January 31, 2007

Grace, Beauty and Intelligence

The folks over at NeverYetMelted Blog made me aware of some good horse riding video. The video is of:

Andreas Helgstrand of Denmark riding the Danish Warmblood mare Blue Hors Matiné [turning] in a spectacular performance in Freestyle Dressage at the 2006 World Equestrian Games (WEG) at Aachen.
Horses Posted by Cyrano at 11:15 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Terri thinks:

Beautiful! I loved the hug at the end!

Posted by: Terri at February 1, 2007 10:55 AM
But jk thinks:

Wow. When it started, I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it (the guy's hat frightened me) but that is truly beautiful. Also a great long-tail (I'm trying to avoid puns) example: this is perfect for YouTube. It deserves to be seen, but it's hard to think of another medium that would package or carry it.

Posted by: jk at February 1, 2007 11:26 AM

The State of the Economy

The White House released a report called the State of the Economy, which, if you've ignoring the media, you know is pretty damned fine.

Here's an image I found interesting. There are more people employed in this country than ever before.

index_clip_image002-thumb.gif

Read a summary at Powerline.

But jk thinks:

Lotta graphs look like that, that's why they're running for the arguments the Sen. Webb/Paul Krugman claims that Alan Reynolds debunks: the poor are stagnating, the middle class is shrinking, all the gains are going to the top wage earners.

Reynolds provides a book full of great debunking using a lot of statistical analysis. One of my favorites is a throwaway in the last chapter.

If I may paraphrase, imagine everybody's wages double tomorrow. Well the gap between the rich and the poor would (divide by seven, carry the one...) double.

While Paul Krugman would pen a tearful column on wage disparity, everybody else with the 100% raise would head to the mall.

Posted by: jk at January 31, 2007 3:55 PM
But Terri thinks:

Now THAT is a good analogy JK. I have every intention of stealing it for my next conversation on wage disparity! Thanks.

Posted by: Terri at January 31, 2007 6:54 PM

Where's my Fake ID?

I reuse a stupid joke. I tell my friends that I am looking for my old fake IDs I used to use to buy beer -- because now I'll get the Senior Discount at Denny's. (It's much better when I tell it...)

I think I might be in the market for a fake ID, if a great idea by Economist James D. Miller could catch hold. Miller writes in TCS Daily that it's time to "Free the Elderly."

Consider a 90-year-old man suffering from severe kidney disease. He would like to take an experimental drug, but his doctor can't get him in on the clinical trials. As a result, the man must wait nine more years until the drug is approved by the FDA. Unfortunately, this man's advanced age means he has only a slight chance of living another nine years.

On average around 12-15 years elapse between the discovery of a medicinally useful chemical compound and that compound's approval by the FDA. This is an intolerable delay to impose on the elderly who often have life expectancies of less than 12-15 years.


He links to an article by Gary Becker (where have I heard that name around ThreeSources?) that suggests weakening FDA restrictions as the answer to rising pharmaceutical prices. Becker suggest that the FDA should test for basic safety and let the medical community sort out efficacy concerns. This would bring drugs to market quicker and more cheaply, giving the developer a revenue stream and additional testing.

I'm not elderly nor terminal but if MS is cured tomorrow, it's pretty unlikely that I would get the treatment before I die. Our government does a lot of stupid things, but making it illegal for a drug company to sell medicine to a dying person rises to the top of the list for me.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 1:58 PM

About Those Tax Cuts

Alex brings us a great post about Tax Cut Myths and Facts. Gee, do you think that the 2002 and 2003 could be related to Larry Kudlow's chart of GDP growth?

GDP+chart.jpg
You know, for all this talk about recession, (with some pundits calling for a recession just about every year—Paul Krugman comes to mind), the reality is that economic growth has been steady and strong following the 2001-2002 recession.

Think lower marginal tax rates, implemented in 2003 to strengthen work incentives, and significantly increase after-tax investment rewards.


Posted by John Kranz at 12:45 PM

Becker & Posner on Health Care

I'll shill for the The Becker-Posner Blog one more time. Two professors at Chicago University weigh in with a serious look at a topic.

This week they discuss President Bush's Health Care initiatives.

In thinking about reforms it is crucial to recognize that the American system has many strong features that should be preserved, such as the predominant role of private physicians, private hospitals, and private HMO's that compete against each other for patients and health care dollars.

I won't excerpt much because the beauty of these is their completeness. Without being long winded, both Professor Becker and Judge Posner provide comprehensive -- and frequently counterintuitive -- looks.

Neither of them take the uninsured as a serious issue. Americans without health insurance is the "Global Warming" of sociology. We've been forced to accept it as a serious issue from brute inculcation. Posner's comment agrees about the uninsured.

The fact that millions of people have no health insurance does not strike me as a social problem. It is true that they are free riders, but so to a considerable degree are the insured, since their premiums don't vary much or at all with how much health care they obtain. As Becker points out, the quality and conditions of charity medical treatment (such as long queues in emergency rooms) discourage overuse of "free" medical care--it isn't really free, because the nonpecuniary costs are substantial; among those costs are the fear and discomfort associated with medical treatment.

Posner also has an innovative solution that you won't hear a lot on the campaign trail:
The best, though politically unattainable, reform would be to abolish Medicare, brutal as the suggestion sounds. Then people would purchase catastrophic or other medical insurance for their old age, or depend like the young on charity. If it were thought "unfair" to make elderly people of limited means pay for their entire costs of health care, there could be a subsidy, but it should be means-tested, unlike Medicare. Why taxpayers should pay the medical expenses of affluent oldsters, of whom there are a great number, is an abiding mystery, at least from an ethical as distinct from a political standpoint.

Read both whole things.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 11:33 AM

Sourcing

This is certainly good news...

In a landmark ruling in favor of bloggers and cyber journalists, a Santa Clara County Court defended the First Amendment rights of online journalists to protect their confidential sources, effectively giving web journalists the same protections afforded to traditional print journalists.

It's in a California court, so depending on where you are, your mileage will vary, but promising nevertheless.

(tip to Patterico)

Media and Blogging Posted by AlexC at 11:14 AM

Tax Cut Myths and Facts

Myth #1: Tax revenues remain low. Fact: Tax revenues are above the historical average, even after the tax cuts.

Myth #2: The Bush tax cuts substantially reduced 2006 revenues and expanded the budget deficit.
Fact: Nearly all of the 2006 budget deficit resulted from additional spending above the baseline.

Myth #3: Supply-side economics assumes that all tax cuts immediately pay for themselves.
Fact: It assumes replenishment of some but not necessarily all lost revenues.

Myth #4: Capital gains tax cuts do not pay for themselves.
Fact: Capital gains tax revenues doubled following the 2003 tax cut.

Myth #5: The Bush tax cuts are to blame for the projected long-term budget deficits.
Fact: Projections show that entitlement costs will dwarf the projected large revenue increases.

Myth #6: Raising tax rates is the best way to raise revenue.
Fact: Tax revenues correlate with economic growth, not tax rates.

Myth #7: Reversing the upper-income tax cuts would raise substantial revenues.
Fact: The low-income tax cuts reduced revenues the most.

Myth #8: Tax cuts help the economy by "putting money in people's pockets."
Fact: Pro-growth tax cuts support incentives for productive behavior.

Myth #9: The Bush tax cuts have not helped the economy.
Fact: The economy responded strongly to the 2003 tax cuts.

Myth #10: The Bush tax cuts were tilted toward the rich.
Fact: The rich are now shouldering even more of the income tax burden.


More at the Heritage Foundation....

(tip to Club for Growth)

But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Myth: I didn't pay any attention to this post.

Fact: I will cross-post it tomorrow.

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at February 1, 2007 10:48 PM

Modern Math "Education"

There is a good video on YouTube which shows how math is "taught" in some modern schools: the anti-conceptual way.

Watch the video, then just imagine the fun and cognitive clarity which must ensue when students get to algebra, and work on quadratics or cubics. (OK, it's really "pain and cognitive dissonance.")

Imagine trying to solve the equation x^2 + 14x + 40 = 0 by the methods shown in the video.

"OK, I have to add some numbers to get 0. Let's see...um...since I didn't learn that x^2 is always positive -- necessity is such an old-fashioned, oppressive idea!! it causes global warming!! -- anway...since I can't use an oppressive concept like "always," I can't reason that 14x must be negative, to cancel out the 40 and the x^2. So I have to guess and check, like I was taught. Let's see...10^2 is (pause to use calculator) 100. Um...now what?...oh, yeah, put 10 in for x in 14x. That gives me (pause to "construct" the answer or to use a calculator) 140.
So let me tabulate:
100
140
That adds to 240. Then, uh, 240 + 40 = 280. No, that didn't work... So let me try 11."

Ick. I used to actually have kids -- back when I tried teaching in public schools -- who would do something like try 11 after 10. They never learned the "number sense" to try a lower number!! (But that was not in solving quadratics as illustrated above; the lack of "number sense" would show up in everything.)

Here's how I (and probably you) learned to solve this. Factor it out:
(x + _)(x + _) = 0. What factors of 40 add to 14? It's obvious at this point, but kids could list them:
1, 40
2, 20
4, 10
5, 8

It's 4 and 10. So our factorization is:
(x + 4)(x + 10) = 0. Solving this gives x = -4 and x = -10.

But of course, this method depends on TELLING the kids about the "zero product property," instead of letting them "discover" it, as some educators want the students to do.

Or, worse, try x^2 + 7x + 11 = 0. This quadratic is not factorable!! The solution has the square root of 5 in it!!

There are other anti-conceptual methods used specially for "teaching" algebra and geometry.

Education Posted by Cyrano at 12:15 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

I have heard so many horror stories about math curricula, Cyrano, that I truly expected to be horrified. I read about a test question "if math were a color, what color would it be?"

The terc (sp?) method codifies how I would solve any of those problems. If I have to grab paper, I'll grab a calculator. That method lends itself to solving 133/6 in your head.

I'll agree that teaching traditional long division and multiplication is valuable. What separates people who "do math" from those that don't is the more abstract relationship with numbers. I don't know that this would teach it, but I can't say I'm horrified. (The lattice was pretty cool.)

I think it's much worse that they leave this Math class and go to a science class where they're taught recycling, then onto social studies where they learn how cruel white settlers were to the indigenous peoples.

Posted by: jk at January 31, 2007 10:25 AM

January 30, 2007

24

In a comment thread at Samizdata on Diana Krall, I suggested "let's get back to religion and politics before an all out flamewar ensues." Perhaps I should practice what I preach.

I will promise the Baurophiles around here that I will continue watching the show through this entire season. I like it, but -- even if I did not -- I would watch it so that I could continue to enjoy Lileks's next day synopses. From today's:

UPDATE: We have found the country’s sole hot female Muslim Republican! And she’s hampered by the rules put in place by a paranoid Democratic administration! Man, politics are just ruining this show.

Just kidding.


Posted by John Kranz at 6:06 PM

Two Americas, Nine Bathrooms

I'm heartbroken that a nice, sincere, serious man like Senator John Edwards is in such hot water over his new home. John Fund writes about the populist firebrand's new digs in OpinionJournal Political Diary:

Former Senator John Edwards continues to wow crowds with his famous "Two Americas" speech, in which he knits together populist themes in a rousing call for an updated form of class warfare. The bottom line: Corporations must be curbed and the rich taxed more heavily.

But Mr. Edwards is running into a surprising amount of flak over his own lifestyle. Reporters have noted that the former trial lawyer amassed a fortune in personal-injury cases and now is proudly living on the pretty side of the tracks. Also press accounts have noted that, despite his stump speech portraying himself as the "son of a mill worker," Mr. Edwards was actually the son of a middle manager.

The scrutiny has extended to his new house. The Raleigh News & Observer, the most influential paper in his home state of North Carolina, says Mr. Edwards is facing questions about whether "there is any contradiction between" his ownership of 29,000 square foot estate in nearby Chapel Hill and his supposed identification with the poor and downtrodden. His home comes complete with a basketball court, a squash court, a swimming pool and a four-story tower. It's been dubbed "a plantation" and "Uncle John's Cabin." Comedian Jay Leno has been unsparing in his needling of the self-appointed tribune of the working class: "I guess we know which of the two Americas he lives in."


I think folks are making a big deal of nothing. I hear the squash court is not even regulation size...

UPDATE: It's a cheap shot, but a funny cheap shot: Dean Burnett brings us a link to that YouTube of Edwards fixing his hair. You know you want to see it again, cick on over. Go ahead.

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 3:26 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

He's a phony... and Barnett's post nails it.

Posted by: AlexC at January 31, 2007 11:15 AM

January 29, 2007

Let's Talk.

Attila, at Pillage Idiot has a new installtion of his photo-comics: Hillary begins a conversation

Maxima heh.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 5:12 PM | What do you think? [3]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

OMG! ROFLMAO! (and all those other IM-type sayings).

I damn near p***ed myself reading that!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 29, 2007 8:43 PM
But Attila (Pillage Idiot) thinks:

Thanks for the link. We aim to please, but without increasing the methane supply.

Posted by: Attila (Pillage Idiot) at January 29, 2007 9:51 PM
But jk thinks:

You've had several good ones, Attila, but this one is probably my favorite.

Posted by: jk at January 30, 2007 10:32 AM

Jack Bauer's Dilemmas--and Ours

Taking a short break from serious reality to discuss serious fiction...

A short time back we had a short back and forth (I won't call it a debate) about the virtues of Fox Network's "24." JK asserted that the program is "about" the action scenes. I disagree, giving the writers credit for at least as much intellect and nuance as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although without the same "hipness." WSJ's Brian Carney agrees:

You don't need to watch "24" as a kind of primer on moral philosophy, but you probably should.

(...)

All these episodes help the show to maintain a realistic moral tone. An enemy that rejects everything we hold dear about our civil society will inevitably force us to make compromises between competing principles and loyalties. The most interesting complications that ensue as a season of "24" unfolds are the moral ones. And the show's great virtue is that it never pretends that these dilemmas are simple or false.

Television Posted by JohnGalt at 2:55 PM | What do you think? [8]
But Terri thinks:

I can't believe that you mentioned "24" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in the same breath!! Buffy is clearly the winner when it comes nuance if only because the acting on that show was supreme. Jack and his good vs evil while I have to dabble in evil to accomplish good may be nuanced but pulease! The actors, other than Keifer are cardboard cutouts of people. I had to quit watching after season 3.

Posted by: Terri at January 30, 2007 11:15 AM
But sugarchuck thinks:

First off, let me just say that I love 24 more than the next guy. Given that I live in blue to purple Minnesota, I love 24 more than most next guys, but I can't claim for a second that there is any subtle moral distinction or nuanced insight to be found. There is a venner of obnoxious Hollywood PC inserted to placate CAIR and the handfull of liberals that watch and that is it. 24 asks the question; if a bunch of raggedy ass terrorists threaten the good old USA can we hook their privates up to a Diehard, shoot 'em between the eyes, lop off their heads and use the severed noggins as bargaining chips with other raggedy ass terrorists. The answer, as my daughters would say, is "well duh...." Greatest show in the world, yup. Better than Buffy, not really.

Posted by: sugarchuck at January 30, 2007 12:07 PM
But jk thinks:

Terri, welcome to ThreeSources! I am a huge Buffy fan and, although we have Firefly/Serenity fans, I'm in a minority around here.

I started this, fully suspecting it would end in an all out flamewar. I had just started watching 24 this season and wondered if there were subtleties and layered meanings that I was missing (I didn't even get Sen. Kerry's "If you're stupid you go to Iraq" joke).

Twenty-four is fun for its high octane pacing and unapologetic patriotism, but I find I still watch Buffies, read the lit-crit about them, and catch new nuances after more than a dozen viewings. I cannot say -- and have heard nobody really claim -- that there is that depth in 24.

Posted by: jk at January 30, 2007 3:17 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Well, I clearly don't have the "Buffy appreciation" gene. I got Season One on DVD for Christmas a year ago and watched the whole thing. I had no urge to get Season Two.

JK says he is "not going to be coerced to aid a terrorist plot" but do you believe the frightened father fully realized the implications of "delivering a package" for the arabic kid across the street? Being forced to do so at gunpoint would certainly tip me off but c'mon, he's not supposed to know he's in a TV drama about terrorists blowing up America.

And objecting to this scenario as "unrealistic" makes me wonder what I, in turn, am supposed to think about vampires.

Is 24 as good as Firefly? Yes. But 24 is put together with a wide angle lens where Firefly, like Buffy, is a close up, individual story. They both make the viewer think and I, personally, can imagine myself in any of their situations.

Maybe it's the same kind of difference as that between science fiction and science fantasy that dagny and I continually debate.

The important idea though from the article I posted is this (seventh paragraph):

"But it is not merely a question of choosing between family and a greater good; or--in other contexts that crop up repeatedly on the show--between civil liberties and national security; or between torture and human rights. It is a failing of our politics that these kinds of questions, in the real world, are presented by both sides as either easy to answer or unnecessary to choose between--or both."

Posted by: johngalt at January 30, 2007 3:19 PM
But jk thinks:

I did not know of your efforts. It is very difficult to develop Buffy appreciation by watching Season One. A couple of episodes are good (The Pack and Nightmares) but there are no standout episodes, and the show does not really find its groove until later. Better to start in the middle and find your way back.

You do like Firefly. I compare Capt. Reynolds to Jack Bauer and find our beloved CTU agent comes up lacking. They both have beliefs (and I'd say both have a warning about discussions our government does not have). Mal is a deeply complex figure: tough as nails, stalwart in his beliefs, yet a mixture of real and fake bravado that is endearing.

Getting into later Buffy and Angel episodes, you see Joss Whedon's chops develop to where he could do Firefly. In Buffy/Angel, he had twelve seasons to craft a coherent, consistent universe.

On the scene. Wait a minute, pard'ner. In a week of terrorist acts, my friendly , neighborhood, MidEastern teenage neighbor holds my family at gunpoint, my son informs me that he has killed one of my other neighbors. I am forced to run an errand where I give A SUITCASE OF CASH to a man who says it's "not enough money." So I kill the guy with my bare hands (I guess my ATM card is in my green pair of pants) and I drive out to deliver it to another MidEastern-lookin'-fella. All during a state of heightened alert.

Am I delivering the latest Abba video? A pack of JuJu-Bees? (Infidel-Infidel-Bees). That is pretty hard for me to believe. The vampires, magic, and demons are allegorical in Buffy -- it is less a matter of believing as interpreting.

Posted by: jk at January 30, 2007 3:51 PM
But jk thinks:

And I want it noted that our beloved Randian blog brother is lobbying for "the greater good." What planet did I wake up on?

:)

Posted by: jk at January 30, 2007 3:59 PM

Friedman vs. Plato

Game, Set, Match: Milton!
TCS Daily - Plato's Republic or Milton Friedman's Market?

I call this the Fundamental Problem of Political Economy. How do we limit the power that idiots have over us?

One solution, that might be traced to the expression "philosopher-king" associated with Plato, is to hand the reins of government to the best and the brightest. Since the late 19th-century, the Progressive Movement in American politics has championed this approach. The Progressive vision, which DeLong embraces, is to channel brains and technical know-how through government in order to improve people's lives. One hundred years ago, they sought to prohibit alcohol. Today, they are going after trans fats. One hundred years ago, they favored eugenics, based on the then-new science of evolution. Today, they embrace anti-growth economic policies, based on the contemporary science of happiness. Indeed, we get headlines like 'Tories promise to make happiness a priority'.

The other way to avoid having our lives run by idiots is to limit the power that others have over us. This is the approach that was embedded in our Constitution, before it was eviscerated by the Progressives. It is the approach for which Milton Friedman was a passionate advocate.

Friedman's insight is that a market limits the power that others have over us; conversely, limiting the power that others have over us


Not too harp on the Pigovians too much, but this is my fundamental problem with punitive taxation.

NOTE: The column also reminds that PBS is airing a documentary on Friedman tonight. It's received very good reviews.

NOTE II: I am still forced to view TCS through a proxy (I have alerted both my ISP and TCS; both responded but neither seem too concerned). If the link does not work, click to TCS on the blogroll.

UPDATE: Larry Kudlow informs that it is Milton Friedman Day -- Happy MFD!

But johngalt thinks:

But the Pigovians are verging upon claiming Friedman as one of theirs (bottom of the page).

Paul Krugman and Lawrence Summers I won't dispute, but Alan Greenspan? I think I could counter every pro-Pigou thought anyone thinks Greenspan has uttered with a couple of his anti-Pigou rebuttals.

Posted by: johngalt at January 30, 2007 3:25 PM

Silver Lining?

All the sturm und drang about energy has seemed to have no upside. Like Paul Gigot, I enjoyed Senator Grassley's giddy abandon when ethanol subsidies came up at the SOTU, but I expect government meddling and spending and interference will make things worse, not better.

Maybe there is a bright spot (a glowing lump of U-235?) The Wall Street Journal reports a rush to license and build noocyoolur plants.

A flood of applications seeking permission to build at least 30 reactors, primarily in the South, is expected to pour into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission beginning late this year. If built, the reactors would boost the nation's electricity supply by more than 30,000 megawatts, or 3%. A megawatt is enough to power at least 500 homes.

'A Horse Race'

Under recent legislation intended to jump-start development, Congress is dangling more than $8 billion worth of subsidies, plus loan guarantees, in front of the first few plants that get built. Practically speaking, companies must apply to the NRC this year or next to qualify for the special assistance -- a process that can cost $50 million apiece.

"It's like a horse race," says Adrian Heymer, senior director of new plant development at the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization. "Most companies are striving to submit applications as fast as they can."


Of course, they wouldn't have to pony up billions in subsidies if they'd establish reasonable criteria for permitting and licensing. In the end, however, I think nuclear power is our best bet for clean domestic power. Nuke plants powering plug-in hybrids could fill a lot of needs with present or near-term technology.

Oil and Energy Posted by John Kranz at 11:09 AM

January 28, 2007

Pigovian

I will start spelling it correctly (drop the "u"), but I am not going to sign up. The respect I have for Gregory Mankiw is not transferable to the creators of the Pigou Club website. I complained that the site was all but completely devoted to Global Warming. The graphic of the globe on a spit over an open flame says it all.

The club attempts to defend itself from a "debunking" by Josh at Everyday Economist with a somewhat snide rejoinder that we can all drive Toyota Priuses. Josh defends his point well in the comments that his original post pointed out that many people have a long term commitment on their transportation or a good reason to require a larger vehicle.

I'm gong to oppose the taxes broadly on philosophical grounds. The 16th Amendment gives the Federal government the power to tax income to fund the government. The Pigovians have provided more and more social engineering through the tax code ever since it was ratified,

The Pigou Club's Why It Works page says it all.

The tax in the third option can also be called Pigovian tax. It is what this Club is all about - taxing the activities that harm other people.

In the example, the unlucky miscreant was overfishing a communal lake (being too productive, working too hard) and the classic "Commons Problem" is all put to right with government taxation.
John is moderately happy because he can still catch fish and the community is also happy - the fish stocks are stable. Villagers can lower their taxes because of John’s contributions and spend the extra money any way they like.

As Spike would say, "Get your Kumbuya-yas out!" Everybody's happy. I don't think they go far enough to enumerate those who profit from the arrangement. Allow me to fill in the details:
  • Hollingsworth is happy, because the price of fish will increase. He will be able to support his drinking habit without working as hard as John.

  • Vinney the lobbyist is happy, because Hollingsworth has paid him to get the taxes on his efficient competitor raised.

  • Senator Shuck Newmer is happy because he got a big fat contribution from Hollingsworth and Vinney -- he may run for President!

  • Annie is happy because she got a great job at the new Riparian Resource Control Division. She could never keep a job at the canners or the restaurant but this is stable with great benefits.

The problem with "sin taxes," whether the sin is smoking, or not recycling, or driving to see Mom, is giving government the power to decide what sin is, what the wages of sin are (including a cost-of-living increase tied to the CPI-U), and who will pay. The political process is a poor mechanism to decide that fairly or to allocate the funds effectively (Josh points out in a private email that tobacco taxes never seem to find their way to smoking cessation as promised).

Pigovian taxes are anti-free market. Though they use the mechanism of price, supply and demand, they represent intrusion and coercion into the market.

I will not be joining the club.

But Pigou Club thinks:

My post was about "wiggle room". Prius is just the extreme case.

Posted by: Pigou Club at January 28, 2007 7:28 PM
But jk thinks:

My characterization of your "wiggle room" point may be unfair. I hold, however, that many proponents of fuel-efficient vehicles underestimate the needs that others have. I drive a small car and have a brother-in-law who drives a hybrid with a vanity plate that celebrates its efficiency (I suggested S M U G...)

I don’t know if my four brothers-in-law and I constitute a representative sample, but the other three include a painting contractor who needs to bring a van full of tools and supplies, a father of four and coach of a high school wrestling team, and a news photographer who needs to bring gear to any location in any kind of weather. The people who can use a small car already do; the others have defensible reasons.

I'd appreciate a critique of my more general case about freedom and the government’s right and efficacy in engineering behavior through the tax code.

Posted by: jk at January 29, 2007 10:21 AM
But johngalt thinks:

The wikipedia entry on Pigovian Tax states, "A key problem with Pigovian tax is that of calculating what level of tax will counterbalance the negative externality." But there is a problem before that. Namely, who gets to decide what are "negative externalities?"

Posted by: johngalt at January 30, 2007 3:29 PM

Petraeus: The "Not Greatest Generation's" Patton?

I almost fell out of my chair Tuesday when I heard General David Petraeus tell a Senate Subcommittee, "That's correct" in reply to a question from, I think, McCain or Lieberman asking if those resolutions [proposed non-binding resolutions of no confidence in further offensive operations in Baghdad] would give encouragement to the enemy by exposing divisions among the American people. (I heard the statement first hand on the Rush Limbaugh program (taped delay) via C-Span3 and I've been desperately seeking a transcript ever since.)

Townhall.com's Mary Katherine Ham is in the same boat, so until we can get the unadulterated, unfiltered, unslanted version of what happened we'll just have to read between the lines of MSM accounts, as Mary Katherine has done.

Whither Patton, you ask? I can't exactly put my finger on what he said that inspired me to believe Pettraeus is a general's general (hence the desire for a transcript) but I think it was a bit like Patton's "Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way."

One person unwilling to get out of Petraeus' way was Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.):

His statement drew a sharp rebuke from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who said, "I very sincerely but wholeheartedly disagree," saying the point was to send a message to Iraqis.

With all due respect, Senator, the question was not, "Are those resolutions intended to give encouragement to the enemy," it was if they "would give" said encouragement. You can sincerely but wholeheartedly disagree, you can belabor your version of reality, you can even pound on the desk with your shoe, but none of this does anything to alter the facts.

Patton once said, "No good decision was made in a swivel chair." Now that the Senate has confirmed his appointment 81-0, Petraeus can stop wasting time with these people and spend it with his warriors instead. As a military scholar he is doubtless aware of Patton's creed: “I am a soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight.” You fight in Iraq, General; we'll fight America's enemies in the U.S. Senate.

Iraq Posted by JohnGalt at 5:23 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Report showed the clip and followed it with Senator Warner's dissembling, "he had no right to answer that question" response. They usually post a transcript of the show on Monday.

I will be linking to the transcript as well, James Taranto ended the show saying "I'd just like to say, by the way, four weeks ago on this show, I said I thought that now the Democrats are in power, they would be more responsible. I officially retract that statement."

UPDATE: I corrected the quote and here's the link.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.): Suppose that we send you additional troops, and we tell those troops that we support you, but we are convinced that you cannot accomplish your mission and we do not support the mission we are sending you on. What effect does that have on the morale of your troops?

Petraeus: Well, if would not be a beneficial affect.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn): The Senate-passed resolution of disapproval for this new strategy to Iraq would give the enemy some encouragement, some feeling that--well, some clear expression that the American people were divided.

Petraeus: That's correct, sir.

[...]

Gigot: But those comments by Gen. Petraeus clearly discomforted some senators. And let's see that--Sen. John Warner of Virginia, how he responded.

Warner: I hope that this colloquy has not entrapped you into some responses that you might later regret. I wonder if you would just give me the assurance that you'll go back and examine this transcript, as to what you replied with respect to certain of these questions.

Gigot: Clearly, John Warner, Kim, did not like what he had heard from the general, because he thinks that--and he is one of the sponsors of these resolutions. Other senators felt the same way. Why are they so upset?

Strassel: You saw them all twisting in their seats. And it's because Petraeus blew apart this sort of fiction that's out there, which they would all like everyone to continue to believe, which is that they can put forward this resolution, they can express their unhappiness, and that nothing serious will happen as a result of it. And Petraeus said, no, that is not the issue. What was more interesting is he seemed to be so angry that Petraeus was involved with politics. And the shame of it is that someone didn't mention why is John Warner involved with generaling the war?


Posted by: jk at January 28, 2007 7:12 PM

Colorado Leads "The Pledge"

Last week JK brought us "The Pledge" not to support re-election of Republican Senators who may choose to vote with the pacifist or anti-Bush left in one of this week's non-binding resolutions on Iraq. At that time there were less than 8,000 signatures. Today there are over 28,000. It is also interesting to note on this US map of signers, Colorado is behind only California and Texas (barely) in number of pledges with 2000 plus. On a per capita basis this puts Colorado clearly in the lead. I attribute this to a higher per capita number of bloggers in Colorado who are informed of such things. (Or maybe we've just got more time on our hands from being snowbound.)

I went through the list of Colorado signers looking for names I recognized. There weren't many, but there were hyperlinks to names from towns nearby, like Brighton, Louisville and Longmont Several of them are bloggers who are, not surprisingly, like minded with the Three Sources way of thinking.

Check them out:

ithinkthereforeierr, Longmont - What HE says!
Optional G, Brighton - non binding

"wait… you hate the war? you hate bush? we had no idea… really… could you tell us again. and pass some legislation that says you hate george bush…"

Marcy's Musings, Brighton - Fight Back Against the Warner Resolution
Documenting Instanity, Louisville - The Not Greatest Generation

Some good stuff there.

But johngalt thinks:

Visitors may also be interested in Senatorial Surrender Monkeys, also related to non-binding resolutions in the Senate.

Posted by: johngalt at January 29, 2007 3:14 AM
But Terri thinks:

Hey, thanks for the link!
I like your site and it's very cool that Colorado is up there with their pledges. Colorado worries me sometimes.
I'll be back to peruse more later!

Posted by: Terri at January 29, 2007 9:29 AM

God Bless America!

This oughtta piss off the Islamists...

Some Coffee Stands Get Steamier

And most of them have their own websites too (but of course!)

Natte Latte
The Sweet Spot Espresso
Cowgirls Espresso

It's alright, JK. They have drive-thrus too.

What a country!
(Hat tip: Fox News Channel's Brian Williams)

But jk thinks:

This is what we fight for.

Posted by: jk at January 28, 2007 10:07 AM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Hmm,...wonder where the steamy, foamed milk comes from? ;-)

Sorry, had to go there,...

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 28, 2007 11:49 AM
But johngalt thinks:

"This is what we fight for."

Yep. Badonkadonk.

Posted by: johngalt at January 28, 2007 6:52 PM

January 27, 2007

Google

Remember these guys?

    Google's decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

    Google, launched in 1998 by two Stanford University dropouts, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, was accused of selling out and reneging on its "Don't be evil" motto when it launched in China in 2005. The company modified the version of its search engine in China to exclude controversial topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre or the Falun Gong movement, provoking a backlash in its core western markets.

    Asked whether he regretted the decision, Mr Brin admitted yesterday: "On a business level, that decision to censor... was a net negative."

    The company has only once expressed any regret and never in as strong terms as yesterday. Mr Brin said the company had suffered because of the damage to its reputation in the US and Europe.

But jk thinks:

Good to see the market enforcing good behavior. Although, at $500 bucks a share, I have to ask how negative it was.

Instapundit has highlighted many leftist and politically correct examples of domestic censorship. I hope they don't regret silencing Falun Gong yet celebrate silencing American political opinion.

Posted by: jk at January 27, 2007 7:46 PM

Responding to the Response

Hugh Hewitt brings us "An essay from an active duty officer with more than 25 years of service, addressed to his fellow USNA alum, Senator James Webb."

The essay is serious and forthright. Those who opposed Webb's Senate election and disagreed with his SOTU response will enjoy it. I know I did. One could criticize it for a bit of "SwiftBoating." I don't use that word as pejoratively as Senator Kerry, but I think that O'Neill and the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth erred when they mixed personal and trivial allegations with those that were far more serious.

In this essay (the officer is active duty and the piece is anonymous), the suggestion is made that the prickly, angry, ex-Republican, ex-SecNavy is still nursing a grudge over a "brigades" boxing match he lost to LTC Oliver North. It's an interesting bit of history and a better bit of gossip, seconded by another "boat school" alum who thought the same.

In the end, that critique has a little too much Oprah in it. I don't think it is fair to psychoanalyze Webb over the TV. Yet the same article makes serious points about the history of war from Thucydides and the history of the Democrats from the Civil War:

What we are witnessing today is the return of the worst hits of the Democratic Party. Going back to the American Civil War, Democrats were against THAT war and tried mightily to undermine President Lincoln. Those Democrats became known as Copperheads or Peace Democrats and, these were labels of which they were proud. They wanted the president to negotiate a peace with the Confederates and put an end to a far more bloody war than the war in Iraq when things were going so very wrong for the Union. So there is a long history of this behavior in the Democratic Party. There was a time they could only envision defeat, not victory. This was NOT true during WW I or WW II, but now the Democrats love to bring up Vietnam and the loss suffered there, and it remains for them the measuring stick against which all US military action MUST be compared. James Webb is a product of that policy failure and he is clearly embittered by it.

A great weekend-length read. As one commenter said:
Remind me NEVER to cross a Naval officer or Marine.

You'd think some folks would learn...

But dagny thinks:

Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way.

Robert Anson Heinlein

Posted by: dagny at January 27, 2007 4:40 PM

January 26, 2007

Whither Pigou

I part with the beliefs of Greg Mankiw reluctantly. I respect the good doctor. But his recent pushing of Pigouvian taxes and creation of the Pigou club have left me cold.

Today, Charles Krauthammer joins the Pigou Club and is applauded by ThreeSources's own LatteSipper. I sense an unholy alliance building between LS, Mankiw, and Krauthammer -- a triumvirate I'm not prepared to consider.

Josh at Everyday Economist has a thoughtful post on the topic today. Like me, he's a Mankiw fan but like me he is unconvinced.

Individuals respond to incentives. So, if a tax is placed on a good, individuals will be inclined to change their behavior. Pigouvian taxes work especially well on things like cigarettes and alcohol. The increased taxes cause many to cut down on their unhealthly habits; or even quit. However, there is something quite different between tobacco use and automobile use.

Most people use their cars to drive to work, the store, and to see friends and family. If the tax on gasoline was raised, Mankiw argues, individuals would consume less. However, individuals would still have to go to work, pick up the groceries, and presumably visit with family. Thus there would be little wiggle room for reducing consumption.


With regard to Charles Krauthammer's piece, I hate to interrupt the comity implied by LS's improbable link, but I can't agree with that plank of his piece either. Krauthammer has a three-part path to energy independence: "Tax gas. Drill in the Arctic. Go nuclear."

If my friend LatteSipper will sign on for all three of those, I'll compromise on the gas tax. Building nuclear power plants and increasing domestic drilling would be good moves. As far as Krauthammer's Pigouvian leanings, I think he makes a big mistake confusing economics with capitalism:

No regulator, no fuel-efficiency standards, no presidential exhortations, no grand experiments with switch grass. Raise the price, and people change their habits. It's the essence of capitalism.

I would suggest that capitalism would be allowing the market to decide the balance of energy sources and trusting the pricing model to spur innovation.

Sorry, LS, the big group hug is put off 'till another day.

But johngalt thinks:

Well, I'm certainly glad that ONE of us read Latte's link. That Latte is a sneaky guy!

I'm also thrilled to learn the academic source of Washington's belief that it can alter reality by raising taxes: English economist Arthur Cecil Pigou and his "Pigovian tax."

I daresay that thinking like his is what brought us the very idea of DAWG. Like class-action lawyers beating the bushes for plaintiffs, proponents of Pigou's "Economics of Welfare" needed a club with which to malleate a mostly free world market into something more to their liking. DAWG is, without a doubt, the closest they've come to date.

Posted by: johngalt at January 27, 2007 2:59 PM

Friday Humor

The Wreck of the Patrick Fitzgerald from The American Spectator. Mea culpa to young readers who do not get the allusion to Gordon Lightfoot's lugubrious '70s ballad; mea maxima culpa to those who will be reminded...

The legend lives on from main Justice on down
Of the thrill of the big prosecution
The "kill," it is said, gives a rush to one's head
When the perp for his sins makes ablutions.
And with yellowcake tales and reporters in jail,
Well, then, Patrick Fitzgerald sensed vict'ry.
But Fitz, the fed man, soon would get his hide tanned
When Bob Woodward did clear up the myst'ry.

Hat-tip: Extreme Mortman

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 5:56 PM

Profiting From Bad Government

Adam Smith is lovingly quoted by, umm, guys like me because of his defense of the free market and his defense of the morality of the free market. P.J. O'Rourke's new book reminds us --several times -- that Wealth of Nations is not a paean to capitalism. I remember a story of an economics professor who promised any of his students an A in his course if they could find a good word about businessmen in its 900 pages.

JohnGalt highlights the problem in an excellent post about Kyoto style carbon caps being embraced by GE, DuPont (Mon dieu, Pierre, Non!), and many utilities.

Highly capitalized companies at the top can usually find a way to profit from bad economic ideas -- or can lobby the laws to favor them somehow. While protectionism, anti-trust, and onerous regulation make us all poorer, it can make entrenched firms wealthier. The spectacle of business promoting anti-business legislation is, perversely, good governance and protection of shareholder value.

I'd add an article by Gary Becker and Richard Posner (my two newest, favoritist bloggers) in the WSJ Ed Page. They highlight the minimum wage as How to Make the Poor Poorer. They lay out clear and convincing arguments which are sermons to the choir at ThreeSources, but they also show the groups that have an advantage by higher minimum wages. Discussing the new Chicago minimum wage:

Who would favor such a bad ordinance? Conventional supermarket chains and clothing stores, of course, and unions -- the latter not only for the usual reasons but also because big box companies oppose unions; the ordinance sent a signal that unions have enough political clout to make life difficult for large nonunion retailers. The absence of opposition to the ordinance from low-income consumers is not surprising because they are not organized to exert political pressure. The aggressive support of the ordinance by most of the council's black members is more difficult to understand, but the explanation may be that they are allied with unions. They may have realized that their constituents would be harmed by the ordinance, but believed that in return for taking this hit they would get the support of unions for measures that would help low-income families.

The "party of the people" find themselves on the wrong side another time.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 2:07 PM

GOP and Industry Cave on Kyoto

I'm inspired to try going 2 for 2 with Latte Sipper (see his comment).

Those who choose to look can see that the government coercion enabling E85 is on the verge of being applied to another "problem:" DAWG.

Kimberly Strassel writes today in WSJ's 'Potomac Watch' Why our CEOs are warming to Kyoto.

Democrats want to flog the global warming theme through 2008 and they'll take what help they can get, even if it means cozying up to executives whose goal is to enrich their firms. Right now, the corporate giants calling for a mandatory carbon cap serve too useful a political purpose for anyone to delve into their baser motives.

[...]

There was a time when the financial press understood that companies exist to make money. And it happens that the cap-and-trade climate program these 10 jolly green giants are now calling for is a regulatory device designed to financially reward companies that reduce CO2 emissions, and punish those that don't.

Four of the affiliates--Duke, PG&E, FPL and PNM Resources--are utilities that have made big bets on wind, hydroelectric and nuclear power. So a Kyoto program would reward them for simply enacting their business plan, and simultaneously sock it to their competitors. Duke also owns Cinergy, which relies heavily on dirty, CO2-emitting coal plants. But Cinergy will soon have to replace those plants with cleaner equipment. Under a Kyoto, it'll get paid for its trouble.

DuPont has been plunging into biofuels, the use of which would soar under a cap. Somebody has to cobble together all these complex trading deals, so say hello to Lehman Brothers. Caterpillar has invested heavily in new engines that generate "clean energy." British Petroleum is mostly doing public penance for its dirty oil habit, but also gets a plug for its own biofuels venture.

Finally, there's General Electric, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt these days spends as much time in Washington as Connecticut. GE makes all the solar equipment and wind turbines (at $2 million a pop) that utilities would have to buy under a climate regime. GE's revenue from environmental products long ago passed the $10 billion mark, and it doesn't take much "ecomagination" to see why Mr. Immelt is leading the pack of climate profiteers.

But here's where I'll probably lose Latte:

But read the fine print. The new vaunted committee will have no legislative authority, but exists solely to hold hearings and to "communicate with the American people." Ms. Pelosi and Harry Reid want to talk about this issue . . . and talk, and talk and talk. But not necessarily anything more.

That's because Democrats want global warming as an issue through 2008. With Al Gore getting his Oscar nod, they've got a "problem" that captures the public imagination, as well as an endless supply of cash from thrilled environmental groups. No need to spoil it with a solution.

Not long ago there was a large, well-known American corporation that profited by trading on the rise and fall of energy markets as they were artificially driven by government mandates which they had lobbied for. It was called Enron.

Economics and Markets Posted by JohnGalt at 12:29 PM

The Ethanol Myth

That's not just this gas guzzlin' global warming denier talking, those are the words of the respected consumer journal Consumer Reports.

A recent Harris Interactive study of vehicle owners found that more than half were interested in purchasing an FFV, mostly for reduced dependency on petroleum and improved fuel economy.


But after putting a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV through an array of fuel economy, acceleration, and emissions tests, and interviewing more than 50 experts on ethanol fuel, CR determined that E85 will cost consumers more money than gasoline and that there are concerns about whether the government’s support of FFVs is really helping the U.S. achieve energy independence.

CR goes on to explain how:

- The fuel economy of their test SUV dropped 27% when running on E85 compared with gasoline.
- When gasoline was $2.91 per gallon, the mileage equivalent price per gallon for E85 was $3.99.
- A tankful of gasoline would take the SUV 440 miles; a tankful of E85 goes only 300 miles.
- Most FFVs are large SUVs which use more of whatever fuel you run them on.
- E85 is almost nonexistent anywhere outside of the upper midwest.

And finally, the real reason for the boom in FFV production:

The FFV surge is being motivated by generous fuel-economy credits that auto-makers get for every FFV they build, even if it never runs on E85. This allows them to pump out more gas-guzzling large SUVs and pickups, which is resulting in the consumption of many times more gallons of gasoline than E85 now replaces.

But this isn't all. The Wall Street Journal explained Who Is Hurt By Oil's Fall (paid link) in the January 19, 2007 issue. The lede says it all. "Drillers, Ethanol Makers Lead Pack Of Stocks That Could Be Hit Hardest" This is because the cost of producing ethanol fuel is so high relative to gasoline. Not because the oil economy is subsidized, but because it requires only refinement to become a fuel, not an elaborate and energy intensive fermentation and distillation process.

Still want more? There's a huge debate raging over this issue with claims such as "it cannot contribute to the formation of deposits" coming mostly from domains such as ilcorn.org, mncorn.org, ncga.com (national corn growers assn), and contradictory claims of "increased intake valve deposits by more than 350%" from the addition of just 10% ethanol to gasoline. (This sounds a lot like the global warming debate, with opposing sides making bold claims. I wonder if either of them could be bending the truth a bit?) I suspect the ethanol messiahs are conveniently ignoring the corrosive effects of moisture that is naturally absorbed by anhydrous ethanol.

when AlexC wrote The Dark Side of Ethanol yesterday I wondered, what is the bright side?

But lattesipper thinks:

Rare is the day I agree with JohnGalt and Charles Krauthammer (Energy Independence?)

Posted by: lattesipper at January 26, 2007 8:43 AM
But Everyday Economist thinks:

Okay, I will be the first to stand up and complain about government subsidies of ethanol. However, this analysis by Consumer Reports purports to dispel the "myth" of ethanol when, in fact, their analysis is flawed.

First, it is unfair to compare the current cost of ethanol to the current cost of gasoline because in most areas ethanol is monopolistically priced. Ethanol is only available is certain areas of the country. Further, even in areas of the country where it is available, it is offered at only a few places.

Second, if we were to allow Brazilian ethanol to be imported, ethanol would be much cheaper. After all, that which is produced in the United States is done by an infant industry that has yet to develop economies of scale.

These lower prices would make ethanol more practical and more affordable.

The "myth" associated with ethanol is that we can subsidize the industry to the hilt and thus immediately reduce our oil dependence. Even if the industry becomes successful in the future and is able to produce ethanol at a much lower cost, it is not a short run solution.

Subsidizing industries has more to do with "creating" jobs than it does with solving the problem. Subsidation is not the panacea that the government pretends it to be.

However, ethanol is not the problem; it is the ignorant subsidation of an American ethanol industry.

Posted by: Everyday Economist at January 26, 2007 10:35 AM

January 25, 2007

Senatorial Surrender Monkeys

First the Democrats...

US Senate panel opposes plan to send more troops to Iraq
"The committee adopted the measure by 12-9 vote with one Republican, Senator Chuck Hagel, breaking ranks to join the 11 Democrats on the panel in approving the resolution."

Then the Republicans...

Senate showdown looms for troop buildup in Iraq
"The Foreign Relations Committee approved the resolution Wednesday on a vote of 12-9, with Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, joining 11 Democrats in supporting the measure."

Key GOP senator opposes Bush's Iraq plan
"Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, is one of four principal sponsors of a compromise that would express the Senate's opposition to the additional deployment, but avoid calling it an "escalation" of the four-year-old war."

Brownback could back rival resolution against troop increase

War stage set: Congress v Bush
"And, with several Republicans advancing their own resolution opposing the president's troop deployment, Democrats are negotiating for a common wording that could lead to a bipartisan vote against the war."

All of this about-facing and navel gazing is nauseating, and unseemly for a stately body such as the United States Senate. But it does remind me of the way I felt back in 2003 when another group of surrender monkeys was wringing its hands. Here's what I said then and here's

what I say now.


Dark Days

ThreeSources's sunny optimist is down today. It's sunny and cheery and the snow is melting a little. But, as Elmore James would say "It's rainin' in my heart."

It is fortunate that this Congress can not do very much to stop the surge, and there is a chance it will show progress before they can mobilize. But the depth of the opposition and the pusillanimity of my beloved Republicans have me down.

VP Cheney pointed out in an interview that "We haven't had Chuck Hagel on board for a long time." He doesn't really count as a defection, nor would Senator Snowe (RINO - ME). But Smith, Warner, maybe Coleman, and a few others could be the undoing of the war. Please sign the pledge. I don't know if it will work, but it's a good effort -- there are 8892 signatories as I write this.

Bad enough we lost Senator Warner, SugarChuck emails me that we have lost Merle Haggard. How's that gonna go over in Muskogee?

Ben Stein in The American Spectator
Then, tonight, the next night, I walked into the kitchen where my wife had left the radio going with NPR to amuse the cats. NPR was having a call-in show talking about the State of the Union. The first speaker I heard was a country music legend, Merle Haggard, who said he had never seen things so bad in this country. Then a legion of anonymous callers chimed in with similar thoughts.

And suddenly it hit me. The media is staging a coup against Mr. Bush. They cannot impeach him because he hasn't done anything illegal. But they can endlessly tell us what a loser he is and how out of touch he is (and I mean ENDLESSLY) and how he's just a vestigial organ on the body politic right now.

The media is doing what it can to basically oust Mr. Bush while still leaving him alive and well in the White House. It's a sort of neutron bomb of media that seeks to kill him while leaving the White House standing (for their favorite unknown, Barack Obama, to occupy).


Even Stein has lost faith in the war, of course.

But it's not about Warner, Hagel, Haggard, or Stein (sounds like a law firm). It's Stein's assertions about the MSM and CW. Today's press thinks that the bravest and most wonderful thing that ever happened in this country was when they and their intellectual ancestors forced a US surrender in Vietnam. Repeating that would give their lives meaning.

They are energized and ascendant. People with much power to shape opinion are dedicated to ignominious retreat.

If those two items don't bring you down, sail on over to TNR for a defense of liberal Senators. It seems they didn't end Vietnam after all, that's revisionist history:

In 1970, during the Vietnam war, an amendment to the military procurement authorization act introduced by Republican Mark Hatfield and Democrat George McGovern proposed that, unless President Nixon sought and won a declaration of war from Congress, no money could be spent after the end of the year "for any purposes other than to pay costs relating to the withdrawal of all United States forces." Of course, withdrawing forces is not cutting funding for them (in fact, it might have turned out to be more expensive in the short term), and Hatfield-McGovern never got more than 42 votes in the Senate--even though, in its second go-round in 1971, 73 percent of the public supported it.

The first time the Senate actually voted to suspend funding for American military activities in Vietnam was in the summer of 1973, two months after the last American combat brigades left, by the terms of a peace treaty Nixon negotiated. That amendment passed by a veto-proof majority--encompassing Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals--of 64 to 26.


I don't know if Perlstein is correct, but it sounds to me a lot more like it's 1970 now, not '66 or '68.

Civilization is over. Have a nice day.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 1:29 PM | What do you think? [2]
But dagny thinks:

Hey JK,

I have a serious question about your, "sign the pledge," campaign. My understanding of the pragmatic position is that you would support these Republican senators regardless of the awful things they do, simply because the alternative (electing Democrats) would be worse. I seem to remember your support for Lincoln Chaffee who would likely also have been on-board for non-binding anti-war resolutions.

Can you tell me how a self-proclaimed pragmatist finally draws the line that THESE Republicans have gone too far and no longer deserve support?

(johngalt made me include, for the record, that he signed the pledge.)

Posted by: dagny at January 27, 2007 5:46 PM
But jk thinks:

Fair question. In 2006, I did not give any money to the RNSC nor NRCC, I rather found individual candidates that met my lofty ideals. Actually, Sen. Chafee was a part of that decision. Reading Hugh Hewitt's "Painting the Map Red" tempered my pragmatism.

Was I correct? My income is down and my political giving has been restricted pari passu, so I don't think my dinky sums changed the nation. But Hewitt sold a lot of books. If thousands gave to Michael Steele and Diana Irey, it could have damaged the party's chances of affecting some close races. The pragmatist sees the dark side of pursuing the righteous path.

The scuffle we had on these pages was the Laffey-Chafee primary. Club-for-Growth-endorsed-swell-guy Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey ran against Chafee in the primary and I suggested that The Ocean State was way too liberal to elect somebody as good as Laffey, that we were better off with Linc's one vote for leadership.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell wishes that we had.

Posted by: jk at January 27, 2007 7:38 PM

Perspective On The Surge

[Then] Maj. Greeley responded to a post on my old Berkeley Square Blog and we have kept up an intermittent email conversation ever since. Greeley played high school football with Paul Gigot of the WSJ Ed Page. Though retired, he went back to Mosul, Iraq to train troops on safety.

I haven't heard in a while, but he sent me a unique view of Gen Petraeus and the surge:

I hope you are well,

UP Date... Well the Adm is our GRANT and LTG Petraeus is our Sherman...

We knew we had it right back in the first days.. GEN Petraeus called the ball... well now they are asking him to do the impossible he thinks he can.. and we all need to support him and those being sent to make it happen.

Life as we know it may very well hang in the balance.

ALL THE BEST!
[...]
Retired and still serving on Active Duty


Thanks to all who serve.

UPDATE: Our friend was promoted to LTC. He retired on Sept 9 and was called up again on Sept 10 (not a lot of time for golf...) He was transferred from Baghdad to Wash DC and active duty was extended another year.

Thank you, Colonel, for your service.

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 10:46 AM

January 24, 2007

The Dark Side of Ethanol

It's like something out of the twilight zone.

Hungry Mexicans.

Soaring international demand for corn has caused a spike in prices for Mexico's humble tortilla, hitting the poor and forcing President Felipe Calderon's business-friendly government into an uncomfortable confrontation with powerful monopolies.

Tortilla prices have jumped nearly 14 percent over the past year, a move the head of Mexico's central bank called "unjustifiable" in a country where inflation ran about 4 percent.

Economists blame increased U.S. production of ethanol from corn as an alternative to oil. The battle over the tortilla, the most basic staple of the Mexican diet, especially among the poor, demonstrates how increasing economic integration is felt on the street level.


It's good to know that Big Oil aren't the only ones blamed with collusion.
The federal government's antitrust watchdog announced this week it was investigating allegations companies were manipulating corn prices, and making deals to limit the supply of corn to boost prices of tortillas.

For low-income Mexicans, who earn about $18 a day on average, the increasing prices have hit hard. According to the government, about half of the country's 107 million citizens live in poverty.

"When there isn't enough money to buy meat, you do without," said Bonifacia Ysidro, but "you can't do without" tortillas.

But Everyday Economist thinks:

Price manipulation?

The increase in the price of corn will cause corn producers to produce more. As supply increases, the price of corn will fall as will the price of the tortilla.

We heard this same argument with regards to oil just a few short months ago, yet the price of oil has plummeted. Go figure.

Posted by: Everyday Economist at January 25, 2007 12:32 PM
But jk thinks:

Well said, EE. You're dead right in a real market. My concern is the government manipulation through subsidies. The tortilla baker has to compete against a subsidized ethanol plant.

No wonder Senator Grassley was weeping tears of joy.

Posted by: jk at January 25, 2007 1:46 PM
But Everyday Economist thinks:

Subsidies are unlikely to push up prices. In fact, a government subsidy often encourages overproduction and thus lowers the price. This is why foreign farmers find it so hard to compete with countries with large farm subsidies.

Unless the United States were to develop some type of New Deal-style subisidy that was designed to limit the supply, it is unlikely that we will see a sustained rise in corn prices.

The idea behind the ethanol subsidies is to encourage more production. Currently, both tortilla-lovers and ethanol producers are competing for the same scarce resource. The subsidies will eventually lead to increased production and thus lower prices.

Posted by: Everyday Economist at January 25, 2007 3:21 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm afraid our friend Everyday Economist is vastly oversimplifying the situation by failing to account for the myriad ripple effects of government manipulation of the marketplace.

He's also mistaken about just exactly what the subsidies JK mentions are for. It is not corn production that is being subsidized, but ethanol production. That, combined with the "maize only" mandate that El-Visitador claims (the validity of which I have no reason to doubt), creates an artificial spike in demand, which has a predictable effect on price.

Meanwhile, ethanol as a practical fuel is a disaster.

Posted by: johngalt at January 26, 2007 1:17 AM
But El-Visitador thinks:

*** CORRECTION *** No corn mandate ***

I appreciated johngalts' comment regarding my comment, but it made me reflect on what my source was. And my source was my memory, which has been known to fail from time to time.

So I looked at a number of sources, including the Act itself, the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Corn is not mandated by law at all.

Nonetheless, most ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn, which obviuously results in rising corn prices. And the U.S. does produce (or at least formerly produced) 70% of worldwide corn exports; therefore, any increases in the internal U.S. market have immediate consequences in the (mostly poorer) countries elsewhere that import corn as either human or animal foodstock.

Ethanol could be made in the U.S. from a cheaper, more efficient per acre source: sugarcane. But sugarcane is heavily dutied and protected (which is why sugar is 4 times costlier in the U.S. than in most places around the world), whereas corn is subsidized. This is why most ethanol is currently made from corn.

some sources:
http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/wm1053.cfm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Policy_Act_of_2005

Posted by: El-Visitador at January 26, 2007 2:46 AM
But jk thinks:

You're both right (I'm a uniter). I'll do a post about this, but Cafe Hayek has more on tortilla-gate. It seems Mexico has a quota to limit imported corn:

So because of a bad law in the United States (the requirement to put ethanol in gasoline), the Mexicans have decided to pass a bad law that can only lead to a tortilla shortage.

Posted by: jk at January 26, 2007 10:16 AM

Signed.

I usually don't go for these, but this looks good:

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.

Sign it
Hat-tip: Hugh Hewitt

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 6:04 PM | What do you think? [2]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

I'm there!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 25, 2007 9:40 PM
But jk thinks:

Sweet. 16,565 people so far.

Posted by: jk at January 26, 2007 10:46 AM

The Best Line

I forgot it, but Larry Kudlow did not:

"A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy – and that is what we have. We are now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth – in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs ... so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move – and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government but with more enterprise." - President Bush in last night's State of the Union

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 3:39 PM

Knowing Jack

I give Jack Murtha credit for having more guts than nearly all Democrats put together.

But that doesn't mean he's right.

Rep. John Murtha on Tuesday urged that a "responsible phased" withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq begin from within Saddam Hussein's palaces and said the United States should denounce any aspirations to build permanent military bases in the country.

"Historically, whether it was India, Algeria or Afghanistan, foreign occupations do not work and, in fact, incite civil unrest," said Murtha, D-Pa., before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, which is looking at options in Iraq.


It's too bad he missed "Germany" and "Japan." Strange, because his idea of redeploying to Okinawa, would have put American soldiers in bases in Japan.

We have bases all over the world, we'd be silly to not have bases in the Middle East. The Island of Diego Garcia, while closer than Okinawa, probably isn't big enough should problems arise.

Murtha said that for the United States to regain international credibility, the country must make it clear that it doesn't want permanent military bases in Iraq, and it must also close the Guantanamo detention facility and bulldoze the Abu Ghraib prison.

For symbolic reasons, he said, the withdrawal of U.S. forces should start from Saddam's palaces, where some U.S. troops operate, and then from Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone. That should be followed by a withdrawal from prime real estate in Iraq's major cities, factories and universities and then the entire country, Murtha said.

Iraq Posted by AlexC at 12:32 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

And y'all said Democrats don't have a plan.

"[T]he withdrawal of U.S. forces should start from Saddam's palaces, where some U.S. troops operate, and then from Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone. That should be followed by a withdrawal from prime real estate in Iraq's major cities, factories and universities and then the entire country."

Then we should hide under our beds. If there is a noise, or it's dark, we could run to our neighbors...

Posted by: jk at January 24, 2007 1:21 PM

SOTU 2007

daybyday070124.jpg


I dug it. I'll concede that Glenn Reynolds is right and it did not move a lot of fence sitters, but it solidified my support.

The health care proposal is "Dead On Arrival" says Nina Easton of FORTUNE Magazine on FOXNews, according to her sources and no one disagrees. Arnold Kling gave it an A+, the Dems a DOA+. It is safe to say he doesn't have a chance in hell of getting it, but it might be something the GOP could build on for 2008. The health care hybrid is broken. The Democrats want to make it more collectivist, the Republicans more free market. That's a good fight.

Yes, he said "confront the serious problem of global warming." He gave it away, too. Not in trade for policy -- it was a throw away line. Does he expect the enviros will love him now? Get ready to hear "Even President Bush says..." many times. He sold the skeptics out for nothing. Even a crack whore commands some remuneration, Mr. President. The only serious flaw in the speech. It could have been worse. I suppose.

Was it me or was Senator Grassley weeping tears of joy when the President suggested more ethanol subsidies. The dude was crying! I suppose Senator Harkin was just too disheveled to actually show on TV.

The foreign policy pitch was perfect. Like Bill Kristol, I liked the attribution of setbacks in 2006 to our enemies' successes instead of our failures. I also was relieved by the clear dividing line of the Samara Mosque bombing. War opponents act like things have been in the toilet for four years; no, things were picking up and they took a bathroom-fixture-swirly direction when the Sunnis blew up a sacred Shia site. I tell people that all the time (for which I have few friends left) and was glad to hear the President underscore it.

More money for AIDS and Malaria in Africa. We can hope that we help only a few fewer than we hurt, but it polls well.

The pitch to :"Madame Speaker" at the beginning was perfect, as was the salute to Dad. He pulled up just in time before it went too far. The language was good. Since Gersten and Frum are gone, you don't hear many good turns of phrase but last night had a few: "Putting in earmarks when even C-Span isn't watching," "You didn't vote for defeat," "we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory."

My brother-in-law called at the end and said he'd give it a B+. I'd certainly go there. Without the global warming sop, it would have been an A-.

UPDATE:I mistakenly cited Nina Easton as being from Forbes magazine. She is the Washington Bureau Chief for FORTUNE. I corrected the post and ThreeSources regrets the error.

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 11:20 AM

January 23, 2007

Gas Prices Dropping

Do you hear that?

It's the sounds of 10,000 conspiracy theorists silenced.

Today’s Patriot-News survey of 10 stations in the region put the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded at $2.164, down 9.3 cents from last week and 16.6 cents since Jan. 9.

Prices dropped at all 10 outlets, and ranged from $2.03.9 to $2.22.9.

On the national scene, prices also continue to drop. Today’s AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report was at $2.158, down 7.1 cents from last week.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Monday posted an average of $2.165, which was down 6.4 cents from Jan. 15 and 17.1 cents lower than a year ago.


... and here I thought gas prices were being manipulated by the President for his electoral benefit. (Well, there was that SOTU address)

Actually, as someone in the petroleum business, I should be crying. But strangely, I'm not. It's like a tax-cut for consumers. Yay, capitalism!

But jk thinks:

$1.99 for regular unleaded around these parts.

I read yesterday that GM is actually concerned about low gas prices. Now that they are betting the farm on hybrids and smaller vehicles they do not want to see demand drop.

Posted by: jk at January 24, 2007 10:25 AM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

The thing that bothers me the most: Citgo has the lowest price in the area and 3 new stations have been opened near me. Fargin' Hugo.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at January 24, 2007 10:28 AM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

I just a pre-approved credit card from Citgo. Voided it and sent it back with a note saying "We don't support South American dictators here. Stop soliciting my name and address. Remove both from your mailing lists!"

Other than that, give me Sunoco, or give me death!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 25, 2007 9:44 PM
But jk thinks:

Catchy!

Posted by: jk at January 26, 2007 10:17 AM

Larry's Pretty Upbeat

All bad news this afternoon: AMD and Yahoo earnings disappoint, Hezbollah has Beirut in flames, Bush approval ratings actually go negative (okay, I made the last one up, but barely).

When you need a ray of sunshine, Larry Kudlow's blog is rarely a bad place to look. Today, he offers his An Excellent Economic State of the Union It's a long post, full of good signs, but I liked the end: something to remember about our so called beleaguered President.

As President George W. Bush takes the podium tonight for his seventh State of the Union message, his policy of lower marginal tax rates and a general absence of overregulation (with the exception of Sarbox, but including the opposition to carbon caps) has succeeded in nurturing low inflation and entrepreneurial economic growth.

Of course, Bush gets very little credit for this in the mainstream media or in the polls, which is a shame. The truth is, the president has had the economic story basically right for six years. His overall economic record is rather solid.


Switchgrass.

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 6:23 PM

Supporting The Troops

The Los Angeles Times way. You don't have to click, I have reproduced this editorial in full. You want to read it all at once:

LISTENING TO President Bush's speech on Iraq earlier this month, my first thought was: "Where the heck are we going to get 21,500 more soldiers to send to Iraq?" Our Reserves are depleted, our National Guard is worn out, our Army and Marine Corps are stretched to the limit.

Then it hit me: Re-up our Vietnam War veterans and send them.

They're trained. They're battle-hardened. Many already have post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, some have their own vehicles — Harleys mostly, which are cheap to run, make small targets and are highly mobile. I'll even bet that lots of these guys still have guns (you know, just in case).

OK, some vets are a bit long in the tooth (or don't have teeth — because of Agent Orange?). Or their eyesight isn't what it was. Or their reflexes have slowed. But with today's modern weaponry, how well do you have to see?

Too out of shape, you say? Listen, if Rocky Balboa can step back into the ring at age 60, all these Vietnam War vets need is a little boot-camp magic and they'll be good to go. I mean, who doesn't want to drop a few pounds?

Don't want geezers fighting for us? Well, let's face it, our young people have greater value right here. Most of us want to retire and collect our hard-earned Social Security, and we need those youngsters here, working and paying taxes — lots of taxes.

Finally, these Vietnam War guys are hungry for revenge. After all, they fought in the only war the U.S. ever lost. And they didn't even get a parade. So this is their chance. We can throw them that big parade when they come marching home.


Hat-tip: Hugh who provides the phone number to cancel your subscription.


Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 5:36 PM

Romneycare Going Down?

I was happy to see Wal*Mart win one in court last week because I love to champion the forces of mercantilism over the needs of low-wage workers. I've shilled for Big Oil and Big Pharma on these pages, why not Big Retail (with Big Customers who eat lots of Little Debbie cakes)?

Seriously, the Maryland law was an insane government intrusion into a private business, comically picking a single private business with which to interfere.

The news is better than I realized at the time. The WSJ Ed Page points out (paid link, sorry!) that this ruling spells trouble for Gov. Mitt Romney's Massachusetts and Gov. Schwarzenegger's California health care coercions mandates.

Judge J. Frederick Motz wrote for that court that "The Act violates Erisa's fundamental purpose of permitting multi-state employers to maintain nationwide health and welfare plans, providing uniform nationwide benefits and permitting uniform national administration." Last week's Fourth Circuit ruling affirmed that decision, and it could spell trouble for the California and Massachusetts schemes.

Leave aside that the plan muscled into law by Maryland's Democratic legislature was far less ambitious. The basic similarity is that all three plans feature employer mandates or taxes aimed at changing employee-benefit plans -- in this case by requiring employers to provide health insurance.

Like the Maryland law, the California plan is explicit on the point, and would require all firms with 10 or more employers to provide health care or pay a 4% tax. This would seem clearly illegal according to the reasoning of the Fourth Circuit, which also said that the ostensibly "voluntary" nature of the Maryland tax was irrelevant from the standpoint of Erisa. No reasonable firm, it said, could be expected to choose to pay money to the state to avoid changing its employee-benefit plan.

Mr. Romney's Massachusetts scheme is slightly different, since it doesn't feature the same kind of percentage tax. But not only would Massachusetts charge a $295-a-head fee to employers that don't provide insurance, it would also make them liable for the catastrophic medical costs of uninsured employees. Again this is likely to fall afoul of Erisa, says one legal expert with whom we spoke, because these penalties are aimed at changing employee-benefit plans that are supposed to be voluntary according to federal law.


AlexC was mentioning the weak GOP Presidential field in 2008. I was looking at Romney before his health care plan. The same editorial says:
This week brings one other piece of bad news for proponents of the Massachusetts model, by the way. Early bids suggest the soon-to-be compulsory insurance policies that will pass muster under the scheme will be expensive -- starting at a whopping $380 per month, or $4,560 a year, for an individual. That's hardly surprising when you look at costs in other states that overregulate their insurance markets, such as New York. But it's more evidence that the better way to get people covered is to mimic the practices of less-regulated states such as Connecticut, where a 35-year-old man can get covered for as little as $50 per month.

Dukakis, Kerry, Romney: like a bad horror movie, another "Commonwealth" pol always springs up...

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 12:20 PM

January 22, 2007

McCain In

The sun rose in the east this morning and John McCain says he's in.

    There's no question about it: Sen. John McCain is running for president in 2008, the Arizona Republican said today in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    While his presidential exploratory committee still must decide the right time for a formal announcement, McCain said unequivocally that he's in the race.

    "There's no doubt," McCain told the Trib. "But, right now, the Iraq issue ... is taking a lot of my attention and effort away, and I think that's appropriate. I'm still a United States senator. I've got to perform my duties."


McCain, Giuliani, Brownback, Ron Paul, ???? nobody appeals to me. At all.

But johngalt thinks:

Here's a GOP contender idea for you: Joseph Lieberman. Imagine the "bipartisanship" campaign spots showing the would be Republican president "working so hard to engage with mainstream Democrats that he actually was chosen as the vice-presidential candidate by party standard bearer, Albert Gore Jr."

How does Hillary top that? Claim that she illegally rifled through the FBI files of just as many Democrats as Republicans?

Posted by: johngalt at January 23, 2007 2:05 AM
But jk thinks:

I am thinking of buying the domain readytosettleformccainyet.com. I think I am.

A friend of the blog emails that he's looking at Gov. Huckabee of Arkansas. The Gov has received very poor marks from The Weekly Standard on Taxes.

I'm keeping a spot for Mayor Giuliani, but I am ready to settle for McCain. Our enemies will still be at war with us in January of 2009, whether we will be at war with them is the question. I hope SCOTUS stomps on his anti-free-speech signature bill, but I cannot imagine anyone better as C-in-C (even Principal Wood).

I'm ready to settle. I've done worse.

Posted by: jk at January 23, 2007 10:30 AM
But jk thinks:

JG: While Senator Lieberman would also be good on the war, his other votes are pretty standard-issue Democrat. ADA gives him a 70% rating, ACLU 83%, National Taxpayers Union 14%. Here are key votes from 2000-2004 from the Almanac of American politics:

1. Ban Drilling in ANWR Y
2. Approve Bush Tax Cuts N
3. Medicare/Rx Bill *
4. Bar Overtime Pay Regs. Y
5. Energy Bill N
6. Support Roe v. Wade Y
7. Ban Partial-Birth Abortion N
8. Assault Weapons Ban Y
9. Ban Same-Sex Marriage N
10. Ban Bunker-Buster Bomb Y
11. Fund Iraq War Y
12. Restrict Missile Defense N

There are worse, but I don't see Sen Joe as the great GOP hope.

Posted by: jk at January 23, 2007 11:18 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Fair enough brother. Would you be so kind as to share McCain's votes on the same 12 issues?

(It was meant to be tongue in cheek anyway.)

Posted by: johngalt at January 23, 2007 2:47 PM
But jk thinks:

Harrumph. Not a lot better. McCain gets a 77% from the NTU, 35 ADA, and 22 from the ACLU.

1. Ban Drilling in ANWR Y
2. Approve Bush Tax Cuts N
3. Medicare/Rx Bill N
4. Bar Overtime Pay Regs. N
5. Energy Bill N
6. Support Roe v. Wade N
7. Ban Partial-Birth Abortion Y
8. Assault Weapons Ban N
9. Ban Same-Sex Marriage N
10. Ban Bunker-Buster Bomb N
11. Fund Iraq War Y
12. Restrict Missile Defense N

Posted by: jk at January 23, 2007 3:05 PM

Cruel and Inhuman

A few people have had some fun with Senator Schumer's imaginary friends.

Biking through New York’s boroughs in 2005, I thought about some old friends, Joe and Eileen Bailey. Though they are imaginary, I frequently talk to them.

Extreme Mortman sees the other side
Forget Schumer, I feel more sorry for the Baileys. Any chance they ever get a word in edgewise?


Posted by John Kranz at 5:06 PM

W Gets an A+

It's not everyday the President gets an A+ from Arnold Kling, but he has today. In Capping a Bad Tax Break Kling applauds the prereleased details of the President's Health Care plan.

I would grade this as "A ". The question is whether he can get any Democratic support. My guess is that some of the most extravagant health insurance plans come from unions. The fact that the President's proposal is much more "progressive" than the status quo (as it stands now, the "rich" benefit the most from not having to declare the cost of gold-plated health plans as income) will not get any support from "progressives."

Hat-tip to Josh at Everyday Economist, who has some kind words for it as well.

I was concerned that the reduced deductibility was a tax increase for the rich, perversely telling employers that they cannot provide too much health care. Yet I am conceding to my economic superiors: Hendrickson, Kling, and Mankiw.

The plan would break the perverse incentive structure which allows employers to provide comprehensive care disguised as insurance as a tax-free benefit, indirectly righting the broken incentive of overusing health care because it's paid for by another.

The President gets his share of abuse on these pages (not from me, don't send the jackbooted thugs to my address Mr. Gonzales) but we do a disservice to ignore the positive features of "compassionate conservatism" where President Bush does seek to repair broken incentives.

But AlexC thinks:

The American Spectator also takes a look. Here's something that caught my eye.

Under the plan, individuals purchasing insurance on their own or through their employer would be exempt from paying income or payroll taxes on the first $15,000 of their income. This would translate into $4,500 for a family of four with income of $60,000. In addition, small businesses such as S-corporations would get the same tax incentives for providing healthcare as larger companies.

As an "individual purchasing insurance on my own" and prospective S corp, I like it.

Posted by: AlexC at January 22, 2007 9:45 PM

January 21, 2007

Update Your Links

Looks like I will have to stop not reading Andrew Sullivan on Time, and start not reading him in The Atlantic.

Hat-tip: Insty

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 12:15 PM

Left Field

Cato @ Liberty looks at the field of Democrat contenders, and is underwhelmed.

But who’s left in the race? Barack Obama, whose only stated campaign position so far is that he is in favor of hope but who votes for even more spending than Hillary. As does John Kerry, who is turning his hearing aid up higher and higher, listening for the clamor for him to run again. And John Edwards, who in his second campaign is embracing more crank economic nostrums than Huey Long.

And maybe the aforementioned Al Gore, the Lord Voldemort of liberty.

The Republicans are offering independent, centrist, and libertarian voters to the Democrats on a silver platter. And Democrats are about to compete to see who can do the most effective job of driving them away.


On the right, I heard that Ron Paul is interested in running for the Presidency, but man, he's a long shot. Real long shot.

But jk thinks:

That last line about "handing [them] to the Democrats on a silver platter" is what a friend
of mine calls "the crux of the biscuit."

Two thousand Eight, like 2006, will be a tough year to be a pragmatist. The story linked in the story you linked is the pragmatists nightmare. Libertarians handed the Democrats the Senate in '06 and might give them the White House in '08. I just don't see where liberty is served.

Ron Paul would cut and run faster than John Edwards, although his motives are purer. No thanks.

Posted by: jk at January 21, 2007 12:02 PM

January 20, 2007

Review Corner

I had been snowbound for a few weeks and had limited film selection. But I rented two very good movies last night.

INVINCIBLE. I cannot believe that none of the Keystone State contingent of ThreeSources has brought this up. It's a dramatization of the football career of Vince Papale, who attends an open tryout for the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles and ends up making the team. It's all-Disney, all-heart, but it has a surprising darkness that you don't expect from this genre.

I would put it in "The Reynolds File" for its close up look at life in America during the Ford years. I don't mean that as a swipe against our late 38th President. It is just obvious that the country was poorer then, with the added insult of those polyester jackets. The music is 70's rock, which sounds better in the film than I remember it in high school.

It's a good film, kind of a pro version of "Rudy" and the Eagles fight song is sung. jk gives it 3 -1/2 stars.

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I rented this film by the title, and the graphic where the stiletto heel has a devil's fork. I expected (feared?) something of a chick flick but it is not -- or at least it is a lot more. Oddly enough, my wife did not care for this and I liked it a lot.

I am a slob with a distant (very distant if you've seen me dress) fascination with fashion. It's an art form I definitely do not get. But after reading Virginia Postrel, and watching a couple episodes of "Queer Eye" (I'm losing my audience here, I can feel it) I remain intrigued that increased attention to appearance could boost one's self image and confidence and create a vicious circle of improvement. Not that I have ever tried it myself...

Our protagonist, Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is not immersed in this world either, but she stumbles out of J-school into a top fashion magazine as assistant to the demanding and difficult celebrity editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Her slobby friends tell her "You used to laugh at these people and now you're becoming one." The tension of friends, ambition, growing, success, and truth to self kept me hooked in this well paced film.

A very different movie about a different topic, but well paced, well written, and well shot. Ms. Hathaway is attractive and endearing. Three-and-a-half stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 2:44 PM | What do you think? [4]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

You lost me at "watching a couple episodes of 'Queer Eye'"

;-)

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 21, 2007 10:46 AM
But jk thinks:

Yah, I could hear eyes rolling as I typed that. For the record, I think I watched two or three total.

The ebullient effeminacy of the Fab Four was the hook, but the heart and soul of the show was the personal transformation that the "straight guys" made. Having a little more appreciation of their surroundings improved their lives. They'd frequently get promotions at work, friends would comment on newfound confidence -- it was pretty interesting.

If you can't hack Carson, just think of Virginia Postrel. There is something to style and fashion. Alas, I am too late to ever get it.

Posted by: jk at January 21, 2007 11:30 AM
But sugarchuck thinks:

JK, the only hope for you is total immersion in 24, starting with season one. There is no room for the Queer Eyed in an all Jack world. More Jack, less whack. Do it now, while there is still time.

Posted by: sugarchuck at January 21, 2007 12:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

You're still OK in my book JK, queer eye experimentation or not.

But then, I enjoyed a slice of quiche for lunch one day last week. (Disclaimer: The filling included bacon. Even Jack Bauer would eat quiche with bacon in it.)

Posted by: johngalt at January 23, 2007 1:55 AM

January 19, 2007

I'm Not Surprised

Many are surprised by the results of a new Fox Poll. MichaelW at A Second Hand Conjecture links and points to the shocking question:

19. Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to succeed?

——————————– Yes —- No — (Don’t know)
16-17 Jan 07 ————- 63% — 22 — 15
Democrats ————— 51% — 34 — 15
Republicans ————– 79% — 11 — 10
Independents ———— 63% — 19 — 17


Forty-nine percent of Democrats polled either want us to fail or don't care; 37% of the public at large.

I'll side-step the party-line question, juicy as it is. But I cannot feign surprise that a little over a third want the mission to fail. A little over a third do not believe in American exceptionalism and see the projection of power, American values and American-style governance as a mistake.

I've long felt that is what divides war supporters from war opponents. Thirty-three to 37% seems about right, and a sizeable chunk of them registering as Democrats is not befuddling either.

While I strongly disagree, I cannot say that their opinion is illegitimate. "I like America but do not choose to make Iraq more like America." Again, I disagree, but I cannot say that idea has no merit.

UPDATE: Dean Barnett has a letter from the 37% that confirms this belief.

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 4:14 PM

United Nations: ATM For Dictators

Melanie Kilpatrick of the WSJ Editorial Page has dug up -- against typical UN intransigence -- information pointing to a new UN corruption scam. While not of the magnitude of Oil-for-Food, it is cut from the same cloth.

U.N. Cash for Kim

Well, one reason is because we still don't know how wide or deep this scandal is, especially if it extends to other U.N. programs operating in North Korea. Another is that any cash to Kim contradicts U.N. and U.S. policy and helps ease pressure on the dictator to give up his nukes. And then there is the matter of the U.N.'s own credibility and failure to reform. In the wake of Oil for Food especially, why would U.N. officials allow this program to continue?

The generous explanation is incompetence, or perhaps the kind of feckless idealism that really believes such a program helps poor Koreans apart from Kim's regime. But given the U.N.'s recent track record of indictments for corruption, more venal motives need to be investigated. And it is also worth asking whether outright hostility to the U.S. policy of trying to isolate Kim has also played a role.


Looking back on the Iraq war, it is easy to focus on WMDs or Hussein's cruelty. Yet the only way that war could have been averted would be if the U.N. had not been perpetrating the Oil-for-Food scam. An honest UN would have ensured that sanctions hurt Iraqi leadership. Had fewer people (and governments) not been making large amounts from U.N. perfidy, more nations may have been united in standing up to Saddam Hussein.

Now we see that Kim Jung Il has been propped up by the U.N. as well, keeping him in western movies and nuclear weapons while his people starve. It seems that Larry the Cable knows the true nature of the UN ("the most worthless sumbitches of all time"), yet I read the other day a serious individual suggesting that Iraq be handed over to them.

United Nations Posted by John Kranz at 2:06 PM

January 18, 2007

Falling From Space

... actually a plane.

Penny Meyers was giving her 4-year-old daughter a bath Wednesday night when suddenly something came crashing through the roof.

Meyers said the impact sounded like a wrecking ball coming through their home.

Investigators said they believe the brick-sized block of ice fell from an airplane that took off from nearby Philadelphia International Airport.


It wasn't blue ice, as jets no longer dump their waste out the bottom, but regular old water-ice.

Still, there's a 12 inch square hole in the roof, and someone's bedroom has a new sun-roof.

But mdmhvonpa thinks:

I wonder when the lawsuits for 'emotional trama' and psychological damage will begin.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at January 19, 2007 1:29 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Trauma ... jeeze, I need to spell check.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at January 19, 2007 1:30 PM

Line Item Veto

I might have to recind the open and shut "You Suck" Award nomination from the Senate.

They voted to drop the damned Blogger registration thing AND we might get a line item veto out of them.

Yeah, i know!

Senate Posted by AlexC at 9:09 PM

Nation of Islam Sports Blog

Too funny. The whole site is great, but you have to read:

Nation Of Islam Sportsblog: Hockey: Let it Die

White devils on ice. Whirling dervishes on skates. White athletes propelled and assisted by physics to speeds they can not reach on land. The ice. The last refuge and hiding place of the white athlete.

Relegated to minority status in most team sports, the white athlete has retreated to frozen water as a means of preserving his one "major" remaining sports league. Knowing full well the Negro athlete has a traditional distaste for performing on or in water. After all, it was across a great body of water the Negro was shanghaied and stolen.


Hat-tip: Galley Slaves

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 7:01 PM

Hard to Beat

I nominated Coach Marty Shottenheimer for a 2007 ThreeSources You Suck Award.

Bad as he was, he doesn’t have a chance against blog brother AlexC's pick. On PAWaterCooler.com he more or less nominates the entire U.S. Senate. Senate Bill S.1. (That's right, before ethics or earmark reform, or whining about the war) seeks to register bloggers as K Street Lobbyists.

The Senate. I'd say nominations are closed.

But Everyday Economist thinks:

Shottenheimer didn't lose the game. I suspect that you are just a bit upset and spiteful because your beloved Broncos choked down the stretch.

Posted by: Everyday Economist at January 19, 2007 9:37 AM
But jk thinks:

Hurt and upset I am. My original post noted that Broncos fans have been the beneficiaries of Shottenheimer's blunders over the years.

But I strongly feel that Mr. Shottenheimer took a superior team into that game and made no fewer than three blunders: 4th & 11, the "hail mary challenge," and using his final timeout at 2:16. Dale Barnett adds the undisciplined penalties that SD took.

You could debate most of these individually, but somebody has to assume culpability for losing at home with a superior team.

I wouldn’t really say “choke” for the Broncos either. This was not a year we belonged in the playoffs.

Posted by: jk at January 19, 2007 10:42 AM

Man Bites Dog

I have written many a harsh word about Rep. Tom Tancredo on these pages. In fairness, I must admit that he was eloquent and charming in an appearance on "Kudlow & Company" last night. He opened and closed with humorous comments recognizing their differences.

I still think that he is wrong about the economics of immigration and the politics off immigration. I will refrain, however, from calling him "a yahoo" (William Kristol's term I think) or even "bombastic" (mine). He is a man with whom I disagree on his signature issue, but he is an elected representative from my home state in my political party. I will show him the respect he deserves.

At the risk of ending on a sour note, I'm glad he's looking at the Presidency in 2008. He could cause a lot more trouble seeking Senator Allard's Senate seat.

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 12:28 PM

L'Audace! L'Audace!

The rumors are in the air. Many believe that President Bush is going to retreat from a winnable and important fight that will shape the world for decades, if not centuries.

No, not Iraq. The President means to pursue victory in Iraq and the greater War on Terror.

I'm afraid that he is going to capitulate on Global Warming. I posted an item from Political Diary yesterday, and there were more rumors last night that his SOTU speech will have big subsidies for alternative fuels and possibly a Carbon Tax.

I don't care if he throws billions dollars away on a Carteresque Synfuels II boondoggle. Well, I do, but I'll look the other way. But he can't, can't, can't embrace the DAWG. If he says that Global Warming is real and man-made, the forces of anti-modernity will start every sentence with "Even President Bush says..."

Don't give the moral ground away, Mr. President. Not before you read a guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal today. Flemming Rose, culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, in Copenhagen, and Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," deliver a fact-filled column that questions both the DAWG and VP Gore. Rose's paper set up an investigative interview with Gore and Lomborg.

The interview had been scheduled for months. Mr. Gore's agent yesterday thought Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great. Yet an hour later, he came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness. According to the agent, Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter. These conditions were immediately accepted by Jyllands-Posten. Yet an hour later we received an email from the agent saying that the interview was now cancelled.

One can only speculate. But if we are to follow Mr. Gore's suggestions of radically changing our way of life, the costs are not trivial. If we slowly change our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming century, the U.N. actually estimates that we will live in a warmer but immensely richer world. However, the U.N. Climate Panel suggests that if we follow Al Gore's path down toward an environmentally obsessed society, it will have big consequences for the world, not least its poor. In the year 2100, Mr. Gore will have left the average person 30% poorer, and thus less able to handle many of the problems we will face,


Thirty percent poorer. Subtracting wealth that used to provide clean water, eliminate disease and improve life. The article (I hope they put it on the free site soon, email me if you want a copy) questions many of the "facts" in VP Gore's new movie, and answers that pesky question "Why was the interview cancelled?"
It would have been great to ask him why he only talks about a sea-level rise of 20 feet. In his movie he shows scary sequences of 20-feet flooding Florida, San Francisco, New York, Holland, Calcutta, Beijing and Shanghai. But were realistic levels not dramatic enough? The U.N. climate panel expects only a foot of sea-level rise over this century. Moreover, sea levels actually climbed that much over the past 150 years. Does Mr. Gore find it balanced to exaggerate the best scientific knowledge available by a factor of 20?
[...]
Mr. Gore says that global warming will increase malaria and highlights Nairobi as his key case. According to him, Nairobi was founded right where it was too cold for malaria to occur. However, with global warming advancing, he tells us that malaria is now appearing in the city. Yet this is quite contrary to the World Health Organization's finding. Today Nairobi is considered free of malaria, but in the 1920s and '30s, when temperatures were lower than today, malaria epidemics occurred regularly.
[...]
He presents pictures from the 2% of Antarctica that is dramatically warming and ignores the 98% that has largely cooled over the past 35 years. The U.N. panel estimates that Antarctica will actually increase its snow mass this century. Similarly, Mr. Gore points to shrinking sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, but don't mention that sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is increasing.
[...]
Moreover, the avoided cold deaths far outweigh the number of heat deaths. For the U.K. it is estimated that 2,000 more will die from global warming. But at the same time 20,000 fewer will die of cold.

Good questions, all. But if President Bush embraces the DAWG next week, nobody will ever have to answer them. Why "The Science will be settled. Even President Bush says..."

But mdmhvonpa thinks:

I can't wait till we start to urge China to cut back on carbon emissions. That'll go over like a rock.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at January 18, 2007 12:57 PM

January 17, 2007

Speaking Truth to Bauer

I stole the Headline from Sam at Kojinshugi. I have missed "24" until the new season. I recorded the four hours of premiere and have watched it all.

We have some 24 buffs around here. Is this a good place to start? Should I buy Season One on DVD and start there? Should I dig up prequels on iTunes?

I liked what I saw well enough, but I cannot say I was blown away. It's well paced and well done. The high-octane suspense and action keep the viewer focused. At the same time, Duke Ellington points out that "Music is the space between the notes" and after 30 minutes of suspense, my mind starts to wander.

It's also rather fanciful. One can suspend disbelief for a while but I need to be grounded occasionally. I could let most slide, but they used my least favorite action plotline of all times in the fourth hour: person does crime because his/her family is held hostage. I saw this in "Redeye," and "Firewall" and I just can't buy it. If you threaten someone I care for, I will park in a no-parking zone or not give extra change back to the cashier. But I am not going to help you kill an innocent family or perpetrate a terrorist plot. Left to my own, I will try to find a way to foil your plot.

Personal disclaimer: I am not an "Action Movie" kind of guy, this is really not my cup of tea. I watched because of excitement and because of strong recommendations from people I respect. What do I do Bauerites? Keep watching this season? Go back? Quit?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, it was great to see D.B. Woodsde promoted from "Principal Wood" to "President Palmer." He is very good (all the acting was good).

Posted by John Kranz at 3:48 PM | What do you think? [5]
But Ian thinks:

Start with Season One, no doubt about that. The "forced to do stuff 'cause the fam's held hostage" thing is done pretty darn well through most of the first half.

Posted by: Ian at January 18, 2007 12:20 AM
But jk thinks:

Email is now two for Season One and two to just buckle down and watch the new ones.

Posted by: jk at January 18, 2007 11:07 AM
But johngalt thinks:

As one of the "watch the new ones" advisors I should also add that I recommend watching season 1 as well. It could be done concurrently.

The most heroic character in 24 is of course Bauer, but he was at his greatest when teamed with President David Palmer. (Palmer, now dead, is the president we all wish we had and that some of us hoped GWB would be. Umm, as a leader, not dead.) Season 1 shows how their relationship was formed and is highly recommended. If you like the first season then you'll want to go on.

We rolled our eyes more than once in the first four hours, but realize that expediency is required to move from one big theme to the next. And what about the first big theme of season 6? Ask the residents of Valencia, CA.

Posted by: johngalt at January 18, 2007 3:42 PM
But dagny thinks:

I too found some things in the first 4 hours that stretched my suspension of disbelief. I still like the show very much but I preferred some of the prior seasons.

However, I am a fan of action shows and movies. I can't seem to sit through a sitcom no matter how highly recommended or well-acted.

24 is unabashedly an action show. No once has suggested to JK that if doesn't like the genre he might never like the show. JK, I'm confused though. I gather you are Firefly fan and that too is defnitely an action show.

Posted by: dagny at January 20, 2007 5:31 PM
But jk thinks:

I know I am tip-toe-ing around all out war here, but I am going to make one step toward the interstice.

Firefly had a lot of action sequences, as did Buffy and Angel. But I would not give any one of them the action label because that was just a component of all three: part of the entertainment. When I think of an "action pic" I think of a show where that is the main focus. 24 is "about" the action sequences; I consider Firefly to be about politics, Buffy to be about self -discovery and Angel to be about redemption.

What I am asking -- sub-rosa as to not offend the acolytes -- is whether 24 has layers of plot and substance as Firefly had.

Posted by: jk at January 21, 2007 11:41 AM

Personal Blather

Also known as "he thinks he's Lileks now."

Last night I dreamed that I was arguing with Saddam Hussein about laundry. My wife took Hussein's side and I got quite angry, telling her "Don't take Saddam Hussein's side over mine!" I think that's actually pretty good marital advice.

Posted by John Kranz at 3:44 PM

Will W Embrace the DAWG?

Not Barney. Deleterious Anthropogenic Warming of the Globe. John Fund writes in Political Diary:

The White House isn't commenting, but Britain's Observer newspaper reports that President Bush "is preparing to make a historic shift in his position on global warming when he makes his State of the Union speech" next Tuesday.

Quoting senior officials close to Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Observer says Mr. Bush's new flexibility will open up the chance to sign a follow-on treaty to the 1997 Kyoto agreement rejected unanimously by the U.S. Senate and which exempted fast-growing India and China from emissions caps.

The Blair advisers suggest that the new Bush stance explains why Mr. Blair is so insistent on remaining prime minister until the European Union summit ends on June 22. Supporters of Gordon Browne, his designated successor as the Labor Party's prime minister, have become increasingly angry at Mr. Blair's reluctance to surrender the reins of government. The Observer reports that Mr. Blair hopes that a new treaty on climate change could be outlined at the summit, providing a capstone to his career.

The Blair advisers are convinced that Mr. Bush will move towards embracing what is known as a "cap and trade" plan similar to the one now being used by the European Union. Under it, key industries are given a quota of carbon dioxide emissions and must pay for the right to exceed their quota by buying credits from industries with spare capacity.

"We could now be seeing the beginning of a consensus on a post-Kyoto framework," a source close to Prime Minister Blair told the Observer. "President Bush is beginning to talk about more radical measures."

Of course, left unsaid is that the European Union's "cap and trade" system has generally been a failure, spurred by the decision of France and other countries to evade the targets. "What Bush and Blair may be moving towards makes a great photo-op," says one European Union legislator. "But they will both be out of office when ordinary people have to live with the consequences of less scrupulous countries either cheating or ignoring the limits altogether."


Last week, I chastised my blog brothers for being too hard on the President. If this true -- and I fear it is -- I will lead the attack dawgs. I don't see how real science would ever have a chance if President Bush endorses the DAWG.


The Reynolds File

Paul Krugman says that 90% of American workers have not seen economic gain since 1973. He bases this startling claim on a lack of real average household income growth. Alan Reynolds shows that there are only four problems with measuring average, real, household, income.

  • Average: Mean or median? As the quintiles expand, comparisons are less meaningful.

  • Real: the CPI overestimates inflation; using it as a deflator underestimates growth.

  • Household: There are fewer workers per household today (I would argue that that is enabled by newfound wealth) but if a single mom in 2006 makes less than a married couple and their adult child in 1973, Krugman sees wage stagnation.

  • Income: Total compensation? Benefits? Full time vs. part-time? Krugman compares a full time worker in 1973 to a part time worker today and sees no growth

That's a too-quick summary of Reynolds’s book, but you get the idea.

The technocrat in me likes to point out the non-measured gains: plasma TVs, cell phones, TiVos, &c. Ralph Kinney Bennett has a piece in TCS Daily today (I'm still reading TCS through a proxy, if that link doesn't work, go to TCS on the blogroll and look for the article "Wrist Action.") about electronic watches.

Back when Krugman claims we were as wealthy as we are, the accurate $4 watches you see at the counter today were not available.

But the Astron had whetted the market's appetite. Seiko and other Japanese rivals went at horological microelectronics with a happy vengeance. American makers were close behind and throughout the 1970s consumers were rewarded with ever lighter, slimmer, more accurate, reliable and versatile electronic watches at ever lower prices. Even the Swiss finally woke up, but not before a number of watchmakers went under.
It was Hamilton which led the way in the next big advance in electronic watches. In 1972 it introduced the Pulsar, the first digital watch. Rather than a complex work of hundreds of small pieces, it had only four basic parts - the battery, the quartz crystal oscillator, printed circuitry for the electronics and its unique time display.
The Pulsar cost $2,100. On the side of its 18-carat gold case was a little button. When you pressed it, a red light emitting diode (LED) in a tiny rectangular display on the watch face showed you the DIGITAL time.

Digital! For better or for worse, digital. Everybody went crazy over digital watches, but it was an expensive craze. Within three years of the introduction of the Pulsar there were at least 80 varieties of digital watches on the market, but they were still very costly - usually hundreds on up to thousands of dollars. Then came Texas Instruments.


Yeah, I had one of the $20 ones that TI wrought. Douglas Adams belittles Earth by saying they were so un-advanced as to think digital watches were cool. I was one of those. I wear a $100 watch today with an analog face that syncs itself to the atomic clock every night. (Once a geek...)

There is no way to quantify the advantage of having a large selection of inexpensive, accurate and reliable watches, but it adds up to wealth.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 12:49 PM

Six in Oh Six

I reacted negatively to the Democrats' "Six-in-06" initiatives (surprise!) I felt that the drug negotiation, stem cell research, alternative fuels subsidies, and minimum wage hike were anti-Hayekian. The 9/11 Commission recommendations should be debated and negotiated; it's a cop out to take them all.

I didn't take the time to object to their education subsidies, but the good folks at the WSJ Editorial Page have completed the task adroitly. Their problem is that the Government is subsidizing the interest paid on student loans. That will not help those who cannot afford education, it's a giveaway to college graduates.

In other words, the Democratic loan proposal isn't really about making college more affordable for low-income families. It's about expanding federal subsidies for college grads, including millions of middle-class men and women who will go on to do very well in life and hardly need such a government handout.

"The average college graduate leaves school with a debt of $17,500, which after consolidation and tax breaks comes to about $102 a month," says Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation. "If a college degree adds about a million dollars to your lifetime income, 102 bucks a month is manageable." Democrats know that subsidizing college graduates doesn't sound all that great as a political theme, so instead they pretend that cutting student-loan interest rates will somehow make higher education more "accessible."


Cui bono? Faculty and administrators who will now be able to raise tuition because Federal subsidies will defray the costs. The 110th is going to make college more affordable by raising tuition.

I score them 0-6 in '07.

110th Congress Posted by John Kranz at 11:10 AM

January 16, 2007

Hope They Don't Practice

Second Iraq Hanging Also Went Awry - New York Times

BAGHDAD, Jan. 15 — Iraq’s turbulent effort to reckon with the violence of its past took another macabre turn on Monday when the execution of Saddam Hussein’s half brother ended with the hangman’s noose decapitating him after he dropped through the gallows trapdoor

I for one am glad that the new Iraqi government is showing so little proclivity for efficient executions. The last group was, perhaps, a little too good?

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 11:27 AM

Exigencies

Two articles in the Wall Street Journal today combine to give me a sinking feeling.

The good news is an H-P breakthrough, using nanotechnology to build faster computers. I do like faster computers.

The bad news concerns Pfizer's reorganization and cost containment strategies expected from its new CEO.

As new Pfizer Inc. chief Jeffrey B. Kindler prepares to give the first details on his strategic vision for the company, his plan is likely to involve shedding more jobs and rethinking the way the drug giant develops, makes and markets medicines.

Employees at the world's largest drug maker are bracing for deep cutbacks when Mr. Kindler presents analysts with some specifics on his plan to overhaul Pfizer on Monday, say people close to the situation. The job cuts could involve several thousand positions, these people say, including some in the European sales force. Mr. Kindler recently reshuffled some senior managers for the second time since taking the top job in July.
[...]
"I'd most like to see new drugs, but if he's able to revive the pipeline and R&D productivity, it'll take years. I'm sure he'll talk about it, but it's not much more than a promise," said Michael Krensavage, an analyst at Raymond James. "He's handcuffed to cutting costs. It'll be very difficult to change the direction of the iceberg with one meeting."


I don't think this is a Schumpeterian reorg, this is recognizing the exigencies of trying to develop innovative cures in an industry that will be more regulated.

H-P can raise capital and spend it on R&D in a free market, realizing that it might recoup those expenses many times over should it bring a valuable product to market. Of course, both H-P and Pfizer could lay a billion dollar egg, that's the marketplace.

But even if Pfizer develops something the public wants, its profit will be proportional to what Senator Schumer and Rep Franks think is fair compensation. Not surprisingly, investors are not lining up for that. The 110th Congress has not had a bill signed into law, but they have already changed the face of an important industry.

That's okay guys, I'm not sick or anything...

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 10:23 AM

January 15, 2007

We Lose a Spending Cutter in the 111st

He's about as flashy as a -- oh wait, I have overloaded my simile generator. Colorado’s Senior Senator did not grab headlines or face time with Chris Matthews, but he racked up an impressive record for cutting taxes and spending.

There was some excitement about whether he would seek another term in 2008, but Andrew Roth at Club for Growth reports that Senator Allard will honor the two-term limit pledge he made to voters in 1996.

Allard, who was re-elected with Club member support in 2002, will be leaving a big hole for fiscal conservatives in the Senate, having compiled a great voting record over the last 10 years. He received a 98% on the Club's 2005 scorecard, while getting eight "A's" and only one "B" on NTU's scorecard.

I volunteered for his campaign in 2002 and am proud of any little thing I did to put him over the top in a close one. There are two years to recruit, but it is almost certain that a Democrat will pick up this seat. The electorate has turned purple at best and the national Democrats and liberal 527s have realized that Colorado is a good value. If you seek to buy an election, the media time and presence in far less expensive than a more populous area.

Spirit of '94 Posted by John Kranz at 6:19 PM

Give The Surge a Chance

Larry Kudlow points out that world markets are treating the President's new Iraq strategy more optimistically that the media, Democrats, and Senator Hagel, or as they're known in the blogosphere, the MSMDH.

But President Bush’s overhauled Iraq strategy, including a tougher line on Iran, is being viewed by investors as a plus for security in the Middle East. Two large aircraft carrier groups and 16,000 sailors have been positioned in the Persian Gulf. There also are indications that the U.S. will provide Patriot anti-missile defense systems to allies in the region. So, putting all this together, geopolitical risk premiums are actually declining — hence lower oil prices.

While pundits and politicians are saying the new Bush plan won’t work, market investors are voting with their money for a much more positive verdict. And after surveying the details of the new Iraq strategy, I’m casting my lot with the investors.

The U.S. military buildup — including the strengthened naval presence — not only will provide better security for Iraq’s democratically elected government, but also enhanced security for the entire region.
[...]
Think of it: Falling oil prices not only reflect lower war and political risk, but they are actually doing enormous damage to one of the Middle East’s top risk producers: Iran.

Political opposition by Democrats and Republicans to Bush’s new strategy may be hardening, but financial markets are pointing to a much more positive scenario. Might the president’s new plan actually work? World markets are saying give it a chance.

I agree.


Me too, Larry.

But johngalt thinks:

The contemptable General Wesley Clark was on FNC with Shawn Hannity last night saying, "We won the Cold War through diplomacy, we should be trying to win this war diplomatically too."

That's right Wes, the diplomacy of MX missles, Trident subs and a 600 ship navy. Not a shot was fired militarily, but a full economic broadside was required to bring down the "evil empire."

The same strategy could be effective now, perhaps even more so than with the Soviets. How? $20/bbl for oil would be a good start. Encourage domestic drilling in all the places we currently "preserve" and the bottom will fall out. Even if it required federal subsidies it would cost far less than $270 billion.

Posted by: johngalt at January 15, 2007 3:30 PM
But jk thinks:

General Clark won the war in Bosnia. I don't remember that they were dropping treaties and resolutions from 30,000 feet, but that was a long time ago. I might have forgotten.

Posted by: jk at January 15, 2007 4:52 PM

Having A Dream

mlkihaveadreamgogo.jpeg
Here's a link to two of Dr. Martin Luther King's speeches at
AmericanRhetoric.com.

AmericanRhetoric.com hosts a lot of great American speeches for download, so there's no excuse not to have these on your iPod.

YouTube also has video of some speeches as well.

Some commentary here...

Posted by AlexC at 12:55 PM

January 14, 2007

The Wisdom of "Football Jesus"

I have mentioned, a few times (a couple times too many?), my fascination with an aside in James Surowecki’s "The Wisdom of Crowds." Surowecki engineers one of the Broncos' famous super bowl losses as a victory with a more aggressive offense, specifically going for a fourth down conversion. Surowecki claims that traditional football play calling is far more conservative than statistics would recommend: "You never take points off the board," "You always punt in your own zone..." all those little bits of wisdom my friend calls "Football Jesus."

I brought this up recently, suggesting that Cincinnati might have gone for a two point conversion, instead of the PAT they missed against the Broncos. Football Jesus says you only go for two to tie the score. I beat this horse for a week or so in an email thread.

Today, I have seen the light and will abandon Mr. Surowecki's counsel and put my faith in gridiron-you-know-who.

I don't know what demon Coach Schottenheimer was channeling when he went for it on 4th and 11. He gave the momentum the Chargers were building away and gave the Pats a free field goal. "They're going to lose by three," thought me -- one of my few good football predictions.

For the last decade, my beloved Broncos have been the beneficiaries for Coach Schottenheimer's miscues. Today, I was pulling for his Chargers and felt the pain of my old Cleveland friend, if only for an afternoon. He could have overcome the bad 4th down choice, but for some miserable clock management in the final minutes. He gave one timeout away on a "hail mary" challenge that had no factual support, then used one of his remaining timeouts 16 seconds before the 2:00 warning, saving ten seconds but allowing them to run off a full 40 after the 2:00 time out. Another timeout or 30 more seconds would have made a huge difference.

Hate to "kick a dolly when he's down" but Coach Schottenheimer, I nominate you for the coveted ThreeSources You Suck award for 2007.

UPDATE: I thought I was too harsh; Dean Barnett is tougher, citing my examples plus the lack of discipline. Barnett is a Pats fan who recognizes that San Diego put a far more talented team on the field yesterday.

UPDATE II: My Cleveland buddy writes:

As a fan,who Marty has destroyed, I was happy to see him destroy the hopes and dreams of other fans throughout the league. KC, Cleveland, SD any others he can go to? Maybe Denver?

Posted by John Kranz at 9:18 PM

Markets at Work

Perry at Eidelblog follows up on an 18-month old post and makes a reasonable and readable argument for free market economics.

In August 2005, he had blogged about a movie lover who had patiently watched the prices of the big flat-screen TVs climb down from $20K and bought a 50" plasma for $3800. That TV is advertised for $2300 today and Perry posits that prices are going lower as Sharp is building a new factory in Mexico.

Actually the prices are so good even I am thinking of getting in (though a giant Larry Kudlow may induce nightmares)

Eidlebus dismisses the arguments of killjoys who would have had them wait: the happy couple got 17 months of enjoyment for $1500. Of course, if folks aren't around to but it for 20,000 and 3800, it's not going to make it to 2300. He also dismisses protectionists who would demand the factory be built in the US.

And, being Perry, he sneaks in the obligatory Bastiat reference:

Will "worshippers of government" (my favorite of all Bastiat's terms), from full-blown socialists to the "progressives" who believe government must "help," ever look at the myriad examples of modern technology and finally understand that government can never stimulate nor inspire invention and creativity? And with regard to social customs, look at what the free market hath wrought, things government takes credit for but could have never effected. Only the uncompetitive, slothful and tyrannical need fear free markets, which is precisely why the supporters of government intervention can always be lumped into one of the three.

I refer it to the wealth creation documented in Alan Reynolds's "Income and Wealth." Paul Krugman says that real incomes are stagnant and that 90% of the workers are no better off than when the Stones released "Goats Head Soup" in 1973. Krugman and his cohorts are willing to torture the statistics to unconscionable levels to prove it.

Reynolds brilliantly discredits the Krugman Krowd (KK) with mathematics. For those who can't or won't dig into that, I suggest that it doesn't pass the smell test. In 1973, a 19" color-TV was a major purchase. With a roof antenna, you could watch "All In The Family" in glorious color. Today, the same socioeconomic class can get a 42" or larger, flat, HDTV with Satellite or Digital Cable. This does not count as an increase in Wealth to the KK.

Nor does it count that the most extravagant luxury of 1973, the car phone, is now given to half of the kids in Junior High, that you can fly to Europe for a few hundred bucks, laptops, Internet. (Reynolds does point out that we're not driving Pintos and Vegas anymore, that's another huge plus).

The market creates wealth and drives innovation. I was around in '73. Goats Head Soup was a good record but I'll take 2007.


Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 11:55 AM

January 13, 2007

Deficit

AP

    The federal deficit has improved significantly in the first three months of the new budget year, helped by a continued surge in tax revenues.

Whoa... despite tax cuts for the rich?
    Tax collections are running 8.2 percent higher than a year ago while government spending is up by just 0.7 percent from a year ago. Last year's spending totals were boosted by significant payments to help the victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

    The Treasury said for December, the government actually ran a surplus of $44.5 billion, the largest surplus ever recorded in December and a gain that reflected a big jump in quarterly corporate tax payments.

    The $80.4 billion deficit for the first three months of the current budget year was down 32.6 percent from the imbalance for the same period a year ago of $119.4 billion.

    For the year, analysts are still forecasting that the deficit will worsen from last year's total of $248.2 billion, which had been the lowest in four years.


The President has been in office for 6 years... so that's not yet a record to be proud of, but there's still two to go.

But johngalt thinks:

Quick, cut taxes some more!

I think your closing sentiment on the Bush administration is more appropriate for his half-hearted war on Islamists than domestic budget policy. He's got a scant two years to derail Iran's nuke program, get over top-dead-center in Iraq, and restore America's confidence in muscular foreign policy. I'm afraid that's too much to expect, even from Gen. Petraeus.

Posted by: johngalt at January 13, 2007 3:54 PM
But jk thinks:

No doubt President Gore would have kept spending to a minimum and kept the Federal budget in surplus.

And no doubt President Kerry would have forcefully routed the Islamist menace from Pakistan to Indonesia, kickin' ass and takin' names (Mohammed, Mohammed, Mohammed...)

My blog brothers have been sucked into the miasma generated by the anti-Bush forces. The fact is, this President cut taxes and energized the economy, when many in his own party wanted to raise them. Then he resolutely prosecuted the war on terror, against world opinion, Washington CW, and squeamish squishy members of his own party.

Had he slavishly avoided budget deficits to please ac, he would not have cut taxes. Sorry if his war performance is not perfect, jg, but compared to the life-losing mistakes in WWII, Korea and the Civil War, he is a hall of famer.

The raise taxes and cut and run brigades will both be seeking to pull him down, partly by de-energizing his base. You guys want to play?

Posted by: jk at January 15, 2007 11:50 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm not attempting to pull him down, but buck him up. Perhaps I should be more cautious of appearing otherwise.

I'm fully in support of the Bush Doctrine, I just wish the President was as well. I agree that he STARTED to "resolutely prosecute the war on terror" but for many reasons, allowed the effort to become irresolute.

Example #1: A key element promised in the new Surge effort is to remove political restrictions on allied forces. When we were asked to back down in Fallujah we should have politely refused. (There are countless other examples that don't come so readily to mind.) We then explain that "this is a war, and wars do not end until enemy forces surrender or are destroyed. Your choice."

Posted by: johngalt at January 15, 2007 3:39 PM

January 12, 2007

Lasers

FoxNews

    A German pensioner who won a prize and worldwide fame for breeding his country’s largest rabbit — Robert, a 10.5kg (23lb) bruiser the size of a dog — has been offered an unusual opportunity to exploit his talents overseas.

    Karl Szmolinsky has been given a contract by North Korea to supply giant rabbits to help to boost meat production in the reclusive Communist country, which is suffering severe food shortages. The only problem is that such huge rabbits consume vast quantities of food themselves as they grow.


Are these giant rabbits going to be bred for food, or to put "frickin' laser beams on their heads?"

Unfortunately, as soon as Chavez gets his way (completely gets his way), Venezuela won't be all that far behind.

But jk thinks:

They can use it to scare President Carter...

(Fot those who forgot: Killer Rabbit)

Posted by: jk at January 13, 2007 10:17 AM

iT

Get iT on eBay: MiG 21F USSR Military Aircraft

Hat-tip: Samizdata

Posted by John Kranz at 6:36 PM

NYTimes Gaffe

Taranto catches the NYTimes Editorial Page accidentally saying what they really mean.

Tax Cuts and Consequences - New York Times
The tax system in the United States is supposed to mitigate inequality. But a recent report by Congress’s budget agency provides fresh evidence that Bush-era tax cuts have done more to reinforce inequality than to redress it.

Taranto nicely documents the flaw in the first sentence, citing Article I, Section 8 and the 16th Amendment. Maybe the Times confused the United States with France. It does happen sometimes.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 2:59 PM

VP Gore DDS attack?

That's my tinfoil hat, conspiracy theory for the week. I have not been able to view TCSDaily for a few days now, I noticed that Instapundit had lnked, amd I still get their email, but I cannot view any links on tehior site either through the blogroll, email, Insty, whatever.

Can you?

Posted by John Kranz at 2:41 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

Works. Maybe they've moved and DNS hasn't updated. Try 82.165.133.14

Posted by: AlexC at January 12, 2007 4:21 PM
But jk thinks:

I get a 404 for /. I'll look for a filename from the email.

Odd thing is that I get a <HEAD> tag and title: TCS Daily : Technology - Commerce - Society. If it got that far, it resolved the name.

Posted by: jk at January 13, 2007 10:20 AM

Domestic Cars

Add Mickey Kaus to the list of real journalists who add much real thought to the blogosphere. The combination of politics and automotive reporting does not get a lot of ink in the MSM, but the Mickster is all over it all the time, only because those are his beat and personal interests.


Today, he hits a home run pinning down his Democratic friends ""--Jon Alter, this means you!--who would never actually buy a Detroit product but who want to believe the UAW can't be blamed. UAW plants pay $31.35 per hour against Toyota's $27 -- and spend 34.3 hours per car instead of 27.9. Yet Kaus's liberal pals won't admit that that's a problem.

If you're GM or Ford, how do you make up for a 43% disadvantage? Well, you concentrate on vehicle types where you don't have competition from Toyota--e.g. big SUVs in the 1980s and 1990s. Or you build cars that strike an iconic, patriotic chord--like pickup trucks, or the Mustang and Camaro. Or--and this is the most common technique--you skimp on the quality and expense of materials. Indeed, you have special teams that go over a design to "sweat" out the cost. Unfortunately, these cost-cutting measures (needed to make up for the UAW disadvantage) are all too apparent to buyers. Cost-cutting can even affect handling--does GM spend the extra money for this or that steel support to stabilize the steering, etc. As Robert Cumberford of Automobile magazine has noted, Detroit designers design great cars--but those aren't what gets built, after the cost-cutters are through with them.

Most damning is his close:
Is it really an accident that all the UAW-organized auto companies are in deep trouble while all the non-union Japanese "transplants" building cars in America are doing fine? Detroit's designs are inferior for a reason, even when they're well built. And that reason probably as more to do with the impediments to productivity imposed by the UAW--or, rather, by legalistic, Wagner-Act unionism--than with slick and unhip Detroit corporate "culture."

Hat-tip: Instapundit

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 1:53 PM

George W. Cleveland

President Bush is behind President Cleveland 42-1 in the veto derby, but we should all cheer him on.

The Wall Street Journal reports: Bush Plans to Veto Drug Legislation

WASHINGTON -- President Bush will veto legislation requiring the government to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices under Medicare, Republican officials said Thursday.

The House is scheduled to debate and vote Friday on the bill, which is one of a handful of priority items for Democrats who gained control of Congress in last fall's elections. Republicans said the White House was preparing a formal veto threat against the measure.

The administration has been working with key Republicans in Congress on a response to the legislation. One official said a recent draft of the formal statement was unequivocal in promising a veto.

Mr. Bush has already threatened to veto another of the top six bills Democrats are pushing across the House floor in the first two weeks of the new Congress. That's the measure, approved Thursday, to expand the extent to which federal funds could be used for embryonic stem cell research.


Divided government is a beautiful thing, President Madison (two vetoes), thanks.

These two bills together define the character and represent the worst of the Democrats' "Six in '06" bill. I'll let slip that this is '07, the Democrat initiatives have a common thread that the government will pick winners instead of the free market. Taken as a group, their common thread is that they are anti-Hayekian.

Embryonic stem cell research is promising. The cynic in me wonders if it will retain its popularity when it cannot be used as a cudgel against an Evangelistic President. Either way, government is saying that they will fund stem cell research. But they will then take away the private profits of the drug companies who are working on alternate therapies. Price controls as envisioned by the House Democrats will devastate investment in pharmaceuticals.

Likewise, they plan to halt subsidies to the oil companies (hooray and huzzah!) and give it to alternative energy (boo). If they did nothing, the market would import oil. The Republicans subsidize domestic production. The Democrats want to stop giving money to the people who provide us energy and give it to those who cannot.

The decisions will be made by politics. Senators Grassley and Harkin will be certain to bring some ethanol subsidies to Iowa; the guy in Arkansas developing biomass fuels from Tyson's discarded chicken carcasses will suffer from Blanche Lincoln's lack of seniority. Government will pick winners badly.

The one six-in-oh-seven initiative that is inside the Congressional purview is an abdication of Congressional authority. They will poke their noses into medicine, energy, and wages. Yet they will accept the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission en banc, with no debate or discussion.

Keep that veto pen warn, Mr. President. Stock up on ink refills.

110th Congress Posted by John Kranz at 11:48 AM

Fiscal Irresponsibility

The Anchorage Daily News, for all it's liberal faults, does one cool thing.

Publishes Alaska oil prices and compares it with the state budget. (A large chunk of the states income is tied to oil tarriffs)

Witness.

oilchart.gif

Notice anything about it? Besides, the plummet in oil prices, at the current price, they're not going to make their budget... and the longer it stays below, the higher it needs to climb to just balance the books.

That would be nearly TWICE the 10 year average.

Government Posted by AlexC at 11:44 AM

January 11, 2007

John Stossel

And they still let him co-anchor 20/20:

"The higher minimum wage is a feel-good law. A slight increase will pass because politicians and poverty activists will be able to say they have 'done something' for the poor, while the victims of the policy go unnoticed. Those who can't find jobs because they produce too little are not likely to blame the law or the politicians who tried to 'help' them. Then the resulting unemployment will justify expansion of the welfare state" -- ABC News' John Stossel.

Hat-tip: OpinionJournal Political Diary

But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Have Stossel google "Henry Ford+Minimum Wage+Middle Class"

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 11, 2007 8:42 PM

Saddam's Cat

I fancy ThreeSources to be a place for serious and reasoned debate. Then I post pictures like this:


saddam_cat.gif


From my brother, by email.

Posted by John Kranz at 3:13 PM | What do you think? [1]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

LMAO!

Gotta get this cross-posted!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 11, 2007 8:42 PM

Surging into Iran

Larry Kudlow agrees that the focus of the new strategy and surge is Iran. In The Iranian Card he pulls the relevant quote:

No question now that Iran is squarely in President Bush’s sights.

One of the big pieces in his speech last night was an aggressive warning to Iran:

“We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
This is tough stuff.
Indeed. The same post details "U.S. troops raided Iran’s consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil," "Secretary of State Condi Rice warned Iran this morning that "the United States is not going to simply stand idly by," "another aircraft carrier group is moving into the Persian Gulf," and "the Treasury Department barring Iran’s oldest bank from American financial markets."

All this and a "swabbie" heading CENTCOM. Even the lefty blogs are getting it, tough they're not quite on board as Kudlow is. Meanwhile the MSM seem rather focused on the President's having admitted mistakes. Talk about burying the lede: The President admitted making mistakes in Iraq as he declared war on Iran. This is thought to be the first time he has admitted...

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 1:25 PM

The Surge II

I have been suffering from gross punditry deficiency. My Satellite is still snowed in and can see the local channels but not FOXNews, CNBC (A week without Kudlow & Company", send rations!) I watched the President's Speech last night without the usual fire hose of opinion.

I thought it was a very good speech. Not much rhetorical flourish, but serious and forthright. The troop surge on which all the preliminary punditry focused is likely not the important change. The big change is that the US military is going to be set loose on the Mahdi Army and Sadr militia elements. I know whom I'd bet on.

I like that Bush had nice words for the Baker-Hamilton Commission while he ignores many of their most ridiculous ideas. One of the big strategic changes is the change of CENTCOM Command. Ralph Peters asks and answers:

Why put a swabbie in charge of grunt operations?

There's a one-word answer: Iran.

ASSIGNING a Navy aviator and combat veteran to oversee our military operations in the Persian Gulf makes perfect sense when seen as a preparatory step for striking Iran's nuclear-weapons facilities - if that becomes necessary.

While the Air Force would deliver the heaviest tonnage of ordnance in a campaign to frustrate Tehran's quest for nukes, the toughest strategic missions would fall to our Navy. Iran would seek to retaliate asymmetrically by attacking oil platforms and tankers, closing the Strait of Hormuz - and trying to hit oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.


President Bush is still playing to win and I am not betting against the free world's armed forces.

But johngalt thinks:

No Fox News?! That's the last straw. Prepare your garrison for invasion by mercenary snow troopers from the lawless frontier within 48 hours. (And download the FEMA reimbursement forms off their website.) NOT!

Posted by: johngalt at January 11, 2007 3:28 PM
But jk thinks:

I watched the address on the local Fox affiliate, thinking I might see Misters Kristol and Barnes.

Instead, I got Shepard Smith (whom it's worth canceling cable to avoid) attempting to summarize the speech in three minutes before it started. They were late turning on the President's audio because Smith was blabbering on about the opposition it was getting from Republicans and Democrats.

At the end, he had Rich Lowry and some woman "of the left" whom I did not recognize (UPDATE: Kirsten Powers). The other network broadcasts did no commentary at all after, they went straight to programming.

In short, it was worth it as a sociology experiment. My dish is mounted on the tip of a gable end, on the roof, so it almost never gets snowed out. But when it does, it's not real convenient to brush off.

Posted by: jk at January 11, 2007 4:19 PM
But jk thinks:

Note: the outer planetary snow removal squad (JohnGalt & Dagny) did show up last night at about 2000 hours. My service had come back during the day, so I did not have the satisfaction of sending jg onto the icy roof.

Thanks. Kudlow is back to casa jk and riza. As Steinbeck would say "the world is spinning in greased grooves" once again.

Posted by: jk at January 12, 2007 11:05 AM

The Surge

It begins.

    ABC News has learned that the "surge" Bush is expected to announce in a prime time speech tonight has already begun. Ninety advance troops from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Baghdad Wednesday.

    An additional battalion of roughly 800 troops from the same division are expected to arrive in Baghdad Thursday. Eighty percent of the sectarian violence occurs within a 30-mile radius of Baghdad, so that is where most of the additional troops will be concentrated.


Whoa. 80% within a thirty mile radius? The way it's reported, I thought the whole country was going to shit.

Tip to Dan Riehl.

Iraq Posted by AlexC at 12:19 AM | What do you think? [1]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

To that end,..my only major criticism in promoting General Patraeus is how he "rebuilt Mosul."

Unfortunately, what isn't reported in all of this feel-good news is that Mosul is in the Kurdish north. The Kurds had it good under our "no-fly zones" and still look to the US as an ally against Saddam's Ba'athists.

Cleaning up Mosul's insurgency is nothing compared to what's going on in Baghdad, but I wish the general well.

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 11, 2007 8:47 PM

January 10, 2007

Lawsuit Over AlexC's New Phone

TECHNOLOGY ALERT
from The Wall Street Journal.


Jan. 10, 2007

Cisco sued Apple for trademark infringement over the "iPhone" name Apple chose for its new cellphone, unveiled yesterday. Cisco obtained the iPhone trademark in 2000, and had been in talks with Apple over rights to the name.

"Cisco entered into negotiations with Apple in good faith after Apple repeatedly asked permission to use Cisco's iPhone name," said Mark Chandler, Cisco's general counsel. "There is no doubt that Apple's new phone is very exciting, but they should not be using our trademark without our permission."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, see:
(Paid WSJ Link)

Posted by John Kranz at 6:22 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

Bah, you beat me to it.

Allegedly, all that was left to do were signatures on the paper, and it was a done deal.

If they don't figure it out, it's going to be "Apple Phone" I predict.

To go with "Apple TV"

Posted by: AlexC at January 10, 2007 7:36 PM

Stocks Tumble, Economy Sputters

Perry at Eidelblog finds a couple of news stories that might reasonably be said to skew toward the pessimistic:

Luxury car market surges despite sputtering US economy

And my favorite:
Stocks tumble in early afternoon trading

Said stocks were down a whopping 0.40% -- shades of 1929, huh? The headline was later updated to: "Dow Drops Nearly 7 As Oil Prices Decline" Seven points would be a decline of 0.06%

Can soup lines be far away?

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 3:59 PM

Courage of Conviction

I have implied that MSM sources tend to portray the economy in the worst possible light, whatever the stats.

I will credit Jeff Bater of the Wall Street Journal with being wrong yet consistent. Reporting that U.S. Trade Gap Narrowed To $58.2 Billion in November Bater reports it as good news.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade balance narrowed a third straight month during November, reaching its lowest point since July 2005 in an unexpected decline that could mean a boost for the economy.

I would of course shriek that the "Capital Surplus" is falling. Not that I’d seriously worry about a month's narrowing, but the focus on the trade gap as an important problem is a problem, I hate to see it legitimized.

PJ O'Rourke channels Adam Smith to say "Imports are Christmas morning, exports are January’s VISA bill." I don't see how next quarter's growth will be aided by the fact that we brought fewer goods into the country and exported fewer pictures of Dead Presidents (and Treasury Secretaries, and diplomats).

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 3:24 PM

January 9, 2007

The Ayn Rand "Cult"

Talk about not getting it:

Atlas Shrugged 2: One Hour Later

Not surprisingly, I think this is how dagny expects the new Atlas Shrugged movie to look.

Philosophy Posted by JohnGalt at 4:21 PM | What do you think? [5]
But jk thinks:

One fears that the good folks in Hollywood California -- even with mandated, universal health care -- can pull this movie off.

At the risk of fanning the flames, does the cartoon have a point about comparative advantage?

Posted by: jk at January 9, 2007 4:56 PM
But AlexC thinks:

I heard the movie was going to be a trilogy, shot Lord of the Rings style (all at once, but released separately)

Besides, how did the strikers eat in Galt's Gulch? Surely there was a market of some kind.

(been a while)

Posted by: AlexC at January 9, 2007 5:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Yes, AC, the trilogy or not to trilogy story is referenced in the "Atlas Shrugged Movie" link above.

How did the strikers eat?

"I'll leave you to do it," said Galt, "while I go to the market to get supplies for breakfast."

[...]

He rose to cook the rest of their breakfast. [...] When he put her plate before her, she asked, "Where did you get that food? Do they have a grocery store here?"
"The best one in the world. It's run by Lawrence Hammond."
"What?"
"Lawrence Hammond, of Hammond Cars. The bacon is from the farm of Dwight Sanders—of Sanders Aircraft. The eggs and the butter from Judge Narragansett—of the Superior Court of the State of Illinois."
She looked at her plate, bitterly, almost as if she were afraid to touch it. "It's the most expensive breakfast I'll ever eat, considering the value of the cook's time and of all those others."
"Yes—from one aspect. But from another, it's the cheapest breakfast you'll ever eat—because no part of it has gone to feed the looters who'll make you pay for it through year after year and leave you to starve in the end."
After a long silence, she asked simply, almost wistfully, "What is it that you're all doing here?"
"Living." -Part 3/Chapter 1, Atlantis

And New York City was NOT "on fire:"

There were not many lights on the earth below. The countryside was an empty black sheet, with a few occasional flickers in the windows of some government structures, and the trembling glow of candles in the windows of thriftless homes. Most of the rural population had long since been reduced to the life of those ages when artificial light was an exorbitant luxury, and a sunset put an end to human activity. The towns were like scattered puddles, left behind by a receding tide, still holding some precious drops of electricity, but drying out in a desert of rations, quotas, controls and power-conservation rules.
But when the place that had once been the source of the tide—New York City—rose in the distance before them, it was still extending its lights to the sky, still defying the primordial darkness, almost as if, in an ultimate effort, in a final appeal for help, it were now stretching its arms to the plane that was crossing its sky. Involuntarily, they sat up, as if at respectful attention at the death bed of what had been greatness.
Looking down, they could see the last convulsions: the lights of the cars were darting through the streets, like animals trapped in a maze, frantically seeking an exit, the bridges were jammed with cars, the approaches to the bridges were veins of massed headlights, glittering bottlenecks stopping all motion, and the desperate screaming of sirens reached faintly to the height of the plane. The news of the continent's severed artery had now engulfed the city, men were deserting their posts, trying, in panic, to abandon New York, seeking escape where all roads were cut off and escape was no longer possible.
The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly, with the abruptness of a shudder, as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power stations—and that the lights of New York had gone out.

[...]

They could not see the world beyond the mountains, there was only a void of darkness and rock, but the darkness was hiding the ruins of a continent: the roofless homes, the rusting tractors, the lightless streets, the abandoned rail. But far in the distance, on the edge of the earth, a small flame was waving in the wind, the defiantly stubborn flame of Wyatt's Torch, twisting, being torn and regaining its hold, not to be uprooted or extinguished. It seemed to be calling and waiting for the words John Galt was now to pronounce.
"The road is cleared," said Galt. "We are going back to the world."
He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar. -Part 3/Chapter 10, In the Name of the Best Within Us

Posted by: johngalt at January 11, 2007 2:19 AM
But jk thinks:

Hmm. I think they'd have been better off bringing David Ricardo and a boatful of illegal aliens than to have their most productive citizens stocking shelves and raising livestock.

This is why I am a Rand fan and not an Objectivist. You can't go to the food court of ideas and eat at the Chinese place everyday, even if it's good.

Posted by: jk at January 11, 2007 12:34 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The purpose of hiding out in Galt's Gulch was not to create a replacement society. It was to withold life support from the terminally ill society they abandoned. If they could achieve their greatest potential in the valley they'd have no reason to return. Important reasons to return include natural resources, larger markets and, yes, lower cost labor.

While you're at the "food court of ideas" you'll do well to avoid the pizza place with arsenic in its sauce and the taco stand that garnishes everything with rat poison. With ideas, as with food, follow Heinlein's advice: "Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks." But swallow only food. Learn how to recognize poison and learn why not a single drop must pass your lips.

Posted by: johngalt at January 11, 2007 2:21 PM

Venuzuela, Bolivia, California

What are the three socialist economies in the Western Hemisphere, Alex?

I have a lot of respect for Governor Schwarzenegger and I want to keep an open mind. When Gov. Romney mandated health insurance in the Commonwealth, no less an economic figure than Art Laffer gave him good marks. It only took three seconds for Stephen Moore to get him to admit all the downsides and all the flaws in the Massachusetts plan, but the point was that mandating health insurance has some value because young healthy folk help the risk side of the premium equation, and it provides a clearer funding mechanism for indigent care.

Mandate isn't my favorite word. I liked it in 1984 when President Reagan won a 49-1 election, but its common use as a synonym for coercion falls harshly on the ear. I hope to keep an open mind, but John Fund, writing in Political Diary seems to have made up his mind:

The reaction of leaders of California's political parties neatly sums up the ideological direction of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's new plan to provide health insurance to all Californians by mandating that employers provide it or pay a fee of 4% of their payroll into a government pool.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunes was thrilled that a GOP governor had moved so far in his direction: "This is a plan Assembly Democrats could have written -- and in a lot of ways already did. I'm pleased to see so much in common with the plan I introduced last month," Mr. Nunes announced yesterday.

At the same time, the Republican Assembly leader, Mike Villines, was holding a news conference to denounce the plan put forward by his party's governor. "If we put any form of mandate on a business, we are seeing a jobs tax," he said. "This isn't a philosophical discussion. This is a jobs discussion. This is the difference between employees having a job and a jobs tax that says no to that." Mr. Villines also pointed out that the dramatic expansion of a government mandate flew in the face of the governor's pledges not to raise taxes.

When Governor Schwarzenegger spoke of being a "post partisan" governor in his inaugural address last week, he must have been referring to his increasing habit of changing jerseys with the Democrats and carrying the ball down the field for them.


I think he should at least creativity points for funding health care with a tax on doctors and hospitals. I never would have thought of that.

But johngalt thinks:

Limbaugh just said what I was thinking, far better than I could: "I can explain the Schwarzenegger proposal. It's spelled M-A-R-I-A."

Posted by: johngalt at January 9, 2007 4:41 PM

iPhone

FINALLY!!!!!

1168364877-thumb.jpg

1168364939-thumb.jpg

1168365119-thumb.jpg

I'm relieved I didn't get that Chocolate phone I've been lusting for.

1168365431-thumb.jpg

1168365505-thumb.jpg

... and it's an iPod! Hopefully 80 to 100 Gb.....

The entire cell-phone industry just wet their pants.

But jk thinks:

Yeah, but it would still play the "Newlywed Game" theme all the time. When Apple fixes iTunes, I will trust them with my telephone. Not before.

Posted by: jk at January 9, 2007 1:10 PM
But AlexC thinks:

D'oh! 4gb and 8gb only... and service through Cingular only.

Not going to replace my iPod, though.

They're also looking at a June release.

Posted by: AlexC at January 9, 2007 1:59 PM

Fire the CEO

For a stock chart like this, I'd say the CEO ought to get the chop:

cantv.gif

Andrew Roth at Club for Growth offers this chart on CANTV, a Venezuelan telecom firm that Presidente Chavez decided to nationalize yesterday.

It was traded on the NYSE but Publius suggests it will soon be delisted

Worth 1001 words, that chart is.

Venezuela Posted by John Kranz at 12:22 PM | What do you think? [4]
But AlexC thinks:

It's like Atlas Shrugged, for real.

Posted by: AlexC at January 9, 2007 12:35 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Now might be a good time to invest in the company that manufactures blue helmets.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at January 9, 2007 12:44 PM
But jk thinks:

I wrote a small utility to import existing customers from our support database into our CRM package (yeah, my life is freakin' magic on stilts...) and I just saw CanTV fly by on the console.

A customer of ours. Uh-oh, hope that baby's paid for.

Posted by: jk at January 9, 2007 2:23 PM
But johngalt thinks:

After Monday's precipitous drop VNT traded on Tuesday around $12 a share and rebounded to a steady $14 range yesterday and today. Apparently the market's "freedom dividend" is roughly (20-14)/20 or 30%.

Posted by: johngalt at January 11, 2007 2:27 PM

Open Minds, Open Markets

Alaskan Gold

    A little more than a decade ago, Roger Zack bought a business from a friend and began making products from what he calls one of Alaska's most underappreciated natural resources: moose droppings.

    Zack has three "grades" of moose droppings. One is used to make lip chap, while another is large enough to be drilled.

    "Most all other nuggets are what we call ‘jewelry class,' or ‘gems of the north,'" he said.

    It's a gem of an idea that Zack keeps mining for laughs.

    "It won't heal your lips, but it keeps you from licking them," Zack said of the lip chap.


I see these things in the airport all the time. They looked about the right size, but I didn't think they were real.

Now for that gift list....

Economics and Markets Posted by AlexC at 12:41 AM

January 8, 2007

For the Boys

over there...

Stick that in your burqa.

h/t Ace

But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Hel-l-l-lo-o-o-o!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 9, 2007 9:17 PM

Brave New World

January 8, 2007 Anno Domini. Let the record show that jk left the house and went to lunch.

The last time I got further than my driveway was December 18, 2006: three weeks ago. I actually was dug out last week but found complacency and didn't go anywhere, then we got 15" additional accumulation last weekend. Yesterday I dug the car out and today it was too nice to stay home.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:15 PM | What do you think? [5]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

YOU dug yourself out? You mean you didn't wait for the National Guard and FEMA to air drop provisions to your abode?

Hmmm,..imagine that!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 8, 2007 8:47 PM
But jk thinks:

Brownie didn't get us, but I can't celebrate self-sufficiency either. My neighbor did my walks and family members dug the driveway. When I say
dug myself out" that is only clearing off the car. I owe a lot of people big time.

Posted by: jk at January 8, 2007 10:49 PM
But AlexC thinks:

When you got outside did the sun burn your eyes?

Seriously, i had no idea you were actually stuck in the house.

Posted by: AlexC at January 8, 2007 11:14 PM
But jk thinks:

There were a couple of days each week when I certainly could have gone somewhere if I had to. Between owning the world's worst snow car and being pretty unstable on my feet, it's better to live a virtual existence for a bit.

First year of my life I've ever paid attention to the TV weather folk (meteorologists with nice hair). They're predicting another foot this weekend with subzero temps.

Hey, SugarChuck, take that SUV of yours for a little spin -- we're freezing!

Posted by: jk at January 9, 2007 11:29 AM
But sugarchuck thinks:

Hey JK, I am doing my best to put on the miles. My daughters blame me for ending snow days, but my goal is to have banana trees lining the driveway and to trade the Christmas trees in on a membership in the citrus growers guild. Enough trips into town and we'll be buying oceanfront property on the Gulf of Iowa! Global Warming Rocks!

Posted by: sugarchuck at January 9, 2007 6:44 PM

Judith Miller

Patrick Fitzgerald's trial of Scooter Libby is set to begin this month, assuming anyone can still remember what this case is all about. Oh, yes, Mr. Fitzgerald is prosecuting Mr. Libby for lying in order to . . . well, we're still waiting to hear a motive for this alleged perjury to cover up a leak that wasn't a crime. But perhaps the prosecutor will come up with something.
One does forget l'Affaire WilsonPlameScooterGate, but the Wall Street Journal brings up a forgotten point. (Paid link, sorry!) NYTimes reporter Judith Miller was denied her liberty for 85 days. At the time, I wasn't in the mood to get all lachrymose over a Times reporter. "Is there room for MoDo and Krugman in the cell?' Admit it, you thought so too.

Now that we know what Fitzgerald knew and when he knew it (I swear I'll never use that phrase again), it is unconscionable that he jailed Ms. Miller. The Wall Street Journal joins AP in a lawsuit to expose documentation of his motion to compel two reporters to testify.

Dow Jones, which owns this newspaper, and the AP are also requesting that the court now release all of the redacted parts of Judge David Tatel's 2005 concurring opinion in the D.C. Circuit ruling that compelled the reporters to testify. Responding to an earlier DJ-AP motion, the court released part of the redacted eight pages in early 2006. But it held back the rest, as well as Mr. Fitzgerald's affidavits in the case, because the prosecutor insisted his investigation was continuing.

That was a stretch even then, but it's certainly no longer true. Mr. Fitzgerald months ago told the lawyer for Karl Rove that the senior White House aide will not be indicted. And more to the point of Mr. Fitzgerald's wild newspaper source chase, we learned last summer that neither Mr. Libby nor Mr. Rove was the original source of the leak of CIA analyst Valerie Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak. As the Dow Jones-AP motion points out, "The public now knows that the Special Counsel [Mr. Fitzgerald] knew the identity of that leaker -- Richard Armitage, the former Deputy Secretary of State -- from the very beginning of his investigation."

Finding the leaker was Mr. Fitzgerald's main charge from the Justice Department, so why did he keep pursuing reporters with such hyper-zeal for another two years?


I mean, who does he think he is -- the Durham DA?

Posted by John Kranz at 12:16 PM

January 7, 2007

What's behind the "religion of peace"

Many, myself included, believed that American appeasment of mideastern terrorists began with the Iranian hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Examination of this historical timeline shows that it began at least as early as July 26, 1956.

7/26/56 Suez Canal nationalized; Egypt blockades Straits of Tiran. France, Britain and Israel take the canal. US pressures them to withdraw (November).

This wasn't, however, the worst example of surrender on the part of America's government, nor was the aforementioned hostage crisis. But this one is in the running.

(I can't effectively excerpt this article. There's just too much valid information. I have copied it all to "continue reading" to make sure it doesn't get lost.)

Is it too late to try President Nixon for treason?

Hat tip: Dr. John Lewis

Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2007 / 12 Teves, 5766

With the quiet release of a 33-year-old US State Department cable, a good chunk of the edifice of the longest-running big lie was destroyed

By Caroline B. Glick





Time for world to admit it was duped to the tune of billions of dollars


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Yasser Arafat was a master of the big lie. Since he invented global terrorism with the founding of the Fatah terror organization in 1959, Arafat successfully portrayed himself as a freedom fighter while introducing the world to passenger jet hijackings, schoolhouse massacres and embassy takeovers.


To cultivate the myth of his innocence Arafat ordered his Fatah terror cells to operate under pseudonyms. In the early 1970's he renamed several Fatah murder squads the Black September Organization while publicly claiming that they were "breakaway" units completely unrelated to Fatah or to himself.


In 2000, as he launched the current Palestinian jihad, he repeated the process by renaming Fatah terror cells the Aksa Martyr Brigades and then claiming that they were completely unrelated to Fatah or to himself. This fiction too, has been successful in spite of the fact that all Aksa Martyr Brigades terrorists are members of Fatah and most are members of Palestinian Authority official militias who receive their salaries, guns and marching orders from Fatah.


Last week, with the quiet release of a 33-year-old US State Department cable, a good chunk of the edifice of his great lie was destroyed.



ON MARCH 1, 1973, eight Fatah terrorists, operating under the Black September banner stormed the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan during a farewell party for the US Embassy's Charges d'Affaires George Curtis Moore. The terrorists took Moore, US ambassador Cleo Noel, Belgian Charges d'Affairs Guy Eid and two Arab diplomats hostage. They demanded that the US, Israel, Jordan and Germany release PLO and Baader-Meinhof Gang terrorists, including Robert F. Kennedy's Palestinian assassin Sirhan Sirhan and Black September commander Muhammed Awadh (Abu Daud), from prison in exchange for the hostages' release.


The next evening, the Palestinians brutally murdered Noel, Moore, and Eid. They released their other hostages on March 4.


Arafat denied any involvement in the attack. The US officially accepted his denial. Yet, as he later publicly revealed, James Welsh, who served at the time of the attack as an analyst at the National Security Agency, intercepted a communication from Arafat, then headquartered in Beirut to his terror agents in Khartoum ordering the attack.


In 1986, as evidence of Arafat's involvement in the operation became more widely known, more and more voices began calling for Arafat to be investigated for murder. As the New York Sun's online blog recalled last week, during that period, Britain's Sunday Times reported that 44 US senators sent a letter to then US attorney-general Edwin Meese, "urging the American government to charge the PLO chief with plotting the murders of two American diplomats in 1973."


The article went on to note that the Justice Department's interest in pursuing the matter was making senior State Department officials uneasy: "State Department diplomats, worried that murder charges against Arafat would anger the United States' friends in the Arab world, are urging the Justice Department to drop the investigation."


As late as 2002, in spite of President George W. Bush's pointed refusal to meet with Arafat, the State Department continued to protest his innocence. At the time, Scott Johnson, a Minneapolis attorney and one of the authors of the popular Powerlineblog weblog, inquired into the matter with the State Department's Near Eastern Affairs Bureau. In an emailed response from the bureau's deputy director of press affairs Gregory Sullivan, Johnson was told, "Evidence clearly points to the terrorist group Black September as having committed the assassinations of Amb. Noel and George Moore, and though Black September was a part of the Fatah movement, the linkage between Arafat and this group has never been established."


So it was that for 33 years, under seven consecutive presidential administrations, the State Department denied any knowledge of involvement by Arafat or Fatah in the execution of its own people.


Until last week.



THE CABLE released by the State Department's historian states, "The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, (PLO), and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy."


Although clearly skilled in the art of deception, Arafat could never have succeeded in creating and prolonging his fictions and with them, his crimes, without the cooperation of the US government and the media.

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In this vein, the release of the State Department cable raises two daunting questions. First, how is it possible that the belated admission of a massive 33 year cover-up of the murder of senior American diplomats spanning the course of seven consecutive presidential administrations has been ignored by the US media? A Google news search for Cleo Noel brought up but a handful of stories - none of which were reported by the major news networks or national newspapers.


On the face of it, the released cable, which calls into question the very foundation of US Middle East policy for the past generation is simply stunning. The cable concludes, "The Khartoum operation again demonstrated the ability of the BSO to strike where least expected. The open participation of Fatah representatives in Khartoum in the attack provides further evidence of the Fatah/BSO relationship. The emergence of the United States as a primary fedayeen target indicates a serious threat of further incidents similar to that which occurred in Khartoum."


The media's silence on the issue does not merely raise red flags abut their objectivity. By not availing the American public to the knowledge that Fatah and the PLO have been specifically targeting Americans for 33 years, the media has denied the American people basic knowledge of the world in which they live.


The media's abject refusal to cover the story raises an even more egregious aspect of the episode. Specifically, what does the fact that under seven consecutive administrations, the US government has covered up Arafat's direct responsibility for the murder of American diplomats while placing both Arafat and Fatah at the center of its Middle East policy, say about the basic rationale of US policy towards Israel and the Palestinians? What would US Middle East policy looked like, and what would have been the results for US, and international security as a whole, if rather than advancing a policy that made Arafat the most frequent foreign visitor to the White House during the Clinton administration, the US had demanded his extradition and tried him for murder?


How many lives would have been saved if the US had not been intent on upholding Arafat's big lie? How would such a US policy have impacted the subsequent development of sister terror organizations like Hizbullah, al-Qaida and Hamas, all of which were founded by members of Arafat's terror industry?


Sadly, the release of the cable did not in any way signal a change in the US policy of whitewashing Fatah. In contravention of US law, for the past 13 years, the State Department has been denying that Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority are terrorist organizations, and has been actively funding them with US taxpayer dollars.


This policy went on, unchanged even after Fatah gunmen murdered three US embassy employees in Gaza in October 2003. This policy continues, unchanged still today, as Fatah's current leader, Arafat's deputy of 40 years Mahmoud Abbas works to form a unity government with Hamas. Indeed, the central component of the US's policy towards the Palestinians today is the goal of strengthening Fatah by arming, training and funding its Force 17 terror militia.


In a November 14, 2006 interview on Palestinian television, Ahmed Hales Abu Maher who serves as Secretary of Fatah in Gaza, bragged of Fatah's role in the development of international terrorism. In his words, reported by Palestinian Media Watch, "Oh warrior brothers, this is a nation that will never be broken, it is a revolution that will never be defeated. This is a nation that gives an example every day that is imitated across the world. We gave the world the children of the RPG [Rocket Propelled Grenades], we gave the world the children stone [-throwers], and we gave the world the male and female Martyrdom-Seekers [suicide bombers]."


Imagine what the world would have looked like if, rather than clinging to Arafat's big lie that he and his Fatah terror organization were central components of Middle East peace, the US had captured and tried Arafat for murdering its diplomats and worked steadily to destroy Fatah.


Imagine how our future would look if rather than stealthily admitting the truth, while trusting the media not to take notice, the US government were to base its current policies on the truth, and the media were to reveal this truth to the world.

But jk thinks:

Both Natan Sharansky and Christopher Hitchens refer in their books to mock war crimes trials for Henry Kissinger. Toss in Nixon -- and Dulles for his role in the Suez Canal if you want.

The real trouble is not that they weren't tried, the problem is that their intellectual progeny fill the State Department, MSM and Washington "establishment" thinking. Arabist, detente, realist appeasers are the flavor of the month.

President Bush was brave and true to reject and oppose this thinking but the seconds are ticking off the clock. If Iraq does not improve soon, the Scrowcroft-Zbrenski axis of appeasement will claim they were right all along, and America will not act again for freedom in any of our lifetimes.

Posted by: jk at January 8, 2007 11:26 AM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

I'll have to cross-post this!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 8, 2007 8:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Now THAT'S a reaction I can celebrate! Thanks Medic!

Posted by: johngalt at January 9, 2007 4:13 PM

Between Creation and Destruction

The events of this infant new year have already given us plenty of opportunities to ponder the imponderable:
- A popular young football star was murdered on New Year's Eve, most likely by urban gang member(s) for "dissin'" them.
- The "endangered" status of a growing Polar Bear population has been cited as further justification for anti-industrialization measures in the U.S.
- The motives and deductive reasoning abilities of a starving rap-metal band's lyricist have been questioned for declaring "Open Season" on murderous Muslim hate mongers.
- A spokesman (err, spokeswoman) [excuse me: "spokesperson"] for non-profit group PETA declared cattle and wild animals whose lives are threatened by Colorado's blizzard "not worth saving" because "in six months they're going to be killed and end up on someone's plate" and "it's an act of God" respectively.

Believe it or not, there is a philosophical theme that runs through all these events: In each case, the motive of the actor can be plotted on a scale between creation and destruction: (Where creation is 10 and destruction is 0.)

The gang-banger destroys human life without pause in order to create some sort of personal "rep." - Zero

Penalize business and redistribute wealth to create an illusion of helping wild animals. - Zero

Popular musicians glorify the destruction of hate filled, religiously inspired murderers to create peace and liberty. - Ten

An animal "welfare" advocate blithely dismisses efforts to create conditions for survival of untold thousands of animals while reserving financial resources for efforts to destroy commercial enterprises that create animal life for productive use. - Zero

As you can see, all of my rankings are either 0 or 10. As with the scale between freedom and tyranny, the continuum from creation to destruction calls for one thing: Extremism. There is no such thing as "too free" or "too creative." I submit that these are the true scales upon which events, ideas, politicians - everything - should be judged. Not left or right, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. It is more practical (and desirable) to maximize freedom and creation than to balance between two opposing styles of minimizing them.

Philosophy Posted by JohnGalt at 6:23 PM | What do you think? [4]
But jk thinks:

I suppose I get a zero for daring to question the motives and deductive reasoning capabilities of a starving rap-metal band (not sure the band's success or lack thereof is not exogenous to my critique). Pardon me if I take a little personal umbrage, but I have been lumped in a wall of shame with the likes of PETA, urban gangs, and the Department of the Interior.

After such shame, I'm sure you'll see the valor in my defending myself. By grading everything a zero or a ten, jg, you expose the millenarian and utopian characteristics that have frightened me away from the Objectivist camp. Though we share many ideas -- I'll not defend anyone else who "took a thumpin'" in your post -- the absolutism that is so prized as moral integrity within the Objectivist community turns me off. The Jacobins and Bolsheviks were committed to ideological purity as well. They weren't afraid to break eggs to make an omelet as it were.

Whittaker Chambers famously said in his NR review of "Atlas Shrugged" that the subtext was "to the gas chambers, go..." I never got that from the author herself but I get it loud and clear from Tracinski and Peikoff.

I've always admired your pragmatism that you have seen the GOP at its best as advancing the ideas of liberty. I hope that's not an insult -- does that make you a nine?

Peace, brother.

Posted by: jk at January 8, 2007 11:13 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Alas, I see you missed the point.

Posted by: johngalt at January 8, 2007 3:01 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Last night I learned that dagny found my response to your reply "rude." I have to say that wasn't my intention. I was merely disappointed that you don't appear to grasp the distinction between subjective and objective scales of measurement.

Perhaps I was subconsciously manipulated into rudeness by your suggestion (with the "gas chambers" quip) that I, along with Tracinski and Peikoff, endorse mass murder. (Speaking of missing points - monumental ones at that.)

I have more time today to respond, and more incentive as my better half is not yet satisfied with my performance. Here goes:

There's nothing wrong with questioning anything, as long as you listen to the answer and make a rational judgement about it. I ranked Stuck Mojo's lyrics a ten. The concomitant zero goes to "hate filled, religiously inspired murderers."

Your equation of Objectivists with Jacobins and Bolsheviks on the basis of "ideological purity" is many things (a listing of which I shall defer) but it certainly is not valid. It's analog is to equate Mahatma Gandhi with Charles Manson because neither wore shoes.

To the man who is "turned off" by absolutism I ask, is there nothing in which you value the absolute? For example, could there ever be too few rapes or murders or abortions in the world?

The moral integrity of Objectivists you so misunderstand comes not from simple absolutism, applied to every idea, but from holding as an absolute value man's life in general (and his own life in particular as the highest value) and an abolute refusal to allow inconsistent values and beliefs to hold a place in his mind. Are these such objectionable premises?

If a man's own life is his highest value the he can't improve it by imposing suffering upon himself to improve the life of another. If this is true for him then it is also true for all men, making compulsive altruism tantamount to murder.

Men who believe this aren't sending other men "to the gas chamber" nor even inviting them to go. But the men who DON'T believe this do precisely that.

And my point, the original point which I suggested you fail to grasp, is that everything - events, ideas, politicians - should be judged on an objective scale of man's right to his own life. In this way man's inate right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness may be advanced. Subjective scales lead to disagreement, compromise and stagnation, and leave the door open to tyranny.

Ironically, your invocation of Whittaker Chambers illustrates exactly the obstacle which prevents many, Buckleyites at least, from doing so - atheismophobia. (fourth paragraph)

Posted by: johngalt at January 9, 2007 4:12 PM
But jk thinks:

Your "alas" comment induced a little eye-rolling but I probably deserved it. My words were strong but they were not spoken in anger. The point is that Jacobins had some good ideas and intentions (though I'll take the Objectivists on economics) but their utopian objectives made the ends justify all means.

There are times to not be subjective but there are also times for a little humility. Supreme righteousness puts me off, whether it comes from Pat Robertson or Dr. Piekoff. I remember the latter on Bill O'Reilly's show calling for nuclear strikes in the Mideast before the liberation of Iraq had begun.

Can there be too few murders? Some would call Saddam Hussein's execution murder. I'm glad there was not one fewer of those. Abortions? Nobody who frequents this blog shares the same view of abortion. Even rape has some fuzzy margins with married, committed, generally consensual couples.

You attempted to pick three easy ones and could not find what I'd call an absolute. What about freedom? I favor drug legalization and recall you do not. Right to assert American interest overseas? You and I may be close but there would be much principled and intelligent opposition.

Ones and zeros have been the keys to my success in the professional world but there are shades of grey in governance And I will continue to be distrustful of those who do not see them.

Posted by: jk at January 10, 2007 6:54 PM

What Can Brown Do for You?

We love to shop online. Living on a farm and spending most of our time in town doing the ol' 9 to 5, it's incredibly convenient to point and click and have our "must haves" show up on the back porch some predictable number of days later. It also has a nostalgic element as I imagine my grandfather ordering from the Sears catalog decades ago.

Online tracking services make the experience even better. Until there's a blizzard the week before Christmas.

I don't begrudge UPS having delivery delays during the storm of the century. Particularly out here where the roads were frequently impassable.

I don't even really fault them for sending their employees home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, despite the fact postal carriers worked both of those days to help make Santa Claus proud.

What I do hold them accountable for is the gall or incompetence or both to tell a customer (me) on Saturday that my packages were "on the truck for delivery today" and then, when they didn't arrive, to tell that same customer (still me) that all UPS facilities were closed and that "only air shipments were delivered yesterday."

Had they told me this on Saturday I'd have driven to their distribution center to retrieve the items myself. Perhaps they consciously decided to lie to people to discourage throngs of angry Santa's helpers arriving on their doorstep. Who knows.

What I do know is that the week before Christmas is for shipping companies what the day after Thanksgiving is for retailers. It's their Super Bowl. It's their chance to rise to the occasion and demonstrate their commitment to customer service and to win customer loyalty for life. As far as I'm concerned, UPS laid an egg.

Now my occasions for yelling at the television aren't limited to pick-pocketing politicians, they also include UPS commercials.

What can Brown do for me? "Go to jail. Go directly to jail. If you pass Go, do NOT collect $200."

Rant Posted by JohnGalt at 5:52 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

And yet you are not coerced to support Brown with your tax dollars nor compelled to use it for letter delivery.

I order everything online as well, I was going to give a leg up to UPS through the triumvirate blizzard. They came a few times in very bad weather, USPS missed several days. A different scale but they have different jobs.

Posted by: jk at January 8, 2007 11:38 AM

January 6, 2007

Better Than Christmas

If my training comes back to me, today is the celebration of the Epiphany, when the three kings made it to the manger and brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Today, my United States Postal Service mail carrier got sick of my stuffed mailbox and brought our packages to the door (complete with a heapin' helpin' of disapprobation). Perhaps my postman is a wise man -- he made some wise cracks about my failures to collect the wonders that he provides.

I got both Christmas presents I had bought myself (thanks, Santa!) and a CD I had ordered on SugarChuck's suggestion. Very cool. I'm ready to be snowed in another week.

Posted by John Kranz at 3:08 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

Tough choice, but I set Professor Reynolds down and started with PJ O’Rourke. I'm just a small way in to a short book but I would say he is on top of his game. He's got the brains to do the intellectual lifting which is required, yet his humor shines through on every page.

Deepak Lal spends some time in "Reviving the Invisible Hand" squaring seemed inconsistencies between Wealth of Nations" and Smith's earlier "Moral Sentiments." O’Rourke stitches them together.

Buy it.

Posted by: jk at January 7, 2007 1:05 PM

January 5, 2007

What a Lousy Country

Iran insists that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is not dead. Cuba asserts that el Jefe will live to further ruin the Caribbean’s greatest potential economy.

Why were we so quick to admit that President Ford had died?

Posted by John Kranz at 6:31 PM

100 Hours

Well this didn't take very long.

    Opponents of oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge are going on the offense after playing defense for a quarter of a century. They want the new Democratic Congress to make an oft-challenged drilling ban permanent.

    Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives on Friday would make the oil-rich 1.2 million-acre (490,000 hectares) coastal strip of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a permanently protected wilderness and end repeated efforts to open the area east of the Prudhoe oil field to energy companies.

    "The consensus is that there should not be drilling in the refuge, so the logical next step is to pass legislation which turns it into a wilderness," Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and chief sponsor of the legislation, said in an interview.


He's introduced it before, but with Democrat majorities, it's going to be a lot easier.

But johngalt thinks:

If there's a consensus that there should not be drilling in the - ahem - "refuge" then why must further debate be prohibited? Could it be that Democrats are afraid that, one day, the consensus could be different? How much more proof does one need that Democrats value democracy only when the majority happens to support their priorities?

And just what is the difference between a "refuge" and a "wilderness" anyway?

Posted by: johngalt at January 6, 2007 12:20 PM

36

I find myself in good company.

As seen on Instapundit.

Posted by AlexC at 5:51 PM | What do you think? [8]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Geez,..I only got a 27!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 5, 2007 7:44 PM
But jk thinks:

Communist.

Posted by: jk at January 6, 2007 11:24 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Actually, it looks like Medic is not a communist, but a George Bushite (Sr.). Meanwhile, JK is Jack Kemp (an eerie coincidence) and AC is a really mean Bob Dole.

Me? Reagan. Yep, I scored a "perfect" 40. But I did so by picking the answers I knew were the "more conservative" choice.

But the quiz is flawed. In the five "who do you trust more" questions about government agencies there should have been a "none" option. I'd have scored better than Ronnie!

Posted by: johngalt at January 6, 2007 12:34 PM
But jk thinks:

Yes, this test is deeply flawed.

JG: I think that you and I took this test many years ago when we were working together. I remember that I equaled Jack Kemp and you Reagan. And 40 being the "perfect" score sticks out as well. Ring a bell?

Posted by: jk at January 6, 2007 1:40 PM
But Everyday Economist thinks:

Wow. I must be considered a real lefty. I scored a 25.

I did, however, have some problems about the questions.

For example, "Even if it means cutting programs, spending must be cut to reduce the federal deficit." The choices are agree or disagree, but what if one does not believe that the deficit needs to be reduced? Where is the option of growth? I suppose the question would have been better if it asked whether the budget should be balanced with reduced spending or increased taxes.

I also had problems with the "Who do you trust?" section. The comparisons in that section were laughable. I have never considered whether the postal service or the pentagon is more trustworthy prior to this quiz.

Posted by: Everyday Economist at January 6, 2007 4:55 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Well, the test WAS for fun. Especially the part where JK was called a hippie. Nice!

Dagny insisted I retake the test choosing answers that agreed with my beliefs, which compelled me to not answer any of the "trusting government" ones. My "real" score: A nice round 30. Jack Kemp. More liberal than JK.

Like I said, JUST for fun.

I didn't have any problem with the example question you cited EE. When it said, "Even if it means cutting programs..." it didn't matter what came after that. I'm choosing YES.

Posted by: johngalt at January 6, 2007 5:19 PM

And The FDA Tests It

Andrew Roth suggests three important viewpoints on the new diet medication for dogs.

  • As a testament to our country's unrivaled prosperity, there is actually a market for this drug.

  • Pfizer, a leading drug company for humans, recognized this market and created the drug to meet the demand.

  • When should we expect the new Democratic Congress to propose a new Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit for Dogs bill (Medicare Part E?).

I'd have to add #4:
  • We need to have a Federal Agency regulate and approve these compounds.

Celebrate our economy, but fear for the Republic.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 4:46 PM

Behind Every Silver Lining

One of the best things about the very disappointing 2006 elections was that NY AG Elliot Spitzer was elected to Governor of the State of New York. The man terrifies me, but I thought that he could do less damage to me personally as Governor, than as the man who was willing to kill New York's financial industry to become Governor. (Samizdata suggests statues of Senator Sarbanes, Rep. Oxley, and Spitzer to celebrate their part in bringing IPOs to London).

John Fund, in Opinion Journal Political Diary suggests that I might end up missing the security of the frying pan:

Andrew Cuomo, the son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and the state's new attorney general, certainly has a different conception of his office from the traditional one. Following on the activist heels of his predecessor Eliot Spitzer -- now the state's governor -- Mr. Cuomo has announced he is naming top deputies to be in charge of "social justice" and "economic justice." Never before have such offices been created in any state attorney general's office.

Mr. Cuomo's move is a clear sign he plans to align himself with a wing of the Democratic Party that has adopted such loaded terms as a cover for a philosophy of redistribution and class warfare. As the late Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek noted, social justice is in the eye of the beholder. When that beholder is the top prosecutor for the state, with the power of prosecutorial discretion at his disposal, citizens should grab their wallets and their liberties, because both may be in jeopardy.


Make room for four statues, Perry!

Posted by John Kranz at 1:48 PM

Satellite Radio?

I shared my appreciation for XM radio on this blog as well as when I reduced and cancelled. I told my brother-in-law that I had cancelled and he said that most all the people he knew who got it had cancelled. I was surprised, I thought my case sui generis.

Reading between the lines in this WSJ.com piece I suspect some serious (sirius?) problems going forward.

XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., the country's largest satellite-radio provider, said Friday it ended 2006 with more than 7.6 million customers as it netted 442,000 new subscribers during the fourth quarter.

Analysts were modestly disappointed with the subscriber number, but said it reflected an overall soft retail market for satellite radios. Instead, investors looked ahead to the potential for a merger of XM and fierce rival Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. The possibility of combining the competitors has been talked about for months, but regulatory hurdles may prove onerous.

Sirius, a later entrant in the market for satellite radio, said earlier in the week it had more than six million subscribers at the end of 2006, and the company has been rapidly closing the subscriber gap with XM. The company rattled investors last month, however, when it cut subscriber targets after early holiday sales weren't meeting expectations.


The only hope is to have the two competitors merge. This would lengthen "the tail" and allow them to provide more diverse content and a stronger hardware position.
David Bank, an analyst at RBC Capital, said the subscriber numbers for both Sirius and XM were slightly softer than expected, but reflected dwindling importance of retail sales for satellite radios. Mr. Bank said the keys are a potential merger and the race to push satellite radio sales to car makers, where XM has a lead over Sirius.

"The next real game changer is going to be whether or not from a regulatory perspective, these companies are going to merge," Mr. Bank said. He has a "buy" rating on XM.


I cannot imagine getting approval for such a merger in the 110th. Democratic committee chairs and TR Republicans are not going to allow a monopoly in Satellite Radio. Even though, as usual, the FTC is not capable of seeing whom a firm or technology actually competes against. I don't think I'd buy.

Posted by John Kranz at 11:56 AM

January 4, 2007

Likely Not True

But it came in an email...


    This text is from a county emergency manager out in the central part of Colorado after last week's snowstorm.

    WEATHER BULLETIN

    Up here, in the Northern Plains, we just recovered from a Historic event--- may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" --- with a historic blizzard of up to 44" inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.

    FYI:
    George Bush did not come.
    FEMA did nothing.
    No one howled for the government.
    No one blamed the government.
    No one even uttered an expletive on TV.
    Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit.
    Our Mayor did not blame Bush or anyone else.
    Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else, either.
    CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC did not visit - or report on this category 5 snowstorm.
    Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.
    No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House.
    No one looted.
    Nobody - I mean Nobody demanded the government do something.
    Nobody expected the government to do anything, either.
    No Larry King, No Bill O'Reilly, No Oprah, No Chris Matthews and No Geraldo Rivera.
    No Shaun Penn, No Barbara Striesand, No Hollywood types to be found.

    Nope, we just melted the snow for water.
    Sent out caravans of SUV's to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars.
    The truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn't ask for a penny.
    Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snowbound families.
    Families took in the stranded people -- total strangers.
    We fired up wood stoves, broke out coal oil lanterns or Coleman lanterns.
    We put on extra layers of clothes because up here it is "Work or Die."
    We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for 'sittin at home' checks.

    Even though a Category "5" blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early, we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves.

    "In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 48 degrees North Latitude, 90% of the world's social problems evaporate."

    It does seem that way, at least to me.

    I hope this gets passed on.

    Maybe SOME people will get the message. The world does Not owe you a living.

But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Alex,..it may not be true, but the bullet points sure hit the mark.

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 4, 2007 9:00 PM
But jk thinks:

Can you send Brownie out here? We got another 6-8" overnight and it's still coming down. Oh boy, more snow. It's lovely.

Them Northern folk are tough. Sadly, I saw on the news that some Southern Colorado ranchers have sent a letter to President Bush calling for more help.

This is on top of a Colorado National Guard program to feed stranded cattle. Thirty five hundred have starved to death and I don't mean to ignore the ranchers' plight. Over time, people just expect government help. Its corrosive effects are spreading into more independent members of society.

Posted by: jk at January 5, 2007 11:06 AM
But johngalt thinks:

A couple of corrections:

There were plenty of people, mostly (but not all) city dwellers, who DID demand that the government do something - plow the roads. But that's only because - IT's THEIR JOB.

And if this really came from central Colorado the writer must have meant the 38th parallel, not the 48th. The 40th runs through Boulder, CO and the 47th, I believe, through Seattle, WA. 48th is "great white north" country.

I will defend ranchers though. They really do need help because none of them can afford to own snow cats and helicopters year round to deal with these once a decade type storms. Would I rather trade my income tax bill for being left "on my own" in these situations? You bet. In a heartbeat. But as JK reminds, "we're not going back to the 19th Century."

Posted by: johngalt at January 5, 2007 3:12 PM

Shut Up, They Explained

Perry at Eidelblog is not joining Senator Collins, Senator Rockefeller, the British Royal Society, and USA Today in whacking ExxonMobil for supporting think tanks which dare to doubt the DAWG.

The whole post is well worth a read: Thomas Jefferson is quoted, as is Craig Bohren, professor emeritus at Penn State, who points out the advantages in funding and stature to be gained by perpetuating the scare.

Perry's summation captures the important difference:

Consider all the dollars, i.e. Other People's Money, that the government "grants" to scientists who study climate change and alternative fuels. You tell me which is worse: to have private companies fund studies -- no matter how misleading -- that support their industry, or to feed people propaganda that was paid for by their coerced tax dollars? No matter how much each side pressures me, the real sin is when I am forcibly compelled to fund a study which I may not believe.

For that reason, I personally am not as concerned with how much ExxonMobil and other oil companies give to anyone. If I suspect they're doing things with their revenue that I don't like, then I am perfectly free to deny them my business. On the other hand, it's pretty hard for me to do that with Albany and Washington, D.C.


It would be nice if USA Today worried as much about how Washington DC and Albany spend money as it does about ExxonMobil.


Left & Right

The New Anger on the political left is a must read.

But johngalt thinks:

When I first read the predictable suggestion that libertarian (note, little "L") voters might realign with Dems instead of the GOP I was skeptical. "They don't just have inconsistent values like Republicans do, they're completely irrational on top of that," I observed.

I was amused to read Peter Wood's attribution of "argumentative, sarcastic and rude" as artifacts of the monumental (my word) contribution of Ayn Rand to libertarian thought. [I can't over emphasize how important it is not to confuse Ayn Rand and the Objectivists she influenced with Libertarians. Rand called Libertarians "hippies" for their anything goes attitude.] I can certainly understand how someone who bases their beliefs on inconsistent values and premises would feel that an intensely rational and consistent person is argumentative and, if prolonged debate ensues, ultimately sarcastic and even perceptably rude.

What Peter Wood describes as "New Anger" is an inescapable result of "decision by feeling" (or thinking with one's "heart"). Objecting to libertarians and their arguments on the grounds that they make dissenters feel bad is another result from the same cause.

I am thankful, however, for the refreshing introspection this article precipitated into how I am perceived on these pages!

"ASR"-ly yours, johngalt

Posted by: johngalt at January 4, 2007 3:39 PM
But jk thinks:

Good Article. I was going to make a small point, but Rick Brookhiser makes it better

Our politics was so mild mannered in 1800 that we shot and killed people, including two signers of the Constitution (Richard Spaight 1802, Alexander Hamilton 1804). Or consider the rhetoric attending the Sally Hemings affair. What though she by the glands secretes, Must I stand, shilly-shally? Tucked up between a pair of sheets, There's no perfume like Sally.
Posted by: jk at January 4, 2007 7:28 PM
But AlexC thinks:

JohnGalt, don't be an ASRhole,(just kidding). I too, was skeptical about the union, only because my ASR Libertarian friends rail against government programs more than anything else. "Government schools" they call them. They're on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Totally. To me, it was a non-starter.

Posted by: AlexC at January 4, 2007 7:46 PM
But jk thinks:

AC: Thanks, I was working on an ARSEHOLE acronym but I am still worn out from DAWG.

JG: In good conscience, I cannot defend you against the charge of being argumentative, but none of us come here for the free beer. You are neither rude nor sarcastic.

I posted about the Lindsey piece when it came out. Realignment is a pet hobby of mine. I don't think it is philosophically impossible, I just feel that many of the entrenched Democratic constituencies will not allow the party to embrace more libertarian policy.

This discussion, however, shows why libs will never be an important voting block. The Objectivists think the Libertarians are "hippies," Small-government conservatives find the Objectivists A-S-R, Jonathan Chait liberals can't even talk to Friedmanite* liberals.

By polls, we're 9-16% of the electorate at the high side and we cannot point the small minority in the same direction. Contrast this to Unions, environmentalists and some minority groups who will choose a side, line up and deliver.

* Friedmanite. This is my new one word description for my political philosophy.

Posted by: jk at January 5, 2007 11:23 AM

Haste Makes Waste

Opinion Journal looks at the Democrats rush to get things done in the first 100 hours and their motivations for doing so.

Namely, their ideas won't stand up to scrutiny.

    The need for scrutiny is even more compelling on price controls for Medicare prescription drugs. Under the Medicare Part D benefit that took effect last year, private companies negotiate prices. Democrats want to allow the government to deal directly with drug companies. They argue that this would lead to lower prices for medicines, but the more likely outcome is fewer drug choices and price controls.

    Democrats point to the Department of Veteran Affairs as a model, but we doubt seniors will like that story when they learn about it. The government already negotiates drug prices directly with the VA. But as Robert Goldberg wrote last month in The Weekly Standard, "Far from negotiating prices, the VA imposes them. Federal law requires companies to sell to the VA at 24% below wholesale price. If they won't, they are banned from selling medicines to Medicaid, Medicare and the public health service."

    The VA has created a list of approved drugs for its patients. Companies that don't pay the VA price don't make the list, and a slew of drugs fall into that category. They include Azilect and Tysabri, two of the newest therapies for Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, respectively. That's what happens when keeping prices down takes priority over getting the best available medicines to patients. Both drugs are available through Medicare Part D, by the way. Maybe Congress ought to debate this.


January 3, 2007

Today's Tony Snow Moment

A continuing series at Extreme Mortman:

There seems to be a lot of concern about the last two minutes of Saddam Hussein’s life and less about the first 69 in which he murdered hundreds of thousands of people. That’s why he was executed.
Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 7:00 PM

Between Sen. Edwards and Stuck Mojo

There is a lot of room to find middle ground. I don't champion moderation in politics a'la Morton Kondracke, but I encounter excess of many stripes in the blogosphere. The most dangerous place for excess is, of course, on the war.

Many people refuse to name our enemy for fear of offending. I personally like “Islamofascists.” They seek to use state power to enforce religious rule.

Mark Steyn points out that Senator Edwards can't find room, in his top five policies to address terrorism.

He's running for president on five big priorities: ''guaranteeing health care,'' ''leading the fight against global warming,'' ''strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty,'' and by then my fingers were too comatose to write down the fifth theme but, if memory serves, it was guaranteeing to lead the fight to strengthen ending the shame of platitudinous campaign rhetoric.

Dean Burnett reviews the new Damon-DeNiro CIA flick (man those guys are so brave taking the CIA on!) and concludes that the producers believe that both the Cold War and Terrorism were ginned-up threats that served the government; neither really ever threatened our lives or our freedom.

On the other side, I promised a more explicit critique of JohnGalt’s nominations for ThreeSources Album of the Year. Excuse me, I meant to say ThreeSources Coveted Album of the Year.

I didn't give a long listen to Stuck Mojo. I listened to the three tunes you recommended. I enjoyed the one with the speech and the strings reminded me of Bob Marley's "War," the lyrics of which were a Halle Selassie speech.

The others represent musical styles that I don't personally appreciate I imagine if the good folks of Stuck Mojo put the same lyrics atop a nice vi-ii-V-I jazz groove, you’d probably have me.

As it happens, I think the lyrics are emblematic of a segment that cannot separate Islam from Islamofascism. Without formally deconstructing the lyrics, the "religion of peace" line is a red flag for me. President Bush used that in the early days of the conflict to offer healing, and comfort Muslims that he recognized that he and they shared faith if not the same faith.

Now that has become a pejorative code word for those who seek to incite Americans against Muslims. I believe Michelle Malkin is a Christian and would resent somebody mocking her faith, yet she uses “religion of peace” derisively.

It's music, it's art. I support their right to make it and yours to listen to it. (I bought the Curious George Soundtrack by Jack Johnson from iTunes and it includes a paean to Recycling as a bonus track, Ohboy!)

We have to call our enemies by name but be careful whom we name as our enemies. I don't consider myself a middle of the road guy but I'll stay away from both Senator Edwards and the folks who want a new Crusade..


Posted by John Kranz at 2:11 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Defending Stuck Mojo-

Here's what Cyrano had to say in his email sharing the link: "This is "metal rap" (yuk), but -- besides the great news video -- the music video has some things I sorely miss in discussions of Islamism: (1) identification the fact that this is a battle of rationality vs. barbarity; and (2) anger -- a rational and morally appropriate evaluation of the irrationality and destruction facing us."

So you see, the "Crusade" to be fought is by rationality vs. barbarity, not Christianity vs. Islam.

Equating Islamism with Islam? Let's look at the lyrics...

- "I speak peace when peace is spoken, But I speak war when your hate is provoking,"

- "I don't need a faith that's blind, Where death and hate bring me peace of mind, With views that are stuck deep in the seventh century, So much sand in your eyes too blind to see,"

- "I don't give a damn what god you claim, I've seen the innocent that you've slain, (...) Cause your attitude's the reason, The triggers keep squeezing, The hunt is on and it's open season."

So the thrust here, as you can see is not their religion per se (as he says, he "don't give a damn what god you claim") but their actions: hateful provocation, sowing "death and hate," and slaying innocents. As a result of this "attitude" on the part of Islamists, "the triggers keep squeezing" and the "hunt is on" around the world.

I say if Islam is to be defended as a "religion of peace" it should be done by peaceful Muslims. Where are they?

Posted by: johngalt at January 5, 2007 3:34 PM

My Computer Model Shows Trouble Ahead

Blog brother JohnGalt alerted me to this on December 28. The clever operative was listening to NPR in his Audi, gained their trust and learned of their diabolical plot to use the Endangered Species Act to enact global warming legislation to protect the Polar Bear.

Of course, when I say "they," I refer to the crazed environmental wackos at the...Bush Administration. Just in time for an Edwards Presidential candidacy and a Democratic majority House and Senate, the Executive Brach is prepared to provide both cover and strategy. Sure glad I worked hard and gave money to elect Republicans.

As per usual, the science is not quite so clear as the politics, and the Wall Street Journal Ed Page does a great job skewering Polar Bear Politics today (paid link, sorry!)

"We are concerned," said [Interior Secretary Dirk] Kempthorne, that "the polar bears' habitat may literally be melting" due to warmer Arctic temperatures. However, when we called Interior spokesman Hugh Vickery for some elaboration, he was a lot less categorical, even a tad defensive. The "endangered" designation is based less on the actual number of bears in Alaska than on "projections into the future," Mr. Vickery said, adding that these "projection models" are "tricky business."

Apparently so, because there are in fact more polar bears in the world now than there were 40 years ago, as the nearby chart shows. The main threat to polar bears in recent decades has been from hunting, with estimates as low as 5,000 to 10,000 bears in the 1950s and 1960s. But thanks to conservation efforts, and some cross-border cooperation among the U.S., Canada and Russia, the best estimate today is that the polar bear population is 20,000 to 25,000.

polar_bear_pop.gif

It also turns out that most of the alarm over the polar bear's future stems from a single, peer-reviewed study, which found that the bear population had declined by some 250, or 25%, in Western Hudson Bay in the last decade. But the polar bear's range is far more extensive than Hudson Bay. A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey of wildlife in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain concluded that the ice bear populations "may now be near historic highs." One of the leading experts on the polar bear, Mitchell Taylor, the manager of wildlife resources for the Nunavut territory in Canada, has found that the Canadian polar bear population has actually increased by 25% -- to 15,000 from 12,000 over the past decade.

Mr. Taylor tells us that in many parts of Canada, "polar bears are very abundant and productive. In some areas, they are overly abundant. I understand that people not living in the North generally have difficulty grasping the concept of too many polar bears, but those who live here have a pretty good grasp of what that is like." Those cuddly white bears are the Earth's largest land carnivores.


Let me get this straight: we have tendentious computer models that we have used to predict global warming. We take the output of these models and feed another computer model of polar bear population. And the results (just a minute here, I have to convert the linefeeds from DOS to UNIX...hit F5...) Yup, it looks bad.

I'm glad to see so much government work for computer programmers. Maybe we can just model the next election and save all the time and costs of campaigning. Why play the NFL season next year, just plug T.O.'s stats into the database...hit F5... Alright! The Broncos win!


But johngalt thinks:

When I first heard that the Bush Administration was on board with this I was stunned - like William Wallace when he unmasks the black knight riding with the English and finds Robert the Bruce.

Where do I go again to get those "A village in Texas wants its idiot back" bumper stickers?

Posted by: johngalt at January 4, 2007 3:43 PM

January 2, 2007

Telecaster Atonement

A couple of readers (40%?) have never forgiven me for the Al Gore Telecaster graphic.

I admit that was wrong, beg forgiveness, and offer this as an olive branch. Via Instapundit, some cool clean Telecaster playing from Redd Volkaert.

I'm just not sure why he wasn't selected to appear in the album cover of the Wreckers' Stand Still, Look Pretty. A curious oversight that...

Posted by John Kranz at 2:05 PM | What do you think? [1]
But sugarchuck thinks:

All is forgiven!

Posted by: sugarchuck at January 2, 2007 8:14 PM

Now you can Worry

It's a good time to go short. The most portentous economic indicator is pointing to dark times. What datum is so consequential that even ThreeSources optimist jk is cowering at the news?

Economy Poised For '07 Rebound, Forecasters Say - WSJ.com

The U.S. economy is poised to shake off the housing slump and regain momentum by the end of this year, and the credit goes to techies, bankers, chefs and shoppers, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of economists.
The panel of 60 economists who participated in the Journal's latest semiannual economic forecasting survey offered an optimistic outlook for 2007: The service sector should keep humming along as the recent weakness in housing and manufacturing abates and the Federal Reserve begins to reduce interest rates. That would allow the economy to expand at a rate fast enough to keep investors happy, but slow enough to keep inflation at bay. (See related article.)


If a consensus of economists is content, it's time to buy Krugerrands.

But Everyday Economist thinks:

It will be time to panic when that statement graces the pages of The New York Times.

Posted by: Everyday Economist at January 2, 2007 1:31 PM

January 1, 2007

Woe Big Red

I bleed black and gold. It's been that way ever since April 24, 1985, when the University of Colorado Golden Buffaloes reverted to their traditional color scheme from the ghastly "Air Force Blue" mandated by the University's Board of Regents in 1981 (the year of my matriculation to CU).

Colorado football has seen rough times since the 1990 National Championship season, Coach McCartney's abrupt resignation in 1994, and the November 23, 2001 blowout victory over Nebraska (the "62-36" game). Troubles on the field coincided with off-field distractions in 2004-2005 arising from a largely trumped up case of date rape by Boulder DA Mary Keenan Lacy, who took office in 2001 and who boasts of becoming "a successful prosecutor and national instructor on Acquaintance Rape," on her official web page.

Despite the recent disappointments, Buff fans still had the Nebraska rivalry to keep their hopes high and their blood warm. Since the Buffaloes finally broke through and defeated Nebraska in 1989, and again in the Championship season, it has been the red-letter game for the team and its fans. The 2001 team dealt an embarrasing defeat to "The Corn" but with this year's loss are 2-3 in subsequent matchups.

The Buffaloes stayed home this bowl season. Under first year head coach Dan Hawkins they managed only two victories all season, four shy of the minimum for bowl eligibility. As such, die hard fans such as myself are relegated to rooting for other Big 12 teams in the various bowls. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas did the conference proud with victories while Kansas State and Texas A&M were blown out and Missouri lost a squeaker to Oregon State.

Then there was the Auburn-Nebraska Cotton Bowl game today. I'm sorry, it just isn't possible for me to root for The Corn. Even against an SEC opponent. At the end of this year's CU-NU game, which was 14-14 late into the 3rd quarter, Nebraska had scored on a trick play and added two more touchdowns but CU's Hawkins was not about to quit. When he called a time out late in the game, Nebraska's coach Bill Callahan shook his head and smirked. "What an ass," I thought. "Is a coach not supposed to do his job for the full 60 minutes? Does he inspire a warrior spirit in his players by folding up his playbook when his team trails late in a game?" Apparently that is precisely Callahan's philosophy. Fast forward to the end of today's Cotton Bowl. The teams were tied 14-14 at halftime and Auburn added a field goal in the 3rd quarter. Nebraska had its chances to score but never capitalized, even forgoing a 47-yard field goal attempt for a pass play on 4th and 13. (Apparently the coach who is a "rare find" found an average field goal kicker to be even rarer during recruiting season.) But with 1 minute to go Auburn had 3rd down, 2 yards to go. They ran a sweep right and the Auburn ball carrier was tackled at the line to make. It was close. The officials ruled a first down... without a measurement. Callahan's reaction? The smirk. He took off his headset and handed it to an assistant. "Game over," he clearly thought, still smirking.

Fortunately for Callahan's team, the officials didn't think so. A booth review showed that the Auburn player was down by contact before the ball crossed the line to make. It was 4th and 1 and Auburn had to punt. Unfortunately for Callahan's team, coach Bill didn't find it necessary to replace his smirk with his headset before his offense ran two more plays, both incomplete passes. As he walked to midfield to shake hands with the Auburn coach, he smirked.

Perhaps if coach hadn't given up his players might have given a better effort, with a better result. Perhaps not. Either way, I'll take coach Hawkins over pretty-boy Callahan to lead my young men in battle every time.

Go Buffs!

P.S. I'm still undecided in a rooting interest for tonight's Fiesta Bowl. The Oklahoma Sooners are in the Big 12 but their coach, Bob Stoops, is almost as arrogant a prima donna as Callahan. And the Boise State Broncos were coached last season by... Colorado's new coach, Dan Hawkins. The balance may be tipped in the Broncos' favor by this article on ESPN. Either way, it should be a whale of a game!

UPDATE: Wow!

Sports Posted by JohnGalt at 3:57 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

I had no ambivalence nor split allegiance. I was for Boise State all the way.

I hate to play this game, but did anybody really think that that was pass interference on the 2-pt conversion? Whatever.

Through the game I really grew to dislike OU Coach, Bob Stoops. A man of zero grace, leading a HEAVILY favored team and complaining about every call.

Posted by: jk at January 2, 2007 11:35 AM

Denver Bronco Shot and Killed Overnight

Dagny and I were stunned this morning when Google News included a Hawaii Channel.com story headlined Denver Bronco Williams Dies in Drive-By Shooting. I didn't immediately realize who "Williams" was since it's a common surname. I opened the link expecting to read about a backup player we knew little about. Instead I received a second shock when I read the murdered Bronco was starting cornerback Darrent Williams. Darrent has been something of a phenomenon in Denver over the last two seasons and was a fan favorite.

Another report hints at a possible motive for the outrage:

Authorities say that prior to the shooting Williams, Javon Walker and a few other players were at a club when an alteration [sic] broke out with other patrons inside the bar. Williams and his friends decided to leave and the shooting took place moments later.

ESPN reports that "In December, Williams spoke of his desire to return to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, this offseason to talk to kids about staying out of gangs." [...] "When he was younger, he always gravitated to the wrong crowd," said Criss, who coached Williams for three seasons at O.D. Wyatt High in Fort Worth and continued to speak regularly with Williams.

It's too early to tell if Darrent's troubled youth was to blame in the altercation, but the kind of reckless disregard for the law and for human life displayed by the shooter is typical of urban "gangstas." The only good news in these reports is that there seem to be plenty of leads to identify the murderer.

Sports Posted by JohnGalt at 11:38 AM | What do you think? [6]
But jk thinks:

Sad stuff. I was looking to tease the NFC segment of our blog with some gag about the Broncos staying home with a 9-7 record, while the Giants get a wild card slot at 8-8.

I saw the headline and thought that you had beaten me to the punch. Troubled youth or not, let's clearly place the culpability on the thug (or thugs) who pulled the trigger.

Posted by: jk at January 1, 2007 12:19 PM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

You have to hope this was truly something random, or the work of some disgruntled fan and not caused by Williams' lifestyle (whatever it may have been)

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at January 1, 2007 1:01 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I just watched a live Denver PD news conference on myfoxcolorado.com. We learned that the other two injured passengers were not Broncos, though there were other uninjured passengers who could have been Broncos. The suspect vehicle is a white Chevy Suburban. The weapon was a handgun of unspecified caliber. We didn't hear whether a license plate number was observed.

By "Darrent's troubled youth to blame" I meant one of several possibilities: Darrent partying with gang members who clashed with a rival gang leading to the shooting; or Darrent's group encountering a gang group and Darrent or a friend provoking (or egging on) the gang, which led to the shooting.

Obviously there is no amount of taunting that justifies murder. Only the shooter(s) are to blame. However, gang membership teaches young men to provoke confrontation rather than diffuse it.

Posted by: johngalt at January 1, 2007 2:21 PM
But jk thinks:

It's a fine line between dangerous and deserved but it must be preserved. I am not guessing that Mr. Williams was leaving choir practice on his way to morning vespers. Any party involving basketball players has to be viewed with suspicion.

And yet, the girl in the short skirt does not deserve rape and the guy at the raucous party does not deserve to be shot.

At the risk of flippancy, jg, I am trying to reconcile your appreciation for diffusing confrontation with your "Albums of the Year" selection of "Stuck Mojo." Am I missing some subtleties?

Posted by: jk at January 2, 2007 12:29 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The fact that you consider the differences "subtleties" makes me wonder if you've dismissed them for some reason:

"Trash talk" doesn't equal mass murder.

Answering the bravado of a bar room bully with more of the same is foolish.

Defending your self, your family, your home, and your "'hood" from murderous thugs is valorous.

Please remember that all of my comments as regard this particular tragedy were purely speculative.

Posted by: johngalt at January 2, 2007 10:28 PM
But jk thinks:

I agree that the thread of this topic has left the tragic death of young Mr. Williams. I will continue it in a new post. I think we all agree on the tragedy.

Posted by: jk at January 3, 2007 11:01 AM

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