Dallas Fed economist and policy adviser, Thomas Siems, writes a guest editorial in the WSJ today (paid link) on the one man whose greatness we all agree on around here.
Thanks to his unwavering support for free enterprise and open markets, Friedman's ideas have elevated standards of living for a rising share of the world's population. More and more people are free to choose their path in the economy, acting in their own self-interest by engaging in mutually beneficial exchange under the rule of law. More and more central banks have followed Friedman's advice and taken control of money growth; indeed, inflation has fallen around the world in developed economies, emerging markets and even among most less-developed nations. And more and more nations are engaged in trade with each other, seeing new markets as a source of greater opportunities and additional resources.
Friedman taught that economic growth comes from innovation and entrepreneurship, by individuals whose minds are open to ideas and by firms engaged in competitive markets open to trade. Friedman saw cooperation in this competition. He saw opportunity in free markets and globalization. And he saw education and the free exchange of ideas as prerequisites to advancing this freedom for the next generation.
Indeed, Friedman once said, "Freedom is not the natural state of mankind. It is a rare and wonderful achievement. It will take an understanding of what freedom is, of where the dangers to freedom come from. It will take the courage to act on that understanding if we are not only to preserve the freedoms that we have, but to realize the full potential of a truly free society."
So as we celebrate Milton Friedman's birthday and achievements, we must continue his legacy and keep making the case for freedom.
It is accepted that the GOP is in a heap o' trouble in the next election. I do not dispute that. As the FBI raids Sen. Ted Stevens's (R - Leavenworth) house, the GOP will have more seats to defend, the war is unpopular and the base is enervated and split on immigration and trade.
I think quite a few of these could be fixed by a public fight over the farm bill. Yes, Senator Grassley (E85 - Iowa) would likely crumble, but you've got to break some eggs to make an omelet.
The overstuffed farm bill now waddling through Congress -- toward a possible veto by President Bush -- has attracted so much waste that everyone with a genuine interest in agriculture is feeling disheartened. Yet the bill has earned unlikely support from the labor union lobby.
Hmmm. Could this be at all related to a new and unprecedented Davis-Bacon requirement for ethanol construction? Davis-Bacon is the Depression era holdover that forces federal construction contracts to pay a "prevailing union wage" -- determined by the Department of Labor -- rather than a market wage. This anachronism was attached to the bill last week by House Democrats; a staffer tells us he's never before seen Davis-Bacon in a farm bill.
The bill is flush with subsidies to produce ethanol, the corn-based alternative fuel that still can't compete on a free-market basis. More ethanol requires more biorefineries. Democrats plan to mandate Davis-Bacon wages for workers building those refineries. With nonunion builders unable to compete on price, each new refinery could cost as much as 35% more. In many rural areas with little or no union activity, this artificially high labor cost could even make the prospect of building an ethanol plant a net loss.
Because ethanol production would be significantly more expensive under Davis-Bacon -- and because the government requires ethanol in gasoline -- ordinary Americans would foot the bill for this union handout in the form of higher prices at the gas pump. That veto is looking more attractive by the moment.
This could energize the base and differentiate the GOP from the Democrats, who will be led in 2008 by the most pro-big-government candidate since FDR. And it would be the right thing to do.
John Karol is an independent filmmaker whose latest film is sure to please jk. He discusses his latest film in the NY Sun:
"Make a film on Calvin Coolidge?" When the idea was first suggested to me I barely could muster a yawn. As a "liberal" filmmaker, what little I knew of Coolidge came from New Deal historians who view him as a somnambulant "capitalist tool" whose presidency served only as a prelude to disaster.
"Read his autobiography — 250 pages, large print."
I did, and was intrigued. I moved on to his speeches, all of which he wrote himself. A master at delegating duties, Coolidge was not one to delegate beliefs. His speeches read like lay sermons to the American public, revealing fundamental values and ideals any small "d" democrat should embrace. I was hooked.
Coolidge on taxes and farm subsidies:
Harding, Coolidge, and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon sought to kick-start the economy by reducing the top marginal tax rate to 25%. They did. Revenues increased dramatically, presaging Arthur Laffer by half a century. Both presidents ran surpluses in all their annual budgets. By the time Coolidge left office, the national debt had been cut by one-third.
New Deal historians maintain that the tax cuts of the 1920s reversed the progressive tax policies of Woodrow Wilson. Far from it. Exemptions increased so much that by 1927 almost 98% of the American people paid no income tax whatsoever. When Coolidge left office in 1929, wealthy people paid 93% of the tax load. During Wilson's last year in office they had paid only 59%.
Less remembered, and less appreciated by contemporary politicians, was Coolidge's aversion to farm subsidies. At great political risk, Coolidge twice vetoed the popular McNary-Haugen farm subsidy bill. As Coolidge put it:
"If the government gets into business on any large scale, we soon find that the beneficiaries attempt to play a large part in the control … and those who are the most adroit get the larger part of it."
Tim Folger tells, in Discover Magazine, that as scientists slice time into smaller and smaller slices, it appears not to exist:
"One finds that time just disappears from the Wheeler-DeWitt equation,” says Carlo Rovelli, a physicist at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, France. “It is an issue that many theorists have puzzled about. It may be that the best way to think about quantum reality is to give up the notion of time—that the fundamental description of the universe must be timeless.”
No one has yet succeeded in using the Wheeler-DeWitt equation to integrate quantum theory with general relativity. Nevertheless, a sizable minority of physicists, Rovelli included, believe that any successful merger of the two great masterpieces of 20th-century physics will inevitably describe a universe in which, ultimately, there is no time.
Hat-tip: Samizdata, one of whom suggests "Remember this next time you turn up late for an appointment. "
Mickey Kaus makes an interesting point. Print editors introduce ambiguity and error when they edit a piece to fit in a restricted space.
We don't kill no widows in these parts: Note to NYT's Andrew Adam Newman: That's my quote, buddy--which explains why Steven den Beste, to whom you attribute it, had those two little marks on either end.... P.S. This is the classic sort of error usually introduced by an editor trying to save space. Print editors do have to save space. But web editors don't. That's a major, unremarked virtue of blogs over newspapers when it comes to the newspaper's alleged unique selling proposition: accuracy. In fact, the need to fit copy to a limited space is a powerful error-creating machine in both dailies and magazines. Harried print editors compress, and get it wrong. Or they fool around trying to simplify attribution and get it wrong. Or they guiltlessly edit quotes within quotation marks and (by definition) get them wrong. ... In cyberspace,, if it takes one more line to get it right, you can take one more line. I haven't killed a widow in so long I've forgotten what it feels like.
People look at the "demand-side" of The Long Tail. Maybe it is the business I am in, but I am more intrigued by what enables it.
The move from scarcity to abundance is the foundation of Long Tail businesses. Wal*Mart has to fight scarcity of shelf space, as does the video store. Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix have an abundance of (virtual) shelf space and can pursue long tail strategies. The blogger likewise has an abundance of column inches.
When I saluted the President's plan to provide $15,000 tax deductions, some good objections were raised: would a large deduction encourage over insurance; and, would tax-neutrality really shift people from employer to individual insurance?
The bias toward over-insurance is a good point. Since the plan is just an inchoate idea at this point, I think it is futile to discuss specific amounts.
The efficacy of moving people toward individual policies has two engines: employers and employees. Of course, many employees will want the status quo. If you have a good plan at a stable job, it is pretty attractive. If you worry about keeping your job and concomitantly your health insurance, you may see the wisdom in a portable, self funded plan. Even more likely, employers who are tired of the hassles or unable to afford group plans have every incentive to shift this onto their employees.
The WSJ News Pages (not my crazy friends on the Ed Page) carry the story today of a Utah man who uses the Heath Reimbursement Arrangement as a tax neutral vehicle for employer contributions to personal health insurance. The article is very interesting -- let me know if you'd like me to mail it to you. They have also posted a video with an overview:
I have an HRA type account where I work. It is great, but it requires me to guess my medical expenses every year. If I go under, I do not get the tax break, if I go over, I lose the money "poof -- bye bye!"
There are some problems with the Zane Benefits approach. It is built, explicitly, on the existence of State mandates to cover the uninsurable. I highlight it as an innovation and to show the intense employer and employee advantages to shifting to an individual model. Should this take off or be expanded, we would see unknowable innovations in individual insurance that would change the game.
An op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "A War We Just Might Win" proclaims:
VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
The WSJ Ed Page says "An old saw has it that the best proof of a man's loyalties lies in the sports teams he roots for." As many Democrats and Republicans have called for splitting Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia nations, the editorial(paid link) uses the pride in the team's 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia to say that Iraq is not "a notional country."
It is easy to get carried away by the symbolism of a single soccer victory. Still, it was remarkable that the winning team -- known as the "Lions of the Two Rivers" -- was Iraqi in the broadest sense of the word. Younis Mahmoud, the team captain who scored the winning goal, is Turkman. Teammate Hawar Mulla Mohammed, who put the ball into position, is Kurdish. Goalkeeper Noor Sabri is Shiite Arab.
No less remarkable were the circumstances in which the team had to train and compete. Coach Jorvan Vieira of Brazil had to move the Iraqi players beyond their political differences. The team, which could not train on home turf, went from match to match in economy seats. (Their Saudi rivals traveled more comfortably.) The celebration of their previous victory, over South Korea, was cut short by a suicide bombing that killed 50.
Yet for everything they lacked, the Iraqis had a powerful if intangible asset over their more pampered rivals: a country to fight for. Perhaps their victory will give all Iraqis a taste of what they may yet achieve together.
"It is a relationship that is founded on our common values of liberty, opportunity and the dignity of the individual," Brown said in a statement. "And because of the values we share, the relationship with the United States is not only strong, but can become stronger in the years ahead."
AP Photo as well.
A progressive brother-in-law encountered a conservative brother-in-law at a party (they are not related except through me). Prog asks Conz "If you could change one thing, enact one law to make things the way you wish they would be, what would you do?"
Conz answers Prog with a call for consumption based taxation. "That's a good one," thinks I. When the question is asked back, Prog tells Conz "I would investigate every provider of insurance: health, car, fire -- all of them are cheating us."
It's pretty easy for me to choose sides on that one, but it got me thinking of my response. Consumption tax may be the best answer. Education money following students and/or dismantling the teacher's unions would be up there (Prog is a teacher and proud union member, the time would have to be right for me to float that).
After all my bellyaching on Berkeley Square Blog and ThreeSources, I guess I'll have to choose the replacement of the FDA with private counterparts, based on the model of Underwriter's Laboratories, CSA, and VDE. Like the whiners at town hall meetings, that would affect me directly; that would be the difference between MS being cured in my lifetime or not.
It's Sunday, you're granted one legislative wish from jk's brother-in-law. What's your pleasure?
When was the last presidential election where Federalism was even on the agenda?
I don't know either.
However, it seems to have been coming back this season.
First was Mitt Romney, whose term as Massachusetts' governor taught him some lessons on federal government's mandates.
Fred! has another opinion piece out discussing the topic at length and includes his experience in the Senate.
Federalism is not an 18th century notion. Or a 19th century notion. It retains its force as a basic principle in the 21st century, because when federalism is ignored, accountability, innovation, and public confidence in government at all levels suffer.
It is as true today as it ever was: the closer a government is to its people, the more responsive it is to the felt needs of its constituencies. Too often, however, state and local leaders have to answer to federal bureaucrats first and their constituents second. When the federal government mandates a program that states and localities are forced to implement, or when a federal grant program is created to fund a specific state or community need, it blurs the lines of accountability.
Who answers to the people if a program fails? The federal government will point to state authorities carrying out the program; the states will point to the federal government, which came up with the program in the first place. And in the end no one is more confused than the people the program is supposed to be serving, who can’t even say for sure who is responsible for what. This does not argue against all federal programs but it does require the recognition that there, indeed, are trade-offs.
Back in my days in the Senate, I found myself on the short end of a couple of 99 to 1 votes. They involved issues that had been under the purview of states for over 200 years. I asked why we should federalize what rightly were state and local issues.
Addressing the American Legislative Exchange Council, Thompson didn't give the typical stump speech, The Morning Call's Brian Callaway reported. Instead, he told them exactly what they wanted to hear: states need more freedom to manage their own affairs. [and that's ok. -ed]
And he clearly didn't say anything too quotable: Neither Callaway nor Philly Inquirer reporter Larry Eichel used a full quote from Thompson in their stories.
Some in the audience didn't think so. "I think he scored a lot of points," Roman Buhler, a conservative activist from Virginia, told Callaway after Thompson's speech.
In a more enlightened age, when the risks and the costs of these medical miracles come down, we'll look back on Bonds' triumph as a victory for all of us. We'll see our booing of him as symptoms of a silly, Luddite phobia of manipulating our own bodies. I'm sure there was an equal outcry when makeup was invented. And hair dye and the Wonder bra. How our ancestors went on, I have no idea.
Bonds is not using a corked bat, which many players have, just as plenty of pitchers have scuffed balls. He has simply redesigned his body. Like so many of us have. Medicine, surgery and genetic engineering are no more an affront to God than drinking the protein shakes he didn't leave on the vine. And until we accept that, we're going to keep losing to those we call cheaters.
So next week, I'll be watching Bonds with my Lasiked eyes, free of the scar that was laser-pulsed from my nose, while I run a hand through my Rogained hair. And of course I'll be holding -- because it makes me feel better -- a beer.
I'm wondering if the pitch that goes over the fence is going to a sandbagged "i want to be the one that threw that pitch" kind of deal.
ExcaliburBlog seeks to use an Army of Davids/Wisdom of Crowds approach to military, national security, and counterinsurgency development. I doubt I will be submitting any aircraft designs, but it is an interesting read and a good source for non-mainstream views and news about the War
Hat tip to Terri, who is credited as the first link to the blog.
I gave it away in a previous post, but I'd highly encourage everybody to buy and read Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man.
I don't suspect that we have a lot of "New Dealers" in ThreeSources Land who idolize FDR's economic policies. We fight every day against the New Deal legacy. To look at the US under President Coolidge, where the book begins, is to see a completely different national attitude toward freedom, property rights, and the right to contract.
I recommend this book for two reasons. It has a powerful narrative that few nonfiction books can claim. Even though you generally know the ending of each section, the book is a real page turner. The characters are lit brightly through deed and anecdote. I'm no expert on the period by any means, yet I came away with a clear feel for Presidents Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt, as well as losing candidates Alf Landon and (the book's hero) Wendell Willkie. Andrew Mellon, Justice Brandies, Harold Ickes the elder, Rex Tugwell, Samuel Insull, Father Devine, Huey Long, Father Coughlin. It has a large and bright cast that comes to life.
Exciting, yes, but the story was all too real. The other thing I enjoyed was Shlaes's detailing the extent of FDR's collectivist instincts. Call me naive but I was shocked. FDR wanted state control of everything and had the Supreme Court not clipped his wings, we'd be living in a country where Senator Clinton's polity would be considered laissez faire. It is truly astonishing.
Shlaes wears her heart on her sleeve. Heroes and villains are as clear in "The Forgotten Man" as in an Ayn Rand novel. You’ve read Shlaes in the Wall Street Journal; to her and me the collectivists are villans. She doesn't impute bad motives but she shows it as a battle of individualists vs. collectivists -- and she details how FDR's policies made the depression worse and longer. It was WWII that brought the country out, and one component was that President Roosevelt needed to ameliorate his methods and political battles to create a united front to win the war.
We all celebrate FDR's war leadership, and the book ends before Pearl Harbor. His first two terms are scrutinized as are the events leading up to them.
The Publisher's Weekly review says "It's also a thoughtful, even-tempered corrective to too often unbalanced celebrations of FDR and his administration's pathbreaking policies" Me, I give it five stars.
UPDATE: I got a nice thank you from Ms. Shlaes. I'm glad I did not call her a grouch.
John Edwards has officially lost his mind. This speech borders on conspiracy theory.
Also, I hate to trouble him with facts, but someone should tell Edwards that the top 25% of income earners pay 85% of all income taxes. Personally, I think I would classify that as more than their fair share. I wonder what he thinks they should pay. The populist nonsense rolls on...
Let the record show that I didn't start it this time.
Former Deputy Editor of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, George Melloan, has a guest editorial today (paid link). He contrasts the arresting of workers in Arizona against news that potatoes are rotting in the ground in Idaho because of insufficient labor to harvest them. It's all my arguments that have not convinced anybody around here yet:
Still, the $13 trillion American economy demands labor. Mexico has had a high birth rate (although it is rapidly slowing) and can supply the needed workers, with benefits on both sides of the border. But the U.S. political class can only talk of new barriers. Why is this such a hard equation for politicians? The longer this problem festers, the more likely it will push the Mexican polity to turn away from being an uneasy friend of the U.S. to becoming a troublesome enemy.
But there was a new twist I enjoyed:
The fundamental mistake, one that American politicians have made over and over again, is the belief that the government's police powers can overwhelm powerful market forces. Richard Nixon and the Congress attempted this feat in 1971 with wage and price controls, stalling American growth for a decade. Simpson-Mazzoli was a similar effort to strong-arm a key market -- for labor -- by threatening something that proved to be unenforceable, jail sentences for employers of illegal aliens. Luckily, that didn't shut off the labor supply from Mexico, it just drove it underground. Estimates are that there at least 12 million illegals in the U.S. and that may be far lower than the actual number.
Nixon wage and price controls. Blanket government interference in opposition to market forces. Why not institute a guest worker program instead of a fence?
My friend Robert Halbrook, a retired lawyer living in Tucson, Ariz., is aware that politics are not always logical or even rational, but offers a logical solution nonetheless: Legislators must do away with all the threats and penalties that drive labor and its employers underground. It must be made possible for illegal workers to achieve legal status without fear. That way Mexicans can come to the U.S. to fill jobs and go home safe in the knowledge that when their work is demanded they will be able to come back again. Many will go back with skills learned in the U.S., enabling them to earn a living at home. Most, he believes, do not crave U.S. citizenship. Why should they want to cope with a new language and culture, if they can return home without penalty? They just want to feed their families and try to move up the economic ladder.
Is it too much to ask of Congress that it employ some of this clear logic? Apparently so, judging from the paralysis in Washington.
Let’s be clear about what’s going on here. No matter what some groups may be trying to do to muddy the water and portray Hazleton’s law as something playing to an uglier agenda, this law is not about legal immigration. This law is about dealing with the illegal immigration problem in Hazleton. The town’s mayor and city officials made this clear from the beginning, and it seems like they took a common sense approach.
Our constitutional system allows cities to take reasonable steps to protect their citizens. When the federal government is unwilling to enforce immigration laws effectively, then cities need to be able to act, and take reasonable steps to secure their citizens from the social, financial, and criminal costs of illegal immigration.
No doubt, this ruling will be appealed. And it should be.
The decision sets up the situation where a city or state wants a law enforced but federal law prohibits it, leaving it to the federal government, who don't want to enforce it.
Jonathan V. Last is a great blogger at Galley Slaves, a superb journalist from the Weekly Standard, and is technically my "sire," as I started watching Buffy mostly on his recommendation.
I was stunned to read his "Casual" column in last week's Weekly Standard (paid link). The casual column is a short piece that runs right after the Masthead and gives writers a chance to cover a light topic or personal reflection. They're frequently fun and a few have stuck with me.
Last's is the first one that has angered me: I think he is at least a few years younger than me, but he thought it was time for a curmudgeonly old fart column:
As if that weren't dispiriting enough, my friend Phillip Longman tells me that progress is actually slowing down. Between 1910 and 1960, indoor plumbing, electricity, and automobiles became common. Jet airplanes were invented, and a space program was begun that in a few short years would put a man on the moon. Nuclear power, plastics, lasers, and computers--the stuff of science fiction in 1910--all had been developed by 1960.
But from 1960 to 2007, little changed. With the exception of the Internet, on which the jury is still out, most of the advances of the last 50 years are merely improvements on existing technology. Previous generations conquered disease, went into space, and split the atom. We came up with the iPhone.
Okay, the Internet crack is a joke. Last is a professional journalist and is uneasy with the blogger/"Army of Davids" culture. Fine.
Galley Slaves has three political writers who do no politics. They discuss Philadelphia sports, pop culture, video games, &c. Last, David Skinner, and Victorino Matus are modern young men and his disregarding the advances of the last 47 years is out of character. To be fair, he is complaining that the futurist visions of his youth have not panned out. There's certainly truth to that.” Where once they dreamed of advanced food pills, we're shopping for heirloom tomatoes at farmers' markets."
To claim the computer was created in 1960 and that his xBox is just derivative achievement is incomprehensible. That a professional journalist doesn't see the value of Google® or cell phones or that the sports fan doesn't mention satellite or HiDef Plasma televisions is dishonest.
Laugh at the iPhone all you want, but take it back to 1965 and show it to a kid who has a black, rotary phone in his home and a color TV in the family room if he is very lucky. I think he'd be pretty impressed. Take the back off and show it to his engineer Dad.
Heirloom tomatoes? That's a sign of wealth.
In the end, that's what gets me. He can make fun of the Internet or the iPhone if he wants, but his derision carries him down the Paul Krugman path of denying that our freedom and innovation have created wealth, better lives, and a foundation for even more incredible achievement.
UPDATE: Ah yes, one advance is the search engine, where anyone you call "a grouch" on the Internet can find you. I received a kind email from JVL, who stands by his point and hopes I am enyoing the Season 8 comic books.
Sadly, I let my TNR digital subscription lapse a few months ago. They booted the price up a bit and I was going back and forth whether I would renew. It has lost some of its luster after Peter Beinart left, and the loonies are getting many more column inches than they used to.
Now that "Scott Thomas" has outed himself, I wish my subscription were current. I would love to cancel in high dudgeon. We have not discussed it at ThreeSources, but I bet you've all followed the story. The pseudonymous Thomas wrote "anecdotal diaries" of life in Iraq as an American soldier. In his stories, he and his compatriots disrespected Iraqis and acted dishonorably and unprofessionally. He claimed that he himself had cruelly insulted a woman who had been disfigured by an IED. His friends destroyed infrastructure in their Bradley fighting vehicles and always swerved to kill dogs. He didn't get to "Gengis Khan," but it was only a matter of time.
Now that many military bloggers have disputed his tales, he takes to the TNR blog to out himself and defend his fellow soldiers against charges that they are -- it gets pretty weird here -- charges that they are honorable and decent. It seems those who say the military is not loaded with psychopaths and sadists are chickenhawks.
It's been maddening, to say the least, to see the plausibility of events that I witnessed questioned by people who have never served in Iraq. I was initially reluctant to take the time out of my already insane schedule fighting an actual war in order to play some role in an ideological battle that I never wanted to join. That being said, my character, my experiences, and those of my comrades in arms have been called into question, and I believe that it is important to stand by my writing under my real name.
We are too psychotic sadists, dammit! How dare you question my lack of patriotism!
Beauchamp/Thomas is a Private and he may have actually done or seen some of the unprofessional incidents he describes, though I suspect some serious hyperbole. Most telling is that TNR -- the least moonbatty of Democratic mags -- chooses to represent our brave men and women by this cowardly example. The commenters on The Plank are all rallying around Beauchamp and ridiculing those who have dared question his perfidy.
Samizdat Jonathan Pearce makes a good point about the "buy local" movement. In addition to its being chosen poverty, localized weather phenomena can threaten food supplies. The current UK floods have devastated crops in East Anglia.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the terrible summer of 1845 led to the Irish famine. In centuries past, bad weather was not just destructive in some ways but it also meant people starved in their millions. That is unlikely to happen now. And one reason for that is that we are no longer reliant on home-grown food. Food production is not only much greater because of modern techniques, drainage, use of fertilisers and machinery, but also because the 60m souls on this sodden island have access to a global market for food.
John Fund, meanwhile, provides the perfect segue. In the Political Diary today, he writes "In case You've Been Missing Teresa Heinz..."
The outspoken Elizabeth Edwards has made headlines by suggesting Hillary Clinton isn't standing up for women sufficiently. She also antagonized many potential crossover voters by calling her gun-owning North Carolina Republican neighbors "scary." Now she is touting her belief that Americans should eat only locally-grown fruit to reduce the "carbon footprint" caused by transporting fruit across state and national boundaries.
"We've been moving back to 'buy local,'" Mrs. Edwards said in South Carolina this week, in support of a trade policy she says would allow Americans to keep their apples but require them to give up other cherished items in the fight against global warming. "I live in North Carolina. I'll probably never eat a tangerine again," she said.
But her husband isn't entirely sure his wife's views should become official campaign policy. According to Politico.com, John Edwards at the same event called for unspecified "sacrifice" to combat global warming, but he was caught up short afterward when asked if he endorsed his wife's, well, fruity views.
Mr. Edwards went out of his way twice to avoid the question, but when finally cornered, he claimed he hadn't made up his mind. "Would I add to the price of food? I'd have to think about that," he said. Of course, there's no way to reduce energy consumption without adding to the price of everything -- which is why most candidate talk about "fighting global warming" is empty. But at least there's one politician in the Edwards family who knows enough to avoid an electoral trapdoor opening under his feet.
I think I'll avoid the "Buy Local" craze. Not only am I philosophically opposed, I really don't fancy the taste of hay.
I was a Jimmy Buffet fan before I discovered jazz. That is one of his many funny song titles.
Germaine today. WSI Corp., a private forecasting entity, was reported to be backing off its predictions for 2007. I meant to post but saw that Terri had beat me to it.
Today, DAWG-deniers' patron saint Dr. William Gray is a little less sanguine. He still looks for an active season with an above average number of major storms. Yet Gray is trying to get out front of the news coverage and dissever links to global warming.
Some scientists, journalists and activists see a direct link between the post-1995 upswing in Atlantic hurricanes and global warming brought on by human-induced greenhouse gas increases. This belief, however, is unsupported by long-term Atlantic and global observations.
Consider, for example, the intensity of U.S. land-falling hurricanes over time -- keeping in mind that the periods must be long enough to reveal long-term trends. During the most recent 50-year period, 1957 to 2006, 83 hurricanes hit the United States, 34 of them major. In contrast, during the 50-year period from 1900 to 1949, 101 hurricanes (22% more) made U.S. landfall, including 39 (or 15% more) major hurricanes.
The hypothesis that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the number of hurricanes fails by an even wider margin when we compare two other multi-decade periods: 1925-1965 and 1966-2006. In the 41 years from 1925-1965, there were 39 U.S. land-falling major hurricanes. In the 1966-2006 period there were 22 such storms -- only 56% as many. Even though global mean temperatures have risen by an estimated 0.4 Celsius and CO2 by 20%, the number of major hurricanes hitting the U.S. declined.
He offers another hypothesis:
My Colorado State University colleagues and I attribute the increase in hurricane activity to the speed-up of water circulating in the Atlantic Ocean. This circulation began to strengthen in 1995 -- at exactly the same time that Atlantic hurricane activity showed a large upswing.
Here's how it works. Though most people don't realize it, the Atlantic Ocean is land-locked except on its far southern boundary. Due to significantly higher amounts of surface evaporation than precipitation, the Atlantic has the highest salinity of any of the global oceans. Saline water has a higher density than does fresh water. The Atlantic's higher salinity causes it to have a continuous northward flow of upper-ocean water that moves into the Atlantic's polar regions, where it cools and sinks due to its high density. After sinking to deep levels, the water then moves southward, and returns to the Atlantic's southern fringes, where it mixes again. This south-to-north upper-level water motion, and compensating north-to-south deep-level water motion, is called the thermohaline circulation (THC).
The strength of the Atlantic's THC shows distinct variations over time, due to naturally occurring salinity variations. When the THC is strong, the upper-ocean water becomes warmer than normal; atmospheric circulation changes occur; and more hurricanes form. The opposite occurs when the THC is weaker than average.
Since 1995, the Atlantic's THC has been significantly stronger than average. It was also stronger than average during the 1940s to early 1960s -- another period with a spike in major hurricane activity. It was distinctly weaker than average in the two quarter-century periods of 1970-1994 and 1900-1925, when there was less hurricane activity.
Dr. Popper would suggest that both theories are exposed to rigorous academic discussion and experimentation. But Dr. Gray points out that it might not work that way.
The warming theorists -- most of whom, no doubt, earnestly believe that human activity has triggered nature's wrath -- have the ears of the news media. But there is another plausible explanation, supported by decades of physical observation. The spate of recent destructive hurricanes may have little or nothing to do with greenhouse gases and climate change, and everything to do with the Atlantic Ocean's currents.
But that would reinstate Copernicus and the heliocentric universe. And many men cannot accept that the 'verse does not revolve around us.
WASHINGTON - Angry senators suggested a special prosecutor should investigate misconduct at the Justice Department, accusing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday of deceit on the prosecutor firings and President Bush's eavesdropping program.
I choked when I heard Sen. Arlen Specter (RINO - PA) suggesting it. It's a bad idea to begin with (cf Fitzgerald, Starr), but especially worrisome when there has been no crime.
Giuliani argues that the best way to reduce tension about social issues is to allow states, rather than the federal government, to take the lead in responding to them. That would allow socially conservative and liberal states to each set rules that reflect the prevailing values inside their borders. Rather than perpetual combat in Washington, he insists, the nation could reach a new equilibrium as different states gravitated to different solutions.
In an interview last week, Giuliani said the key to resolving cultural arguments "where our society on a national level ends up being very divided" is to apply the "principle of federalism." Questions on topics such as gun control, gay rights or aspects of abortion, he continued, "are issues that I think the founding fathers would say should be consigned to state and local governments, experimenting, deciding, having different views, and the federal government having a more limited role."
I'm glad to hear Federalism qua Federalism get good press. The trouble, highlighted in this article, is that everybody has an issue that he or she feels supersedes Federalism. For Hizzoner, sadly, that is gun control. I would argue that the 2nd Amendment makes gun rights supersede Federalism.
I read hb's charming post on the success of private efforts to help Katrina victims, complete with his admonition that "the inability to provide ample support is not confined to the administration, but rather to government itself."
Shortly after that, I read this editorial, Union Doozy, in the Wall Street Journal. The contrast is explicit. The State of Indiana contracts with private companies to deliver state welfare services, using the efficiency of the private sector. Unfortunately for AFSCME, the program is a mad success and they have to get their Democratic lapdogs in the 110th Congress to overrule the State law (so much for laboratories of democracy, Justice Brandeis!)
Indiana's goal is to deliver welfare benefits more efficiently to those who qualify for them. Its reform aims to save $500 million over 10 years by moving some 1,400 government jobs to the private sector -- which AFSCME likes to call "domestic outsourcing." But while this could mean fewer dues-paying union members, the state contract with IBM specifically requires that all current employees be offered work on the new system. And what do you know? More than 99% chose the private sector. Adding call centers and online resources will also help reduce welfare fraud: In December, a federal-state investigation found more than 1,000 ineligible drug felons collecting welfare in Marion County alone.
But no effort to make government more accountable goes unpunished. Under the House provision, the Hoosier state would be forced to cancel the $1.16 billion 10-year deal with IBM, while taxpayers would have to shoulder the more than $100 million in additional costs to bring the operation back into the bureaucracy. Worse, the money to make up the shortfall would likely come out of the same purse that's been funding an increasing number of child-welfare caseworkers -- which was another goal of reform.
There are a hundred good arguments against government running things, but the best to me is the Hayekian preference for distributed control and knowledge. Allowing a few Senators to have veto privileges over innovation will guarantee inefficiency every time.
The program is likely safe for now, but won't be under a Democratic administration. And why would the next IBM bother to get involved with such a program?
I'll suspend my pragmatism to clean out the stables. The Wall Street Journal news pages report:(paid link)
Rep. Don Young of Alaska, the former chairman of the House Transportation Committee, now is the subject of a continuing criminal inquiry involving possible political favors for a company in Alaska, people close to the case said. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the powerful former chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the longest-serving Senate Republican, is also now under criminal investigation, these people said.
I would trade a Senate seat and a House seat to get rid of those two. You can throw Rep. Jerry Lewis of California in their cell as well.
They could just as easily do what young people typically do during their precious summer free time: work various odd or part-time jobs, lounge around a beach or do nothing at all.
But for thousands of young people from across the country - in a few cases, other countries - this summer has been different.
Despite tales of thick, suffocating summer heat and entire neighborhoods still scarred with floodlines and wrecked seemingly beyond repair, young people continue to flock to New Orleans. They come not to revel in the neon glow of Bourbon Street, but to continue the cleanup nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina.
Many of the young volunteers have never been to the city and team up with local organizations, such as the well-established Catholic Charities or the newer Beacon of Hope Resource Center, to fill the voids in neighborhoods where the need for help remains great.
On a recent afternoon, a group of high school students from Westlake, a town just outside Lake Charles, spent part of their day in Mid-City, hand scraping old paint from the porch of a white shotgun double and applying a fresh coat to the inside walls. Even though the house is raised about 3 feet, a waterline remains about 2 feet high on the screen door.
"Something as simple as a fresh coat of paint can do so much," said Sam Turner, 16, who was in town to work with other young members of his church, First Baptist Church of Westlake.
The homeowner, Chareen Black, 41, said the volunteers have made a major contribution.
"Imagine without the volunteers - the house would still be in disarray, and I can't do it myself," said Black, who was welcoming a second group of volunteers to her home. "It's been a big help, a huge blessing."
Those who criticized FEMA and Bush in the same breath fail to realize that the inability to provide ample support is not confined to the administration, but rather to government itself. This story is free of the rhetoric and is a great example of human compassion and the free market.
David Weigel live-blogged the Democratic Party debate for reason. Here are some highlights:
7:10: Clinton abandons the word liberal, which "used to mean" you cared about the rights of the individual "back in the 19th and early 20th century." Hillary Clinton: Not A Hayekian! In case you were asking.
7:13: Chuck Hagel shoots his TV.
7:20: Dodd: Preparations for Katrina "should have been done ahead of time." Good thing you didn't vote to fold FEMA into the DHS, huh, Chris? I mean... uhm...
7:23: "I'm not running because I'm a woman." No, you're running because you're married to Bill Clinton.
7:24: "When I'm inaugurated it'll send a great message to little girls and boys around the world." That the U.S. is a two-family constitutional monarchy?
7:28: Kucinich and Dodd would let gays marry. They'll also legalize unicorns. Neither of them will win, everybody.
7:41: Joe Biden: "I'm so tired of this." The quote of the night. Also, has anyone not been to the Darfur refugee camp?
7:43: Good for Anderson Cooper, nailing down Hillary Clinton on whether she'd send troops to Darfur. She wouldn't, but it sounds like the reason is that they're in Iraq... and they're going to, *cough*, be there a while, probably.
7:50: I never feel so pessimistic about Iraq as when I hear Democrats talk about how they'll end it.
7:58: John Edwards, always handy with the chest-pounding answers to the questions no one asked.
More of the same from the Dems. Hillary thinks she's already won (she even said, "when I am inaugurated..."), Edwards keeps telling the same story to sell his points on several different issues, and Gravel is still pounding the podium to get us out of Vietnam.
Perhaps the greatest line was when Kucinich mentioned how no one was standing to the left of him and CNN's Anderson Cooper replied, "I don't think we could find anyone to the left of you."
I guess I don't make enough enemies around here with my GOPragmatism®, I had to go out looking for trouble on other blogs.
Josh Hendrickson at The Everyday Economist is unimpressed with the President's Health Care plan, as expressed today in a WSJ editorial by L. Ron. Allan Hubbard. Hubbard makes a great case for the importance of keeping what's good about American care while trying to repair what is bad.
The problem is straightforward: Under today's tax code, people who are fortunate enough to get health insurance through their jobs get a big tax break -- but those who have to buy coverage on their own get no tax break at all. That is not fair, and it is not wise. It makes it impossible for millions of Americans who work for small businesses or who are self-employed to afford health insurance. And it drives up the cost of coverage for us all.
So President Bush has proposed to level the playing field for health insurance. Under his plan, every family with private health coverage would receive a standard tax deduction of $15,000 -- no matter where they get their health insurance. This deduction would encourage more people to buy their own health insurance, just like the mortgage interest deduction encourages more people to buy their own homes. Some have suggested that a flat tax credit could also achieve the president's goal of leveling the playing field, and he has signaled that he would be open to that option.
I like this plan as a bold step to break the country's dependence on employer-provided care. If that can be broken, a lot of other reforms are enabled. People will demand interstate insurance and other innovations.
Hendrickson provides a generous excerpt, salutes the good parts, then questions both the ability of helping those too poor to buy insurance with a 15,000 deduction, and:
We need to eliminate all tax deductions and credits (whether personal or corporate) and move toward an insurance policy that is much more similar to auto insurance than modern health insurance. Such a plan would bring price back into the equation and limit the administrative costs of HMOs and other managed care organizations. The plan proposed by Hubbard essentially tries — rather unsuccessfully — to give everyone the incentive to over-insure.
I think the President is tilting at windmills here, but I would like to see the GOP take this up as a realistic alternative to HillaryCare. Providing tax-neutrality between employer funded and self funded insurance would be huge. That is the stumbling block that prevents the innovations from auto insurance from arriving in health insurance.
As I commented there, I'd be all for the government getting entirely out of the equation. But this would be an improvement very much worth fighting for.
I missed the Dem debate last night. If they did not have one every three days...
Here is the Biden clip that everybody is talking about.
I don't know, that will play to his base well enough and I don't think it hurts his chances of becoming our next president in a statistically meaningful way. I was more intrigued by Gov. Richardson: It's not about gun rights, it's really about free child care!
How come when some CIA functionary gets "outed" by a person in the Bush administration it's a scandal of epic proportions, but when a classified plan gets "outed" it's front page news?
While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.
The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.
The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.
Coincidentally enough, I watched Dr Strangelove last night. First time in a very long time.
President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers): But this is absolute madness, Ambassador! Why should you build such a thing?
Ambassador de Sadesky: There were those of us who fought against it, but in the end we could not keep up with the expense involved in [listed with increasing disgust] the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. At the same time our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we had been spending on defense in a single year. The deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a doomsday gap.
President Merkin Muffley: This is preposterous. I've never approved of anything like that.
Ambassador de Sadesky: Our source was the New York Times.
"The New York Times, blabbing since at least 1963."
AT&T Inc., reported a 61% rise in net income amid recent acquisitions and said it activated 146,000 iPhone subscribers the last two days of the quarter, 40% of whom were new AT&T Wireless customers.
AT&T has an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. to sell the iPhone in the U.S., and it hit the market June 29. Expectations for the device were high and the initial results fell short of Wall Street's forecasts. Shares of Apple, which is due to report quarterly results on Wednesday, fell as much as 5% on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Of course, incredible expectations were priced into the Apple shares already. But it's funny to watch the media coverage and think that the iPhone introduction missed expectations.
Just in case the Democrats weren't entirely upset with Cindy Sheehan for failing to walk the party line, she decided to write this in the San Francisco Chronicle:
I was a lifelong Democrat only because the choices were limited. The Democrats are the party of slavery and were the party that started every war in the 20th century, except the other Bush debacle. The Federal Reserve, permanent federal income taxes, not one but two World Wars, Japanese concentration camps, and not one but two atom bombs dropped on the innocent citizens of Japan -- all brought to us via the Democrats.
The emphasis is mine. As Don Luskin asks, "Is she some kind of libertarian? In this, she's sounding a lot like Ron Paul."
I will accept the silence to my "Any Potter Heads In ThreeSources Land?" as an answer.
Today, Greg Mankiw confesses to being a Potter Head. Yet there is a sentimental attachment of having read them aloud to his son. That adds social points to the series that I have not questioned, but it subtracts literary points that I do. Mankiw links to Megan McArdle who is not onboard. She questions the economics:
There are two ways, I think, that one can present magic: as something that can be done, but only at a price; or as a mysterious force that is poorly understood. So in Orson Scott Card's Hart's Hope, women who perform magic must pay the price in blood, their own or that of others.
Those prices provide the scarcity needed to drive the plot forward. In the Narnia books and the Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, magical power has no obvious cost. But we don't need to understand the costs of magic, because the main characters can't perform it. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having a deus ex machina in a story; your average fiction writer does not need to explain the operation of the law of gravity, or provide a back story for running out of gas at an (in)convenient moment.
But there have to be generally accepted rules. Characters can't get out of the predicament the author is sick of by having the car suddenly start running on sand. Similarly, if your characters will be using magic, they must do so by some generally believable system.
Yet in the Potter books, the costs and limits are too often arbitrary.
I find it hard to rail against the idea of work aimed at younger people. I consider Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel, to be without question the greatest fictional television programs of all time.
I can name you a few internal inconsistencies from Buffy, as well. But that is the point. After having watched all twelve seasons many times, I can recite a handful of plot integrity issues because they stand out. To match economics speak and Buffy, there is always a scarcity of magic or strength.
I liked the McArdle piece and am going to table my return.
The one personality that can unite fractious ThreeSourcers is Milton Friedman. Ideas that can unite are that ideas matter and people matter. To celebrate all three, I offer this editorial from Wall Street Journal's Opinion Europe: "Ask Albania."(Paid link)
For a lesson in pro-growth tax policy, may we suggest gazing east, to Albania. This small Balkan country is about to halve its personal income-tax rate, starting August 1, to a flat 10%. The corporate rate is slated to drop to 10% in early 2008.
Albania's flat tax is the latest sally in the intramural tax competition fueling growth in the former communist bloc. It began with Estonia in 1994 -- then-Prime Minister Mart Laar had read Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" -- and has since extended to a dozen nations.
Political leaders, such as Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, are aware of the example they're setting. When Parliament approved the most recent tax cut -- made in response to lowered rates in neighboring Macedonia -- Mr. Berisha cheered that "the fiscal revolution" will proceed even "faster than forecasted."
Indeed it may: The Czech government has announced that a flat 15% tax next year is "a certainty." And Montenegro plans to reduce both income and corporate taxes to a flat 9% by 2010.
WASHINGTON -- With more than a year to go before the 2008 elections, Democratic candidates have raised $100 million more in campaign contributions than Republicans, putting them on track to win the money race for the White House and Congress for the first time since the government began detailed accounting of campaign fund raising three decades ago.
Democrats have taken the lead by exploiting widespread disapproval of President Bush and the Iraq war to develop a more robust online network of new, small donors, as well as to gain traction with deep-pocketed business contributors.
More Republicans have become apathetic about their options over the past month.
A hefty 23 percent can't or won't say which candidate they would back, a jump from the 14 percent who took a pass in June.
Barnes put these two facts together and doesn't like the outcome. I saw Senator Even Bayh on FOX News Sunday and thought: there's the next Vice President of the United States. Wonder if there's an intrade contract for that.
Even if it is just rhetoric, you have to love the comments Mitt Romney recently made in New Hampshire:
"Hillary Clinton just gave a speech the other day about her view on the economy. She said we have been an on-your-own society. She said it's time to get rid of that and replace that with shared responsibility and we're-in-it-together society," Romney told the crowd. "That's out with Adam Smith and in with Karl Marx."
A federal appeals court has ordered Shell Oil to stop its exploratory drilling program off the north coast of Alaska at least until a hearing in August.
The order, issued Thursday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, comes after the federal Minerals Management Service in February approved Shell's offshore exploration plan for the Beaufort Sea.
"Vessels currently located in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas shall cease all operations performed in furtherance of that program, but need not depart the area," the order said.
Opponents contend that the Minerals Management Service approved Shell's plan without fully considering that a large spill would harm marine mammals, including bowhead and beluga whales. They say polar bears could also be harmed, and they question whether cleaning up a sizable spill would even be possible in the icy waters.
I have been meaning to ask. Now I have a good segue because Dr. Helen and Ann Althouse have dared question the coolness.
I know people have been standing in line all night and I know there are bloggers out there who love the series, but don't include me in their number. As Ann Althouse said on her vlog yesterday, "these are children's books and I am an adult." Okay, there are some kids' books I do enjoy but Harry Potter is not one of them. I struggled through the first book and found it tedious and dull except for the part about Harry living in a closet in his aunt and uncle's house and his subsequent descriptions of his atrocious cousin.
I enjoyed the Michigan Law Review paper HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-CRAZED BUREAUCRACY that Harrison Bergeron's linked to last week I sent a link to two relatives who are a) Complete Harry Potter fiends, and b) wild, leftist, moonbats. I don't know if they'll read the paper or not.
I read it, and thought that I might dive in. I had read the first book, and liked it a little better than Ann and Helen. It's a good kids' book. It engendered a love of reading in my nieces and nephews. I'd nominate Rowling for a Knighthood. Furthermore, my lovely bride bought the first five in Britain, so I could resume consumption at no cost.
I am concerned about the opportunity cost, though, and here I seek advice. I read very little fiction anymore. My favorite author, Thomas Pynchon, has a new one out (every ten years whether he needs to or not), and my non-fiction phase shows no sign of abetting. The idea of six children's novels doesn't appeal to me, though Barton's paper suggests that the books get more complex starting at book three.
I thought it might tell us something about the reliability and temperament of this man who is asking us to make him our next Commander in Chief -- especially now that he's trying to win the support of GOP "values voters."
As a values voter, I can't say I'm really broken up by the occasional profanity. It's like salt n pepper for rhetoric, used sparingly, of course.
VP Dick Cheney to Senator Lahey, "Fuck off!"
George Bush to Tony Blair: "See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over."
Indeed, [Giuliani] does appear unhinged -- somehow the volcanic black anger burning inside of him like tumors of pure hatred is able to cause the video to suddenly jump-zoom on his face the moment he speaks The Forbidden Word of Ultimate Blasphemy. His very utterance of the word causes the video to zoom in frighteningly, almost as if someone had manipulated the tape for this effect.
For the love of God, the man is grinning when he says bullshit.
The new left. Not just pussies, but puritanical pussies to boot.
Kim Strassel writes in the OpinionJournal Political Diary:
Can't Take My Eyes Off of Me
New York's Charlie Rangel provoked smirks this week when news emerged that the Harlem Congressman was humbly seeking a $2 million earmark to create a "Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service" at the City College of New York.
Titters turned to dropped jaws yesterday when a 20-page glossy brochure popped up, describing the yet-to-be-created center. That flyer, which asks for donations, explains that organizers need a mere $4.7 million to restore a "magnificent Harlem limestone townhouse" that will house the center, plus another $2.3 million endowment for its operating costs.
What, overtaxed taxpayers might ask, would all this money buy? One dollop would go to provide "a well-furnished office for Congressman Rangel" and another dollop would fund "the Rangel Library," which will be "designed to hold the product of 50 years of public service by the major African-American statesman of the 20th and early 21st centuries."
According to the brochure, the library not only would tell "the story of one great man.... The Rangel archivist/librarian will organize, index, and preserve for posterity all documents, photographs, and memorabilia relating to Congressman Rangel's career."
Oh yes, and the center would also offer students a master's program in public service.
Most Americans might find this taxpayer-funded monument to one member's ego a poor use of public money, but not many of Mr. Rangel's logrolling House colleagues do. Yesterday, Republican Study Committee Member John Campbell brought an amendment to the House floor that would have stripped Mr. Rangel's homage to himself. He was defeated 316-108. Only one Democrat voted to kill the earmark. It seems Congress is just as committed to weeding out egregious pork as it ever was -- which is to say, not at all.
Don Luskin posts his SmartMoney.com column on his blog today. It is a rational look at what's wrong with the Democrats' plan to tax managers at income instead of capital gains rates.
Right now hedge fund managers are taxed just the way you are, if you are an ordinary individual investor. Hedge fund managers get most of their income from performance fees, usually 20% of the gains in their funds. If those gains are ordinary income, they pay at the ordinary income rate -- the same as you. If those gains are capital gains, they pay at the lower capital gains rate -- the same as you.
Best is his defense of Hedge Fund managers as a breed. The Democrats' constituencies are likely to support high taxes for managers because of their high income -- and a centuries-old mistrust of financial workers.
Why do you think all the anti-smoking people want to raise taxes on cigarettes? Why do you think all the anti-pollution people want to raise taxes on carbon emissions? Because they want less of those things.
Believe me, if we raise taxes on hedge fund managers we'll get fewer hedge fund managers. Today, with lots of hedge fund managers trading all the time and keeping markets efficient, stocks are at all-time highs in most nations of the world, and markets are deeper, more liquid and less volatile. With fewer hedge fund managers, markets would shrink, become more volatile and more costly, and tumble from their present highs.
Even free market type folks I know, who are (obviously) out of the financial sector, get derisive when the discuss arbitrage or derivatives. It is easy to demagogue the workers who make our markets efficient and less volatile with risk packaged for those who can best carry it.
Producing 2.2lb of beef generates as much greenhouse gas as driving a car non-stop for three hours, it was claimed yesterday.
Japanese scientists used a range of data to calculate the environmental impact of a single purchase of beef.
Taking into account all the processes involved, they said, four average sized steaks generated greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 80.25lb of carbon dioxide.
This also consumed 169 megajoules of energy.
That means that 2.2lb of beef is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions which have the same effect as the carbon dioxide released by an ordinary car travelling at 50 miles per hour for 155 miles, a journey lasting three hours. The amount of energy consumed would light a 100-watt bulb for 20 days.
Governor O'Malley called for a reform of the Maryland criminal code today, stating that the current structure was "patently unfair." He argued that Peter Angelos, the wealthy trial lawyer who owns the Baltimore Orioles, should not have the same rights as "the woman who cleans his office."
Oh, wait a minute! I think I got that wrong. He was talking about the tax code, not the criminal code, and he said Angelos shouldn't pay the same rates as the woman who cleans his office.
Whew, what a relief! We're all in favor of progressive taxation, aren't we?
He then does a little arithmetic to show that the Orioles' Owner pays 10,000 times as much his cleaning lady with Maryland's flat tax.
Michelle Cottle at TNR(free link) is worried about it:
But therein lies the irony. For, while the veteran actor certainly looks and sounds the part of the man's man in this race, there's precious little in either his personal or political history to suggest that he overflows with any of the attributes commonly associated with manliness, such as determination, perseverance, leadership ability, or garden-variety toughness. By his own account, Thompson is a not especially hard-charging guy who has largely meandered through life, stumbling from one bit of good fortune to the next with an occasional nudge from those close to him. It is, to some extent, part of his much- ballyhooed comfortable-in-his-own-skin charm. But it also raises questions about whether he has the gumption to gut out a presidential race when it inevitably becomes difficult, or mean, or plain old boring. In short, is Fred Thompson really enough of a man for this fight?
Unlike, say, Senator Edwards, or Senator Obama? Rep. Kucinich? I'm not in the Fred! Camp, but this seems like an unlikely avenue for attack.
There are going to be a lot of good government jobs in a John Edwards administration. John Fund reports that he made the following promise to New Orleans residents:
"I can tell you what I would do if I were president today, and what I would have done a long time ago," he said. "I would have put somebody in the White House who's highly qualified and whose job it was -- whose sole job -- was to rebuild the city of New Orleans. And I would have that person in my office every morning telling me what they did in New Orleans yesterday. Not what you're going to be [doing] six months from now -- I want to know what you did yesterday. And then the following morning, I would want him in my office telling me what they did yesterday."
Even hardened reporters accompanying Mr. Edwards had to roll their eyes at the spectacle of a candidate for president pledging to micromanage recovery efforts in a single U.S. city. Mr. Edwards' "pander bear" tour wrapped up on Wednesday.
Larry Kudlow links to Jason DeSena Trennert who takes up the strange spectacle of Central Europe's adopting free market policies and enjoying their benefits while the United States seems poised to discard them.
Success, of course, tends to result in complacency and arrogance. America now, sadly, appears ready to take its economic hegemony, and its reliance on free markets, for granted. Quietly, “Old Europe” is in a race to cut corporate tax rates and embrace the spirit of open markets just as Congress seems intent on raising taxes and closing itself off from global competition.
Americans have long derided Europe’s over-reliance on the state, its comparatively high taxes and its meddling in free markets as the cause for the continent’s structurally high levels of unemployment and sub-par economic performance. France’s 35-hour work week alone gave free-market talking heads enough material to last a generation. But relatively little has been written about the race among many western European nations to attract private investment by cutting corporate tax rates.
The Club for Growth's Andrew Roth reminds us what these principles have accomplished:
The S&P 500 has had an average real rate of return of 7.11% since 1871.
Also, nominal GDP in 1871 was $7.68 billion. After 134 years, it was $12.4 trillion. You only get that kind of growth through the free market. And yet so many countries around the world haven't figured that out.
President Bush has taken some licks on these pages of late. I offer heartfelt support for his "philosophical" objections to expanding SCIHP. WaPo:
President Bush yesterday rejected entreaties by his Republican allies that he compromise with Democrats on legislation to renew a popular program that provides health coverage to poor children, saying that expanding the program would enlarge the role of the federal government at the expense of private insurance.
The president said he objects on philosophical grounds to a bipartisan Senate proposal to boost the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years. Bush has proposed $5 billion in increased funding and has threatened to veto the Senate compromise and a more costly expansion being contemplated in the House.
GOP legislators are willing to sell any principles they have left at pennies on the dollar and the President is bucking them up. Well done.
I think we may be close to a dramatic shift in foreign aid, which would be welcome. The turning point may be Kenyan economist James Shikwati, who in advance of the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles famously asked rich nations, "for God's sake, please just stop." American Magazine catalogues Shikwati and other Africans who look for trade, investment, and African solutions,
Andrew Mwenda, an outspoken Ugandan journalist who was jailed last year for criticizing President Museveni, lambasted the Western world's "international cocktail of good intentions" for robbing Africa of its future. After all, what country has ever gotten rich from aid? What Africa needs is investment.
Near the front of the darkened auditorium a white man with orange sunglasses stood to object. It was Bono! The audience (myself included), exuberant in the presence of celebrity, craned their necks to catch a glimpse. Aid saved Ireland from the potato famine, Bono declared.
George Ayittey, author of Africa Unchained, a wildly popular book which argues Africa's problems should be solved by Africans, was bumped from his scheduled spot so that Bono could play a prerecorded greeting from German chancellor Angela Merkel on the importance of honoring aid commitments to Africa. "Try telling Chancellor Merkel that the Marshall Plan was a load of crap." Bono then took the stage to defend what has become his life's avocation: opening the pockets of rich governments to give to the kleptocratic governments of Africa. What Africa needs is its own Marshall Plan.
Comparing post-war Germany or Ireland during the Great Famine to Africa is a bit like comparing post-war Japan to Iraq. Aid might be able to restore normalcy in a country devastated by war or disaster, but can it really push a whole continent of largely pre-industrial societies into the next phase of history?
Where I see hope for a trend is that this has been picked up by the Washington Post. Greg Mankiw links to a Reuters wire story:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Aid to poor countries has little effect on economic growth, and policies that rely on such claims should be reexamined, two former International Monetary Fund economists wrote in a paper released this month.
"We find little evidence of a robust positive correlation between aid and growth," wrote Raghuram Rajan, who stepped down as IMF chief economist at the end of 2006, and Arvind Subramanian, who left the IMF this year, said.
We'll probably still have to listen to Bono sing; I don't see much relief there. But perhaps this idea for free market solutions to African poverty might take hold.
It was good to, finally, see an announcement of the captured al Qaida leader. In a bylined story for the AP, Robert Reid opens right out of Journalism 101:
BAGHDAD - The U.S. command announced on Wednesday the arrest of an al-Qaida leader it said served as the link between the organization's command in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's inner circle, enabling it to wield considerable influence over the Iraqi group.
Okay, enough news. Let's get to the real story -- the perfidy of the Bush Administration:
The announcement was made as the White House steps up efforts to link the war in Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, with a growing number of Americans opposing the Iraq conflict. Some independent analysts question the extent of al-Qaida's role in Iraq.
I think these guys are just having these military successes to fuel their propaganda machine. Good thing the AP is not going to let them get away with it!
AlexC posted about Rep Ed Markey's attacking the iPhone for its exclusivity with AT&T. I posted a flip comment. But Holman Jenkins sees some nefarious underpinnings in the superbly titled: Sort of Evil(Paid link)
Jenkins sees this as a grab for rent-seeking by Google, now that its net neutrality dreams are failing.
You're saying to yourself, haven't Google and friends been gnashing their teeth over the landline practices of the Verizons and Comcasts, demanding "net neutrality" regulations to be erected against crimes to be named later? Yes, and without much success. Consider a recent Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute study that found that imposing Google's idea of "net neutrality" (i.e., restricting a network operator's ability to prioritize urgent and non-urgent data) would end up cutting a network's peak capacity in half.
Now Google and friends are turning to wireless, which they hope will prove a softer target. Here operators traditionally have built networks for the restricted purpose of letting customers make voice calls with an operator-supplied cellphone. But most operators have also started rolling out all-purpose broadband on their wireless networks, albeit high-priced and painfully slow (evidence of their need to ration capacity carefully to protect higher-priority voice traffic).
I defended Google around here for pursuing shareholder value over freedom. I guess I must admit they have the right to lobby for advantageous legislation, but I will fight them tooth and nail. And be happy that I am a Yahoo guy.
I have not mentioned in a few months that Apple's iTunes is perhaps THE WORST PIECE OF SOFTWARE EVER!
I moved my library off the network onto a local drive which helps (you wouldn't want to support networks or anything -- I hear they're a flash in the pan) as did my new, faster machine with 2 gigs of RAM.
These changes make it tolerable -- but now it is freezing up when I add a new video file. As always, it is difficult to tell when the program is frozen because it is so completely unresponsive most of the time.
When they make their flagship software product not be a complete piece of junk, I'll think more seriously about buying one of their computers.
More stifling of debate! The comments feature seems to be having real problems. I have not changed anything. Perhaps the hosting company is updating some components. I expect it will right itself (the Calvin Coolidge IT strategy!) or I will dive in tomorrow. Save your comments locally!
I started Amity Shlaes's "The Forgotten Man" last night. Herbert Hoover made fun of Coolidge for this quote, saying "trouble is, you're totally unprepared for the one that hits you." Comments still broken, ThreeSources apologizes for the inconvenience.
Pro-Iraq-War-Libertarian guest ed in the WSJ today (free link). I'm off to the doctors for my two year evaluation for the clinical trial I'm on (yes, it is government funded). But Barnett covers some themes I've been pushing.
First and foremost, libertarians believe in robust rights of private property, freedom of contract, and restitution to victims of crime. They hold that these rights define true "liberty" and provide the boundaries within which individuals may pursue happiness by making their own free choices while living in close proximity to each other. Within these boundaries, individuals can actualize their potential while minimizing their interference with the pursuit of happiness by others.
Blog brother AlexC spotted this as the Hotel Pennsylvania's number. View From a Height points out that it is the longest-serving phone number in New York. But that the Hotel is coming down.
Both the hotel and the original train station were built by the Pennsylvania Railroad. If you follow the link to destruction, they'll tell you it opened with 2200 rooms in 1919, and was designed by McKim, Mead, and White. It used to be one of the great New York hotels, being at one time or another part of the great Statler chain, eventually bought out by Hilton. After passing through bankruptcy, it later re-emerged as the Hotel Pennsylvania. It was one of the fine hotels just pre-Art Deco, but flexible enough to be deco-ed up by the chandelier and the artwork in the lobby. By the time I stayed there - twice - it was already fading, and now it's considered "discount," a dangerous status for a building with that kind of location.
The number will live on in the hearts of Glenn Miller fans and in the ThreeSources blogroll.
Arguments with purist libertarians have spiked around here with cogent comments from Perry Eidlebus and Harrison Bergeron. A sizable part of my argument is that liberty is not as popular as many purists think. There are just not enough laissez faire voters to elect candidates or enact some of the legislation we would prefer.
Do not infer that I am pessimistic. I am very worried about American liberty in the near term. An unpopular war is associated with those would liberalize trade and lower taxes, recent GOP Congressional majorities have behaved poorly and without principle, and the 60's poisoned influenced collectivists are at the apogee of their power in media and academia. Some very bad government is likely coming our way. Long term, I am hopeful, based on two things:
The power of classically liberal ideas will, over generations, always advance. This assertion frightens me, because I just finished Karl Popper's destruction of Marx's making similar if contrary claims. But I think historical trends back me up
Like I expect the global economic boom to smooth over a brief slowdown in US GDP growth, I now think the global "liberty market" will keep things alive while we dither. SarbOx did not kill capitalism, it chased it to England and Hong Kong. JohnGalt asks whether "somehow, in the long run, Americans who've known prosperity like none other in history will slit their own throat?" Yes. As we do that, however, I am energized by the resurgence of freedom in unlikely locations.
The American Magazine I was shilling in a previous post has Japan on the cover. While we were all watching China, The world's second largest economy freed itself from decades of collectivism and government intervention. Under PM Koizumi and Abe, labor's hold has been loosened, government intervention reduced, and growth is rebounding. Another story details liberalization in -- sit down -- Sweden! They are selling off the government run and owned company that makes Absolut Vodka.
Add the election of Sarkozy in France, Merkel in Germany, a wave of tax cutting across Europe, freedom may be in good hands while its shining light flickers.
When the New York Times tells you you're trending left...
Greg Mankiw linked to this NYTimes Story and it is highlighted on the NYTimes email alert. The Times spins it a little more positively:
The more populist tone is one indication of a broader debate among Democrats over how much they should break with the centrism of the Clinton years.
Sadly, the Democrats learned all the wrong lessons from the Clinton Years. Rubinomics dictates that increased taxes = greater prosperity (it worked once, sortof) but none learned that more trade or lower spending helps.
Not only the Presidential candidates, but also Congressional leaders have all tacked hard to port:
Their language, and to some degree their proposals, reflect a striking contrast with the approach taken by Democrats during much of the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton asserted that trade would create American jobs and that paying attention to the concerns of Wall Street would help the economy by lowering interest rates. The more populist tone is one indication of a broader debate among Democrats over economic policy and how much they should break with the careful centrism of the Clinton years embodied by Robert E. Rubin, the former treasury secretary, who was a champion of free trade and cutting deficits.
What strikes me is the lack of another voice. Clearly, no one sees an opening for championing free market policy in the Democratic Party. Senator Obama provides some lip service and has the talent on staff but it has not crept into his policy in any meaningful way.
On the other hand, the GOP seems pretty diverse on trade. You have Rep Tancredo on immigration, Rep Hunter boasting that what separates him from the others is his willingness to dabble in tariffs and interfere with China's currency. If there were a constituency for classical liberalism, I would think the Democrats would field a candidate or that the GOP would openly tack harder to starboard.
Sorry liberty lovers, the groundswell of votes that you are certain is there for the right candidate clearly is not.
The latest policy proposal from John Edwards is a winner (via The Onion):
In an effort to jump-start a presidential campaign that still has not broken into the top Democratic tier, former Sen. John Edwards made his most ambitious policy announcement yet at a campaign event in Iowa Monday: a promise to eliminate all unpleasant, disagreeable, or otherwise bad things from all aspects of American life by the end of his second year in office.
"Many bad things are not just bad—they're terrible," said a beaming Edwards, whose "Only the Good Things" proposal builds upon previous efforts to end poverty, outlaw startlingly loud noises, and offer tax breaks to those who smile frequently. "Other candidates have plans that would reduce some of the bad things, but I want all of them gone completely."
A quick commercial: there are several great stories in this month's American Magazine. Jim Glassman took over the American Experience -- which I liked -- and made it even better. It is an awesome, pretty, and inexpensive magazine. Their new website gives you most of the book if you don't want to subscribe, but I'd advise ponying up the fifteen bucks. It is printed on nice paper and features great design.
Rich Karlgaard, the technology entrepreneur who is publisher of Forbes, tells the story of a trip he took with Microsoft’s Bill Gates in the early 1990s. On the flight, he asked Gates, “Who is your chief competitor?”
“Goldman Sachs” was Gates’s surprising reply.
The article details the competition between Wall Street and Silicon Valley for top talent, and tells about an inexpensive robot targeted at budding young engineers to get them hooked on the joys of programming. As they watch their robot dance to their instructions, they'll lose interest in studying economics and a big money investment banking career.
Leaving aside the fact that I am a programmer who wishes he were an economist, I like this story for underscoring what I believe to be an unprecedented recognition of the value of humans. People whine about our "disposable culture" because we replace, instead of repair, electronics. I try to convince them that it is good to recognize that a day of a smart person's time is worth more than a television.
To some extent, the increase in lawsuits is part of this pattern as well. It's 65% greedy lawyers, but it would not be possible without the recognition of the incredible value of a healthy human life. To risk a few of those on an asphalt playground was acceptable when I was in grade school but it is not today. Padded playgrounds and bicycle helmets cause eye-rolling among my peers. But it represents a realization of the monetary value of an American child.
I am not saying that children are more loved. My parents loved me as they put me untethered in the back of a station wagon and drove to California. What was missing was the high financial value. Readers of this blog will no doubt cry nanny-statism and they are correct. But it could not proceed without this higher value placed on life.
William Kristol "invites ridicule" on the pages of the WaPo today with a guest editorial titled "Why Bush Will be a Winner." Wow. Give the man contrarian points.
Let's step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds that have characterized the Bush administration. Let's look at the broad forest rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see? First, no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil -- not something we could have taken for granted. Second, a strong economy -- also something that wasn't inevitable.
And third, and most important, a war in Iraq that has been very difficult, but where -- despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless "benchmark" report last week -- we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome.
I'll surprise no one around here by agreeing. He lists accomplishments quite a bit like I did. SCOTUS picks, Tax Cuts, Medicare Part D. On his most visible legislative failures, Kristol asserts "And with respect to the two second-term proposals that failed -- private Social Security accounts and immigration -- I suspect that something similar to what Bush proposed will end up as law over the next several years."
Plucked from the wide ranging philosophical discussion around here of late, I still see it as a win. We were spared four years of President Gore (I just watched "An Inconvenient Truth." Score that as a bullet dodged!), and four years of President Kerry (how would the Court look with two of his picks replacing Rehnquist and O'Connor?)
Even with President Bush's abysmal poll numbers, he does not seem to be dragging down the likely GOP nominees. I'll happily debate whether this administration has been good for the cause of liberty (and I'll happily take the affirmative) but I cannot believe anybody 'round these parts would have been happier if he had lost either election.
I recommend both papers highly. Both present solid theory that should be accessible to anyone. I enjoyed the excuse to dabble in a little more academic text than what I usually read. I can also "leave the room" on this, and let Perry and HB fight it out over who is the real libertarian.
This is fascinating, and Leeson's theories are well grounded. Introducing credit to the "game thoery" of the second paper is genius.
I will have to go back, however, to the comment that started this long discussion. I return to Professor Deepak Lal's "Reviving the Invisible Hand." Lal discusses the explosive wealth generation under expanded Liberal International Economic Orders (LIEOs). I do not see where Leeson's "big-G" anarchy can possibly scale up to provide the comparative advantage and wealth creation that the world has seen under Pax Britannia and Pax Americana.
There is a level of anarchy today in International trade -- but it is not the pure anarchy Leeson sees. If an American (or allied) businessperson is taken by pirates off Malaysia or kidnapped in Colombia, it is known and accepted that American force will be involved, starting as diplomatic and possibly escalating. That was true under the might of the 19th Century British Navy as well, and to a lesser extent under Pope Urban and Italian princes.
We've at least found a clear delimiter. I cannot cede that banditry is preferable to self-directed government. Perhaps in Leeson's little-G societies, but the United States is better served with its unwieldy Leviathan. I will still fight it at the margins, but I will not trade it in for Captain Jack Sparrow.
The Part D thread has created a firestorm of philosophical discussion. jk is insistent on calling for pragmatism, but I cannot do the same. First, one must be principled. I support individual freedom -- both economic and social. I also understand that the federal government has expanded beyond its Constitutional powers in the name of crisis and "modernization."
I believe that those within the government have used fear and the appearance of compassion to advance their agenda. In addition, those within the government have framed every debate with a false dilemma. Each side decides that something must be done and then produce their respective solutions. So-called pragmatists are then stuck arguing over which of these policies is better when, in reality, the best possible solution often involves no government intervention. My point is illustrated by jk's claim that:
On Part D, I think -- more than winning the senior vote -- Part D took a key Democratic issue off the table. When we have neither as you support, the Democrats will be promising free drugs (and Rainbow Stew!) and it won't be through private insurers.
jk is wrong on two fronts. First, he has fallen for this false dilemma put forth by those in government. Second, he pretends that the Democrats solution is off the table. By contrast, I would argue that the Democrats proposal is now much more likely to happen. Now, with a program already in place, the Democrats merely need to tweek it, rather than create it from scratch.
In short, pragmatism is a great motto, but a poor practice. As Ludwig von Mises once said:
The middle-of-the-road policy is not an economic system that can last. It is a method for the realization of socialism by installments.
I made a formal and overly dramatic dissolution of my punditry ties with Peggy Noonan on June 1.
One of the things I meant to say in that post was that a reasonable comparison of Peggy Noonan with "Potomac Watch" author Kimberly Strassel would show that the torch has been passed. Peggy Noonan's "What I Saw at the Revolution" had a profound effect on me and did much to make me the partisan hack that I am today. After 9/11, her columns, collected in "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag," were a good forum for her powerful and romantic writing.
But I dare you to compare the two today (is it sexist for me to single out two blonde women writers?) and make a credible claim that they belong on the same ed page. Both are on the free site today, let’s compare.
Kim writes a tightly thought and constructed column about campaign finance reform, and the irony of its deleterious effect on Senator McCain's Presidential campaign. I'd use it as a textbook example of a great column.
State your premise:
John McCain's campaign fell into disarray this week, kicked off by the news it had raised a scant $24 million so far. Mark these money woes down to any number of problems, but don't entirely discount the McCain-Feingold effect.
Acknowledge contrary indicators:
Let's stipulate that most of the good senator's troubles stem from high-profile policy disagreements he's had with his own base. He's tweaked noses on global warming and slapped faces on immigration. His admirable decision to stand strong on Iraq has been undermined by his tendency to stand weak on national security issues such as interrogations and enemy combatants. And economic conservatives just don't trust a guy who won't admit that cutting taxes is good.
She then seriously discusses the importance of the topic to key constituent groups and the political implications. Then, she compares beliefs of McCain Feingold from other top tier candidates, before a strong conclusion:
Whatever the effect, Mr. McCain must surely be considering the irony of his current situation. Mitt Romney has also burned through money quickly, and in theory should be looking at a low bank balance. But Mr. Romney can write himself a check at any time--one of the few things McCain-Feingold allows.
Mr. McCain might well have some billionaire supporters who'd be only too happy to give him a big financial boost at this crucial time, though they won't be allowed to thanks to finance restrictions. The senator has family money, though it's not clear he'd tap that to keep his bid running. For now, he's stuck raising it the hard way, under a system that much of the GOP hates.
Succinct, informative, cohesive. If I taught a class, I'd bring this in as an example.
Our Margaret, on the other hand, has a good little cry, because that mean old President Bush has the temerity to be jocular in a press conference when SHE IS STILL SO ANGRY AT HIM! MEN!!!!
His stock answer is that of course he feels the sadness of the families who've lost someone in Iraq. And of course he must. Beyond that his good humor seems to me disorienting, and strange.
In arguing for the right path as he sees it, the president more and more claims for himself virtues that the other side, by inference, lacks. He is "idealistic"; those who oppose him are, apparently, lacking in ideals. He makes his decisions "based on principle," unlike his critics, who are ever watchful of the polls. He is steadfast, brave, he believes "freedom isn't just for Americans" but has "universal . . . applications," unlike those selfish, isolationist types who oppose him.
Noonan points out that we cannot fire the President right now (a point Cindy Sheehan made on Kudlow & Company last night) but she knows we all want to. She talks to a rock-ribbed-republican in Georgia who doesn't believe the President. A Rock ribbed republican! She and Mrs. Rock Rib both grit their teeth when the President is on.
Americans can't fire the president right now, so they're waiting it out. They can tell a pollster how they feel, and they do, and they can tell friends, and they do that too. They also watch the news conference, and grit their teeth a bit.
The Phoenicians supposedly invented the alphabet. However, for a vast number of years, we had virtually no evidence of their writing. Based on this absence of evidence, historians hypothesized about why the Phoenicians didn't keep written records. Thus when it was discovered that the Phoenicians did actually use their alphabet and that absence of evidence was due to the fact that the written records merely struggled to stand the test of time, the hypotheses of historians greatly changed. The lesson is that historians had succumbed to the problem of silent evidence. In other words, the absence of evidence is by no means evidence of absence.
In this light, the most intriguing story to me about the War in Iraq is that of the weapons of mass destruction. Prior to the invasion, there were many intelligence agencies and political figures who trumpeted Saddam's possession of WMDs. However, since the invasion the United States has failed to turn up any weapons of the magnitude described by President Bush and intelligence agencies across the globe. This lack of evidence has contributed to the shrinking support for the war and has even led many Democrats to claim that Bush lied.
Political posturing has created the belief that Democrats supposedly made a mistake in authorizing troops, but that President Bush lied. Alas, this is the world of politics. Elected officials must seize opportunities such as these to maintain power. The political posturing is not surprising and neither is the "conclusion" that Iraq did not have WMDs.
While it is not surprising that in the analysis of the war politicians, experts, and the general public have rejected claims that Iraq possessed WMDs, it does reveal a startling bias. It may be true that Saddam did not possess WMDs on the scale that intelligence communities had claimed or that said weapons did not exist. Regardless, one cannot claim that the weapons did not exist solely on the basis of a lack of evidence.
Perhaps the weapons existed and perhaps they did not. Like the discovery of Phoenician literature, the sudden appearance of WMDs would have a profound effect on the support for the war. This is by no means an attempt to justify the war. This post merely serves as a reminder that the most important lesson that any man can learn is that he possesses far less knowledge than he believes is the case.
I need a signed note to post in the Pennsylvania section, but there's a WSJ editorial today on Governor Rendell's health care plan -- so it's my beat after all. Wrong Prescription, begins with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell claim "that Jesus, Moses and Muhammad would back his plan for universal health care" (I guess Buddha was holding out for interstate competition with reduced state mandates).
The plan failed as part of the government shutdown budget, but the Governor has vowed a more incremental approach of expanding SCHIP and Medicare (he's been reading ThreeSources). So far, brave PA Republicans have staved it off.
Republicans also pointed out that Mr. Rendell's plan did nothing to address such cost increasers as medical liability or mandated insurance benefits. It would probably make the problem worse with regulations like guaranteed issue (so wait until you're sick to buy insurance) and premium price controls. Republicans offered an alternative consumer-driven plan, focusing on health savings accounts and a health-care tax credit, so the choice wasn't only Mr. Rendell or the status quo.
Now the Governor's plan is being sliced into at least 47 separate pieces of legislation. Mr. Rendell says he can cut $7.6 billion out of health spending first, but this is likely fictional because the calculations are based on charge data, not actual costs. "If we're ever going to have accessible health insurance for all Americans," Mr. Rendell recently noted, "we have to begin containing costs. If costs continue to spiral out of control, there is no way the government can afford to pay for it." A purer expression of the liberal health-care mentality would be hard to find.
Nope. "If costs continue to spiral out of control, there is no way the government can afford to pay for it." Sounds like a good bumper-sticker...
The lead editorial(paid link, sorry!) in the Wall Street Journal today tells of energetic economic rejuvenation from corporate tax cuts and asserts that the United States is Number One. Alas, as the headline states, we're number one in terms of having the highest corporate tax rate of a developed economy. And the tax cutting is happening in Germany.
What do politicians in these countries understand that the U.S. Congress doesn't? Perhaps they've read "International Competitiveness for Dummies." In each of the countries that have cut corporate tax rates this year, the motivation has been the same -- to boost the nation's attractiveness as a location for international investment. Germany's overall rate will fall to 29.8% by 2008 from 38.7%. Remarkably, at the start of this decade Germany's corporate tax rate was 52%.
All of which means that the U.S. now has the unflattering distinction of having the developed world's highest corporate tax rate of 39.3% (35% federal plus a state average of 4.3%), according to the Tax Foundation. While Ronald Reagan led the "wave of corporate income tax rate reduction" in the 1980s, the Tax Foundation says, "the U.S. is lagging behind this time."
As the world gets more competitive, we remain confident that we can enact regulatory and tax policies that make us less competitive.
Perry Eidlebus questions my support for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and provides this link to a 1994 speech that contains this gem:
We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.
Perry asks me how I "can vote for someone with this philosophy of liberty?"
I don't think I'd suggest that he put it on a bumper sticker, but I will not stop supporting Hizzoner over this. Reading the whole speech excerpt, I liked most of it. It's short, read it coast-to-coast. He says several good things. The NYTimes pulls this "authority" quote into the headline instead of "Giuliani says 'it's all about, ultimately, individual responsibility.'"
Giuliani was a prosecutor and a tough mayor. He's going to be more authoritarian than I, and if you dig up 13 year old speeches, I'm not going to agree with every word. For 2008, he "gets" the supply side better than anybody else, and his less than parsimonious life will probably keep him out of taking a role of moralist-in-chief.
Putting that speech in the context of his mayoral tenure is instructive too. NY 1994 was a city in decay and Giuliani brought back some rule of law. If the Koch-Dinkins years were your idea of a libertarian paradise, we really do have fundamental disagreements.
Lance, at A Second Hand Conjecture, gives a good pitch for Fred!
He is of course most attractive to me because he has a hot wife with large breasts. That is important because it seems to set off all kinds of disagreeable and hypocritical types on the left. Most satisfying.
Everybody is worried about income equality these days: Paul Krugman, Senator John Edwards, Fidel Castro...
Seriously, El Jefe is worried that not everybody is miserable. Cuba's "Maximum Leader" wrote in the essay titled "self-criticism of Cuba:"
But he bemoaned that some Cubans use foreign currency sent from relatives abroad or brought to the island by tourists to set up illegal sources of profit. This while they continue to enjoy ration cards, free housing and health care and other social services.
You give 'em all this great free healthcare, 20 ounces of beans every single month, and the greedy little folks want even more.
Castro singled out "the juicy profits" some Cubans earn running unlicensed taxi services, which include fleets of classic American vehicles.
Cuban officials concede the island's decrepit and overcrowded transportation system is on the point of collapse. Few Cubans are allowed to buy new or used cars, but can own hulking U.S. jalopies built before Castro's 1959 revolution.
Using scarce gasoline for profit "can compromise the independence and life of Cuba. We cannot fool around with that!" Castro wrote.
After Sicko, be sure to watch "Buena Vista Social Club." The music is really really good and you get a pretty good look at what this island paradise looks like up close -- plus you see the guys that skew their longevity stats. If you don't count the BVSC members, I bet their life spans look a lot like ours...
Hat-tip: Insty -> Reason (Click to Reason for a photo of that great socialized housing)
UPDATE: Two typos (since repaired) in a three word headline. The things I force you to put up with around here...
Here are the guiding principles of the Anti-Universal Coverage Club:
Health policy should focus on making health care of ever-increasing quality available to an ever-increasing number of people.
To achieve “universal coverage” would require either having the government provide health insurance to everyone or forcing everyone to buy it. Government provision is undesirable, because government does a poor job of improving quality or efficiency. Forcing people to get insurance would lead to a worse health-care system for everyone, because it would necessitate so much more government intervention.
In a free country, people should have the right to refuse health insurance.
If governments must subsidize those who cannot afford medical care, they should be free to experiment with different types of subsidies (cash, vouchers, insurance, public clinics & hospitals, uncompensated care payments, etc.) and tax exemptions, rather than be forced by a policy of “universal coverage” to subsidize people via “insurance.”
The iPhone "highlights both the promise and the problems of the wireless industry today," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecom and the Internet. "This cutting edge technology breaks new ground … [but] consumers can't use this service with other wireless carriers" and those in areas not reached by AT&T cannot use the iPhone at all, he said.
Apple signed an agreement with AT&T to serve as the sole cell phone service provider for the iPhone. Those who purchase the iPhone, therefore, must switch to AT&T in order for their phone to work, incurring cancellation fees from current providers and locking themselves into a two-year contract with AT&T.
"Consumers feel trapped," Markey said at a hearing about regulation in the wireless industry.
"The iPhone could still change the world and be available for any consumer on any network, but we won't know until 2012, the year that AT&T's American exclusivity runs out," said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. "I think it's time the consumer becomes a decider, not the cell phone carriers."
Michigan Republican Fred Upton has a sensible rejoinder.
"Competition spurs carriers to innovate and build a better mousetrap," he said. "The iPhone is the newest mousetrap and now other carriers will be working to top it."
The forces of darkness and anti-modernity frequently tip their hand. A Doron Levin story in Bloomberg suggests Europe will try to outlaw cars that go 100 Miles Per Hour -- in the name of global warming, of course. Instapundit links and reminds that the Prius can do that with Al Gore III at the wheel.
Levin nails it. These people want to remake society in a fairer, poorer way to sate their peculiar aesthetics.
Who are these people anyway who decide on behalf of everyone what car is proper to drive? In the U.S. they're members of Congress, which is considering fuel-efficiency standards that will affect vehicle size. In Europe, it's the ministers and parliamentarians of the European Union, which wants to limit how much CO2 cars can emit as a proxy for a fuel- consumption standard.
Chris Davies, a British member of the European Parliament, is proposing one of the most-extreme measures -- a prohibition on any car that goes faster than 162 kilometers (101 miles) an hour, a speed that everything from the humble Honda Civic on up can exceed. He ridiculed fast cars as ``boys' toys.''
Don't know if the little MR2 can do 160 K/hr or not. Only 140 ponies, I'd need a tailwind to get banned.
Taylor Buley, writing in the Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal Political Diary, wants a certain former Vice President to put up or shut.
Al Gore thinks the climate crisis is so dire that he's written a book, produced a movie and organized a world-wide music event to raise awareness. These have helped to make him a rich man, but is he willing to put his money where his mouth is? Don't bet on it.
J. Scott Armstrong, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and expert on long range forecasting, has offered to bet Al Gore $10,000 that he can do a better job of predicting the future of climate change than the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose forecasts of rising temperatures are cited in virtually every media account. Mr. Armstrong and a colleague, Kesten Green of New Zealand's Monash University, examined the IPCC's work for last month's 27th Annual International Symposium on Forecasting and found it essentially valueless according to established principles of forecasting. "Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder," concluded the two.
So what's Prof. Armstrong's own climate prediction? No change at all. "The methodology was so poor that I thought a bet based on complete ignorance of the climate could do better," says Mr. Armstrong. "We call it 'the naove model.' Things won't change."
Professor Armstrong is the author of Long-Range Forecasting -- the most frequently cited book on forecasting methods -- and Principles of Forecasting, which was voted a "favorite book" by researchers and practitioners associated with the International Institute of Forecasters. If Mr. Gore accepts his challenge, Prof. Armstrong has proposed that each man put $10,000 into a charitable trust at a reputable brokerage house. The winner would then choose a charity to receive the total amount.
So far, Mr. Gore -- usually quite the opportunist -- has balked at the opportunity to establish credibility with global warming skeptics. "Please understand that Mr. Gore is not taking on any new projects at this time," read a note to Mr. Armstrong from Mr. Gore's communications director.
I would call that the Calvin Coolidge Climate Model, myself. Our 30th President famously said that if ten problems are rolling your way, nine will roll off the road before they reach you. We could use a little Silent Cal these days, in more ways than one.
WASHINGTON -- The White House's deficit forecast for the current fiscal year has narrowed to $205 billion, an administration official said Wednesday.
The number is to be released later Wednesday, along with the White House's mid-session review, an update of its budget outlook. At $205 billion, the budget gap would be below the Office of Management and Budget's earlier forecast of $244 billion and last year's $248 billion deficit. The current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
The budget revision isn't a surprise. The deficit forecast is typically revised downward, and departing budget director Rob Portman told reporters last month that the fiscal 2007 deficit would be closer to $200 billion than the administration's earlier estimate, which was issued in February.
Mr. Portman is leaving Washington to spend more time with his family in Ohio. Former Rep. Jim Nussle (R., Iowa) has been nominated to succeed Mr. Portman.
There was some chatter on Kudlow the other day that Rep Nussle may be able to communicate the success of the Bush tax cuts better than Mr. Portman. I was sorry he was stolen from TeamRudy2088! but wish him success.
Don Luskin links to a Charles Krauthammer column, in which the Senior Senator from the Golden State wonders why we can't be more like China:
The senator was vexed. The U.S. auto companies were resisting attempts by her and other Senate well-meaners to impose a radical rise in fuel efficiency by 2017. Why can't they be more like the Chinese, she complained. Or, to quote Sen. Dianne Feinstein precisely: "What the China situation, or the other countries' situation, shows is that these automakers, in all of these countries, build the automobile that the requirements for mileage state. And they don't fight it, they just do it."
Ahh, yes. They just do what the government tells them without a lot of lip like you get around here. One child, 40 miles to a gallon, none of that Falun Gong, no subversive websites...
I enjoyed Alan Reynolds's Income and Wealth. Reynolds statistically destroys the fixation on income inequality.
Lindsey might be on to a better track; instead of arguing about the mean versus the median, and unbounded quintiles, Lindsey embraces the disparity as a reward for the development of human capital.
Over the past quarter-century or so, the return on human capital has risen significantly. Or to put it another way, the opportunity cost of failing to develop human capital is now much higher than it used to be. The wage premium associated with a college degree has jumped to around 70% in recent years from around 30% in 1980; the graduate degree premium has soared to over 100% from 50%. Meanwhile, dropping out of high school now all but guarantees socioeconomic failure.
Seeking education and opportunity for your children is paying off like never before -- is that bad? Incredible new opportunities for those who develop professional and personal skills are a plus -- not a minus.
Before explaining what I mean, let me go back to the [statistical] squid ink and clarify what's not worrisome about the inequality statistics. For those who grind their ideological axes on these numbers, the increase in measured inequality since the 1970s is proof that the new, more competitive, more entrepreneurial economy of recent decades (which also happens to be less taxed and less unionized) has somehow failed to provide widespread prosperity. According to left-wing doom-and-gloomers, only an "oligarchy" at the very top is benefiting from the current system.
Hogwash. This argument can be disposed of with a simple thought experiment. First, picture the material standard of living you could have afforded back in 1979 with the median household income then of $16,461. Now picture the mix of goods and services you could buy in 2004 with the median income of $44,389. Which is the better deal? Only the most blinkered ideologue could fail to see the dramatic expansion of comforts, conveniences and opportunities that the contemporary family enjoys.
Lindsey is not sweetness and light. In spite of the obvious advantages, not enough Americans are seeking these opportunities. Male graduation rates are up only to 29% in 2005, from 26% in 1995. He blames this on culture.
Which brings us back to the real issue: the human capital gap, and the culture gap that impedes its closure. The most obvious and heartrending cultural deficits are those that produce and perpetuate the inner-city underclass. Consider this arresting fact: While the poverty rate nationwide is 13%, only 3% of adults with full-time, year-round jobs fall below the poverty line. Poverty in America today is thus largely about failing to get and hold a job, any job.
The problem is not lack of opportunity. If it were, the country wouldn't be a magnet for illegal immigrants. The problem is a lack of elementary self-discipline: failing to stay in school, failing to live within the law, failing to get and stay married to the mother or father of your children. The prevalence of all these pathologies reflects a dysfunctional culture that fails to invest in human capital.
He ends with a call to improve education.
Contrary to the warnings of the alarmist left, the increase in economic inequality does not mean the economic system isn't working properly. On the contrary, the system is delivering more opportunities for comfortable, challenging lives than our culture enables us to take advantage of. Far from underperforming, our productive capacity has now outstripped our cultural capacity.
Alas, there is no silver bullet for closing the culture gap. But the public institutions most directly responsible for human capital formation are the nation's schools, and it seems beyond serious dispute that in many cases they are failing to discharge their responsibilities adequately. Those interested in reducing meaningful economic inequality would thus be well advised to focus on education reform. And forget about adding new layers of bureaucracy and top-down controls. Real improvements will come from challenging the moribund state-school monopoly with greater competition.
The very same Ed Page carries a staff editorial about Senator Obama's speech to the NEA/AFT. He included a cryptic call for Merit Pay with no specifics and no other calls for teacher accountability or competition.
Mr. Obama says he'll present the specifics of his plan at a later date, but it's hard to see how his pay-for-performance idea will work in practice, given that he trashed testing as a tool for accountability. "We can find new ways to increase pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them and not based on some arbitrary tests," he noted. He also denounced No Child Left Behind -- whatever its faults, an effort to introduce standards into the schools -- as "one of the emptiest slogans in the history of politics." Mr. Obama is to the left of Rep. George Miller and the House Democrats.
The schools aren't troubled because they're underfunded. They're underperforming. Yet Mr. Obama waved off any provisions for school choice, voicing his commitment to "fixing and improving our schools instead of abandoning them and passing out vouchers." The NEA couldn't ask for a better tribune.
The staff says his ideas would have been considered dated in 1992.
The NEA is the country's largest teachers union, and Mr. Obama at least gestured toward merit pay, a heresy to the public education bureaucracy. But in toto, Mr. Obama's policy proposals to the NEA were dominated by ritual obeisance to the union and orthodox thinking. Bill Clinton would have attacked this in 1992 as Old Democratic thinking.
I'm in for an all day training today, trying to boost my sagging human capital. But this is the debate. To not be poor you have to graduate, get a job, and have kids after marriage. Or follow bankrupt ideas that are promoted to fix a non existent problem of income inequality. The choice is pretty stark.
Hockey's my favorite sport. Like some of my politics however, I realize that I am a little out of the mainstream. During the strike, ESPN ran professional bowling in its place and found ratings went up. Sad, True.
NEW YORK -- NBC's three-hour primetime "Live Earth" special, which included highlights from Saturday's global concerts, failed to generate much enthusiasm in the ratings.
The estimated 2.7 million viewers was slightly under the 3 million viewers NBC has averaged on Saturday nights in the summer with repeats and the Stanley Cup hockey playoffs on what is already the least-popular night of television.
1) Professional bowling
2) Ice Hockey
3) Vice President Al Gore's Live Earth concert
Ouch. Hat-tip: Insty, who has updated the post to say "a guy who can't outdraw hockey won't make much of a candidate."
But here is the irony: nearly 500 years after Copernicus took man out of the center of the universe and placed the sun firmly at the center of our little planetary system, the new secular religionists are trying to put man back at the center as the cause of everything. In order to feel good about themselves, they need to feel that man is causing all negative change and only Enlightened Man (Homo goriens) can make it right. Only by listening to, and following, our modern Moses in form of Al Gore can we reach the Promised Land. Welcome to the new Middle Ages, all you have to do is believe!
I did not grow up with the five second rule. I think I was at least 30 before I knew it by name, though I think some Jungian cultural memory of it guided my actions in my younger days. I watched as the five second rule was explained to a distraught young boy at the bagel shop this weekend. (Dad overruled the customer and the bagel was replaced).
Terri at ithinlthereforeierr, links to a WaPo article where the five second rule was tested by researches at Clemson. Obviously, it has no scientific basis (I hope we didn't pony up too much Federal jack for that). But the real clarifications come from kids:
Following the rule requires understanding its intricacies. "I would never eat a pickle," says Anaiah Grissom, 9, "not even after one second." She also would not eat a hot dog, a burger or a piece of broccoli, because those get dirty really fast. A Chips Ahoy, according to Anaiah, can last up to 15 seconds, and Pop-Tarts, like, never get dirty.
Indoor floors are better than outdoors, but grass is better than carpet.
My ruthless SQL script closes comments on all entries older than seven days. This is about the time they roll off the front page. If anybody wants that policy amended, I'm all ears.
A running thread about President Bush, the "ownership society," and political pragmatism has spanned a few entries and inspired thoughtful comments from Perry Eidlebus (Eidelblog) and Terri (I think (^link) therefore I err). Perry suggests that he is not done, and I'm always game. Consider this an invitation to seven more days.
I'll briefly recap my position. President Bush's "ownership society" initiatives are disconcerting to small government types (among whom I normally number myself). They do NOT reduce the size, cost or influence of the Federal government. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) greatly expands Federal influence in education, contravening the spirit and likely the letter of the Ninth Amendment. Medicare Part D (Prescription drug benefit) was a huge, new entitlement and future liability. The private Social Security accounts did not proceed too far through legislative process, but would likely have been larded up with additional benefits to secure passage.
I contend that all of these had -- as a redeeming factor -- a "seed crystal" of a market mechanism: NCLB called for testing of schools and vouchers to help those in the worst schools escape. Part D did not set up the government as the purchaser and payer for drugs, but required participants to select a private insurer through whom prescriptions would be purchased.
You hear many tepid qualifiers in my non-fulsome defense. It scares me to expand government and the President likely gave up too much on all of them. But, in the absence of these programs, there would have been calls for less market-friendly solutions to the same problems. as we hear in the Democratic debates.
Fundamentally, I remind those who abhor these compromises that we're on the same side. I'm a bad warrior because I see that we do not have the political strength to prevail. I remain happy to get pieces of what I want in bad, ugly packages.
Let the games begin!
[D]id you close comments in that other thread from late June? We're not done talking about Part D, and I'm not done with Terri. I genuinely am a nice guy, but I have this tendency to be merciless. Or we could continue things on my blog, but if Terri doesn't join in, it wouldn't be as fun for me.
By the way, Terri, I get plenty of fresh air myself. My neighbors can spot me wearing a Rocky IV "I must break you" T-shirt when I go out for a couple of miles. But all the natural surroundings in the world won't do you a damn bit of good when you don't realize that you're advocating a lifestyle by which some people live at the expense of others.
A good friend of this blog emails today. Last week saw signs that the illustrious and brave GOP Senate coalition (yeah, right!) is set to cave with Senator Lugar's dash to the exit, Senator Domenici's joining him -- all as positive signals come out of Iraq
A NYTimes fromt page story today asserts that the White House is seeking an exit strategy before September based on GOP defections.
“When you count up the votes that we’ve lost and the votes we’re likely to lose over the next few weeks, it looks pretty grim,” said one senior official, who, like others involved in the discussions, would not speak on the record about internal White House deliberations.
That conclusion was echoed in interviews over the past few days by administration officials in the Pentagon, State Department and White House, as well as by outsiders who have been consulted about what the administration should do next. “Sept. 15 now looks like an end point for the debate, not a starting point,” the official said. “Lots of people are concluding that the president has got to get out ahead of this train.”
Far be it from me to argue with "some administration officials" and people in the State Department, but I believe the President can and will hold this together.
We're a couple weeks away from the August news doldrums, when the Washington Press Corps will have to resort to chasing this year's Cindy Sheehan around this year's Crawford Texas for news. Our courageous Senators will go home to hide under their beds.
While the Senate cowers, our brave men and women in uniform will continue their successful counterinsurgency operations around Baghdad. When Congress reconvenes, they will wait two weeks for General Petraeus's report. And I feel Petraeus will surprise to the upside.
As I emailed, I have no dispositive proof that the Senate won't cave before recess, but I have faith in the President's resolve. I don't believe the New York Times and the anonymous leakers who just happen to agree with them.
In the meantime, I hope the remaining GOP Senators read the WSJ Ed Page, as well as the NYTimes:
The Democratic Presidential candidates are trying to out-compete each other to see who can demand a pullout faster. The goal for nearly all of them (save perhaps Senator Joe Biden) isn't to create some bipartisan policy that the next President could inherit and sustain; it is to use Iraq as a partisan club to win the 2008 elections, and only then worry about the consequences.
Republicans may think they can distance themselves from all this, but they'll get no credit from voters if they contribute to an ugly outcome in Iraq. Their best prospect for making Iraq less important in 2008 is military progress that allows for a reduction in U.S. forces with honor and a more stable Iraqi government. A divided Republican caucus that undercuts America's military efforts while chasing the mirage of bipartisan comity will only make their own election defeat more likely.
I am further heartened that the GOP Presidential candidates are united in their support for the battle in Iraq and the larger war. (Rep Paul is an exception, but he makes a principled stand against "foreign entanglements" which differs in my book from cut-and-run. Besides, George Stephanopoulos says he won't win anyway.)
The GOP will soon have a new leader, and that leader will be resolute -- this will help stop defections.
I was hoping for a sweep. Today's post was going to be 100% gloat.
Instead, I link to TrekMedic's post about the Phillies' pitching in to help the Rockies' grounds crew members with a tarp under extreme weather conditions.
With rain and fierce winds making personal safety a concern before the start of the seventh inning -- turning the task of covering the field into an adventure -- most of the Phillies' players and coaches did the only thing they could.
"The guy might have died," Greg Dobbs said. "He was trapped under there. We were watching and once it got to a point, we were all like, 'We gotta do something.'"
Ron Paul was on This Week with George Stephopoulos this morning. The interview consists of the normal Paul talking points, but I was a little surprised at the lack of professionalism shown to Rep. Paul. Consider this exchange:
George Stephanopoulos: "What's success for you in this campaign?"
Ron Paul: "To win."
GS: "That's not gonna happen."
RP: "Are you willing to bet every cent in your pocket?"
I think that we can all agree that Ron Paul will not get the Republican nomination, but I thought that this was a rude way to talk to a guest.
Unlikely she needs it around here -- and even less likely that it comes from me, but I was moved by this statement, and have been thinking for a couple of weeks that I should post it.
Ms. Rand gets a lot of coverage in Brian Dougherty's "Radicals for Capitalism", indeed the title is taken from her. Her importance to the liberty movement is noted as are the large numbers that she has influenced. On the other side, personal peccadilloes come under close scrutiny, as do her personal relationships and quickness to feud with those with whom she found herself in disagreement.
At the end of the book, however, Dougherty discusses a book that discounted her, but then offered this poignant response from Nathaniel Branden:
For books like Ellis's, Nathaniel Branden had a response: Rarely do Rand's attackers deign "publicly to name the essential ideas of Atlas Shrugged and attempt to refute them. No one has been willing to declare: 'Ayn Rand holds that man must choose his values and actions exclusively by reason, that man has the right to exist for his own sake, that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force--and I consider such ideas wrong, evil and socially dangerous.'"
I missed it. On Purpose. But thanks to the Internet, I learned all I needed to know about the multi-continent envirotainment extravaganza.
The Hectoring -- VP AL Gore shares his enthusiasm and his seven point pledge. I'm not his biggest fan but I found this creepy even by Al Gore standards. The seven point pledge is a call for collectivism and supranational government. Watch the whole thing. You won't be glad you did, but you should see it all the same.
The Music. The Times of London reviews (pans, actually) all the acts, and the show in general. Money graf:
Paulo Nutini was another newcomer who injected a sense of urgency into a concert sagging under the weight of its own worthiness. Following Al Gore’s televised lecture on climate change, Nutini’s youthful rocking r'n’b vocal reminded us that politicians need musicians more than musicians need them.
No, not Mises-Hayek-Friedman liberals. Real, progressive, Paul Wellstone, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale liberals -- are they all from Minnesota?
First, an atta-boy to Garrison Keillor. Lileks tells us:
In other old news: <keillorvoice> It’s the birthday of the Prairie Home Companion. </keillorvoice> The first live broadcast of this Minnesota institution happened today in 1974, and buzz.mn extends its congrats to Garrison Keillor and all the folks at PHC for thirty-three years of keeping the traditions of old radio alive.
I listened to Keillor every Saturday until the 104th Congress was seated and I could no longer stand his cruel and unfunny political chatter. But he remains a singular talent. I watched the Prairie Home Companion Movie during a visit with Sugarchuck. It was good, but I watched a July 4th show on PBS that I found even more entertaining than the fictional portrayal (oddly enough, Meryl Streep starred in both). There's never been anything like it before of since.
Boulder is full of bumper stickers that their owners think to be the height of comedy. They're all sanctimonious and are almost entirely unamusing. A good friend has a Volvo (natch!) with "God is NOT a Republican!" But last week,. I saw a funny bumper sticker. On the back of a Subaru Forrester (double natch!):
"I'll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy!"
Can't say I'd agree with this young woman's view of life and society, but I at least got a good laugh.
John Smeaton is a hero. Fame is so ill deserved for most, but not for Smeaton, the Glasgow baggage handler who kicked a flaming terrorist. Fan websites are springing up. A PayPal account to "buy him a pint!" now has more than $9000.
Being a good scot, he "prefers Wiskey" and seems to be handling his fame with dignity and modest aplomb.
Mr. Smeaton described his role more modestly. He says he joined police officers and others in subduing the attackers -- taking a kick at Bilal Abdullah, who on Friday was charged in the attacks. Then, Mr. Smeaton came to the aid of an injured bystander who'd joined in the rumble.
"I did nothing special," Mr. Smeaton said. "I just ran in and booted a guy."
His brogue is so thick that his interview required subtitles -- in Australia! Cheer up sons and daughters of the Enlightenment. The land of Adam Smith and David Hume has supplied another hero.
Twas doon by the inch o' Abbots
Oor Johnny walked one day
When he saw a sicht that
Far more than he could say...
Now that's no richt wur
And sallied tae the fray
A left hook and a heid butt
Required tae save the day.
Now listen up Bin Laden
Yir sort's nae wanted here
For imported English radicals
Us Scoatsman huv nae fear
All this from a Wall Street Journal story(paid link) which never mentions the anatomical target of the attack. Are they backing off, or is Dow Jones too suave to discuss "goolies?"
Wage growth falls 0.1%; poor, minorities hardest hit
Some pretty good jobs numbers today -- that is, unless you are reading them in the New York Times:
Wage gains for most Americans last month were slow, and are most likely still trailing inflation. Compared with June 2006, average hourly earnings for workers in nonmanagement jobs increased 3.9 percent, to $17.38, less than the 4 percent advance in May.
Ahh yes, the heady, halcyon days of last monthwhen wage growth was 4.0% instead of 3.9 -- you can just feel the stagnation in the air.
Hat-tip: Don Luskin, who points out "according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation is running at 2.7%. How is it that a 3.9% wage increase is "trailing" 2.7% inflation?"
To be honest, I think most of the suggested ties between Britain's National Health Service and the al-Qaeda connected doctors has been pretty specious, even when humorous.
Hugh Hewitt makes an interesting point today, namely that the UK would not need so many foreign doctors if it provided some opportunities for its homegrown ones. He shares a letter from a friend:
Why is the UK importing all these foreign doctors?
One answer is because many of the good ones left when the powers that be decided that nationalized government-run medical care was the way to go.
I’ll give you 2 examples from one specialty, ophthalmology:
S___ was the son and grandson of family physicians in the north of England. When the UK opted for socialized medicine, Stuart decided it was a bad move, so he moved, eventually winding up in Orange County, CA. S____ is the inventor of [a key advance in eye care] and co-founder of [a major company]. The device that allows the recipient thereof to see objects at far, intermediate and near distances. It is under the control of the ciliary muscle in the eye, and mimics the function of the natural lens before birthdays get a hold of it and the arms become too short. It’s a remarkable lens, manufactured right there in Aliso Viejo.
But do you think a Brit can get one of these intraocular marvels? Not likely. He can come here to receive it and pay cash, but if he wants surgery done in the UK, he must sign up, wait for a very long time, then have a German ophthalmic surgeon who flies into England do his surgery since there’s such a shortage of English ophthalmologist. This situation is dripping with irony!.
I cannot complain about not hiring foreign programmers in the US and hiring too many foreign doctors in the UK, but it does seem significant that they are chasing out their best and the brightest.
Of course, that will not happen here under HillaryCare. There will be no good places left for brilliant Doctors to emigrate.
As regulation scares companies away from our capital markets, protectionism pushes trade away, our overly restrictive immigration policies are reducing our competitive advantage in technology. The WSJ reports(paid link)
TORONTO -- Microsoft Corp. plans to open a software development center in Canada this fall to attract talent and avoid U.S. immigration issues.
The Vancouver, British Columbia location will be one of only a handful development centers outside the company's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., the software company said Thursday. It previously announced plans to build sites in Boston and Bellevue, Wash.
Microsoft said the Vancouver location will "allow the company to continue to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by the immigration issues in the U.S."
Good for Canada. But America becomes just another overregulated, socialist nation and there is no place left for classical liberals and innovators.
Josh at Everyday Economist provides a generous excerpt from a NYTimes Magazine article (it's less that I am too cheap for TimesSelect. I'm cheap and I disagree on principle. I'd consider paying for their news pages if they gave away their editorials -- but I digress).
Gary Rosen is a true DAWG believer, but he admits to having "global warming fatigue" on the eve of VP Al Gore's envirotainment extravaganza. Rosen is not a skeptic but he questions what can be done and how much focus can be placed on a distant threat.
As Cass R. Sunstein of the University of Chicago argues in his book “Laws of Fear,” a critique of the precautionary principle, a single-minded focus on particular environmental dangers excludes too much. “A better approach,” he writes, “would acknowledge that a wide variety of adverse effects may come from inaction, regulation and everything between.”
If “precaution” is to make sense, it must be tempered by the logic of cost-benefit analysis, with its trade-offs and estimates of relative risk. Taxing carbon consumption is a fine idea — it would create incentives for new energy technologies — but if pushed too far it could depress economic growth. Resources might be better invested in adaptation — that is, in developing new crops and water supplies for a hotter world. Nor can we let climate change divert attention from more pressing human needs. The social scientist Bjorn Lomborg persuasively argues that the Third World suffers more from malnutrition and H.I.V./AIDS than it is likely to suffer from global warming.
Such a balance sheet will not satisfy those who see the campaign against global warming as an evangelical cause, a way to atone for central air conditioning, S.U.V.’s and other sins against nature. But the current debate would benefit from less emotion and more calculation. Maybe we can still manage to enjoy a perfect 72-degree day, even when it arrives in January.
Such a reasoned and reasonable debate would do a lot to bring people like me in. Our former Vice President's OpEd, in contrast, is alarmist and reactionary, pointing out that Venus has a lot of Carbon in its atmosphere and it averges 867 degrees.
The hard core environmentalists know, however, that in a reasoned debated that properly discounted distant threats and evaluated cost-benefits, little would be done. Lack of Reason (what's the title to VP Gore's book again?) is their agenda's only chance.
I'm still supporting Hizzoner. But if Fred Thompson were to declare that The Motor City Madman will be his running mate and that their administration would put an end to the hippie scourge once and for all, I would take a long look.
Ted Nugent wrote a guest editorial last week in the Wall Street Journal. It was put on the free site yesterday. Nugent says the "Summer of Love" should be known as "The Summer of Drugs." He mourns the loss, to drugs, of great musicians like Hendrix and Joplin and he details his troubles being straight through his long career.
Forty years ago hordes of stoned, dirty, stinky hippies converged on San Francisco to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," which was the calling card of LSD proponent Timothy Leary. Turned off by the work ethic and productive American Dream values of their parents, hippies instead opted for a cowardly, irresponsible lifestyle of random sex, life-destroying drugs and mostly soulless rock music that flourished in San Francisco.
I love Nugent's stance on guns better than I ever actually liked his music. Nor was my youth as clean and perfect as his. But he is in a good position to scold those who want to glorify the 1960s. Nugent salutes the civil rights movement but doesn't want to celebrate too much else.
There is a saying that if you can remember the 1960s, you were not there. I was there and remember the decade in vivid, ugly detail. I remember its toxic underbelly excess because I was caught in the vortex of the music revolution that was sweeping the country, and because my radar was fine-tuned thanks to a clean and sober lifestyle.
Death due to drugs and the social carnage heaped upon America by hippies is nothing to celebrate. That is a fool's game, but it is quite apparent some burned-out hippies never learn.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
So says Peter Schiff of "Euro Pacific Capital" describing the United States' Economy. Larry was on vacation, but Don Luskin was there to take him on.
Schiff has written a "The world's going to end" financial book and advises his clients to purchase things other than US Equities. On a day the Dow was up 127 points, he had the bad luck to face Luskin. I love Kudlow & Company for its reasoned debate but I enjoyed this. Thankfully, its posted on Luskin's blog today.
Terri at ithinkthereforeierr finds this jewel, germane again for a day. President Clinton explains the reasons for the Marc Rich pardon.
Ordinarily, I would have denied pardons in this case simply because these men did not return to the United States to face the charges against them. However, I decided to grant the pardons in this unusual case for the following legal and foreign policy reasons: (1) I understood that the other oil companies that had structured transactions like those on which Mr. Rich and Mr. Green were indicted were instead sued civilly by the government; (2) I was informed that, in 1985, in a related case against a trading partner of Mr. Rich and Mr. Green, the Energy Department, which was responsible for enforcing the governing law, found that the manner in which the Rich/Green companies had accounted for these transactions was proper; (3) two highly regarded tax experts, Bernard Wolfman of Harvard Law School and Martin Ginsburg of Georgetown University Law Center, reviewed the transactions in question and concluded that the companies "were correct in their U.S. income tax treatment of all the items in question, and [that] there was no unreported federal income or additional tax liability attributable to any of the [challenged] transactions"; (4) in order to settle the government's case against them, the two men's companies had paid approximately $200 million in fines, penalties and taxes, most of which might not even have been warranted under the Wolfman/Ginsburg analysis that the companies had followed the law and correctly reported their income; (5) the Justice Department in 1989 rejected the use of racketeering statutes in tax cases like this one, a position that The Wall Street Journal editorial page, among others, agreed with at the time; (6) it was my understanding that Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder's position on the pardon application was "neutral, leaning for"; (7) the case for the pardons was reviewed and advocated not only by my former White House counsel Jack Quinn but also by three distinguished Republican attorneys: Leonard Garment, a former Nixon White House official; William Bradford Reynolds, a former high-ranking official in the Reagan Justice Department; and Lewis Libby, now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff; (8) finally, and importantly, many present and former high-ranking Israeli officials of both major political parties and leaders of Jewish communities in America and Europe urged the pardon of Mr. Rich because of his contributions and services to Israeli charitable causes, to the Mossad's efforts to rescue and evacuate Jews from hostile countries, and to the peace process through sponsorship of education and health programs in Gaza and the West Bank.
The Everyday Economist (a nice, G-rated blog the whole family can enjoy) has a post titled It's Quality, Not Quantity, which links to an AFP article about a study published in the current issue of Evolutionary Psychology.
The article asserts that Capitalism is bad for you, citing statistics that life expectancies have decreased in the former Soviet territories and that homicides and suicides have spiked as much as 238% (the figure for the very successful Estonia). This seems a close cousin of the "we spend the most on health care and have a shorter life expectancy than Cuba" arguments.
There is an article in this Month's Reason about Intangible Capital. I don't see it online, but here is another Reason piece on the same study. Smile, American person, you are worth $513,000 based on the geography of your birth or emigration. The structure, institutions and opportunities for income provided for you give you that average share in the asset valuation of the nation. The US is fourth, by the way, Switzerland averages $648,000, which would buy you a very nice watch.
I enjoyed the Reason piece in conjunction with Arnold Kling's recent series on the Economist Douglass C. North who concentrated on Institutions, Adaptations, and belief -- and today's column on trust and ethics. He quotes the same World Bank study to try to quantify these advantages.
The overarching theme to these together was to be the difficulty of sorting significant statistics and the difficulty (I think Karl Popper would give me an “impossibility”) of applying scientific or statistical methods to social phenomenon. Life expectancy should be a good measure. Real income growth should be measurable. The World Bank Study seems to mathematically the value of liberal institutions. In all of these, I confess I am accepting the numbers that seem sound and disregarding those that don’t. Sorry for the whiny, rambling post but this disturbs me.
President George W. Bush on Monday commuted the 30-month prison sentence handed to Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney, for lying and obstructing justice.
I do not like this decision. Perhaps Libby's punishment was a little too harsh, but I very much agree with the comments of Orin Kerr:
Nonetheless, I find Bush's action very troubling because of the obvious special treatment Libby received. President Bush has set a remarkable record in the last 6+ years for essentially never exercising his powers to commute sentences or pardon those in jail. His handful of pardons have been almost all symbolic gestures involving cases decades old, sometimes for people who are long dead. Come to think of it, I don't know if Bush has ever actually used his powers to get one single person out of jail even one day early. If there are such cases, they are certainly few and far between. So Libby's treatment was very special indeed.
$13 million spent for the quarter. (!!!) UPDATE: Actually, it's $14.4M.
They are considering taking public money.
Friends, this campaign is officially over. There is no way we are going to nominate someone who has to take public funding to take on Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama ($90M COH between them).
Maybe McCain skipped Pa's GOP meeting because he's trying to conserve money?
Senators Barack Obama, D-IL, and Hillary Clinton, D-NY, today turned presidential campaigning on its head when they announced that the combined $52 million in primary campaign cash they raised in the second quarter would be redistributed to less fortunate candidates like Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
In a joint news release, Senators Obama and Clinton said, “The fundamental principles of the Democrat party say that the rich and powerful have an obligation to help the poor and downtrodden.”
We're plagued with an every-man-for-himself attitude. That attitude may have been good in helping us build this country and helping us become the innovators that we are. But we won't make it through the 21st century intact as a great country if we don't adopt a different ethos that says we're all in the same boat. We sink or swim together. We have to help each other. -- Michael Moore, interviewed in US News and World Report
Flush with victory against allowing the United States to humanely treat the workers it needs to expand the economy and generate wealth, populist blogsite Townhall.com has now decided it is in charge of policy.
Having halted the Bush-Kennedy “grand bargain” on immigration, many conservatives are expressing newfound optimism that they can do the same to the president’s signature education achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act.
I'd be more sympathetic to opposing Federal involvement in education but I am hoping they fail for two reasons:
Further expanding the influence of the populist wing of the GOP (Sam's Club vs. Country Club) is a bad idea. Put me in with the Country Club sect, and bring me an Arnold Palmer -- with a little ice this time for cryin' out loud.
All the leftist, NEA/ACT teachers in my family absolutely hate NCLB. They get night sweats over accountability tests. Anything that disturbs that much must have some redeeming value.
Blog friend Perry Eidlebus got an ear infection (hope you're better!) and hit on a government-control topic that predated my political interest in health care: prescription control of compounds that have a low opportunity for abuse.
The doctor prescribed 800 mg doses of Motrin, Amoxycillin tablets, and Neomycin/Polymyxin B drops. Now, in a true free market system, I could have bought the stronger painkillers and antibiotics myself -- on Friday, which would have killed the infection early on and saved me unnecessary pain last night. Taking antibiotics early would have also saved the health care system the hundreds of dollars that my ER visit cost.
My wife used to teach day care and get routine bronchial infections. She knew when she got them and knew what worked. I was always astonished that an MD had to sign off. I know that some will claim the existence of superbugs if antibiotics are overused. Perry makes a good point about those who deny us choices because we're not smart enough to handle risk.
Even if you had to keep antibiotics as prescription. I'm calling a Doctor today to get a Potassium supplement renewed for somebody. I had a hassle when I was fitted for an Ankle Foot Orthotic I wear (A giant ugly, uncomfortable plastic brace from under my knee to my toes). I said "what -- are all the high school kids going to be getting these?"
I can see them in their black T-Shirts and baggy trousers: chugging Amoxycillin, snorting Potassium tablets and skateboarding in their Orthotics. Good thing the government is there to protect us.
I hope everybody was home all weekend reading the Wall Street Journal online content. In the rare event somebody missed it, they had an interview with Mayor Giuliani and posted both the transcript and a summary article by Brian Carney. I'd suggest reading at least the summation. I still find much to like about Hizzoner.
Mr. Giuliani is often referred to as a "moderate" Republican, which is true if it means simply that he doesn't follow the party line on certain issues, such as abortion. But there is very little else about him that qualifies for the label. "I am," he told us, "by all objective measures the most fiscally conservative candidate in the race." On domestic policy, he says he wants to shrink the government's share of the economy and increase the private sector's. Tax rates "should be lower" and our health-care system ought to be "move[d] away from the paternalistic model" that we have now.
I wish he would release his Kudlow interview as a campaign commercial -- it was loaded with principled, fundamental understanding and description of the role of the free market. Stephen Moore, who followed him as a guest/analyst, and I were a little verklempt in the gunuchtazoink. He not only appreciates free market principles -- he can articulate them. We have seen weakness on both sides in the Bush Administration.
On the War, he also understands and articulates: “I think the American people in November 2008 are going to select the person they think is strongest to defend America against Islamic terrorism. And it is not going to focus on--as some of the media wants it--just Iraq. I think Americans are smarter than that."
These, then, are the talking points. But in order to discover whether there was more to his national-security credentials than merely being "America's mayor" on 9/11, we pressed him on how a President Giuliani would handle a current foreign-policy crisis such as Iran. His answer revealed a discursive style that was on display throughout the meeting, and which can only be demonstrated by quoting from his reply at some length.
He started by explaining how he understands the problem, before getting around to how it ought to be handled: "Well, I think that if we've learned any lessons from the history of the 20th century, one of the lessons we should learn is [to] stop trying to psychoanalyze people and take them at their word.
"If we had taken Hitler at his word, Stalin at his word, I think we would have made much sounder decisions and saved a lot more lives. I don't know why we have to think that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad doesn't mean what he says. Therefore, the more cautious, prudent way to react to it is, he means what he says.
I remain impressed with this guy. I think that he has political strength because he is clearly not "four more years of W." His Northeastern lineage and his moderate social positions will differentiate him and attract new Republican voters.
He has the visceral response to terrorism that will prosecute the war and the rhetorical skills to lead the American people through the hard work. His New Yawk background gives him an understanding of the importance of the capital markets. I wish he were stronger on the Second Amendment, but I'll take the whole package. I had much deeper reservations about Governor Bush in 2000.
L2si: a blog on the Speculist website. From the "about" page:
L2si is an abbreviation for "Live to See it," which is our tagline at the Speculist, but it’s a lot more than just a tagline. L2si is our philosophy. It’s our affirmation that the world not only should be getting better, but that it is getting better -- that the future holds in store amazing promise, and that there is much that we can all hope to live to see.
So what do we mean when we say that the world is getting better? Well, by better we mean freer. Safer. Cleaner. More things to do. More things to be. Less stuff to die from, more stuff to live for.
This may strike some as a radical proposition, suggesting that we’re part of an evolutionary process. Are we saying that there’s some unstoppable wave of improvement that nobody really started and that no one has the power to stop? Or more modestly, have we concluded that the very human drive to be smarter, to be stronger, and to be better than we were, tends to win out? That in the end we, humanity, are better at solving problems than we are at anything else, including creating problems?
Well, in a word, yes. There’s a strong case to be made for the latter explanation, and we can’t entirely rule out the former one.
Near and dear to my heart, with at least one author being near to me geographically. I have added it to the Centennial Staters section because I am so tired of the Keystone Staters’ numerical superiority.
I found it on a link from Instapundit. Glenn links to a great post on the return of the Bald Eagle, and American's rightful place in the environmental movement. This blog lives to celebrate innovation, wealth creation, and real progress. Linked.