March 31, 2006

Why $5 Gas Is Good for America

I came across an article in the Dec '05 issue of WIRED which argues that high oil prices should be welcomed, not feared, and that the market will provide the answers without any help from government subsidies. All of the companion pieces ("As Prices Rise, Technologies Emerge", "$20-$30", "Digital Oil Fields", "$30-$70", "Ethanol", "$70 and up", "Oil Shale") which can be reached from "Plus" section of the initial article are worth the read as well. You guys will love it.

Oil and Energy Posted by LatteSipper at 7:26 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

You may have tapped into the magic that is ThreeSources. There is no shortage of argument among those who vote alike nor paucity of agreement between (among now) those who vote differently.

The article makes a great case that price is a valid communication medium and incentive. "The cost of developing entirely new energy supplies is daunting, but the money is available - and we're not talking about the $14.5 billion porkfest served up by Washington's recent energy bill. The global oil industry will rake in three quarters of a trillion dollars this year. And when that kind of money is up for grabs, investors are never far away."

What it misses is the lack of free markets in energy. Oil is cartelized by the producing countries, regulated in its refinement and distribution and then taxed heavily to the purchaser. I suspect a truly free oil market would give us dollar gas.

The other missing piece is the proclivity of Congress to regulate actual profits. You missed that discussion around here, but the specter (pun intended) of windfall profits tax will dampen progress on these technologies. Five dollar gas may bring more gaseous senate hearings than Hydrogen-spewing superbugs.

Posted by: jk at April 1, 2006 9:07 AM

Faster Please.

How about this idea from Ronald Aronson at the Nation?
The Left Needs More Socialism

    It's time to break a taboo and place the word "socialism" across the top of the page in a major American progressive magazine. Time for the left to stop repressing the side of ourselves that the right finds most objectionable. Until we thumb our noses at the Democratic pols who have been calling the shots and reassert the very ideas they say are unthinkable, we will keep stumbling around in the dark corners of American politics, wondering how we lost our souls--and how to find them again.

    I can hear tongues clucking the conventional wisdom that the "S" word is the kiss of death for any American political initiative. Since the collapse of Communism, hasn't "socialism"--even the democratic kind--reeked of everything obsolete and discredited? Isn't it sheer absurdity to ask today's mainstream to pay attention to this nineteenth-century idea? Didn't Tony Blair reshape "New Labour" into a force capable of winning an unprecedented string of victories in Britain only by first defeating socialism and socialists in his party? And for a generation haven't we on the American left declared socialist ideology irrelevant time and again in the process of shaping our feminist, antiwar, progay, antiracist, multicultural, ecological and community-oriented identities?

But jk thinks:

Doggies! I don't want to step on anybody's "feminist, antiwar, progay, antiracist, multicultural, ecological and community-oriented identit[y]," but let me offer a positive reflection.

One of my favorite articles in many moons is Michael Strong's call for divorce of leftism from liberalism (See my D-I-V-O-R-C-E post at

How about a realignment? Let the Socialists all get together and make their best pitch for collectivism -- I'll take that argument any day of the week. Then let a few responsible "liberals" abandon leftism and socialism to join me in the fight for classical liberalism.

Posted by: jk at March 31, 2006 6:12 PM

Insiders Disease

Interesting post at MyDD about something called "Insider's disease."

    My thesis about Barack Obama is that he suffers from what I'll call 'insider's disease'. Obama is a progressive, he does understand the massive constitutional crisis we're in right now and does want to get beyond the entrenched interests that are weighing down our country. At the same time, he doesn't believe that the American people will support him if he stands up for these beliefs, so he says different things to different people. There is no better illustration of this than his endorsement of Lieberman. Take these two statements. One is in front of the Connecticut Democratic Party. The other was on Al Franken's show (the podcast is available here):
    Statement one:
      "I am absolutely certain Connecticut is going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the U.S. Senate so he can continue to serve on our behalf," he said.

    Statement two:
      "We should work on a bi-partisan basis. Joe Lieberman and uh, the rest of the Republican Party." The crowd went "oooh" and Franken said "I- I got the joke..."

    Either Barack Obama believes that sending a Republican to the Senate is a good idea, or he's being inconsistent on purpose for political reasons because he doesn't think that his progressive principles are politically useful. Unfortunately, if we don't win elections using progressive methods, we cannot govern in a progressive manner. Senator Lieberman helped scuttle Clinton's health care plan in 1993-1994 - endorsing him now isn't going to help the cause of universal health care, for instance.

Obviously insider's disease affects both sides. For Republicans its things like a simple tax policy, less government spending, immigration reform, etc.

A little remission got us two decent judges in the Supreme Court, Roberts and Alito. But other things?
Two Senate races come to mind, Toomey vs Specter and Laffey vs Chafee.

Insider's disease all the way.

Politics Posted by AlexC at 12:37 PM

The Marches

Just a few pictures from this week's marches.

    Our signs helped to counter the American flags. Our people expressed their agreement with our message.

    Racist Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R of California 4th district) of red-neck Orange County said that he didn't care how long people had been in "this country" illegally, if they were here illegally for 5 or 50 years that they should be deported. Fine! Europeans have been here illegally since 1492, START THE DEPORTATIONS NOW! First one to go should be this Nazi Rohrabacher!

    Sensenbrenner, Schwarzenegger, Rohrabacher, funny how they all have Germanic names! .....No, it's not funny at all!

    What does the immense success of "La Gran Marcha" mean to Mexicanos and other Latinos? It simply means that we now have the numbers, the political will and the organizational skills to direct our own destinies and not be subservient to the White and Jewish power structures. It means that we can now undertake bigger and more significant mass actions to achieve total political and economic liberation like that being proposed by Juan José Gutiérrez, President of Movimiento Latino USA. Juan José Gutiérrez is proposing that the coalition that organized "La Gran Marcha" meet in Arizona or Texas on April 8 to "organize a mass boycott (huelga) against the economy of the USA" to take place on May 1, May 5 or May 19.

(tip to NRO)

Victor Davis Hanson (read the whole thing)

    If many thousands of illegal aliens marched in their zeal, many more millions of Americans of all different races and backgrounds watched--and seethed. They were struck by the Orwellian incongruities--Mexican flags, chants of "Mexico, Mexico," and the spectacle of illegal alien residents lecturing citizen hosts on what was permissible in their own country.

    If the demonstrators thought that they were bringing attention to their legitimate grievances--the sheer impossibility of deporting 11 million residents across the border or the hypocrisy of Americans de facto profiting from "illegals" who cook their food, make their beds, and cut their lawns--they seemed oblivious to the embarrassing contradictions of their own symbolism and rhetoric. Most Americans I talked to in California summed up their reactions to the marches as something like, 'Why would anyone wave the flag of the country that they would never return to--and yet scream in anger at those with whom they wish to stay?' Depending on the particular questions asked, polls reveal that somewhere around 60-80% of the public is vehemently opposed to illegal immigration.

But jk thinks:

I think the poll numbers show a lack of leadership. The polls were against the Dubai ports sale as well.

The Wall Street Journal lead editorial today asks whether the GOP wants to be the party of Ronald Reagan or Tom Tancredo: ?do Republicans want to continue in the Reagan tradition of American optimism and faith in assimilation that sends a message of inclusiveness to all races? Or will they take another one of their historical detours into a cramped, exclusionary policy that tells millions of new immigrants, and especially Hispanics, that they belong somewhere else?"

The marches and the Mexican flags and the upside down flag are all counter-productive. That's not too far from Republicans being thrown in with Pat Robertson and David Duke. I recognized these problems in a blog entry on March 27:

I don't defend these people or the quotes you post, but I'm not going to choose to be poorer to spite them.

I want to be the party of Reagan: optimistic, welcoming and seeking greater wealth. Rep Tancredo has my permission to ignore comparative advantage and to mow his own lawn.

Posted by: jk at March 31, 2006 2:15 PM
But AlexC thinks:

JK, you're missing the point. My argument is NOT "close the borders". Take immigrants. Welcome them. But assimilate them. Countless millions have done that. What were seeing lately is not assimilation, but special treatment, and even worse DEMANDS for special treatment.

You're right about the party of Reagan. But he wouldn't approve of those signs, and that behavior. America is a melting pot. Not a multiple course meal.

Posted by: AlexC at March 31, 2006 3:09 PM

Walmart vs Food Stamps

I can't believe people like this really exist. It's like a caricature or something.

    "I do whatever it takes to survive and live a socially conscious life," said Powell, who has a tepee in his yard.

    Part of that survival — or so he thought — included shopping at Wal-Mart to take advantage of cheaper prices for himself, his partner and her two children. Then his discussions about Wal-Mart with Sandra Carner-Shafran, a teaching assistant at BOCES and a member of the Board of Directors of New York State United Teachers, started churning inside him.

    Back to another of his bumper stickers: "Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character. Character becomes destiny."

    Powell put the brakes on his actions. Shopping at Wal-Mart? This is a place that encourages employees to get social services because it does not provide adequate health insurance or wages; sells goods made in sweatshops; and upsets entire communities by undercutting the downtown stores, then raising its prices when the locals go out of business.

    "I don't like what Wal-Mart stands for," Powell said, noting the mega-chain's scanty health insurance for staffers. "Because of all those things they can lower the prices."

    He and his partner agreed to go on food stamps for their family rather than shop at Wal-Mart any longer.

Let me see if I understand this.

1) Liberal doesn't like Wal-Mart because it "encourages" people to go on the dole.
2) Liberal goes on the dole because he doesn't want to shop at Wal-Mart.

No, this wasn't an Onion article.

Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a large cloud of smug around this guy.

(tip to Club for Growth)

Economics and Markets Posted by AlexC at 11:47 AM

Government in our Bedrooms

Not another abortion post -- I'm talking about alarm clocks.

Only government could spend 90 years tinkering with the clocks, with no proof of efficacy

Michael Downing has written a book, and a guest editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal. He considers Daylight Savings Time "a cynical substitute for sensible energy policy. Even if we all eat breakfast in the dark in March and November, we won't save much oil because less than 5% of domestic electricity is generated by oil. We will consume more gasoline. When Americans go to the ballpark or the mall, we hop in our cars."

While ThreeSources farmer JohnGalt came out for it last year, Downing claims it was a political triumph of city merchants over rural farmers, who hated it.

They used morning light to stimulate their dairy and dry dew off their cereal crops. When sunrise arrived an hour later, opening times for city markets didn't change. Farmers had one less hour to deliver the goods. Along with coal miners and clergymen, they complained that daylight saving severed our connection to the sun and God's time.

To appease the rural interests, Congress repealed daylight saving in 1919. Only another world war persuaded Congress to try it again. The Roosevelt administration claimed that War Time -- the year-round daylight saving that lasted from January 1942 until September 1945 -- reduced energy consumption by many kilowatts. This was harder to substantiate, however, than newspaper photographs of schoolchildren waiting for buses at trafficky intersections on dark winter mornings. And the farmers still hated it. Congress did not dare to pass a peacetime daylight saving law until 1966.

New York City was not cowed. Urban merchants had profited by daylight saving, and Wall Street wanted it after World War I because London had it, which put London six hours ahead of New York. Stock markets in both cities were open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Without daylight saving, their trading hours didn't overlap, and they had no opportunity for arbitrage.

I had always though Silence's hero, Ben Franklin, was to blame, but his name or century fail to come up in this account:
William Willett proposed the idea of falsifying clock time in 1907. A golfer, hunter and horseman, Willett was trotting through London at dawn and noticed that windows were shuttered, blocking the summer sun. He wanted to shift that unused hour of daylight from morning to evening, when people could spend it on leisure, including increased "opportunities for rifle practice." Parliament repeatedly shouted down Willett's proposal. But in May 1916, with World War I underway, Germany adopted daylight saving, hoping later sunsets would reduce demand for electric illumination. In response, Britain immediately passed the 1916 Daylight Saving Act as an austerity measure. It wasn't easy to squeeze a lump of coal out of a clock, but this siphoned the fun from Willett's idea.

President Nixon brought it back full time for two years, now they're at it again. If nobody can show any proof that it works, should we not just leave the clocks alone?

Posted by John Kranz at 11:11 AM | What do you think? [5]
But AlexC thinks:

Damn. It's this weekend, isn't it?

Let's not dick around with moving "to save energy" as if Congress can regulate the angle of the axis of the earth or something.

Either pick "standard time" or "daylight savings" and stick with it all year long.

How about a switch to GMT worldwide? ;)

Posted by: AlexC at March 31, 2006 12:24 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Nonsense. Udder (joke intended) nonsense. I lived on the farm and if you saw the sun come up before getting out to the barn to tend the heard, you were friggen late.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 31, 2006 12:51 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I believe what I "came out for" was year-round Daylight Time. When I get back to the farm from my city job I want at least a few minutes of daylight to feed the horses in. But it was just a preference, not a cause celeb.

What gets me is how much of a bulldog you are on this issue. During private moments in an elevator car you tell dagny and I that we are too "down" and "academic." In the midst of weighty topics like French 'utes' labor riots, illegal immigration debate in the legislature, FISA warrant contratemps (not really a good example of "weighty") and, to top it all, an avowed genocidal maniac as president of a nation with the means and determination to develop thermonuclear explosives, you want to gripe about setting your clock forward an hour?

Am I the pragmatist here, saying that "we've been doing it my entire life so far and can keep on for the rest of it for all I care?"

Posted by: johngalt at March 31, 2006 4:26 PM
But jk thinks:

I suspect that it is a productivity loss to reprogram computers and miss meetings and show up late and wonder if your Indiana office is open...

As for stridency, I suppose that I worry about it intensely once a year for about an hour, so that's only .01% of my time on it.

Also, the routine change I grew up with is fine and I could dig the rhythm. It is Congressional and Nixonian meddling: thinking we can add a month here or take off a month there and it will save us energy.

I do remember you wanted year-round daylight time, effectively putting us on Central. I could go for that.

Posted by: jk at March 31, 2006 5:52 PM
But LatteSipper thinks:

I guess I'm with William Willett and JohnGalt - I like the extra hour of daylight after work, though I use it for bike riding, not for rifle practice or tending to my livestock. I would have some concern if there was evidence it was causing us to waste energy, but I'm not concerned if it doesn't save us energy. I guess I like it for totally selfish reasons, which is what the free market is all about, eh? Maybe I've been converted!

I guess this one would be on par with JK's argument that our defense budget is appropriate ... Daylight Savings Time, enjoyed by free people with votes to choose their level of support for an hour-shifted part of the year is a very good thing. Protecting our evening daylight hours is a very good thing. Hmmmm, I seem to like the argument when it suits me, and not when it doesn't. Funny, that.

Posted by: LatteSipper at March 31, 2006 6:14 PM


We disagreed on Google around here. How about Borders Books? Dale at samizdata is Throwing down the gauntlet

The 'blogosphere' is alive with the recent announcement you will not stock the Free Inquiry issue with the Danish cartoons.
We abhor your cowardice in the face of the enemy and your lack of moral fibre to stand up for the First Amendment in the face of those enemies.

Our publication, Samizdata, has joined the Borders boycott call which is spreading amongst other high profile network publications.

I resisted an MI:3 boycott last week and was shown to be wrong. I came out for Google when the blogosphere wouldn't and still stubbornly believe I am right.

But Borders I am ready to whack. Yeah, they own the store and can stock or not stock what they choose. While I concede that, I am deeply troubled by the chain’s capitulation to groups who would stifle speech. Borders makes a very public show of opposition to censorship with its celebration of "Banned Books Month."

Rabble-based violent censorship is better than gub'mint censorship, but it still keeps free people from selling and buying what free people want. I’m an Amazon guy myself (someday I'll do a post on Internet shopping for the handicapped) so I don't think I'll feel the pinch, but I am disappointed that an American bookstore chain is kowtowing to thuggish pressure..

But AlexC thinks:

I shop mostly at Amazon (mainly for selection), but there is alot to be said for going into a bookstore and browsing. Amazon doesn't give me the same experience. Although it's mostly B&N or the mall bookstores.

Borders? Kiss my @$$.

Posted by: AlexC at March 31, 2006 12:26 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Books ... what is that? Oh, the paper things I use to keep my monitor at eye level, right?

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 31, 2006 12:52 PM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

I, too, mostly shop via Amazon. However, go to Border's webpage and,...voila!,...its run by Amazon, as well.

I have to agree w/ Alex,...I like to browse every once in a while and, since I'm a Border's club member, I get some things cheaper than at Amazon.

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 31, 2006 8:48 PM
But jk thinks:

It is always a shock to find yourself on the other side. I normally defend Borders and Barnes & Nobel from my anti-corporate, anti-chain, anti-globalization friends.

One of my best leftist friends is a book editor who is convinced that the chains will push out the smaller publishers and reduce choice. I constantly argue that the bigs bring more choice to more places. The profit motive at work.

No denying the joy of a real bookstore visit, especially since the chains put coffee shops and comfy chairs in them. But, if I may cry medic, Medic, I have MS and find traditional shopping very fatiguing. About everything I buy now comes to my door. I miss the experience but online commerce is a real boon to me.

Posted by: jk at April 1, 2006 9:15 AM

March 30, 2006


Hello Comrades! Ooops! Hello fellow bloggers. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Trip Segars. I was invited to participate by JK with whom I've worked and played hockey with in the past. JohnGalt is another ex-Mambo King (our hockey team). I'm exposing my true identity as insurance - if I am ever so foolish as to run for office, I'm hoping that I will be confronted with my posts here and forced to withdraw from the Political Correctness Czar contest. I'm forty-one, have a six year old son, and am divorced but getting married in June. I work as a software developer.

My moniker is LatteSipper because latte-sipping, Volvo-driving, sushi-eating liberal takes too long to type. I'm a liberal (if you haven't figured it out yet) and wonder why the richest nation in the world chooses a military budget that dwarfs that of the rest of the world yet trails much of the developed world in areas such as poverty and infant mortality. I do believe that government can be used as a tool to improve the general quality of life and standard of living, but agree with Silence Dogood that many of our social programs are inefficient or don't produce results at all. The same could be said of our military expenditures, agriculture subsidies, tax loopholes; the list goes on and on. I do not, however, believe that simply shrinking the government is the answer. I think a new approach is called for, one that involves evaluation of what our collective, national priorities are and evaluating which investments, if any, move us towards our goals. It would require wiping the slate clean and starting anew, with no guarantees for any special interest groups, neither welfare mothers, retirees, farmers, CEOs, defense contractors or our elected representatives. Perhaps I am flailing at windmills, but I am not yet so pessimistic or cynical to believe that things can't change for the better.

I've come here on JK's recommendation looking for good discussion and hoping to challenge my beliefs and broaden my understanding ... and to find out if Dick Cheney really is a baby-eating cyborg. Cheers!

But jk thinks:

Nope. Can't wait. The "richest nation in the world" is the richest precisely because we have allowed individuals to prosper unimpeded for most of our history.

There is a clear, Constitutional purview to defend ourselves collectively. Military spending, by free people with votes to choose the level of support for a civilian-headed military is a very good thing. Protecting our way of life is a very good thing.

These nations we trail in your stats all seem to be full of people trying everything to get here -- nothing is more popular than American poverty. The infant mortality stat is the most specious and bogus argument since boasts of Castros free health care. Our rate is higher because we attempt to save sub-two pound infants who are months premature as a standard practice. Those who exceed us all inflate their numbers by allowing more babies to die. If you don't try to save it, it doesn't go against your average. I have never once struck out in a major league baseball game. Ever.

The trouble with your government spending for good is that government has no money. They spend our money and, with microscopic exceptions, we can always spend it better.

Posted by: jk at March 30, 2006 5:49 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I suddenly feel less outnumbered, a great big welcome from me LatteSipper!

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 30, 2006 6:31 PM
But LatteSipper thinks:

I knew the hospitality wouldn't last for long! ;) I agree with you and your smaller government brethren, defending our nation and way of life is a legitimate use of our money. My issue is with a defense budget that's more tuned to exerting our will, i.e. getting our way any where on the globe than it is in defending our country. My bad on poverty and infant mortality - I forgot that other countries lie about those things and we don't.

Posted by: LatteSipper at March 30, 2006 6:43 PM
But johngalt thinks:

How about LSVDSEL instead? Seriously though, I look forward to many opportunities to tell you just how and why you're wrong that I always had to pass up because I couldn't afford to spend an entire day in debate.

I'll lay off the criticism of your misty eyed idealism for now, but one bit of advice seems apropos in response to your sarcastic "I forgot that other countries lie about those things and we don't" comment. If you never acknowledge when the other guy has made a point he'll just judge you a bore and quit trying to engage you. Here's where that clean slate thing comes in! (Others may find this advice amusing coming from me but hey, I've done it! At least once or twice!)

Congratulations on the pending nuptials. The second time was the charm for me, as I hope it is for you.

Posted by: johngalt at March 31, 2006 12:39 AM
But jk thinks:

I was gonna suggest "Volvo." We're all coffee fanatics around here I don't about others but I'm a big sushi fan. But yes, I think you're the only one who'd be caught dead in a Volvo!

Posted by: jk at March 31, 2006 9:30 AM
But AlexC thinks:

As long as you don't like Uni....

Posted by: AlexC at March 31, 2006 12:28 PM

Voting Machines

You might remember last november when I was elected Judge of Elections for my precinct. It only took one vote (my wife's), and I'm in.

The next election isn't until May 16th, so there's still some time, and presumably I get some training on the operations of the machines.

The "new" machines, that is.

    Montgomery County’s machines have to be upgraded to comply with new federal law. The upgraded technology was tested for two days this week in order to be certified by state election officials, but problems were discovered.

    Michael Shamos, the certification examiner, says the manufacturer had to make modifications like adding technology for blind voters and then had to update the central tabulation system to accept votes from the all the different equipment the company makes:

    "And the central tabulation software has bugs in it and those bugs became evident during the examination."

    Shamos says the company will work on the problem with an eye toward more tests in mid-April.

If these machines aren't up to snuff, they still have the ability to fall back to the previous machines.

... and as of this writing, I'm scheduled to be on the ballot for a two year term on the county GOP committee representing my precinct.

Politics Posted by AlexC at 1:26 PM

Death of the conservative GOP?

Tim Chapman

    Last week, Senator Arlen Specter declared the death of a conservative Republican Party. After the Senate approved an amendment he offered to bust the budget by $7 billion for more domestic spending, Specter rejoiced. The Pennsylvania Republican bragged to reporters, “The Republican Party is now principally moderate, if not liberal!”

    Specter’s comments may be truer than many Republicans would like to admit. But conservatives in the Senate have not disappeared. There are some left, like the junior Senator from Nevada, John Ensign.

Read the whole thing.

But LatteSipper thinks:

Mr. Chapman gave a glowing account of Senator Ensign's principled voting record. The following quote from the senator explaining his votes against raising the debt ceiling and the Senate Budget Act is quite refreshing:

"Too many members of Congress are too involved in grabbing what they can for their states or districts without enough emphasis on overall fiscal restraint for the sake of the nation as a whole," Ensign said. "We need to usher in a new era of fiscal sanity. I am not willing to subject my children and grandchildren to the level of debt that Congress has created."

While enumerating the Republicans who voted against the raising of the debt ceiling, an editorial in the Washington Times on March 19th ( appears to challenge the sincerity of Senator Ensign's vote:

"In a genuinely sincere vote, buttressed by his eight years of opposition to congressional and presidential overspending, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn opposed it as well. Two other Republicans -- Conrad Burns and John Ensign, both of whom are up for re-election and both of whom voted for the pork-infested transportation bill last year -- also voted against raising the debt ceiling."

Was last year's transportation bill one of those complex ones where the good aspects outweighed the bad, was the senator just going along with the herd, or was it a vote to bring home the transportation bacon to Nevada? (I haven't researched any of the specifics such as Nevada's chunk of the pie.)

Posted by: LatteSipper at March 30, 2006 6:05 PM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Oddly enough, Howard "Yarrgh!" Dean was on Michael Smerconish's show this AM, sounding fairly centralist on hot-button issues like immigration and the Dubia-ous port deal.


Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 30, 2006 8:43 PM
But AlexC thinks:

There was a lot of fiscal cowardice on the highway bill. You will be hard pressed to find any supporters around here.

Posted by: AlexC at March 31, 2006 12:29 PM

Security & Immigration

With 11 million undocumented people in this country how many are anti-American? Would it be possible that perhaps as few as say, 19 are the really dangerous trouble makers?

... and it fully 3% of people on American soil are here without the consent of the nation, how long before a group hostile to our interests gets a few of their compatriots in?

The immigrants who come to work in this country for the opportunities, I really don't worry too much about. They understand and appreciate America for what it is. The land of boundless opportunity for those with sufficent motivation.

It's the ones that come for the opportunity to do damage that you can lose sleep over.

But jk thinks:

I worry about our nation's security as well, AlexC. But worrying about 19 people out of 300 million, I don't see why your concern is the Mexican border.

The Canadian border is more porous and has already been used by terrorists, the student visa program is out of hand. The Mexican border has not been a crossing for terrorists yet protectionists and xenophobes are ready to use national security as an excuse to shut it down.

If the concern is security, it seems we are in a lot more danger from Wahabist chaplains in US prisons and terror sympathizers already here.

Yet the call is clear: we must shut down the border -- for national security. Sorry, I don't buy it.

Posted by: jk at March 30, 2006 12:02 PM
But AlexC thinks:

JK, I never said Mexican border.

And I was thinking of the millenium bombers that were caught coming through the Canadian border in Washington State.

I'm talking borders in general, not individuals or countries.

The actual crossings. The lines cut through the woods, student visas, regular over-extended visa stays, etc.

... and how do you know the Mexican border hasn't been used for a terrorist or sympathizer crossing? Maybe they're already here, waiting.

It's disappointing that I'm immediately labelled a xenophobe. That's a cheap way to change the debate. It's not xenophobia.

Like I said, the ones that care about this country, I don't mind. It's the ones that don't, that I do mind.

Posted by: AlexC at March 30, 2006 12:20 PM
But jk thinks:

One step back. I had no intention of calling you a xenophobe. And, perhaps, my comments were not well directed at this post. Yet I see an alliance of a protectionist left with a xenophobic right that scares me greatly.

To come back to your post. I would not use the word immigrant to describe a terrorist. Immigrants come here to participate in the economy (and yes, might do it some harm) but the ones who come to destroy our way of life are called "terrorists" and are not a part of the immigration debate.

Posted by: jk at March 30, 2006 1:06 PM
But AlexC thinks:

How can you say they're not part of the debate?

Our defacto "open border" policy does not discriminate by ambition!

Posted by: AlexC at March 31, 2006 12:31 PM
But jk thinks:

We're software guys, let me try patterns:

1) I favor decriminalization of most drugs, and -- not to become Amsterdam or anything -- legalized prostitution.

2) I support the right of honest citizens to own firearms.

Both of these have severe consequences for abuse. Yet I would like to see my local police have the resources to find and prosecute those who drive drunk/high and commit crimes with firearms. Triple those penalties. Get tough.

Likewise, if we allowed the OVERWHELMING majority of those who just want to participate in our economy to come legally and orderly and traceably, we could devote far more resources to stopping, finding and removing terrorists.

Posted by: jk at March 31, 2006 6:03 PM

The Other


On the web Posted by AlexC at 11:23 AM

Fritter and Waste

ALa @ Blonde Sagacity writes regarding the opinion of FISA judges that President Bush was within the law on the NSA wiretapping.

    So Sorry Senator Feingold but it seems your "censure" call was just a colossal waste of time -and probably tax payer money.

C'mon now. When does any party in Washington care about not wasting money? It's not theirs. They didn't earn it. They don't care about spending it.

Plus, it was a cheap way to get blows in against the President. There's no dollar amount big enough to prevent that in that city.

Politics Posted by AlexC at 11:06 AM

South Park

Even K-Lo at the Corner can't stop watching. She links to GOP Vixen's description of the Second Episode:

In the episode, Kyle's dad buys a hybrid car (called a "Pious") and starts getting environmentalist ego, putting fake tickets on all the gas guzzlers. When the rest of the town gets angry at him, he decides South Park just isn't enlightened enough and moves the family to San Francisco. Stan misses Kyle and tries to lure the Braflovskis back by encouraging everyone to buy hybrids. After Stan writes and performs a "gay little song" about ecofriendliness, everybody buys hybrids. Then local weather officials freak out because South Park is becoming covered in smug generated by smug eco do-gooders. This combined with the No. 1 smug region in the nation -- San Francisco -- will soon be combining with the smug front generated by George Clooney's Oscar acceptance speech and forming a destructive smug storm.

I haven't seen it yet but have it on TiVo. I have some extremely smug relatives with a new Hybrid. I can't wait...

Posted by John Kranz at 10:19 AM | What do you think? [4]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

This is why I'm getting a DVR next month!

BTW - at my job (As a medic, BTW) we're getting three new hybrid Ford Escapes for responder and supervisor vehicles. Should I be looking for a job as a medic with the SFFD yet? ;)

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 30, 2006 8:48 PM
But jk thinks:

I bet those get driven a lot. I wonder if the hybrids might actually make economic sense? Do you know an average mileage figure?

You will love the DVR. One of those "how did I live without it?" devices.

Posted by: jk at March 30, 2006 9:12 PM
But jk thinks:

I saw it last night. This is the funniest South Park ever. Holler if anybody nneeds a DVD.

Posted by: jk at March 31, 2006 8:56 AM
But AlexC thinks:

This month's Scientific American has a table that lists the hybrids and their mileage, plus how many tons of CO2 it release per 15,000 miles.

Posted by: AlexC at March 31, 2006 4:39 PM

Lifting boats

In the past four decades, open economies (mostly from Europe, East Asia, North America) have fared far better than closed ones (Africa, Latin America, parts of Eastern Europe). Economists Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner found that from 1970-1989 average annual growth in open developed economies was 2.3%, compared with 0.7% in the closed. In developing countries, those numbers were 4.5% and 0.7%. That trend hasn't changed much as trade and foreign investment have powered global growth.

As befits the dismal science, not to mention the dismal profession of politics, this evidence hasn't settled the intellectual argument. So New York Senator Chuck Schumer and French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin can make their case for "economic patriotism," to use the Frenchman's phrase, with a straight face.

Some weird guy once mentioned in an Elevator that classical liberalism was very effective. He had an odd haircut and I was glad when he got off the elevator. But the Wall St Journal Ed Page seems to think he was right.

Such a direct correlation and so many years of correlation, yet the blind do not see. The editorial also talks up one of my favorites:

The real star pupil is Ireland, which went from the bottom of the EU league tables in GDP per capita to the top in a generation by slashing taxes and barriers to investment. Of the OECD countries, Ireland has the highest share of foreign-controlled affiliates in terms of employment (nearly 50%) and turnover (78%). In Portugal, which puts up higher obstacles to foreign investment, it's 15% and 8%. Portugal is today the poorest country in Western Europe.

Gosh, it almost makes one think that lower taxes and freer trade might make us wealthier over here.

But dagny thinks:

OK JK, I told JG he had to move this back to the front page so I could reply, and he said I should give up. I agreed, but, since you linked back to the original post I get to reply again.

This quote comes from TIA Dailys Robert Tracinski, via Cox and Forkum and seems applicable to the current discussion.

Remember the old adage about how a coward dies a thousand deaths? Similarly, in seeking to evade one big conflict, the pragmatist guarantees a thousand smaller, endlessly repeating conflicts later on.

You said, I know that's not how you feel but I worry that that is exactly how it is sometimes perceived by those who don't understand.

The solution to this problem is to teach people to understand, not to accept their incorrect premises and try to alter their perception. You are trying to brainwash them with something that doesnt agree with reality!

You said, Hope I didn't step on any toes, but I will confess that the Philosophy vs. Politics argument gets me down.

No toes stepped on but it makes me sad that you see this as an argument. I see correct politics as a natural result of correct philosophy. They are inextricably linked.

You said, I know it's important to you but it seems so academic to me.

I highly recommend an Ayn Rand article called, Philosophy who needs it? Note that there is a whole book by this title but it includes other essays. Philosophy is definitely NOT academic to politics (sort of like the engine in the Porsche). You cant see it and maybe you dont even know how it works, but if it isnt there, the car doesnt go.

You said, If I could sell people on classical liberalism because it ended global warming and scum from shower doors (both of which it would), I would do it.

If you sell it to them this way, they will return it as not as good as the next product to come along (see opening quote.) You must, sell, it to them based on its real value if you want happy customers.

Posted by: dagny at March 31, 2006 12:22 AM
But jk thinks:

Touche` on the pragmatist line -- it's funny and there is some truth in it.

Oddly enough I am very proud of my ideology. I have spent many years and read many tedious treatises to become the pedantic bore I am today. I agree that you have to have a center and speak from a core belief system.

The antithesis is Bill O'Reilly on FOXNews. He brags that he's not an ideologue, that he looks at every new problem in a new light. So he can straight-facedly call for the government to "take over thing x" in one segment and then berate government for its inefficacy in the next.

I read all the Ayn Rand I could get my hands on in my 20s and I credit her writing with breaking me out of the "Folk Marxism" I was brought up in. But I'll take recommendations from you and JG for some refresher material. I'll do the OPAR book but have been unimpressed with Dr. Peikoff, he always struck me as Rand's Lew Rockwell.

Come up with a book or two (I've read the popular ones: Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism, Anthem) and I'll give her another shot.

Posted by: jk at March 31, 2006 9:23 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Try the book she just mentioned, JK: 'Philosophy: Who Needs It?' sr=8-1/qid=1143838956/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-9439318-9679219?%5Fencoding=UTF8

From Amazon: "Written with all the clarity and eloquence that have placed Ayn Rand�s objectivist philosophy in the mainstream of American thought, these essays range over such basic issues as education, morality, censorship, and inflation to prove that philosophy is the fundamental force in all our lives."

Posted by: johngalt at March 31, 2006 4:06 PM
But jk thinks:

It's on the way, thanks -- I was hoping you'd recommend that, that's the one I wanted.

It should be the perfect chaser to the overly-pragmatic Hugh Hewitt book that shipped to me last week.

Posted by: jk at April 2, 2006 7:18 PM
But dagny thinks:

Not familiar with Lew Rockwell, but Peikoff is not the joy to read that Rand is. It took me three tries to get through OPAR and I am an insatiable reader and a pedantic bore too. I highly recommend it nonetheless as the insights it provided me regarding how the world works have proven invaluable.

Posted by: dagny at April 3, 2006 12:13 AM
But jk thinks:

Lew Rockwell runs the Mises Institute and I feel that he has hijacked the ideas of Mises to fit his own.

Seeing Peikoff on TV, I questioned whether it was valid for him to claim the mantle of Ayn Rand for his beliefs. He seemed quick to put words in the mouth of one who has passed away. You can quote them, but I think it is wrong to claim or imply that you know how they would speak on current issues.

Admittedly, this is a first impression.

Posted by: jk at April 3, 2006 10:02 AM

March 29, 2006

Men of the People

A bit of fireworks happened on the radio between Sean Hannity and Alec Baldwin recently. I don't listen to Hannity's shows (too much yelling and Medved is much more cerebral), but I saw this and had to laugh.

Alec Baldwin was on a show that Sean Hannity called in to, culiminating in Baldwin walking out.

    HANNITY: Alec, I wanted to give you an official WABC welcome considering you were supposed to come on my program last week and you didn't show up. What happened?

    BALDWIN: No, I wasn't supposed to come on your program, Sean Hannity.

    HANNITY: No, actually you were supposed to come on the program because a deal was made with your agent that if you were going to come on with Brian, first you'd come on with me.

    BALDWIN: I wouldn't dream of coming on your program, Sean Hannity. I'm here with Brian. I'm here with a really talented broadcaster.

    HANNITY: [Crosstalk] that you are, you don't tell the truth.

    BALDWIN: Why would I want to come on the show with a no-talent, former construction worker hack like you?

What's wrong with being a construction worker? He acts like changing careers is a bad thing.

Alec Baldwin pretty much finishes up with this line...

    BALDWIN: You're a no-talent, ignorant fool from Long Island. You should go back to building houses in Hempstead.

So what's the problem with the building trades? Baldwin acts like it's beneath him.

It shouldn't be. He's a former busboy.

Upward mobility for liberals is one thing, but for a conservative, it's a different thing altogether.

Posted by AlexC at 5:05 PM | What do you think? [9]
But LatteSipper thinks:

Two buffoons berating one another. Sounds like an enlightening show. I think I'll stick to music too.

Posted by: LatteSipper at March 29, 2006 7:00 PM
But jk thinks:

I thought Adam Baldwin was one of the brothers. Adam has a Tim Minear trifecta (Angel, Firefly, and The Inside). I am happy to hear he is not of that gene pool. I'll sleep better tonight.

Posted by: jk at March 29, 2006 7:24 PM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

BTW - ALex,..I used to listen to Medved, too, but I think he stoops to name-calling a little too much. He needs to stop calling third-party types "Losertarians" and "Constipation Party."

Don't we all have the right to express our political views?

NB: I'm neither a Libertarian nor a Consitution Party member, but I support their right to exist!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 30, 2006 8:52 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Medic - I seriously doubt that Medved thinks the Libertarian and Constitution parties should be denied their rights, he just believes that they are misguided and wasting their efforts. Kind of like JK calling dagny and me depressing and "academic."

Medved, like JK and Denver's Mike Rosen, is a pragmatist. He only endorses what is politically possible, not necessarily what is philosophically correct.

Posted by: johngalt at March 31, 2006 1:07 AM
But AlexC thinks:

Johngalt, politics isn't called the art of the possible for no reason. ;)

Posted by: AlexC at March 31, 2006 4:36 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Yes, you are absolutely right. And I'm not saying that serious people should withdraw from the political arena because it is pragmatic or imperfect. I'm saying that one must have an integrated philosophical ideal that guides him during the political give and take over time. Otherwise he can lose his way and end up where he started or worse, where his opponent wants to go.

Think of a philosophical base as a political lighthouse.

Posted by: johngalt at April 4, 2006 2:58 PM

Look For The Union Label

Only a union job.

John Stossel detailed a program in the NY Public Schools in which child molesters were paid to show up and watch TV and read magazines, because it is all but impossible to fire a union teacher and it is the only way to get dangerous people away from kids.

Now, The Everyday Economist points to a NY Times article about the UAW job bank. EE sys "The Jobs Bank essentially pays employees full wages and benefits to show up for work even when production is shut down or there is nothing for the workers to do. The program was supposed to last six years, it has lasted twenty-two."

For some reason (you think maybe incentives matter?) it appears to be a "tough sell" to offer a buyout package to a worker who gets full scale for nothing. Times:

Each day, workers report for duty at the plant and pass their time reading, watching television, playing dominoes or chatting. Since G.M. shut down production there last month, these workers have entered the Jobs Bank, industry's best form of job insurance. It pays idled workers a full salary and benefits even when there is no work for them to do.

The Jobs Bank is one critical burden that G.M. has to carry as it embarks on one of the biggest challenges — and biggest balancing acts — of its corporate survival. To become a leaner, more profitable company, it needs to persuade the right number of workers to take the buyouts, without chasing away its best people. If not enough people leave, G.M. is stuck with excess workers, who will swell the ranks of the Jobs Bank.

But in factories like the one in Oklahoma City, where workers were first interviewed on a visit last month and over the next several weeks, the buyouts could be a hard sell.

I guess. To be fair, such a job is one of Dante's rings of hell to me (Purgatorio might be a better description) but then, I think I lack the Union spirit.

Posted by John Kranz at 4:59 PM | What do you think? [2]
But LatteSipper thinks:

Edumacate me JK - is the Jobs Bank a government program foisted on GM or part of a contract they negotiated with the UAW? BTW, I agree with you, such a job sound like torture.

Posted by: LatteSipper at March 29, 2006 7:04 PM
But jk thinks:

From Everyday Economist, it looks like a "temporary" thing the union talked the big three into once upon a time.

Surely you don't think goverement would ever have workers being paid for idleness...

Posted by: jk at March 29, 2006 7:08 PM

Immigrant Economics

Thomas Sowell, a perennial Threesources favorite asks, "Guests or Gate Crashers?"

    Bogus arguments are a tip-off that you wouldn't buy the real reasons for what someone is doing. Phony arguments and phony words are the norm in discussions of immigration policy.

    It starts with a refusal to call illegal aliens "illegal aliens" and ends with asking for "guest worker" status for people who are not guests but gate crashers. As for the substantive arguments, they are as phony as the verbal evasions.

    What about all those illegal workers that we "need"? Many of the illegals are working in agriculture, producing crops that have been in chronic surplus for decades. These surplus crops are costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars in government storage costs and in the inflated prices created by deliberately keeping much of this agricultural output off the market.

    Do we "need" illegal workers to produce bigger surpluses?

He then lashes out on sugar surpluses and our domestic subsidies of it.

He ends...

    One of the most bogus of all the bogus arguments for a "guest worker" program is that it is impossible to find all the millions of illegal aliens in the country, so it is impossible to deport them.

    If tomorrow someone came up with some brilliant way to identify every illegal alien in the country, it would not make the slightest difference. Right now, those who are identified as illegal, whether at the border, in prisons, at traffic stops or in any of our institutions, face no penalty whatsoever.

    Identification is not the problem. Doing nothing is the problem.

But jk thinks:

It hurts to not see eye-to-eye with someone I respect as much as Dr. Sowell -- or Victor Davis Hanson on the same topic.

Reading the two installments to date, our agreements are greater than our disagreements. Sowell is dead on about agricultural subsidies, and I cannot disagree with those who are infuriated by the law-and-order implications of illegal immigration.

And we must have a real, not demagogic discussion. That includes not only saying "illegal alien," but also includes not referring to any guest worker program as "amnesty." Sowell does not exactly break this rule, but his gate-crasher comment misses the point of creating a future legal method of allowing workers.

I hope he might address the economic arguments in his third installment. We will be far wealthier with a sizable immigrant workforce -- why can we not choose that wealth and provide a legal framework to establish orderly borders and knowledge of who's here?

Posted by: jk at March 29, 2006 2:30 PM
But LatteSipper thinks:

We have a trifecta! JK, George Will, and the NY Times are in agreement! (George Will column "Guard the Borders -- And Face Facts, Too", NY Times editorial "It Isn't Amnesty" I also agree that while we need to secure our borders as a basic national security issue, we also need a solution to the illegal immigration problem that acknowledges the facts on the ground and looks to harness this tremendous resource. I'm unclear what we gain by rounding up and deporting 12 million people. I may disagree on the specifics, but I think Bush is on the right side of this issue. (Would someone please check and make sure that JK didn't hit his head on the floor when he fainted?)

Posted by: LatteSipper at March 30, 2006 1:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

George Will has definitely spent too much time with George Stephanopolous and the rest of the progressives at ABC News. He's also come out with "the war in Iraq was a failure because Arabs can't handle democracy." His explanation is that no middle eastern country has a Washington or Adams or Jefferson. But then, neither did Japan.

Posted by: johngalt at April 4, 2006 3:01 PM

If Not Kyoto, What?

Missed Pete DuPont's piece in the Journal yesterday (free link).

Like me, Pete (a man who might have been President of the United States had mom not named him "Pierre...") is not going to concede that global warming is man made. He makes some of my favorite skeptic arguments: The ice-age scare in the 1970s, plus that it is happening on Mars, as well, where SUV sales have been slow. If true, he is not a fan of the Kyoto solution as a possible remedy:

We also know that the Kyoto Treaty will do little to solve the carbon-dioxide problem. Masquerading as a global environmental policy, Kyoto exempts half of the world's population and nine of the top 20 emitters of carbon dioxide--including China and India--from its emissions reduction requirements. It is in fact an effort to replace the world's markets with an internationally regulated (think U.N.) global economy, perhaps better described as a predatory trade strategy to level the world's economic playing field by penalizing the economic growth of energy efficient nations and rewarding those emitting much greater quantities of noxious gasses. Which explains why in 1997 the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 to oppose the signing of any international protocol that would commit Western nations to reduce emissions unless developing countries had to do so as well.

As The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, almost none of the nations that signed on are meeting Kyoto's requirements. Thirteen of the original 15 European signatories will likely miss the 2010 emission reduction targets. Spain will miss its target by 33 percentage points and Denmark by 25 points. Targets aside, Greece and Canada have seen their emissions rise by 23% and 24%, respectively, since 1990. As for America, our emissions have increased 16%, so we are doing better than many of the Kyoto nations.

He then discusses a study by two Princeton profs detailing what would be required to cut emissions if the reduction of C02 were necessary: replace all incandescent bulbs; two million wind turbines; Liquid Natural Gas docs and pipes; an India-sized parcel of land to grow sugar cane for ethanol (get Arizona and Texas hooked on ag subsidies?); build 700 noocyooler plants.

Other than the light bulbs there are committed opponents to every plan -- and the Sylvania lobby has not been heard from yet. DuPont doesn't say it, but I don't think any of them have a strong economic basis either. I suspect that if regulations could be lifted, that nuclear and LNG might pay for themselves, but it's a no go.

The solution is technology: improvements in generation and efficiency will eventually get us out. I have to add a Silence point here from a recent coffee klatch. He can describe it better, but he is interested in micro-generation. An Army of Davids solution, with photovoltaic solar tiles, personal windmill power. Technology is making these economically viable. A Hayekian power grid with lots of producers and consumers instead of one producer and many consumers would be very cool.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:57 PM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

If not Kyoto how about... nothing. Does nobody remember that one of the greatest proponents of Kyoto was Enron? Their swindles were chump change compared to the rich vein of western wealth that misbegotten scheme would have served up.

Posted by: johngalt at March 29, 2006 3:24 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I don't know about the Sylvania lobby, but of that list replacing all the incandescent bulbs seems the most likely to happen, LED technology is expanding rapidly. I am still a micro-generation fan, the Napster of energy production. The biggest hurdle however will be the utilites, the utility grid is just not set up for two way streams, it was designed as a distribution network. I did read recently however, that sometime late this year that micro generation (includes wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and LNG) worldwide will surpass the number of megawatts produced worldwide by nuclear energy. Kinda cool.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 29, 2006 11:33 PM
But jk thinks:

Again, the solution is technology and not government regulation. The Kyoto treaty looks worse every year, which is saying a lot.

Anything the US Senate rejects 95-0 would have to be either perfect or rotten. Kyoto is clearly not perfect.

Posted by: jk at March 30, 2006 9:34 AM

Consumer Confidence


    U.S. consumers perked up in March as economic activity gained momentum, sending an index of sentiment about the economy to its highest in almost four years, according to a report released on Tuesday.

    The Conference Board, a private research firm, said its measure of consumer sentiment spiked to 107.2, up from an upwardly revised 102.7 last month and well above Wall Street's median forecast for a slight gain.

That's great... but it wouldn't be an economic story without a "but." And it's a doozy.
    The report painted a mixed employment picture, however. The proportion of consumers saying jobs were hard to get edged up to 20.7 percent from 20.2 percent, while those saying jobs were plentiful also climbed to 28.4 percent from 27.4.

Pardon my language. What the fuck?

When did we start measuring this number?

"Jobs hard to get?"

I guess there is always a dark cloud somewhere.

But jk thinks:

Don't worry, as soon as it goes down, you'll never hear about it again.

Posted by: jk at March 29, 2006 1:08 PM

March 28, 2006

NYTimes Ed Page: Bastion of Free Trade

Pinch me. The NYTimes Ed Page takes :a whack at Senator Schumer for his protectionism. Senator Graham is deservedly caught in the crossfire

The good news is that Senators Lindsey Graham and Charles Schumer have started to inch away from their misguided attempt to club China for its currency policies. At the end of a fact-finding trip last week, Mr. Schumer told reporters he was no longer sure he would push for a vote to impose tariffs on Chinese imports into the United States. "The jury is out," he said. But, he said, "we are more optimistic that this can be worked out than we were in the past."

Maybe the chance to talk face-to-face with Chinese on their home turf is what it took to make Mr. Graham and Mr. Schumer realize that just as trade is a two-way street, so too are sanctions. If lawmakers actually went ahead with the Schumer-Graham bill, which would impose 27.5 percent tariffs — a staggering amount — on Chinese goods, they would be accomplishing little to cut American unemployment, while hurting poor Americans who rely on inexpensive goods and poor Chinese whose livelihoods depend on making those products.

There's always hope! Hat-tip: Everyday Economist

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 9:46 AM

March 27, 2006

Listening In

We join this conversation in progress... I have been discussing FISA wiretaps with Silence Dogood and an anonymous source who started the email thread by mailing me a copy of an Atlantic Monthly article, Big Brother Is Listening. (Paid link)

After a few emails, Silence suggested that I get this on the blog. I will start by excerpting the original article, trying to be fair. The article states that the listening is more prevalent and more sophisticated than most imagine, and that it is easier than you might think to get on the watch list:

It used to be that before the NSA could place the name of an American on its watch list, it had to go before a FISA-court judge and show that it had probable cause-that the facts and circumstances were such that a prudent person would think the individual was somehow connected to terrorism-in order to get a warrant. But under the new procedures put into effect by Bush's 2001 order, warrants do not always have to be obtained, and the critical decision about whether to put an American on a watch list is left to the vague and ubjective "reasonable belief" of an NSA shift supervisor. In charge of hundreds of people, the supervisor manages a wide range of sigint specialists, including signals-conversion analysts separating HBO television programs from cell-phone calls, traffic analysts sifting through massive telephone data streams looking for suspicious patterns, cryptanalysts attempting to read e-mail obscured by complex encryption algorithms, voice-language analysts translating the gist of a phone call from Dari into English, and cryptolinguists trying to unscramble a call on a secure telephone. Bypassing the FISA court has meant that the number of Americans targeted by the NSA has increased since 2001 from perhaps a dozen per year to as many as 5,000 over the last four years, knowledgeable sources told The Washington Post in February. If telephone records indicate that one of the NSA's targets regularly dials a given telephone number, that number and any names associated with it are added to the watch lists and the communications on that line are screened by computer. Names and information on the watch lists are shared with the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, and foreign intelligence services. Once a person's name is in the files, even if nothing incriminating ever turns up, it will likely remain there forever. There is no way to request removal, because there is no way to confirm that a name is on the list.

The next paragraph details a French businessman, who attracted the attention of US, Australians and UK intelligence with a $1.1 Million transaction with Iran. It turns out that the sale was legal, and Bamford is concerned that this person, now on the watch list may be monitored closely, denied entry, or face some other consternation when he committed no wrong and faced no due process.

The article takes a very interesting look at the size, scope and secrecy of the FISA court.

On the first Saturday in April of 2002, the temperature in Washington, D.C., had taken a dive. Tourists were bundled up against the cold, and the cherry trees along the Tidal Basin were fast losing their blossoms to the biting winds. But a few miles to the south, in the Dowden Terrace neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, the chilly weather was not deterring Royce C. Lamberth, a bald and burly Texan, from mowing his lawn. He stopped only when four cars filled with FBI agents suddenly pulled up in front of his house. The agents were there not to arrest him but to request an emergency court hearing to obtain seven top-secret warrants to eavesdrop on Americans.
The court's job is to decide whether to grant warrants requested by the NSA or the FBI to monitor communications of American citizens and legal residents. The law allows the government up to three days after it starts eavesdropping to ask for a warrant; every violation of FISA carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Between May 18, 1979, when the court opened for business, until the end of 2004, it granted 18,742 NSA and FBI applications; it turned down only four outright.

I commented that security and privacy were tensions in balance and that the tale of the French businessman, while regrettable, was a fair trade when compared to the fact that FBI agents did not search Zacharias Moussaoui's laptop for lack of a FISA warrant and probable cause. Disrupting terrorism, I claimed was too important.

Some good things were said on both sides, to be lost to the ether. But the political view of privacy and civil liberties on the right were questioned against the defense of President Bush from me and other Republicans. I asked if my emailer was so keen to give the 105th Congress more authority at the expense of President Clinton. He didn't say it, but would I have been keen to give more authority to Clinton/Albright?

I rested my final case on Federalist #10 and #64, highlighting the importance of executive power in national security. I don't want the dim bulbs on either side of either house mucking too much up with real-time defense decisions. Here's the thread in progress:

Friend X: No, I didn't ask for the Republicans to increase Legislative power in the 90's, nor am I asking Republicans who control congress or the Democrats who fear being branded "weak on security" to increase Legislative power today. I'm asking congress to exercise their oversight responsibilities and look into why the President ignored the existing FISA law. If I recollect correctly, the administration's two supporting arguments for the legality of the warrantless surveillance are that 1) Congress authorized it in the Joint Resolution of Sept 14, 2001 with the words "the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force", and 2) that in his role as Commander-in-Chief the president can do whatever he feels is appropriate. The first argument is silly. It in essence says that the Congress authorized the President to do anything. Prison camps? Why not? Door-to-Door searches? Why not? Is it ok for Bush to initiate these measures? The Joint Resolution does not prohibit these far-fetched measures any more than it prohibits warrantless surveillance. The language of the Joint Resolution as well as the language of the constitution leaves a lot open to interpretation. This is why it would be totally appropriate for Congress to have in-depth hearings on what is a very controversial action by the current administration.

I understand that you're ok with the balance the administration has struck between security and civil liberties concerns. I think this will always be a subject for debate. Are you saying that someone who is not comfortable with the president's approach and would like congressional investigation into the matter is simply being a partisan hack?

Another thought (this is a big day for me) -- I have a problem with the argument that it's ok if the government is spying on you only when you're communicating with someone overseas. The president has claimed he can do this because it's his prerogative as commander-in-chief. At what point does he cross the line of what's appropriate and what isn't? Wouldn't it be appropriate for our representatives in Congress to discuss this? If not, when is it appropriate to investigate? Can Congress ever do this? I share your lack of confidence in the players on both sides of the aisle in both houses, but that in no way means I believe in giving a president carte blanche, be he or she a Democrat or Republican.

Here's the last question:
Silence Dogood: explain to me how the same red state crowd that stridently defends their right to bear arms, and avoid government licensing of weapons because when the government goes bad, the first thing they will do is track down and confiscate weapons is so willing to give up their right to private communication? When the government goes bad it will track you down for your ideas before your weapons. Imagine how colonial America would have progressed if communication was monitored and the printing presses serialized by the British. I consider freedom of speech to be the most basic right in a free society, but take away the right to anonymity and speech will be less free, I think it is as basic as that.

I admitted that I was radically unconcerned. That I was involved in a business headquartered overseas and did not necessarily consider my conversations with foreign nationals protected by the Constitution. I was a lot more worried about McCain-Feingold which limits exactly the speech that the First Amendment seeks to protect.

How 'bout it right wingers and liberty freaks? Are we silently giving away fundamental rights because we agree with the administration?

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 8:40 PM | What do you think? [4]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I would have to say that I was radically unconcerned about McCain-Feingold, although you have done an excellent job JK in convincing me that it was bad law of the highest order. Well, that plus evidence that it simply doesn't do what it was supposed to do. I just always worry about rationalizing limits on liberty as a trade off for safety, being an adherent to Ben Franklin's views on that subject.

On the technology issue, you make some valid points, such as we have free encryption available, but I think we are giving up anonymity. In exchange for better communication we have made it easier for the government to snoop. We mentioned the colonial era, and yes the British could have folks listen to conversations, they could even put up checkpoints and open letters, but I don't see that as being quite as easy as tying into AT&T's feed. We get better communication, but less secure. A dissident in a totalitarian regime can post on the internet and get far wider exposure, but he cannot do so completely anonymously and thus, not freely. Like the gun analogy, laws protecting our rights are only as strong as the force the people can use to uphold them. We are guaranteed free speech but without the ability to be anonymous what power do we have to uphold that right?

I also believe the war powers of the Executive branch are being abused by declaring a near constant state of war. The Cold War lasted 50 years, unprecedented in our history, and yet President Reagan thoughtfully declared the War on Drugs before the Cold War was even over. Now we have the War on Terror, a war with no definable end. Keep in mind that many a dictator has declared war on his opposition and used those powers to strangle his country. How about the suspension of Habeus Corpus by Lincoln that I now hear so much about, yet no one quotes the famous Ex parte: Milligan case before the Supreme Court that officially ended it in 1866? Well, allow me:

"It follows, from what has been said on this subject, that there are occasions when martial rule can be properly applied. If, in foreign invasion or civil war, the courts are actually closed, and it is impossible to administer criminal justice according to the law, then, on the theatre of active military operations, where war really prevails, there is a necessity to furnish a substitute for the civil authority, thus overthrown, to preserve the safety of the army and society; and as no power is left but the military, it is allowed to govern by martial rule until the laws can have their free course. As necessity creates the rule, so it limits its duration; for, if this government is continued after the courts are reinstated, it is a gross usurpation of power. Martial rule can never exist where the courts are open, and in the proper and unobstructed exercise of their jurisdiction. It is also confined to the locality of actual war. The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus does not suspend the writ itself. The writ issues as a matter of course; and on return made to it the court decides whether the party applying is denied the right of proceeding any further with it."

The Supreme Court even in its 5-4 victory was attempting to make their decision as narrow as possible because of the precedent it would set. They carefully stated their opinion such that in a time of rebellion or invasion as the Constitution states, or even in time of war in general that martial law may be declared, but only during periods of time when the civil courts are closed due to that war, rebellion or invasion.

Secrecy is the other enemy of liberty. You cannot combat in a democratic arena what you don't know or can't prove exists. Look back through our history at the eras that had secret monitoring and wholesale suspension of liberties and think about how many of them you could defend today. The FBI monitoring of the civil rights movement or the anti-war movement, the Red Scare of communism and the congressional inquiries, the internment of the Japanese? How many of those actually had any effect whatsoever on our national security? There seems to be an assumption that large scale dragnets actually work in catching terrorists, yet proof of this is hard to come by and certainly not supported by history. Claiming that our victories must be kept secret to avoid tipping off our enemies may be valid, but it is also a very convenient way to not have to support your means with verifiable ends.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 28, 2006 12:33 PM
But jk thinks:

Of course, I didn't quote the Ex parte: Milligan case because I assumed everybody knew it, but you're right, we may have some newbies around here...

The War on Terror does indeed provide a pretext for usurpation of liberties. I cannot deny that but I have to look at the impingements so far and decide that I am comfortable. The supra-FISA wiretaps (three errors in two words, but you know what I mean) strike me as legitimate based on a few things I mentioned in mail

-- I am more comfortable with the Carnivore style eavesdropping, where huge quantities of information are algorithmically checked than individual eavesdropping. The legal question I never hear discussed is the suitability of the information for domestic prosecution. If I tell [foreign source] that I jaywalked yesterday, and jackbooted thugs from Lafayette Traffic Division kick down my door, we have a problem. If they really just care about and prosecute security concerns, I find it hard to get worked up.

I find that to be the difference in the historical parallels of Hoover wiretapping Dr. King (and Nixon's enemies list). These taps collected information for domestic prosecution.

The Japanese internment is a good example of a breach of rights, but that was funded by Congress and upheld in Korematsu v. United States, so you have a three branch failure. Likewise, history will show that many elements in the War n Terror were overkill. Airport security and disallowing the sale of the ports to Dubai come to mind already. But I dont think well look back and see the wiretaps in the same light.

As for your question of efficacy, the sidebar to the story includes an example success in the eavesdropping, and the near search of Moussaouis laptop will be fodder for counterfactuals for years to come.

Posted by: jk at March 28, 2006 1:20 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Please allow me to pick on a few specifics:

1) Some of us are getting all worked up because this "widespread" illegal surveilance has affected maybe 1250 people per year for the last 4 years? And who knows what fraction of those aren't actually American citizens or legal residents.

2) A specific example of the egregiousness of this surveilance comes down to the concern that this law-abiding foreign businessman MIGHT be "monitored closely, denied entry, or face some other consternation?" I would hope that anyone who makes million-dollar deals with the world's leading terrorist state WILL be monitored closely.

3) This is just a gratuitous shot here, but of the three US government agencies the article laments are privvy to the watch list info, one of them, Homeland Security, would not even exist today save for the insistence of house and senate Democrats.

4) Perhaps this is just an example of sloppy excerpting, but what's the point being made about carloads of government agents tracking down a judge at his home to request emergency warrants? Isn't this what the "anonymity" crowd is demanding in the first place?

5) If only 4 out of 18,742 warrant requests were turned down over 25 years, why is it so all fired important to make sure that 1 out of 5000 gets turned down in the last 4 years? (I know, I know, if there's no oversight there will be more abuse. But how much abuse can there be in 5000 cases? With some luck, many of these targets are affiliated with domestic terrorist groups like ELF and ALF. GASP! I didn't actually stumble across the real fear here, did I?)

6) "Prison camps?...Door-to-door searches?...The Joint Resolution does not prohibit these far-fetched measures any more than it prohibits warrantless surveillance." Um, "far-fetched" measures don't fall under the umbrella of "necessary and appropriate." But the analogy is void: There is a material gulf between imprisonment or home invasion as compared to listening to what one says or writes.

7) "Very controversial action" by the current administration? Only in certain circles.

8) "are you saying that someone who is not comfortable with the president's approach and would like congressional investigation into the matter is simply being a partisan hack?" I think you know my answer to this one.

9) Regarding Silence's question about defending the 2nd Amendment but also being "so willing to give up their right to private communication:" Listen, if I had communications I wanted to remain secret from the government, the last thing I would rely upon to keep them that way is some sort of GOVERNMENT REGULATION! If the government wants to listen in on my phone calls that's fine with me as long as they don't, as JK quipped, send the jackbooted thugs for some minor offense like caring for a minor relative whose mother gave her life in a successful attempt to escape from a totalitarian regime. (Oh wait, that actually happened.) If they ever find actual evidence of terrorism or law breaking on my behalf then, as they say, I shouldn't have done the crime if I can't do the time.

10) "Are we silently giving away fundamental rights becuase we agree with the administration?" No on wiretaps. Yes on the failure to repeal the 16th amendment.

11) I think it's very important to understand the difference between public and private spaces. The government should never be permitted to enter private property to search without a warrant. Once you step outside though, it is lunacy to suggest that you be legally able to violate substantive laws merely because there was no reason to suspect you before you committed the violation.

12) This hangup over anonymity is puzzling. The reason we want a free society is precisely so that we don't HAVE to hide our identity! This is NOT a totalitarian regime: Witness hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens who took to the streets to flaunt their lawlessness last weekend. Where were the jack-booted jamokes with night sticks? It should have been a feeding frenzy, right?

In closing, we are all right to be vigilant for tyranny. Keep watching. This ain't it.

Hell, I'm about ready to vote in a Democrat president just to shut this bunch up for 4 years.

Posted by: johngalt at March 28, 2006 3:52 PM
But jk thinks:

I can fink on him now that he's in the fold: LatteSipper is "Friend X!" Soylent Green is people!

Posted by: jk at March 31, 2006 9:52 AM

The Immigration Rallies

Mickey Kaus did great reporting on the pro-immigration rallies in L.A. He predicted an anti-immigrant backlash and caught the LA Times papering over the large numbers of Mexican flags in the parade. In the spirit of fairness, I provide a link to this coverage.

In Kaus's spirit of fairness, he provides a link to a Marc Cooper posting that disagrees. Much as I dig the Mickster, I have to go with Cooper on this one.

I'm struck by several aspects of this story. Primarily by the way neither party can properly get a hold of this issue. Demographics and global economics are simply racing ahead of any practical political response. The Republicans are deeply divided over the issue. Even as the half-million or so were marching in the streets Saturday, President Bush was on the radio more or less endorsing the protestors' two key demands: that a legal channel be created for the immigration already happening and that some legal acknowledgement be given to the 12 million "illegals" already living here. Viva Bush!

The Democrats are less divided and generally more inclined toward reform. But can you name even two prominent national Democrats who have taken up this cause in a serious way? (One is Ted Kennedy who along with John McCain has co-authored the most sensible reform proposal currently under consideration).

The other point is that I refuse to back away from my contention that compromise is possible. I think you can increase enforcement and provide a legal channel and make most of the people happy.

In the Kausian spirit of fairness, I will include another link. Arnold Kling, whom I respect greatly, seems to minimize the economic benefits of immigration (which I claim). Kling is not against me by any stretch, but he is not quite so sure about the economic benefits:

I believe that illegal immigrants bring relatively little economic benefit and cause relatively little economic harm. I believe that there are substitutes readily available for the work done by illegal immigrants. Legal residents could do some of the work. Other labor could be replaced by capital or by alternative production techniques. By the same token, because there are many substitutes available for unskilled labor, the salvation of American workers does not lie in immigration restrictions.

Kling says "The Battle of the Borders is a distraction. While he is on my side on immigration, outsourcing, and foreign ownership of US Assets, (for all three), he thinks other issues are more worthy of effort -- on both sides.

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 1:49 PM | What do you think? [7]
But jk thinks:

And After we end all welfare and eliminate taxation, we can start on the really important things...

Posted by: jk at March 27, 2006 6:48 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Hey, if it was easy it would have been done by now!

My idealistic goals are an easy mark for flippancy but I have to correct you on one point. There was plenty of taxation prior to the 16th Amendment and there always will be. I'm merely asking to repeal the anti-Constitutional revision that allowed taxation "without regard to the enumeration of the several states" or, some animals get taxed more than others.

Posted by: johngalt at March 27, 2006 11:28 PM
But jk thinks:

It's a far cop, guv! I considered your taxation point after I posted, you are right.

The flippancy is not so much about the scope of your goals -- I dig that. I am flip because you are always willing to postpone immigration reform until you have eradicated welfare. The interrelation is clear, but you have effectively put yourself out of an important debate.

"I'll clean the garage as soon as I learn to teleport matter." Yes, that would help but some might see it as a cheap excuse to not clean the shed...

Posted by: jk at March 28, 2006 9:26 AM
But johngalt thinks:

You're probably right JK that I haven't had much to say on the matter of immigration reform directly. I have definitely been torn between competing principles on this one: Individual liberty on one hand and law and order on the other. There are solutions that will give us both, but I contend that none of what's on the table now does much good at improving either.

The most distasteful aspect of the situation is that our government's reckless disregard for the last number of decades has put us in a situation that almost insures that a pragmatist solution will be required. I can't bring myself to endorse such a thing, so I just focus on what really IS morally justifiable and leave the sausage making for others.

Posted by: johngalt at March 28, 2006 3:57 PM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Donde estan sus tarjetas verdes??


Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 29, 2006 6:54 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Enviado a la oficina de senador Juan McCain con la caja de Toasties de dos postes remata en el intercambio para una visa de H5-A!

Posted by: johngalt at April 4, 2006 3:13 PM

A Defense of Chef

I'm not a Scientologist, and I don't play one on TV. But we have enjoyed some fun around here at the expense of Scientology and Mr. Isaac Hayes. Hayes, of course, left the cast of "South Park" because of a show that he felt was unfair to Scientologists. His character, Chef, explained painful truths to the children in South Park. I think Chef may be teaching us his last lesson.

Insofar as Hayes was coerced into leaving his position by powerful Scientologists, that is no doubt a problem. Rumors abound of a powerful cabal of Scientologists who "run" Hollywood. Considering all the other problems Hollywood has, I can't lose too much sleep over this.

Somebody suggested a boycott of Mission Impossible 3 (MI:3) over this. as Tom Cruise is a powerful Hollywood Scientologist. But if Mr. Hayes is acting on his own volition, I would call this a shining example of market forces and conscience. He is willing to turn down employment for his beliefs.

I'd suggest Christians consider this counterfactual: if South Park had done an episode talking about how Jesus rose from the dead, complete with the caption "Christians really believe this" and an actor had voluntarily quit the program, I would gather that actor would be hailed as a hero.

Parker and Stone will no doubt be more ruthless on Scientology, which is their right, too. I will enjoy those shows. The self-correcting market will carry on.

Posted by John Kranz at 9:26 AM | What do you think? [2]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

As one of those suggesting the boycott, I make the suggestion, and justify my wrath against Tom Cruise, because Mr. Cruise used his Hollywood power to leverage the deep-sixing of South Park's anti-Scientology episode.

Cruise refused to do any PR for MI:3 if the episode was not pulled. ALL parties involved with South Park, the Comedy Channel, and the producers of MI:3 are inter-related.

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 27, 2006 7:57 PM
But jk thinks:

That's a good point, and I will join you in a boycott (though like JohnGalt it is based more on the expectation of a really, really, really bad movie than Mr. Cruise's transgressions).

At that point it is indeed coercion and not a free choice. The only good news is that I expect this will not endear Scientology or Tom Cruise to Parker and Stone -- they could make a couple of bad enemies.

Posted by: jk at March 27, 2006 8:06 PM

March 26, 2006

Review Corner

Glenn Reynolds's "An Army of Davids" was very good. I just finished it and recommend it highly.

I am astonished at how little politics is in it. (though the section on the Martian constitution was interesting) and yet the implications of the book are deeply political. On the lines of my Elevator Talk, the story is certainly individual empowerment, even a capitalist shift to Marxist desire that "workers own the means of production." I don't remember Hayek's being mentioned by name, yet it vividly describes distributed knowledge and responsibility as taking over from top-down Keynesian enterprises.

Missing from my elevator talk is my belief that these ideas are taking form outside of politics. James Surowecki (holy cow, he writes for The New Yorker), Mary Katherine Ham's description of Craig's List founder Craig Newmark's keynote address that I blogged about and "Army of Davids" all point to an individual empowerment that is happening completely outside the realm of partisan politics. This intrigues me as a common ground that I might find with non-Republicans.

Yet I don't think it's fair to forget partisan politics, even though it does give an author an opportunity to double his or her target audience. Reynolds does address the perils of government interference in nanotech and life-extending medicine. He hopes Leon Kass (his personal bete noir) does not get the opportunity to kill research that will significantly extend human life, yet he ignores the effects that lawyers can have. The lawyers have a better excuse than the luddites (we love profit motive at threesources!), but they both retard the progress of development -- especially in Medicine.

Reynolds contends that we may reach "escape velocity" in our lifetimes, postponing death while we're still alive to enjoy it. Reynolds worries about Mr. Kass, I worry about Senator Edwards and that execrable Republican trial lawyer that got the big Vioxx settlement. He thinks death will be cured in our lifetime (an unfair paraphrase, read the whole thing [heh]) . It hit me last week that if they discovered a cure for MS tomorrow, I would not live long enough to see it. By the time the FDA studied safety and efficacy, and drug firms felt confident that the tort bar could be deflected from their profits, it is not likely I'd be around to try it out. The procedures and advances in this book will be fought by luddites and lawyers, and will take more than our lifetime to reach the market.

But that's a minor quibble in a good book: thought provoking and a great read. Definitely grab this one.

Posted by John Kranz at 8:03 PM

March 25, 2006

Thomas Sowell

A favorite is undoubtedly Thomas Sowell. has an interview with him up on their site.

    Asked why classical economics--and economists like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Mill and Marx--continues to deserve attention, Mr. Sowell replies that "if classical economics is relevant, than Mill and Marx are relevant. Why is classical economics relevant? I guess it's relevant because there are people who study it, and if they're going to talk about it they ought to know what they're talking about, which is a requirement sometimes overlooked."

    Free-market economics, a legacy of the classical school, is thought of as an old conservative doctrine. But Mr. Sowell explains that it was in fact one of the most revolutionary concepts to emerge in the history of ideas. Moreover, "the thinking of the classical economist was not only a radical break from landmark intellectual figures like Plato and Machiavelli but also from mainstream thinking to this day." The notion of a self-equilibrating system--the market economy--meant a reduced role for intellectuals and politicians, he says. "And even today many still haven't accepted that their superior wisdom might be superfluous, if not damaging."

But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at March 26, 2006 3:07 AM


An emailer wants me to trade links. He says

I have found your website by searching Yahoo for "abc news story on gary attorney for id theft as giant slayer". I think our websites has a similar theme, so I have already added your link to my website.

No way pal, maybe if you offered NATALEE HOLLOWAY PICTIURES, then I'd believe our websites has similar theme. As it is, I suspect you're a spambot.

Posted by John Kranz at 4:20 PM

March 24, 2006

Easter Bunny Gone!

Star Tribune

    A small Easter display was removed from the City Hall lobby on Wednesday out of concern that it would offend non-Christians.

    The display - a cloth Easter bunny, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words "Happy Easter'' - was put up by a City Council secretary. They were not purchased with city money.

    Tyrone Terrill, the city's human rights director, asked that the decorations be removed. Terrill said no citizen had complained to him.

The city hall was Saint Paul Minnesota's City Hall.

Posted by AlexC at 12:03 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

When chocolate bunnies are outlawed, only outlaws will have chocolate bunnies.

Posted by: jk at March 24, 2006 2:18 PM

2008 Contenders Fiscal Rating

The National Taxpayers Union came up with a ranking of every roll call vote on fiscal and budgetary issues for the leading contenders for 2008.

The best scoring Democrat? Russ Feingold with a D.

Worst scoring Republicans had B+'s. The downside?
Their names are Allen, Brownback and Frist.

On top of the Rs are Hagel and McCain with As. (Yes, I know).
But they're also joined by Gingrich and Tancredo.

But jk thinks:

So that was an official endorsement of Senator Chuck Hagel in '08?

I suppose the NTU is at least as fair as I ma, but I was surprised and skeptical that they showed almost zero benefit for DLC-types, like Evan Bayh, over committed progressives like John Kerry. Richardson deserves better based on his performance in New Mexico. He brought supply-side tax cuts to the state in his first gubernatorial term,

I'll say it, good job for the guys I dislike who did well. I'd still like to Sen. Hagel and Rep. Tancredo open up a Dairy Queen in the Nebraska panhandle, but I am glad to hear they were doing something for us.

Posted by: jk at March 24, 2006 8:57 PM

March 23, 2006

Meta Thought for the Day

Ignore ideology for a moment.

How do you know you aren't brainwashed?

Is there a question you can ask or be asked that would answer that question correctly?

"Am I a free thinker?" Obviously isn't.

"Can I have free will?"

But johngalt thinks:

You've been reading too much Plato, my friend. Try OPAR (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand) instead. You'll find a good foundation for your answer in the first six pages, excerpted here: 002-9439318-9679219?%5Fencoding=UTF8&p=S00J#reader-page

Then buy the book. It'll be the best thirteen bucks you ever spent.

Posted by: johngalt at March 24, 2006 11:11 AM
But AlexC thinks:

Johngalt, thanks for playing along. I knew that Rand's objectivism would come up, in fact I had it in mind as I wrote it.

But how do you know what is true? Isn't the determination of trueness or falseness based on your prior understanding of true and false?

Think in terms of the reality of the Thirteenth Floor or the Matrix... How do you know what is truth, especially if you've been conditioned to "know" a certain way?

Posted by: AlexC at March 24, 2006 11:34 AM
But howard thinks:

I've been preoccupied with this idea all day now. I'm fairly convinced that knowing whether or not you've been brainwashed is akin to knowing whether or not you're insane. That is, if you are, you probably can't tell.

Posted by: howard at March 24, 2006 1:58 PM
But johngalt thinks:

One sign that you've been brainwashed is if you believe that voting Democrats into office will "end" poverty.

Beyond that the question you're asking is, "What is real and how do I know it?" Well friend, that's the $64 question. Aristotle took existence, consciousness and identity as the three axioms of reality. While this may seem like a foundation of quicksand, keep in mind that any other starting point requires axiomatic foundations as well. And every axiom that contradicts these has the fatal flaw that the person espousing them is a living, breathing example of all three.

Even this overly simplified explanation is a bit much to relate in, say, an elevator. Instead, just remember this: The next time someone tells you "reality is subjective" ask him, "Oh really, is that true for everyone?" Or if he says "we can never know anything beyond doubt" just say, "Are you sure?"

Posted by: johngalt at March 26, 2006 3:00 AM
But dagny thinks:

WOW, subjectivism has gone wild at Three Sources. Howard, I think being brainwashed is a form of insanity so that is probably a good analogy. As JG noted, OPAR gives the best answer to this question that I have read but I will give it a try. Start with the nature of human beings. Human beings use their minds to interpret physical stimuli. The physical universe exists regardless of how I interpret it. However, the closer I come to interpreting it correctly, the more successful I am.

For example if I am insane or brainwashed into believing that I can fly, I will jump off a building and die. (Hopefully, before I reproduce.) For human beings to exist as a species, this kind of disconnect with reality has to be eliminated for the majority of people.

Lets look at the other end of the spectrum. If I am a genius and my understanding of reality is better than someone elses I have a survival advantage. For this reason, I choose always to think about what I know and examine my premises in light of whatever data comes in (i.e. take the red pill.) I contend that a man can not be easily brainwashed as long as he does this. Of course, this is contingent upon a continuous supply of valid evidence, which is why censorship and ignorance are so destructive: They are the tools of brainwashers. Physical evidence directly perceived can only be misunderstood by the perceiver and not distorted by others.

In short, you cannot be brainwashed by reality, only by other people.

Posted by: dagny at March 26, 2006 4:18 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Another way to know that you've been brainwashed is if you want to make love to children with some fruity little club.

Posted by: johngalt at March 27, 2006 11:32 PM

Iraq - al Qaeda


    A newly released pre-war Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995 after approval by Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. According to the document, Saddam's presidency was informed of the details of the meeting on March 4, 1995 and Saddam agreed to dedicate a program for them on the radio. The document states that further "development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties to be left according to what's open (in the future) based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation." The Sudanese were informed about the agreement to dedicate the program on the radio.

    The report then states that "Saudi opposition figure" bin Laden had to leave Sudan in July 1996 after it was accused of harboring terrorists. It says information indicated he was in Afghanistan. "The relationship with him is still through the Sudanese. We're currently working on activating this relationship through a new channel in light of his current location," it states.

Come again?

But Osama thinks:

While I do not deny the truth of this report, I prefer not to dwell on the past. Let's move forward. For instance, have you heard about my new development deal with the FOX Network?

Posted by: Osama at March 23, 2006 7:07 PM
But howard thinks:

I've been seeing this report over the past day or so, but I'm wondering if there's any more to it than what happened in 1995, as in something more recent.

While I don't dispute the evil nature of Saddam Hussein, if you go back a little further, you can link OBL to the U.S. government.

Posted by: howard at March 24, 2006 7:05 AM
But AlexC thinks:

And if you go back further you'll see that we shipped tanks and armaments to Stalin.

Posted by: AlexC at March 24, 2006 9:49 AM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

I hear we were pretty cozy relationship with the Nazis and Napoleon as well.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 24, 2006 9:56 AM
But howard thinks:

"And if you go back further you'll see that we shipped tanks and armaments to Stalin."

-yeah, that's kind of my point.

I'm not one who believes our government is overtly evil, but the fact is all governments deal with undesirables for their own practical reasons (even those whose practical aims are to destroy us, I suppose).

So in the scope of that reality, don't we need a little more substance to the report on Iraq -- something beyond having past dealings with bin Laden (considering that's a pretty large club)?

Posted by: howard at March 24, 2006 1:55 PM
But jk thinks:

I'm not accusing anybody around here, mind you, but I am used to hearing these comments from my lefty friends -- always used in a very anti-American context "Saddam was bad but we propped him up. Castro is bad but we supported Batista and created the context for him, how can we lecture anybody when we propped up Somoza, Marcos and Pinochet?..."

It is right to be critical, but we fought and won a fifty-year cold war against communism, liberating well over 50 million. I am prepared to forgive some distasteful alliances along the way.

Somehow Senator Dodd never has to account for his support of the Sandinistas, nor any of the chattering classes atone for allegiance to Castro or Stalin, but that's another tale. Too little credit goes to the George Orwells, Edna St. Vincent Millays (and today's Christopher Hitchenses) who stand up to the glitterati.

Posted by: jk at March 24, 2006 8:26 PM

South Park Kills Chef

This was actually a pretty damned funny episode.

    Isaac Hayes' Chef character got a true "South Park" send-off Wednesday night -- seemingly killed off but mourned as a jolly old guy whose brains were scrambled by the "Super Adventure Club."

    The thinly disguised satire continued the show's feud with Scientologists in its 10th season premiere on Comedy Central.

    The soul singer has voiced the Chef character in "South Park" since 1997, but left recently because of what he called the animated show's religious "intolerance and bigotry." Founders Matt Stone and Trey Parker said Hayes, a Scientologist, was mad that "South Park" mocked the religion in an episode last November.

    A rerun of that Scientology episode was mysteriously pulled off the air last week amid published reports that actor Tom Cruise, another Scientologist, had used his clout to bury it. A Cruise spokesman denied that.

    Hayes didn't participate in making Wednesday's episode; the character's lines appeared to be patched together through tapes of past dialogue.

    Chef repeatedly said he wanted to "make sweet love" to the "South Park" elementary school kids -- it seems the "Super Adventure Club" turns its members into child molesters.

Would a hearty heh be necessary here?

But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Now,..start boycotting MI:3! Maybe these Scientology cultists will start getting the message!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 23, 2006 10:26 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Good idea, but I didn't need the South Park kerfuffle to boycott MI3. I stayed away from MI2 long before any of this stuff surfaced!

Posted by: johngalt at March 26, 2006 2:07 AM

ABC News

I have a love/hate thing going on with Matt Drudge.

I think he's needlessly sensationalistic on weather. But I love when he gets leaks like this one.

    John Green, currently executive producer of the weekend edition of GOOD MORNING AMERICA, unloaded on the president in an ABC company email obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT.

    "If he uses the 'mixed messages' line one more time, I'm going to puke," Green complained.

    The blunt comments by Green, along with other emails obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT, further reveal the inner workings of the nation's news outlets.

    A friend of Green's at ABC says Green is mortified by the email. "John feels so badly about this email. He is a straight shooter and great producer who is always fair. That said, he deeply regrets the sentiment expressed in the email and the embarrassment it causes ABC News."

I think he feels badly about being caught.

Posted by AlexC at 6:08 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

The problem is that so many of his "Breaking" stories turn out to be false, even when they end up being true, I never believed them. He just seems below the accuracy threshold I need to read something. Sorry, no Drudge for me.

Posted by: jk at March 24, 2006 5:21 PM

Budget Problems

Under the scary lede, Democrats Say Bush Violated Constitution.

    A letter to Bush, signed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman of California and released Thursday, is the latest challenge to a bill that was passed in slightly different forms by the House and Senate before it was sent to Bush.

    "A bill is not law unless the same version is passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by the president," top Democrats wrote to Bush. He signed it on Feb. 8.

    The Senate version of the bill said Medicare can pay to rent some types of medical equipment for 13 months, as intended by congressional negotiators. A clerk erroneously wrote down 36 months before the bill was sent back to the House for a final vote, and that's what the House approved Feb. 1.

    By the time the bill was shipped to Bush, the number was back to 13 months as passed by the Senate.

    Recognizing the problem, the Senate passed a resolution hours after Bush signed the bill confirming that the measure transmitted to the president was "deemed the true enrollment reflecting the intention of the Congress." The White House considers the matter settled.

I think that's a pretty legit complaint. It has to be the same on both sides.
    A liberal watchdog group, Public Citizen, filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking a federal court to throw the budget bill out. A Republican activist also has sued in federal court in Alabama.

Too bad we can't sue for a budget being too big.

Posted by AlexC at 6:06 PM

School Daze

Man, school wasn't like this when I was there.

    Thirty-eight-year-old Toni Woods, a former 6th grade teacher in Braxton County, received 4 to 20 years in prison.

    Woods was arrested last March after telling police she had sex with four boys--all under the age of 16.

    The former teacher said nothing outside court as a wedge of family and friends tried to hide her from photographers.

    Inside the courtroom, Woods said: "I was the monster these families think I am."

So I'm asking myself, "all four at once?"

Posted by AlexC at 6:04 PM

Elevator Talk II

While we debate and massage the particulars of JK's elevator talk elsewhere, I'll drop mine right here.

Eventually I'll commit to memory the last paragraph from my bio on this blog. Until then, the elevator talk that expresses my legal, political and economic philosophy is simply,

"What part of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' don't you understand?"

Elevator Talk Posted by JohnGalt at 3:27 PM


In comments, I pointed out that while I tend to think of European economies as basket cases, the reality is that a Norwegian business person with a good position leads a good life. Social services are high, job security is guaranteed, the coffee is very good, the fjords look beautiful in the late spring... I look at demographic and economic trends and say "Yo, Jan, this is not gonna last!"

Yet another advantage of classic liberalism is sustainability. Ludwig von Mises noted this in his 1927 masterpiece, Liberalism, from which I proudly call my beliefs classical liberalism. Mises predicted the Second World War, fascism, communism AND their eventual defeat by free people. One wonders if he did as well on stock picks or the final four office pool.

Free markets are self correcting and the mechanisms for sustainability are all built in. Marxism has shown it can survive in limited amounts for a limited time, but it is not sustainable. Great Britain and the United States seem to be doing pretty well with classical liberalism, provided they can stay the course.

Discussing Britain's National Health Service (NHS) with a friend who was employed in the UK for three years, he blew my mind with a great line. He said "Americans would never tolerate the poor health care in the UK for a second; Britons would never tolerate our broken payment system."

I've thought about that for months (the sagacious friend surely forgot it in minutes). Was there some equivalence? Both systems are broken in a way. Yet it was clear to me that my wife's stroke would have killed her anywhere else but the US and that my MS treatment and diagnosis options would have been reduced under socialist health care.

The answer ("Mike, I've got a response to that thing you said five months ago!") is that in five years, the NHS will still, if I may use a medical term, suck. They will throw more money at it and technology will help a little, and they will reform it, but it will not be world class, befitting the stature of Great Britain.

In the US in five years, health care will still be expensive, but the procedures that are expensive today will be cheap. If Health Savings Accounts (A Hayekian-not-Marxist idea) are allowed and take hold, most health care will be cheaper. The classic liberal solution is self sustaining, the Marxist solution will require constant tinkering and additional resources to continue.

Elevator Talk Posted by John Kranz at 9:39 AM | What do you think? [3]
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

JK: As a fellow traveller along the MS path (doing the walk?), I am currently aware of only 2 countries where an individual with said curse has a snow-ball's chance: Israel and the US. Is it any wonder that both of these are also the top hated states in the world today? Socialism/Marxism where the welfare of the individual plays second fiddle to the welfare of state/society would never bother looking into the programs to treat myoptic issues regarding the brain. Why repair a broken cog when you can always harvest a new one from amongst the teeming throngs?

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 23, 2006 10:57 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Great stuff JK. And it's a perfect opportunity to explain a natural analog that I've pondered during countless hours driving a tractor to harvest horse hay.

The great scourge of hay farmers is noxious weeds. Some weeds are not a problem, since they are somewhat palatable to horses and don't degrade the feed quality of the finished product, but others are truly undesirable. The most obnoxious weed I've dealt with in the past couple years is kosha. Kosha is not harmful, it's just a much lower quality feed plant than grasses are, and it doesn't bale well. (City slickers know kosha as "tumbleweed.")

Anyway, back to the point. There are two methods I've tried to keep kosha from growing in my fields - spraying and crowding out. Spraying has an immediate effect but there's so much of the weed that it takes a huge amount of herbicide to kill it completely. And even then, there will always be more seeds in the soil to start new plants that will have to be sprayed again. Sustaining this process is expensive in time and materials. The other approach involves planting grass seeds and irrigating the field to provide favorable conditions for the grass to grow in. Irrigated soil is a less favorable condition for the weeds than dry soil but more importantly, once the grass plants reach a few inches in height they block the sunlight from reaching the soil and simply out-COMPETE the weeds. Once the grass is established this NATURAL process SUSTAINS itself season after season.

To me, this is a perfect analogy for the competition between liberty and tyranny in human civilization. It takes hard work and foreknowledge of how things work to establish liberty in a world of tyranny but once you do it will naturally flourish and out-compete tyranny, as long as you continuously monitor the conditions and nurture it a little bit. Just as individual grass plants will thrive and prosper on their own to create a better pasture, individual humans who thrive and prosper make society better too.

Of course, humans are not plants. Humans have free will, and without a philosophy of individual rights and using force against others only in self-defense, some people choose to become human weeds. In those cases, rational free men are forced to resort to human weed control measures. "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants."

Posted by: johngalt at March 23, 2006 10:59 AM
But jk thinks:

jg, excellent analogy. Even this citified guy likes it.

mdmh, I had seen the MS stuff on your blog but didnt know if it was you or a family member who had it. I am less likely than some peers to run down our crazy health care system and I have calmed down a bit these days, but my predilection toward the big pharma firms is so strong, people think I must be on the take. It is Arnold Klings Folk Marxism that makes people hate the societies wealthy enough to value individual life, as you say.

No walk for me, but I rode in the MS150 pledge bike rides for a few years before I was diagnosed, so I feel I have some Karma in the bank.

Heads up my friend. I know from your blog that you, like me, have found a lot of joy in important things like friends and family. This is still a wonderful world, as Pops told us many years ago.

Posted by: jk at March 24, 2006 8:39 PM

March 21, 2006

French Democracy

In my elevator talk, I purposely avoided the "mixed economies" of Europe. These economies, and increasingly Canada and the United States, do not disprove my claims about the efficacy of classical liberalism.

Michael Barone points out in "Hard America, Soft America" that the softer (more Marxlike) side of the US economy relies on the prosperity of Hard America to keep it afloat. Western Europe built prosperity through freedom, innovation, and a work ethic that valued achievement. The mixed economies are consuming those gains at different rates in different countries.

France makes the news today with riots as a response to allow more liberalism in hiring and firing of young workers. Three points can be taken away:

1) The ability of an entitled class to politically protect itself should never be underestimated;

2) The US with a more liberal economy, has the best job market for college grads in five years, while the French have double-digit unemployment;

3) The Wall Street Journal points out the lack of enlightenment in the cradle of enlightenment. There is no voter recourse there as we know it. Politics is settled in the street (Robespierre would be proud). With strikes and marches instead of ballots and campaigns. I now read that there is a counter-protest. I agree with the counter, but question the tactics. I also think about Jose Bove, the folk hero who trashes the French McDonalds franchises. Nobody elected him, yet he tells his countrymen what to eat.

The mixed economies assume that the healthy, Mises-Hayekian economies can tolerate a little Marxism. For a time they can. I grew up hearing how swell Sweden was. Then France. And, for a generation or two, they are pretty swell places to call home -- not that either has the economy to welcome a skilled immigrant. But a friend who sold into those markets reminds me that life is pretty good for the ones who are there and have a position.

I prove my point by claiming that the more Marxism shown by a mixed economy, the worse shape it is in; the more Hayek, the better the economy. A trend here?

Elevator Talk Posted by John Kranz at 3:19 PM | What do you think? [5]
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

I suppose, if you go all the way to Marxism where everyone has a distasetful job ... it's not too bad. Of course spending my days scrubbing out a nuclear reactor chamber would certainly suck, but I would have a job, yes? Support that with a touch of Commercialism (selling nuclear fuel rods to other countries), then you have the cash flow to keep everyone happy with a loaf of bread every week.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 22, 2006 10:15 AM
But jk thinks:

History seems to have proven the opposite. Even in your scenario, you include some free-market exchange of arms and fissile material to prop it up.

My friend's point is that Norway, Sweden, or France has enough wealth from its old days and current economic activity to provide a very good lifestyle to those who already have a good job.

I decry sclerotic European socialism and, though he is sympathetic to my ideas, he reminds me that these countries have millions of happy people who are les productive than their American counterparts but don't mind a bit.

My next elevator talk will address sustainability; this is where these economies fail.

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2006 10:38 AM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

I'm going to have to work on my sarcasm. There has yet to be a (pure) socialst government that has actually stood the test of time. Once Castro dies and the borders open up, many of the intellecual/academia supporters here will have to remove that massive splinter from their eye.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 23, 2006 11:04 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Sarcasm noted mdmh, but it's critical to remember that in a Marxist system not EVERYONE has a distasteful job. Somebody gets to be the beer taster, or the movie director, or the president of the bank. And someone else gets to be the person who decides who gets these other jobs.

Posted by: johngalt at March 23, 2006 3:40 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Look to the 24th Century.

There's no money in the world of Star Trek (see Movie #4), yet someone is the Captain, someone is the red shirt. Someone has to mine dilithium. Toilets probably still break. How do they decide?

It's obviously by potential. Not ability. But yes, you're right JK, "someone else" gets to decide who has potential.

Posted by: AlexC at March 23, 2006 10:16 PM

Best Job Market in Five Years

College grads face some good times, according to

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. college graduates are facing the best job market since 2001, with business, computer, engineering, education and health care grads in highest demand, a report by an employment consulting firm showed on Monday.

"We are approaching full employment and some employers are already dreaming up perks to attract the best talent," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In its annual outlook of entry-level jobs, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said strong job growth and falling unemployment makes this spring the hottest job market for America's 1.4 million college graduates since the dot-com collapse in 2001.

Of course, Reuters News Service is nothing but a tool of administration policy And "Challenger, Gray and Christmas" sounds like a Rove plant.

Hat-tip: Insty, who compares it to the French unemployment riots.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 3:17 PM

Elevator Talk

I am creating a new category for this and invite everybody to participate.

The phrase is a business cliche`. Your elevator talk is your answer to the question ":What does your company do?" It must be short and understandable enough to be shared on an elevator. I think our last company failed because we could never come up with the elevator talk, but that's another tale.

I have complained that my beliefs take long explanations and counter-intuitive understanding. But it is time for me to stop complaining and start writing. I want to craft an elevator speech for free market liberalism. When somebody gives me 2 minutes to explain where I stand, I am going to have a good pitch.

Here is my start. I am going to borrow heavily from Michael Strong and from the funny T-shirts at

The classical liberal ideas of Ludwig von Mises and FA Hayek have been tried several times in the last couple of centuries. These ideas have led whole continents out of poverty and created powerful economic engines of free, happy, and prosperous people. The nations created on these ideas have not attacked or subjugated their neighbors and have generally been good members of the world community.

The economic ideas of Karl Marx have been tried several times in the 20th Century as well. It is estimated that no fewer than 100 million people have died at the hands of these brutal regimes. Rich lands have been sent to poverty and good people have been given up to misery. These nations have made war with neighbors and the amount of state control required to enforce what is clearly not human nature has bred incredibly cruel police states.

In short, I believe in the empowerment of the individual to direct his or her life, and a society structured to allow personal freedom. Even though these societies have a clearly better record, our political leaders face every new problem with the first question being: "Should we employ a Marxist solution here or a Hayekian one?" Though there is a clear winner, we seem to have to have the argument every time.

Is this your floor? Take it easy.

But johngalt thinks:

No JK, we can't make society's good ANY kind of goal. You see such an outcome as endorsement of individual liberty, but your friends in Boulder's elevators see it as something they could do "better" through central planning. That's dagny's point - as soon as you stipulate that "society" has values you've lost your footing to them epistemologically.

As for the red Porsche: good NED man, you DO buy it because it's sexy! Certainly not for its fuel economy or ability to carry groceries. Your willingness to deny the real motives for such a car reveals something. Remember this... Red Porsche = badonkadonk.

Posted by: johngalt at March 24, 2006 11:05 AM
But jk thinks:

Wow. I knew we would hit disagreement but the impasse is overwhelming. I flat out reject your (and Dagny's) assertion that societal good is not a selling point -- nor even a valid goal.

First, it hits me as a pragmatist. There is a political resistance to classical liberalism. People think that I vote Republican because I believe "screw everybody else, as long as I've got mine." There are benefits to that philosophy, but it is a hard sell. Pointing out that allowing us to prosper as individuals allows us to prosper best as a society is a powerful point.

Secondly, you espouse a position not even I can join. Sorry, but when jk is too left-wing and collectivist for you, you perhaps have a problem.

There are a lot of people who will have a tougher time prospering in hard america than soft america or France. I don't yearn for a society that has nothing more to offer them than "you should have been stronger or smarter." The fact that I think freedom and individual empowerment best serves them in the end is not just a seals pitch, it is also something I require to fight the fight. If it's all for me, I am less interested. If that makes me an altruist, I'll burn my Ayn Rand books and accept my lot in life.

Posted by: jk at March 25, 2006 1:02 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Nobody ever said it wasn't a valid goal, JK. But "societal" good is only an abstraction of widespread individual good. I really feel like a broken record here, but I think you're glossing over this important distinction.

For a change of pace, let's look at your example of the criticism of GOP voters supposed motivation of "screw everybody else, as long as I've got mine."

This missive is meant to impose guilt upon those to whom it's directed. Unless the gains you've made were the result of thievery you've got no cause to feel guilt. And yet you do, because "everybody else" has not made gains equal or greater than your own. Or at least, if you don't, your Boulder elevator friends do.

And why does a man feel this guilt? Because for all of his life and from virtually every source of influence on him, he was taught one absolute - selfishness is evil. I can absolutely understand your enthusiasm about this new-found argument in defense of liberty and capitalism, but I'm afraid it's destined to the same end as George H.W. Bush and Dagny Taggart's well-intentioned plans. "A million points of light" is just not that different philosophically from the "great society," and you can't persuade another by rational argument unless that person acknowledges the existence of reason.

Each of us has volunteered for a difficult assignment - to reform society into a halcyon of classical liberalism - albeit by different paths. I contend that my approach, if successful, will have the added quality of being sustainable. For once man accepts the premise that he is entitled to no claim upon the life of another, nor another upon his, he is forever released from the bonds of servitude to "society."
Until then we always have to have the argument: Marxist solution or Hayekian?

Posted by: johngalt at March 26, 2006 1:54 AM
But jk thinks:

Broken records, indeed. This post will fall off the page soon, and be swallowed in my SQL close-comments script in a couple days.

My record is stuck on the grove that you have to sell your beliefs to people. I don't bring up "screw everybody else" to shame anybody. I raise it as an example of a political pitch that won't sell. My elevator talk seeks a sales pitch.

Posted by: jk at March 27, 2006 10:12 AM
But dagny thinks:

If the only (or the best) sales pitch for classical liberalism is a description of how good it is for, "society," our nation, formed on the concept of individual rights, is in worse shape than I had hoped.

Additionally if you think that,

"a society that has nothing more to offer them than "you should have been stronger or smarter."

is in keeping with our philosophy, you have seriously misunderstood us.

Posted by: dagny at March 27, 2006 8:01 PM
But jk thinks:

I dysphemise your philosophy on purpose, Dagny. I know that's not how you feel but I worry that that is exactly how it is sometimes perceived by those who don't understand. I use sales and marketing analogies because that's who I am and that's what I am trying to accomplish. I'm trying to sell classical liberalism to people who don't know they want it yet.

Hope I didn't step on any toes, but I will confess that the Philosophy vs. Politics argument gets me down. I look back on a big week since this was posted. We had French rioters demanding socialism, a stunning new immigration bill came out of the Senate Intelligence Committee last night, I'm discussing FISA warrants with a couple intelligent people who dislike this administration, and we didn't even get to the man in Afghanistan who was prosecuted for religious beliefs.

At the same time, we've been discussing why I want the right things for the wrong reason. I know it's important to you but it seems so academic to me. If I could sell people on classical liberalism because it ended global warming and removed stubborn soap scum from shower doors (both of which it would), I would do it.

Posted by: jk at March 28, 2006 8:56 AM

March 20, 2006



    Hundreds of well-off Japanese and other nationals are turning to China's burgeoning human organ transplant industry, paying tens of thousands of pounds for livers and kidneys, which in some cases have been harvested from executed prisoners and sold to hospitals.

    When Kenichiro Hokamura's kidneys failed, he faced a choice: wait for a transplant or go online to check out rumours of organs for sale. As a native of Japan, where just 40 human organs for transplant have been donated since 1997, the businessman, 62, says it was no contest. "There are 100 people waiting in this prefecture alone. I would have died before getting a donor." Still, he was astonished by just how easy it was.

Am I the only one wondering why organs aren't sold on the free market? It's a perfect example of a government meddled economy causing shortages.

If you could sell your organs after your death, provided that they were in good shape, to support your family, why wouldn't you? Obviously, you'd need to take care of situations of suicide, murder or execution or abuse thereof in some way, but this just seems like an idea whose time is way past due.

But jk thinks:

Thomas Sowell has done some great work on this subject -- you are exactly right. The problem is Arnold Kling's "Folk Marxism." It just "doesn't feel right" to some people to inject commerce into that. So, never mind the advantages, our feelings shall not be contravened.

The same issue ruined the idea of a terrorist futures market, where speculators could predict attacks. This would be a valuable tool as these markets predict elections better than polls (James Surowecki, call your office!) But people thought it macabre, and complained. I have a hunch the same folks will be out in the street to stop Alex's new and near-new kidney shop.

Posted by: jk at March 21, 2006 9:16 AM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

India has been having issues with kidney harvesting as well. Women sell one of their kidneys for dowry and then end up being cast aside since they are no longer 'pure'. Peculiar.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 21, 2006 11:50 AM
But johngalt thinks:

AlexC, for some insight on this issue you should consider asking your priest what he thinks of the idea.

George W. Bush could never let it happen. If Kerry were prez it might happen, but there would be arcane and complicated rules and regulations to make sure that nobody could get to the front of the line because he could pay more, or dozens of other corrupt scenarios. (Sorry everyone, there's just too much baggage around this issue for me to be anything but a complete pessimist.)

Posted by: johngalt at March 23, 2006 3:25 PM


Let me be the first to commend Susan Sarandon for taking on the role of Cindy Sheehan in a soon to be released motion picture.

What with all the supression of free speech and chill winds blowin' these days.

Like Dan Rather I will say, "Courage."

But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Urgh ... Michael Moore will be director?

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 20, 2006 3:52 PM
But jk thinks:

Ah yes, but the moonbats can be good. Sarandon is great in "Elizabethtown," Johnny Depp has a string of superb movies. It's hard to be me somedays.

On the other hand, I think can easily miss the Mother Sheehan pic. I don't think I'll run to see that. I'm sure it will win "Best Picture" and that it will lose $$$.

Posted by: jk at March 21, 2006 9:51 AM

Scope Creep

How is possible that a legislature that has less than 300 people in it, has a payroll for over three thousand?

It's Pennsylvania.

    In the Senate, just three members — the two floor leaders and the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee — are listed in a January staffing report as the supervisors of more than a quarter of nearly 1,000 people working in the Senate.

    Majority Leader David J. Brightbill, R-Lebanon, was listed as the supervisor of 116 people, while his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow, supervised 69.

    Sen. Vincent Fumo of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, was considered the supervisor of 73 people, including 32 based in his home city of Philadelphia.

    Eight people under Fumo or Mellow carry the lucrative payroll classification "chief of staff," which for some means a six-figure salary.

On the other side of the building...
    The House of Representatives, with more than four times as many members as the Senate, has about 1,900 employees, including 900 controlled by the Republican majority and 800 assigned to Democrats, according to a January list of employees.

    Majority Leader Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, has about 15 employees of his own — but also supervises a woman who runs the 46-person public relations department.

    His counterpart, Minority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Greene, is in charge of the people who run the Democrats' legal, communications and research departments. Together with his own district and Harrisburg staff, that comes to about 100 people.

    And House Speaker John M. Perzel, R-Philadelphia, has more than 50 people directly under him or his chief of staff and also supervises the manager of the 70-person Republican research department.

Obviously you need some staff in your Harrisburg office, and you definately need a few people in your local office, and if it's a big district, in your offices. But really?

Maybe there's some room for pinching a few pennies.


Posted by AlexC at 1:57 PM | What do you think? [2]
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Anyone interested in a tax revolt?

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 20, 2006 3:56 PM
But jk thinks:

Government. Virus.

Posted by: jk at March 21, 2006 9:52 AM

Random Thought

So, with Iraq in a "civil war" now, whatever became of the insurgency?

Maybe this is just P.R. and the willing dupes are going along with it?

War on Terror Posted by AlexC at 1:10 PM

Sec. Snow Fires Back

It astounds me -- and Larry Kudlow -- that the Bush administration seems to allow others to frame the debate on the economy, in short that they never fight back. Secretary Snow, in an interview in the Wall Street Journal news pages, does just that.

"What's been happening in the United States for about 20 years is [a] long-term trend to differentiate compensation," Mr. Snow said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week. "Look at the Harvard economics faculty, look at doctors over here at George Washington University...look at baseball players, look at football players. We've moved into a star system for some reason which is not fully understood. Across virtually all professions, there have been growing gaps."

Mr. Snow said the same phenomenon explains why compensation for corporate chief executive officers has climbed so sharply. "In an aggregate sense, it reflects the marginal productivity of CEOs. Do I trust the market for CEOs to work efficiently? Yes. Until we can find a better way to compensate CEOs, I'm going to trust the marketplace."

Wow! defending wage disparity as the product of an efficient market. I must be dreaming or something.

As hard as I have been on the Bush administration lately, it occurs to me that in the recent differences between the President and Congressional Republicans, I have been on the side of Mr. Bush. He was right on the Dubai ports deal, right on the need for a guest worker program, right on the need to extend the tax cuts. My brother-in-law said "count me in with the 38% who are still with him." Me too.

The Journal piece (remember that their news pages are pretty liberal) suggests that averages distort the picture for middle class Americans. Mirabile non dictu, I disagree. I think the naysayers are cherry-picking negative data -- and that it is getting harder and harder to find it.

An efficient economy will always have uncertainty. Buggy whip manufacturers will need to worry (unless they live in France...) but Snow had good news to share.

Mr. Snow distributed a fact sheet that showed after-tax income per person, adjusted for inflation, rose 8.2% from January 2001, when George W. Bush took office as president, through January 2006. The sheet also showed that per-person net worth -- total assets minus debt -- rose 24%, unadjusted for inflation, from early 2001 to the end of 2005. "People have more money in their pocket" and in their bank accounts, he said.

Put that in your opium pipe and smoke it, Keynesians!

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 10:44 AM

March 19, 2006


The WSJ Ed Page offers Two Cheers for Nancy Pelosi in an OpinionJournal - Extra (that's free) column today by Mallory Factor.

Democrats can look good on national security by demagoging the ports deal -- now they can be pro-business by coming out against Sarbanes-Oxley. It's a terrible law and a lot of smaller business wood be sympathetic to loosening its regulatory grip.

Have America's entrepreneurs and corporate leaders found a new voice of regulatory sanity in, of all people, Nancy Pelosi? Apparently so, and that should be a wake-up call to Republicans--because like everything else in the free market, the free enterprise agenda is up for grabs. In the recent "Innovation Agenda" that the House Democratic leader and her party unveiled, Ms. Pelosi acknowledges specifically the need to "ensure Sarbanes-Oxley requirements are not overly burdensome," and endorses reform. Meanwhile, the scourge of Wall Street, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, is criticizing Sarbanes-Oxley's "unbelievable burden on small companies" and its possible role in "preventing some initial public offerings."

So, the law is a large and undo burden. As for efficacy, the same piece points out that "It's no wonder, then, that the London Stock Exchange--eager to exploit a competitive advantage--now promotes itself by reminding companies that by listing on the LSE they are not subject to Sarbox." and "Over 700 prosecutions have been launched since 2002 to address corporate crimes. Nevertheless, not one conviction was a result of Sarbox. Meanwhile, Sarbox clearly failed to prevent the massive accounting scandal at Fannie Mae."

What a great political winner for the Democrats. If the GOP proposed it, they'd say Republicans were in the pocket of their Enron friends, but they can blast it. Good politics.

Still, I don't feel so well reading about Leader Pelosi's achievements in the WSJ Ed Page; that's just wrong!

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 3:31 PM


It's a St Patrick's Day miracle!

    It almost seemed like a miracle to Haldis Gundersen of Kristiandsund, Norway, when she turned on her kitchen faucet in and found the water had turned into beer.

    Two flights down, employees and customers at the Big Tower Bar were horrified when water poured out of the beer taps.

    By an improbable feat of clumsy plumbing, someone at the bar in western Norway had accidentally hooked the beer hoses to the water pipes for Gundersen's apartment.

    "We had settled down for a cozy Saturday evening, had a nice dinner, and I was just going to clean up a little," Gundersen, 50, said Monday. "I turned on the kitchen faucet, and beer came out."

    Gundersen said the beer was flat and not tempting, even in a country where a half-pint can cost about $3.75 in grocery stores.

Posted by AlexC at 12:26 PM

Phono - CD Recorder

JohnGalt needs to copy his old vinyl to a digital format. This TEAC machine is available from First Street, a proud National Review advertiser (I got two of their balanced spectrum floor lamps).

Then, you can use media player, iTunes, or my fave Audiograbber to rip them to mp3.

You're welcome.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 10:52 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Thanks JK, much obliged. I might even consider it, but...

How is it that as an implement of technology crossover, from legacy to leading edge, the designers of this appliance chose to employ the most ancient of legacy technology conceivable? Ceramic cartridge? Wooden box? Ack!

Built-in AM/FM tuner for which "a rotary tuner gives the Phono CD Recorder an elegant and exciting look?" Adaptable by external inputs to record CASSETTE TAPES to CD too? This has got to be a joke, right?!

Thanks JK, but no.

Besides, CDs are passe now too. I need to take them straight to wav or wma.

Posted by: johngalt at March 23, 2006 3:18 PM

March 18, 2006

Terrell Owens

That bum of a football "player" is now playing for the Dallas Cowboys.

    Terrell Owens has gone from stomping on the Dallas Cowboys' star logo to wearing it on his helmet.

    The reviled receiver joined the Cowboys on Saturday, signing a contract to play for Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells in what promises to be an interesting combination of strong personalities.

    There's no questioning his talent -- Owens has consistently put up numbers the Cowboys have lacked since Michael Irvin was in the prime of his career a decade ago.

    It's his attitude that prompted the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles to get rid of Owens. His relationship with the Eagles soured only months after he led them to the Super Bowl, finally ending with his release Tuesday.

Given that Eagles fans hate the Dallas Cowboys more than Satan himself, I eagerly anticipate the day when the Eagles host the Cowboys.

The schedule isn't out yet, but let's hope for Monday Night.

Sports Posted by AlexC at 7:57 PM | What do you think? [3]
But jk thinks:

You only have yourseleves to blame, Philidephians. Youi should have had a big party for his 100th toughdown -- who cares if the team is 3-6. Football is all about individual achievement.

I*'m happy he is at the Cowboys. Usually, every bad boy in the NFL ends up at the Raiders and we have to play them twice.

Posted by: jk at March 19, 2006 10:45 AM
But jk thinks:

UPDATE: I haven't deleted many comments since I instituted the "password" that keeps the vI@gra and teen porn spam bots away.

Someone had posted an anti Rachel Corrie screed here. While I am sympathetic to everything it said, I did not see the connection to TO or the Cowboys football organization.

Get your own blog, or email me with a post. Indiscriminate commenting rubs me the wrong way.

Posted by: jk at March 19, 2006 10:50 AM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

T.O. finally does something good for Philly! Die-hard Iggles fans already have enough reason to hate the Cowpokes, now we get to exact our revenge on that team cancer!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 19, 2006 12:31 PM


I rarely have the temerity to post in the "Philosophy" category. That JohnGalt's territory. But -- at the risk of dropping something more serious into the weekend picayune posts around here -- I was intrigued with this post from Mary Katherine Ham on (Side note: Sugarchuck has suggested from her word choice that she is a closet Buffy fan. It seems quite possible to me but I don't make it to Hugh's site enough to speculate.)

This post is about her experience at a SXSW conference in Austin (South by SouthWest music festival, Yahoo and I suppose). She notes the attendees were all left-wing (matches my Austin experiences perfectly) but that they all believed in Surowecki's The Wisdom of Crowds, and had a somewhat Hayekian understanding of community:

The Craig's List Katrina aid is a perfect example. Newmark said he was just getting out of the way and letting the community work to solve the problem the best way it knew how. He figured his central command from California would hamper the process rather than help it, so he let locals have at it.

Gee, that sounds just like getting the bureaucracy and central government out of the way and letting the free market work. Seriously, he sounded like Grover Norquist, but all the Lefties in the room were nodding their heads vigorously just because Newmark called it community.

I think this is a huge recognition. I would link this with Arnold Kling's Folk Marxism and Michael Strong's divorce of leftism from liberalism.

In short, I wonder if we are as far apart as we appear to be. That the leftism espoused by some liberal friends may not be part of their core beliefs. Sometimes a think that realignment is possible that would put all of these "communitarians" that Ms. Ham has found in the same party.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 3:07 PM

Welcome To The Blogroll

Eidelblog I linked to his immigration piece yesterday. Today, I rummaged around his blog and found that we agree not only on economics, but that the government is killing people through FDA regulations. He suggests a new plan to limit blood platelet donations could cut platelet supplies in half. And he shares a quote from Thomas Jefferson:

The care of every man's soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills.

Also new to the blogroll: Is this life?, a great blog precipitating a new "Pennsylvania 6-5000" section to the blogroll for Keystone Staters. AlexC tells me that the Pennsylvania Hotel's number in NYC is 212-PA6-5000, and he also wonders why Colorado lacks the blogs to have its own section. I suppose I could put ProtienWisdom in there.

Welcome aboard bloggers. Keep writing, we don't really need to work or anything...

Posted by John Kranz at 10:18 AM

What You're Missing on XM

AlexC has Sirius and some of you are stuck with broadcast radio. But if you had XM, you could look forward to:

60/20 Sports With James Carville and Luke Russert XM Live - XM 200 Fridays 8AM - 9AM ET Encores: Fridays 10-11AM ET 11AM-12PM ET Saturdays 9AM-10AM, 10-11AM 11AM-12PM ET

For their inaugural show, Carville, the noted political strategist, commentator and passionate sports fan, and Russert, son of NBC journalist Tim Russert, interviewed President Clinton, an ardent college basketball fan, to discuss the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and share their picks. Check out this new sports show on XM, the debate on sports gets interesting.

In spite of this, I still recommend Satellite radio. I rent cars on the weekends sometime to complete errands and I badly miss the XM jazz choices. I get Sirius music at home on my DishNetwork satellite, and their jazz is good too. Sadly, our local public jazz station has proven O'Sullivan's law: every non-conservative organization will become liberal. Jazz is being squeezed out on KUVO by wild left wing diatribes on Sunday morning and lots of "diversity" at other times. Diversity, for some reason, means playing R&B, Hip-Hop and Reggae on a jazz station.

Then again, I suppose it's better than listening to James Carville and Bill Clinton talk b-ball. Yet keep in mind that there are 200 other stations.

Posted by John Kranz at 9:30 AM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

I love satellite radio. I've been meaning to blog about the Howard Stern show for months now.

It's simply fun radio. With no limits on anything, you can have a radio show that you will sit in your driveway or parking lot and wait until the end of the segment.

Posted by: AlexC at March 18, 2006 12:00 PM
But jk thinks:

Virginia Postrel, call your office! People want choice and quality and are willing to pay to get it. Fred Smith's professors at Harvard are rumored to have belittled his thesis: "Why will people pay Federal Express $10 when the same service is available from the Post Office for $2.50?" (Yes, I have been told the story is not fair -- that his business plan improved before implementation.)

Yet the naysayers will always say "nobody will pay for XXX when it is available for free | less." Bottled water, Starbucks and satellite entertainment have proven these folks wrong.

The little I've seen of Mr. Stern on TV does not leave me wanting more. I'll take your word for it. The real lesson is that you can get that, I can get seven commercial-free jazz stations, other guys get hip-hop -- and none seem to mind paying. I pulled the radio out of my totaled granola-mobile and now pay $6.95/mo to have it in my home office. Great for all-day!

Posted by: jk at March 18, 2006 2:17 PM

March 17, 2006

Those jobs "Americans won't do"

I clearly represent the most pro-immigrant economic voice at ThreeSources, and immigration is one of the most contentious topics around here.

Perry Eidelbus (Der Eidelblogger) has a great post on When conservatives don't get it about illegal immigration. He takes some whacks at National Review's Rich Lowry (no complaint here!), but his argument could be thrown at any of the social conservatives.

Actually, and this is not being racist in the least, there are jobs Americans shouldn't do. As I wrote in my entry on price-setting and illegal immigration, Americans have incredibly high opportunity costs. Even without taxpayer-funded social safety nets, it's not worth our time to pick strawberries for $2 per hour, or do a lot of dangerous construction at low wages. Americans should be thankful that there are so many immigrants, legal and illegal, who can only do the most menial of jobs because they lack education and/or English proficiency.
If it's such a good thing to restrict jobs to "legal labor," because citizens and legal residents can get paid better wages, then why don't we just command higher wages in the first place? Why not push the minimum wage to $20 per hour, or $100, or $1 million? I'm sure Lowry is familiar with the fallacy of minimum wages, but the same principle applies when government prevents illegal immigrants from working. A section of the population is perfectly willing to work for less, but they can't because that's been made illegal. Meanwhile, the rest of us pay in the form of higher prices for those same goods and services.

Lowry might have had a point had some of his assertions been factual and from the real world. As McQ at QandO observed last December, after the crackdowns on illegal immigration, farmers in California and Arizona can't get enough legal labor, even offering $8.50 per hour! It's not necessarily that Americans are lazy; it's just that we place a much higher value on our non-work time. Our opportunity cost was not as high during the Great Depression, when it was so low that people would accept a dime an hour to pick cherries. American society has grown much wealthier since.

Great stuff (and his blog carries a picture of Monsieur Bastiat in the heading)! I would only add that this specialization and Comparative Advantage is simultaneously providing Americans with safer, less-exhaustive, higher-paid work.

I have relatives who, like Lowry and NR's John Derbyshire, say "why can't everybody mow their own lawn?" I reply that I don't want the person who's gonna cure Cancer, or build the next nanotech material out mowing the lawn.

Lowry says it's okay to be poorer, and pay more for things (Eidelbus wonders if Lowry will personally reimburse him). But it's not up to Lowry, or my family, or even -- morally -- the government. Folks want to work, folks want to hire, folks want to make things to sell, folks want to buy. Get the hell out of the way, gub'mint.

I respect Derbyshire and Lowry immensely. But they would eloquently inveigh against government intercession into so many areas, it is a shock when they think Nancy Pelosi and Duncan Hunter should be empowered with out wealth creation.

Hat-tip: The Everyday Economist

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 6:06 PM | What do you think? [1]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Tamar Jacoby has made some jaw-dropping comments on the state of illegal immigrants in the US.

Jacoby's POV is that we need these illegals to do the "living wage" jobs that Americans seem unwilling to perform.

In my not-so humble opinion, why would anyone want to make a "living wage" pushing a broom and improving the quality of life in a particular area when our government's welfare system pays them more to sit around all day and watch Oprah, MTV and a series of judicial shenanigans?

We need to clean up our own problems first and dry up this employment gap!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 19, 2006 12:38 PM

The Arabic Ayn Rand

Wow, there really IS hope for the Mideast. (Click on "VIEW CLIP." Best with sound turned on.)

Hat tip: Cox & Forkum

War on Terror Posted by JohnGalt at 5:21 PM


The lead editorial in today's Wall Street Journal (free link) makes a good and obvious point about the Moussaoui case. This case never should have been in civilian court.

The witness coaching was a prosecutorial blunder, which is a shame, but that is not the main issue here. A bigger mistake was President Bush's decision nearly four and a half years ago to assign Moussaoui to trial in a civilian criminal court. As we know from captured al Qaeda training manuals, recruits are instructed in how to exploit the West's legal system if they are caught. The lesson of the Moussaoui trial is that the regular criminal justice system isn't up to the job of trying most terrorists.

Moussaoui would have been the ideal defendant to inaugurate the President's then newly announced--and subsequently much maligned--military commissions. Much of the evidence against him was unclassified and could have been produced in open court. If he had demanded access to classified information--as he did during his criminal trial--it would have been an easy matter to seal the courtroom and show it to his lawyers, all of whom would have had security clearances. The criminal prosecution was a missed opportunity to show the world how trial by military tribunal would work.

Which brings us to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear later this month. The case challenges the constitutionality of the military commissions announced by Mr. Bush on November 13, 2001, to try suspected terrorists. It further argues

Sadly, this again requires seriousness in our nation's belief that we are at war. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus for the nation. To preserve the Union. I don't want to go there but don't feel we need to let combatants into the civil justice system.

Jihad Posted by John Kranz at 11:22 AM


Why does stuff like this get released now?

    The government is finally getting around to unloading some of Saddam Hussein's secret documents. A look at just a few pages already leads to some blockbuster revelations.

    In the early stages of the war that began three years ago, the U.S. captured thousands of documents from Saddam and his spy agency, the Mukhabarat. It's been widely thought the documents could shed light on why Saddam behaved as he did and how much of a threat his evil regime represented.

    Yet, until this week, the documents lay molding in boxes in a government warehouse. Now the first batch is out, and though few in number, they're loaded with information.

    Among the enduring myths of those who oppose the war is that Saddam, though murderous when it came to his own people, had no weapons of mass destruction and no terrorist designs outside his own country. Both claims now lie in tatters.

Information like that can only stand to butress the administration's pre-war claims. Is Rove involved? A way to perk up the base?

Posted by AlexC at 10:16 AM | What do you think? [3]
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Fakes and forgeries ... all of them ... in arabic. That's why it took 3 years to put them out! Yep, I can hear it now ... Rather: Fake but true, Bush: True but fake.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 17, 2006 10:28 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I have to criticize your excerpting performance on this one, AlexC. Here's the juicy stuff:

"Most intriguing from a document dump Wednesday night is a manual for Saddam's spy service, innocuously listed as CMPC-2003-006430.


The document also discusses the Mukhabarat's Office 16, set up to train "agents for clandestine operations abroad." The document helpfully adds that "special six-week courses in the use of of terror techniques are provided at a camp in Radwaniyhah."

Got that? Terror techniques.

Even as the media studiously avoid these new documents just as they avoided 500 hours of Saddam's personal tapes showing his scheming on WMD it's clear the U.S. did the right thing in invading Iraq and taking out a formative terrorist threat.

Saddam had close ties to al-Qaida. That's not just our opinion, but also that of the 9-11 Commission Report that so many in the media have selectively cited to bolster the case against the war.

As Chairman Thomas Kean said the day the report was released: "There was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida."

But a hundred more revelations like this will still fail to persuade Bush-hating peaceniks that the war was anything other than a business opportunity for Halliburton and putting a stick in Saddam's eye for "daddy Bush."

To the Randi Rhodes' of the world, self-defense is only justified AFTER some of us are already killed. And even then, only by arresting and jailing (death penalty, are you kidding?) the SPECIFIC INDIVIDUALS who perpetrated that specific act.

But Ms. Rhodes also knows that self-defense is a powerful instinctive behavior, especially for Americans (read: cowboys) and one of many ways to discourage such bold and decisive action is to pretend there is no threat. Thus we have, "There were no WMD! Bush lied and people died! My mind's made up... don't confuse me with the facts!"

Posted by: johngalt at March 18, 2006 11:29 AM
But jk thinks:

The lengths to which the MSM have let down their customers, the nation, and the cause of freedom boggle the mind. For a little schadenfreude, check out Michelle Malkin's and Ed Driscoll's reporting on the rumored downgrade of the New York Times's debt by Moody's. (Hat-tip: pajamas)

Posted by: jk at March 18, 2006 2:38 PM

March 16, 2006

Judicial System Gone Nuts

Maybe it's just me, but we might overlawyered in this country.

    When a dump truck backed into Curtis Gokey's car, he decided to sue the city for damages. Only thing is, he was the one driving the dump truck. But that minor detail didn't stop Gokey, a Lodi city employee, from filing a $3,600 claim for the December accident, even after admitting the crash was his fault.

    After the city denied that claim because Gokey was, in essence, suing himself, he and his wife, Rhonda, decided to file a new claim under her name.

    City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said this one also lacks merit because Rhonda Gokey can't sue her own husband.

But jk thinks:

Divorce. File Claim. Remarry.

Do I have to think of everything around here?

Posted by: jk at March 16, 2006 6:56 PM

Congress: WTF?

This one warrants today's "WTF award."

Just read the whole thing.

Congress Posted by AlexC at 6:49 PM


Mixed message from Ha'aretz.

    Hussein did not believe until almost the last moment that the U.S. would send its forces into Baghdad, the report says. He was much more afraid of subversive elements in Iraq - mainly the Shi'ites and Kurds - and from regional powers - mainly Iran but also Israel - than of an American invasion.

    This is why he decided to leave the bridges leading into Iraq standing, believing he would need them, and to maintain ambiguity until close to the invasion, causing Western intelligence to believe he had WMDs.

    "Many months after the fall of Baghdad, a number of senior Iraqi officials in coalition custody continued to believe it possible that Iraq still possesed WMD capability hidden away somewhere. Saddam attempted to convince one audience that they were gone while simultaneously convincing another that Iraq still had them," the report says.

So everyone, including insiders in the Iraqi system thought Iraq had WMDs. But does that really excuse American intelligence, British, French, Russian, Chinese, Israeli intelligence as well?

War on Terror Posted by AlexC at 5:19 PM

Securing the Treehouse

In Children of 9/11, Children of technology, Grant McCracken LEAKS! his family's clubhouse security scheme to make a point about post 9/11 children.

Each of the kids has a password and security code. I don't know how many terrorists there are in my part of Connecticut but clearly the little shed is now secure. Relatively speaking. We could use a metal detector and a rent-a-cop but then the kids will have to start raising taxes, and no one around here wants that, believe me.

Now, it may be that this is the 21st century version of the those hand scrawled signs that have always appeared on tree houses and forts, the ones that read "keep out." (We adults couldn't help noticing that no one gave us passwords and security codes.) Maybe the kids were just building a boundary the way kids have always liked to do.

Hat-tip: Virginia Postrel

Posted by John Kranz at 3:36 PM

Yawn. More good news

The Everyday Economist wonders why nobody -- even in the blogosphere -- is trumpeting the good economic news:

Allow me to trumpet it:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at a four-year high and is approx. 128 points away from a six-year high!
Inflation pressure has eased.
Earnings have been coming in strong.
Many economists are forecasting GDP growth of 4% in the current quarter.
The economy appears in great shape, despite the naysayers.

I would trumpet it, but I have IRA funds to invest and hate the idea of buying at five year highs -- damn President Bush!

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 2:20 PM

Cool T-Shirts

Not a lot of crass commercialization on ThreeSources. I pushed the second Berkeley Square CD a little when it came out, but we haven't had a lot of shameless plugs.

A good friend and talented designer has a new venture called teebomb. You can order one of his great T-Shirt designs online, and get it shipped anywhere domestic (dang it, I bought one as a present for a friend in the UK. I'll have to bug him to add international shipping).

He gave me a sample earlier, and these are VERY nice. The words are on the back for a more comfortable viewing experience, and the front has a black-on-black embroidered Teebomb logo. The package is cool, with a cover sleeve and a sticker label tag. Makes a great gift.


On the web Posted by John Kranz at 11:25 AM

Government as a virus

I don't want to make light of bird flu. As I recall, I already have. But it is worthwhile to watch government growth more like a virus. Once it gets hold of the host its raison d'etre is to grow and spread.

The Wall Street Journal has enjoyed many clever "Meathead" headlines following Rob Reiner's troubles of late. Reiner has come under scrutiny for spending the government funds of "First 5" which he has headed, unelected, for years. He has doled them out like the political pro he is, getting patronage for money that's not his. (Paid link)'

This is not the commission's only questionable contract. First 5 has received to date $800 million -- about 20% -- of the tobacco proceeds that Mr. Reiner convinced California voters to impose on themselves in a 1998 referendum. Of this, the commission has awarded contracts totaling about $230 million to firms or individuals known to Mr. Reiner -- some of them without competitive bidding. Meanwhile, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office is mulling whether to launch its own investigation to determine if there was any cronyism involved in awarding the ad campaign contract to a firm with long-standing ties to Mr. Reiner.
Now, he is in trouble for spending those funds to support the election of a new government program: universal pre-school. I guess the government in California is doing so well educating those in its K-12 system, it's obviously a great time to expand public education to younger students.
Mr. Reiner's ad campaign mentions neither the indifferent results of universal preschool nor its budgetary consequences. This, in itself, would not be a problem, because a democracy counts not on any one person's script, but many partial ones from numerous interested parties, to get the full story across to voters. But there is a problem when someone has unfair access to taxpayer dollars to bankroll his script over others. This is why California authorities need to give close scrutiny to Mr. Reiner's tactics -- and California voters to his grand taxing plans. As Archie Bunker would say: Hands off my fridge, Meathead.
Once these people get a little power and money, they inevitably use it to create an inexorable new government creation machine. Cuts (that would be a reduction in the rate of growth for you newcomers) and cutbacks are slow, difficult and always ripe for retraction. New programs are eternal.
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Funny thing ... government is like a mirror image or weight lifting: Hard gains are not lost quickly. If only we could come up with an incentive program for legislatures. You get a bonus based on the amount of money you cut from the budget ... conversely, your bonus is decreased proportionally by the cost of new programs. If only ...

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 16, 2006 2:25 PM
But jk thinks:

I LIKE it!

Posted by: jk at March 16, 2006 3:38 PM

March 15, 2006

The Conservative Case AGAINST McCain

John Hawkins at writes about the conservative case against President John McCain.
He lists the following....

  • The Age Issue
  • How Electable Is McCain Really?
  • What's Wrong With Actually Having A Loyal Republican As The Republican Nominee?
  • How Can You Be Pro-Life And Pro-Roe v. Wade At The Same Time?
  • Kyoto By Any Other Name Would Still Smell As Rotten
  • McCain Vs. The Bush Tax Cuts
  • McCain May Not Like Bush's Tax Cuts, But He Loves Illegal Immigration
  • The Gang-Of-14 Disaster
  • The McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Debacle

I would never vote for Senator McCain because of the last one, but I'm wondering if there is a conservative case FOR the Senator?


But jk thinks:

I'll take that one, AlexC!

The conservative case is that the most important issue facing the US is the successful prosecution of the War on Terror.

I love a tax cut, I love free speech. But we are deep into a serious war with serious consequences. I can think of NOBODY that would do a better job on the war than Senator McCain. He is eloquent on the topic, which is important because our only threat of failure is domestic opposition or apathy. He knows the military, he would be a great Commander-in-Chief.

I hate McCain Feingold more than any other legislation in my lifetime. But even I am considering supporting McCain.

I quibble a bit with the list. The Gang of 14 turned out very well (nobody was more surprised than me). I think McCain is pretty electable, the media respect him as not-a-knee-jerk Republican. He would do well in a general. He is very charismatic and a good orator.

Lots of things I dislike, to be sure. But the C-in-C argument cannot be ignored.

Posted by: jk at March 15, 2006 8:06 PM
But AlexC thinks:

When I posted this, I was actually going to file it under Internicine and was going to bait you directly, JK. ;)

But you do make an excellent point. The War on Terror is an excellent reason to vote for the Senator. I'm not going to say I'd ever vote for Hillary, but she's always been pro-War on Terror... and I don't think there is going to be a credible anti-War candidate in '08. Dean gonna run again? Feingold?

Posted by: AlexC at March 15, 2006 8:15 PM
But jk thinks:

I fear for the Republic when I am the pro McCain guy around here. But a quick search shows:

1) We talk about him a lot around here;

2) I endorsed him for '08 on June 20, 2005

3) I retracted that endorsement on July 12

It's going to be a long election season.

Posted by: jk at March 16, 2006 9:34 AM
But AlexC thinks:

You were for McCain, before you were against him. Are you for him again?


(just call it nuance, and sleep better at night)

Posted by: AlexC at March 16, 2006 6:55 PM
But jk thinks:

Touch' (we nuance guys like to use a lot of French words!)

To be honest, I was dead set against him since the 2000 primaries. He was a one issue candidate and his issue was the curtailment of free speech. I had no truck with the Senior Senator from Ari-Z.

His commencement address to the graduating class at Annapolis, and his speech at the 2004 GOP Convention were superb. JohnGalt even blogged about a pro-Bush, anti-terrorism speech on June 18, 2004:

You watch "Angel," you gotta believe in redemption. Still much to atone for, but I am not giving up.

Posted by: jk at March 17, 2006 6:22 PM


When you go to Congress with a ginormous sign behind you, expect some ribbing.

(tip to Soxblog)

Posted by AlexC at 7:28 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Sen. Stabenow is the dimmest bulb in the US Senate. A low and hard-fought dishonor, but she is the one. I saw her once on Kudlow & Co. Larry was being nice, but she could not even understand the questions.

Posted by: jk at March 15, 2006 8:08 PM
But jk thinks:

Atilla at Pillage Idiot has more:

Posted by: jk at March 16, 2006 4:23 PM

Hillary and the Libertarian Vote


Given that Republicans and Democrats seem to be all for more spending, Jeffrey Alan Miron asks,

    What political outcome, then, can Libertarians support?

    Divided government.

    If one party controls the White House while the other controls Congress, stalemate results, with little expansion of government. This is what occurred during the divided-government Clinton years, in contrast to the past six years of one-party rule.

    Since current political realities suggest Republicans will control Congress in the near future, Libertarians should therefore hope for a Democratic presidential victory in 2008. And the more polarizing the Democrat, the better.

    Gridlock is good.

The Republicans really forgot what got them into office in 1994. It shouldn't have to take putting more Democrats in office to remind them of what it was.

But jk thinks:

I have been around this one with some liberal friends of mine. It's a pretty good line for the Democrats.

Yet I contend that it doesn't work in 2006. The leadership of the Democrat party is too far left-wing. (If you had a few Sam Nunns or Joe Liebermans, gridlock would be well and good. If Jane Hartman and Harold Ford spoke for the party, that'd be one thing.)

But if you look at Reid, Pelosi, Leahy, Harkin -- the folks that would hold leadership positions -- the argument falls apart. Anything to keep Leahy from chairing the Intelligence Committee, unless you want all-impeachment all the time.

What would become of spending with Rep Pelosi as Speaker? Gridlock ruled in the 90's and I concede that buddy-buddyness is driving up spending in the GOP government of the 00's, but I cannot put those guys in power. Can't do it.

Posted by: jk at March 16, 2006 10:46 AM

March Madness?

The Everyday Economist disputes data showing a $3.8 Billion productivity loss while Silence -- I mean Americans -- pay more attention to NCAA Basketball than work.

Clearly this is not a scientific study. First, there is no clarification on how they determine who is actually at work when visiting the ESPN website. Are they working? Is the site left in the background of their workspace and thus resulting in longer “visits”?

The biggest problem with the study is that it does not take into account the fact that many of the people who are using the time to check whether or not their favorite team has won, may have used the time doing other non-work related activities.

Economists may be pretty clever but I suspect that the entire notion of goofing off has never come under satisfactory quantitative study. All but the most menial workers achieve productivity in fits and starts. I have managed spectacular developers who frequently got nothing done in a whole day, then came in the next day with a great idea and worked 14 hours.

Lastly, the study asserts that checking the ESPN site is de facto goofing off. I find it easy to check blogs while things are downloading and building. Yes, there's some goofing off in there but I could not honestly quantify it.

Now, $3.8 billion lost in office pools -- that I could believe!

Posted by John Kranz at 6:11 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

It's not goofing off, it's multi-tasking!

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 17, 2006 8:22 AM
But johngalt thinks:

It used to be called a "coffee break." It was spent gathered around the water cooler talking about YESTERDAY'S games. Technology brings this into real time. The limitation at this point is you have to be at your desk to be "jacked-in."

A certain amount of diversionary activity in the workplace is not only acceptable but necessary. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Dull boys do dull work. Federal workplace rules dicatate a minimum 15 minute break every four hours. I contend that 15 minutes every 2 hours is an appropriate maximum.

Posted by: johngalt at March 18, 2006 11:07 AM

"Oh, Snap!"

Maybe it's just a guy thing, or my distaste for Japanese cars, or my straight laced law-abiding revulsion to the hip-hop culture. Maybe I get too much enjoyment from smashing things, or pretty young eurobabes in short skirts, or middle aged techno geeks being portrayed as hip. But when I watched this commercial for Volkswagen's new factory "tuner" car last night my wife asked, "Is that funny?"

"If you have to ask...," I replied.

The other two ads in the series are here, and here.


Television Posted by JohnGalt at 4:00 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Yeah, I had seen the first one, and thought it a swing-and-a-miss. Watching the other two, I don't know if I am getting into the series or the others are better. I chuckled at If you vant me to de-pimp your ride, say vat. What?

I love Japanese cars, but admit my eyes glaze over when commercials try to tie into hip-hop culture.

Posted by: jk at March 15, 2006 5:03 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

The "do you know what time it is" line was a sleeper hit to me - asked of a guy wearing a clock around his neck.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 17, 2006 8:27 AM

March 14, 2006

Not the Contrarian after all?

Interested in economics, technology, and music sales, I have watched the changes in music sales wrought by the iPod culture. As an album lover, I resisted the movement toward buying a song instead of an album, but if you can't beat em, join 'em.

I purchased a couple songs today on iTunes, both of which I had seen on a TV show. I heard a Taj Mahal version of the Rolling Stones' "Honky-Tonk Women" on the show "House" and (you call laugh if you want) I bought Michelle Branch's "Goodbye To You" which closes one of the great Buffy Episodes, "Tabula Rasa."

What surprised me was that both of these tracks were very highly rated. Honky-Tonk was top of all the Taj opus, Goodbye was second for Ms. Branch. I can only surmise that a lot of people are buying songs that they like on a TV show. It might be where hits come from. Now if I only knew a TV producer...

Posted by John Kranz at 7:38 PM | What do you think? [5]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Now,'ve got me thinking about both of those songs for my list.

And, yeah, I did see that episode of "House."

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at March 14, 2006 10:08 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'll settle for a simple way to get every track I've got on vinyl into wav files on my PC. How about a class-action lawsuit compelling the original labels to hand them over, free of charge, to everyone who can document ownership of the original LP? It's the original license certificate!

Posted by: johngalt at March 15, 2006 12:57 AM
But jk thinks:

Yes, you own the license, which entitles you to legally digitize and rip them. I'm guessing that you're kidding about making the record companies do all the work.

The iTunes licensing scares me quite a bit. I like the service but am convinced that in ten years, I'll still have all the mp3s that I ripped myself, and all the "unprotected" mp3s that I buy from, yet all my iTunes files will require me to rip them into another format or repurchase them.

This keeps me from buying much on iTunes; less than twenty of my 7500+ legal mp3 collection uses Apple's DRM.

Thanks for the comment, TrecMedic251. I followed the link to your blog but it's way too left wing for me (ya, right...)

Posted by: jk at March 15, 2006 10:02 AM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

We are on the cusp of a major culture shift and there is a whole army of dinosaurs out there feeling the heat. In the day where you can press a few buttons on a grid at McDonalds to get your 'meal', pay with your CC go home in the car while listening to Sirus and then watch your TiVo ... consumers have total control except to when it comes to maintaining a train of thought for more than 30 seconds.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 15, 2006 3:38 PM
But jk thinks:

Long live the long tail! Hayek would love it.

Posted by: jk at March 15, 2006 4:42 PM


New Scientist

    Long-term users of marijuana gradually become worse at learning and remembering things, a new study suggests.

    “It definitely fogs your brain,” says Lambros Messinis, who led the study at the University Hospital of Patras in Greece.

    Messinis and colleagues tested the mental abilities of 20 long-term users who had taken marijuana heavily – smoking at least four joints a week – for an average of 15 years. Their brains were rustier than those of 20 short-term users – who had averaged seven years of use – and 24 controls who had used the drug sporadically or not at all.

    Long-term users performed worse in tests to measure memory, learning ability and the capacity to recall information. Asked to recall lists of 15 words that they had seen earlier, for example, the long-term users averaged seven, compared with nine recalled by short-term users and 12 by controls.

Well, at least it wasn't American money being spent to study the obvious.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by AlexC at 11:56 AM

Testiticular Fortitude

How many years over due is GOP Senate Leadership?

It's good to see it's return.

    After facing down Senator Russ Feingold's censure bill on Monday and seeing Democrats of all ranks fold, Frist thinks it's time to call Democrats on their antics, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

    "He pushed them to the mat today, and they blinked," said one Frist associate. "He dared them to vote, and Democrat Leader Harry Reid looked like he was going to be sick as he said 'No.'''

    Frist is going to continue to dare Democrats to vote on censuring the President.

    "When it comes to intercepting phone calls from Tora Bora to Topeka, Frist thinks Senate Democrats have made a huge blunder, and he will lead the charge to make Democrats put up or shut up on censure," the top insider claimed.

Leadership... along with fiscal responsibility, we have missed you.

Senate Posted by AlexC at 11:54 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

I listened to Moonbat Radio for a short time last night and heard the host (unidentified male) refer to Senator Frist as "Freyest" (like 'Christ' I presume.) I figured it was only a matter of time before I heard him say, "Neener neener."

Posted by: johngalt at March 14, 2006 3:21 PM

iTunes Music Store

Few things are more annoying than government regulation the operation of a company.


    France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer Inc to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker's popular iPod player.

    Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.

    It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management -- the codes that protect music, films and other content -- if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.

    "It will force some proprietary systems to be opened up ... You have to be able to download content and play it on any device," Vanneste told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.

It's too bad most companies don't have the guts to say, "F-you France. No iTunes for you!"

If this passes, expect the unexpected.

But johngalt thinks:

I'm glad to see France is taking care of the important s*#^ first. Hey France, you're all about to become muslims! 'Zat cool with you?

The precedent of Google China rears its ugly head again.

Posted by: johngalt at March 14, 2006 3:24 PM
But jk thinks:

The illusion of Gallic greatness can no longer be sustained by France's military power, so they attempt to be diplomatically powerful in messing with the US in the UN security Council or asserting power through EU regulations.

I was rooting for Microsoft to tell them to jump in a lake. Maybe Jobs will. I doubt it, but apple obviously does not want to open iTunes to other hardware vendors, maybe they will.

Posted by: jk at March 14, 2006 5:29 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Don't hold your breath. There's no immediate benefit to shareholders from championing a principle. Jobs will simply comply with France's demands and instruct his lawyers to make sure none of it applies in the US.

Shortsighted CEOs would rather have ten percent of the pie, any pie, every pie, they can get, than to take a stand and let that ten percent (or less) get away.

Posted by: johngalt at March 15, 2006 1:06 AM

UN Human Rights Council

Only the UN could possibly come up with a plan to make the Human Rights Commission worse -- and more laughable -- than it is. Laughable implies a southparkian ability to laugh at genocide, corruption and continued poverty.

But the tough reformers on Turtle Bay seem to have found a worse scheme. The WSJ Ed Page sez: (Paid link)

The United Nations General Assembly is scheduled to vote tomorrow to establish the Human Rights Council, which is intended to replace its discredited Human Rights Commission. Amnesty International is for it, as is Secretary General Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, the European Union and most of the U.N.'s member states. So it all but goes without saying that the Council -- at least as it is currently conceived -- is a moral disaster waiting to happen.

Forty-seven member states will sit on the council (streamlined from a bloated 53) and geographic representation will ensure that Africa, Asia and the middle east will get a 26 seat majority between those bastions of democracy and human rights, while "the U.S. dukes it out with France, Malta and Luxembourg for a place at the table." No permanent members, so the US might be completely unrepresented.

These people cannot reform themselves -- let John Bolton and Claudia Rosset lock themselves in a room and redraw the UN Charter. This organization is far too corrupt to reform itself from within.

United Nations Posted by John Kranz at 10:04 AM | What do you think? [1]
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

It may be in our best interests to make ourselves very close friends with India. They seem to be the last reasonable country with a population that is not dying off left on the planet.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 14, 2006 1:46 PM

March 13, 2006

America's Achilles' Heel: Modern Education

Little Manchurian Candidates by Matt James is a good essay about the bulk of modern education -- both public and private -- worth reading in whole. The common denominator, that which unites all schools this applies to, being the philosophy of John Dewey. His ideas, such as 'truth is a social product' and 'there are no timless, universal absolutes' cause the dumbing down of America and cause what you read in this essay.

Dewey was an explicit disciple of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who's spiritual children gave us communism, modern racism, modern feminism, environmentalism, male-bashing, and America's current impotence in the face of barbarians. That's the power of philosophy, a view on the whole of existence: reality, man, thought and emotion, morality, politics, art.

I don't know the validity of the essay, but from my experiences and that of reliable sources I've read and talked to, I find this essay credible. Here's an excerpt:

"One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them."

Our six-year-old daughter was so excited to start school. At our first parent-teacher conference, Barb and I expected to hear the usual compliments and heartwarming anecdotes about our bright little angel. From our experiences with activities like T-ball and soccer, or dance and music recitals, we had learned that parents always say nice things about the children of others. If the compliments are sometimes unrealistic or excessive, well, parenting is tough work. We can all use the encouragement.

I guess we had been spoiled. Jenny's teacher got right to the point. She had some negatives to address. For one thing, Jenny was struggling with her reading. The teacher confessed that one of the most difficult parts of her job was deflating parents with the news that their children were simply not exceptional. Jenny was, at best, an average reader. She was not an Eagle; she was a Pony. Our job was to learn to enjoy her as a 40-watt bulb rather than a bright light. Was it my imagination, or did this middle-aged matron's sweet smile contain a trace of malice as she related these tidings?

I was confused by this assessment of Jenny's reading abilities because it simply didn't fit in with her prior history. She had a love affair with books for her entire childhood. We have a photograph of her at 11 months of age staring earnestly at the contents of an open book. I remember reading to her when she was three. I stopped for some reason, but she continued the narration. She knew her stories by heart. Like many other children, Jenny had learned to read at home. She was a bookworm, and she was an experienced and passionate reader before she ever started first grade.

The teacher went on to explain that Jenny cried too much at school and that we needed to correct this problem with the appropriate discipline. Barb and I exchanged glances but didn't argue. We were in shock.

I was curious about the crying. Jenny was such a happy child. I asked her that night what made her sad at school. Expecting to hear about something on the playground, I was surprised by her answer. The listening-hour stories made her sad:

Once upon a time there was a daddy duck with seven ducklings. They ranged in age down to the youngest (who reminded Jenny of a first grader). The daddy was mean. One day he demanded that all his children learn three tasks, such as running, swimming, and diving. If a duckling was unable to master all of the tasks, he would be banished from the family to live with the chickens. The youngsters struggled under the cruel eye of their father. When it came to diving, the first grader floundered and was sent away to live with the chickens.

This was the story Jenny related, in her own words, as an example. I heard it told a second time several years later, by my cousin Nancy, as a sample of objectionable curriculum. We were impressed with the coincidence, since our families resided in different states.

...What in the name of heaven was going on at this school?

I was determined to get to the bottom of things. Since they didn't send books home with students in the younger grades, I went to the school the following day and spent a couple of hours reviewing the elementary readers. As I read, my eyes opened wider and wider. I had assumed the purpose of the reading curriculum was to stimulate the juvenile imagination and teach reading skills. Instead, I saw material saturated with, to borrow another parent's language, "an unadvertised agenda promoting parental alienation, loss of identity and self-confidence, group-dependence, passivity, and anti-intellectualism."


When a child-figure in the stories split away from his group, for example, he would get rained on, his toes would get cold in the snow, or he would experience some other form of discomfort or torment. Similar material was repeated ad infinitum. Through their reading, our students would feel the stinging rain and the pain of freezing toes. They would learn the lesson like one of Pavlov's dogs: avoid the pain, stay with the group.

But, yes, there are some good schools out there such as The Van Damme Academy, The Academy of Classical Education, and Montessori schools (if real Montessori); and some good books such as "The Well-Trained Mind." I don't know how the Thomas Aquinas College is, but I love their curriculum.

Unfortunately, the good schools are small in number compared to the others. The question is whether they and homeschooling -- and new schools which teach reasoning skills to independent human minds -- can have a positive effect before the current tide takes us into a new Dark Ages...

Education Posted by Cyrano at 10:39 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Interesting article. The anti-individualism and anti-intellectualism are as scary as the banality of the works.

I would not send a child into the standard public schools around here, though I suspect they are pretty good compared to other public schools. A few blocks from my house is a bilingual school: "Training tomorrows Burger King staff, today!"

The author wants to change the curricula in his local school, but the other stuff will come back. As John Stossel and Milton Friedman say, tie the money to the student and empower the parents with choice. That's the only way I can see to get American education back on track.

Posted by: jk at March 14, 2006 9:45 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Even when you know this kind of stuff is going on in the schools all taxpayers make possible, it's still shocking to read the individual examples. This one reminds me of Castro's "Young Pioneers."

The implications of this example also dwarf the destructive power of something like that filthy little beast Jay Bennish. His attempts at mind control are crude, in your face, and only impact a few dozen minds at a time. The manipulative powers of grade school readers are astronomically greater and more sublime.

For those who don't know, John Dewey (yes, the Dewey Decimal System Dewey) was one of the three founders of the philosophy of Pragmatism.

Posted by: johngalt at March 14, 2006 3:52 PM


One of my favorite shows, South Park, loses one of it's main voice actors.

    Hayes, who has played the ladies' man/school cook in the animated Comedy Central satire since 1997, said in a statement Monday that he feels a line has been crossed.

    "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.

    "Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored," he continued. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."

    "South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem - and he's cashed plenty of checks - with our show making fun of Christians."

... and Jews (the MCP episode), Catholics (worshipping the spider and molesting boys), Mormons (dum... dum... dum...)

I find it strangely coincidental that this was announced so shortly after the Rolling Stone article which mentions the Scientology episode.

Which happens to be available for download here.

Two points for Trey Parker who goes on to say, "[I] never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

But jk thinks:

"...there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins."

Indeed, Mr. Hayes, but that time is never reached on "South Park."

Posted by: jk at March 14, 2006 9:17 AM



    As noted, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold has introduced a resolution that would censure the President of the United States for "eavesdropping" in the wake of 9/11. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, moments ago, made a unanimous consent motion that the Senate vote on the resolution tonight. Maryland Democrat Paul Sarbanes rose to object to the motion. Frist then motioned to vote on the resolution again tomorrow. Sarbanes objected, saying no vote should take place on the resolution until Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had cleared the timing.

It would be funny if it came up for a vote and Feingold would vote "nay". Kind of like the Murtha thing.

Good for Frist in bringing, or attempting to bring it to a vote.

Let's vote on it.

Besides, why does Senator Reid have to clear the timing? Is he in charge or something?

Posted by AlexC at 5:12 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Make Senators responsible for what they say? The nerve of the man!

Bravo for bluff calling, that's the first bit of cojones we've seen out of the majority leader for some time. Perhaps winning the SRLC straw poll has perked him up.

Posted by: jk at March 13, 2006 5:41 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Frist? Oh... you mean the Senate MAJORITY leader. The way the Democrats have been acting lately, I could have sworn it was Harry Reid.

Posted by: AlexC at March 13, 2006 11:10 PM

Immigration Concern

Carlos Mencia, in a special on The Comedy Channel, makes a good point about immigration that some of the "enforcement-first" crowd around here may have ignored.

"They're going to kick all the Mexicans out, then build a wall so they can't return," explains Mencia. "But who's going to build the wall?"

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 5:04 PM | What do you think? [3]
But AlexC thinks:

We could sub it out. Halliburton!
I hear there's a company out there no longer in the ports business. Maybe they do fences?

Posted by: AlexC at March 13, 2006 5:12 PM
But johngalt thinks:

This whole "Americans won't do those jobs" thing really pisses me off. Make the kids buy their OWN video games and they'll start mowing lawns and shoveling snow again. Stop the entitlement pablum and just watch the lines at the job centers queue up.

Besides, we can always pay the illegals to build the wall on their way out. You think they're going to turn down the greenbacks?

Posted by: johngalt at March 14, 2006 4:01 PM
But jk thinks:

Umm. Joke, guys, joke.

Besides, Mencia beat you to it. He said "Have them build it, then suggest they check out the other side to make sure it is level -- then you can lock the gate while theyre out!"

Yet I must engage. It's not about whether or not the work will be done, it is about comparative advantage. We are richer when we provide that work to somebody else.

Posted by: jk at March 14, 2006 5:38 PM


Selling out to communists is a bad thing.

But this is a good thing.

Google Posted by AlexC at 4:34 PM

Nerd Off

I had far too much fun in college for this type of competition.

    [Joshua] Foer set a new U.S. record in playing-card recall, where contestants spend five minutes memorizing the order of a deck of cards and then recall as many as possible in a row. He recalled the whole deck in 1 minute, 40 seconds, which is better than he's ever done in practice, he said.

    He was already planning to attend the upcoming World Memory Championship in Malaysia in August -- book research, he said -- but part of the prize for his U.S. win includes a paid flight there to compete.

    "I don’t think I have a chance in the world championship," Foer said. "I can’t imagine going up against these people -- they can memorize a deck of cards in like 30 seconds."

    There was nothing so dramatic at the U.S. Championship, but records were broken in each qualifying event. In the speed-numbers round, where contestants have five minutes to memorize as many randomly-generated numbers in order as they can, finalist Maurice Stoll, of Hurst, Texas, won by breaking his own record with a score of 148.

On a normal day, I can't remember what I had for lunch the previous day!

But jk thinks:

I feel really good after this. While you were posting it, I was at a neurological exam associated with my clinical trial.

The numbers segment is first grade material, you hear a number every few seconds and you must give the sum, of the last two. It's childish. It's trivial. I haven't got a perfect score yet!

Not quite ready for the card trick.

I once read a compelling article that correlated software productivity to the ability of a developer to memorize long sequences of numbers. I think this is true -- somebody should teach Mr. Foer to write code.

Posted by: jk at March 13, 2006 5:04 PM
But johngalt thinks:

So, for how many years have you two been using "more than 4 joints per week?"

Posted by: johngalt at March 14, 2006 4:02 PM
But jk thinks:

I'll be 46 in May. I find this time of life to be very much like the after effects of drug abuse.

Posted by: jk at March 14, 2006 5:40 PM
But dagny thinks:

How do you know? :-)

Posted by: dagny at March 14, 2006 8:57 PM

March 12, 2006

Heterodox skeptic

Pajamas Media notes that a couple of bloggers far more famous than I. have linked to Canada Free Press's The science just keeps getting junkier

I'm not sure author Klaus Rohrich adds much to the scientific debate, beyond what others -- well I -- have said, but everybody is enjoying this description of this theory's adherents:

Climate catastrophics appears to have become a new religion, replacing Marxism and Christianity as the arbiter of acceptable belief. Anyone who questions the accepted climate-change theories currently in favor is considered a heretic.

I agree that this theory is worth additional study, but I don't know that there are any objective scientists left to study it. It is this zeal that frightens me the most.

Silence, I hope you home from our global warming discussion okay in the snow, last week! (Ain't I a stinker?)

Posted by John Kranz at 6:32 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

I'm really glad that PajamasMedia has turned itself around. There are a few meta-blogs out there that are must-reads. This is one of them.

Posted by: AlexC at March 12, 2006 6:58 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Heh, Junk Science ... it'll kill us all eventually. Got some snake oil and salve to cure that? Betcha Al Gore has some tonic to soothe your troubled mind.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 13, 2006 1:51 PM


JK gets to rave about Firefly.

Now it's my turn to salivate over the Sopranos.

They're finally back.

Rehashing the entire last season will be impossible, so I'll just directed the interested to Wikipedia, instead I'll just give the rundown of what I think might happen in Season 6.

Season five ended with the higher-ups in the New York family going down to some sort of federal charges, probably racketeering, murder, drugs, etc. Typical mafioso bust. Which leaves some sort of power struggle possible in that family. Given that the Sopranos also have some partnerships in deals with the New York family, look for the Sopranos to capitalize on New York's misfortune.

Tony and Carmella will somewhat patch up their relationship, but it won't be without troubles. AJ Soprano should have graduated high school by now and is probably enrolled in a local community college. He wasn't terribly interested in high school, so look for him to move into the family's business.

Christopher Moltisante will get whacked by Tony. He'll go back to his heroin addiction as a way to escape the problem with his now dead rat girlfriend, Adrianna. Some sort of a deal will go down with Christopher that will implicate the family in a bad way. For that, he will pay dearly. Christopher is Tony's nephew, so Tony will do the deal himself.

This will heal some wounds that Paulie Walnuts has suffered because of Christopher and Tony's relationship. Silvio will continue on in his role as consigliere. Bobby Bacala has married Tony's sister Janice, and I believe they are having a baby. Vito Spadafore will be revealed to more of the family as a homosexual, and Meadow will marry Finn DeTrulio, who asked her to marry him out of fear of Vito.

Right? Wrong?

Will anyone get wacked tonight?

But jk thinks:

I've never seen it. But Duncan Currie at "The Weekly Standard" is pretty excited as well. He knows what's going to happen but "like Tony, he has taken an oath."

Posted by: jk at March 12, 2006 3:39 PM

March 11, 2006

Googlin' us

My web stats page gives the search strings people typed in to find ThreeSources. Much as I used to laugh at natalee holloway pictures, I think most of these folks may have been disappointed as well:

Top 20 of 684 Total Search Strings

1 43 3.94% commies
2 37 3.39% anti american
3 30 2.75% wells fargo logo
4 29 2.66% boycott
5 28 2.56% anti america
6 25 2.29% anti-american
7 14 1.28% serenity movie
8 13 1.19% silence dogood
9 12 1.10% inurl:archives/002325.html
10 11 1.01% inurl:002361.html
11 11 1.01% percent circle
12 9 0.82% fast food logo
13 9 0.82% heh
14 7 0.64% eddy merckx
15 7 0.64% inurl:002355.html
16 7 0.64% sprint theft deterrent
17 6 0.55% anti pepsi
18 6 0.55% inurl:002325.html
19 6 0.55% sprint theft deterrent commercial
20 5 0.46% if nominated i will not run

Posted by John Kranz at 6:38 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Gee Silence, I'm jealous!

Posted by: johngalt at March 12, 2006 11:39 AM

Review Corner

I have been pretty tough on films in this blog. I had to revise, upward, my political estimation of Batman Begins, and it has been suggested that I revise my musical critique of "I Walk the Line" upwards as well. I saw "Crash," and enjoyed the narrative but found it full of Hollywood CW and moral relativism.

Tough room. Tough crowd.

Yesterday, I didn't see anything that grabbed me at my local Redbox (now 500% bigger jukeboxes!). On a second pass, I saw "Elizabethtown." I remembered a trailer that looked pretty good and knew that my wife found leading man Orlando Bloom attractive. (What the heck, I get 4 1/22 seasons of Charisma Carpenter on "Angel.")

It started with some anti-corporate nonsense, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Orlando Bloom -- did I really think this one through? Then we went to the American Heartland and I feared some hollywood hick-bashing was next. Instead I saw a film that is certainly among the best I have seen.

"Elizabethtown" is an excellent story: a tale of family, love, and finding one's place. If you can watch it without laughing so hard your stomach hurts and then crying like a schoolgirl, you have a heart of stone. Rent or buy the DVD for this one . After you've watched it, go to the special features section and watch the extended scenes of "Rusty's Learn to Listen, Part 8" and the extended interview with Russell, the Memphis barkeep. He tells stories of Memphis Stax/Sun musicians who frequented the bar, including a superb story about Albert King's breaking up a robbery with a pearl-handled .32 he kept in his overalls.

My favorite movie ever is "King of Hearts." The irony of my having a French, 1960's anti-war flick for my fave is too much irony to lose, but Elizabethtown gives it a great run. I will buy it and watch it again before I decide. Run, do not walk, to rent this film if you have not seen it; jk gives it five full stars.

UPDATE: I just ordered the DVD on Amazon, and it got very bad reviews from the pros and the users. It seems that I play the contrarian again. I don't know that I'll buy the soundtrack, but the music is a large part of what makes this movie work. This jazz snob was enjoying Elton John, Lyndsay Buckingham, &c. They used music to advance the plot line as "Buffy" or "Angel" would. I'm sticking to my guns.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:22 AM

Nobody Move.

... there's a genius amongst you.

Excellent timewaster

But jk thinks:

And if you want something less cerebral, try your luck with:

Posted by: jk at March 11, 2006 12:05 PM
But jk thinks:

It's telling how much time I'll waste to be called a genius by a web page. Sad...

Got my nineteen, even though it didn't give me "23 People of Color in the Harvard Boatclub"

Posted by: jk at March 11, 2006 1:15 PM
But AlexC thinks:

JK, maybe you're just looking for acceptance!

I found the easiest way to score genius was skip if you got stuck, and when you got to the end, go do something else, then come back. Fresh mind and all that.

Oh, and I got 24 seconds on the box game. Once you escape "the middle", it's not that hard to get 20+

Posted by: AlexC at March 11, 2006 2:51 PM
But dagny thinks:

Time waster is right, but it sure is fun. My husband has called me a genius for years but now I have proof.

I got all 33.

OK OK, I got 27 on my own, two more with a guess and google search.

I'm afraid the last 4 required serious google searching.

Trivial Pursuit anyone?

Posted by: dagny at March 11, 2006 6:11 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm glad Dagny will be on MY team!

Posted by: johngalt at March 12, 2006 11:41 AM

March 10, 2006

Fiscal Conservativism

From the Bleachers, Townhall correspondant Tim Chapman writes:

    Limited-government conservatism is back. You know what I mean: the kind of conservatism espoused by Barry Goldwater and then championed by President Ronald Reagan – the kind of conservatism that the revolutionary congressional class of 1994 brought to the American people in the form of the Contract with America.

    It is this brand of conservatism – a brand dedicated to limiting the size and scope of the federal government, a brand that recognizes that big government is not good government just because it is our government – that has sadly been missing of late. But no longer.

    On Wednesday, members of the conservative Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives took it upon themselves to single-handedly resurrect the philosophical heart and soul of the Republican Party.

It's a long post. Go read it all.

Fiscal sanity, we have missed thee.

Posted by AlexC at 9:06 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

If the Abramoff scandal does not give us the horror of Speaker Pelosi, we can celebrate its causing the GOP to revisit its small government roots. Like green chili for a head cold, "it will kill you or cure you!"

The Boehner House, Porkbuster bloggers and this new ascendancy to the RSC seem very positive steps. If I werent still in physical pain from the Dubai ports deal, Id be happy

Posted by: jk at March 11, 2006 1:26 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Mike Pence for Majority Leader & Sanford for Pres would be (have been) icing on the cake.

But alas....

Posted by: AlexC at March 11, 2006 2:54 PM

The Horses Mouth

    Nonfarm payroll employment grew by 243,000 in February, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.8 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Job gains occurred in construction, financial activities, health care, and several other industries.

What is full employment traditionally supposed to be? 5%?

Economics and Markets Posted by AlexC at 4:47 PM

Viva First Amendment

Right on!

    While Cuba played the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, a spectator in the stands raised a sign saying: "Down with Fidel," sparking an international incident that escalated Friday with the velocity of a major league fastball.

    The image of the man holding the sign behind home plate was beamed live Thursday night to millions of TV viewers _ including those in Cuba. The top Cuban official at the game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan rushed to confront the man.

    Puerto Rican police quickly intervened and took the Cuban official _ Angel Iglesias, vice president of Cuba's National Institute of Sports _ to a nearby police station, where they lectured him about free speech.

    "We explained to him that here the constitutional right to free expression exists and that it is not a crime," police Col. Adalberto Mercado was quoted as saying in El Nuevo Dia, a San Juan daily.

America, F*ck Yeah! Posted by AlexC at 4:43 PM

The other ports editorial

I mentioned two Dubai-ports-related editorials in the WSJ today and blogged on one.

The other, Not For Sale to Foreigners does not have a free link, but it is great as well. Written by Lawrence Lindsay, former Chief Economic Advisor the President Bush, it's equally un-sanguine about the mixture of government and trade -- here's the ending riff:

A given investment only rises to the attention of highest ranking political officials if there is any disagreement within the committee on whether there are substantial risks to our physical or economic security. In this case, none of the agencies involved had any concerns. So the security issue really is purely symbolic, not substantive. But it also symbolizes the chance that Congress could impose its judgment on other foreign investment projects any time an interested party (a losing bidder for example) raises a political fuss. The potential for a politicized breakdown in the global movement of capital is real.

Economic history is not hopeful in this regard. Foreigners are always an easy target. In 1930, Congress legislated against the entry of foreign goods in the form of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs. Other nations retaliated and global trade and capital flows soon collapsed. Although the long-term consequences of Smoot-Hawley were unknown at the time, it is interesting that stories ran in the New York Times about the advances of the pro-tariff forces on the same days as the stock market crashed in late October 1929.

While most of the supporters of the tariff have faded from memory, Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah and Rep. Willis Hawley of Oregon have permanently earned their place in history. So did President Hoover, for not having vetoed the bill, even though he favored lower tariffs. President Bush: Take note.

Posted by John Kranz at 1:55 PM

Not Tough Enough

Israel is saying that the US is not tough enough when it comes to Iran.

    The United States has until now not done enough to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, a senior Defense Ministry official has told The Jerusalem Post while expressing hope that Wednesday's referral of the Iranian issue to the United Nations Security Council would prove to be effective.

    "America needs to get its act together," the official said. "Until now the US administration has just been talking tough but the time has come for the Americans to begin to take tough action."

    The only real way to stop Teheran's race to obtain the bomb apart from military action was through tough economic sanctions that caused the Iranian people to suffer. "Once the people understand that their government is bringing upon them a disaster will they realize that the [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's regime needs to be replaced," the official said.

In other words, here's your chance to get the job done, or we will.

If Israel steps up and takes charge of the Iranian situation, the world will breathe a sigh of relief, but the Islamic world will rise up in rage.

Iran Posted by AlexC at 1:02 PM | What do you think? [3]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

So when exactly have economic sanctions caused the people to rise up and change a regime? And hey, the mugger is in your neighborhood, you deal with him.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 10, 2006 1:56 PM
But jk thinks:

Lefties may disagree but American weakness is bad for the world.

I agree that we're not tough enough but it is difficult to see how we could be much more bellicose. The President's poll numbers are down, Iraq is "a quagmire" how can this country be led into a larger and more difficult war?

A commentator on FOXNews used my favorite Gen/Pres Eisenhower dictum: "If a problem is intractable, enlarge it." Perhaps the reason we cannot solve Iraq is that we're not "solving" Iran and Syria.

Scary days.

Posted by: jk at March 10, 2006 2:01 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Silence, we only need to look 90 miles to the south. Cuban's rose up and ousted their dictator so many years ago, I forgot. 45 was it?

Posted by: AlexC at March 10, 2006 4:42 PM

Hillary '08

NY Daily News

    Six in 10 New York voters believe Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is planning to run for president in 2008, but only about a third of her home-state voters say they would back her if she did so, a statewide poll reported Thursday.

    Almost half of New York voters, including three of every 10 Democrats, said they would not vote for her for president, according to the poll from Siena College's Research Institute.

I'll be darned.

Politics Posted by AlexC at 1:00 PM

You guys think I make this stuff up

We're currently enjoying one of our famous internecine rifts at Three Sources. I think I may be alone in the weeds in my support of the Dubai Ports purchase.

I have some good friends, however, I'd suggest that anybody read Larry Kudlow's blog and either of two editorials in today's Wall Street Journal. the lead editorial shares my concern about a new case for protectionism.

What's especially dangerous here is that we're seeing the re-emergence of the "national security" protectionists. They were last seen in the late 1980s, when Japan in particular was the target of a political foreign-investment panic. The Japanese were buying Pebble Beach and Rockefeller Center, and so America was soon going to be a colony of Tokyo. A Japanese bid for Fairchild Semiconductor of Silicon Valley was seen as a threat to American defense. Those fears seem laughable now. But here we go again, with new targets of anxiety.

Not only protectionism, but why don't we use this as an excuse to let government take over the marketplace. Karl Marx and Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter share that utopian view.
If you think corruption on Capitol Hill is bad now, wait until foreigners need approval from Congress for every multi-billion-dollar investment. The current investment review process was designed by the Reagan Administration to be discreet, and to keep Congress out, precisely to avoid such politicization.

In recent weeks Members of Congress have suggested that the foreign-ownership ban should apply to: roads, telecommunications, airlines, broadcasting, shipping, technology firms, water facilities, buildings, real estate, and even U.S. Treasury securities. If this keeps up, we'll soon arrive at France, where even food and music are "protected" from foreign influences as a matter of national survival.

The larger truth is that the flow of foreign investment into the U.S. is a sign of economic strength, not weakness. For 25 years pro-growth economic policies including monetary stability, steep tax-rate reductions on capital and freer trade have created a giant in-sucking sound of some $4 trillion of global investment into America. Economist David Malpass of Bear Stearns recently calculated that U.S. GDP grew by 100% between 1992 and 2005 while world GDP growth measured in dollars grew by only 70%. Over that same period, the U.S. created four times the number of new jobs as Europe and Japan combined.

So, do I make this stuff up, or dies trade and specialization and comparative advantage and direct foreign investment really make us richer. Here's a graph for me to love -- read 'em and weep, protectionists!


But mdmhvonpa thinks:

To paraphrase a quote, I do not think that word means what you think it does.


1. Of or relating to struggle within a nation, organization, or group.
2. Mutually destructive; ruinous or fatal to both sides.
3. Characterized by bloodshed or carnage.

Maybe #3 does apply ....

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 10, 2006 11:45 AM
But jk thinks:

You hit on my favorite thing about this blog.

AlexC, Johngalt and I represent three reliable GOP votes, yet we find no shortage of things to argue about. I have always held that there is more to be learned listening to two people who respect each other and agree on much, arguing a topic on which they disagree. I lost enjoyment in the Crosspoint or Hannity-Colmes argument years ago. "More heat than light" as a good (very liberal) friend says.

Side note: Silence Dogood and I have probably never voted for the same candidate in our lifetime, yet we go out to lunch or coffee and frequently find it difficult to find a topic of disagreement.

Posted by: jk at March 10, 2006 12:11 PM
But AlexC thinks:

I don't think I ever said I was against the ports deal, I just think it doesn't look good. Superficially.

I said, "This sounds to me like one of those big deals that probably isn't a big deal"

I even went as far as posting pro-UAE talking points, .

And I understand all about free trade, capital investment and the tangible benefits of it. I'm not a protectionist.
Color me skeptical. I'm between you and Johngalt, I suppose.

Oh, and I think definition #1 applies here.

Posted by: AlexC at March 10, 2006 12:35 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Sigh. I think we agree again JK. I truly have not been following this story very closely, but the ports run by the Dubai outfit would still have to comply with US law and be subject to the oversight of US port inspectors and the Coast Guard so I don't really see a problem. What I wonder is, with all the hubbub have any US corporations stepped up to bid for the job? Were their any in the initial bid and were they just more expensive?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 10, 2006 2:05 PM
But jk thinks:

Larry Kudlow was losing his mind on this topic, Silence. There are ZERO US Firms bidding on this or wanting to play. We have ZERO competitive advantage in this field, it's not a money maker and the foreigners only want to do the work to facilitate the other ends of the supply chain.

Kudlow told one guest "you sound like a Congressman!" just assuming that there exists a surfeit of companies that want to do this.

AlexC may get his wish, Larry thought Halliburton was one of the few firms that might bid at all.

Posted by: jk at March 11, 2006 1:34 PM

March 9, 2006

PA - 6th House District

This is a bit of a revelation.

    Of all the things to plagiarize, an ethics reform plan might be the most offensive and unethical - but that's exactly what Lois Murphy did – and she is now making the plagiarized plan central to her campaign to unseat Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6).

    Extensive research and documentation proves that Lois Murphy, in a premeditated fashion, plagiarized her ethics reform plan and stole it from another candidate in California's 50th District.

    In Lois Murphy's news releases as recently as yesterday and correspondence to Congressman Jim Gerlach, which she personally signed, Ms. Murphy repeatedly calls the stolen ideas "my ethics and lobbying reform plan" and claims that her plan "goes beyond anything proposed by either party," even though the plan was proposed two months earlier by another Democrat candidate in California. Murphy also doctored the acronym for the stolen "CLEAN House" plan to disguise who originally created the ideas, and then reshuffled main tenets of the pledge in an unthinkable and sad attempt to make the plans appear different.

There is also a 20 page PDF available that goes blow-by-blow with evidence.

That's pretty embarrassing. But it probably won't sink her candidacy. After all Joe Biden is still in the Senate.

Full Disclosure: PA-06 is my district, and I am volunteering for Congressman Gerlach.

PA-06 Posted by AlexC at 6:01 PM

The Port Deal

Is it a win? ... and for whom?

    United Arab Emirates-owned DP World said Thursday it would transfer its operations of American ports to a U.S. "entity" after congressional leaders reportedly told President Bush that the firm's takeover deal was essentially dead on Capitol Hill.

    "Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship ... DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations of P&O Operations North America to a United States entity," Edward H. Bilkey, DP World's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Lets hope it's Halliburton.

A good American company.

But jk thinks:

I think it's a huge loss for freedom. A moderate Muslim nation that has supported the US in the War on Terror has been told that it is not allowed to compete on a level playing field with other companies.

And the protectionists have allied with the xenophobes to help do their part to diminish wealth creation. A very bad day and deal all 'round.

Robert Green makes a great case in TCS that the Dubai sale would improve port security:

Posted by: jk at March 9, 2006 4:48 PM
But AlexC thinks:

We've spent the last five years actively hunting terrorists across the globe. It's not lost on Americans that those terrorists are from one culture.

That's the message.

Posted by: AlexC at March 9, 2006 11:52 PM
But jk thinks:

We fought Japanese, Germans, and Soviet Satellites for more years. When they wanted to play by civilized rules, we welcomed them into world markets.

What you describe is natural and -- trust me -- after the cartoon wars I find it hard not to succumb. But I still believe in trade and still believe that the ultimate solution is to integrate the moderate member nations into world markets.

Yeah, the UAE shuns Israel. China thinks she has sovereignty over Taiwan and exercises it over Tibet. Trade will someday make both the UAE and China better to those who live there.

Posted by: jk at March 10, 2006 10:27 AM
But AlexC thinks:

We defeated all those countries first, THEN welcomed them as partners in Western Civilzation and world markets.

Which country should we defeat that will solve our quickly solve our problem with Islamofacism? The democracy in Iraq strategy is a long term one.

Nazism, Communism and Japanese Nationalism were all based around a nation.

Fascism went down to defeat in the 40s because the whole world rallied against it.

It took 50 years to defeat communism, and that was working with some strong allies, some tepid "Americans are better than the Soviets, for now" (ie Old Europe), and seemingly the rest of the world with the Soviets.... and it was with rational actors as enemies.

Islamofascism is not a rational actor, it's in a lot of places, and with global trade and travel the way it is, can we well afford (or willing to do what it takes) to wage a war with these guys for 50 years? They've been sharpening their knives for 700 years.

Now, of course the UAE is not a sponsor of Islamic terror, but democracies are fickle, and sometimes they throw the baby out with the bathwater, for this reason. Trust is hard to earn, but easy to lose.

Posted by: AlexC at March 10, 2006 12:55 PM


My iPod HiFi just showed up and I let lunch burn a little bit while I set it up.

I hope AlexC gets his new PowerBook soon. I'm pretty ambivalent about Macs but have been totally assimilated into the Apple iPod culture. The Wall Street Journal did a nice story the other day on the trend from home audio to iPod/mp3. My pretty decent stereo has gathered dust for months as I listen exclusively to iPods in a $100 speaker setup. This device – at $349 – is good enough for this cowboy for most purposes.

When it comes to music, consumers are increasingly trading quality for quantity. Many would rather have the ability to store thousands of songs on portable devices -- and have a constant soundtrack to their lives -- than own stacks of CDs and listen to high-quality sound tethered to an expensive living-room system. The shift is causing big reverberations in the audio industry. Sony Corp., has already pulled the plug on an expensive high-end audio line. And electronics makers including Sony are adding features designed to allow for easier integration between their midline stereo systems and portable players like iPods.

Sales of traditional stereos have taken a hit. Last year, retail sales of home audio equipment, including stereo system components and surround-sound "home theater in a box" rigs, dropped nearly 18%, to 10.2 million units, according to market-research firm NPD Group Inc. In the same period, sales of portable digital players like Apple's iPod more than tripled, to 22.4 million units in 2005, from 7.1 million in 2004, says the Consumer Electronics Association, a trade group.

The HiFi is excellent. looks good, sounds extremely good. I had several Virginia Postrel moments opening the packaging -- the box is too cool to throw away. These Apple chaps are on a roll.

Posted by John Kranz at 3:31 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

I wonder if you're going to be one of the few owners of that. Somehow I think the market for iPod Boom Box just isn't there.

Though, to be honest, it would be handy by the pool in the summer. But that's why I'm going to put rock-looking outdoor speakers.

Posted by: AlexC at March 10, 2006 1:17 AM
But jk thinks:

This baby is compact but heavy, it doesn't really fill the boom-box function too well.

This is teh new concept home audio for me; I don't expect it will leave its perch in the living room.

Posted by: jk at March 10, 2006 10:19 AM

Whither Bush Boom

A good and left wing friend emailed a Bruce Bartlett column "What Bush Boom?" The link is to TimesSelect but he sent the whole column. I'll excerpt enough to carry the story without sending me to prison. He claims that the Bush tax cuts -- and concomitantly the President -- do not deserve credit for the tax cuts. Bartlett (our very own Dick Morris) says that the recovery in the 90s was more robust without tax cuts.

Let’s look at the record in the standard way economists do, starting from the trough of the last recession in November 2001. Since that time we see these results, through the latest data:

-- Real gross domestic product: Up 13.5 percent
-- Real gross private domestic investment: Up 32.3 percent
-- Payroll employment: Up 2.8 percent
-- Standard & Poor’s Index: Up 13.9 percent

Viewed in isolation, these numbers seem impressive enough. But without context, they really tell us nothing. To provide such context, I looked at these same statistics over the same time period from the end of the previous recession, which ended in March 1991, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. This is what we see:

-- Real gross domestic product: Up 13.25 percent
-- Real gross private domestic investment: Up 43 percent
-- Payroll employment: Up 7.7 percent
-- Standard & Poor’s Index: Up 45 percent

Thus we see that real G.D.P. is very slightly higher, but all the other numbers are substantially worse in this expansion compared to the last one. And it is worth remembering that taxes were not cut at all during that business cycle but were, in fact, raised twice. George H.W. Bush raised taxes as part of the 1990 budget deal and Bill Clinton raised taxes substantially in 1993, shortly after taking office. The hallmark of both tax increases was an increase in the top tax rate — considered anathema by supply-side economists — which went from 28 percent at the end of the Reagan administration to 39.6 percent during the Clinton years.

Quod erat freaking demonstratum, eh?

I responded that not everyone, in spite of overwhelming evidence, believes in supply side economics and that Mr. Bartlett is entitled to his opinion. The article, however, leaves out a few key points.

The biography section stresses his GOP bona fides without mentioning that he was fired by the man whose policies he attacks. More importantly, he ignores 9-11 and the War on Terror. To attack tax cuts, Bartlett gets to cherry-pick his dates. Cuts in marginal rates correlate well to changes in GDP be they Bush’s, Reagan’s or President Kennedy’s. He grabs five years that he considers sub-par. An honest comparison of the two post recession periods might include the substantive percentage of GDP lost in the stock market corrections of 2000-2001 and a couple of little things like the largest attack on US soil and two major wars projected halfway across the globe.

Lastly, I suggested that to supply-siders, Bush pere’s tax increases of 1990 are believed to have caused the recession of 1991. To use them as evidence that recoveries do not require cuts seems disingenuous.

Yes, Rubenomics worked one time during President Clinton’s tenure and the stats were indeed strong. Yet there is no historical correlation between debt, interest rates, and growth; there is clear correlation on tax cuts (to marginal rates).

All the same, it was good to be engaged on a substantive issue and not to have to respond to "don't he talk funny?"

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 9:42 AM

March 8, 2006

Redefining Marriage

A fake story?

    Last week Tendler finally plucked up the courage to ask the dolphin's trainer for the mammal's fin in marriage.

    The wedding took place Wednesday, with the bride, wearing a white dress and watched by amazed spectators, walking down the dock to where the groom was waiting in the water.

    She kissed him, to the cheers of the spectators and then, after the ceremony was sealed with some mackerels, was tossed into the water so she could swim away with her new husband.

    "I'm the happiest girl on earth," the bride was quoted as saying. "I made a dream come true. And I am not a pervert."

No, of course not.

But mdmhvonpa thinks:

'Nuff said.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 9, 2006 11:09 AM

March 7, 2006

Sorry, Bono!

I invited several musicians over the other night (against my better judgment). Two good friends of mine who had not met were happy to find a new prospective bandmate wearing a Bono bracelet.

Bono seems several steps ahead of the average Hollywood-famous-person-activist in that he understands some underlying causes. And that he has the courage to pal around with President and Senator Helms if they can help his cause speaks wonders.

But he is doomed to fail. Poverty in Africa will not be fixed with the introduction of Western funds. I expect it will be worsened. Even good sounding programs like micro-loans are problematic. Freer trade will help, but as I must heartlessly tell people "People are poor because their government is bad."

On one extreme, if the US government were better, we'd be richer; on the other, no amount of money pouring into Zimbabwe will help until Mugabe is dethroned. Reason magazine carries an excellent exegesis. Tim Hartford writes, in "Why Poor Countries Are Poor" about Cameroon. He finds the city of Douala (the armpit of Africa geographically, and...) to be entrepreneurial and dynamic. Yet the corruption and lack of law ensures poverty.

More important, why can’t the Cameroonian people seem to do anything about it? Couldn’t Cameroonian communities improve their schools? Wouldn’t the benefits easily outweigh the costs? Couldn’t Cameroonian businessmen build factories, license technology, seek foreign partners, and make a fortune?

Evidently not. Mancur Olson showed that kleptocracy at the top stunts the growth of poor countries. Having a thief for president doesn’t necessarily spell doom; the president might prefer to boost the economy and then take a slice of a bigger pie. But in general, looting will be widespread either because the dictator is not confident of his tenure or because he needs to allow others to steal in order to keep their support.

The rot starts with government, but it afflicts the entire society. There’s no point investing in a business because the government will not protect you against thieves. (So you might as well become a thief yourself.) There’s no point in paying your phone bill because no court can make you pay. (So there’s no point being a phone company.) There’s no point setting up an import business because the customs officers will be the ones to benefit. (So the customs office is underfunded and looks even harder for bribes.) There’s no point getting an education because jobs are not handed out on merit. (And in any case, you can’t borrow money for school fees because the bank can’t collect on the loan.)

It is not news that corruption and perverse incentives matter. But perhaps it is news that the problem of twisted rules and institutions explains not just a little bit of the gap between Cameroon and rich countries but almost all of the gap. Countries like Cameroon fall far below their potential even considering their poor infrastructure, low investment, and minimal education. Worse, the web of corruption foils every effort to improve the infrastructure, attract investment, and raise educational standards.

Bono can't fix Africa until he can fix that. Can I buy a camo bracelet that honors the US Marines?

Hat-tip: The Everyday Economist

But AlexC thinks:

Excellent piece.
In the same vein. PJ O'Rourke's "Eat the Rich" is an excellent read.

... and funny too.

Posted by: AlexC at March 7, 2006 7:29 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Sad, aint it? Worst part of this is that some of these countries are BEGGING to be colonies again.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at March 8, 2006 11:19 AM
But Sugarchuck thinks:

I would stop bringing home stray musicains. I hope you didn't feed them.

Posted by: Sugarchuck at March 8, 2006 3:01 PM

Spirit of '06?

Brendan Miniter of the WSJ thinks that (free link) the retirement of House Ways & Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas provides another opportunity to distance the party from the DeLay era and recapture the spirit of '94.

House Republicans have already elected a new majority leader--John Boehner of Ohio--this year, so it is encouraging to see that they will also have a debate over taxes, spending and entitlements as they pick a new Ways and Means chairman. Holding onto the majority in Congress will require the party to return to its limited-government principles by developing new policy ideas to tackle pressing fiscal problems. That means bold ideas for big problems, like the impending insolvency of Social Security.

Today the former majority leader and once seemingly invincible Tom DeLay faces a primary election in Texas in which he may not win a majority of the vote. If that happens he will face the embarrassment of a runoff election in April. This is a harbinger for Republicans if they do not make a sharp break from the DeLay era.

Both the leading candidates come across well in this piece.

Spirit of '94 Posted by John Kranz at 3:41 PM

UN Taxation

The real problem with the United Nations is that is has no teeth (or balls) to do anything.

Except lust for money.

From US Congressman Ron Paul website "Texas Straight Talk"....

    The latest UN tax scheme was revealed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January. At this conference of the world’s financial elite, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) unveiled a UN plan to take seven trillion dollars from developed nations for use by the UN to save the rest of the world from all of its problems.

    Where will the seven trillion dollars to fund the latest UN scheme come from? Much of it is to come from a UN-imposed fine on countries that in the UN’s judgment are polluting too much. This attack on productivity will slow our economy and lead to a loss of jobs in the United States. The UN global tax plan also resurrects the long-held dream of the “Tobin Tax,” and doubles the targeted income from such a tax to a whopping three trillion dollars.

    The "Tobin tax," named after the Yale professor who proposed it, would be imposed on all worldwide currency transactions. Such a tax could prove quite lucrative for the UN, given the vast amount of currency that trades hands at certain times. It also might be a politically acceptable starting point, because most average people do not engage in cross-border currency transactions. A dangerous precedent would be set, however: the idea that the UN possesses legitimate taxing authority to fund its operations.

Here's why I like Congressman Paul.
    I also introduced H. R. 1017 in the current Congress which would permanently prohibit United States contributions to the United Nations if that organization develops, implements, or publicizes any proposal to tax Americans.

    Of course, my preference is that the United States end its participation in the corrupt UN entirely, and I introduce HR 1146 in every Congress to do just that. But until my colleagues are willing to take this important step, I will continue to offer measures like my amendment last year to help protect your hard-earned money from the greedy hands of the globalist United Nations.

(tip to Government Bytes)

But jk thinks:

Rep Paul is a supply-sider's dream. But he is an isolationist who has opposed the President. The Almanac of American Politics says:

"His isolationist views on foreign policy have made his voting record on those issues indistinct from many liberal Democrats. He was the only Republican to vote 'present' on the resolution expressing support for the military forces at the start of the war with Iraq. He supports virtually no role for the U.S. government overseas--from military defense to international trade; he calls himself a 'non-interventionist,' not an isolationist. In a July 2003 speech in the House, which he called 'Neo-Conned!', he harshly attacked the Bush administration and its supporters."

Little too close to Pat Buchanan for me...

Posted by: jk at March 7, 2006 8:33 PM
But johngalt thinks:

What you are describing is a Libertarian.

Posted by: johngalt at March 8, 2006 3:14 PM
But jk thinks:

Yup. He ran as the USLP Presidential candidate at least once. This is why I steal Martin Friedman's line and call myself a little-l libertarian and a big-R Republican.

Posted by: jk at March 8, 2006 3:19 PM
But johngalt thinks:

As you should, and as do I. And here was an excellent opportunity for us to demonstrate why. Thanks AlexC!

Posted by: johngalt at March 8, 2006 3:33 PM

The Failure of Feminism

Much hay has been made lately over the silence of the Yale feminists over their newest student, a former Taliban "spokesperson."

The whole imbroglio might even become a book. "God and Taliban at Yale" ... and it will be the awaking of a new political movement. Well... maybe not.

In an article a few weeks old, Phyllis Chester writes about the failures of feminism regarding Islamic fascism.

    Islamic terrorists have declared jihad against the "infidel West" and against all of us who yearn for freedom. Women in the Islamic world are treated as subhumans. Although some feminists have sounded the alarm about this, a much larger number have remained silent. Why is it that many have misguidedly romanticized terrorists as freedom fighters and condemned both America and Israel as the real terrorists or as the root cause of terrorism? In the name of multicultural correctness (all cultures are equal, formerly colonized cultures are more equal), the feminist academy and media appear to have all but abandoned vulnerable peopleMuslims, as well as Christians, Jews, and Hindusto the forces of reactionary Islamism.

    Because feminist academics and journalists are now so heavily influenced by left ways of thinking, many now believe that speaking out against head scarves, face veils, the chador, arranged marriages, polygamy, forced pregnancies, or female genital mutilation is either "imperialist" or "crusade-ist." Postmodernist ways of thinking have also led feminists to believe that confronting narratives on the academic page is as important and world-shattering as confronting jihadists in the flesh and rescuing living beings from captivity.

    Itis as a feminist — not as an anti-feminist — that I have felt the need to write a book to show that something has gone terribly wrong among our thinking classes. The multicultural feminist canon has not led to independent, tolerant, diverse, or objective ways of thinking. On the contrary. It has led to conformity, totalitarian thinking, and political passivity. Although feminists indulge in considerable nostalgia for the activist 60s and 70s, in some ways they are no different from the rest of the left-leaning academy, which also suffers from the disease of politically correct passivity.

But jk thinks:

Excellent article. She failed to mention how much ground feminism lost under President Clinton. America watched the feminist leaders choose politics over principle so blatantly.

I would say feminism was mortally wounded when it chose to support President Clinton. Lining up behind the Taliban is just a nail in the coffin.

Posted by: jk at March 7, 2006 3:11 PM

March 6, 2006

Call John Edwards!

Senator Edwards proclaimed he was "gonna fight!" the drug companies. That topped the list of reasons I would not support his candidacy -- it's hard to think of a reason I would.

Sorry if I'm a broken record, but the impediments to medical research are sometimes beyond belief. The WSJ Ed Page brings two pieces of good news today. Erbitux is effective in treating cancerous head and neck tumors, as Dr. Waksel (I mean #8790-562) predicted it would in 2000 -- don't you wish you had snapped up Martha Stewart's ImClone stock?

In short, Erbitux is a perfect example of why it's important to get active drugs with reasonable safety profiles out before all the efficacy data is refined to the 10th decimal place, as the FDA always tries to insist. Such data are never going to be complete anyway. Think of all the new benefits that still keep being discovered for humble aspirin.

The second story is even closer to home. A promising Multiple Sclerosis treatment will be back on the market as well.
The second good-news story last week concerns Tysabri, the multiple sclerosis treatment that was voluntarily withdrawn last year (read: lawsuit panic) after three patients on the drug developed a rare neurological infection. This possible side effect wasn't entirely surprising, given that MS is a degenerative neurological disorder caused by immune system dysfunction and Tysabri works by depressing parts of the immune system. But it was also clear, as we editorialized at the time, that the patients in question had been treated with other immuno-suppressive drugs too, and that the risks of untreated or poorly treated MS probably outweighed the risks of taking Tysabri.

Looking at this from the dark side...neck cancer patients have lost six years of data on Erbitux's efficacy, and the trial lawyers have delayed a promising MS treatment by one year.

How many folks died? How many conditions got far more severe because this essential freedom has been stripped away by the Executive (FDA) and by unelected maggots (the Tort Bar). People who have serious medical conditions should be allowed to pursue any treatment if they know the risk. It is criminal to prevent that.

But AlexC thinks:

John who? A Senator? Surely you jest.

Posted by: AlexC at March 7, 2006 12:14 AM

Fun with Polling

These are always fun.

A poll comparing the behavior of liberals vs conservatives.

Liberals are more inclined to believe that the rich and powerful have a negative social value. No surprise there.

I agree. Class warfare has always been a tactic of the left.

Among men, conservatives are more active in high school sports. Texas probably skews the results here.

That's odd. But I suspect that's because a team of 20 guys is the same size at every school. So if your base population to draw athletes from is small (say a rural high school of 200 vs an urban high school of 2500), it would show that. But that's just conjecture.

Extroverts have a better sense of smell than introverts. This is actually sort of interesting. Also: extroverts tend to be more conservative and more religious.

No wonder dirty smelly hippies don't bother each other.

Conservatives like the colors red and dark blue. Liberal men like dark green; liberal women like light blue.

I'm more partial to purple, myself. Black is good too. I hate writing with blue pens.

Conservatives tend to be morning people. I hate morning people.

I hate them too. I'm not functional before 11 am, and detest when one of these "morning people" expect me to be. Drop by my office at 9pm, dude.

Among women, conservatives are more likely to be sex-obsessed than liberals. Phyllis Schlafly, come on down!

Hmm. I can't say I've known a right-wing nympho. When I was in the market, I should have looked harder, I guess.

Liberals curse more than conservatives. Of course, we have reason to.

Yeah. But I work with a bunch of conservatives that could make a sailor blush.

Conservatives like beef more than liberals. ("If you eat a lot of beef, do you become more conservative? If you are conservative, do you eat more beef? More to come on this surprising and significant dietary preference.")

I hate chicken. Pork is good though... but beef is what's for dinner.

Liberals are more depressed than conservatives. Gee, I wonder why?

Tie this one in with the cursing. Maybe we're mixing up cause and effect.

Flame away, or toss in your own "surveys of one."

But jk thinks:

I think some of them are random. Favorite color does not seem to correlate to exogenous factors, but optimism seems highly relevant. I have a great liberal friend who makes as much as I do, yet she confided once to me that she fully expects to be a bag lady. Her liberal friend quickly agreed.

Diet has a political component from a resource standpoint. My time on Atkins in Boulder County produced many queasy looks. Books like "Diet fort a Small Planet" have inculcated a "folk Marxism" belief that eating beef is a waste of resources. Better to just eat the cow feed.

In a way, this is the only thing that is really interesting: figuring out my liberal friends. There are some true believers, many many many elitists who think that the super-educated should take of all of us, and many negative thinkers who want the best when things go as bad as these folks believe.

Posted by: jk at March 6, 2006 4:07 PM

Line Item Veto

Maybe this is the solution to rampant government spending.
The President hasn't used the veto in his five years in office because he doesn't want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

But now it looks like he's changed his mind. Sort of.

    President Bush plans to send proposed legislation to Congress on Monday that would allow him to control spending by vetoing specific items in larger bills, a Bush administration official said.

    The president, who has not vetoed any legislation during five years in office, asked Congress in his State of the Union address to give him line-item veto power.

I wish that would have said "cut spending" not "control spending" but this is some progress. As incremental it is.

Posted by AlexC at 12:40 PM

Spending Limits

This is the wrong answer to the question.

    Treasury Secretary John Snow notified Congress on Monday that the administration has now taken "all prudent and legal actions," including tapping certain government retirement funds, to keep from hitting the $8.2 trillion national debt limit.

    In a letter to Congress, Snow urged lawmakers to pass a new debt ceiling immediately to avoid the nation's first-ever default on its obligations.

    "I know that you share the president's and my commitment to maintaining the full faith and credit of the U.S. government," Snow said in his letter to leaders in the House and Senate.

    Treasury officials, briefing congressional aides last week, said that the government will run out of maneuvering room to keep from exceeding the current limit sometime during the week of March 20.

Nobody saw this coming during the budget debate? How about cutting spending this year not by 2009?

Posted by AlexC at 12:29 PM

Sharansky on Democracy

Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy, was a major influence on this blog. Indeed, the name of our blog is taken directly from the pages of it. It appears at left.

Mr Sharansky writes in Sunday's LA Times on the Palestinian democracy and the Bush administration's insistance on fast elections in the Middle East.

    I believed, however, that the crisis presented an opportunity to begin a different kind of political process, one that would link the peace process to the development of a free society for Palestinians. I had argued for many years that peace and security could be achieved only by linking international legitimacy, territorial concessions and financial assistance for a new Palestinian regime to its commitment to building a free society.

    Despite my faith in "democracy," I was under no illusion that elections should be held immediately. Over the previous decade, Palestinian society had become one of the most poisoned and fanatical on Earth. Day after day, on television and radio, in newspapers and schools, a generation of Palestinians had been subjected to the most vicious incitement by their own leaders. The only "right" that seemed to be upheld within Palestinian areas was the right of everyone to bear arms.

    In such conditions of fear, intimidation and indoctrination, holding snap elections would have been an act of the utmost irresponsibility. That is why I proposed a plan calling for elections to be held no earlier than three years after the implementation of a series of democratic reforms. Three years, I believed, was the absolute minimum for democratic reforms to begin to change the atmosphere in which free elections could be held. Unfortunately, the plan was never implemented.

    The recent election of Hamas is the fruit of a policy that focused on the form of democracy (elections) rather than its substance (building and protecting a free society). Rather than push for quick elections, the democratic world must use its considerable moral, political and economic leverage to help build free societies in the Middle East. We should tie trade privileges to economic freedoms, encourage foreign diplomats to meet openly with dissidents and link aid to the protection of dissents (as Bush did when he helped force the release of Egyptian democracy advocate Saad Eddin Ibrahim).

He concludes..
    Helping democracy take root in the Arab world will take time and persistence. Most Arab governments will try to stamp out any spark of liberty. But the democrats within these societies are our partners. We can help them by refusing to support those who repress them, and by making clear through both our statements and our policies that the efforts to expand freedom within their societies will benefit their countries as much as ours. The alternative is to return to the pre-9/11 delusion that a tyrant's repression of his own subjects has no consequences for us.

But jk thinks:

Great piece. I still consider myself a Sharansky-ite.

The Hamas election is a setback for peace but I am not certain it is a step back for freedom. Recall that the other choice was Yasser Arafat's Fatah party who had ruled with corruption and zero elections for decades.

There will be a demand from the world to continue with elections in "Palestine" and they might grow to make better choices.

Posted by: jk at March 6, 2006 10:11 AM
But AlexC thinks:

I'm not sure so JK.

Was the election of Hamas a reaction to the generally craptacular performance of Fatah, (sort of a throw the bums out vote), or an endorsement of terror as statecraft?

If that question has been answered as the former, then maybe next time around, they'll find the right combination.

Posted by: AlexC at March 6, 2006 12:27 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I am quite convinced AlexC that it is the later - Hamas' efficacy in improving the lives of "Palestinians" has been no less craptacular (what an awesome word!) than has Fatah's. But at least Hamas tells the poor scarecrows over there that there IS a cause for their misery and there IS a solution for ending it. The fact that they've misidentified both is irrelevant; they offer hope.

What Sharansky advocates is called "nation building." It can't be done. People aspire to their own dreams, not the ones you come in and teach them are best. Like children, people given freedom for the first time learn through their experiences. The steps Sharansky lists in his conclusion are the proper ones. (The problem is that the diplomatic corps and every other branch of government in every western nation including our own is, at best, schizophrenic on the principle of freedom.)

Posted by: johngalt at March 8, 2006 3:31 PM

Pancake Breakfast

I guess this is serious.

Remember leftist pro-Palestinian protestor, Rachel Corrie? She was run over by an Israeli Defense Force bulldozer that was attempting to destroy Palestinian homes.

It led to some people boycotting Caterpiller.

Well, there's a pancake breakfast in her honor.

    The Public is invited to a memorial pancake breakfast at Denny's Restaurant on Douglas Street near Finlayson, 10 am, Sunday March 12, 2006 to celebrate the life and untimely death of Rachel Corrie, Peace Activist with the International Solidarity Movement.

    There will be a reading of selections from Ms. Corrie's letters and diary, followed by a ceremony at Topaz Park, where a stone cairn will be erected in her honour.

    Attendees are encouraged to wear their keffiahs, and to dress in black.

    No weapons, drugs, or alcohol please.

It's on the Indymedia site, so it looks legit, but are they serious?

(tip to LGF)

But Steel thinks:

Looks real enough.

I don't believe it though.

Pancake Breakfast?

Alex, do YOU know anybody on the Left that gets up before noon?

Besides that, Dennys reeks of sausage at breakfast.

I ain't buyin' it.

Posted by: Steel at March 6, 2006 12:33 AM

March 5, 2006

ThreeSources T-Shirts

3src_t.jpg At last!

Seriously, I went to snapshirts who did a "word cloud," generated from the words on the blog. It looked pretty cool when the design was done, but now it is hard to see it. How trusting are you with $21 + shipping?

Buy 'em here.

See word clouds on Virginia Postrel's blog here.

UDATE: I emailed and they sent me the above picture.

UPDATE II: I inserted the missing 'r' in SnapShirts. ThreeSources apologizes to all who were offended...

Posted by John Kranz at 6:33 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

I can't quite read the word cloud, other than my topbilling.
Can you post the cloud itself?

Posted by: AlexC at March 5, 2006 6:45 PM

Culture of Convienience

I don't know about gas stations in other parts of the country, but in Southeastern Pa and South Jersey, there is something of a revolution going on.


    Whenever people talk about the success of the fast-rising Wawa chain, now spread across every nook of Berks County, they often talk about the low price of gas and the fresh food, or the ATMs and vast selection of soft drinks.

    But there's another force at work as I pass by three of them on my way to work. It starts with signage that is the same color and shape as a sunny side up egg, and ends with a $1.25 cup of coffee I could have easily made at home for 10 cents.

    Today's gas stations are basically fastfood restaurants and convenience stores that also happen to sell fuel, a trend over half a century in the making. But the newest hybrids, like Wawa and Sheetz, have injected an atmosphere not unlike that of Barnes & Noble or Pier One. Getting gas is actually pleasant.

Wawa (which is as Lenni Lennape word for Canadian Goose, a common bird here) used to be just a Philadelphia-area convienience store. But they always had fresh fruit and lots fresh coffee.

Sheetz is their direct competitor in the more rural parts of the area, generally Lancaster and Berks counties. I believe the were a central Pa - central Maryland based company.

But where they overlap, you get these mega gas stations. That are pretty awesome.

And who wins? We do.

    Somehow, through a combination of food and atmosphere, Wawa has figured out the ultimate formula to make customers take the extra step and come inside, or better, stop in when they don't even need gas. At any given time of day, there are just as many people getting gas as there are getting something else. Here at the Eagle, I work next to someone who specifically makes a three-mile trek at lunch just to order Wawa's grilled chicken sandwich twice a week.

True story, on nearly any road trip we take, I gas up at the pumps and my wife runs in and gets stuff.

They have it figured out. The low gas prices gets people in. The store makes them spend.

Economics and Markets Posted by AlexC at 5:02 PM

Willing Dupes

It's hard to believe that the EU3 can be so stupid. It had to be on purpose.

    In a speech to a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics, Hassan Rowhani, who headed talks with the so-called EU3 until last year, revealed how Teheran played for time and tried to dupe the West after its secret nuclear programme was uncovered by the Iranian opposition in 2002.

    He boasted that while talks were taking place in Teheran, Iran was able to complete the installation of equipment for conversion of yellowcake - a key stage in the nuclear fuel process - at its Isfahan plant but at the same time convince European diplomats that nothing was afoot.

    "From the outset, the Americans kept telling the Europeans, 'The Iranians are lying and deceiving you and they have not told you everything.' The Europeans used to respond, 'We trust them'," he said.

So what now?

I vote for another round of strongly worded condemnations laced with the threats of additional strongly worded condemnations.

What Would Chamberlain Do?

Iran Posted by AlexC at 1:45 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

This is serious. I'd say VERY strongly worded.

Posted by: jk at March 5, 2006 4:05 PM
But AlexC thinks:

I think Israel is going to step up with their own letters of condemnation.

They'll be delivered by missile.

Posted by: AlexC at March 5, 2006 4:27 PM

Bloggers will be watching "COPS"

Not to put too much faith in an online poll but Will You Watch The Academy Awards? tracks at 91.17% no.

I voted no, as did Professor Reynolds (inline hat-tip). Are bloggers just above such minutia, completely out of touch or both?

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 10:27 AM

March 4, 2006


The Radio Equalizer reports some bad news for Air America. Not only are they losing affiliates in Minnesota (sorry, Sugarchuck!) and Phoenix, but its flagship station in New York City is rumored to be ending its commitment as well.

Even worse, litigation looks probable over the station's lease.

While the network's last day on WLIB isn't known for certain, an internal source providing backing documentation points to the end of March. At this time, Air America parent Piquant LLC has no firm back-up plan for where in the nation's largest radio market its programming will now air.

Some inside the firm are already referring to WLIB in the past tense.

Without WLIB, Air America faces an immediate, crushing blow. Worth perhaps 100 small markets combined, an on-air presence in New York City is absolutely vital to the company's survival. If an immediate and suitable replacement isn't found, the consequences would be dire.

It's my schadenfreude, I can laugh if I want to....This is just a ridiculous idea from day one. We've said it a hundred times, but the lefties have the world's premier radio network already. It's called NPR and it is so good that conservatives will stick around and be insulted to enjoy its quality and tone. Moonbat radio seems rather unnecessary.

Hat-tip: Insty

Posted by John Kranz at 6:28 PM

Review Corner

I was prepared to like "I Walk The Line" a lot. My first two records that I purchased were Johnny Cash LPs (Live from Folsom Prison was one). Sugar Chuck turned me on to his excellent final final release, "CASH: American IV." Lastly, I had enjoyed Jamie Foxx's "Ray" so much, I thought that the same treatment of Cash would be great.

I was very disappointed with "I Walk the Line." Joachim Phoenix's Cash cannot be compared to Foxx's Ray Charles. I did not sense any love for the character in the directing or acting. Cash was a tough figure to love, but Ray Charles had his peccadilloes as well.

Lastly, "Ray" was great because they used Charles's music, with Foxx lip-synching. "I Walk the Line" forces one to listen to Phoenix "doing" Johnny Cash for hours. A real live Johnny-June performance comes up under the credits and it's as it you're watching the real events instead of the shadows.

Cash led a tortured life and that aspect certainly required exploration. Nor am I as big a Cash booster as this post implies. Yet he deserved a better movie than this. jk gives it two stars, 1.5 if not for Reese Witherspoon's portrayal of June Carter.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:39 PM

The New Red Spot

NASA reports that Jupiter has a new "Red Spot."

    The official name of this storm is "Oval BA," but "Red Jr." might be better. It's about half the size of the famous Great Red Spot and almost exactly the same color.

    Oval BA first appeared in the year 2000 when three smaller spots collided and merged. Using Hubble and other telescopes, astronomers watched with great interest. A similar merger centuries ago may have created the original Great Red Spot, a storm twice as wide as our planet and at least 300 years old.

    At first, Oval BA remained white—the same color as the storms that combined to create it. But in recent months, things began to change:

    "The oval was white in November 2005, it slowly turned brown in December 2005, and red a few weeks ago," reports Go. "Now it is the same color as the Great Red Spot!"

As long as it doesn't turn black and start growing, I'm not worried.

On the web Posted by AlexC at 12:13 PM

More on Outsourcing

Go figure... the market works!

    Dell tried it, then reversed course. Capital One gave up as well, and so did JPMorgan Chase. All came to the same conclusion about their attempts to farm out front-line customer-service jobs to outside contractors: The hidden costs far outweighed the potential savings in labor expenses.

    With consumers enjoying more choice than ever before, evidence is growing that great service is essential for long-term customer retention. To cite just one example, a recent survey of pension policyholders in the United Kingdom found that 75 percent would leave their current provider if they experienced bad customer service.

    Meanwhile, the current enthusiasm for outsourcing call centers, IT support, and other "noncore" service functions isn't delighting anyone. Two-thirds of the companies that responded to a survey by InformationWeek reported either no change or a worsening in customer satisfaction as a result of business-process outsourcing.

Hidden cost in their customers not liking talking to someone from another country with an accent when they need help? That this is a surprise to anyone, is the surprise.

Economics and Markets Posted by AlexC at 12:07 PM


Congressman Duke Cunningham, Vietnam was hero, was sentenced on friday to 8+ years in prison.

    Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who collected $2.4 million in homes, yachts, antique furnishings and other bribes on a scale unparalleled in the history of Congress, was sentenced Friday to eight years and four months in prison, the longest term meted out to a congressman in decades.

    Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in disgrace last year, was spared the 10-year maximum by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns but was immediately taken into custody. He also was ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution for back taxes.

    Cunningham accepted money and gifts including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and $40,000 Persian rugs from defense contractors and others in exchange for steering government contracts their way and other favors.

Good. The maximum 10 years would have been better. But 8 years sends a strong message.

Posted by AlexC at 11:38 AM

March 3, 2006

Correcting the Record

Remember when the AP breathlessly reported that Bush Knew about the levees and Katrina?

Oops... They're correcting the record.

    In a March 1 story, The Associated Press reported that federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees in New Orleans, citing confidential video footage of an Aug. 28 briefing among U.S. officials.

    The Army Corps of Engineers considers a breach a hole developing in a levee rather than an overrun. The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking.

    The day before the storm hit, Bush was told there were grave concerns that the levees could be overrun. It wasn't until the next morning, as the storm was hitting, that Michael Brown, then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Bush had inquired about reports of breaches. Bush did not participate in that briefing.

Powerline and RedState both throw a few punches in.


    I think it's reasonable to assume that the AP's "clarification" is the result of our dissection of their incredibly lame story. I think this highlights, though, how hard it is for truth to catch up to error. Hundreds of newspapers printed the AP's misinformation, and it was the basis for television news on all of the broadcast networks. The correction (or "clarification") will never catch up to most of the tens of millions of people who heard the original story. The news business is all about impressions, and corrections, days after the fact, never take away the impression that the original story falsely created.


    After releasing the now infamous Katrina video accusing the President of being negligent in his handling of the situation, the AP now admits that the President had only been warned of the possible overtopping of levees in the video, which is wholly different from the breaching of the levees that the media has been using.

    Anyone who was paying attention and wanted to deal honestly with the story actually knew that. At no time in the video was the President warned of a levee breach. Despite that, the AP ran with the story that the President had been warned of a breach.

    So what did the AP do? It waited two whole days, let the story fester, and then on Friday at 7 p.m., after the evening news programs that had run the previous story concluded for the week, ran a "clarification."

When the story broke, I said...
    Somehow I suspect once to full story of these FEMA / DHS meetings is released, we'll all go, "Huh? Where's the story?"

Well, the story is the AP throwing out crap hoping some would stick. ... and well, it worked.

But johngalt thinks:

As this MSM modus operandi continues to be employed, don't you get the impression that the viewing public (those watching something other than 'American Idol') is becoming more and more innoculated to the cries of "Wolf!?" Can you say "Texas National Guard memo" boys and girls? Thanks Dan!

Posted by: johngalt at March 4, 2006 9:46 AM

Healthcare Costs

Next time you feel obligated to complain about rising healthcare costs, keep this in mind.

    A Baton Rouge hospital, hoping to get to the bottom of an office prank, is ordering 25 employees to undergo DNA testing or be terminated.

    Leaders at Woman's Hospital say a man who works in Building Operations returned from several weeks off to find that someone had placed urine in his toolbox.

    After hearing of the incident, hospital administrators sent a memo to 25 employees who also work there telling them that DNA testing would be done unless someone came forward admitting guilt. Since no one came forward, the hospital said the DNA testing will begin within the next few weeks.

So exactly how much does DNA testing cost?


As far as pranks go, that's pretty lame. Welding the toolbox shut would have been much more clever.

On the web Posted by AlexC at 6:54 PM

Burning Down the House

Mea Culpa.

    Bond was denied Friday to a campaign aide to Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor who confessed Thursday to setting fires in the campaign office building.

    Joshua White, 29, research director for Taylor For One Georgia, Inc., is charged with first degree arson. White told investigators he broke in and used lantern fuel to set fire on each of the three floors of the John Hunsinger building at 1627 Peachtree St., just south of the Brookwood Amtrak station, to cover up the fact that he missed a crucial project deadline.

    No one was hurt in the pre-dawn fire Monday.

    A remorseful White told authorities Thursday afternoon he had a "major research project due" Monday morning and he was "concerned of the consequences that he had not done it," said State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine, whose office supervises state arson investigators.

How tough is this guy's boss that the penalty for burning the office down wouldn't be as bad as missing a dead line.

I've been saying for a while that Democrats are out of ideas. I'm sorry. I apologize. Clearly there are some fresh ideas within the party. Burning down your office is definately thinking out of the box.

(tip to Ace)

On the web Posted by AlexC at 6:43 PM

Zero Tolerance? Zero Brains

Times they are a changin' readers.

Times they are a changin'.

    High school student David Thumler is a convicted nipple pincher.

    He's going to have to spend four days in juvenile detention for refusing to write a letter explaining himself after twisting the nipple of another boy while they were standing on line at a deli.

    Thumler was convicted of offensive physical touching in July 2005. The victim's parents had complained to Gold Hill [Oregon] police.

Are you kidding me?

I wish.

It gets worse.

    Thumler presented a rough draft [of an apology letter] but balked when told he must also describe his "criminal thought processes." Thumler said he had no criminal intent because he considered the victim to be a friend at the time.

Criminal thought process? What? Where is this? Oceania? Was he in Room 101?
    He said writing it would imply malicious or criminal intent. Thumler, who's 16, said he was just fooling around.

Good for him. "Foolin' around" is not criminal.

The official name for the act performed while "fooling around" is a "Tittie Twister." It's can be painful... but it's not assault.

...and there isn't a man in the audience who hasn't been the recipient or been the deliverer of this act.

File it under "rites of passage" or "any one of ten thousand things teenage boys to do each other."

It's also unheard of to do this to a girl... that would be grounds for an "ass-kicking" but in this day and age those boys would be branded vigilantes and probably put in jail as well.

On the web Posted by AlexC at 6:19 PM

Gates Derangement Syndrome

The WSJ Ed Page has an article on Bush Derangement Syndrome today, making sport of those who view the AP tapes of pre-Katrina meetings as some sort of smoking gun.

Thus we have this week's new low in anti-Bush hysteria, in which Democrats and assorted media are alleging some kind of scandal in a piece of videotape showing President Bush was warned that Hurricane Katrina would be a very bad storm. And yet . . . well, and yet Mr. Bush declined to follow King Canute in attempting to command the sea, thus dooming the city of New Orleans.

But, down the page a bit, I have diagnosed a new illness which I dub "Gates Derangement Syndrome." Normal people become so consumed by anti-Gates fervor, they lose all sense of reason.

The archetypal case is Sun chief Scott McNealy. He has a guest Ed in the Journal today warning you not to use MS Word, because the evil demons at Microsoft will charge you $10,000,000 for a reader when the next version comes out.

Think about it: If the Constitution were being drafted today, we would likely lose free, or low cost, or even any kind of access to much of the vital background in the Framers' correspondence to one another -- all because the file format will no longer be supported sometime in the future. A letter is more or less permanent, and easily transferable to different environments. An email is not.

Software appears to give us all the control we need over our documents -- until it doesn't. The problem shows up when we decide to try something different. A new way of doing things or a different software application. Something better. Something cheaper, more reliable, easier. But we're stuck with all these files in a format that's exclusive to the company from which we bought the first software application. In business, that's called a barrier to exit. Companies that create barriers to exit figure we won't notice until it's too late when the cost of switching is too high.

Everybody join me in doing your best evil comic book voice "bwaaahahahaha!" This is worth consideration. Long-term storage of electronic docs should be very concerned with format. But as an alarm scare, this is much weaker than the AP footage of Bush at the Katrina preparation meeting.

Posted by John Kranz at 1:41 PM | What do you think? [3]
But AlexC thinks:

Silly beyond belief. Email is just plain text!!!

Everyone knows the Constitution would come out in PDF.

Which someone would quickly put on a blog in clear-text.

Google would cache it, and the Constitution would be free for all.

Unless you were in China.

And isn't Sun one of the companies behind "OpenOffice"... used to be called "StarOffice?"

Posted by: AlexC at March 3, 2006 2:03 PM
But jk thinks:

Yup, he is heir apparent to the whole world if he can just scare everybody away from proprietary Microsoft.

Posted by: jk at March 3, 2006 2:44 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And, if some formerly proprietary format suddenly became very expensive to continue to use, some enterprising COMPETITOR would create an application to handle it. Anti-trust laws would prevent Microsoft from stopping it. The fact that lower cost COMPETITORS to Microsoft is evidence of something: Hmmmm, I wonder what that could be?

Don't forget that McMealey was one of the principal forces behind the Netscape lawsuit against Microsoft. He's an anti-COMPETITIVE maggot, and his company's products are mediocre.

Posted by: johngalt at March 3, 2006 3:09 PM

Carter - UN Ambassador

He made a mess of things when it was his turn at the wheel, now he's getting the way 25 years after he had his chance.

    President Carter personally called Secretary of State Rice to try to convince her to reverse her U.N. ambassador's position on changes to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the former president recalled yesterday in a talk in which he also criticized President Bush's Christian bona fides and misstated past American policies on Israel.

    Mr. Carter said he made a personal promise to ambassadors from Egypt, Pakistan, and Cuba on the U.N. change issue that was undermined by America's ambassador, John Bolton. "My hope is that when the vote is taken," he told the Council on Foreign Relations, "the other members will outvote the United States."

Undermined by Ambassador Bolton? Perhaps you are undermining him, and the negotiations of our country.

Egypt, Pakistan and Cuba aren't exactly my idea of great places or paragons of human rights.
What is he doing?

You had your turn, President Carter. Now it's someone else's.

But johngalt thinks:

It's abundantly clear that President Carter is not yet satisfied with his legacy as the 39th president. He's working pretty hard to add to that legacy in the "out years" and I predict that history will be none too pleased when he's finally done. His name may yet replace that of Benedict Arnold in American lexicon.

Posted by: johngalt at March 3, 2006 3:13 PM

Hillary, Meet Bill

I realize that both the former President and the Junior Senator are busy people and could be anywhere in the world.

But if they were ever talking to each other, you'd think this would come up.

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton revealed yesterday that her husband never confided in her that he was advising Dubai leaders on how to ease opposition to the deal in Congress - where she's been one of its loudest critics.

    The surprising turn came yesterday when the senator was asked if her husband had ever mentioned that he was helping officials in charge of the state-owned Dubai Ports World.

    She said he hadn't - then quickly tried to take back the admission, saying, "That's . . . I mean, as far as I know, he supports my position and has said so publicly."

    Bill Clinton has hailed Dubai as "a good ally to America [that is] trying to build a new Middle East, they really are" - all while agreeing that congressional critics have a legitimate gripe.

    The former first lady has been among the most vocal congressional bashers of the Bush administration-backed $6.8 billion sale, a deal that includes commercial operations at New York's port and five other major U.S. harbors.

"So, Bill, whatcha been up to?
"Well, Hill, I've been advising the UAE on a deal."

See? Not so hard. It's hard to believe that they didn't talk. But it's possible.

It's even more remote that Hillary knew of Bill's discussions and decided to rail against them.

That would be nuts.

But johngalt thinks:

There's a simple explanation: Bill likes the brothels in UAE. (And they just revive bad memories for Hillary.) (see mentions of UAE)

Posted by: johngalt at March 3, 2006 3:25 PM


Note to self.
"Make sure the stick you throw to your dog is blunt ended."

    A lucky dog in Oregon will live after being impaled by a stick during a game of fetch.

    The 4-year-old yellow Labrador, "Tika," was playing fetch in an Oregon park when she ran into the bushes and came out with the stick lodged into her side.

    Her owner rushed her to the veterinarian, who quickly operated.

    Tika was lucky, the stick had missed her major organs and caused minimal internal damage.

    "It was pure luck this stick went all through her body and barely touched anything," said veterinarian Andrea Oncken.

It was like the Steve Martin of injuries!

On the web Posted by AlexC at 12:12 PM

The Torture Rooms

No, not Abu-Graib or Gitmo.

The real ones.

    All the way back in 1973 Moula Mustafa Barzani, the famous and beloved leader of the anti-Baathist Kurdish resistance, said he wanted Iraqi Kurdistan to become the 51st American state. Nowhere did Barzani’s fierce campaign resonate more deeply than it did in Suleimaniya. Suli isn’t only the cultural capital of the region – its New York, if you will. It also is the capital of Kurdish nationalism. Saddam Hussein called it “The Head of the Snake.”

    He answered with genocide. No one in Iraq experienced the full wrath of Saddam’s Black Arabism more than the Kurds. If the Kurds refused to morph themselves into loyal little Baathists, he would erase them from the face of the earth.

Michael Totten includes pictures of the place.

It's tough to see. Especially the pictures of the imprisoned children.

But jk thinks:

Yeah, kids in torture prisons -- but they haven't found ANY WMD!! Vote Pelosi-Murtha!

Posted by: jk at March 3, 2006 2:01 PM

March 2, 2006

Thrashing the UN

I'm no John Bircher, but I'm really scratching my head at the necessity or the utility of the United States as part of the United Nations lately.

Marc Steyn is obviously doing the same thing and goes after them in Hilldale College's Imprimis pretty hard.

    What should replace the UN? Some people talk about a “caucus of the democracies.” But I’d like to propose a more radical suggestion: nothing. In the war on terror, America’s most important relationships have been not transnational but bilateral: Australia’s John Howard didn’t dispatch troops to Iraq because the Aussies and the Yanks belong to the same international talking shop; Tony Blair’s reliability on war and terror isn’t because of the European Union but in spite of it. These relationships are meaningful precisely because they’re not the product of formal transnational bureaucracies.

It's quite a long read, but most excellent.

Covers Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur, the Tsunami, rapes, Oil for Food....

But jk thinks:

The Steyn piece was great. (Imprimis is a free subscription in hardcopy that I heartily endorse.

HE is dead on about the bilateral and smaller groups. I will go with the internationalists enough to suggest that we keep the UN but I would strip it of most of its budget and all of its power.

Posted by: jk at March 3, 2006 10:13 AM


Does a federal law supercede a state's Constitution?

    Pennsylvania's highest court ruled Thursday that a county may replace its mechanical lever voting machines without voter approval in a case that pitted new federal election laws against the state constitution.

    The state Supreme Court's ruling eased concerns about possible disruptions in the ongoing upgrading of voting systems in dozens of counties before the May 16 primary election.

    "We're very happy with the decision," said Allison Hrestak, spokeswoman for the State Department, a defendant in the lawsuit and the agency responsible for certifying which voting machines meet the requirements of federal law in Pennsylvania. "It reinforces our position all along — that the federal law supersedes state law."

Government Posted by AlexC at 4:18 PM

The Supreme Judiciary

It's a good thing for Justice Thomas that the biggest news story today is the Bush Administration's advanced warning of the destructive power of Katrina.

Otherwise, his narcolepsy while the court was in session would have been front page.

I'm sorry. Not Justice Thomas.

Former ACLU lawyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    The Supreme Court had put the Texas cases on the fast track, scheduling an unusually long two-hour afternoon session.

    The subject matter was extremely technical, and near the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed in her chair. Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, who flank the 72-year-old, looked at her but did not give her a nudge.

    The court has struggled in the past to define how much politics is acceptable when states draw new boundaries to reflect population shifts.

I could see how the technicalities could be boring. But being the ultimate arbiter of American judisprudence is not my line of work. Couldn't someone have gotten her a cup of coffee?

SCOTUS Posted by AlexC at 2:45 PM | What do you think? [5]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Ok, I gotta jump in with a side comment. Speaking of the Supreme Court, how about the first major decision of the new Roberts Court? The conservatives were on the losing 6-3 end of trying to uphold the Attorney General's power to supercede Oregon's right to die statute. What? The conservative non-activist side is against federalism and directly for challenging a state law by spurious use of anti-drug trafficking laws? How is this either conservative or non-activist?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 2, 2006 3:41 PM
But jk thinks:

Same score as those who blew off Federalism in Raitch v Gonzales, but not the same people.

There are very few pure Federalists (I would cite Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review). I fear most others use it when it serves their interests.

I wish it were more firmly followed as a guiding principle but I have learned to be disappointed. Oregon v Gonzales is a blow for Federalism only if you ignore Raitch.

Posted by: jk at March 2, 2006 7:51 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Here's an article from NRO..

From the summary, it was more about the Controlled Substances Act and use of drugs regulated by it.

The conclusion..
"Gonzales v. Oregon is one of the most important public-policy cases to come before the Supreme Court in recent years. But we should be clear about what it involves: It isn't about whether states have the power to legalize assisted suicide. That issue is not before the court. Nor is it a dispute over "states' rights," as apologists for assisted-suicide assert. Rather, the Court's ruling will determine whether the federal courts will resurrect John Calhoun's long-discredited doctrine of state nullification by permitting states to opt their citizens out of generally applicable regulations with which they disagree."

Posted by: AlexC at March 2, 2006 8:08 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Maybe you both missed my main point, that lately "judicial activism" is more about what you are being active about than whether you are being active. I would describe judicial activism as inserting judicial power via interpretation of laws rather than allowing the legislative branch (as our elected representatives) to pass laws that govern our interactions. In this case I believe it would be perfectly applicable for the US Congress to pass a federal law banning assisted suicide. This to me would be the proper way to supercede a state law, rather than using an interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act. (which was put in place to control trafficking) The Constitution seems very clear that those powers not granted to the federal government are granted to the states. Additionally how do you not classify the Attorney General's action as executive activism as he too is interpreting laws to reach for the conclusion he wants. Whenever I hear conservatives wail for "strict constructionist" judges rather than "activists" I say bring 'em on. Let see how pleased they are if those judges really do act as constructionists and do not promote the conservative active agenda.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 3, 2006 12:48 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I would have to agree with Silence on this one. I don't know any more details on this ruling or on Raich than I've read here, but to claim that justices ruling in favor of christian morality in clear contravention of individual rights are not activists is laughable.

Posted by: johngalt at March 3, 2006 3:34 PM


Remember the breathless stories from the media about roving gangs of rapists and murders in the New Orleans Superdome? Anarchy reigned in the streets of the Big Easy.

It was terrible.

... and then remember how it didn't happen?

Fool me once...

Now here's another story. George Bush knew New Orleans was going to be destroyed.

And he did NOTHING to stop it.

Somehow I suspect once to full story of these FEMA / DHS meetings is released, we'll all go, "Huh? Where's the story?"

Oh, and Mayor Ray Nagin is the victim here. He had no idea New Orleans was vulnerable. Evacuating a city? That's the President's job!

Radio Callins

I thought drunks only called into the Howard Stern show?

Howard on Sirius is awesome, btw.

On the web Posted by AlexC at 2:28 PM

We Worry about FISA

While the nation’s reporters are in a full court tizzy over the President's wiretaps of suspected terrorists, jackbooted (well, pinstriped) thugs from the SEC find themselves empowered to browse every email from a corporation to ensure that SarbOx is not contravened somehow.

Now, reporters are being subpoenaed, and the WSJ Ed page wonders if they'll learn (Free link).

The subpoenas also reflect the bully-boy tactics that have infected the SEC enforcement staff in recent years. They've acquired the Eliot Spitzer afflatus, which is to fire off subpoenas before asking questions and assume that they have a right to see any and all emails and any other communications.

The irony here is that many financial reporters and columnists have benefited by receiving the leaks of those emails from the SEC and Mr. Spitzer's office, spun of course to make a target company look bad. These journalists are learning how it feels to be on the receiving end of such blunderbuss discovery. At least they have the First Amendment to protect them, not to mention the airwaves or barrels of ink to defend themselves publicly. The average Wall Street trader has no such recourse.

I think the wiretaps deserve scrutiny, although from what I've seen they appear perfectly legal. I am always glad that some paranoid civil libertarians make noise and trouble; I am a beneficiary of that.

Yet few will stand up for freedoms just as fundamental -- and far more abused by government regulators of all stripes.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 10:39 AM


Q: So how much of a game can you pack in to a 4 kilobyte executable?

A: Plenty

Posted by AlexC at 1:58 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

Cool, and a dying art. My second computer (Atari 64K) had huge letters across the box "What will you do with 64K?" I wish I still had the box; today's answer is "I'd probably malloc() it for a user name..."

A cynic might point out that these 4K wonders are running on a bloated JVM, but it is still impressive.

Posted by: jk at March 2, 2006 10:44 AM

March 1, 2006

American Dream

This is what makes this country great.

    When he met with NBC 10 morning anchor Dawn Timmeney, Gogan Lakhmna was meeting with his architects about his latest condo project.

    "Let's all think forward and think about the upgrades we want to offer to accommodate Andrea," Lakhmna said.

    Despite owning $250 million in real estate in the Philadelphia area, this 34-year-old multimillionaire is always looking for the next challenge.

    "There's a term for people like me in the business world. They call them deal junkies. We are just hungry for the next deal," Lakhmna said.

    Lakhmna has had that hunger ever since coming to Philadelphia from India to attend graduate school at Drexel University.

    Lakhmna worked as a pizza deliveryman to help pay for his tuition and shortly after getting his MBA, he was wheeling and dealing.

    A gas station in Delran, N.J., was the first piece of real estate that Lakhmna bought and he managed to negotiate a deal with the owner that he would work up to 20 hours a day for a piece of the action.

    Lakhmna now has a portfolio of 50 properties, including one in Northern Liberties.

    "When I go to my work sites and I see work happening and a building coming up, that is what gives me satisfaction, and I don't see an end right now," Lakhmna said. "There is still that burning in my belly that tells me there is still more I have to do."

He still works 20 hours days.

More like him, please.

America, F*ck Yeah! Posted by AlexC at 8:15 PM

Hitch Answers Fukuyama

Fiercely. Christopher Hitchens is not as solicitous of Fukuyama's piece as I was. He blasts the prose, the timing, and the content in The End of Fukuyama (You have to give Hitch the win in the Title war!)

The three questions that anyone developing second thoughts about the Iraq conflict must answer are these: Was the George H.W. Bush administration right to confirm Saddam Hussein in power after his eviction from Kuwait in 1991? Is it right to say that we had acquired a responsibility for Iraq, given past mistaken interventions and given the great moral question raised by the imposition of sanctions? And is it the case that another confrontation with Saddam was inevitable; those answering "yes" thus being implicitly right in saying that we, not he, should choose the timing of it? Fukuyama does not even mention these considerations. Instead, by his slack use of terms like "magnet," he concedes to the fanatics and beheaders the claim that they are a response to American blunders and excesses.

He is dead on there although I still think Fukuyama deserves a little more benefit than Mr. Hitchens is ready to give. He backs up my point as well:
In the face of this global threat and its recent and alarmingly rapid projection onto European and American soil, Fukuyama proposes beefing up "the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like." You might expect a citation from a Pew poll at about this point, and, don't worry, he doesn't leave that out, either. But I have to admire that vague and lazy closing phrase "and the like." Hegel meets Karen Hughes!

I am glad that I am not famous enough to ever have Hitch come after me. I realized during his debate with George Galloway how tough and how direct he can be.

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 8:00 PM


Michael Strong, writing in FLOW, wants to divorce Leftists and Liberals -- and it's a great idea.

I talk about this from a language perspective all the time. As a "Classical Liberal," I want the word back. Let the Nation readers call themselves "progressives." I'm cool with that.

Strong calls the leftists "abusive spouses" of liberalism and wants a more fundamental split. He first cites himself as an example of a man who is not a conservative. His devotion to secular humanism, gay marriage, legalized drugs, death-with-dignity, altruism, tai-chi, meditation. "There is no sense whatsoever in which it is accurate to call me 'conservative,'" says Strong. "I am a liberal through and through." Yet he wants to rescue liberalism from the left -- especially the left of academia. And he claims that liberals should be driving this split.

It is an excellent article, a bit longer than a column. But it is worth it to read a "liberal" who considers it a matter of life and death to recognize the intellectual achievements of Mises, Hayek and Friedman.

In order to effectively eliminate global poverty, it is critically important that politicians, journalists, NGO leaders and workers, educators, media personalities, business leaders, and everyone else understand that, by and large, the Liberal Revolution largely alleviated poverty among the masses first in Britain and the U.S. in the 19th century, then in the rest of Europe in the first part of the 20th century, then in the market-friendly portions of Asia in the second half of the 20th century. Dubai, Chile, Ireland, and the Baltic Republics are exciting market-based growth economies today. Although economists and others are still fine-tuning the model, and no one knows how to implement the model in nations with corrupt leaders, the model of the Liberal Revolution represents a successful strategy for the alleviation of global poverty. The Fraser Institute’s “Economic Freedom of the World Index” describes a specific set of criteria against which progress may be measured. If free trade zones were set up around the world, similar to Hong Kong and Dubai, the global standard of living would rise rapidly for all. A foundation would thereby exist for lasting global peace, as there is a high positive correlation between prosperity and peace.

Another excerpt to whet your appetite:
A checklist to determine whether or not Liberalism has returned to our campuses:
1). Are most students and professors aware that under 19th century free market capitalism in the United States and Britain that it was not true that “the rich got richer and the poor got poorer?” i.e., that the working class standard of living steadily increased under laissez-faire capitalism?
2). Do most students and professors understand that wealth is created almost exclusively by private enterprise (given a framework based on the rule of law)?
3). Are most students and professors aware that Marxist governments murdered over 100 million people in the 20th century, vastly exceeding the loss of human life due to the Nazis?
4). Do most students and professors acknowledge that those humanely-motivated academics who self-identified as Marxists should, indeed, accept responsibility for having advocated a repeatedly murderous ideology? (“We didn't intend those outcomes” is not an adequate excuse after the fourth totalitarian Marxist regime, predictably enough, committed mass murder.)
5). Do most students and professors understand public choice theory?
6). Do most students and professors understand the necessary relationship between economic freedom, on the one hand, and creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship, on the other?
Many more items could be added. Because individual human symbols are emotionally important, we should also recommend the outspoken support of the following two propositions:
1). Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman, who represented humane ideas and ideals against cruel and vicious opposition, are 20th century heroes of intellectual courage on a par with Socrates and Galileo.
2). Che Guevara, who murdered individuals and who openly advocated the mass destruction of human life, is the moral equivalent of Herman Goering.

My kinda liberal...

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 3:17 PM

Rights vs Pop Culture

Good news for the Fox Network.

    Americans apparently know more about "The Simpsons" than they do about the First Amendment.

    A new survey shows more than one in five Americans could name all five Simpson family members -- but, only one in 1,000 people could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

    And, more people could name the three "American Idol" judges than identify three First Amendment rights.

If only those rights, through an aggressive syndication program, were on TV 5 times a day for nigh 20 years.

... oh, being funnier would help too.

But jk thinks:

They will never let Senator McCain take away Lisa -- but free speech? Who cares?

Posted by: jk at March 1, 2006 3:32 PM
But johngalt thinks:

But it's not just about being "funnier." Pop culture values vapidity and escapism. The Constitution is only for "dead historical dudes" in the minds of those like "Bill and Ted."

Posted by: johngalt at March 1, 2006 3:33 PM
But jk thinks:

I'll confess, I got all the Simpsons and only four freedoms. I had to look up "to petition the government for a redress of grievances." To be fair, five seems hard.

I get extra points for knowing zero American Idol judges.

Posted by: jk at March 1, 2006 3:46 PM

Continued Tech Recovery


    Five years after the dot-com bubble burst, job growth has returned to Silicon Valley. But it's a different kind of growth than in past recoveries, favoring higher-skilled workers.

    Netflix Inc.'s hiring shifts are typical. During the tech boom, the online movie-rental service created 100 customer-service jobs near its Los Gatos, Calif., headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley. After the tech bust in 2000, Netflix eliminated half of those positions. But the total headcount at Netflix's Silicon Valley offices has grown 20%, to nearly 200 staffers in the last few years.

    That's because Netflix, while shedding some lower-end jobs, has aggressively created new, higher-level jobs. It's adding jobs in departments such as Web engineering and product development: That groups' hiring of engineers jumped 20% to more than 50 people in 2005 alone. "Our new engineers have an average of seven to 15 years experience," says Patty McCord, Netflix's chief talent officer. "Five years ago, we hired people with three to five years of experience."

Is it vindication for outsourcing?
    Past tech recoveries tended to bring new lower-skilled jobs as well as high-skill jobs. This time, tech firms -- from big companies like Hewlett-Packard Co. to mid- and small-size firms such as Netflix, Adobe Systems Inc., and SanDisk Corp. -- have moved lower-skill jobs out of the Silicon Valley area to cheaper locations, or outsourced them to foreign countries. The new jobs they are creating locally often require specialized skills in engineering and design. Young companies like Google Inc. are simply starting out hiring at the high end, further shifting the overall balance.

Economics and Markets Posted by AlexC at 2:02 PM


A couple of stories about air travel today.

    A stewardess caused panic by repeatedly screaming "We're going to crash" when a packed plane hit turbulance.

    The Virgin flight hit bad weather three hours into a journey from Gatwick to Las Vegas.

    Some passengers were sick and others thrown from their seats as luggage, drinks and trays were tossed around.

    Those using the toilet at the time were stuck in the cubicle while others prayed and cried.

    And their ordeal was intensified by the screaming stewardess.

    Passenger Paul Gibson told The Daily Mirror: "She began screaming every time the plane shook.

    "She shouted at the top of her voice, 'We're going to crash! We're going to crash! We're going to crash!"

I've been on flights were I've wanted to yell that, but I'm a civilian. She's a flight services professional.

Plus, it's nearly impossible for a plane to break in mid air in turbulence. Sure, it might feel like it, but it won't happen.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

    You might want to think twice the next time you're tempted to make a call from your cell phone during an airplane flight. Or flip on your portable game player. Or work a spreadsheet on your laptop.

    Besides possibly annoying fellow travelers and breaking federal regulations, you might be endangering the airplane, according to a Carnegie Mellon University study that quietly monitored transmissions on board a number of flights in the Northeast.

    The study, by CMU's Department of Engineering and Public Policy, found that the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices can interfere with the normal operation of critical airline components, even more so than previously believed.

I was on a flight where a stewardess asked a guy to turn off his laptop's GPS. She claimed the pilots were getting some sort of a red light in the cockpit. Nevermind that GPS is totally passive.

How did she know he had GPS? He had an enormous disk shaped thing suction cupped to the window.... and plugged into his laptop.

But jk thinks:

I get a little nervous when the pilot starts screaming "We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!"

Posted by: jk at March 1, 2006 3:30 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

You gotta love modern alarmist reporting. Surely none of us would read the column if they didn't predict sure death from using your Ipod or laptop on an aircraft. I would love to see the actual report and the techniques used to determine that this "will, in all likelihood, someday cause an accident by interfering with critical cockpit instruments such as GPS receivers." Sorry, but I am an old aircraft guy, I have personally watched technicians from McDonnell Douglas and Apple try to interfere with critical instruments - yes this was before the advent of cell phones and gigahertz processors, but all critical wiring is separately shielded, triply redundant (there are 3 sets) and spaced by requirement certain distances from each other and other cabling. This testing was done many times and there were always a few anomalies, but never any disruptive interference. The FAA regulations have just always chosen to err on the side of safety and so the prohibition during take-off and landing (I think under 10,000 ft is the actual requirement) has stood. As for the red light in the cockpit I will have to assume that the flight attendant was just bluffing to add weight to her request.

Ah well, every few years I see on TV news or in print cautions to check with your airline before traveling with a pet in the cargo compartment to be sure their cargo area is pressurized and heated. Here's a quick answer, they all are. When an aircraft is pressurized, the whole fuselage is the pressure vessel (the whole cylindrical or basically cylindrical structure) capped by special pressure bulkheads at the fore and aft of the aircraft. The floor that you walk on and is the divider between you and the cargo compartment is not a pressure bulkhead - pressure vessels whether an aircraft or a scuba tank are cylindrical for some very basic engineering reasons. All cargo compartments get some heat as well, they may not be as toasty as the passenger compartment but Fido will not freeze. The average outside air temp at 30,000 ft is about 50 below zero. Next time you pick up your luggage think about what it would feel like if it had really spent the last 5 hours at 50 below.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 2, 2006 3:33 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Silence is right. There is nothing in this story that refers to examination of the aircraft systems response to the "problematic" emissions from consumer electronic devices. I intend to seek out this report in IEEE Spectrum and see what it really says. If it really says what the journalist wrote then I fear it's a case of "we need more federal funding for additional study at our prestigous research university." If the journalist has misrepresented the findings then I'll attribute it to his possibly well-placed fear of what such emissions might do to aircraft manufactured by Airbus Industrie.

Posted by: johngalt at March 4, 2006 10:04 AM

Next Generation

The next generation of NASA space vehicles have been named.

    Sources have revealed the latest list of the names NASA has given to its new fleet, with a Greek goddess, a Roman mythological god, and a near-by star winning through as the identities of the new ships that will send America back to the moon and on to Mars.

    In the next decade, Altair, Artemis and Ares (I and V) could well become space community household names, as NASA returns to exploration past our own orbit.

    A huge step up from NASA administrator Mike Griffin's 'Apollo on steroids' tag, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) has been christened 'Altair' - named after a variable double star in the constellation Aquila.

Altair is also an Arabic word meaning "the flyer."

But johngalt thinks:

An ARABIC word? On our most sophisticated, delicate and expensive spacecraft? But what about the threat of Islamic terrorists using the word to launch an attack on us? Those fellows are very devious and clever. We can never be too careful.

Posted by: johngalt at March 1, 2006 3:21 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Johngalt, "Altair" was named when the Muslims were the world leaders in science. Hint.... "algebra" is Arabic too.

I guess it's just another link in the chain of dhimmitude. ;)

Posted by: AlexC at March 1, 2006 4:32 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And the characters we're conversing in are... ARABIC characters! Oh God oh God we're gonna die.

Being the world leaders in science apparently grew tiresome, and they aspired to be the world leaders in blowing shit up instead. (Hey, isn't that what Alfred Nobel used to do too?)

Posted by: johngalt at March 4, 2006 10:08 AM


What are they thinking?

    This week the Minnesota Republican Party is distributing a new CD about a proposed state marriage amendment. Along with flashy graphics, the CD asks people their views on controversial issues such as abortion, gun control, illegal immigration, and so on.

    The problem – the CD sends your answers back to headquarters, filed by name, address, and political views. No mention of that in the terms of use. No privacy policy at all. The story concludes: “So if you run the CD in your personal computer, by the end of it, the Minnesota GOP will not only know what you think on particular issues, but also who you are.”

Uh, why wouldn't they have done this one the web?

... and do they really need to collect that info?

Of course the fever swamps are rife with theories.

Though it has to make you wonder. Why in the hell would anyone fill out that information to view the MN GOP's positions?

Politics Posted by AlexC at 12:36 AM

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