Israelis and Koreans.

Perhaps nothing confirms immigrant upward mobility more than the fact that the majority have joined the white middle class in the suburbs--a geography properly associated here mostly with upward mobility. These newcomers and their businesses have carved out a powerful presence in suburban areas that now count among the nation's most diverse regions. Prime examples include what demographer Bill Frey calls "melting pot suburbs": the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles; Arlington County, Va.; Essex County, N.J.; and Fort Bend County in suburban Houston.

It is almost inconceivable to see such flowerings of ethnic entrepreneurship in Continental Europe. Economic and regulatory policy plays a central role in stifling enterprise. Heavy-handed central planning tends to make property markets expensive and difficult to penetrate. Add to this an overall regulatory regime that makes it hard for small business to start or expand, and you have a recipe for economic stagnation and social turmoil. What would help France most now would be to stimulate economic growth and lessen onerous regulation. Most critically, this would also open up entrepreneurial and employment opportunity for those now suffering more of a nightmare of closed options than anything resembling a European dream.

We've seen in the German elections that continental Europe is not ready for Anglo-Saxon liberalism (that and "cowboy capitalism" are both pejoratives) Kotkin's "European Dream is only a dream.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:04 PM | What do you think? [8]
But johngalt thinks:

I wouldn't call France a "free" society, but a kleptocracy. Not as bad as a fear society, but they're both forks on the branch named coercion.

As I said earlier, France today is what many democrats want America to be tomorrow. It is important to show how the problems in France result from its welfare state policies and not from an "insufficient implementation" of those policies. When a little poison makes one sick, a little more does not cure him.

Posted by: johngalt at November 8, 2005 11:16 PM
But jk thinks:

I'm not celebrating the Gaullist gift for good government here, but we must credit the fifth republic with success in Sharansky's "public square test." You can stand under the Arc d’Triomphe and shout "Chirac is an Ass!" and jackbooted thugs will not remove you. (Plus the thugs in France would sport stylish, high-line jackboots).

When we abuse French polity for its faults, we have to keep in mind its basic freedoms. And, should it fall to shar'ia, we should mourn the loss of a free nation to fascism, even if we had our quibbles with them.

Posted by: jk at November 9, 2005 11:19 AM
But AlexC thinks:

If le France falls to sharia, we should all mourn for ourselves, as le France's nuclear arsenal likewise falls under sharia's control.

Posted by: AlexC at November 9, 2005 12:33 PM
But jk thinks:

Um, yeah, that too...

Posted by: jk at November 9, 2005 1:17 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Along those lines, let's see what happens when you stand under the Arc de Multiculti, nee Arc de Triomphe, and shout "Allah is an Ass!"

Posted by: johngalt at November 10, 2005 2:50 PM
But jk thinks:

Talking about China with my cousin yesterday. She adopted the most delightful little girl from a province that cannot be visited by foreigners nor photographed by locals.

It struck me that France is the worst of the free societies and that China is the best of the fear societies. Objections?

Posted by: jk at November 11, 2005 11:38 AM

November 7, 2005

Good Clean Fun

Some folks have differing concepts of "fun." A friend suggests this Naomi Wolf column in The Guardian saying that "[he] 'd forgotten how much fun it is to read left wing wacko stuff."

On planet Naomi, Al Gore looks really good in earth tomes and the Washington Press Corps has been on its knees to W, and, and, well just dig it:

We Americans are like recovering addicts after a four-year bender

In the US comic strip, Peanuts, there is a little boy who is always followed by a cloud of dust. Wherever he goes, his cloud follows him. George Bush can't shake his personal cloud. The until recently eerily untouchable president has now lost his mojo. The man to whom the entire US press corps has been on its knees for four years is finally in the doghouse.

It is almost a cartoon of karma. First, hurricane Katrina hit - and the sight of black and brown bodies floating in what had been the streets of a US city, of babies crying for water, of old people shrouded in their wheelchairs seemed to rip right through the collective fantasy of US goodness and infallibility constructed by Dick Cheney and his cabal and hyped by a crotch-strapped Bush in a flightsuit.

Not reading The Guardian enough, I had not noticed how bad things had gotten around here, but Ms. Wolf wouldn't lie, would she?
They could not have had more fortunate timing. During an era when US prestige abroad had already been declining, when US schools were turning out subliterates, when the US economy was being crippled by competition from harder-working south-east Asians and Chinese, Americans - and especially American men - were feeling the sinking self-regard characteristic of those losing prestige in once-great empires in decline.

Bush, Cheney and Rove changed all that with their myth making post-9/11. Suddenly those feminists were no longer so threatening: we still needed tough men in firefighter suits to protect the less powerful. Suddenly American men could feel potent at the sight of a statue of a tyrant toppling in a public square, could vicariously inhale the discourse about "liberating the Middle East" and "spreading democracy", could put a yellow "Support the Troops" sticker on their SUVs and forget the spiking mortgage, the downsizing of good-paying white-collar jobs, the increasing obstreperousness of their women.

'course, I feel pretty potent in my crotch-strapped flight suit with my FDNY T-shirt on, even as I watch the bodies wash up the street -- but fear not, Wolf thinks that a rekindled democracy will save us just like Alabama in the 60s:
I don't see Cheney being shamed into dropping his Halliburton cronies now carving up Iraq. But I do see a renewed citizen interest in wind power, in driving petrol-electric hybrid cars, in reading about the short lives of the war dead - who, only six months ago, were spirited home away from the cameras in their body bags, when protest was considered unseemly. Today on the AOL homepage there is a headline about Bush being jeered by a foreign leader: that story would never have made it out of the land of blogs six months ago.
Bush will never recover his swagger in our eyes: he was our dealer. What remains to be seen is whether we will turn again to the next good drug to come along, with the next charismatic pusher - or whether Katrina's real legacy will lead us to do the hard work of reclaiming a civil society rooted in reality. My bet is on the latter.

And they say there's no optimism on the left...

But johngalt thinks:

"Obstreperousness?" My "woman" isn't obstreperous. Is yours?

Oh, she must mean this from

"We're Fierce! We're Feminists! And We're in Your Face!"

(Sorry, I can't link to the audio bite since it's "members only" and I aren't one.)

Posted by: johngalt at November 8, 2005 2:33 PM
But jk thinks:

Obstreperous: if this were a Buffy episode, I would stare at Ms. Wolf and say "project much?"

Posted by: jk at November 8, 2005 3:23 PM

Name Dropper!

No politics, just Buffy stuff...

An associate of mine attended boarding school in England with Young Joss Whedon. He did not call himself Joss then, but he made quite an impression on my friend who was a younger student. He was American-grade-slovenly in appearance, but obviously gifted. He drew comics for the school paper and Whedon-esque quotes on dramatic programs.

My friend sends me this by email:

‘Thought you’d like the latest piece about J Whedon in my old school magazine: “the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has invented a character called Giles; this is in tribute to his House Matron, Barbara Giles”

FYI, the role of House Matron in a boys boarding house was part house keeper/administrator/nurse and surrogate mother. Barbara Giles was a delightful widowed elderly white haired lady – not quite the Giles in Buffy !

I wrote back that there was likely some deference to the original, especially in the early seasons: (Rupert) Giles as the stodgy brit in the company of California teenagers.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:58 AM

November 6, 2005

NYTimes: You can't handle the Truth

"I don’t regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq. It’s not to me. I’m here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live, not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators, to do what they want with their lives. To me, that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom. Now this is my mark.” -- Marine Corporal Jeffrey Starr, killed in Iraq in April 2005 on his third tour of duty

This was in a letter to his girlfriend to be opened on his death. The New York Times, arbiter of what is fit to print, edited it to the following:
“I kind of predicted this. A third time just seemed like I’m pushing my chances.”

That seemed much more important to the Times than the young hero's belief in his mission and its objectives' being worth death.

Why are those poll numbers down again? Why have Americans turned against the war? How can we have a Democracy when people get such a jaundiced view?

If there's good news, it comes from the Wall Street Journal. Newspaper circulation is falling:

Gannett Co., the nation's No. 1 publisher with about 100 papers, says its daily circulation through Sept. 25, including its publications in the United Kingdom, was down 2.5% over year-ago levels. At No. 2 Knight Ridder Inc. -- whose largest shareholder has called for the sale of the company -- the daily drop was 2.9%.

Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, among others, says its circulation as reported to ABC will be down around 4%. That estimate excludes figures for Newsday, of Long Island, N.Y., which has been censured by the ABC following a scandal in which it -- along with several other newspapers -- admitted artificially boosting circulation results. By mutual agreement, its circulation won't be released on Nov. 7.

Hat-tip (both, sorta) Instapundit

But johngalt thinks:

Predictable. Expected. Treasonous.

More of the same can be found in the new "war" film, 'Jarhead.' From WSJ:

"It may surprise a few Hollywood execs that this isn't an easy sell in a post 9/11 America. In the Brooklyn, N.Y., theater where I saw "Jarhead," viewers were streaming out of the theater even before the film was over. What the viewers were hoping for was a rousing film portraying U.S. forces as the good guys sacrificing for a worthwhile mission, or at least, a sense of joy in the victory. But it never came."

Posted by: johngalt at November 8, 2005 2:56 PM
But jk thinks:

When I heard it was the "American Beauty" guy I figured it would be about as pro-war as Fahrenheit 9/11. Surprisingly, Jonathan Last at the Weekly Standard said many will be disappointed that it is not the Bush-bashing, war-bashing movie they expect.

Sorry the patriots stormed out. I can bet that they did not see the TV commercials, they'd know it wasn't John Wayne...

Posted by: jk at November 8, 2005 3:27 PM

'Serenity' Movie - In Search of, "The Truth"

JK linked to a review of Joss Whedon's 'Serenity' movie last month that precipitated some deep thoughts. The comment by "Ken" (from Crux Magazine) on October 25 disturbed me, but I didn't get down to the business of a reply until today. I'm promoting the comment thread to a post because the movie was so heroic to me and Ken's review cast it in an altogether different light. I couldn't let that go unanswered. Here then, is my rebuttal: (Pack a lunch, you'll need it!)

I see that I've struck a nerve with my criticism of "true belief." As I compose my response to Ken, Dagny reminds me, "we want him to keep coming back to the site and commenting." While I agree with that, it's often impossible to completely challenge someone's belief system and keep him engaged in rational dialog at the same time. I'll just give it my best, and most diplomatic, effort and let the chips fall...

Earlier I observed that John Coleman saw 'Serenity' as a story of sacrifice and belief rather than choice and values. Ken takes this same worldview even further, describing it as sacrifice and belief TRUMPING choice and values. Citing no more than his interpretation of a "knowing glance" Ken insists that I've misinterpreted Mal's "misbehavior" and that it is, as JK suggested, "certainly some form of doing something to benefit others." But where JK casts this self-sacrificial behavior as "exceeding" rational self-interest, Ken argues that the entire idea of rational self-interest is "insufficient."

To his credit, Ken attempts to explain how it is insufficient: "...without a tacit admission that there is a standard of good and evil that is more important than self-interest, the plot (not to mention real life morality) simply would not make sense." But while Ken is fast and sure in his criticism of rational self-interest, he's not so confident in offering the "sufficient" alternative - one that "fully answers" the questions of "belief, love, freedom and control." His best suggestion is "the Truth." In 'Serenity's' example, the truth is, as Samizdata's Paul Marks put it (see 'Serenity Review', 10/10/2005), the Alliance central government "wishes to create a better, more civilized world (or rather worlds) and (...) is prepared to violate the nonagression principle in order to achieve this objective." (Note again, the Islamist parallel.) But Ken didn't refer to the "truth" he said, "the Truth" with a capital T, like "Him" or "God." (We call Him "NED" around here, meaning "non-existent deity.) So in the end Ken takes nothing more from this film than a duel between competing true-beliefs and, not unlike the Christian crusades against the Muslims of their day, the "good guys" win. Why? Because they believe "in something more important than themselves." This could conceivably explain how our heroes defeat the primative, range-of-the-moment Rievers, but not the Operative who gave us numerous lectures about the superior virtue of HIS true belief.

I give Whedon much, much more credit than this. As Book cautioned Mal, "True belief cannot be defeated, it can only be destroyed." This is because "true" belief means "unquestioning" belief - anything that opposes the doctrine of that belief is, by definition, wrong. But how did Joss end the film? [Major spoiler alert!] When Mal had the Operative dead to rights and raised the sword high in a two-handed grip, with every justification to kill in defense of himself and humanity, Mal plunged the Operative not into death, but into bondage before the video of what resulted on Miranda in the name of his own "true belief." The true-believer was forced to watch the horror that waits as the ultimate end of his highest value: A "better, more civilized world" through the suppression of human ambition. But ninety-nine percent of humanity will, when their ambition is removed, refuse to fight - for their neighbor's life, their loved one's life, their own life... or ANYTHING else. (The other one percent? They become Rievers.) This resulted in the Operative abandoning his pursuit of River.

Thus Mal had not destroyed true belief, he defeated it (also giving River liberty instead of "dropping her like a hot potato.") He did this not by the force of some "superior" true belief, but using reason and reality to show the Operative how his belief was wrong. For the Operative to recognize his error and submit to the overwhelming power of reality in contradiction to his belief required one thing: rational thought.

This brings me to what I consider the most pernicious element of Ken's entire entry. Whether by ignorance or hostility, Ken dismisses Ayn Rand's philosophy as nothing but "me first." He insinuates that Rand held no moral values, no "standard of good and evil that is more important than self-interest." He presents Jayne as "the true voice of a Randian." But Jayne starts out closer to a Riever than a Randian. Rievers kill for sport and for spoils. Jayne too will sometimes kill for spoils, which distinguishes him from Mal or any other Randian. Rational self-interest justifies killing only in defense and not as a means of personal gain... even if that gain is necessary for survival. Randians draw this distinction because it is rational: If every human were a Randian there would be peace and commerce and progress and life; if every human were an altruistic true-believer there would be war and slavery and taxes and mass-murder.

Zoe and Mal's "knowing glance" implies an inconsistency in Mal's treatment of River versus the stranger at the bank, but Mal had made no mistake. Despite River's actions at the bar she was still a member of his crew, and therefore a part of "me and mine." Mal's uncertainty was not the validity of self-interest, but whether River posed a future danger to the rest of the crew. He dealt with her transgression by laying down the law with her and her brother. In the end keeping her proved to be in his, and the crew's, self-interest.

For more on the the philosophy of Ayn Rand, which she called, "Objectivism" see:

Philosophy Posted by JohnGalt at 1:31 PM | What do you think? [7]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Hmm, "If every human were a Randian there would be peace and commerce and progress and life;" I wonder if there would not be interminable boredom as well? I am picturing something along the lines of the planet Vulcan to borrow from another sci-fi source. Belief, love, and passion are great motivators, but rarely rational. I wonder however if I would want to live in a world without them, could be just another form of the Alliance's better world.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 7, 2005 1:06 PM
But dagny thinks:

Silence has enumerated another of the common myths about Randians and the results of rationality. Emotions may seem at first to be irrational, but this is not the case. Here is the big secret: Emotions are always based on values. If one's values are set up correctly, one's emotional responses are reasonable. Justified anger is a tremendous force, often for good. Far from being emotionless, Randians often are more passionate since they can be confident and not confused about the source of their emotions.

Consider this definition of love: Love is the emotional reaction resulting from the recognition of your values in another person. The results are incredibly powerful and potentionally earth-moving.

Posted by: dagny at November 8, 2005 9:23 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Thanks for the info Dagny. I will have to contemplate that a little. Seems like a valid point about moral and value based references for emotions.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 8, 2005 11:52 AM
But Ken Brown thinks:

John, thanks for taking the time to engage with me on this (I apologize in advance for the length of this comment, but you gave me a lot to respond to).

You accuse me of rejecting “choice and values” for “sacrifice and belief.” This is a false dichotomy. Sacrificial love and belief need not – indeed, should not – be opposed to choice and value (by which I take you to mean freedom and morality). However, they do present choice and value in a fundamentally different light than that of rational self-interest. I will attempt to explain this in a bit, but first a couple points need to be cleared up:

You admit that Mal’s “knowing glance” at Zoe implies an inconsistency between his responses to River and the man at the bank. But what is the difference? Not that River was part of his crew while that man was not, but that the first action was selfish, while the second was selfless. By taking River in even AFTER he had explicitly told her and Simon that they were no longer part of his crew – and after seeing just how dangerous she was – Mal implicitly rejects his earlier selfishness. Nothing about this action suggests rational self-interest, as is confirmed by his refusal to give River up to the Operative when he has the chance.

Even when the Alliance retaliates by killing Book and the rest, it was hardly in Mal’s best interest to continue to protect her (it certainly wasn’t in Wash’s!). Rather, their suicidal mission to discover and then broadcast the truth about Miranda, was for the sake of OTHERS, not themselves. The lives they saved were not their own, but those of the unknown innocents the Alliance might next try to experiment upon. Indeed, they had no reason to think that publishing that information would end the threat on their lives; it might have intensified it. After all, tyrannical governments don’t usually take lightly to treason.

You also object to my characterization of Jayne as a Randian. You’re right that his willingness to kill for spoil is clearly opposed to Rand’s Objectivism, and I’m willing to withdraw the comment on that basis (with my humblest apologies). However, in that case Mal is also no Randian, as he too is willing to kill even when he has not been attacked. The obvious example is the man from the bank. You might say it was this killing that Mal came to reject (and so became a true Objectivist). But how then do you explain the climax of the film, when he uses the Reavers to attack the Alliance? Neither this action, nor the previous, is in self-defense. But while the first is condemned as selfish, the second is selfless and is embraced as heroic. Killing aside, Jayne’s recognition that keeping River aboard is a bad idea is the closest Serenity comes to rational self-interest, and it is not the view advanced by the film.

But these are mere trifles, what concerns us is whether WE should be Randians, or “altruistic true-believers.” Is it not? This really boils down to whether we were created by God or not. If not, then the only rational response is to live for oneself, according to Rand’s philosophy or some other. But if God did create us in his image, then the only “rational” response is to live your life with his character as your standard of value. There is an objective truth here – God either exists or not – but reason cannot decide the matter conclusively. You must choose either to believe or not believe.

You object that I fail to offer a “sufficient alternative” to the film’s (lack of an) answer to the questions it raises about “belief, love, freedom and control.” It was not because I don't have one, but simply that it did not seem the place for a soliloquy on my personal philosophy. Perhaps this is still not the place, but I will say something.

You admit that pure self-interest is not sufficient for morality, but other than a rejection of killing (except in self-defense) you do not elaborate on what provides the objective grounds for this distinction between good selfishness and bad. Instead you simply assert: “If every human were a Randian there would be peace and commerce and progress and life; if every human were an altruistic true-believer there would be war and slavery and taxes and mass-murder.”

As Serenity itself depicts, misplaced belief can and has led to these results, but that is why sacrificial love is so important. True altruism means putting others first, and its practice should mean the rejection of all such evils. If everyone were a conscientious Randian, it might end war and mass murder, but self-interest by its very nature opens the door to slavery of various kinds, and it cannot help but lead to inequality. If the only justification for the rejection of violence is that a peaceful society is better for “everyone,” then what happens when those at the bottom can find no other way of surviving? There are fates worse than death. At its best, Objectivism might avoid these dangers, but I don’t believe it is best fit to do so.

The “alternative” is the golden rule – do what’s best for others, RATHER THAN what’s best for yourself. Why? Not because it’s rational – though if everyone accepted it, we would have the peace and prosperity (and mutual love and joy) that we all desire – but because the God who made us did the same. God on a cross is foolishness to the Randian, but if true, it is the most important thing that ever happened. It is also the perfect statement of human freedom and choice: even God did not force his will upon us, but created us free, free even to turn against him. Such sacrifice is the heart of Christian love – a passionate, extravagant, unconditional love – and it is the antithesis of rational self-interest, as well as all forms of fascism. Creation in the image of a loving God stands as the ultimate affirmation of the paradoxical connection between love, belief, freedom and value. For all its merit, Serenity only approaches, but does not reach, this truth.

Posted by: Ken Brown at November 8, 2005 12:35 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Ken, the initiations of force by Mal that you refer to are in emergency situations. There is certainly nothing self-defensive about killing a man who's about to be skinned and eaten alive by monsters, but such an act of mercy is also consistent with Objectivism. In the second instance, provoking Rievers to attack Alliance forces is indeed an act of self-defense, as the Alliance is pursuing him and his with evil intent.

If you derived from anything I've said that "pure" self-interest is not sufficient for morality then you've misunderstood me. Rather than elaborate on what does constitute an objective code of morality I referred you to an introduction to Objectivism that states: When combined with a metaphysics of objective reality, the politics of capitalism, and an epistomology of reason, an ethics of rational self-interest is the highest moral purpose in a man's life.

The standard for this code of morality is life and happiness on earth. The things that are of value to a man are those that promote his continued life and prosperity and happiness and contentment. Now, others may come into a man's life and become important to him. To the extent that their life and happiness benefits him, it is just for him to contribute toward the benefit of THESE others. But the decision of who to include in this circle of "his" (and every right to revisit that decision at any time) belongs to him and him alone. It is the attempt to influence this decision such that a man will act against his own interests that I denounce so vociferously. The name of the code that propagates that idea, this "unearned guilt" is Altruism. Altruism is the code of self-sacrifice and, ultimately, suicide, not necessarily always resulting in physical death, but always resulting in death of a man's spirit.

Your attempt to associate RATIONAL self-interest with "slavery of various kinds" is beneath you. All incidences of slavery throughout history have been at the hands of gangs of thugs, not individuals. And inequality is not something that can be "lead to." Inequality is an inescapable fact of life. All past and future efforts to erase it suffer the same fate - failure.

The moral purpose of Objectivism is not to create a utopia for "everyone," it is to free men's minds to achieve their greatest potential. If you choose to devote your life to equality of the human race then as far as I am concerned, you are completely free to do so - right up to the point that you suggest to me that I "should" help because it is the "right" thing to do. I will not dispute that Jesus died on a cross for somebody's sins, but those sins were most definitely NOT mine.

My code of morality and life requires only that I follow it in order to be successful. Yours requires that EVERYONE follow or else it fails.

Not only is "God on a cross foolishness to the Randian," but the very idea of God itself, for in order for consciousness to exist, there must be something to BE conscious, and something for that first something to be conscious OF. Existence clearly antedated consciousness, not the other way around.

Posted by: johngalt at November 13, 2005 9:20 AM
But Ken Brown thinks:

John, sorry about the delay, but it’s been a busy week.

As for Serenity: you’re still ignoring the sequence of events that led Mal to attack the Alliance at all. He could have, at any time, given River up and removed all threat on his life. His choice not to do so was at least partly altruistic, whether River was part of his “crew” or not. Moreover, the selfish motivation you attribute to him does not even appear in his speech prior to the attack. He doesn’t say: “If we don’t go after them, they’ll never stop hunting us” (a.k.a. Battlestar’s Commander Adama: “sometimes you gotta roll to hard 6”). Instead he says: “If we don’t stop them now, they will try this again.” Since it’s certain that HE wont be the one manipulated on an Alliance controlled world, his concern must be for the unknowns who would be. What makes him heroic is not that he pursued his own interests, but that he didn’t – he WOULD have been better off to just turn tail and run, but that wouldn’t have been much of a story, would it? (A similar situation occurs in the second episode of Firefly: “The Train Job.”)

As for rational self-interest, you seem to be equivocating. You, like Rand, want to have your cake and eat it too, despite all protestations to the contrary. You claim that rational self-interest is itself the “the highest moral purpose in a man’s life,” and insist that no one has an obligation to place someone else’s interests above their own (though they are free to do so if they choose). But you also claim that certain actions – slavery, force or fraud – are wrong even if they ARE necessary to one’s interests. With one breath, you claim that the only valid obligation on a man is the furtherance of his own life and happiness, while in the next you require that his life and happiness do not come at the expense of another, at least in certain situations.

What is the basis of this distinction? Either a man has an absolute freedom to pursue his own interests, or he does not. If he does, then the only valid reason for him to reject slavery, force or fraud is if they turn out NOT to be in his best interest, completely regardless of their effect on anyone else. If he does not, then how can he justify the rejection of the interests of others for his own, in ANY circumstances? In other words, is every man an end in himself, or only an end TO himself? If the former, then you cannot reject your obligation to some form of altruism (or at least utilitarianism – “the greatest good for the greatest number”). If the latter, then the whole concept of “obligation” becomes meaningless. You can say that everyone has a CHOICE to live only for his own interests, but you cannot say he has a RIGHT to do so, for rights imply a standard of right and wrong. Rand may define them as “conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival,” and think that removes the problem, but who then decides what qualifies as “proper” survival? And who decides that in some contexts, a man may ignore those rights in others? Unless ther is a standard of value above self-interest, we are left with relativism, not objectivism.

This is why my claim that self-interest risks slavery is not “beneath me.” If Rand’s particular brand of egoism (admirably) refuses to resort to violence, fraud, slavery, dishonesty or whatever else, it is not on the basis of self-interest, but in spite of it. I applaud you for taking that stand, but I fail to see how you can call this self-interest (rational or otherwise). This IS altruism, you have simply convinced yourself that it need only apply in certain “emergency” situations, without providing any justification for distinguishing these circumstances from everyday life. Either all men have an inherent worth that cannot be dismissed from any ethical consideration, or none do. You can pick one or the other, but you can’t have it both ways.

Perhaps the reason we both continue to see our own views in Mal, is that he himself is not consistent on this point. Indeed, probably none of us are, which is what makes him such an attractive hero – he’s not that different from us.

Posted by: Ken Brown at November 17, 2005 1:02 PM

November 5, 2005

French Acquiescence

French Muslim riots keep getting uglier.

    A nursery school was badly burned in Acheres, west of Paris.

    The town had previously escaped the violence, the worst rioting in at least a decade in France. Some residents demanded that the army be deployed, or that citizens band together to protect their neighborhoods. At the school gate, Mayor Alain Outreman tried to calm tempers.

    "We are not going to start militias," he said. "You would have to be everywhere."

In other words, attempting defense is too hard.

But jk thinks:

There are a handful of media stories that truly frighten me and this is one. The most recent issue of The American Enterprise paints a dystopian vision of Europe’s future. I thought that it was maybe in a couple of decades or toward the middle of the century.

I am not saying that this is le deluge, but days of spreading civil unrest is not good. AlexC points out that they cannot stomach defense, they surely cannot stomach the tough economic and political steps needed to address the underlying causes.

Posted by: jk at November 5, 2005 1:44 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I see the same things in continental Europe as JK and AlexC do, but my reaction is opposite from JK's. I'm relieved that the inevitible consequences of socialism and multiculturalism will be played out on the other side of a great ocean. What WILL frighten me is if voters don't continue, even hasten, to repudiate such policies in OUR country.

Posted by: johngalt at November 5, 2005 6:56 PM
But jk thinks:

Mark Steyn's sobering view is not to be missed:

Posted by: jk at November 6, 2005 5:11 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

It is a sobering view, and an interesting article, but I am left wondering about Steyn's analogy to 8th century Moors and conclusion about government weakness. The geography and the ethnicity are correct, but what else? Did he overlook the racial riots of the late 1960's encompassing major cities in this country from Detroit to Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, or should I claim a conservative media bias? Racial tensions between police and youth would seem to have a direct comparison here or even more recently to the 1992 riots in LA. Had Lyndon Johnson or George H.W. Bush showed some sort of weakness that led to these outbreaks of civil unrest? Would he not have investigated or given any credence to African American grievances for fear of appearing weak and instigating more violence? It almost seems as if he is about to touch on the racial and economic factors and then lets them slip away unanalyzed. Fair enough to use these riots as evidence against the economic stagnation of socialism but to leap to government weakness upon the international stage seems to miss the mark.

Rioting should be a wake up call, but we should answer the right alarm. Now, before you put me in the liberal pacifist column know that I am not advocating we sit down on Oprah's couch with Islamic militants. I do believe force is required to restore order. My personal connection to the two LA riots is quite close. In August 1965 my mother was 10 months pregnant with me and my father was on the east coast to attend his mother's funeral. My uncle, a marine colonel drove up from San Diego in the middle of the night, his service revolver on his belt, to drive my mom and brother safely away. It turns out we were 20 miles away from the closest trouble spots, but it is a memory my mother will never forget. Same for me in 1992. I was a field engineer and covered east LA, Compton, Lynwood, and Southgate. I arrived home that Thursday evening to watch Reginald Denny be beaten on live television and violence spread to blocks where I had been hours earlier that day. Sobering to say the least. Then as now in France the first order of business is to restore order with force. But the job doesn't end there, unless actions are taken to repair the underlying problems all it will take is a small spark to reignite the wildfire.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 7, 2005 3:04 PM
But jk thinks:

The '92 LA riots scared me as well. I was in Minnesota and was worried about driving home, worried that the whole fabric of the nation was being rend in twain. Sugarchuck took me to Northridge, MN, and things didn't look so bad.

Looking back, it does not appear that there was enough fuel to keep them alive. There is/was turbulence in the African American community but it was not enough to sustain or spread violence.

I have to watch for schadenfreude here. I do not want Western Europe to fall. I do not want my most dystopian predictions to occur.

But these rioters seem disaffected in a way that the LA folks were not. They are a lot less assimilated into the mainstream culture and they have far less opportunity.

I think Steyn's point is less about Socialism than about what he sees as a permanent conflict between East-West, or Islam vs. everybody else. The multicultural, socialist, apologetic state does not seem capable of fixing these things it has broken.

My civil unrest story is that my dad packed us up and fled our Denver neighborhood when Dr. King was killed. My siblings laughed about this for decades, yet I found there was extreme rioting and violence about a mile away. The newspapers back then believed it best not to publish it for fear of fomenting more.

Posted by: jk at November 7, 2005 3:52 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I don't know JK, are they less assimilated and more disaffected? Perhaps somewhat, in many cases we are talking about at most 2nd generation folks so they have had less time to assimilate than some of our own rioters. I am not sure who that speaks worse of, the French for the magnitude of their current problem, or us who have disaffected folks after many generations. Basically I see this more as racism and lack of economic hope and thus more in tune with problems we face here in our cities than with Islamic radicals. It's about discrimination (real or perceived) and lack of employment opportunities not some grand East-West or Islamic struggle. Malcom X preached Islam and African identity but the reality is that these youth share much more in common with their adopted countrymen than they do with those who live in their ancestral courtiers.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 8, 2005 11:40 AM

November 4, 2005

No Competition, No R&D

I have one observation about education that I can never get out of my mind. When John Quincy Adams, one of our smartest Presidents, was a lad (fifteen years old I think) he applied to Harvard. He spoke Latin, Russian, French, and Dutch in addition to English. He had read the classics of the day and studied geometry.

I know this because of David McCullough's biography of his dad. John Adams was in Europe when he received his son's letter detailing his disappointment at not being admitted to Harvard.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many kids leave Harvard today knowing as much as JQA did when he was rejected. In the intervening 200+ years, transportation has progressed from the horse buggy to the 2006 Lexus, today's youth have easy access to inexpensive books, computers and the Internet. Medicine has gone from leeches and bleedings to MRIs and gene therapy.

All these aspects of life have made mind-boggling improvements. Show President Adams a GPS-equipped motorcar, an airplane, any aspect of modern life and he'd probably faint. Take him in a classroom and the only surprise would be the lack of respect.

Readers of this blog will accept that the lack of competition is what allows an industry to not progress, we can argue about which elements of Dewey and his modern acolytes have caused it to regress. But Chris Whittle, CEO of Edison Schools, narrows it further in a Guest Editorial in the WSJ today, "SOS Save Our Schools."(paid site, sorry!)

What if Ford announced tomorrow that it was eliminating all research and development in order to add $7.4 billion to its annual bottom line? Readers of these pages would instantly recognize the absurdity of such an action because only through R&D can a company maintain its competitiveness and value. That an organization with more than twice the annual revenues of Ford has virtually no R&D budget will surely be surprising. But R&D was not stopped. Rather R&D was never seriously begun.

The entity with virtually no R&D? American public education. The revenue for K-12 schooling in the U.S. is around $400 billion per year. Our spending on K-12 education in just two school days equals the entire revenue of an entry-level Fortune 500 company. Yet despite spending so much to operate our schools, our investment in advancing their design and updating their systems is negligible.

Why do you "waste" money on R&D? To keep ahead of competitors. No competition, no R&D; No R&D, no improvement.

Whittle goes on to suggest that this might be a good place for the Federal government to put its budget.

This seems like a perfect example of where the federal government could and should step in to fill a breach. Certainly it has the required scale. Certainly such involvement seems appropriate, if the prerequisite for federal action is the inability of local or state entities to act. Federal engagement in innovation in other categories critical to our national well-being provides ample precedent. Consider the $27 billion of R&D money pumped into the National Institutes of Health every year to help bring our citizens one of the finest health-care systems on the globe. How about the $9 billion that went into just one Department of Defense project: the design and development of the Joint Strike Fighter?

I know most of this blog's readers (both?...) would lean toward zero fed involvement in schools -- as would I. Whittle makes a compelling case about scale. Our schools are thankfully decentralized. And I would confess that politicians will spend money on education to get votes. They should perhaps pick something with efficacy.

How do you keep the unions out, Mr. Whittle? Won't they just drive the train through their influence and kill any real reform? Mr. Whittle bats .500 against the unions (the only person in the country over .000), maybe he has a plan.

Education Posted by John Kranz at 11:14 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I have been extremely happy with our charter school. It is a great concept, public school, non-union teachers, parent populated board of directors, parent volunteer time required, planned curriculum from Kindergarten to 6th grade. The key to me is parent involvement from that fact that you have to sign up on a waiting list (now advisable to be done on the way home from the hospital with the new baby due to the length of the list) and volunteer time to help out with running the school. You get a book which tells you what your child will learn in each grade, and how that knowledge will be built upon during their tenure. It is grade based, homework starts in 1st grade with a small amount due once a week and becomes nightly homework in 3rd grade. Again, parent involvement is stressed, which if you think about it is the ultimate in small class size, you and your kids. I suspect the young Mr. Adams was not dropped off at school with the expectation that it was entirely someone else's job to educate him. Sadly that is rather normal in our current public schools. Like health care which we have discussed, I think many of the problems stem from the lack of direct interaction between consumer and service provider. We pay for schools, but only indirectly through taxes and strict accountability in such a system always suffers.

I will also put in a small aside about grades, or performance oriented systems. If we continue to not expect much out of our schools we will continue to find that expectations will not be exceeded. My daughters are in Girl Scouts where they earn not badges, but (I am not making this up) "Try-Its" for trying new activities. Again I am not kidding this is the official Girl Scout name, the term "badge" is nowhere to be found. Her troop (again active parents from the charter school) does expect some proficiency or goal to be met for the activity, but just the name itself indicates that showing mastery, proficiency, or skill in a task is no longer required, just the willingness to participate. The world is a competitive place (perhaps increasingly so) and shielding our children from this does them no favors.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 4, 2005 2:22 PM
But jk thinks:

Try-Its. I fear for the Republic...I am reminded of Michael Barone's "Hard America, Soft America" (one of the best books I read last year, If not the best). We ask nothing of our youth and turn out he world's most incompetent 18 year olds; yet we ask a lot from young workers and turn out the most competent 30 year olds. Which one provides self-esteem again?

You make a point about parental involvement. I thought the same when my wife was teaching day care and certainly agree.

Yet I contend that your charter school would be a 2006 Lexus with GPS if we had had 200 years of competition and innovation in education. What might we have learned?

Posted by: jk at November 4, 2005 4:25 PM

November 3, 2005

We Lost!

I think AlexC has it right. His pstupidonymous blog covers Pennsylvania and Philadelphia politics and he is active in Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania. I'd say our blogging brother is making a difference.

I focus too much on national politics where I have zero influence while my home state of Colorado slides away.

While I was working on President Bush's re-election and a failed Senatorial campaign for Pete Coors, my State House district, and the entire State House fell to Democrats. A referendum passed in 2004 to build light rail up and down the front range.

Yesterday, the one thing that kept these folks in check was put on what the Wall Street Journal Ed Page kindly calls Tabor's 'Time-Out'

By 52%-48%, Colorado voters have given GOP Governor Bill Owens and state lawmakers a green light to suspend the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, aka Tabor. Tuesday's passage of Referendum C allows the state to keep (read: spend) an estimated $4 billion over five years that otherwise would be rebated to taxpayers.

Some are calling Tuesday's vote a repudiation of constitutional spending caps (see John Andrews on the opposite page). But we aren't so gloomy, especially since the main selling point of Mr. Owens and other Referendum C supporters was that Tabor needed to be fixed, not eliminated. The vote was remarkably close considering that all of the establishment guns were lined up on one side. Taxpayers clearly understand that politicians need limits on their tax and spending habits, which helps explain the defeat of a related ballot measure that would have expanded the state's borrowing authority.

As originally written, the Tabor revenue limit is determined by adding inflation and population growth to the previous year's revenues. In recession years, when revenues fall, it results in a permanently lower baseline. This is the dreaded "ratchet" effect that Referendum C's proponents harped on, and with the measure's passage that formula will be put on ice. The state now has license to take the highest level of revenue over the next five years and use that as a base in determining the revenue limit for future years.

Mr. Owens called us yesterday to say that, paradoxically, this vote means that "Tabor will never again be under attack in Colorado because the ratchet is fixed." After five years, he says, the Tabor discipline will return. We hope he's right, but voters need to be on guard when the politicians inevitably maneuver to turn this five-year Tabor "time-out" into a permanent one.

A less sanguine opinion appears as a guest editorial (free site) from former State Senate President John Andrews:
CENTENNIAL, Colo.--In Tuesday's election, as far as taxpayer advocates are concerned, the Alamo fell. Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie are no more. Conservative defenders of the little guy fought valiantly, but the pro-tax forces overwhelmed them.

A mighty coalition of Colorado's establishment spent the past year warning that the world would end unless voters agreed to $3.7 billion in higher taxes and $2.1 billion in deeper debt, and it largely worked. Referendum C, the tax hike, passed with 52% of the vote. Referendum D, the companion measure for bonding, fell just short with 49.6%. Interest was strong; over a million people voted.
The tax hike was to be expected, especially in light of the "spend, spend, spend" message pounded out by the Colorado power structure. An unprecedented lineup insisted that the state would starve if taxpayers didn't fork over the $3.7 billion. The five "bigs"--Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor, Big Education and Big Media--pushed the ballot issues with zealous unanimity. No editorial page withheld its endorsement. Industry groups and chambers of commerce whipped their members and wrote fat checks. The "yes" campaign outspent the "no" side almost 4 to 1. The whiff of corporate statism was in the air. With such a phalanx, it's surprising the taxers' winning percentage was so low.

While I was worried about Harriet Miers and Scooter Libby, I gave away ~$3600 in taxes to the State and more power to the Democrat legislature. I missed the city council candidates’ debates entirely. I truly need to turn my focus closer to home.

UPDATE: I see Alex is closing pstupidonymous but my point holds. He will be active in both the blogging and political arenas in his home state. Local politics seems much duller to me, yet it's more important and gives more opportunity for a small group to influence.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 10:51 AM | What do you think? [6]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I hear you. I did vote for the referenda you mention, but only after quite a bit of hand wringing. I basically ended up buying in to Gov. Owens argument. Time will tell how foolish this may have been. The other main factor was personal experience with the infamous (in CA) prop. 13 that effectively froze property tax rates by eliminating property assessments on property that did not change ownership or get rebuilt. There was a real problem, property values were going up so fast that retired folks could literally lose their house for not being able to afford the tax bill. The solution however was not perfect either, as is often the case, and the real estate boom drove up the cost of living and the cost of education and other services but the revenue stream from taxes did not keep pace. I feared that the TABOR initiative would have a similar effect as the real cost of living increases much faster than inflation as property, education, and health care are all going up at multiples of the CPI. I certainly would not be happy if my raises were tied rigidly to inflation. I realize I am vastly oversimplifying the complexity of the issue, but that is about what it came down to to me.

The other main issue is what I will call local corporate welfare. Cities are now forced to compete for businesses by offering tax breaks. Salaries and sales taxes will be generated but services such as police, fire, and transportation will have to be provided as well. I see companies now acting like welfare recipients just expecting that government will take care of the costs of those things. Can you imagine a city like Hershey, PA being built today? Everyone expects a certain level of infrastructure and services but we would all like our tax dollars back please. Waste and inefficiency abound, but tightening the purse strings does not solve that problem any more than campaign finance reform gets special interests out of politics.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 4, 2005 2:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The decision on "C" was simple: If C wins, you lose.

We've got to put an end to this notion that "Colorado" or "the state" has "needs." Silence repeats the error but this time, with corporations, saying, "I see companies now acting like welfare recipients..." Companies, like states, are collections of individuals. Individuals have needs, and they also have the means to meet those needs.

How can the "real cost of living increase much faster than inflation?" Only when you define "living" to include three cars in the garage instead of two, one TV per household member instead of per household, etc. Now that is what we used to call "affluence." Affluence used to have a price - effort. Now we see a majority of voters, behind the aggressive and indespensible lobbying of our turncoat Republican governor, deciding to make affluence a birthright for all (but at the expense - effort - of others.)


A better name for this post would have been "Taxpayers Didn't Shrug" to which I would add with optimism: "...Yet."

Posted by: johngalt at November 4, 2005 3:09 PM
But jk thinks:

Yup, Silence, we appreciate your different points of view and respectful disagreement around here, but Yes on 'C?' You may be in the dawghouse a few days…

I think it proves my point. Perhaps if we had beat the topic up a little here, we might have had a chance to influence your admittedly close decision.

It was a close vote -- like the WSJ I am disturbed that the people who stand to get direct monetary benefit from it ponied up four times the war chest of the opposition. A hundred bucks, a few letters to the editor, a little blog pressure might have helped. I was not in the arena for this one.

Posted by: jk at November 4, 2005 4:33 PM
But jk thinks:

RE: National vs. Local, I took the Bush tax cut that I had fought for and gave it to the State without a fight. Bah!

Posted by: jk at November 4, 2005 4:37 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Yeah I figured admitting my vote on 'C' would get me in the doghouse. It was a close call and I may yet regret my vote, but for now I stand by it. My main point is that tightening the purse strings does not get you more intelligent or efficient spending. A conservative co-worker decried the siren call that education and road projects would not get funded as scare tactics, that when pressed, the legislature would be forced to spend money in those areas and make cuts in others. I do not believe this to be true and expect that lobbying will not suddenly become ineffective with a lower overall budget.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 4, 2005 6:26 PM
But jk thinks:

I would suggest that there is a focusing effect to scarcity and we have seen it in home and office budgets. Tightening forces one to prioritize. Not sure the gub'mint does it well, but I think it improves the quality of outlays.

Like my school/R&D post, it's a matter of asking the State to do what corporations and departments are asked all the time: do more with less.

Posted by: jk at November 5, 2005 1:49 PM

November 2, 2005

Windfall Revenue

A new report from the Tax Foundation finds that the biggest profiteers from oil aren't the companies that produce and deliver it to gas tanks, but are the federal and state governments that tax it. Between 1977 and 2004, total taxes on gasoline sales have been $1.34 trillion (thanks to average taxes at the pump of about 40 cents a gallon), or more than double the $640 billion of oil company profits -- and that's not including the taxes the companies also paid on their profits.

In Washington of late, the term profit has become synonymous with "greed." But it is the pursuit of profit that drives the technological progress that makes energy abundant and affordable -- and will drive down prices in the future, just as prices of electricity and gas have fallen throughout most of the last century. Exxon's profits are a signal to wildcat energy producers around the globe to search for more oil.

If Americans want reliable supplies of oil and lower gas prices, they had better hope oil companies aren't prohibited from making money selling it. There's an estimated five trillion barrels of oil retrievable from the Earth. We can say with certainty that it will be entrepreneurs in the virtuous quest for profits, not gassy politicians or talk-show hosts, who will put that fuel in our gas tank.

The WSJ Ed Page which doesn't seem too keen on Rep Kucinich/Sen Dorgan’s "Windfall Profits Tax."

My Inner Political Hack wonders how long the GOP can keep the big tent together. Bill O'Reilly's large viewership will be looking for a populist that will militarize the border and regulate oil company profits. When does the tent become untenable for those folks?

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 1:10 PM


That headline is even beneath me, but you get what you pay for around here...

In 2004, my fondest hope for a second Bush administration was substantive tax reform. Perhaps it wouldn't pass, but the GOP would stand up for pro-growth, flatter, simpler, fairer, smaller tax structures.

The Connie Mack - John Breaux tax commission commissioned to study options impressed me because of its participants. Two good ex-Senators from two parties: we seemed off to a good start.

Senator Mack has been on Larry Kudlow's show a couple of times to discuss the findings. Last night Larry called it 3/4s-of-a-loaf and suggested that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good (Larry mangled that saying on TV but the point holds).

There is a lot going on, but I wonder if everybody is underwhelmed. The findings are good, the suggestions would be extremely pro-growth, the bi-partisanship of the panel might facilitate legislation's passing.

Did I, partisan hack that I am, want a bold plan to fail rather than a good plan to succeed? Yup.

Now that we have it, I am going to support it. Larry Kudlow is in

The new tax reform package from Connie Mack and John Breaux is a classic Washington compromise between Democrats and Republicans. You can see that in the static scoring and the progressively, as well as the double tax on interest.

But there are many pro-growth aspects as the top income tax rate for corporations and individuals is reduced. There is also cash expensing for business investments and profit calculations on a territorial basis. The housing deduction is phased out slowly. Family health care insurance purchases will be on a pre-tax basis. Overall capital costs will be reduced. While there is no pure flat tax, or consumption tax, the good should not be the enemy of the perfect.

And the Wall Street Journal Ed Page is along for the ride as well:

The Mack plan is already being shot at from all directions -- from high-tax, income-redistribution liberals, and especially from business lobbies intent on protecting their tax subsidies. But even some of our supply-side friends are assailing the panel. The latter are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Nearly all of the commission's proposals make economic sense, and if implemented would be the best change in tax policy since the 1981 Reagan tax cuts.

As for the politics, we agree the Mack panel may have made too many pre-emptive compromises. In particular, eliminating the AMT ought to be the carrot that gets Democrats to support lower rates, since their voters in high-tax states are the AMT's biggest victims. A bolder (and lower-rate) flat tax may also be the only way to galvanize public opinion to defeat the death-by-a-thousand-lobbyists that most reform plans suffer.

There are many improvements: Capital expensing, 20,000 limits on Roth IRAs, permanent 15% rates on dividends and cap gains.

NED knows what our beloved legislators will do to it. I worry that it is too incremental and that it will still be a tough fight. I worry that it is too complicated. Who needs Ambien(r)? I find you can put anybody to sleep with the mention of expensing capital expenses.

Not all I wanted, but count jk in.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 12:47 PM

November 1, 2005

Thumbs up from WSJ Ed Page

The lead editorial in today's WSJ (free link) is a ringing endorsement of Judge Samuel Alito.

The court is important to me, but I cannot say that I follow the appellate courts and know the players. I look to others for opinions on different nominees. Great that there are so many lawyers and law professors blogging -- that provides educated assessments (and keeps them distracted from mucking up the economy!)

Probably nobody I trust more or feel closer political kinship with, than the WSJ Ed Page. I disagree with them on the drug war, but that's the exception that proves the rule.

The whole piece on Alito is positive, but here's my excerpt:

In commercial cases, his opinions reveal a regard for free markets and a recognition of the legal and regulatory challenges facing business. He's issued rulings in favor of commercial free speech and enforcing contracts as written. He's also a believer in federalism and putting some limits on the Commerce Clause--as seen in his Rybar dissent, where he cited Lopez to say Congress lacks the authority to regulate intra-state possession of machine guns. With the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist, this is a needed voice on the Court.

I'll toss in with the last line: "This is a rumble worth having."

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 10:58 AM

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