April 30, 2007

Fred! II

Sticks and Stones

It bothers Americans when we’re told how unpopular we are with the rest of the world. For some of us, at least, it gets our back up — and our natural tendency is to tell the French, for example, that we’d rather not hear from them until the day when they need us to bail them out again.

But we cool off. We’re big boys and girls, after all, and we don’t really bruise that easily. We’re also hopeful that, eventually, our ostrich-headed allies will realize there’s a world war going on out there and they need to pick a side — the choice being between the forces of civilization and the forces of anarchy. Considering the fact that the latter team is growing stronger and bolder daily, while most of our European Union friends continue to dismantle their defenses, that day may not be too long in coming.

Posted by AlexC at 11:57 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Now that's the kind of oratory we've been missing for nigh on twenty years!

I'm giddy at the prospect of Fred and Rudy's ongoing campaign of one-upsmanship in the "America's pissed off and America's not gonna take it lying down any more" vernacular.

For my money I'll take Fred. He strikes the right balance between a muscular foreign policy and scaring the crap out of the electorate.

Posted by: johngalt at May 1, 2007 3:21 PM

Quote of the Day

Andy McCarthy in NRO Corner:
Rich Lowry Has Never Struck Me As An Illegal Immigrant
... but, today, he is doing a job Americans don't want to do — reading Tenet's book.

Posted by John Kranz at 6:18 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Nice! Or, as my two-year-old likes to say, "Niiiiice!"

Posted by: johngalt at May 1, 2007 3:12 PM

Flat tax? Just Peachy.

The great state of Georgia looks to supply side and the Laffer Curve to increase the state's competitiveness and revenue. Stephen Moore, writing in OpinionJournal Political Diary:

Just maybe, the model for a fundamental tax overhaul nation-wide has percolated up in the State of Georgia. On Wednesday, Glenn Richardson, speaker of Georgia's House of Representatives, filed a bill that would junk the state's existing tax code and replace it with a much simpler one.

Under the plan, all state and local property taxes would be eliminated. So would the estate tax, unemployment insurance and worker's compensation taxes, business and occupational fees, intangible taxes and insurance taxes. The entire structure would be replaced with a flat rate income tax of 5.75% and a flat 5.75% sales tax. The state's income tax is currently 6% and the sales tax is 4.5%.

The architect of the plan is the famous Reagan economist Arthur Laffer. "This would bring the focus of the entire country on Georgia," Mr. Laffer said in an interview. "States compete; they're like puppies bouncing around in a box at a pet store to get noticed. This is a way for Georgia to get noticed and set itself apart from all the rest of the states when it tries to sell itself to businesses and families."

House Speaker Richardson has been an ardent champion of tax reform in Georgia, which has become one of the reddest states in the nation. Georgia has a Republican legislature and, in Sonny Perdue, a Republican governor. "We must change the burdensome and antiquated tax system we currently have," Mr. Richardson says. He concedes that many business groups are likely to oppose the plan because it eliminates all the special favors, handouts and loopholes in the current Georgia code.

This plan would have to be approved by both houses of the legislature and then placed on the November 2008 ballot to be approved by voters. Mr. Laffer says the economic and jobs impact would be significantly positive because it increases "after-tax incentives to work, invest, produce and live in Georgia." Mr. Richardson adds: "I believe the House tax reform plan will be the talk of the nation." Who, knows the flat tax may finally get legs across America -- maybe even in Washington.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 1:02 PM


Senator McCain gets interrogative punctuation instead of the supererogatory exclamation mark. I think he earned it.

McCain and his wife sat for an extended interview on FOXNews Sunday with Chris Wallace yesterday. It was all you needed to know about his candidacy, watchable in a half hour with TiVo. McCain was stalwart and eloquent on the war, reminding me that -- should he win the GOP nomination -- I will support him 100%.

Yet his other positions were open to view as well. Dean Barnett at Hugh Hewitt says he "fired serial bulls-eyes at both feet" and I cannot contradict: Here's Barnett's take:

McCain defended the salubrious effects of the McCain/Feingold abomination, and then added that the issue doesn’t really matter since no one really cares about free speech outside the Beltway. (I’m paraphrasing, of course.) He also strangely suggested that we close Gitmo and transfer the detainees to Leavenworth, apparently because the Kansas climate will do them good. Chris Wallace’s questioning forced him to implausibly maintain that although he was one of three Republicans who voted against the Bush tax cuts, he would resolutely defend them once in the Oval Office.

But his real misstep was on the matter of torture. Senator McCain addresses this particular topic from a unique vantage-point. Although I’m always wary of the Absolute Moral Authority™ argument, on this subject Senator McCain comes pretty darn close to having just that. But he’s still not right.

Barnett goes on to draw a superb comparison between the abortion debate and torture. I suggest the whole post.

I'd happily join Senator McCain, saying that "we don't torture" The moral high ground is valuable, and he is right to question its efficacy. But Barnett is right to suggest that a lot of flexibility remains in the language and its application. I would never, never, never, suggest that we put a human being through half of what the Senator was subjected to in Vietnam.

But sadly the McCain-Andrew Sullivan definition of torture is now accepted. I have zero problem having a female interrogate one of these backward 7th century people. I find it amusing that they are so bothered and I like to use our open-mindedness as a weapon against them. I think the panties-on-the-head at Abu Ghraib was unprofessional, but I still find myself able to fly the flag on holidays.

Loud rock music? It would work on AlexC... Cold temperatures? Waterboarding? I'd start to limit some of these to high value targets. But to expose somebody to discomfort with a very small chance of injury seems fair.

Thanks to Barnett's brilliant post, I have digressed. McCain called for closing Gitmo, recognizing global warming, and he strongly defended McCain-Feingold, saying that the side effects are failures of enforcement, not legislative flaws. And he said that nobody in town hall meetings ever brings it up. "They all want health care and entitlement reform," said the Senator, suggesting that only inside the beltway wonks cared about such things.

John? By all means, if we must.

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 12:12 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

I don't think McCain makes it to the New Year... he doesn't have the "ummph" with the base.

Posted by: AlexC at May 1, 2007 1:39 AM
But jk thinks:

Bold prediction. I actually think he still gets the GOP nomination (though that's trading at 19.1 - 19.7 at Intrade).

a) Republicans tend to nominate the guy when it's "his turn" (cf. Bob Dole 1996) and McCain can claim that mantle.

b) I love Hizzoner, but one keeps waiting for another shoe to drop on his personal life. I wait for Imelda Marcos's whole closet.

c) Romney has some trouble with the flip flop charge. I'm not sure that's fair on abortion but the "lifelong hunter" was creepy in a VP Al Gore way.

d) His other opponents have not entered yet. That may be okay or even wise, but they might not enter or might not raise enough money.

e) All of the above. McCain is the pro in the race, for better or worse, he's done it before.

Posted by: jk at May 1, 2007 11:28 AM

April 29, 2007

Random Thought

I really really dislike Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. His solo stuff even more.

I don't mind sixties psychedelic rock (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Lemon Pipers, Donovan, etc) but the Syd Barrett creeps me out.

Everytime it shows up in iTunes' Party Shuffle or on the iPod I have to skip it.

Music Posted by AlexC at 1:05 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

You don't even like 'Bike?' Who can forget his good mouse Gerald? I hummed that song for months! Or 'Careful with that Ax, Eugene?' 'See Emily Play?'

'Saucerful of Secrets' is some really weird cr.., err, "stuff" though. Ultimately, the guy was a poster child for the dangers of LSD.

Posted by: johngalt at April 30, 2007 3:20 PM
But AlexC thinks:

I have to admit i have never tried LSD. But if it's anything like Syd Barret's crap, I'll pass.

By far the worst song is "Scream They Last Scream Old Woman with a Casket".... Hell will be an iPod with only that in it's playlist.

Posted by: AlexC at May 1, 2007 12:13 AM

April 28, 2007

Western Media's Fifth Column

The observation that western media has a predominant leftist bias that leads to "news" reports critical of US and Israeli military and foreign policy is not new. Thomas Sowell wrote 'Western Media: Fourth Estate or Fifth Column' more than two years ago.

Whether the one-sided reporting of the war in Vietnam was a factor in the American defeat there used to be a matter of controversy. But, in recent years, high officials of the Communist government of Vietnam have themselves admitted that they lost the war on the battlefields but won it in the U.S. media and on the streets of America, where political pressures from the anti-war movement threw away the victory for which thousands of American lives had been sacrificed.

What is new is a Harvard University researcher publishes a paper that "describes the trajectory of the media from objective observer to fiery advocate, becoming in fact a weapon of modern warfare." And that researcher is none other than Marvin Kalb, a household name from his work on network news broadcasts in decades past. Like Bernard Goldberg, Kalb made his career as a member of the vaunted Fourth Estate he is now critical of.

The full paper can be downloaded here, and is replete with examples of internet and satellite TV enabled military espionage by middle east "news" outlets, and similar abetting behavior by western media:

Whether “sub,” “supra” or “trans” this fusion of radical, revolutionary politics and ultramodern communications technology, as witnessed in the Lebanon War of 2006, has come to define the very nature of asymmetrical warfare. A key consequence of this new warfare is that the role of the journalist in many parts of the world has been dramatically transformed—from a quest for objectivity and fairness to an acceptance of advocacy as a tool of the craft. If once the journalist aspired to honest and detached reporting, now it has become increasingly acceptable for the journalist to be an activist player and a fiery advocate. 24/7 cable news has placed a premium on provocative chatter, not on substantive discourse. Many journalists in the Middle East, born into a culture of submissiveness to centralized authority, have always seen themselves as players and advocates, but this has not been the norm in Europe or the United States, and this change is both noteworthy and disturbing. {Emphasis mine.]

The motto of the Scripps-Howard newspapers, still displayed prominently on the masthead of papers they publish (including Denver's 'Rocky Mountain News') reads: Give light and the people will find their own way. Consider in which direction the light now being given is intended to lead people.

Hat tip: Cox & Forkum with an appropriately selected cartoon from the South Lebanon war of 2006.

But Terri thinks:

I think that's true, but I'm ok with it as long as we know it. And I think most people do know that the news isn't objective. Once it's determined that journalists are not objective, then you can start to arrest them for being an enemy combatant if that ends up being the case. And you can do it without listening to the argument that they're just trying to be "fair".

Posted by: Terri at April 28, 2007 2:37 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I think you're right that most people who are paying attention know that the news isn't objective, but what about the other half (or more) who don't pay attention?

And if there were no market for objective news, Fox News wouldn't continue to use the motto "fair and balanced."

Bloggers have proven an effective counterweight to MSM misinformation. But when the dominant mass distributors of news information can be counted on to deliver consistently slanted reports consciously designed to support a particular dogma, how is that any different from state control of the media?

Posted by: johngalt at April 29, 2007 12:24 PM
But jk thinks:

Do I misread? The answer is coercive power and your comparison seems uncharacteristically relativist from jg.

The leftist media oligopoly is subject to corrective market pressure from FOXNews, blogs, and talk radio. The public school monopoly has nothing to fear.

Posted by: jk at April 29, 2007 7:26 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Coercive power is AN answer, but not the one I'd choose. Instead I'm cautioning against thoughtful individuals being "ok with" ideological filters on news broadcasts which, by definition, are advertised as thorough and objective.

What is relativistic in the comparison between state control of media (which censors what threatens state control and embellishes what flatters it) and a dogmatic information oligopoly, which does exactly the same thing?

The LMO is subject to democratic market pressure. When the market is polarized and evenly divided ideologically then the market pressure you rely on evaporates. Particularly when individuals who disagree with the dominant paradigm are "ok with it."

Posted by: johngalt at April 30, 2007 2:53 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I left a better comment on this subject over at Terri's blog:

"Fair enough - the news is a free-market business. However, I am particularly sensitive to the redefinition of the concept ‘reality’ that is driven by the philosophy of Pragmatism. Abdicating the principle that news must be objective and opinion must be on the editorial page is the civil equivalent of allowing a wartime enemy to capture your capital because defending civilian property “isn’t the army’s job.”

The progress and security of a free society is based upon individual choice of the best ideas amongst all available. When the available ideas are restricted by ideological censorship then freedom is in jeopardy.

Edward R. Murrow is turning over in his grave."

Posted by: johngalt at April 30, 2007 3:23 PM

April 27, 2007

Poor Paul Krugman

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette

WHEN THE news came last week that the stock market had reached a record high, we thought we heard the strangest sound in the background: quiet sobbing. It took a while before its source came to us: Of course ! That had to be the New York Times ’ man in the economy and all-around pundit, Paul Krugman, crying in his beer. Though given today’s economy, he’s probably drinking the best single-malt Scotch on the market. But nothing seems to depress him like good news. He’s been predicting an economic collapse for so long that it cheers just to think of him as the stock market sets new records and the unemployment rate keeps dropping below low, and good economic news keeps piling up. Meanwhile, the sage of W. 43 rd St. keeps warning that The End Is Near. Think Woody Allen doing Shakespearean tragedy.

The whole piece is clever.

Hat-tip: Don Luskin

Posted by John Kranz at 5:45 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Forbes magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard this morning predicted "Dow 18,000 within 3 years." His justification was threefold: While seemingly unreachable today, 18,000 is only 39% growth from today's valuation; There is a "global liquidity glut" and the money won't go into real estate or bonds; Global growth since every company on the Dow 30 has it's primary growth overseas.

Posted by: johngalt at April 28, 2007 11:34 AM


Sorry, swept up in the fray.

Attila at Pillage Idiot has been nominated for "Best Humor Blog" in the Jewish & Israeli Blog awards.

Be a mensch, and vote "Pillage Idiot."

Now jk thinks he's Imus...

Posted by John Kranz at 2:40 PM

We Don't Need No Thought Control...

I've been sitting on this post all week. Professors Gary Becker and Richard Posner have created one of the most intelligent and thoughtful (non-chocolate-bunny) blogs out there. The Economics and the Law Prof take a serious look at a single issue, generally finding some of the internecine disagreement of which I am so fond. It's on the blogroll and I recommend keeping up -- they have a new topic every week or so.

Last Sunday, Becker posted on "The Benefits of Education," wondering why even more people do not sign up for the obvious benefits and strong return on investment that higher education provides.

It is well documented that the average earnings premium from a college education in the United States increased from about 40 percent in the late 1970's to about 80 percent at present. Not everyone does well financially from going to college, or badly by not going-Bill Gates is an obvious but extreme example of a college dropout- but the average person who does go has far better prospects for earnings, employment, and occupation than the average person who stops schooling after finishing high school. The economic benefits from completing high school also went up relative to those to high school dropouts, although they did not increase as much as the benefits from college. A similar picture holds for Great Britain and many other countries, although the changes elsewhere have been smaller than in the United States.

Posner's Comment hit a theme pretty close to home, namely that "Correlation is not causation."
Suppose what are increasing are not the returns to education but the returns to intelligence, and suppose that people with high IQs both enjoy education more than other people do and are more likely to be admitted to college or a graduate or professional school because teachers prefer teaching (and learning from!) them and because good students are more likely (because they are more intelligent, not because they are good students) to be affluent, and therefore generous, alumni.

Now if this is correct, one might expect many intelligent people to bypass college, because it is so costly; but few do. However, colleges and graduate (including professional) schools provide a screening and certifying function. Someone who graduates with good grades from a good college demonstrates intelligence more convincingly than if he simply tells a potential employer that he's smart; and he also demonstrates a degree of discipline and docility, valuable to employers, that a good performance on an IQ test would not demonstrate. (This is an important point; if all colleges did was separate the smart from the less smart, college would be an inefficient alternative to simple testing.) An apprentice system would be a substitute (and there is evidence that in Germany it is a highly efficient substitute), but employers naturally prefer to shift a portion of the cost of screening potential employees to colleges and universities. Because those institutions are supported by taxpayers and alumni as well as by students, employers do not bear the full cost of screening.

I have always posited this question as: What if you traded the group of current college graduates with those without a degree (Posner says it much better, having all that education to fall back on). I do not mean to run down the benefits of education nor encourage people to drop out. I am a dropout that has lived the life of a graduate. Most of the jobs I have had since I put the old guitar down would have typically been filled by a college graduate.

I realize that there is a sour grapes element to my question, but I have often thought, like Posner, that the successes were achieved by what I call "college people" more so than college graduates.

Full disclosure: a degree would have helped me both personally and financially, and I expect I will finish up an online Economics degree someday here (You can take a course from Art Laffer at YorktownUniveristy,com)

Education Posted by John Kranz at 12:40 PM

April 26, 2007



"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security."

But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Yeah,..but when she said that, what accent was she imitating?

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at April 26, 2007 9:05 PM
But jk thinks:

I hope she did it in her David Niven voice, man I love that one.

Posted by: jk at April 27, 2007 2:36 PM


Brownback Touts Potential of Corn to Iowa Republicans DES MOINES Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback carries a small piece of carpet that he thinks could be the future of American agriculture. The carpet fibers are derived from corn, part of what Brownback sees as the untapped potential to expand the uses of the corn kernel.

Brownback for President

Posted by John Kranz at 6:46 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

"Corn is for chips, not carpets. (Or motor fuels.)" -johngalt

Posted by: johngalt at April 28, 2007 11:39 AM


Every 08 candidate gets a title with their name and an exclamation point.


"What Jimmy Carter fails to understand is what so many fail to understand: Whether it is Hamas or Hezbollah or al Qaeda, there is an overarching goal among the violent jihadists that transcends borders and boundaries. That goal is to replace all modern Islamic states with a caliphate, to destroy Israel, to cause the collapse of the West and the United States, and to conquer the world."

Jihad Posted by AlexC at 5:42 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Yeah, I saw that quote and admit it is very good.

The deal-breaker for me for the Governor is his mandatory health insurance plan for Massachusetts. Looks like a classic W deal where you give up something to get something and get completely rolled. If we want HillaryCare, we can vote for the real deal – I was looking for something else.

Posted by: jk at April 26, 2007 6:44 PM
But AlexC thinks:

With the exception of Hagel, every Republican "gets" the war.

Now it's a test of not liking them because of the other issues. ;)

Posted by: AlexC at April 26, 2007 9:00 PM

Windfall Profits Taxes, Again.

It will save us money at the pump.

No, really. Ask Bob Casey.

In response to the new round of oil profits, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., introduced legislation Thursday that he hopes will curtail rising gas prices. Casey's bill would impose a windfall profits tax and close certain tax loopholes for big oil companies and use the money for research into biofuels and other related projects.

Follow the logic here.

1) Oil companies make excessive profits.
2) Levy a windfall profits tax (level to be determined)
3) Oil companies say, "you know, you're right, we're going to lower our prices to avoid the tax."

Be careful not to laugh too hard.

In the real world, step three would be.
3) Oil companies say, "damn, profits are eroding, let's make that up by raising prices" (thereby passing the tax on to the consumer)

The "real" step three never crossed Bob Casey's mind? Governor Ed Rendell had the guts to lie to us and say he'll prevent the oil companies from passing on the tax... perhaps Casey thinks we won't notice?

Oil and Energy Posted by AlexC at 5:41 PM

Top Ten Bush Moments

Hat-tip: A Second Hand Conjecture

Posted by John Kranz at 4:09 PM


I promise to give Senator Thompson a fair hear hearing should he enter the race, but I remain pretty happy with Hizzoner:

The question is going to be, "How long does it take, and how many losses do we have along the way?" And I truly believe if we go back on defense for a period of time, we can ultimately have more losses and it's going to go on much longer. The power of our ideas is so great we'll eventually prevail. The real question is, "How do we get there?" Do we get there in a way in which it is as expeditious as possible and with as little loss of life as possible, or do we get there in some circuitous fashion.

I pulled that from a longer piece about Giuliani in Best of the Web. He is correct to assert that Democrats do not demonstrate an understanding of the enemy. And right about the consequences.

I was opining on a comment at another Colorado blog I frequent that we really need a Churchill at this time to energize a war weary nation. Much as I love President Bush, this is not his strong suit. I will be giving extra points for inspiring and clear rhetoric in the 2008 race. This has put Giuliani in the front for me, and kept Senator McCain alive.

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 3:32 PM

Still the Bunny Blog

People come to ThreeSources looking for informed commentary on important issues, application of basic economic principles to politics, and a bit of internecine "clarification" of principles from our divergent viewpoints.

Nah, just kiddin'. Chocolate Bunnies keep us afloat. Here are the top 20 search strings for (a very busy) April (Getting that Easter peak...)

Top 20 of 7509 Total Search Strings
# Hits Search String
1 1266 6.58% chocolate bunny
2 1114 5.79% pepsi
3 711 3.70% chocolate bunnies
4 238 1.24% lance armstrong
5 222 1.15% easter bunny cartoon
6 184 0.96% cartoon bunny
7 168 0.87% chocolate bunny cartoon
8 157 0.82% scary easter bunny
9 153 0.80% liberal
10 148 0.77% cartoon bunnies
11 139 0.72% mugabe
12 137 0.71% chocolate easter bunny
13 129 0.67% evil easter bunny
14 107 0.56% five pillars
15 97 0.50% pillars
16 90 0.47% easter bunny cartoons
17 72 0.37% battle of normandy
18 68 0.35% cartoon rabbits
19 66 0.34% cartoon easter bunny
20 62 0.32% south park characters

Sigh. Here it is.
But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at April 28, 2007 11:43 AM

Downsides of Cutting Taxes

More taxes collected.

Weird, I know.

The department says the [federal] government took in nearly 49 (b) billion dollars yesterday. It represents in large part the amount individuals paid to cover taxes owed on their 2006 returns.

The old record for a single day of individual tax collections was 36-point-four (b) billion dollars set on April 25th of last year.

The latest collection of tax receipts continues a trend of recent years in which a strong economy has pushed both individual and corporate taxes to record levels.

Naturally more money in the federal coffers doesn't guarantee smarter spending, but hey, it's less out of my pocket.

But jk thinks:

It amazes that some of the economically-literate Democrats like Rep. Barney Frank or some of the think-tank guys have not figured out the best way to get more money for their progressive vision is to embrace some supply-side principals.

Posted by: jk at April 26, 2007 12:58 PM
But dagny thinks:

"I do not think that word means what you think it means."

Noone can be described as, "economically-literate," who does not believe in the power of free markets.

Posted by: dagny at April 27, 2007 9:40 AM
But jk thinks:

I hear you. But you watch Rep. Frank on "Kudlow & Company" and realize that he does understand the benefits of the free market, and that he is very intelligent.

He is so beholden to Democratic self-interests that he has to toe the line (See Kim Strassel's column on his gift to the tort bar in the subprime hearings), but under there he knows.

Posted by: jk at April 27, 2007 2:54 PM


I'm digging that NRO posts Fred Thompson commentaries on their site.

America is a free country and we do not tell people what they can believe or say. We should realize, however, that there are people in America who are also telling their children that the Holocaust is a lie and that those who say otherwise are their enemies. We cannot prevent them from doing so, but we also cannot let them promote their agenda by claiming they are victimized by historical facts.

This would be a good place to quote an important British writer, George Orwell, who wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Even in America, our children are often taught a watered down, inoffensive, and culturally sensitive version of events ranging from the Crusades to the battle at the Alamo.

It’s time for people who believe that they have a stake in Western civilization and its traditions to get a little backbone — even if it offends somebody.

2008 Race Posted by AlexC at 12:59 AM

April 25, 2007

Truth and Tolerance

From "Typhoon Officially 'Over the Moon'" at the Society of British Aerospace Companies' Website:

Building one of the most advanced jet fighters in the world is a challenge for any aerospace company – but the one thing you might think you don't have to worry about when you start such a job is the pull of the moon.

But that is exactly the challenge faced by workers at BAE Systems on the Lancashire coast every time the Typhoon build process begins – because the moon's gravitational pull actually causes the ground to move beneath their feet.

So fine are the tolerances now used to build the Typhoon that even the movements of the tide could throw the jet fighter tolerances out.


HT: Hannes Hacker

Science Posted by Cyrano at 10:16 PM

Dow 13,000

Better news still: the S&P 500 is less than five away from 1500 and will likely be surpassing its all time high (1527.46). Adjusted for inflation, both are still well off their real highs.

Larry says "Greatest Story Never Told."

Posted by John Kranz at 5:56 PM

White Lies

Andrew Klavan

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. That’s its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all.

There are far too many conservatives and libertarians who take this candor to an extreme. Being smug in your correctness far too many times comes across as condescending. Especially to fellow travellers... how are you going to convince anyone you're right, if you're a jerk-off about it?

Read it all.

Philosophy Posted by AlexC at 3:16 PM

Credit Snobs

Ted Frank of the American Enterprise Institute has a guest editorial in the WSJ today in which he makes some great points about the desire to over regulate sub-prime lending,

Bangladeshi banker Muhammad Yunus won a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing credit to people too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. The availability of nontraditional credit has helped millions of Third Worlders out of poverty.

Similarly, in the U.S., homeownership rates are near an all-time high because of recent financial innovations that made lending to people without pristine credit feasible. But trial lawyers and legislators are seeking to reverse this progress. If they succeed, measures purportedly aimed at helping borrowers will end up hurting them.

An even better point is how these "men and women of the people" are ready to shut them out of the capital market.
This is not good enough for some activists, the ones that George Mason University Professor Alex Tabarrok calls "credit snobs" because they take the position that the hoi polloi cannot be trusted with the risks and benefits of credit. (This snobbery is hardly limited to mortgages: Witness the December SEC regulations further limiting who may invest in hedge funds, thus depriving the middle class of financial opportunities available to the rich.) In the eyes of a credit snob, if a homeowner defaulted, it must be because of "predatory lending." And where there are paternalistic uprisings against faceless banks to be had, a lawsuit is sure to follow.

Removing poor people's access to capital is cruel. I suggest that this would be a good, explainable political issue for the GOP: prosecute any actual fraud aggressively, but show the advantages to reduced regulation.

But AlexC thinks:

So a company gets involved in sub-prime lending, (potentially to their investment detriment) to people who could use the money, and THEY are the bad guy?

Posted by: AlexC at April 25, 2007 3:19 PM
But jk thinks:

They have to protect the public from Preditory Lending! I'd like to write a "Saturday Night Live" skit on preditory lending: don't go downtown at night alone, somebody will lend you money...

Posted by: jk at April 25, 2007 6:46 PM

April 24, 2007


This is one sexy toy: USB.

Hungry? Want some quail stuffed with jalepeno? Check out this sexy toy: Automatic.

HT: Never Yet Melted Blog

But jk thinks:

When fully automatic USBBB remote weapons are outlawed....

Posted by: jk at April 25, 2007 12:51 PM

Noah, Prepare the Ark

In the semi-arid high desert of Colorado, any accumulation of rainfall exceeding one inch in a single day is big news. Atlantis Farm is in danger of floating away today. (See "Precipitation" in the Daily Statistics table.)

Colorado Posted by JohnGalt at 3:36 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Better load the cats and horses up -- it is still pouring over here.

I am still reeling from jg's using a biblical reference. Is it, perhaps, raining fire?

Posted by: jk at April 24, 2007 5:49 PM
But johngalt thinks:

When in Rome...

Posted by: johngalt at April 25, 2007 1:43 AM

U.S. Out of Ethiopia!

NO MORE BLOOD FOR OIL! Ethiopia Attack 'Leaves 74 Dead.'

"It is a cold blood killing, a massacre. It is a terrorist act," Berekat Simon, an adviser to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told AFP news agency.

He accused a separatist group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), of being behind the attack.

There was no word from the group.


The ONLF has in the past made threats against foreign companies working with the Ethiopian government to exploit the region's natural resources.

Filthy capitalist imperialists! Leave those natural resources alone!!

The workers were employed by the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, part of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Oh. Never mind.

Current Events Posted by JohnGalt at 3:30 PM

Old jk Video

My brother in law shot this to help me promote my "jk sings songs from even numbered decades" solo act. I forget the year, but I'm sure it's at least ten years old.

Forgive me as I try to figure out video editing. And, yes, Paper Moon was from 1933; I was pretty liberal with that requirement.

More? I Fall to Pieces, Paper Moon.

But sugarchuck thinks:

Great tunes. Great performance. Extra cool guitar. Uffdabilly Kudos.

Posted by: sugarchuck at April 25, 2007 8:39 AM
But Terri thinks:

Very cool! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Terri at April 25, 2007 11:37 AM


Katie Couric's epic struggle to provide peace and stability to the CBS Evening News is floundering. And Dean Barnett shares one high level official who has dared to tell the public that it's over:

"The broadcast is an abject failure, by any measure," says Rich Hanley, director of graduate programs at the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University. “They gambled that viewers wanted a softer, less-dramatic presentation of the news, and they lost. It's not fair to blame Couric for everything, but she's certainly the centerpiece and deserves a fair share."

Must one more haircut be sacrificed to this futile effort?

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 12:09 PM

Defender of the Constitution

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stood bravely against media and elite opinion when he opposed McCain-Feingold. He then took it to the Supreme Court in McConnell v. FEC. He lost there but has not given up. He is filing an amicus curiae brief in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life. And an amicus curiae editorial of sorts in the Wall Street Journal (paid link, sorry!)

Five years ago, as my colleagues got ready to pass BCRA, I warned them that three things would result: that rather than reduce the influence of money on politics, they'd drive it further underground; that advocacy groups would be blocked from speaking even on issues unrelated to elections; and that a deadline on issue ads would only lead to campaigns starting earlier, with a greater premium on early fund raising. All three predictions have come true, from the influence of 527s on the last presidential campaign, to the case before the Supreme Court, to primary campaigns 23 months ahead of the next presidential election.

Still, BCRA's potential impact on the presidential primary season isn't what primarily motivated those of us who fought against BCRA. The issue then, as now, is more fundamental. As I say in the amicus brief I submitted for tomorrow's case, "Restricting grass-roots lobbying would silence core political speech that is integral to the functioning of our form of government." The freedom to engage in this political speech is set out clearly in the First Amendment, and BCRA's strict limitation on issue advocacy of any kind during campaign season is a fundamental assault on its spirit and intent.

McConnell also bucked his party by opposing a flag-burning amendment. Today I salute this stalwart defender of free speech.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:21 AM

For The Children

I'm not a big Rush Limbaugh fan, but I will give the guy props. I think he was one of -- if not the -- first to recognize the leftist ploy to expand government "for the children." Voters don't want more welfare, but they'll support additional programs "for the children." repeat ad nauseum for any government command and control structure. As if there were a children's economy independent of their guardians.

The WSJ Ed Page finds Senator Clinton bragging about this strategy to her devoted following. Democrats seek to enlarge the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The editorial (free link) describes SCHIP as "Bill Clinton's health-care consolation prize after the implosion of HillaryCare. It expires in September without reauthorization, and Democrats are using the opening to turn it into another giant middle-class health-care entitlement. Call it HillaryCare on the installment plan."

Same song different verse. It is enacted to cover those too poor for adequate coverage without qualifying for Medicare, but is expanded to the middle class and is now threatening to become de facto Universal Care.

In other words, what began as a hard-cap grant to cover the working poor is evolving into an open-ended entitlement to cover whatever promises states make. And all under the political cover of helping "children." Instead of debating government-run health care on its merits, Democrats are building it step by step on the sly. Or as Mrs. Clinton put it in Nevada, "Make no mistake. This will be a series of steps."

There's a lesson here for Republicans, who agreed to create Schip in a trade for Mr. Clinton's signature on their "balanced budget." Balanced budgets vanish in the blink of an election, while entitlements like Schip live on and expand as an ever-larger claim on taxpayers. Mark this down as another case in which Bill Clinton outfoxed Newt Gingrich. The least Republicans can do now is work to return Schip to its original, more modest purposes.

Those cruel bastards at the WSJ Ed Page don't seem to like children.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 10:52 AM

April 23, 2007


Most physics texts are written as if they were supplementary problem books for math courses. They are heavy on the problem-solving, but light (or empty) on the cause-effect relationships, inductive thinking, and reasoning which makes science.

David Harriman is one physicist and teacher who has remedied that. He has a physics course for sale, which is described by the VanDamme Academy, where he teaches, as follows:

David Harriman, philosopher and historian of physics, is the originator of VanDamme Academy's revolutionary science curriculum. An expert both in physics and in proper pedagogy, Mr Harriman developed and taught a two-year course on the history of physics for VanDamme Academy. His unique approach is to teach physics historically, thereby teaching it inductively. From the early Greeks to Copernicus to Newton, this course presents the essential principles of physics in logical sequence, placing each in the context of the earlier discoveries that made it possible and explaining how each was discovered by reasoning from observations.

Teaching physics by this method not only renders physics thoroughly intelligible--it also makes physics an inspiring story of discovery, in which great thinkers triumph in their quest to grasp the nature of the physical universe.

He sells the CD for $495 and the DVD for $695.

He is not the first to teach physics from a historical perspective. Two others are Dr. Michael Fowler and Dr. Herbert Priestley. While Fowler and Priestley probably did not have the philosophic knowledge (e.g., of induction, deduction, and epistemology in general) of Harriman, they did have a knowledge of physics and its history. And they have some things available for less cost for those of us who cannot yet afford Harriman's work.

The homepage of Dr. Michael Fowler, at UVa, has links to his lectures for

PHYS 109: Galileo and Einstein (Lecturer) Fall

PHYS 152: Introductory Physics for Majors (Lecturer) Spring

PHYS 609: Galileo and Einstein (Lecturer) Fall

PHYS 751: Quantum Theory I (Lecturer) Fall

PHYS 752: Quantum Mechanics II (Lecturer) Spring

His also has notes available for Physics 252: Modern Physics.

On another page you can find: (1) a lecture on using history to teach physics; (2) a leture on heat which teaches physics from a historical (and hence inductive) perspective; (3) a lecture on electricity and magnetism which also teaches from a historical perspective; (4) a lecture on the development of Maxwell’s equations; (5) some quizzes, exercises, and another lecture.

Dr. Herbert Priestley wrote a book entitled Introductory Physics. You can find it on a used-book site such as Alibris or Abe Books.

Introductory Physics by Herbert Priestley (Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1958) has the best presentation of physics I’ve ever seen. (I have not heard Harriman yet.) He presents concepts in their historical and scientific context. Priestley presents alternative viewpoints that were being used to understand phenomena such as heat or electricity, discusses why each viewpoint was held and the arguments scientists had, and describes the experiments the scientists did – especially the experiments which validated one side or the other. In showing us the development of ideas in physics, Priestley is showing us the correct view of concept-formation and the formation of generalizations, Priestley is showing us that true concepts and propositions come from applying rational, objective methods to the real world.

Priestley attended the University of Leeds, receiving a B.S. in 1933 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1935. He served in the Royal Air Force as an industrial research physicist, civilian education officer, and air intelligence officer. He came to the US as RAF liaison officer in 1942, but stayed on to teach physics at Ripton College after WWII. In 1952, he became chairman of the physics department at Knox College, where he stayed until he retired in 1980. His obituary is on Knox College Website.

A caveat. Priestley does not give Aristotle proper credit as a scientist. People have insulted Aristotle for centuries, for things that are not Aristotle’s fault – people throughout history blindly believed what was written in Aristotle’s corpus, yes, but that is not Aristotle’s fault. Aristotle, in method, was objective, and referred to experience. If he had the evidence available to him which people did who lived 1,000 years or more after he lived, he could have arrived at the conclusions we have -- even Galileo said this. He was a solid scientist in his context, as can be seen in the work he did most: philosophy, logic and biology.

Dr. James Lennox, Professor of Philosophy and the History of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, has some well-written and well-researched articles on his website regarding Aristotle as scientist and philosopher of science. An article directly relevant to some of Priestley's uninformed, unresearched accusations against Aristotle is Lennox's "Aristotle, Galileo and the Mixed Sciences," which discusses (1) Aristotle's use of mathematics as a tool in physics to explain why things happen and (2) Galileo's debt to Aristotle.

Dr. Michael Fowler, Professor of Physics at the University of Virginia also recognized Aristotle’s solid contributions to science. In a lecture on Aristotle, Dr. Fowler says:

To summarize: Aristotle's philosophy laid out an approach to the investigation of all natural phenomena, to determine form by detailed, systematic work, and thus arrive at final causes. His logical method of argument gave a framework for putting knowledge together, and deducing new results. He created what amounted to a fully-fledged professional scientific enterprise, on a scale comparable to a modern university science department. It must be admitted that some of his work - unfortunately, some of the physics - was not up to his usual high standards. He evidently found falling stones a lot less interesting than living creatures. Yet the sheer scale of his enterprise, unmatched in antiquity and for centuries to come, gave an authority to all his writings.

And on the website of the University of Dayton’s History Department, in an article about the history of science, they say:

Aristotle is the key figure in this history of ancient science and indeed one of a handful of leading thinkers and doers in the entire history of science from the dawn of man to the present. His work in virtually every scientific field--from biology to physics to chemistry to astronomy--became a cornerstone of Western Science until the Scientific Revolution. And indeed his methodology, his reliance upon close observation and interdisciplinary bent, remain with us today.

Here are some excerpts from Priestley’s book. It is impossible to grasp Priestley’s masterful and rational approach in brief excerpts, so the excerpts must be lengthy. Priestley does use math in his textbook (it is algebra-based), but these excerpts will focus on his discussions of cause and effect and the development of ideas.

I. Excerpt 1: Chp. 15, “Electricity and Chemistry,” pp. 201-205

15.1 Galvanism. Electricity and chemistry are closely inter-related. A chemical reaction can produce a supply of electricity for as long as the reaction continues. This, the first source of a continuous supply of electricity, an electric current, is the principle of the electric battery. Conversely, an electric current can produce a chemical reaction, usually the decomposition of a chemical compound into its simpler elements, the process of electrolysis. Both processes involve the conversion of energy from one form to another; in the first case, chemical energy becomes electrical energy; in the other, the reverse takes place.

Every living cell produces electricity. The functioning of living tissue today is studied through its electrical action. The study of electricity in living tissue, which began quite accidentally about one hundred and fifty years ago, led to the development of the electric battery, for many years thereafter the standard method of producing electricity

About 1750, it was noted that pieces of lead and silver placed above and below the tongue, respectively, with their outer edges in contact, produced an unpleasant and pungent taste not encountered when the metals were placed separately upon the tongue. The phenomenon was attributed to some excitation of the nerves of the tongue. By this time, various physicians and experimenters had demonstrated that electricity could be used as a muscular stimulant in man and animals. This fact had been used to distinguish between paralyzed and atrophied muscles, an electric charge producing a contraction only in a paralyzed muscle.

Before the end of the eighteenth century it was known that an electric discharge passed through the body of a freshly killed animal could cause a convulsive action in its muscles, and that the discharge of an electric eel (section 14.2) produced motion in a nearby dead fish. Identification of the origin of these effects was made by Galvani (1737-1798), a professor of anatomy at Bologna. Galvani began experimenting about 1780, using a Leyden jar [A Leyden jar was the earliest form of electric condenser, consisting of “a bottle filled with water into which was inserted a wire held in place by a cork.” p. 191] and an electrostatic machine to test the effects of the electric discharge upon the nervous system of the frog. During these experiments he made the chance observation that nearby electrical discharge caused convulsions in a freshly prepared frog’s leg in conducting contact with the earth.

[I] had dissected and prepared a frog. [While] attending to something else, I laid it on a table on which stood an electrical machine at some distance…when one of the persons present touched accidentally and lightly the inner [thigh or leg] nerves of the frog with the point of a scalpel all the muscles of the legs seemed to contract again and again as if affected by powerful cramps. [One of my assistants] thought…the action was excited when a spark was discharged from the conductor of the machine [and] called my attention to it…I was eager to test the same and to bring to light what was concealed in it. I therefore myself touched one of the other nerves with the point of the knife and at the same time one of those present drew a spark. The phenomenon was always the same. Without fail there occurred lively contractions in every muscle of the leg at the same instant as that in which the spark jumped…

[Thinking] these motions might arise from the contact with the point of the knife…rather than by the spark, I touched the same nerves again in the same way in other frogs with the point of the knife…with greater pressure [while] no one during this time drew off a spark...no motion could be detected. I [concluded] that perhaps to excite the phenomenon…needed both the contact of a body and the electric spark.

Therefore, I again pressed the blade of the knife on the nerve and kept it there at rest while the spark passed and while the machine was not in motion. The phenomenon only occurred while the sparks were passing. [In many experiments with the same knife] it was remarkable that when the spark passed the motions observed sometimes occurred and sometimes not… The scalpel had a bone handle...if this handle was held in the hand no contractions occurred when the spark passed; but they did occur if the finger rested on the metallic blade or on the iron rivet by which the blade was held in the handle…

Now to put the thing beyond all doubt we…not only touched the nerves of the leg [with a slender dry and clean glass rod] but rubbed them hard while the sparks were passing. But…the phenomenon never appeared. [It] occurred however if we even lightly touched the same nerve with an iron rod and only little sparks passed. [William F. Magie, A Source Book in Physics (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1938), p. 421.]

Galvani’s “phenomenon” occurred only when the frog’s leg was in conducting communication with the earth, first by chance contact of the scalpel with the nerve, thereafter intentionally by bringing the leg into contact with a conductor grounded by contact with the human body. He continued his researches, turning to the effect of atmospheric electricity (lightning) on muscular motion. He attached frogs by the nerves to long iron wires, the feet of the frogs being grounded by similar wires. Simultaneously with a flash of lightning the muscles were markedly convulsed.

In both these series of experiments the frog, place upon a body insulated from the ground, became charged by induction (section 14.11) from either the electrostatic machine or lightning. When a grounded metal object (scalpel or iron rod) touched the nerve, the sudden change of potential caused by grounding produced the observed convulsive action.

[I next laid one of the prepared frogs] on an iron plate and began to press the hook which was in the spinal cord against the plate. Behold, the same contractions, the same motions…other metals [gave] the same result, only that the contractions were different [for] different metals…more lively for some and more sluggish for the others. At last it occurred to us to use other [non-conducting] bodies…[dry] glass, rubber, resin, stone or wood. With these...no muscular contractions and motions could be seen. Naturally [this astonished us] and caused us to think that possibly the electricity was present in the animal itself…a very fine nervous fluid which during the occurrence of the phenomenon flows from the nerves to the muscle like the electric current….” [ibid., p. 424.]

Galvani now recognized that here was something entirely new. “to make the thing plainer” he varied the experiment by placing the frog on a glass non-conducting plate. A curved rod connected the hook which entered the spinal cord with the muscles of the leg or feet. Convulsions occurred only when the curved rod was of conducting material and only when the hook and conducting rod were of dissimilar metals.

Two possible explanations of these phenomena suggested themselves to Galvani; that there was electricity in the animal organism, or that there was involved some electrical process depending upon contact of the metals and for which the frog’s legs merely served as a sensitive detector. He leaned toward the first of these – the existence of “animal electricity,” for which the nerves had the greatest affinity and were the repository. His theory further assumed that the inner substance of the nerve served as the conductor of this electricity, while the outer layer of the nerve prevented its dispersal. The muscles were the receivers of the animal electricity, and were charged negatively on the outside and positively on the inside. The mechanism of motion was a discharge of the electric fluid from the inside to the outside of the muscle by way of the nerve (like the discharge of a Leyden jar), and this discharge provided a muscular contractional stimulus to the muscle fibers.

15.2 Volta disagrees with Galvani. Galvani’s experiments and his interpretation of the results aroused considerable interest. Among the physicists, physiologists, and medical men who obtained frogs and pieces of dissimilar metals to repeat the experiments for themselves was Volta (1745-1827), a countryman of Galvani’s and professor of physics at Paris.

Volta, greatly impressed by Galvani’s work, referred to it as “one of those splendid major discoveries which…serve to usher in new epochs, not only because it is new and wonderful but also because it opens up a broad field of experiments that are especially and outstandingly capable of the application. “ [ibid., p. 443.] Volta’s original belief in the correctness of the “animal electricity” theory was weakened when he found that a muscular contraction could be produced simply by allowing a very weak electrical discharge to traverse a nerve without the discharge in anyway passing through the muscles. To produce a contraction required only stimulation of “the nerves that control the motions of the voluntary muscles concerned.”

A physicist rather than a physiologist, Volta now shifted his emphasis to the function of the metallic rods used. Repeating the experiment of placing on the tongue two dissimilar metals, he “covered the point of the tongue...with a strip of tin…With the bowl of a spoon, I touched the tongue further back; then I inclined the handle of the spoon to touch the tin. I expected…a twitching of the tongue…. The expected sensation, however, I did not perceive at all; but instead, a rather strong acid taste at the tip of the tongue…this taste lasts as long as the tin and sliver are in contact with each other. …This shows that the flow of electricity from one place to another is continuing without interruption.” It was “not less remarkable” that reversing the experiment so that the silver touched the tip of the tongue and the tin its middle gave “a very different taste...no longer sour but more alkaline, sharp, and approaching bitter.” [ibid., p. 444.] Bringing together the free ends of strips of dissimilar metal which touched, respectively, the forehead and palate produced, at the instant of contact, a bring flash clearly visible to the eye.

Investigations such as these gradually convinced Volta that the metals not only served as conductors but actually generated the electricity themselves. He accordingly modified his views to the belief that the nerves were merely stimulated by a cause to be found in the metals themselves, which were “in a real sense the exciters of electricity.” By 1794 he declared his opposition to the idea of animal electricity and substituted the term “metallic electricity.” The entire effect arose from the electricity set into circulation when metals were brought into contact with any moist body. This circulation through nerves caused stimulation of associate muscles. He found that the results depended upon the nature of the substances used and drew up a series of substances (metals, graphite, an charcoal) such that the magnitude of the effect produced using any two of the substances increased with the separation of the substances in this series.

Volta now dispensed entirely with the use of nerves and muscles in his investigations, and brought pairs of metals into contact with various moist substances, such as paper, cloth, etc. With a sensitive electrometer which he had previously developed, he was able to show the existence of “contact potential” – that the momentary contact of two dissimilar metals caused them to become oppositely charged, even without any moist substance present. A zinc and a copper disc after being placed in contact were both found to be charged, the zinc positively and the copper negatively. Copper also became negatively charged after contact with iron or tin, although less strongly than after contact with zinc. On the other hand, contact with gold or silver gave copper a positive charge and the gold or silver a negative charge. By numerous experiments along these lines, Volta constructed a series for the metals such that upon bringing any two of them into contact, the earlier in the list became positively charged, the later one negatively charged:

Zinc copper
Lead silver
Tin gold
Iron graphite

Furthermore, the more widely separated the substances in the series, the greater was the contact charge developed between them.

On the basis of his investigations, Volta originally assumed that the exciting electricity was located only at the points of contact of the metals and that the animal or other fluid served only as a conductor. But further experiments showed that an electric charge can be produced not only between metals in contact, but also between a metal and certain fluids. For instance, an insulated disc of silver or other metal brought into contact with moist wood or paper and then removed was found to be negatively charged. Experimenting further with liquids and metals, Volta found that the best results were obtained from two dissimilar metals with a moist conductor between them, a combination called a galvanic element. The effect of such a single element was multiplied by combining a large number of them to form a “pile.”

In 1800, Volta described a pile which produced a constant flow of electricity. By comparison with a Leyden jar, it was “equal only to a [Leyden jar] very feebly charged; but infinitely surpasses the power of these [jars] in that it does not need, as they do, to be charged in advance by means of an outside source; and in that It can give the disturbance every time that it is properly touched no matter how often.” [ibid., p. 428]

The pile consisted of small, clean and dry discs of zinc and silver and discs of a spongy material capable of absorbing and retaining a liquid. On a table or base is placed a sliver plate, then a

plate of zinc; on this…one of the moistened discs; then another silver [plate], followed immediately by another of zinc, [then another] moistened disc…continue in the same way coupling a plate of sliver with one of zinc, always [in the same order] and inserting between these couples a moistened disc. [ibid.]

Such a pile produced a slight shock when the hands were placed in contact with the top and bottom of the pile, and also the previously experienced effect upon the nerves of taste, sight, and hearing. One drawback was that the moist material between the metal discs dried out, decreasing the electric current generated. To overcome this, Volta devised his “crown of cups,” consisting of a row of beakers of non-metallic material filled with brine into which were placed alternate strips of sliver and zinc. Each silver strip in one cup was joined to the zinc strip in the next cup by a metallic jumper. “A train of 30, 40, 60 of these goblets joined up in this manner…in substance is the same as the [pile] tried before; the essential feature, of the immediate connection of the different metals which form each pair and the mediate connection of one couple with another by the intermediary of a damp conductor, appears in this apparatus as well as in the other.” [ibid., p. 431.] This crown of cups was subsequently improved by substituting copper for silver and dilute sulphuric acid for brine.

Volta reported that the “tension” (potential difference) produced by the pile or cups “is less according as they are nearer in the following series…sliver, copper, iron, tin, lead, zinc, a scale in which the first [is positive with respect] to the second, the second to the third, etc.”

The importance of Volta’s discovery of a means of producing a continuous supply of electricity cannot be overemphasized. Sarton, the distinguished historian of science, compares it with the development of the telescope and microscope, with the fundamental difference that the telescope and microscope “were only means of magnifying our vision. They enabled us to see things which we could not see before, but which existed nevertheless… On the contrary, the electric cell was really a creative instrument; it opened to man a new and incomparable source of energy.” [Bern Dibner, Galvani-Volta (Norwalk: Burndy Library, Inc., 1952), p. 40.]

15.3 The simple voltaic cell. Volta’s identification of the true origin of “animal electricity” led to the familiar batteries now used in radios, automobiles, etc. In every case, production of electricity results from the conversion of chemical into electrical energy. To understand the mechanism involved, consider the simple or voltaic cell, consisting of two dissimilar metals immersed in a liquid, and in essence an element of Volta’s pile.

Genius. Thank you Dr. Priestley.

Priestley then goes on to discuss the work of Michael Faraday in discovering the laws of electrolysis, which led to the development of practical cells, i.e., the batteries we now have in everyday life, and which we take for granted.

But what we have in this excerpt is the scientific history of the development of the modern battery – which came out of experiments which changed fundamentally how we view man, as well. The observation that we had different sensations when metals touched our tongue in different places would have gone nowhere and could have been interpreted in all kinds of ways, without the knowledge that frogs’ nerves and muscles are affected by electricity.

This knowledge was the first step in our modern science of neurology, in understanding how the brain works, and in developing some of the drugs we have today (which have neurological effects because of their chemistry and electrical effects).

And if not for the foundational work of Michael Faraday arising from the research of Volta and Galvani, we would not know what we do today about nutrition and the operation of the cell. What does something so everyday as Gatorade have in it? Electrolytes. Thank Michael Faraday next time you drink some.

Priestley is a genius in taking us from the observation that we had certain sensations when metals touched our tongues, to the modern battery. He presents a missing side of modern scientific texts: causality. Science is about discovering cause-effect relationships. Most modern texts present physics as an exercise in mathematics – the texts could be addenda to math texts, providing word problems and applications of math. They fail miserably in presenting cause-effect relationships, and showing how scientific knowledge really develops. They fail to present the important experiments that led to modern understanding of the material world, and that make physics what it is.

II. Excerpt 2: Chp. 10, “The Nature of Heat,” pp. 135-139

10.6 The measurement of heat. The development of the thermometer opened the doorway to a new science – that of heat measurements – in which the pioneer was Joseph Black (1727-1799), professor of medicine and chemistry at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Prior to Black’s work, no clear distinction had been drawn between “quantity of heat” and “degree of hotness (temperature).” While something clearly passed from a hot body to one at a lower temperature, whether that something was heat or temperature was not known. Black was the first to conceive clearly of heat as a measurably physical quantity, distinct from, although related to, temperature as indicated by a thermometer.

He began to investigate the general belief that the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of any body by a given amount was proportional to the density of the body. Fahrenheit, by mixing together water and mercury at different temperatures, had found that despite its much greater density, the heating and cooling effect of a given volume of mercury was only two-thirds that of the same volume of water. From these results Black concluded that “the quantities of heat which different kinds of matter must receive to reduce them to equilibrium with one another, or to raise their temperatures by an equal number of degrees, are not in proportion to the quantity of matter in each, by in proportions widely different from this.” [Abraham Wolf, A History of Science, Technology, and Philosophy in the 18th Century (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939), p. 178.] Fahrenheit’s experiments led Back to compare the heating and cooling effects of other substances with corresponding effects of an equal bulk of water, obtaining for the different substances values he called their “capacities for heat.”

He went on to observe that the sensation of cold in a hand applied to a piece of ice indicates that the ice receives heat very rapidly. But a thermometer applied to the water dripping from the melting ice show it to be at the same temperature as the ice. “A great quantity, therefore, of the heat…which enters into the melting ice produces no other effect but to give it fluidity, without augmenting its sensible heat; it appears to be absorbed and concealed within the water, so as not to be discoverable by the application of a thermometer.” [ibid, p. 180.] Back now demonstrated that during the melting of ice, and similar changes of state (solid to liquid, liquid to vapor), large quantities of heat were “rendered latent,” absorbed with no change in temperature, and explained these and similar facts by assuming a union of the matter of heat with ice to form water and with water to form steam; i.e.,

Ice + matter of heat = water,
Water+ matter of heat = steam.

10.7 The caloric theory of heat. The more obvious phenomena of heat – combustion, melting, freezing, evaporation, etc. – have been familiar from early times, and ideas concerning the nature of heat go far back in history. Aristotle conceived of fire as one of the four material elements (section 4.2), while the Platonic view was that heat was some kind of motion: “For heat and fire…are themselves begotten by impact and friction: but this is motion.” But throughout the centuries little or no distinction was made between heat and flame.

Various people, including Francis Bacon, Huygens, and Boyle, advanced the idea that heat is a form of motion of the “parts” of a body. Boyle drew attention to the heat generated during the boring of guns and to the fact that “when a smith does hastily hammer a nail,…the hammered metal will grow exceedingly hot, and yet there appears not anything to make it so, save the forcible motion of the hammer.” [ibid, p. 276.] But there was no direct experimental support of these speculations.

Following his work on thermal capacities and latent heats, Black was led to consider the nature of heat. This he did with some reservations, as may be seen from the following extract from his lectures: “Heat is plainly something extraneous to matter. …Having arrived at this conclusion, it may perhaps be required of me to express more distinctly this something – to give a full description, or definition, of what I mean by the word ‘heat’ in matter. This, however, is a demand that I cannot satisfy entirely…. Our knowledge of heat is not brought to that state of perfection that might enable us to propose with confidence a theory of heat of to assign an immediate cause for it.” [Duane Roller, The Early Development of the Concepts of Temperature and Heat, (Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1950), p. 42.]

Black continued with a review of the theories previously advanced as to the nature of heat, theories which fall into two basic categories – that heat is either motion or a material substance. Reviewing the motion theory, Black say that he “cannot form a conception of this internal (vibration) which has any tendency to explain even the more simple effects of heat.” He then goes on to point out that:

…the greater number of French and German philosophers have held that the motion of which they suppose heat to consist is not a tremor, or vibration, of the particles of the hot body itself, but of the particles of a subtle, highly elastic, and penetrating fluid matter, which is contained in the pores of hot bodies, or interposed among their particles…. But interposed among their particles…. But neither of these suppositions has been fully and accurately considered by their authors, or applied to explain the whole of the facts and phenomena relating to heat. They have not, therefore, supplied us with a proper theory or explication of the nature of heat.

A more ingenious attempt has lately been…given by the late Dr. Cleghorn…. He supposed that heat depends on the abundance of that subtle elastic fluid which had been imagined before by other philosophers to be present in every part of the universe and to be the cause of heat…. he supposed that the ordinary kinds of matter consist of particles having strong [gravitational] attraction both for one another and for the matter of heat; whereas the…matter of heat is self-repelling, its particles having a strong repulsion for one another while they are attracted by other kids of matter.

Such an idea of the nature of heat is the most probable of any that I know.… It is, however, altogether a supposition. [ibid., p. 45.]

In 1779, Cleghorn extended the material theory of heat to include Black’s discoveries of thermal capacity and latent heat. The main properties assigned by Cleghorn to the “matter of heat’ or “caloric,” may be summarized in the following postulates of the caloric theory:

1. Caloric is an elastic fluid, composed of particles which strongly repel each other.
2. Particles of caloric are attracted by particles of ordinary matter.
3. Caloric can be neither destroyed nor created.
4. Caloric can be either sensible caloric, which increases the temperature of body to which it is added and forms an “atmosphere” around the particles of the body, or latent caloric, which is combed with the particles of the body in a manner similar to the chemical combinations of the particles themselves, producing as a new compound the liquid or vapor form of the substance.
5. Caloric may or may not have appreciable weight.

When two bodies at different temperatures were placed in contact, it was supposed that caloric flowed from the hotter to the colder body until equilibrium was established. Expansion was attributed to the mutual repulsion of the caloric which entered the heated body. Development of heat by friction or compression was explained as due either to the fact that the particles of a body rubbed by friction lost some of their “capacity” for caloric, which was thus “liberated,” raising the temperature of the body, or to the fact that friction and pressure squeezed out some of the caloric latent in the pressed body, which thereby became sensibly hot. The caloric theory dominated the science of heat until the middle of the nineteenth century.

It should be noted that toward the end of the eighteenth century the “motion theory” of heat was nothing more than pure speculation, a working hypothesis without any decisive experimental evidence in its favor. By contrast the caloric theory offered a satisfactory and semiquantitative explantion of the known thermal phenomena. Furthermore, the motion theory dealt only with the origin of heat and said nothing about its behavior.

10.8 Does heat have weight? Black pointed out that the fact that bodies expanded when heated had led to the supposition that a heated body increased in weight. Various eighteenth-century experiments to test this supposition had produced conflicting results, none of them proving “that the weight of bodies is increased by their being heated, or by the presence of heat in them.” Some observers found that an increase in the temperature of a body was accompanied by slight increase in weight; some observed a slight loss in weight; others could detect no variation in weight with variation in temperature. The most carefully executed experiments were those of Runford, whose results were negative.

Although Rumford was an able administrator, and an authority on military problems, experimenting on heat was one of his “most agreeable employments.” He believed the mode-of-motion theory to be the sounder view of the nature of heat, even though in his time the caloric theory was well established and generally accepted. The primary purpose of his experiments was to attack the caloric theory from as many different points of view as possible.

Identical glass flasks containing equal weights of water, alcohol, and mercury showed equal temperatures and weights after having been exposed to room temperature (61º F) for 24 hours, after 48 hours at a cooler temperature (30º F), and upon being restored to room temperature after the cooler period. Repeated several times, the experiment gave consistent results. Rumford was convinced that “if heat be, in fact, a substance or matter…it must be something so infinitely rare, even in its most condensed state, as to baffle all our attempts to discover its [weight]… I think we may very safely conclude that all attempts to discover any effect of heat upon the apparent weights of bodies will be fruitless.” [Wolf, op. cit., p. 196.]

Rumford’s experiments showed heat had no detectable weight. So caloric must be imponderable, an opinion which Black had considered to be one of the chief objections to the caloric theory. But to many eighteenth-century scientists and philosophers this was not a serious objection. At that time full acceptance was given to a small class of “imponderable” fluids – including light, electricity, and magnetism – which, unlike ordinary matter, were not subject to gravitational attraction to any observable extent. By attributing to these “imponderables” certain other familiar properties of ordinary matter, the various known phenomena could be fairly satisfactorily explained, and new phenomena often successfully predicted Thus the problem of the weight of heat was not critical in resolving the conflict between the caloric and motion theories of heat. Much more critical was the conservation principle, that caloric could be neither created nor destroyed. Here also Rumford performed certain vital experiments as part of his general attack on the caloric theory.

The caloric theory had been particularly useful in explaining and predicting phenomena in mixing liquids or heating a substance over a fire, in which it is reasonable to conclude that there is no creation or destruction of heat during its conduction from object to object or from fire to object. But where did the heat come from when an object was warmed by rubbing it or hammering it? While the calorists believed they could answer this question and still retain the principle of conservation of caloric, other investigators believed the mode-of-motion theory to be a much more satisfactory explanation.

While engaged in boring cannon at Munich, Rumford observed with surprise “the very considerable degree of heat that a brass gun acquires in a short time in being bored, and with the still higher temperature of the metallic chips separated from it by the borer. The more I meditated on these phenomena, the more they appeared to me to be curious and interesting. A thorough investigation of them seemed even to bid fair to give a farther insight into the hidden nature of heat; and to enable us to form some reasonable conjectures respecting the existence, or nonexistence, of [caloric]….From whence comes the heat actually produced in the mechanical operations? Is it furnished by the metallic chips which are separated by the borer from the solid mass of metal?” [Roller, op. cit., p. 63.] In one experiment, for example, a 113-lb metal blank was heated from 60º F to 130º F while less than two ounces of metallic dust was produced by the borer.

A brass cylinder, placed in a wooden box containing 18 ¾ lbs of water, was made to rotate against a steel borer. The amount of heat produced could be determined by observing the rise in temperature of the water, which was brought from 60 F to the boiling point (212 F) in 2 ¾ hours. As Rumford stated: “It would be difficult to describe the surprise and astonishment expressed in the countenance of the by-standers on seeing so large a quantity of water heated, and actually made to boil without any fire…. We must not forget to consider that most remarkable circumstance, that the source of the heat generated by friction in these experiments, appeared evidently to be inexhaustible….anything which any insulated body, or system of bodies, can continue to furnish without limitation, cannot possibly be a material substance. It appears to me to be extremely difficult, if not quite impossible, to form any distinct idea of anything capable of being excited and communicated in the manner in which the heat was excited and communicated in these experiments, except it be motion. “ [Wolf, op. cit., p. 197.]

Here Rumford emphasizes what he considers the chief result of his experiments, the apparently inexhaustible source of heat generated by friction. The calorists claimed heat is rubbed out of an object by friction. Ultimately, then, all the heat in the object should be exhausted. But this was never observed. Furthermore, in Rumford’s experiments heat apparently was created by friction, refuting the conservation principle which is the foundation of the caloric theory, and denying the material nature of heat, the basis of that conservation principle.

Rumford published the results of his experiments in 1798. One year later Humphrey Davy (1778-1829) published an essay directed against the caloric theory and which dealt in part with the production of heat by friction. The best-known of Davy’s experiments is that in which he rubbed together two blocks of ice fastened by wires to two bars of iron.

Some forty years after the experiments of Rumford and Davy, the problem of heat produced by friction was again investigated, this time on a quantitative basis, by Mayer (in Germany) and Joule (in England). By 1850 these investigators had established beyond little doubt that heat is not a separate substance, but is a form of energy, the kinetic energy of the atoms and molecules of ordinary matter.

Again: genius. The interplay between theory, observation, reasoning and experiment is masterfully presented by Priestley.

Priestley goes on to discuss the work of J.B. Mayer and James Joule in determining the relationship between mechanical energy and heat and in discovering the principle of the conservation of energy.

Introductory Physics I highly recommend to anyone who wants a conceptual, rational understanding of the physical world we live in.

Education Science Posted by Cyrano at 10:25 PM

Dancelicious 2

Here is more great dancing from SYTYCD, Season 2.

Allison Holker the Beautiful, Dance Goddess, did a beautiful solo to “This Woman’s Work” by Maxwell and to “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble.

I'd have to say I liked some other dancers and performances on the show, too. Benji Schwimmer and his cousin Heidi did a fantastic routine to "Black Mambo" (they have been dancing together since they were at least 5!!!); Travis Wall and Heidi did a paso doble to "Plaza of Execution;" and Benji and Travis did an entertaining hip-hip routine to "Gyrate." But Allison is still first and foremost in my book.

Art Posted by Cyrano at 9:33 PM

Kudlow Interviews Speaker Pelosi

I captured this a long time ago, but just got my ripping and uploading act together.

Full disclosure #1: the Speaker was charming and intelligent; I am cherry picking the worst part of the interview (well, it was bad).

Full disclosure #2: I do not have permission to show this copyrighted material. Mr. Property rights has asked permission, but not received it. There are 112 Kudlow clips on YouTube, so I am guessing it might be okay. I hope they have WiFi in prison...

Posted by John Kranz at 7:11 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

And how much profit is "excessive?" Let me ask it another way: How much would Democrats have to tax oil companies before they would agree that any more would be "too much?"

But the big picture, for her, is this: "But I think we have to be fair. You look at the budget, you put everything on the table; what does this accomplish in terms of growing our economy?"

I don't know, Ms. speaker. How much taxation on a staple of production is required to stimulate that production? I'm drawing a blank. Let's ask Mr. Lenin.

Finally, how accustomed to the leftist echo chamber is she that when she hears someone say the words "windfall profits tax" she hears only "windfall profits?"

Posted by: johngalt at April 24, 2007 3:29 PM

Quote of The Day

"I very seriously believe that capitalism is not only a better form of organizing human activity than any deliberate design, any attempt to organize it to satisfy particular preferences, to aim at what people regard as beautiful or pleasant order, but it is also the indispensable condition for just keeping that population alive which exists already in the world. I regard the preservation of what is known as the capitalist system, of the system of free markets and the private ownership of the means of production, as an essential condition of the very survival of mankind." -Friedrich Hayek

Thanks to Larry Kudlow

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 5:04 PM

An Economic Giant in HD

ThreeSources friend Lance of A Second Hand Conjecture reminds Friedmanites of an upcoming TV event:

This coming Tuesday, April 24th, Free to Choose Media is continuing the work of its inspiration, Milton Friedman, of bringing the benefits of freedom to the people of this world, including its most remote corners. A new documentary, “The Ultimate Resource” will air on HDNet at 10PM EST.

In short, they travel to China, Bangladesh, Estonia, Ghana, and Peru and show examples of how people (thank you Julian Simon) - when given the incentives and the tools - are proving they can apply their free choice, intelligence, imagination and spirit to dramatically advance their well-being and that of their families and communities. The program features 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Hernando de Soto, James Tooley and Johan Norberg.

I joked when I bought my HiDef TV (I ended up with a Sylvania 42" Plasma HD) that it was a waste to get HD to watch Larry Kudlow. But I will be looking forward to this.

But Lance thinks:

Thanks a lot. I know the guys at Free to Choose media appreciate it.

I hope you don't mind me pushing you to promote it, in any way you feel appropriate.

HDNet didn't let them know the broadcast schedule until last week. So they are pretty much counting on us bloggers to spread the word. They had only a few days and no time to develop a traditional PR Campaign. Other wise I wouldn't so explicitly ask a group of people such as bloggers to make an effort. I am a big fan of these guys, I think they do Gods work. The people they are covering are even more important.

Posted by: Lance at April 23, 2007 12:12 PM
But jk thinks:

Get outta town, I am looking forward to it. Were I able to turn one person on to the ideas of Friedman, my blogging career would be worthwhile.

Posted by: jk at April 23, 2007 12:16 PM

April 22, 2007

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.

It's also Lenin's birthday.

Just so you know.

... I imagine it's coincidental.

But johngalt thinks:

It's also the date, in 1915, when Germany introduced poison gas in WWI. These sound to me like three good reasons not to read the news on this date - no tellin' what other gems are in store for future April 22nds.

My favorite line from the Earth Day wiki entry was this:

"The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters,[13][14] although Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist."

Hmmm. Wonder why so many people still see a connection then. What could it be? (I'd spell it out but really, if you can't figure it out, you probably won't read Threesources.com again anyway.)

Posted by: johngalt at April 24, 2007 3:11 PM

The Other Virginia College Shooting

Could it be that johngalt linked to a Glenn Reynolds piece before JK did? Could be...

A google news search for "appalachian school of law shooting 2002" yielded "Which is Safer? More guns or fewer?" by Reynolds published in Denver's Rocky Mountain News.

It's a short piece and every paragraph is superb, but here's one I'd like to highlight:

What's more, she would have been safer. That's how I feel about my student as well (one of a few I know who have gun-carry permits). She's a responsible adult; I trust her not to use her gun improperly, and if something bad happened, I'd want her to be armed because I trust her to respond appropriately, making the rest of us safer. [emphasis mine]

It isn't often one reads a distinction between reality and perception - between "being" and "feeling" - in a newspaper. It's no surprise, when it happens, that it comes from the pen of a blogger.

Hat Tip: My dad, who brought me Friday's Rocky Mountain News "RockyTalk Live" column with reader comments on the VT murders, including one by "KW" that mentioned the 2002 incident.

But jk thinks:

My Internet connection was down -- I woulda smoked you!

Seriously, great post. Professor Reynolds is not only right, but also in a good position to make this point without seeming an ideologue or a gun nut.

I watched the President of George Washington University on FOXNews Sunday. When a similar a suggestion was made, he bemusedly waved it off, bragging that even Campus Police were unarmed.

I feel safer already.

Posted by: jk at April 23, 2007 12:56 PM

"Gun Culture" Defined

"Gun culture" has been the theme of several recent postings, precipitated by the derogotory use of that term by media imbeciles opining on last week's Virginia Tech mass murder. I now offer an authoritative definition of the term in 800 pages: The 1996 John Ross historical novel, 'Unintended Consequences.' [Sorry, hardcover only.]

Here's a concise reader comment on the work from Amazon.com:

127 of 135 people found the following review helpful:

It Changed My Thinking, April 27, 2003
Reviewer: Beau Thurnauer "Beau" (Coventry, CT USA) - See all my reviews

I'm a pretty conservative guy. I follow rules because I find it comfortable to do so. I stop at stop lights and do a lot of things I would rather not do as well as not doing things I would like to do because I find this an orderly and secure way to live.
I do recognize that there are many stupid poorly conceived laws and rules but I still comply. I have never thought about starting a revolution because the trivial moronic little rules and regulations that we are requested to comply with are unreasonable in a free society. But that is the topic of this book.

Few books in my life have changed my thinking over the long term. Unintended Consequences did this. This book is about the gun culture. How it began and where it is today. I never never never thought about how not only many of the Federal firearms regulations are but in a more global sense how many of our regulations are ridiculous.

This may sound like a vague description of a 800+ page book. But this book is so global. It talks specifically about Henry Bowman who grows up shooting guns as a hobby like many others collect stamps or ride motorcycles. Yet he explains very slowly and methodically how his life experiences with his hobby are hampered unreasonably by Federal regulations. You do not have to be a gun lover or hater to appreciate this book. You only have to have a hobby or passion; any hobby or passion. You will see how our Constitution and Bill of Rights have been beaten and changed, how we are losing our individual rights and how dangerous the repurcussions.

Please read this book for the message, it will change you.

It didn't change me, but it did reinforce my opinions.

Gun Rights Posted by JohnGalt at 12:33 PM

Must Ban Semi-Automatics

Because nobody could shoot quickly with a revolver. Enjoy:

Hat-tip: A Volkh commenter,

Posted by John Kranz at 12:31 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

I've seen fast revolver shooters at the local range, but this guy is phenomenal.

I'm sure glad he's a member of the gun culture and not the narcissistic "I'm special just because I'm me and anyone who makes fun of me deserves to be slaughtered" culture.

Posted by: johngalt at April 22, 2007 12:49 PM

April 21, 2007

Maybe it is a gun culture

Miss America 1944, as told by Yahoo News/AP/LATimes:

WAYNESBURG, KY. — Miss America 1944 has a talent that probably has never appeared on a beauty pageant stage: She fired a handgun to shoot out a vehicle's tires and stop an intruder.

Venus Ramey, 82, confronted a man on her farm in south-central Kentucky last week after she saw her dog run into a storage building where thieves had previously made off with old farm equipment.

Ramey said the man told her he would leave. "I said, 'Oh, no you won't,' and I shot their tires so they couldn't leave," Ramey said.

She had to balance on her walker as she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun.

I love this country.

UPDATE: Insty beat me to this one by a few hours, and links to Don Surber, who has a picture.

Gun Rights Posted by John Kranz at 3:27 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

The equalizing power of firearms is awesome...

Posted by: AlexC at April 21, 2007 5:53 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Correction: It really WAS a gun culture... in 1944. This was the era when many a young boy carried his .22 rifle to school with him, left it in his locker all day, and hunted rabbits on his way home. These were the men who, when faced with the international threat of a genocidal madman in central Europe, and ordered by the president to go across the ocean and defeat a mighty army, kept marching forward until the enemy surrendered. They knew how to handle a firearm, and what it was for (and not for).

Today, young boys and girls are expelled from school for a week if they bring a butter knife to school. Today, it is a butter-knife culture.

Any wonder why Mahmood isn't afraid?

Posted by: johngalt at April 22, 2007 12:25 PM

April 20, 2007

Thanks, Dr, McClellan

Kim Strassel of the WSJ Ed Page pens a nice piece lauding Dr. Mark McClellan:

Republicans won a big victory this week, shooting down a Democratic plan for more government-run health care. The GOP victors, and free-marketers, might send their thank-you notes to Dr. Mark McClellan.

Dr. McClellan is the 43-year-old internist who, until recently, held the thankless job of running Medicare. He was handed the further thankless task of designing and implementing Congress's tepid 2003 Medicare reform. And he's the big brain who then wrung every last ounce out of that authority to create a striking new model for Medicare competition that is today not only performing beyond expectations, but is changing the political health-care debate.

She goes on to credit him with a great part of the success of the Medicare Part D, and much of the parts that free market lovers actually like about it.
Dr. McClellan's solution was a program that gave companies maximum freedom to design plans, bundle drugs and turn a profit. He was a salesman, talking up the opportunities and even traveling to New York to reassure Wall Street. It worked, and by the first days of business most seniors were being courted by anywhere from 11 to 23 plan sponsors. Those numbers have only grown, creating so much competition that sponsors are eliminating deductibles, lowering premiums, offering more drugs. It's also led to smart cost-cutting and efficiencies; an estimated 60% of Medicare prescriptions are now for generics.

She titles the piece "The Competence Man." When some of the President’s picks have seemed not to be the best and brightest, Dr. Mac was an exception (his brother did okay at press secretary, but was no Tony Snow).

I wrote about Dr, McClellan in May of 2003 in an essay called "The Best and the Brightest."

Last night, I saw Dr. McClellan. The dude is an M.D. and has a PhD. in Economics. He has taken on one of the most stifling, sclerotic, anti-competitive bureaucracies and is leading it the right way. His fast tracking of Cancer drugs will save tens of thousands of lives. His less-adversarial demeanor will bring back capital to the pharmaceutical sector, which will save millions. The Wall Street Journal has relentlessly attacked the FDA before his tenure, doing their best work around the Erbitux-ImClone-Waksal-and-Martha-Stewart imbroglio. But there’s a new sheriff in town.

McClellan was starting to reform my bete noire, the FDA. I was saddened when he was moved out of that post to Medicare but it seems that move might have saved this nation Billions of dollars.

Thanks, Doc.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 5:49 PM


A friend sends a link to Mickey Kaus, who makes a well reasoned case for NBC's abstaining.

Isn't Michael Ledeen right--NBC shouldn't have shown that video. It seems less like an "ethical challenge" than a no-brainer. Why encourage other potential Cho's to try for a similar publicity bonanza? This isn't a Unabomber like case where publicizing a killer's electronic media kit might help identify him. We already know who did it.

It's well done but I remain unconvinced. The killer "got what he wanted" but he was very much too dead to enjoy it.

Mickster is right that l'Affaire Imus looks pretty silly against this but so what? That Imus coverage was overblown does not reflect on VT coverage.

UPDATE: Don Surber makes a better comparison than Cho - Imus: Cho vs. 9/11 vs. Katrina. The famous restraint that caused 9/11 pictures to disappear from the news stacks poorly against the broadcast of prurient images from New Orleans and the Cho video.

I'm a poor choice to defend the media. (Hat-tip: Insty).

Before I'm voted off the raft, let me make one point. FOXNews, unsurprisingly, set the news machine on 11 for this story. We had a logo and theme song the day it happened, the young man's picture was on every four minutes and any thread of information gleaned about him was cause for a news alert where they would break into coverage of the same story. This is how the business goes in 24x7 cable land. I'm not complaining but I choose not to watch. I fast forward through most of Brit Hume's show. They do not have 30 minutes of new information.

I digress, The point is that NBC's decision to air the killer's video does not strike me as morally inferior to another network's interviewing a guy who once sold him a pair of shoes ("He was a quiet kid, and he wore a 9C...") They're both "making him famous" and he is too dead to enjoy the coverage.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 12:21 PM

"Gun Culture"?

So it's all over the news that we have a "gun culture?"

Should we be prevented from owning firearms? Should we be allowed to own firearms?

This video shows what happens when "just anyone" has a gun: Horror.

Now what would have happened if this person did not have a gun? And would that have been good, or bad?

I side with the video. Strongly.

HT: Never Yet Melted Blog

But jk thinks:

Amen to that!

I always want to tell the gun control people: "We tried that. It's called the Middle Ages -- look it up." Their dream world of no guns would just allow the biggest and meanest to have their way at the expense of others.

Posted by: jk at April 20, 2007 12:06 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Ok ... that is out of SLC ... Salt Lake City. Yet another reason to like Mitt, eh?

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at April 20, 2007 2:04 PM

April 19, 2007

NBC and the VT Broadcast

One could have a thoughtful discussion of NBC's decision to broadcast the media received from the VT murderer -- but then you wouldn't make a good blogger. Hugh Hewitt suggests it might be The Single Worst Editorial Decision In The History Of Broadcast News?

The airing of the pictures and video is obviously a hurtful and destructive act, one that will prime many killing pumps in the years ahead, and one obviously made on the fly by individuals of almost no experience with or curiosity about the deranged mind.

I don't get it. Perhaps my blog brothers will put me right. I see it as a borderline case and I could have applauded restraint and discretion had they decided not to air it. But I cannot get into Hugh's high dudgeon.

Blaming NBC for the "next" shooting makes no more sense than blaming Smith & Wesson, or "society" or racism.

But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Capus and the other heads at NBC debated long and hard over whether to show the video.

WTF was the debate? How high will our ratings go and how much should we charge advertisers??

Was it a debate over doing the morally correct thing versus the morally reprehensible? (We can see which side won that debate,...)

As for me,...F**k NBC!! I used to watch the Today Show over breakfast (my little TV in the kitchen doesn't have cable), but no more!

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at April 19, 2007 8:15 PM
But jk thinks:

Any reason to not watch The Today Show is a good one, Trek.

The free market guy in me says that if the ratings were going to spike, that proves an interest in seeing it.

Were it a prurient look at the bodies or the murders, it would clearly be wrong. I just don't see what is clearly wrong with broadcasting this guy's "manifesto." I reject the assertion that it will encourage other mass murderers; I think that is a very singular deficiency.

Posted by: jk at April 20, 2007 10:51 AM

April 18, 2007

Can't Keep Mister Imus Waiting...

John Fund in Political Diary:

Everyone wishes New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine a swift recovery, but details about his accident have led New Jersey's state police to promise a full review of the governor's driving practices. The governor's vehicle was going 91 miles an hour -- 40% above the speed limit -- and using its flashing lights to clear a path. The crash occurred when a red pickup truck pulled onto the shoulder to get out of the way. The driver had to swerve back into traffic to avoid a mile-marker post.

Police experts say excessive speed by the governor's car, which was heading for a meeting between radio host Don Imus and the Rutgers University women's basketball team, could not be justified by the circumstances. "I think there has to be some reason to violate the speed laws," Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina who evaluates high-risk police activities, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It doesn't make any sense to go that fast to get to that meeting. He should have left a little earlier."

Samuel Walker, a Nebraska professor and author of the book "The New World of Police Accountability," went even further: "This was not a pursuit. I think there's a broader problem of public officials who believe they are above the law. Traveling at 91 M.P.H. is a demonstration of that."

Ditto, many would add, for the governor's disregard of his state's seat belt law. When he was in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Corzine had pushed for laws to force states to strengthen their enforcement of seat-belt laws.

New Jersey State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes told reporters this week that there are no specific guidelines "about a maximum speed in the normal course of transporting the governor." Hmmm. How about common sense and respect for others? It appears that the governor's driver was acting more like Princess Di's late chauffeur than a responsible state trooper. In the process, he may have endangered the lives of other motorists and not just those of himself, the governor and his aides.

Maybe it's out of line to pursue this with Governor Corzine in the hospital, but these folks are something else. "When he was in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Corzine had pushed for laws to force states to strengthen their enforcement of seat-belt laws" and, we now hear, Corzine himself would never deign to wear a seat belt himself. Having the trooper drive 91 mph to get him to a photo op, this is insanity.

I wish the former Goldman Sachs head, Senator, and current Governor a speedy recovery. At the same time, I wish the good people of The Garden State would start being a little more demanding in whom they elect.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 1:05 PM | What do you think? [2]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

91 mph,...unrestrained, and reports that the SUV rolled over,....

I hope Corzine makes it to a house of worship when he gets discharged!

I've seen too many people from that get the big yellow sheet over them at the scene.

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at April 18, 2007 9:51 PM
But jk thinks:

Not rich people...

Posted by: jk at April 19, 2007 6:53 PM

Unwilling to Sacrifice for the Environment


As Pennsylvanians prepare to mark another Earth Day, (April 22) they believe that global warming exists but look to government and science to solve the problem rather than take steps to solve it themselves.

That's what two Mansfield University researchers found via an "action index" they created to analyze the willingness of adult Pennsylvanians to take action to reduce global warming.

"Our results suggest that a majority of people in the state are not very committed to taking broad action against global warming," says Tim Madigan, associate professor of sociology at Mansfield University in Mansfield, PA.

... and why should they?

Government has always been there to solve our problems, eh Comrade? Eh?

Slightly more than half, 52 percent, expressed willingness to use fluorescent light bulbs. Forty-six percent said they would compost kitchen scraps and 51 percent would take reusable bags to the grocery store.

Fifty-five percent said they would buy things from environmentally friendly companies.

Only 38 percent said they were willing to wash dishes by hand while 41 percent would own a hybrid car, and buy a solar power system for their home.

Just 26 percent indicated willingness to allow washed clothes to air-dry.

Twenty-five percent would purchase a windmill and 30 percent would remove meat from their diet.

But are we buying carbon credits?

But jk thinks:

Heartwarming how many people are willing to change their lightbulbs to keep this world pristine for our progeny. I get teary eyed just thinking of their courage and sacrifice.

Seriously, I think this article identifies the true measure of how many people really "believe" and to what extent.

Posted by: jk at April 18, 2007 12:16 PM

Hayek vs. Marx

The World's Greatest Deliberative Body will vote today on one of the worst of the six in '06 initiatives that the Democrats campaigned on: allowing the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare Part D.

I was on board with the President when Part D was enacted. Many thoughtful libertarians and small government types decried it as a new entitlement. It's a valid point, but if the government is going to pay for heart surgery, it seems that buying a bottle of Plavix(r) might be cost-effective. I also appreciated that there were free market mechanisms built in.

The WSJ Ed Page point out that this part of the program has mitigated their opposition.

We opposed the prescription drug bill as a vast new entitlement, but there's no denying the program's innovation of using private-sector competition has worked far better than critics predicted. In the first year alone, the cost of Medicare Part D came in 30% below projections. The Congressional Budget Office calculates the 10-year cost of Medicare Part D will be a whopping $265 billion below original estimates.

Seniors are also saving money under this private competition model. Premiums for the drug benefit were expected to average $37 a month. Instead, premiums this year are averaging $22 a month -- a more than 40% saving. Democrats don't like to be reminded that many of them wanted to lock in premiums at $35 a month back in 2003. No wonder recent polls find that about 80% of seniors say they're satisfied with their new Medicare drug benefits.

Now, the Democrats are in charge and the one good part of the bill in danger. (To be fair, this vote alone is an "I told you so" against my initial support.) We can't let people choose and companies compete and innovate -- it would be better if the government did all that! Like they do for the Veteran's Health Administration.

That's a good comparison. The VHA offers only one in five of new drugs released since 2000. Of the 300 drugs most commonly prescribed for seniors. a study found that one in three -- including such popular medicines as Lipitor, Crestor, Nexium and Celebrex -- are not covered under VHA, while 94% are available under Part D. The best comparison between VHA and Part D?

Statistics released March 22 by the VHA and Department of Health and Human Services show that 1.16 million seniors who are already enrolled in the VHA drug program have nonetheless signed up for Medicare Part D. That's about one-third of the entire VHA case load. Why? Because these seniors have figured out that Medicare Part D offers more convenience, often lower prices, and better insurance coverage for their prescription drugs. In short, seniors are voting with their feet against the very price control system that Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi want to push them into.

Where the market works, government will work much better. Just like when the government does...uuh...

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 10:31 AM

April 17, 2007


Season 3 of "So You Think You Can Dance" starts on Thursday, May 24th!!! It'll be on at 7 Central, with a one-hour audition show. There will be a two-hour audition show on Wednesday, May 30th. This show is amazing; "Dancing With the Stars" got nothing on SYTYCD, which has real dancers on it, not "stars" who are learning to dance. And the music is much better, too. SYTYCD has recordings of original artists, not a cheesy band which sounds like it has been in an elevator too long. On SYTYCD they dance jazz, broadway, contemporary, hip hop, ballroom, Latin, swing. Dancers are paired with dancers, instead of a pro paired with a beginner, as on "Dancing With the Stars."

My favorite in Season 2 was Allison Holker. She had everything: technique, feeling, expressiveness, athleticism. She was not voted to continue at one point -- which almost caused me to quit watching the show, in extreme anger at the stupidity of the Americans who voted. But Travis Wall was good, as was Benji Schwimmer (who won)...so I kept watching...

Allison was paired with Ivan in the first half of the show, after the top 20 was picked. (Thousands of dancers audition around the country in four or five cities; a hundred or so are sent to tryouts in CA for the Top 20. Then one dancer of the 20 is eliminated each week.)

Allison did a hip hop routine to "Sexy Love" with Ivan, a contemporary routine to "Why" (by Annie Lennox) with Ivan, a tango routine with Ivan, a broadway routine to "Bye Bye Blackbird" (by Liza Minnelli) with Ryan...and many more great dances.

The judges comment on her overall genius and perfection in the routine to "Why" and to "Blackbird." Damn I loved watching that girl dance...

Art Posted by Cyrano at 11:37 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Thanks, Cyrano. I have not seen the show but I enjoyed a couple of the clips. Mostly, I am happy that we finally have a post titled "Dancelicious."

Posted by: jk at April 18, 2007 10:39 AM
But Cyrano thinks:


No pob'm dawg...aneethin fo' mi peeps...gad 2 do it fo' ya...gad yu lykd it...tite..aneewayz...pees out...

Posted by: Cyrano at April 18, 2007 7:56 PM

I AM Going to Sell Carbon Offsets

I have occasional sport with our homegrown Boulder County granola Marxists, but I realize how sheltered I am from these people.. The link takes you to a NYTimes story about a woman in a gated community South of LA. She is experimenting with a linear, entropy-powered clothes dehydration system:

I decide to rig a clothesline as an experiment. My mother died many years ago and the idea of hanging laundry with my own daughter, Isabel, who is 13 and always busy at the computer, is oddly appealing. I’m also hoping to use less energy and to reduce our monthly electric bills which hit the absurdly high level of $1,120 last summer.

Tim Blair links to the story as a defense of his own clothesline usage, but the gem is Lileks's comment:
Imagine you’re an editor at the New York Times. It’s the apogee of the profession. You’re in a brand-new skyscraper, built at great expense. You’re editing a piece about clotheslines, which are good because they’re nicer to the earth, and you’re all about being good to the earth. (You don’t get on the elevator to go up to your 45th floor office unless there are at least eight others in the car.)

You read this line:

In the meantime, our electric bill has dropped to $576 in March from its high last summer, reflecting a series of efforts to cut energy. (That’s still too high, so we’re about to try fluorescent bulbs.)

You get on the phone. “Kathleen?” you say. “Reading your clothesline piece, and I love it. Just wondering, what was your electric bill before?”

“Before what,” she asks.

“You say your electric bill dropped to $576 in March from its high last summer. What was your high last summer, and do you have an air conditioner?”

“I don’t see how that’s important,” she snaps.

“You’re right!” you say, and you hang up.

Ah, time for lunch!

I run my A/C foolishly long in the summer (MS patients tend to be very sensitive to heat) and a $200 utility bill is an eyebrow raiser. Who are these people of four-digit monthly power consumption? I don't care but why do they write NYTimes articles begging for us to praise their conservation? A few fluorescents, and she'll get that baby down to $523.50.

Environment Posted by John Kranz at 7:42 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

We've never had a four digital utility bill but mid-three aren't unheard of.

We do combine natural gas and electricity though.

Posted by: AlexC at April 17, 2007 8:36 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, you have that sprawling Edwardsesqe mansion. We're just simple folk out here.

I got to laughing after this post. For a DAWG skeptic, I have a small "carbon footprint." I telecommute, drive a small car and am so dull I basically go to bed when it's dark. I bought fluorescent bulbs early on because I hate to change bulbs (Q: How many software developers...A:It's a hardware problem!). Other than my rapacious A/C use (for which I have a medical deferment) I am mister freakin' green!

Posted by: jk at April 18, 2007 10:01 AM

VT & Gun Control

Rush Limbaugh has a really good quote from Governor Rendell regarding additional gun control laws.

Liberal "Rep. Jim Moran who, less than '24 hours after the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history' took to the airwaves to launch a political attack against President Bush, congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association.... Moran suggested Republicans were to blame for Monday's tragedy at Virginia Tech, which left 33 dead and injured another 30.

"The anti-gun congressman said Republican policies made it easy for the shooter to obtain a gun." The serial numbers were filed off of these two guns, were they not? Well, now, I'm going to tell you: if you file the serial numbers off your gun, it means you have evil intent in your mind and your heart, and there is no gun control law, period, that is going to stop you. Grab audio sound bite 18 again. If you're just joining us, I want you to go back and listen to Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, talking about the Amish tragedy, the shooting there in Pennsylvania last fall. This is from October of last year. The reporter said, "Governor Rendell, do you see any need for any changes in state public schools in terms of security?"

RENDELL: You can make all the changes you want, but you can never stop a random act of violence by a person who is intent on killing themselves. It's the same thing as protecting the president of the United States. You can have 50 Secret Service agents there, but if someone is willing to swap their life for the president's, they're going to get a point-blank shot at the president.

A tragedy, to be sure....

But it's a little depressing to see everyone pointing fingers at each other over gun issues immediately. Shouldn't we first get that place back in order first?

But jk thinks:

One of my most beloved but misguided relatives is campaigning for a Rep. Kucinich-style Department of Peace.

I received a "Media Alert" email from her suggesting that I "Call in to a talk show and discuss how a Department of Peace would help prevent another Virginia Tech from happening."

Posted by: jk at April 17, 2007 7:07 PM

Fairness in Taxation

I watched this on Kudlow & Co. last night. Don Bauer Luskin applies the thumbscrews to Jared Bernstien and extracts a startling confesion:

Television Posted by John Kranz at 6:12 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Quick! Send this to Harry Reid! The time has finally arrived for a flat tax rate for ALL TAXI DRIVERS! Huzzah!

Then I just have to figure out how to get my PC and 21 inch tube installed in the front seat of a yellow Crown Victoria. I'll be the country's first "Mouse jockeyin' widget designin' native English speakin' taxi driver." Whatever it takes, though, to soften my tax bite. (I am 6 feet tall after all.)

Posted by: johngalt at April 20, 2007 3:08 PM

You could do worse

Fun fact: L Gregory Mankiw and I are the same height, even though he has a PhD.

Mankiw has co-authored a paper examining taxation by height. If you're going to pick an exogenous factor to use to redistribute income, Mankiw and Weinzierl argue, height is a valid choice. It is observable, measurable, and correlates to income.

Many readers will find the idea of a height tax absurd, whereas some will find
it merely highly unconventional. The purpose of this paper is to ask why the idea
of taxing height elicits such a response even though it follows ineluctably from
a well-documented empirical regularity and the dominant modern approach to
optimal income taxation. If the policy is viewed as absurd, defenders of this
approach are bound to offer an explanation that leaves their approach intact;
otherwise economists ought to reconsider this standard approach to policy design.

I will fund my universal health care plan by rolling back George W. Bush's obscene tax cuts for the tall...

Posted by John Kranz at 1:52 PM | What do you think? [2]
But dagny thinks:

Hey, I'm short! Somebody must owe me! :-)

Posted by: dagny at April 18, 2007 10:08 AM
But johngalt thinks:

This is brilliant - absolutely, undeniably. Being an academic paper it is long and tedious. But it demonstrates the absurdity of the "utilitarian" approach to taxation. And being written by a real-life academic (rather than a new intellectual such as myself) it is completely unassailable on the grounds of "academic standing" or a dozen other specious excuses the leftards [a new word I've learned in the last few days of blog reading] use to discredit things that they cannot disprove.

Posted by: johngalt at April 20, 2007 3:11 PM

Thomas on Thompson

Cal Thomas is pretty much behind Fred Thompson.

Yes, we made mistakes in Iraq, Thompson says. "We went in there too light, wrong rules of engagement, wrong strategy, placed too much emphasis on just holding things in place while we built up the Iraqi army, took longer than we figured. Wars are full of mistakes. You rectify things. I think we're doing that now."

Abortion? "Pro-life. . I think Roe vs. Wade was bad law and bad medical science. And the way to address that is through good judges."

Gay rights? "I think that we ought to be a tolerant nation. I think we ought to be tolerant people. But we shouldn't set up special categories for anybody. . Marriage is between a man and a woman and I don't believe judges ought to come along and change that."

As for "civil unions," Thompson thinks it should be left up to the states.

Gun control? Thompson is "against it generally."

Reagan comparisons are generally tiresome, but here's one anyway...
There's something else to like about Fred Thompson. He doesn't appear to be lusting after the job as if he needs it for his self-image. This, too, is much like Reagan, who knew who he was before becoming president and was the same after he left office.

Read it all.

But jk thinks:

Dang, I really like Senator Thompson.

But if Cal Thomas is backing him...

Posted by: jk at April 17, 2007 11:38 AM

April 16, 2007


On this dark day (well tomorrow) where does your tax dollar go?


But jk thinks:

Talk about an abused law. It's bad enough that all these execrable groups are tax free, it also puts the government in charge of deciding who's good and good not.

Steve Forbes was on Kudlow the other night calling for a flat tax of 17% with a family of four's first 45,000 being exempt. I was weeping as I thought of the economic explosion that would ignite in this country.

As Silence would say, only 535 reasons we won't do it...

Posted by: jk at April 17, 2007 11:54 AM
But AlexC thinks:

Actually, Senator Arlen Specter (i'm not really a fan).... is introducing a 20% flat tax.

Posted by: AlexC at April 17, 2007 5:50 PM
But jk thinks:

Okay, 534. Sadly, I cannot imagine the Senior Senator from Pennsylvania would vote for a Senatorial-power-reducing flat tax if it were poised to succeed.

Posted by: jk at April 17, 2007 6:17 PM
But dagny thinks:

As JG notes below, a flat, "percentage," tax is not a flat tax. Nor is it a fair tax. It is, I must admit, a big improvement on the current situation.

Why don't we have more proposals out there for consumption based taxation. Think how much the government could save by eliminating the IRS.

Posted by: dagny at April 18, 2007 10:24 AM
But jk thinks:

Consumption based taxation is far and away my first choice, but I think that you need to repeal the 16th Amendment. lest you end up with a British-style hybrid.

Removing Congressional power and social engineering from the tax code is so daunting a challenge, I will take it in any form. Consumption tax is the best idea but the hardest to get. The appeal of Forbes’s suggestion was that it is explainable, defensible (the exemption blunts regressivity concerns) and could be put in place by a single Congress that rode to power on the idea.

Posted by: jk at April 18, 2007 12:11 PM

Baptists and Bootleggers

Must read from Josh at Everyday Economist. First, an overview of Clemson University economics professor Bruce Yandle's theory, then a portent of its application as GM and environmentalists both seek regulation on global warming. Hang on to your wallet.

In the 1970s, at the behest of environmentalists, the Environmental Protection Agency began regulating motor vehicle exhaust systems. The EPA mandated that every car must be equipped with a catalytic converter to reduce the toxicity of automobile emissions. This, quite obviously, was seen as a victory for the environmentalist. In the background, however, was a Bootlegger by the name of General Motors. The U.S. automaker also stood to benefit from this regulation because they owned the patent for this new mandated device. Meanwhile Honda, which was developing a cleaner engine, abandoned its plans after the mandate.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 4:51 PM

George Orwell, Call Your Office


Another section of the Cyber Safety for Kids Act of 2007 would require the owner of any Web site with adult content on it to say so when registering the domain with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The owner must also give ICANN the Web site's Internet Protocol address and other information.

The Cyber Safety for Kids Act, started by two Democratic Senators, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana, they say will "clean up the Internet for children." Well, if it's for the children, let's have a government committee review all new content. We really should protect those kids.

I wanted to do the same thing without government intervention. I wanted to register a .fam domain and charge web sites to license with it, and have checks as needed that the content was appropriate. Then, people could force their browsers to only accept .fam extensions, and we could carve out a safe area of the Internet. And I was going to be rich -- rich I tell you, that's the best part.

But I cannot compete against the Cyber Safety for Kids Act -- I should have thought of that.

Hat-tip: Insty

Posted by John Kranz at 1:34 PM

Land of 10,000 taxes

There's hope for Sugarchuck's state. Stephen Moore has some encouraging news in the WallStreetJournalsOpinionJournalPoliticalDiary:

Minnesota has always been labeled a liberal or "progressive" state, but you wouldn't know that from events this weekend. On Saturday an anti-tax rally on the steps of the state capitol in Minneapolis drew an estimated 7,000 tax protesters fed up with a rising Minnesota tax burden. Political watchers in Minnesota say it was one of the largest political rallies in state history. The anti-tax troops outdrew by an estimated two-to-one margin a highly publicized rally organized by environmentalists to protest global warming.

The tax protest was organized by Minneapolis talk radio host Jason Lewis of station KTLK. Thousands signed Mr. Lewis's Tax Cut Petition, which calls for an immediate reduction in the tax burden in the state. One of the organizers and speakers was freshman Rep. Michele Bachman, who says the rally was the largest at the Capitol she had ever seen, including right-to-life marches. Mr. Lewis tells me: "We absolutely crushed the global warming crowd. They had nowhere near the 5,000 the press reported."

What ignited the anti-tax fervor has been a growing push for higher taxes from liberal interest groups, organized labor and the business community. Last summer some 200 business leaders, known as the "Gang of 200," signed and funded full-page newspaper ads calling for the state to raise taxes. "We can afford to pay more state taxes," the ad proclaimed, "and we can't afford not to."

Almost all of the signatories were wealthy liberal Democrats (95.6% of their political contributions go to Democrats) or business groups that get subsidies from state government. For example, one of the biggest contributors and a co-chairman of the effort is Jim Pohlad, whose family owns the Minnesota Twins baseball team and recently scored a $1.1 billion ballpark paid for with taxpayer dollars. The Gang of 200 is calling for a $2 billion tax hike, but none of the signers has volunteered to give up any handouts from state government. "Part of our goal is to stop the corporate welfare that goes to the pro-tax business groups," the radio-host Mr. Lewis says.

Liberal think tanks in the state have been trying to rally support for higher tax rates by claiming the tax code needs to be "fairer." But already in Minnesota, the richest 1% of taxpayers pay 25% of all taxes and the richest 10% pay over half. And Minnesota has the sixth highest tax burden in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

"The tax revolt lives in Minnesota," Mr. Lewis exulted the day after the rally. Politicians around the country should take note.

If they can make it there, babay...

Posted by John Kranz at 12:41 PM | What do you think? [2]
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

It warms to heart to know that in the land of Snow and Ice, the fury of the tax-oppressed can still flare up.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at April 16, 2007 1:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And now, some choir preachin'...

"Fairer." You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

From Random House Unabridged Dictionary, "Fair implies the treating of all sides alike, justly and equitably."

In taxation, "alike, equitably" and therefore "justly" means a flat tax. No, not a flat tax PERCENTAGE OF INCOME, which is not "alike" from one man to another, but a flat tax AMOUNT. Anything else is UN-fair.

Posted by: johngalt at April 16, 2007 3:18 PM

April 15, 2007


If you deliver a propaganda victory to a communist nation, does that make you a) a fellow traveller b) useful idiot c) pinko symp?

Filmmaker Michael Moore's production company took ailing Ground Zero responders to Cuba in a stunt aimed at showing that the U.S. health-care system is inferior to Fidel Castro's socialized medicine, according to several sources with knowledge of the trip.

The trip was to be filmed as part of the controversial director's latest documentary, "Sicko," an attack on American drug companies and HMOs that Moore hopes to debut at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

I'm interested in finding out how many were "cured."

Cuba Posted by AlexC at 10:11 PM

Russian Taxes

In an eerie combination of my last two posts: Tax Day Coffee Smelling and Contest for Survival, I stumbled across this piece on something called RussiaBlog.org that ranks the tax burdens of major developed nations. (Scroll down to "Avenir Corporate's Survey of World Individual Tax Freedom.")

In first place, with a 13 percent flat tax, is Russia. The American middle class pays almost twice this at 22.1 percent, while the upper middle class pays a whopping 35.2 percent to the redistribution mill.

In Russia the individual is left with a record 87% of his income, to be used in accordance with the person’s own preferences. Also taking into consideration the low cost of utilities in Russia; free education; free or inexpensive health care; and the comparatively low level of other mandatory costs, we may conclude that in Russia a middle class person in reality ­is free to decide on his own discretion how to dispose of his income and how to live.

Ahh, those were the days, weren't they yanks?

But La Russophobe thinks:

You might be interested to know that while Russia's tax burden was lower than America's, its inflation rate was ten times higher. What's more, an average Russian lived 10 fewer years than an average American, and his average wage was 10 times less than that of an American. Still thinking of moving to Russia?

You might also be interested to know that the author of the piece you cite works for the company that provided the "data" about tax burden, and his job is to convince foreigners to invest in Russia.

Finally, you might want to know that the piece is full of outrageous lies, documented here:


Posted by: La Russophobe at April 19, 2007 4:58 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Russophobe's comment could well be a form comment so the fact that I never advocated "moving to Russia" can be excused. I do appreciate the comment and it's specific critique of the dark underbelly of the modern Russian economy. As I read the post I cited, and a couple others on the site, I sensed a 'blog for hire' mentality. That's why I referred to it as "something called" RussiaBlog.org.

My main point for this "oh, by the way" posting was that even in the organized crime state of modern Russia they understand the economic value of low, flat, tax rates.

Your blog looks excellent. I will add it to the few that I regularly peruse. I've become much more interested in happenings there since the anti-Putin movement turned up the pressure, as highlighted in my earlier posting "Contest for Survival" on which I'm also interested in Russophobe's commentary.

Posted by: johngalt at April 20, 2007 3:20 PM

Misc Blogging

Why I blog?

1) Pent up rage

2) A deep fountain of anger

3) Venom: $15 per barrel.

4) Trek Medic tags me with these things.

5) Spreading the love. JK, John Galt, Charlie, Mark.

But johngalt thinks:

Feelin' the love, but I think I'll break my link of the chain. (After all, there were no threats of impending mortal danger for failure to participate.)

Venom. Is that one of them 'ternative fuels? Fer 15 bucks I'll give it a try.

Posted by: johngalt at April 15, 2007 9:09 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Distill it my friend. 101 Octane Fury is hard to beat. With Lead too.... so "it'll run good."

Posted by: AlexC at April 16, 2007 1:12 AM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Ohhh, my rage is creamier than your rage. Ever try the Vitriol blend?

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at April 16, 2007 9:46 AM
But jk thinks:

I'll play. Beats work (which might be #5...)

There's really just one for me. I enjoy being forced to clarify and voice the things I believe in. You can yell at your family at a barbecue, but blogging forces you to articulate it clearly and defensibly.

Posted by: jk at April 16, 2007 10:47 AM

Weather Blogging

It's been raining.

Quite a bit.

It's safe to say that fishing on the East Branch of the Perkiomen won't be "right" for a while.

A couple of miles downstream, here's the Perkiomen Bridge in Collegeville.
Brand new in 1799, the bridge cost $60,000. In the dark days before PennDOT, the state held a lottery to raise the necessary funds to build it. It's one of the oldest bridges in regular use in the state.

Favorite anecdote:

1867: Toll house erected on the Perkiomen Bridge. Local citizens throw the gate into the creek and burn the toll house.

Our national attitudes have really mellowed in one hundred and forty years.

But johngalt thinks:

Whoa, you ain't kiddin. 3.08 inches today in Pottstown, according to Wunderground's KPTW.

Posted by: johngalt at April 15, 2007 9:35 PM

Geek Review Corner

I shill for big oil and big Pharma, here's one for the wicked folks in Redmond: Windows Vista(r) is pretty dang cool. I bought a new box that came with Vista, and my first impressions are pretty positive.

Sorry, AlexC, a comparable Mac was too much money (you can still be the "cool guy" in the ThreeSources commercial), sorry Ian, I spent a couple days fussing with a Solaris installation and it screamed "your UNIX days are over." Yeah, I'm sure some Linux distributions are better, but I can go to my grave without editing st.conf again.

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

The snarky Mac guy in me says, "welcome to the Mac OS X experience, circa 2002"... but I'm all for progress. :)

Posted by: AlexC at April 15, 2007 7:48 PM
But jk thinks:

And the forthright PC guy in me admits that they have indeed lifted some of the cool features from OS X.

Microsoft has always been more derivative than innovative. In the end, they end up, however, with the most useful and cost-effective solutions. It's maddening to those who value cutting edge innovation, but it is a certain business innovation.

Yeah, you had it in ought-two, but I got it for $900...

Posted by: jk at April 16, 2007 11:20 AM

Tax Day Coffee Smelling

Officially, tax day isn't until Tuesday (due to the 15th being on a Sunday and the 16th being an official holiday in D.C.) but the well known and lamented date of April 15th mustn't go by without some discussion of the state of taxation in America.

"Work hard. Be faithful. You'll get your just reward."

Those words appear on a statuette my father was given on the occasion of the closing of the College of Engineering at the University of Denver, where he had tenure. (The statuette was of a conscientious gentleman with a giant blue screw through his torso.) They can just as well be applied to American taxpayers who have earned a high school diploma or better in their educational career.


The preceeding chart comes from a fascinating April 4, 2007 study report by Robert Rector et. al. of The Heritage Foundation entitled, 'The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Households to the U.S. Taxpayer.' The report summarizes the chart this way:

Chart 7 com­pares households headed by persons without a high school diploma to households headed by persons with a high school diploma or better. Whereas the dropout-headed household paid only $9,689 in taxes in FY 2004, the higher-skill households paid $34,629— more than three times as much. While dropout-headed households received from $32,138 to $43,084 in benefits, high-skill households received less: $21,520 to $30,819. The difference in government benefits was due largely to the greater amount of means-tested aid received by low-skill households.

Households headed by dropouts received $22,449 more in immediate benefits (i.e., direct and means-tested aid, education, and population-based services) than they paid in taxes. Higher-skill households paid $13,109 more in taxes than they received in imme­diate benefits.

OK, so you're probably wondering, what's new? What's new is the trend in dropout households in the U.S. According to the World Net Daily article that cites the study:

About two-thirds of illegal alien households are headed by someone without a high school degree. Only 10 percent of native-born Americans fit into that category.

I have advocated on these pages (and stand by it today) that immigration should be free and unlimited to non-criminal aliens, provided that citizenship (and voting rights) must still be earned and that entitlement programs that make immigrants a burden on the taxpayer are first reduced or eliminated.

The Rector report explains the realities we face.

Politically feasible changes in government policy will have little effect on the level of fiscal deficit generated by most low-skill households for decades. For example, to make the average low-skill household fiscally neutral (taxes paid equaling immediate benefits received plus interest on government debt), it would be necessary to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, all 60 means-tested aid programs and cut the cost of public education in half. It seems certain that, on average, low-skill households will generate deep fiscal deficits for the foreseeable future.

Hat tip: The Canadian Sentinel

Click continue reading to see the report's conclusion in its entirety.


Households headed by persons without a high school diploma are roughly 15 percent of all U.S. households. Overall, these households impose a significant fiscal burden on other taxpayers: The cost of the government benefits they consume greatly exceeds the taxes they pay to government. Before government undertakes to transfer even more economic resources to these households, it should have a very clear account of the magnitude of the economic transfers that already occur.

The substantial net tax burden imposed by low-skill U.S. households also suggests lessons for immigration pol­icy. Recently proposed immigration legislation would greatly increase the number of poorly educated immigrants entering and living in the United States.[12] Before this policy is adopted, Congress should examine carefully the potential negative fiscal effects of low-skill immigrant households receiving services.

Politically feasible changes in government policy will have little effect on the level of fiscal deficit generated by most low-skill households for decades. For example, to make the average low-skill household fiscally neutral (taxes paid equaling immediate benefits received plus interest on government debt), it would be necessary to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, all 60 means-tested aid programs and cut the cost of public education in half. It seems certain that, on average, low-skill households will generate deep fiscal deficits for the foreseeable future. Policies that reduce the future number of high school dropouts and other policies affecting future generations could reduce long-term costs.

Future government policies that would expand entitlement programs such as Medicaid would increase future deficits at the margin. Policies that reduced the out-of-wedlock childbearing rate or which increased the real educa­tional attainments and wages of future low-skill workers could reduce deficits somewhat in the long run.

Changes to immigration policy could have a much larger effect on the fiscal deficits generated by low-skill fam­ilies. Policies which would substantially increase the inflow of low-skill immigrant workers receiving services would dramatically increase the fiscal deficits described in this paper and impose substantial costs on U.S. taxpayers.

But jk thinks:

Mmmm coffee.

Bastiat talks about "the seen and the unseen." With all due respect, you -- and my brother in law -- and a lot of other people whom I highly respect -- love to point to a datum in the "seen" category and say "See?"

Lower income households provide less revenue and use more government services. Who is surprised? Those without a diploma will earn less than those with; illegal immigrants tend to be less educated than native born citizens, yup.

I contend, still, that the "unseen" value that these workers and consumers bring to the economy more than compensates for the increased use of public services. The educated in your table are able to earn what they do, in large part, because there is a less educated work force (stop him before he says "comparative advantage" -- too late!).

To allow the educated (or ambitious dropouts like me and AlexC) to get ahead and innovate frequently requires allowing them to leverage less-educated labor. As Ricardo showed, both will be wealthier.

Posted by: jk at April 15, 2007 2:06 PM

What a Great Country

A young (two? three?) neighbor was out playing with his new toy machine gun. I complimented him on it, and he said "the easter bunny brought it to me!"

I told him to shoot a tight group.

America, F*ck Yeah! Posted by John Kranz at 12:11 PM

April 14, 2007

"Contest for survival"

For at least several years there has been a quiet underground movement to secure the rights of liberty and freedom for citizens of a major nation on the world stage. Brave national patriots, both within their country and in exile, expose themselves to boundless peril at the hands of the authoritarian regime that rules the country with an iron fist. America has committed military force to defend these ideals in Iraq and Afghanistan. But western nations give not even diplomatic support to those struggling for the same freedoms in this other, critically important, nation - at least not publicly.

This major nation is not Iran, nor Venezuela, China, Vietnam, North Korea or Zimbabwe (nee Rhodesia). It is one of five veto powers on the UN Security Council: Russia.

One Russian patriot, Alexander Litvinenko, has already lost his life in pursuit of the cause.

Another, billionaire Boris Berezovsky, lives in the UK under political asylum - a status that is continually threatened by Russia's Putin regime.

And today, world famous Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov has been arrested in Moscow for "shouting anti-government slogans."

Activists had planned to gather at a city centre square about one km (half a mile) from the Kremlin to protest at what they say is Putin's trampling of democratic freedoms and demand a fair vote to choose a new president in 2008.

Teams of riot police, acting on a ruling from the city authorities banning the protest, pounced on protesters as they appeared in small groups near the square and swiftly loaded them into buses, Reuters witnesses said.

Surprisingly, Kasparov was able to make statements to reporters:

"Today the regime showed its true colours, its true face," the former chess grandmaster said during an adjournment.

"I believe this was a great victory for the opposition because people got through and the march happened."

Moscow police explain just how important it was to forcefully detain these "dangerous" citizens:

Moscow police chief spokesman Viktor Biryukov said about 170 of the "most aggressive" protesters had been detained.

"Thanks to the well-coordinated actions of the riot police and Moscow police, we were able to prevent an illegal gathering being carried out," he said.

This all serves as stark evidence why free men must never grant complete trust to government.

"For ordinary people in Russia today, it's a contest for survival," Anastasia Krampit, 39, said as she watched the protesters drift away.

April 13, 2007

When you can do tomorrow, we'll talk 2050

This argument makes my DAWG-believing friends very unhappy, but indulge me this once.

Yesterday morning, KDVR FOX31 weather brought in two meteorologists for team coverage of the impending storm. "We're tracking the models," one intoned gravely, and we're prepared to predict snow totals. The other member of the tag team then projected where and when the snow would fall with a detailed timeline. Sunny in the morning, turning to rain after noon, rain mixed with snow all afternoon but no accumulation until overnight. Then snow all day Friday and they provided totals, by area, for accumulation through 7PM this evening. My area was to be the hardest hit, expecting 10-16".

Well they've got 77 minutes left (this blog is on Eastern Time), but what I have seen is: it got overcast and chilly yesterday afternoon, it drizzled just enough to make you think they were right. A little snow this morning but not enough to wet the paving stones in my patio.

Umm, ladies, would those be at all like the "models" that everyone uses to predict warmer temps through the century? It is sunny and the skies are blue. There is zero measurable precipitation at Atlantis Farm.

When you guys can tell me blue skies vs. 16" of snow in 36 hours, your 36-year models will carry a lot more weight.

But johngalt thinks:

My thoughts EXACTLY.

In *defense* of the "meteorologists" on Fox31, they were just regurgitating the NWS forecast from the real meterologists. You know, the ones with Cray supercomputers running the really, really, REALLY good computer models! They had me fooled too. I was contemplating whether to drive the all wheel drive Audi or the V10 4x4 Ram to work today, and whether to mount the 96" snowblower to the tractor in advance or wait until after the "certain" blizzard. When I drove past the CDOT equipment yard Thursday night they were busily re-mounting the plow blades to the sand trucks.

And this morning, when I awoke, in the immortal words of the 70's B-movie "Oklahoma Crude"... Drier than a popcorn fart.

Posted by: johngalt at April 13, 2007 9:41 PM

Gun Control? B******t

Penn and Teller

Hat-tip: Instapundit

Gun Rights Posted by John Kranz at 5:18 PM

Who Cracks the Whip?

Joseph Rago asks (and answers) that question in OpinionJournalDotComsPoliticalDiary today. Because y'all are too cheap to spring $3.95, I'll post his section (but you're missing the story of Rep. Rangel sneaking out without signing copies of his new book).

John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton this week effectively scotched a planned primary debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus because it was to be broadcast on Fox News. The three said they didn't want to "legitimize" the channel because it purportedly leans too far right.

Similar concerns did not stop the trio from appearing in an April 10 Webcast forum arranged by MoveOn.org. The three Democratic front-runners -- joined by lovable losers Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd -- exhibited not the least worry about legitimizing an organization whose leftism makes no concession to proportion or taste. On the contrary, deep curtsies were paid by all to MoveOn.org. Even Ms. Clinton, regularly strafed by the online activists for her Iraq stance, congratulated "the netroots" for being "such lively participants in American democracy."

The substance of the forum turned mostly on a single question "What is the best and fastest way to get out Iraq?" The correct response apparently was that the fastest way was the best way, with all candidates paying lip service to the need to withdraw ASAP. Credit Dennis Kucinich with the most novel of the many fig leaves offered for retreat: His alternative called for dropping Iraq to confront climate change, as this would "affirm international law" and "human unity."

Of the 42,882 votes cast by MoveOn members after the debate, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards collected the lion's share, finishing first and second at 27.9% and 24.8%. Mr. Kucinich came in third at 17.2%, which gives some indication of the politics of the Internet activists.

The collapse of the Fox News/Congressional Black Caucus debate raises a legitimate question: Who is holding the ideological reins of the Democratic Party? Given the apparent political imperative to flatter the MoveOn.org crowd at all cost, the answer won't be pleasing to Democrats who thought the plan was to get more in sync with mainstream America.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 1:42 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

How do you suppose Markos Moulitsas and George Soros would respond to being labelled "crackers?" It's an apt designation, however.

Posted by: johngalt at April 14, 2007 2:34 PM

April 12, 2007

Requiescat in Pace

As I grew older, my politics certainly diverged from Kurt Vonnegut's. (That's a little understatement, on par with "I doubt that I'll be supporting Senator Hillary Clinton's Presidential Bid.")

I read that he has died at 84. and it reminds us how much joy there is to be had from people with whom we disagree.

NEW YORK -- Kurt Vonnegut, the novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died Wednesday at age 84, his wife said.
Mr. Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, according to his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.
The author of at least 19 books, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Mr. Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.

I credit Vonnegut for the fact that I read at all. As a young lad, I had no interest in history or literature, or politics. Blues music and Math were all that appealed to me. A good friend (who just emailed me as I type this) gave me a copy of "Breakfast of Champions" when I was 17 or 18. I bought every Kurt Vonnegut book there was and read each several times.

I followed him into a belief in free speech, his books were the target of insane censorship, but I never got on board the socialist train, even reading "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater." Harrison Bergeron, his accidental anti-egalitarian work, influenced me far more.

Thanks for the thoughts and the words, and the cameo on the "Coffee Achievers" commercial. Rest soundly.

Posted by John Kranz at 11:09 AM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

I heard on the radio this morning that Vonnegut went to college with John Hickenlooper, the father of Denver's current mayor, also named John Hickenlooper. They developed a friendship and Kurt told the younger Hickenlooper much about his father, who apparently died when his son was only 6 years old.

Posted by: johngalt at April 13, 2007 11:38 AM
But jk thinks:

Nice. I've had a couple friends share their being personally touched through his interviews or writings.

TNR has a great flashback today to a review John Irving wrote in 1979. Irving ("Garp" is good, but be sure and read his novel "God Was Here but He Left Early") defends Vonnegut against the charge from academics that his writing was too easy to read and therefore inferior to Pynchon, or that he was too prolific and therefore not as serious as Heller. It's a grisly old pdf, but it's a great read.

Posted by: jk at April 13, 2007 3:38 PM
But jk thinks:

In further defense of the "meteorologists," they were fairly attractive...

I fell for it, too. I went out for breakfast, lunch and afternoon coffee "just to get out before the snow."

Posted by: jk at April 14, 2007 12:18 PM

Beats flying coach

Galley Slave Jonathan V. Last links to GoogleMap directions from New York City to Paris France and suggests that you scroll to #23.

I've mentioned that Last is my sire -- his Weekly Standard column got me to watching Buffy. I left a comment on a post about TV shows. He answers my what's next with a reminder that Tim Minear (Angel/Firefly/Wonderfalls) has a new series "Drive" starting Sunday night. The TiVo is set -- I've been replaying the commercials to get ready.

Posted by John Kranz at 8:41 AM

April 11, 2007

He's a Very Intelligent Moonbat

James Taranto has been having some fun a t the expense of people who believed Professor Walter Murphy's tale of being targeted by airline security because of his public disapproval of the Bush Administration.

If you have not been following the story, Murphy was "selected" for security screening (The Humanity!) Chatting with an airport employee, it is suggested that this happens to people who march in peace protests or oppose Bush policy. Taranto suggests that the employee was joking or badly misinformed.

The story was popularized by another Professor, Mark Graber of the University of Maryland. This tale caught my eye as I am in the middle of Graber's very good book, "Dred Scott and the Problem of Constitutional Evil." Graber's book is intelligent, but the man is clearly a moonbat. He blogs today that Taranto is missing both the improbable coincidence (screened and luggage lost? No Way!) and the amount of mischief that a government could cause citizens in opposition (a far more credible argument -- Taranto says the FBI is staffed by career professionals who would balk at being asked to put somebody on the no-fly list. I think Prof. Graber may have him here).

My sense of the Murphy debate on the blogosphere is that the dominant positions are one of two extremes. Either this was part of a systematic effort to harass opponents of the Bush administration or this was entirely random. Neither seems fully true to the facts for reasons persons on one side point out about the other. Let me suggest a third alternative, which seems to best fit the facts (although hardly any explanation is perfect). I think there is a fair degree of evidence that there was some targeting going on, given both the initial stop and the baggage lost on the return flight.

I'm suggesting that the problem is one of academic self-importance. Professors Murphy and Graber probably feel that they are so important, such burrs in the President's saddle that they deserve this honor. I cannot imagine either rates over #3,238 on the White House Enemies List.

The first time I was selected for screening (Karl, why me?) I thought they had noticed my handicap and were running me through a special line for my benefit. As I was forced to walk without shoes, the ankle AFO I wear, and a cane, I was thinking "this sure is crappy handicapped service." An airline employee steered me right. He never speculated on why I was chosen.

Posted by John Kranz at 3:54 PM

We got pi wrong

Freedom is under attack, the EPA will be empowered to regulate CO2, single-payer health care is picking up steam. Now I realize that Bob Palais is right: pi is poorly defined. Palais points out that it should have been defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its radius, not the diameter.

Palais says "I am not questioning its irrationality, transcendence, or numerical calculation." He's not a commie or anything. But "the proper value, which does deserve all the reverence and adulation" is twice the value that drunken college students used to memorize. Windows calculator goes to 6.283185307179586476925286766559.

Dang it, he's right. Palais's point is that good math gets littered with 2pi (a commenter suggests a three legged pi to represent the "real" pi). Good math guys can handle the twos but it destroys what would be two intuitive demonstrations:

  • Measuring angles in real numbers seems counter-intuitive to young students who are loath to give up the 90-degree, 180-degree names they have used since childhood. Palais points out that using real pi, a quarter-pi angle is a "quarter-turn." Beautiful.

  • Don Luskin reader Mark Spahn (hat-tips all 'round) points out that the area formula would then take the classical integral form A = 1/2 r-squared times the angle through which the radius has moved: just like distance traveled at constant acceleration, kinetic energy, any double integral.

I'd add that it's pretty obvious that the radius of a circle is its interesting mathematical characteristic. If you're a plumber, the diameter counts but a mathematician or engineer will start with the radius. Should have been circumference / radius.

I think it's Bush's fault.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:15 PM


The Wall Street Journal Ed Page today admits (free link) that "These columns have had more than one disagreement with John McCain over the years, especially on issues that typically win the Arizona Republican accolades from the rest of the media"

And yet, they claim the Senator deserves some covering fire now that his old buddies are gone. To sit on a set at "60 Minutes" and be asked "at what point do you stop doing what you think is right and you start doing what the majority of the American people want?" I think Scott Pelley, who asked that question, could use a little time reading The Federalist Papers: this Madisonian-representative-democracy thing is gonna be big someday.

My pals at the WSJEdPage are saluting Sen. McCain for his fortitude -- and I see no reason not to join.

Later today, Mr. McCain will deliver a speech at the Virginia Military Institute about how the war in Iraq can be won. Along with many Americans, we will listen with interest and respect, not because we always agree with Mr. McCain, but because he has demonstrated that his views on the subject are serious and born of belief, not of polls. That's more than can be said for most of our political and chattering classes, and a reason to admire a politician whose newfound unpopularity coincides with his finest political hour.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:33 AM | What do you think? [5]
But johngalt thinks:

More McCain! From his speech at VMI:

"Some argue the war in Iraq no longer has anything to do with us; that it is a hopelessly complicated mess of tribal warfare and sectarian conflict. The situation is complex, and very difficult. Yet from one perspective it is quite simple.

We are engaged in a basic struggle: a struggle between humanity and inhumanity; between builders and destroyers. If fighting these people and preventing the export of their brand of radicalism and terror is not intrinsic to the national security and most cherished values of the United States, I don't know what is.

Consider our other strategic challenges in the region: preventing Iran from going nuclear; stabilizing Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban; the battle for the future of Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others; protecting Israel's security; the struggle for Lebanon's independence.

Does any honest observer believe those challenges will be easier to confront and at lesser cost in American blood and treasure if the United States accepts defeat in Iraq?"

Read it all. Especially the story about POFC Mark Robbins at the end.

Posted by: johngalt at April 12, 2007 3:41 PM
But jk thinks:

BEAUTIFUL. While Senator McCain is not my first choice for a Republican nominee in 2008, having a C-in-C who is able to articulate the war's objectives and importance with such eloquence is as important an "issue" as one will find.

Posted by: jk at April 13, 2007 9:49 AM
But johngalt thinks:

A friend at work just informed me that Fred Thompson was a McCain supporter in the 2000 primary. He suggested a possible Thompson/McCain ticket for '08. I could get behind that with both shoulders.

Posted by: johngalt at April 13, 2007 11:41 AM
But jk thinks:

Man, I hate to interrupt the love fest, but no!

Thompson's support for McCain in 2000 and his support for McCain-Feingold is Thompson's greatest flaw. Two of them on a ticket? I'd give them a shoulder and a quarter at best...

Posted by: jk at April 13, 2007 1:28 PM
But johngalt thinks:

McCain-Feingold is indeed an abomination, but if that's the worst you can say about the guy...

Here's more on the Thompson/McCain relationship: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/3/19/210542.shtml

Posted by: johngalt at April 13, 2007 4:38 PM

If I Die Before You Wake

There's something in this flash video to offend eveybody around here: a countrified voice, religious overtones -- but I bet you're all gonna love it.

Hat-tip: my brother via email.

But johngalt thinks:

Yes God, bless the men and women who volunteer to defend freedom and understand that there are fates worse than death.

And God, may you damn straight to hell every so-called American who believes that evil may be left to fester on the other side of the world without concern that it may come this way again.

Just as does John McCain, I hold the American soldier in awe and reverence.

(No, I don't believe in God, but 90% of those soldiers do. And 90% of anti-war [anti-freedom] piss-ant Democrats do too.)

Posted by: johngalt at April 12, 2007 11:00 AM

April 10, 2007

Put a fork in it, this story's done

ThreeSources has been eerily silent on l'Affaire Imus.

Everybody else did a good job with "apologize to whom? Rev Al Sharpton?" First and best on that was Perry at Eidelblog.

ALa at Blonde Sagacity wonders just how many of the "shocked and saddened" members of the Rutgers women's basketball team really were big Imus fans. She doesn't defend Imus but wonders why the rappers who are listened to don't get such disapprobation..

But the most enlightening post is at Extreme Mortman. ThreeSources's best friend inside the beltway explains to this flyover denizen just what the deal is.

Imus’ influence over politics and media has always seemed overly disproportionate to the actual number of listeners he has. Which is why when, say, Al Sharpton goes on “The Today Show,” as he did this morning, and urges presidential candidates to stay away from the show (John McCain, Joe Biden anyone?), it could have a blip of an impact on the primary process.

To be fair, I miss the whole talk-radio thing. But I've never grasped the who or the why of Mr. Imus. It appears he has the right listeners, if not the most.
A bold-faced journalist who’s been on Imus’ show countless times once told me that the biggest benefit he gets from the appearance is speaking fees. Interest groups and associations and others hear his punditry on the Imus show then flock to book him for events — at higher and higher rates.

I won't line up with the aggrieved crowd, but it seems that he has got to be a little smarter than that with his long experience with live radio.

Posted by John Kranz at 7:46 PM | What do you think? [3]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Y'know,...I wouldn't be so pissed about the whole incident if the people leading the charge to kick Imus off the air had been the president of Rutgers, or Rutgers' coach, Vivian Stringer.

Instead, it was the usual, race-baiting assholes, like Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton and Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson leading the charge.


Posted by: TrekMedic251 at April 10, 2007 8:48 PM
But AlexC thinks:

I'm amused by the fact that, as in the "macaca" incident, "nappy headed ho's" is apparently a vicious slur, yet media and punitry have no problem repeating it. (perhaps only in scare quotes)

Though those same journalists, pundits and bloggers fear saying that "other" word.

Posted by: AlexC at April 10, 2007 10:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:

As an impressionable youth my mama always told me, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can get you fired if you're a white male."

Mama always has been a genius.

Posted by: johngalt at April 12, 2007 10:32 AM

April 9, 2007

Blog Redesign Awards

I give the gold to: A Second Hand Conjecture.

Not sure when the redesign was completed, but wow, it looks great.

Then again, I can't even type "redesign' (since corrected).

But MichaelW thinks:

Wow! Thanks! Actually pretty much all of the credit should go to Lance, but thanks again for the plug.


Posted by: MichaelW at April 10, 2007 1:37 PM

Single Payer Health Care

Friend of ThreeSources, Josh Hendrickson (The Everyday Economist), has a great column on TCS Daily today opposing the call for single-payer health care.

Josh deftly shoots down some of the commonly cited statistics and makes a great comparison to the use of HMOs to ration health care in the 90s:

The lesson learned from HMOs not only provides evidence that Americans are likely to reject a single-payer system, but also sheds light on why the United States spends more than any other country on health care. Americans spend more because they have a higher demand for health services. This fact should come as no surprise. Americans have generous health care plans and their premiums are predominantly paid by their employer. This insulation from cost gives Americans little incentive to seek cost-effective treatment and thus routinely results in patients receiving a series of high-tech tests and treatments, which economist Arnold Kling refers to as "premium medicine".

Kling's book, by the way, is superb. I recall that every leading Democratic Presidential candidate has come out for universal coverage. This stupendously bad idea is not going away. Good, understandable points to oppose it (without putting people to sleep like I do) will be important. Hendrickson and Kling deliver the goods.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:43 PM

Ruining Monopoly

These guys sure know how to have a good time.

In the game Monopoly, owners of land and houses and hotels, though acquiring their possessions by luck, are flattered into believing they are masters of the universe, extracting profits from anyone who passes their way. There is no consumer choice and no consumer sovereignty. This is not a small detail. The entire raison d'etre of the market is missing, and thus the real goal and the guide of all production in a market economy.

I'm all about the ruthlessness and then the occasional fist fight.

But jk thinks:

I hadn't really thought about it, but Powell is certainly correct. I liked his description of the cards:

"Community Chest" and "Chance" cards accurately represent other coercive acts of government. One Community Chest card directs the player to "pay school tax of $150" while another assesses a player for street repairs for each building owned. Chance cards may direct a player to "pay poor tax of $15" or simulate building code regulations by forcing a player to "make general repairs on all their property."

Posted by: jk at April 9, 2007 11:11 AM

April 7, 2007

John Fitzgerald Laffer

When did they stop minting Democrats like this?

Hat-tip: Everyday Economist, Greg Mankiw, Don Luskin

Posted by John Kranz at 12:43 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

Great clip.... i think he would be a Republican these days.

Posted by: AlexC at April 7, 2007 4:38 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Fairly easy to see which in the family sucked up all the 'dipshit' genes.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at April 7, 2007 5:39 PM

April 6, 2007

The Consensus Wins

Oh no!

Approximately 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal species are at risk of extinction if the global average temperature increases by another 2.2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a major consensus report released Friday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC is a United Nations body charged with assessing the scientific record on global warming.

"More droughts, floods, forest fires, and heat waves are in store for us and for future generations, unless we act boldly to reduce global warming pollution," said Nathan Willcox, energy and clean air advocate for PennEnvironment.

"This consensus report from the world’s scientists should be a direct challenge to the U.S. Congress and Pennsylvania's leaders in Harrisburg," he added. "It paints a clear and disturbing picture of the consequences of failing to take serious action."

Since science has become all about consensus, I think that the 90% of Americans who believe in God should pray for a miracle, and the 10% who believe in the power of government shouldn't be allowed to object.

After all, consensus is truth.

But johngalt thinks:

1. majority of opinion: The consensus of the group was that they should meet twice a month
2. general agreement or concord; harmony.

I don't see anything here about probability, or "high confidence" as is attributed to the IPCC. Calling the product of the panel's years of self-serving blather a "consensus" report from "the world's scientists" is like measuring distance in gallons. (Oops. "litres" Sorry.)

No matter. One needn't fret over "1/4 of all species" being "wiped out," at least for now. After all, they're only "at risk." Call me when there's a "consensus" on this one too.

Posted by: johngalt at April 6, 2007 3:42 PM

4.4% Unemployment

More jobs, higher wages. lower unemployment:

U.S. Nonfarm Payrolls Grow by 180,000 Jobs - WSJ.com

The unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage point to 4.4% last month, matching its lowest level since May 2001. Average hourly earnings increased six cents, or 0.3%, to $17.22. That was up 4% from a year earlier, suggesting wages remain an inflation risk.
March's payroll gain exceeded Wall Street expectations of a 142,000 rise. Economists had expected a 4.6% unemployment rate and 0.3% rise in wages.
The jobs data should ease fears that a recent soft patch in data will turn into a more severe economic downturn. Gross domestic product grew 2.5% during the fourth quarter, and recent data including weak housing and business investment suggest growth could be below 2% in the first quarter.
However, with the jobless rate at six-year lows and wages on the rise, consumers should remain well supported in coming months. Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of GDP, so even modest growth there can offset sizable drags in other sectors.

I just do not see the subprime meltdown taking down the whole economy when everybody has jobs. I'm joined in optimism by my perma-bull buddy, Larry Kudlow:
Stocks have been predicting continued growth for quite some time. Since last summer, the major indexes are up about 20%. Year-to-date they are up roughly 3% so far. Since the Bush tax cuts they're up roughly 100%.

Isn't it interesting that markets are better economic predictors than perma-bears?

Obviously, it's time to raise taxes.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:54 AM

Another Objective Reporter

A good friend of this blog sends a link to a CBS News "Public Eye" piece, where an intrepid and insightful CBS News reporter interviews an intrepid and insightful CBS News reporter. The fatuousness is too thick to read the whole thing, but if you scroll down, Rome-based CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey is asked to elaborate on his complaints about Senator McCain's upbeat visit to Baghdad:

Allen Pizzey: Yes. It's disgraceful for a man seeking highest office, I think, to talk utter rubbish. And that is utter rubbish. It's electoral propaganda. It is simply not true. No one in his right mind who has been to Baghdad believes that story.

Now, McCain and some other senators were there on Sunday, and they claimed, "Oh, we walked around for a whole hour…and we drove in from the airport. Gosh, aren't we great, we drove in from the airport." Excuse me, Mr. McCain, you drove in in a large convoy of heavily armed vehicles. The last one had a sign on it saying "Keep back 100 yards. Deadly force authorized."

My emailer questions whether threatening signs are really that good a deterrent to terrorists.

If you can wade a little further, the next question is about media objectivity:

Brian Montopoli: There used to be a pretty vigorous debate about whether the media is reporting the war through an anti-administration liberal bias lens, though that has died down a bittle bit of late. How do you feel about that argument?

Allen Pizzey: I dismiss that. Because I think the Bush administration in particular thinks that anything that doesn't wholly support everything they say is against them. And you don't have to support one side or the other. If the administration makes idiotic claims, or claims that are patently, to us on the ground, wrong, why should we not report that they're wrong? All we're doing is reporting what we can see and understand.

To recap: He didn't see McCain in the marketplace, but "if he did" it was staged and phony -- but he is completely objective!

This Instapundit post has video of General Patraeus's answering such complaints. I find him a little more credible than a Rome-based CBS correspondent who admits he never saw it.

UPDATE: A great comment from the CBS site:

Lots of references here to the "MSM." We in the military prefer to call them the "National Media Establishment," or, more precisely, by their acronym, the "NME." Say it fast, out loud - "N-M-E," and you'll get what I mean.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 10:07 AM

April 5, 2007

Rudy 2008

Larry Kudlow has a suggestion for Mayor Giuliani.

I’m not taking sides yet in the Republican presidential race, but I think it would be a big positive if Rudy Giuliani suggested that Steve Forbes—who is backing Mayor Giuliani—would be his Treasury Secretary if he were elected.

On flat tax reform, free trade, spending cuts, deregulation, and just overall good capitalist principles, there is no one who does it better than Steve Forbes.

Amen to that.

Posted by John Kranz at 4:00 PM | What do you think? [1]
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Works for me,....

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at April 6, 2007 8:05 PM

Did jk Overestimate Government Efficiency?

I posted a dour and alarmist reaction to the Supreme Court's terrible decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. The EPA was to be empowered to "devastate the economy" I said, whomever appoints the next EPA head.

A blog post by New York Times's John Tierney suggests that I may have missed or forgotten the inability of a bureaucratic institution to get anything done.

My favorite guide to the E.P.A. is David Schoenbrod, who sued to force the E.P.A. to take lead out of gasoline in the 1970s, when he was a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The environmentalists won in court. But as Mr. Schoenbrod watched the agency dither, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, he became convinced that the lawsuit hadn’t really been a victory — that lawmakers at the state and federal levels would have been forced to act sooner if the problem hadn’t been delegated to the E.P.A.

Tierney is, of course, sad that "The Environmental Procrastination Agency" will stall and delay all kinds of needed action to confront the DAWG.

But I'm elated. Perhaps a wise, GOP, 44th President will appoint an earnest, avidly environmentalist, and completely incompetent person to head the division. I don't think it will be too hard to find a candidate.

April 4, 2007

Global War on ________.

During the 2006 Senate campaign (and even before) Senator Santorum was criticizing the President for using the phrase "Global War on Terror"? Santorum wanted the war called what it is... a War on Islamofascism. He even got the President to say it once, and then Mr Bush apologized for it.

The Democrats in Congress agree. They also have a problem with "the Global War on Terror."

Sort of.

The House Armed Services Committee is banishing the global war on terror from the 2008 defense budget.

This is not because the war has been won, lost or even called off, but because the committee’s Democratic leadership doesn’t like the phrase.

A memo for the committee staff, circulated March 27, says the 2008 bill and its accompanying explanatory report that will set defense policy should be specific about military operations and “avoid using colloquialisms.”

So are Democrat colloquialisms fair game?
Committee staff members are told in the memo to use specific references to specific operations instead of the Bush administration’s catch phrases. The memo, written by Staff Director Erin Conaton, provides examples of acceptable phrases, such as “the war in Iraq,” the “war in Afghanistan, “operations in the Horn of Africa” or “ongoing military operations throughout the world.”

“There was no political intent in doing this,” said a Democratic aide who asked not to be identified. “We were just trying to avoid catch phrases.”

Of course!! What was I thinking?

But Jersey McJones thinks:

I can think of at least two things wrong with the use of the phrase “Global War on Terrorism” in a defense authorization bill:

1) Authorizing this Administration to fight a “Global War” is analogous to authorizing Michael Jackson to run a day care center (the Globe), let alone to babysit two children (Iraq and Afghanistan).

2) Authorizing this Administration to fight a “Global War” against a tactic, “Terrorism,” is analogous to authorizing Michael Jackson to run a day care center with carte blanche to do as he will with the children as long as he says he believes they have misbehaved.

But as pedantic as all this sounds, there’s more to what Representative Skelton and his Democrat compatriots are up to here. Authorizing, even if only by inference, a “Global War on Terrorism,” is de facto declaring war on the entire world. Even Hitler didn’t do that. “Terrorism,” and by default “terrorists,” is a ubiquitous presence throughout the “Globe.” I would confidently assume that every nation on Earth has “terrorists” committing “terrorism” every day. To the victim, “terrorism” is “terrifying,” regardless of how many victims there are. So, from small acts of “terror” to massive assaults, “terrorism” is a worldwide fact of life. For any one entity, or nation, to fight “terrorism” “globally” is both impossibly arduous and unacceptably presumptuous. It is for each nation, each peoples, each authority to deal with “terrorism.” Sure, we can work together, even “globally,” to prevent “terrorism” and prosecute “terrorists” - that’s called DIPLOMACY, not “war.”

And “terrorism,” is too broad a term to be declaring war upon it. For example, per American law, if you were to call someone on the telephone and tell them that you are going to punch them in the face, you have commited an act of terror. A warrant could be issued for your arrest for “terrorizing” the receiver of that call. And “terrorism” is in the eye, or at least the rhetoric, of the beholder. In 2002, Chinese authorities made an active effort to portray the practitioners of Falun Gong, a Buddhist sect that concentrates on “better health and inner peace,” as terrorists. Somehow I think the American people are not up for shipping Chinese housewives to Guantanamo for performing slow-motion exercizes in the park.

All this aside, words have meaning, and words in legislation have meaning in law. The Bush Administration has shown itself to be irresponsible, inept and callous in it’s application of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. It has shown itself irresponsible, inept and callous in it’s handling of Afghanistan. It has made thinly veiled threats against Iran. The Constitutional authority to declare war and maintain the military rests squarely on the Legislature - not the Executive. This Executive, in particular, has shown a propensity to circumnavigate circumlocutous law, be it through piddling “signing statements” or catastrophic foreign policy. Ike Skelton and the Democrats on the House Armed Services Committe are not playing semantic games - they are legislating responsibly. It’s about time and it’s been a long time coming.


Posted by: Jersey McJones at April 5, 2007 9:43 AM
But jk thinks:


While I don't share your evaluation of the Bush administration, we might have a few areas of common ground.

I cannot rise to the defense of the term "Global War on Terror." I doubt if anybody here can. I would prefer that we name our enemies and not their tactic. Islamo fascist works for me, Senator Santorum and Christopher Hitchens. I enjoy Mayor Giuliani's term "the war the terrorists declared on us."

Refusing to authorize conflict that cannot be defined is likely, as you suggest, responsible. And I suppose that we agree on Michael Jackson's basic unfitness to seek employment in the child care sector.

Yet I'm not ready to fly the Democrat's flag in this discussion. They have proven themselves to be irresponsible allies, seeking political advantage now that the war is out of favor.

Why don't they fill the void and name the conflict or enemy? To refuse to, or to define it too narrowly is in no way better than defining it too broadly or ambiguously.

Posted by: jk at April 5, 2007 10:03 AM

Better than Star Wars?

Whoa there...

    Space thriller Serenity has beaten Star Wars to the title of best sci-fi movie in an SFX magazine poll of 3,000 fans.

    The futuristic release from 2005 was based on the short-lived TV series Firefly. Both were the work of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.

    Star Wars - which Whedon has conceded had "an enormous influence" on Serenity - came second in the survey.

    Blade Runner was third, followed by Planet of the Apes, The Matrix, Alien and Forbidden Planet.

Posted by AlexC at 3:00 PM | What do you think? [3]
But Terri thinks:

Wow! That's impressive. I'm not positive I agree, and I loved Serenity. The tv show was so much better than the movie, while the movie was great...hm Star Wars. Maybe it was the latest Star Wars film compared and not the first one out?
Time for a side by side test.

Posted by: Terri at April 4, 2007 4:49 PM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Not surprised. Serenity was far superior than the prilogy (prequel trilogy?).

I've watched painted walls drying that were more interesting than Star Wars.

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at April 5, 2007 9:27 PM
But jk thinks:

Must agree all 'round here (well, unless Jersey McGuiness shows up again...). The "prilogy" didn't do anything for me, but the first three (IV, V, VI) were captivating.

Serenity was great but the more time passes the more firmly I believe that the TV shows were better.

Posted by: jk at April 6, 2007 10:00 AM

Taxing Matters

AlexC posts about a community that is surprised to find that minimum wages cost jobs.

Greg Mankiw shakes his head at an Illinois law:

The proposed legislation indicates that the tax is intended to fall on the employer rather than its employees, providing that the payroll tax "shall not be withheld from wages paid to employees or otherwise be collected from employees or reduce the compensation paid to employees.

Professor Mankiw reminds his ec10 students: "Regardless of whether a tax is levied on suppliers or demanders in a market, the final incidence is divided between the two groups of market participants depending on the elasticities of supply and demand."

He also admits "Life is a constant reminder that we teachers of basic economics need to try harder."

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 2:26 PM

Minimum Waging

Yay big government!

Supporters of having the government, instead of the private market, determine wage rates have said that there has been no solid evidence supporting claims that increasing the minimum wage leads to lost jobs. But just tell that to the roughly 70 Kennywood Park employees who were laid off as a result of the recent increase in the state’s minimum wage. The southwestern Pennsylvania amusement park was forced to lay off these workers – largely high school and college students – and raise ticket prices to make up for increased labor costs. Another 20 workers were laid off at nearby Idlewild Park.

Other examples:

  • The fitness chain store operator in the Lehigh Valley who laid off 100 part-time workers

  • The central Pennsylvania business that reduced its work force by three “marginal” workers; will attempt to automate additional work and will consider a reduction in health-care benefits

  • The central Pennsylvania business that runs an apprenticeship program for engine repair had to reduce available opportunities to just one

  • The large multi-state food retailer that will raise prices to consumers to cover additional costs

  • The eastern Pennsylvania-based retailer that cut hours back in its stores and still surrendered profits

  • The western Pennsylvania manufacturer that laid off two employees

  • The business owner with a young family who must now work 15 more hours a week at his pizza shop because he cannot afford the financial hit of the increased minimum wage

None of this is a surprise, naturally.

(tip to Chris)

The Surge is Working

Or so says ABC News, notorious for its shilling for the Bush Administration.

Hat-tip: Insty

Posted by John Kranz at 11:46 AM

April 3, 2007

The Religion

Two columnists, same idea.

DAWG is a religion.


The whole business is eerily religious in feel. Back in the 15th century, the question was: Do you believe in Christ? It was required in Spain by the Inquisition that the answer should be affirmative, leaving to one side subsidiary specifications.

It is required today to believe that carbon-dioxide emissions threaten the basic ecological balance. The assumption then is that inasmuch as a large proportion of the damage is man-made, man-made solutions are necessary.


As has been widely reported, Gore's Tennessee mansion consumes 20 times the energy of the average home in that state. But it's OK, according to the priests of global warming. Gore has purchased "carbon offsets."

It took the Catholic Church hundreds of years to develop corrupt practices such as papal indulgences. The global warming religion has barely been around for 20 years, and yet its devotees are allowed to pollute by the simple expedient of paying for papal indulgences called "carbon offsets."

Americans spend an extra $2.2 billion on gas a year because they're overweight, requiring more fuel in cars to carry the extra pounds. So even with all those papal indulgences, Gore may have a small carbon footprint, but he has a huge carbon butt-print.

But jk thinks:

I've been ready to kick Ms. Coulter off the island for a while now, but the comparison of carbon offsets to papal indulgences is good stuff -- really good.

Yet, as Buckley points out, you have no credibility on the issue, ac, being funded by big oil.

Posted by: jk at April 4, 2007 11:16 AM

In Defense of Self-Esteem

Jonathan Pearce at Samizdata makes a good point about self-esteem. Pearce freely admits "a lot of intellectually vapid rubbish has been written about this. For a lot of the time, it seems, 'self-esteem' is nothing more than a desire to be freed from judgment, hard work and effort."

Yet he worries about a "backlash" to which I'd admit which equates self-esteem with some of the goofy methods educators have tried to augment it. Pearce doesn't want the baby thrown out with the bathwater:

If you think about it, self-esteem is about the idea that as human beings, we are both competent to live and worthy of achieving happiness on this earth. This has nothing to do with a vague, dope-induced "feel-good" sort of sentiment, but is something quite different. Achieving happiness and believing that one is deserving of that is often quite hard. In a culture soaked in guilt about material wealth, where people are constantly told to feel bad about prosperity and "selfish individualism", it is actually quite gutsy for someone to stand against all this. If one thinks about it, self-esteem, properly understood, is a key component of the idea of human rights. If people are entitled to pursue happiness and the good life, then they need rights to protect and advance that. To believe in the idea of the sovereign individual, one has to believe that individuals are competent to decide their lives and also worthy of such. And a self-confident, happy and proud person is surely what a healthy, liberal civil society needs.

And. self-esteem is required to reject the foolish, anti-human ideas one encounters.

While you're on Samizdata, check out their awesome April 1 British apology to Germany and Pearce's timely (for ThreeSourcers) critique of certain members of the Objectivist community.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 5:41 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Good stuff! But then, you'd EXPECT me ["On Politics"] to agree.

In Pearce's critique I read nothing of Peikoff other than "I have little time for [him]." As for this Roger Donway, supposedly an Objectivist, he's wrong. Calling oneself an Objectivist doesn't make it so.

Posted by: johngalt at April 5, 2007 3:06 PM

Cry havoc! and let loose the wars of DAWG

In Jolly Green Justices, the WSJ Editorial Page -- let us say -- registers its disappointment in the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in Massachusetts v EPA.

The five Supreme climatologists granted Al Gore's fondest wish by declaring that "the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized." The majority warned about a "precipitous rise in sea levels," "severe and irreversible changes to natural ecosystems" and "increases in the spread of disease."

So, I suppose the science is settled. If SCOTUS has embraced the DAWG, who am I to be skeptical?

I laugh to keep from crying. Every presidential candidate in both parties has, so far, publicly accepted the precepts of anthropogenic global warming. The EPA will continue to be a great cabinet appointment for one of the more liberal members of any party. I was a big fan of Gov. Christine Todd-Whitman until President Bush gave her the keys to that regulatory behemoth.

Now, that position will have the power to devastate the economy, and even a President McCain or Giuliani will appoint a DAWG acolyte. I shudder to think of what havoc a President (HR) Clinton or Obama administration could wreck.

As the editorial is not available online, I have included all the text (Click "Continue Reading...") This is important to read in full.

The current Supreme Court is a talented group of jurists, but until yesterday we didn't think their expertise ran to climatology. The Justices would have done better in their big global warming decision if they'd stuck more closely to the law.

They showed no such modesty. In Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, a narrow majority managed to diminish the rules of judicial standing, rewrite the definition of "pollutant" under the Clean Air Act, and dramatically curtail the decision-making authority of the executive branch. And judging from Justice John Paul Stevens's 5-4 majority decision, they did so because the five Justices are personally anxious about rising temperatures. As Justice Antonin Scalia noted in dissent, the "Court's alarm over global warming" has led it to substitute "its own desired outcome" for the EPA's judgment.

The case goes back to 1999, when activists frustrated that Congress hadn't enacted a global warming program demanded that the EPA use its Clean Air Act power to unilaterally regulate CO2 "pollutants" from cars. The EPA declined to do so in 2003, claiming it lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2. The greens and several states turned to that mecca for frustrated liberal policy makers -- the courts.

The five Supreme climatologists granted Al Gore's fondest wish by declaring that "the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized." The majority warned about a "precipitous rise in sea levels," "severe and irreversible changes to natural ecosystems" and "increases in the spread of disease."

The Court used all of this not-so-inadvertent opining to justify its conclusion that CO2 is indeed a "pollutant." The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate "any air pollutant" from cars that might "endanger public health or welfare," though the majority took the widest view that the definition includes any "physical, chemical" substance that goes in the air. (Next up: oxygen.) Justice Scalia poked fun at this reasoning, noting Webster's definition of "pollute" is "to make or render impure or unclean" -- which might apply to sulfur dioxide or other dirty gases but not a product of human respiration that resides in the upper atmosphere.

In any case, isn't this something for Congress to decide? Global warming was already a hot topic in 1990, when Congress last amended the Clean Air Act. Yet it declined to enact amendments that would have forced the EPA to set CO2 emissions standards. The Members have since been engaged in periodic brawls over whether and how to regulate CO2, but, voila, the High Court has now declared that it shall be so.

The ruling means the EPA must regulate automobile CO2 emissions unless that agency can show the science of global warming, or the potential harm it may cause, are too uncertain to justify action. The Bush EPA will no doubt be sued whatever it does. Congress will also dive in with more regulation, if only to clear up the legal uncertainty.

Perhaps most distressing is the way the majority made a hash of traditional "standing" doctrine, which determines when a plaintiff has a right to sue. To justify its global warming afflatus, the Justices simply asserted that the Massachusetts coastline faces imminent threat from rising seas. Not even Mr. Gore goes that far. But the Court cites climate models to suggest future harm in order to claim the threat of immediate injury, and thus standing by the Bay State.

"Aside from a single conclusory statement, there is nothing in petitioners' 43 standing declarations and accompanying exhibits to support an inference of actual loss of Massachusetts coastal land from 20th century global sea level increases," writes Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent. "It is pure conjecture."

And done for the purpose of pure policy invention. Standing is one of the few self-restraints on the power of the federal courts, and it is a far too frequent habit of the current Supreme Court to view its own power as unlimited. By diluting the standards for standing, the High Court creates a highway by which judges can speed past the political branches and play an ever larger role in American public life.

It is also worth noting that this is at least the third case in two years in which Justice Kennedy has provided the fifth vote for a decidedly activist liberal majority. Someone recently quipped that Justice Stevens considers it his late life's work to compete for the jump ball that is the jurisprudence of Justice Kennedy, and he seems to be winning most possessions.

(Copyright 2007, Dow Jones & Co. -- stolen without permission).

But mdmhvonpa thinks:

I suppose somebody has to be the Cuffy Meigs of our times ...

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at April 3, 2007 12:10 PM
But johngalt thinks:

This SCOTUS decision is Step 8 in the Road to Serfdom pamplet linked in the previous post.

Thanks for the text JK.

Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2007 3:39 PM

April 2, 2007

Hayek in Cartoons

I had seen this a long time ago, but Virginia Postrel links to it today:

The Road to Serfdom

Orighinally published in Look magazine and reprinted by General Motors.

Posted by John Kranz at 1:55 PM | What do you think? [5]
But dagny thinks:

Consider reading, The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff for a detailed and expanded version of this. Warning the book is pedantic and a slow read in my opinion. It's nonetheless, valuable and highly recommended.

Posted by: dagny at April 3, 2007 12:45 PM
But jk thinks:

Ouch! A dagger through my heart! I cannot in good conscience silently assent to the suggestion that reading Peikoff is better than reading Hayek. If you want something more substantive than a comic book, you can read "The Road to Serfdom" or better still "The Constitution of Liberty."

Sorry, Dagny, but think of how you'd feel if I said "Oh, don't bother reading Ayn Rand, just read Pat Buchanan..."

Posted by: jk at April 3, 2007 2:11 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Brother JK, my dear dagny did not suggest reading 'OP' instead of Hayek, only as an expansion on the 18-panel pamphlet.

I also find your analogy misleading: Leonard Peikoff is not some narrow-minded bombastic caracature of a scant few of the ideas of Hayek, as Buchanan can be said to be of Rand. I believe you are repulsed by the arrogant assertiveness of Peikoff - as though only he knows what is correct. I submit he would find much less use for assertiveness if those he [rightly] criticizes were somehow capable of admitting that there is such a thing as a "correct" idea. If all men understood and valued the power of reason, there would be no further need for compulsion of one by another.

I'll second dagny's recommendation: If you care to see the parallel social and intellectual developments between modern America and Nazi Germany (and it's totalitarian socialist state) read 'The Ominous Parallels.' And JK's: If you want to read in more detail about 'The Road to Serfdom' pamphlet, read 'The Road to Serfdom' book by F.A. Hayek.

Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2007 3:31 PM
But jk thinks:

I read in Brian Doherty's "Radicals For Capitalism" that Ayn Rand called Hayek a "Red." Perhaps we are doomed to continue acting out these internecine rifts, like Buffy and her classmates in "I Only Have Eyes For You.".

Posted by: jk at April 3, 2007 4:44 PM
But dagny thinks:

In the interest of healing internicine rifts, perhaps I can re-rephrase. Instead of calling OP, "a detailed and expanded version of this," I suggest that perhaps it is a similar observation by another great mind. Great minds think alike and all. :-)

Posted by: dagny at April 4, 2007 9:57 AM

Ding Dong, the DRM Witch is Dead

Well, let's say she has developed some worrisome symptoms...

EMI Unveils Plan to Sell Music Without Anticopying Software (Paid WSJ link)

"By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans," said Eric Nicoli, chief executive of EMI in a statement Monday.

Apple said iTunes will make individual tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29. ITunes will continue to offer tracks to consumers at 99 cents but these will have standard sound quality and with DRM still applied. Customers who have already purchased standard tracks with DRM will be able to upgrade to DRM-free tracks for 30 cents.

"We think our customers are going to love this, and we expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year," said Mr. Jobs in a press release.

Bully for Jobs for pushing this and bully for EMI for diving in. I really believe that it will expand digital music sales more than enough to compensate for piracy. I buy almost all of my music on CD, rip it, and shelve the CD just to protect my "license." If this takes hold, I will move to more digital purchases and with the added convenience, will probably buy more music myself.

Apple - Reality Distortion Field Posted by John Kranz at 11:23 AM

April 1, 2007

Support The Troops

Too Funny:


Hat-tip: Powerline via Instapundit

But TrekMedic251 thinks:


(Rumours of my demise are premature - check your calendars!)

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at April 2, 2007 9:56 AM
But jk thinks:

Always good to here from you, Trek, no foolin'.

Posted by: jk at April 2, 2007 11:27 AM

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