August 31, 2007

Friday Funnies

Jay Leno, courtesy of Polical Diary:

"Speaking at a forum organized by Lance Armstrong on cancer research, Hillary Clinton told Chris Matthews if she is elected president, she will declare war on cancer, and then she will support the war on cancer for two years, and then she will be against it for a year, and then she will back out of it all together" -- Jay Leno, host of NBC's "Tonight Show."

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 1:11 PM

Sen. Craig (R-- EW!)

I fear my beloved Republicans have learned the wrong lessons from recent history. Poor Senator Craig cannot find a friend in the Senate Cloakroom. Well, perhaps, that's for the best. But he cannot find a friend in the GOP leadership, and I am not sure that's right.

Really creepy? Yes. But I'd like to compare the Senior Senator from the last stall to members in the party’s Hall of Shame who enjoy their good standing.

  • Rep. Tom Foley -- he may be out of good standing now, but his is supposed to be the lesson learned. I suggest that Rep, Foley was propositioning minors and was using his position as a Congressman coercively. He should have been shut down early by leadership that suspected/knew of this behavior.

  • Sen. Ted Stevens (R - $$) -- no room in the party for a creepy queer, but crooks may hold leadership positions. Senator Stevens is a crook who stands against everything the party is supposed to embrace.

  • Rep Don Young -- see above, what is with these Alaska guys?

  • Rep. Jerry Lewis -- I will not call him a crook, but he's a poster child for purchasing incumbency with Federal largesse.

Creepy Craig was at least seeking something consensual with a grownup, and I suspect that he was going to pay out of his own pocket.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:53 AM

For This We Elect Republicans?

Where in the Constitution is the Executive Branch given responsibility for executive pay? Reading the Wall Street Journal (paid link) one can only assume that Senator Edwards has already won the 2008 election and has installed his SEC chief early:

Stepping up its campaign to shed light on the mysteries of executive pay, the Securities and Exchange Commission has sent letters to nearly 300 companies across America critiquing disclosures in this year's proxy statements and demanding more information.

The SEC's requests could set up a confrontation over details the agency wants that companies say are competitive and should remain secret. The federal securities regulator, for example, wants to know more about the targets and benchmarks companies use when they tie pay to performance.

Huh? What?

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 11:05 AM

'bout that consensus

A good friend of this blog sends a link to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Specifically, Senator Inhofe’s EPW Press Blog. Looking at recent peer-reviewed research, Senator Inhofe’s staff doesn't quite see the consensus that a certain former Vice President claims.

Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus."

The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the "primary" cause of warming, but it doesn't require any belief or support for "catastrophic" global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.

August 30, 2007

Quick Election Thoughts

Two candidate (one from each party) were in the news today.

First, John Edwards:

WASHINGTON -- Last week in Hanover, N.H., John Edwards shot off a rhetorical signal flare. "I want to go one step further," he said. Something new was coming. This wasn't going to be just another stump speech about the "Two Americas" -- one for the rich and one for everyone else. He was about to attack his own party, the Democratic Party, which he likes to call "the party of the people."

"The choice for our party could not be any clearer," he continued. "We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other."

Of course, he never named the fellow travelers targeted by his broadside. But he left plenty of clues, given Hillary Clinton's time in the White House and Barack Obama's record fundraising. "The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale," he said, "the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent, and lobbyist money can no longer influence policy in the House and the Senate."

There are usually two ways that a candidates runs for the primary. One can move as far to the fringe as possible and attack fellow party-members or one can run a centrist campaign and attack candidates from the other party. The Democrats, with the exception of Hillary Clinton, have been rather unique in that they have mostly moved to the left and run against President Bush. Given this pattern, the comments by Edwards seem to relfect the following:

  • The Edwards campaign has come to the realization that he must make some sort of change to improve his position within the party.

  • Hillary may be in trouble. The negative attacks are largely going to be aimed at her simply because she is the front runner and, quite frankly, there is more material. Elizabeth Edwards even stated that Hillary would do more to energize Republicans than any candidate with an "R" next to their name. Unfortunately for Edwards, this negative press aimed at Hillary likely helps Obama in the long run.

The second piece of news is that Fred (or Fred!) Thompson will announce his candidacy on September 6 on his website. The right-wing blogosphere is growing tired of Sen. Thompson because he is attempting "upstage" the fellow Republicans by appearing on Leno on the night of the Republican debate and the fact that he has delayed announcing his candidacy for so long. Nevertheless, I do not think any of the blogosphere's concerns are warranted. Here's why:

  • The blogosphere is filled with party activists and libertarian academics that are largely out of touch with the mainstream Americans (for better or for worse).

  • Thompson hasn't run a conventional campaign. I actually like this. Besides, more people will watch Leno than the R's debate.

  • Thompson has created the perception of being above the other candidates. He should try to maintain this as long as possible.

  • What purpose does it serve for Thompson to debate the likes of Huckabee, Brownback, Tancredo, and the other second tier candidates? There is plenty of time left before primary season.

  • Staying out of the race hasn't hurt him as much as the conservative pundits pretend. Thompson is still at or near the top of most polls.

2008 Race Posted by Harrison Bergeron at 10:50 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

You've hit on the most tantalizing aspect of the coming election cycle, HB. Despite being the frontrunner, both within her party and generally, Hillary's negatives are so high and her baggage so weighty that not just the Republicans want to run against her - the other Democrats would rather run against her than against Republicans. The tantalizing part? Despite every Democrat knowing this, odds are they're still going to nominate her!

And on a related note, GO FRED!

Posted by: johngalt at August 30, 2007 11:42 PM
But jk thinks:

I see a different dynamic. I think that Senator Clinton has now opened a commanding lead in the primary and is already positioning herself for the General. Her team sees that Senator Obama has fizzled as a candidate and that she is positioned to swamp Obama and Edwards in front-loaded, big-state, big-money primaries. She can tone down her pandering to the left and begin pandering to the center.

I agree that Sen. Thompson has not been hurt by staying out, blogosphere (including AlexC) be dammed. The possible drawback is his lack of organization. That may or may not bite him.

Posted by: jk at August 31, 2007 10:56 AM

Now, this is cool. The ThreeSources readership includes veterans of the Storage Industry, and predictive markets players and workers, (plus a couple other guys...)

I ran into an old friend and fellow storage warrior last weekend. He is involved with several projects, but one that really caught my fancy was, a predictive market for the storage industry. Industry folk can wager virtual dollars on questions like "When the first 2TB 3.5” hard disk drive will be publicly announced" or "Which hardware implementation of encryption will have the highest market share by the end of 2008?" or "When will a majority of customers require storage systems that support both block and file I/O in the same system as evidenced by sales?"

Hey, there's a switch: the economists' eyes are glazing over!

It is a cool site and I am told that my (work) email address will get me a membership. I can beg for anybody else that is interested. Here is the site, or here is a blog that provides summaries and news items.

Technology Posted by John Kranz at 7:16 PM

The Dems' Fox Debate

Something tells me that jk would love this:

I think that Fox should go ahead with the debate. Take that time you were going to allot for the Democratic Party Debate, and fill it with any empty stage with empty lecterns. Then every few minutes, put a title bar on the screen with different debate topics.

Such as:
"DEMOCRATS PRESENT IDEAS ON WINNING THE WAR" ...crickets...crickets...crickets...

2008 Race Posted by Harrison Bergeron at 5:03 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

I don't know why people would thing that I would appreciate a cheap, partisan trick. Like I am some kind of hack or something...(crickets...crickets...)

Posted by: jk at August 30, 2007 7:50 PM

Big Oil Collusion

Are you sure about that?

Big oil companies did not conspire to raise U.S. gasoline prices last summer, as it was high crude oil costs and supply problems that caused the spike in pump prices, government investigators said on Thursday.

The Federal Trade Commission said that about 75 percent of the rise in gasoline prices was due to a seasonal increase in summer driving, higher oil costs and more expensive ethanol that was blended into gasoline.

The other 25 percent of the price increase stemmed from lower gasoline production as refiners moved to using ethanol as the main clean-burning fuel additive and lingering damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita that reduced refining capacity.

So what they're saying is that fluctuations in supply and demand cause prices to go up (and down?) Not some cabal of evil white men?

Get outta here.

But jk thinks:

They buried the lede: 25% was caused by ethanol mandates (government intrusion). It was evil white men, ac -- Sen Harkin, Sen Grassley, Sen Lugar, Sen Durbin...

Posted by: jk at August 30, 2007 4:09 PM
But johngalt thinks:

OK, I'll be your conspiracy theorist. Ever notice how gasoline prices rise quickly and fall slowly? My hypothesis is that the retail price rises immediately whenever the wholesale price goes up, but when the wholesale price drops the retailers only lower their price as much as they have to as dictated by their nearby competition.

Not everyone plays this game, however. While 91 octane premium still commands 3.13 to 3.35 per gallon (north Denver metro) Costco gasoline has been selling their Sinclair wholesaled 91 octane for 2.99 for at least a month.

Posted by: johngalt at August 30, 2007 11:55 PM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

JK,..I direct you to this piece on ethanol:

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at September 1, 2007 1:05 PM
But jk thinks:

I liked it just fine until they suggested genetically modified kudzu. I'm no Luddite, but one can easily see GMK taking over and destroying all life on Earth.

I'm actually very keen on biomass energy and have long been intrigued with generating power from poultry offal and by-products. Just as long as it's neither subsidized nor mandated, sign me up.

Posted by: jk at September 1, 2007 5:36 PM

It was Only $100 Million

A union shell group raises and spends $100 million illegally, and the punishment is a fine of less than 1% -- I bet they spent more on coffee.

Yet another problem with government regulation of campaign finance -- besides its explicitly contravening the First Amendment -- is that the laws have no teeth. Like the mob, you just budget for some fines in your business plan. John Fund reports on the recent decision against "Americans Coming Together."

The Federal Election Commission has just found that Americans Coming Together, a top union group active in the 2004 presidential election, spent $100 million illegally on federal election activity that year. The agency imposed a fine of just $775,000 -- and not one dime will go back to the union workers who financed ACT's illegal activities with their forced payment of dues.

This is a textbook example of what's wrong with federal election laws. The FEC takes years to catch up with those who break the law, then administers a slap on the wrist on the grounds that ACT disbanded after the 2004 election and won't be engaging in further election activity.

In reality, such groups may disband but their supporters and personnel have every intention of remaining active in politics under another brand name. That perfectly describes the ACT shell game.

Its largest donor was the Service Employees International Union, one of the most politically active labor unions. Its largest non-union donor was billionaire George Soros. And who was the group's president? None other than Harold Ickes, a long-time functionary of the Clinton machine who served as Bill Clinton's deputy White House chief of staff. Mr. Ickes is now a major player in the huge fundraising apparatus of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who unsurprisingly has run into her own campaign finance scandal this week. One of her top donors, Norman Hsu, was revealed to be a fugitive from justice and may have illegally laundered campaign contributions to the Clinton campaign through "straw" or fake donors.

It's clear the FEC can't be relied upon to report on the law-skirting by major political players before voters render their judgment at the polls in 2008. Nor are its sanctions much of a deterrent to those playing for big stakes on the presidential stage. Mrs. Clinton's latest scandal appears to be a near-replica of the 1996 Clinton fundraising scandals, in which 120 people either fled the country to avoid questioning, took the Fifth Amendment or otherwise failed to cooperate with investigators.

The FEC enforcement action against ACT came after a complaint three years ago by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Meanwhile, the news media resolutely ignored the story, insisting that looking into the modus operandi of the Clinton machine represented "old news." Here's hoping the press wakes up and realizes the time for vigilant reporting on the 2008 election excesses of all parties is before Americans vote, not years afterward.

I'm sure they'll start with the GOP, John.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 1:27 PM

Regulate Telecom!

To show the superiority of free markets, I frequently cite telecom (and, of course, the iPod) as examples. So does Mayor Giuliani. When Larry Kudlow asked him about health care he said "How did we make cell phones affordable? We let the market work."

I have to compliment my collectivist foes on strategy. If they can ruin the markets where the markets work, Classical Liberals will no longer have any examples. So, the FCC and a consumer group have decided it's time to regulate the most successful free market in my lifetime.

WSJ Ed Page (paid link):
In a hearing last month, the Consumers Union told Congress that "in Europe and Asia, wireless consumers have better choices" and that "instead of innovating, the wireless community has become a cozy cartel of a few dominant providers with limited device offerings." More recently, the FCC slapped "open access" requirements on a valuable block of spectrum to be auctioned off early next year. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin justified the move to "ensure that consumers benefit from innovation and technological advancements."

But consumers are doing just fine, according to an American Consumer Institute study released last week. Comparing U.S. and foreign telecom markets, it concluded that the U.S. market "offers more choice and is less concentrated than any Western country's wireless market." U.S. consumers have access to more wireless operators and more devices than consumers anywhere else in the world. And the top three wireless providers in the U.S. comprise a smaller share of the market than their counterparts in Europe and Asia.

Americans on average use more than four times as many wireless minutes per month as Europeans, according to the study, reflecting the fact that "U.S. wireless prices are the lowest in the world, with the exception of Hong Kong." This combination of higher usage at lower prices, it says, "presents compelling evidence that the overall consumer welfare derived from wireless service is higher in the U.S. than internationally." In short, calls for more telecom rules and regulations are a solution in search of a problem.

Now, if the Senate could dictate the size and cost of MP3 players...

Technology Posted by John Kranz at 11:15 AM

August 29, 2007

Fidel's Endorsement

From Reuters:

HAVANA (Reuters) - Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro is tipping Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to team up and win the U.S. presidential election.

Clinton leads Obama in the race to be the Democratic nominee for the November 2008 election, and Castro said they would make a winning combination.

"The word today is that an apparently unbeatable ticket could be Hillary for president and Obama as her running mate," he wrote in an editorial column on U.S. presidents published on Tuesday by Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, Granma.

Enough said.

2008 Race Posted by Harrison Bergeron at 12:46 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

Maybe Senator Edwards could still pull off a Robert Mugabe or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad endorsement to stem the bleeding.

Posted by: jk at August 29, 2007 2:13 PM

On Robber Barons

Hillsdale History Professor Burton W. Folsom, pens a guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal today (paid link) and hits one of my favorite themes. Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim is derided as a robber baron. Folsom steps in to defend the robber barons:

Whoever satisfied the most customers would have the largest businesses. Only when Rockefeller sold cheap kerosene to tens of millions of Americans did he become the nation's first billionaire. "We must ever remember," Rockefeller told his partner, "we are refining oil for the poor man and he must have it cheap and good." Ironically, the price of Rockefeller's kerosene dropped to eight cents a gallon in 1885 from 26 cents in 1870 -- all the while he was viciously pilloried as a monopolist by the press, Congress and his competitors.

Ford, Walton and Mr. Gates also had to sell widely to masses of Americans at competitive rates before they rose to the top. Putting a car in every garage, not just the garages of the rich, was Ford's working motto. In serving the most customers, he reaped the largest reward. So did Bill Gates with computers. When America did deviate from free markets -- for example, by granting government subsidies to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads -- the economy suffered instabilities. But it recovered from the experience and learned a lesson. James J. Hill built the Great Northern Railroad with no federal subsidy -- and outperformed all other transcontinentals.

Rockefeller provided poor people with heat and light to earn his pejorative sobriquet. When people run him down, I always think of the old mining bumpersticker "Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark!" Not only does Folsom honor the Robber Barons, but he tells Senor Slim: "I knew Robber Barons, Robber Barons were friends of mine, Son, you ain't no Robber Baron." Oh wait, that was Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.
His major opportunity came when President Carlos Salinas de Gortari decided to privatize some inefficient industries. Mr. Slim bought Telmex, the nation's phone company, in 1990 in a controversial auction which was decidedly less than transparent. With that purchase came a six-year monopoly guaranteed by the government. Although Mr. Slim was supposed to relinquish the monopoly in 1997, he used a variety of legal and political tools to maintain it, for example filing injunctions in court to block orders from the regulator to provide competitors fair access to his network. According to OECD figures, Mexican consumers and businesses still pay above market telephone rates. Fewer than one-fourth of Mexican homes have telephones.

With a near monopoly of fixed-line telephones and data access (the Internet), Mr. Slim has reaped windfall profits which, wisely invested, have propelled him to immense wealth. Meanwhile, Mr. Slim's newer ventures -- his construction company and his oil services company -- rely on government contracts for their major business. Recently President Felipe Calderón met with Mr. Slim and urged him to accept greater competition.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 11:05 AM

Mitt! on Larry! (UPDATED: Tonight Too)

The former Governor of the Commonwealth takes some licks for his health care plan(s) around here, but he will be able to defend himself in a one-on-one interview with Larry Kudlow tonight. CNBC 5:00PM Eastern. It is an exceptional venue to hear the candidates’ economic ideas.

UPDATE I: Part of the interview will be shown tonight (Aug 29), including the discussion of health care. I'm a Giuliani supporter, so discount my opinion as you see fit, but I'd have to say that he was unimpressive last night. He swung and missed at some softballs. "Do we need a SarbOx for lending?" Governor Romney said no, but conceded that there might be a place for Washington to make sure that customers understood their loans.

Hugh Hewitt always talks about how clear and in command of the facts Romney is, and that once people see him, they are really impressed. He did not come across as in control last night, and he won’t find a friendlier interview until he is on Hewitt’s show.

UPDATE II: Here is the video:

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 12:08 AM | What do you think? [4]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

There will be only one GOP candidate who's principled enough to say we *don't* need federal regulations or other oversight for home loans. Three guesses as to his name, but you'll only need one. And here's a hint: even Fred Thompson, if pressed, will say the federal government needs to legislate and/or regulate.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 29, 2007 11:39 AM
But jk thinks:

Mayor Giuliani has already said no regulation and he said it on Kudlow & Co. I'll go out on a limb and say that Rep. Ron Paul would demur as well.

Posted by: jk at August 29, 2007 11:45 AM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

He really did? I'm pleasantly surprised.

Unfortunately, American voters are probably stupid enough as a whole to make the issue into ammunition for Hillary. Just when we thought liberals had promised everything possible in previous campaigns...

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 30, 2007 4:04 PM
But jk thinks:

Be pleasantly surprised!

Posted by: jk at August 30, 2007 6:50 PM

August 28, 2007

Tang®, Yum!

TCSDaily carries an article I cannot agree with. I guess I'm going to have to send back my $500 buyoff from big oil this month.

But Jack Raia, a financial executive in New York, tries to defend NASA as a wealth creator.

Endless technologies were spawned at NASA that have improved the quality of life in the U.S. and in much of the world. Take the weather. Satellites orbit the earth and track storms, providing information to supercomputers on the Earth's surface that perform millions of calculations to arrive at the most likely outcome. Those satellites were placed in orbit by NASA and the computers performing the calculations are spin-offs of NASA programs.

The latest models of Airplanes produced by Boeing and Airbus are made of lighter, stronger materials that were developed for the space program.

In medicine, though a cure for Parkinson's has proven elusive, ultrasound scanners provide more vivid pictures of infants in the womb and greater ability to diagnose problems. Cat scans are an indispensable tool in the detection of many maladies. Though not yet curable, research on osteoporosis, diabetes and AIDS has led to innovations in treatments. All are spin-offs of NASA.

I'll take obvious fallacies for $200, Alex. If NASA did not exist, we would not have satellites? Nobody but the government could do this? Running shoes, light materials for Aerospace applications. Government only.

I grew up in the Apollo days and I'll defend NASA funding for research and exploration. But it's not worth it for Tang. I think Raia does a disservice to claim that the byproducts outweigh what private investment could have accomplished. To do so allows NASA to stray from its mission of discovery and exploration to fund soft, PR projects like the International Space Station and "The First Hispanic Zoroastrian Certified Public Accountant In Space (TFHZCPAIS)."

NASA missions and their funding should be decided on their value as research and exploration; people can then decide how much they wish to fund. It is specious to claim a few commercial by-products as justification.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:05 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Jack Raia thinks:

Dear Mr. Kranz:

Thanks for your interest in my article.

One correction: I didn't claim the byproducts of NASA outweigh what private investment could have accomplished. I said the benefits derived from NASA outweigh the investment made by taxpayers.

Back in the early 1960's, the capital markets couldn't have funded a venture like NASA. The investment was too huge and the capital markets were not efficient enough. This free marketer is reluctant to admit that only the government could have made this investment at that time. While I was a tot at that time, I find it hard to imagine that investors were lining up then to fund exploration into space.

All The Best,

Jack Raia

Posted by: Jack Raia at August 30, 2007 3:37 PM
But jk thinks:

Thank you for your comments.

I agree -- and meant to concede -- that the NASA of the 1960s provided value. I guess I would look "at the margins" and ask whether the next fiscal year's NASA budget would not be better spent by the private sector were they allowed to keep the tax dollars that will fund missions of reducing commercial and exploratory importance.

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

August 27, 2007

Luskin's Back

The summer just became a little less doldrumy. Don Luskin is back from vacation.

I suspect Paul Krugman will miss his absence. He takes down a Krugman column today where Krugman makes a perfect pitch for school choice. Only it's sarcastic. The idea of government's not running schools is so foreign to the ex-Princeton prof, he finds the idea humorous.

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

This was simply one of those times when the big government liberal stands up and facetiously argues for the free market to work while we Hayekians simply chuckle at the preponderance of a government that would somehow be better.

The market as it currently stands (in health and education) is hardly free and thus less than ideal. However, I would never prefer a less-than-ideal government to a less-than-ideal market.

Posted by: Harrison Bergeron at August 27, 2007 12:57 PM

Unseen Effects of Regulation

Got to laugh to keep from crying. Volvo, highly revered in Boulder County, introduces a new efficiency concept car with a clean burning diesel engine and a new efficient transmission. It will lower emissions and improve fuel economy. But don't detail your Prius for trade-in value just yet:

Unfortunately, Volvo has no plans to introduce the Powershift or the diesel into the U.S. market. Apparently certifying the new engine for the U.S. market is too expensive at this point. And they’re unsure if there is enough customer support to back the effort. Too bad. We think both the transmission—and the diesel—would do quite well here.

Insty linked to this over the weekend and has also linked to 70+ MPG VW diesel cars. But none of them will be available here, because of our regulatory hurdles, designed (everybody now) to increase fuel economy and decrease emissions.

Frederic, call your office.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:05 PM

Bastiat On Iraq

ThreeSources's friend Josh Hendrickson at Everyday Economist has a smart piece this morning. He takes on those who now think that more command-and-control would have helped the Iraqi economy and concomitantly impeded the insurgency.

The EE links to reports that claim a slavish devotion to free market ideology spoiled an opportunity to keep services and jobs active in state-owned enterprises. He then responds with Bastiat's "seen and the unseen."

Messengers Thoma and Holland fail to take account of what is not seen on more than one account.

Thoma and Holland behind the veil of what is seen, conclude that had the administration should have kept the infrastructure in place. It is easy in hindsight to make this call, but it ignores what is unseen. Suppose the infrastructure had been maintained and that the United States “put people to work doing something, anything.” Would this have improved the economic circumstances in Iraq? Bastiat certainly wouldn’t believe so:

I hate to tell people what to do, but I'd suggest one reads the whole thing.

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 10:55 AM

WSJ Steals from Me

I'm not complaining. Without the good folks at Dow Jones, I would have posted less than a third over the years.

Today, the lead Editorial steals my headline, "RomneyCare 2.0," and my thesis (paid link).

So this is a step forward for Mr. Romney on health policy, largely because it doesn't take Massachusetts as its model. Though he still regards that state's 2006 "universal" health insurance program as one of his signal achievements as Governor, his new proposal drops the most coercive elements, such as the individual mandate and the "pay or play" sanctions on businesses. Perhaps this intellectual progress is due to the influence of new Romney advisers Glenn Hubbard and John Cogan, both respected health-care economists.
One key difference with Rudy Giuliani, who has also proposed similar changes to the tax code, is that the former New York Mayor would allow for interstate insurance and Mr. Romney would not. Mr. Romney says that the logistical difficulties would become a "camel's nose" for national insurance regulations. Maybe so, but that is always a risk with federalism. A far worse camel's nose is the "universal" plan Mr. Romney championed in Massachusetts. As Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards put it, "If universal health care was good enough for Massachusetts, why isn't it good enough for the rest of the country?"

It's not an unfair question. Mr. Romney's Bay State legacy is now praised by liberals as a prototype for national policy. That's done a great deal to set back the kind of tax reform that he now espouses. The issue for GOP primary voters to consider is why he went in such a different direction in Boston. Granted, a mere Governor couldn't restructure the federal tax code, and he was dealing with a far-left legislature. Yet his willingness to compromise in Massachusetts on core matters of principle, and then trumpet those statist policies as a "free-market" solution, raises questions about how far and easily he'd bend to a Democratic Congress.

Mr. Romney's conversion to free-market health-care thinking is nonetheless welcome -- assuming he believes it.

I hope they don't pick up my typographical errors...

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 10:34 AM | What do you think? [5]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I'm gonna be Billy Beck-style blunt here.

Romney, who the f*** are you to tell me that buying insurance from a company out-of-state has "logistical" problems? Where the f**** have you been for the last 12 years? Since the Internet really took off, it's proven that interstate commerce is as easy, if not easier, than driving down the street. I can use Esurance with far greater ease and speed than flipping through the Yellow Pages to find a new insurance agent (and wind up talking to some dumb rookie schmuck mangle my name).

Oh, that's right, Romney, the problem isn't for us, but for *you* and the rest of the government, because you just can't keep your grubby hands off our peaceful commerce. Congress has power to regulate interstate commerce, but that doesn't mean it *must* in every circumstance.

And why the f*** should we believe you, Romney, when you say you wouldn't coerce all Americans to buy health insurance, the same way you did to the people of Massachussetts?

And by the way, Romney, you can go f*** yourself, you goddamn maggot.

Also by the way, speaking of "logistical" problems in buying things across great distances: I'm waiting on two sizeable packages directly from Hong Kong. If I have any problems, I do returns via their Florida address. I could have easily spent three times what I did, yet I'm getting the same things. And to those who think I was "inefficient" or risked "logistical problems," they can shove it up their asses.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 28, 2007 2:03 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I should clarify: if there *are* any "logistical" problems on my end with buying things from Hong Kong or buying insurance from someone in Pocatello, then I'm perfectly capable of dealing with such problems. By making the purchase, aren't I accepting any risks, by definition?

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 28, 2007 2:06 PM
But jk thinks:

At the risk of being a little less colorful. I really do find it comports to the difference I see in the two candidates. Giuliani gets the free market thing. I know that's not a powerful campaign slogan but it works for me.

Posted by: jk at August 28, 2007 3:08 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Thank NED for Perry. Our comments would be damned dry without him.

Now Perry, while you certainly have the right to *choose* to take risk in your life, all the other little comrade-Americans have the right to *choose* not to. After all, as I heard on NPR on this, the 2nd anniversary of the soon-to-be next federal holiday 'Katrina Day,' "Imagine how it must feel to be completely abandoned by *your own* government."

"It's *my* government, dammit! Take care of *me!*"

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2007 3:30 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Oh, I meant to say, I'm getting the same things as what could have been (in some cases, what used to be) domestically produced. Those amazing Chinese and their cheap electronics...

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 28, 2007 5:25 PM

August 26, 2007

Hard Economic Times

It's tough out west ya know.

The owner of a fast food joint in Montana's booming oil patch found himself outsourcing the drive-thru window to a Texas telemarketing firm, not because it's cheaper but because he can't find workers.

Record low unemployment across parts of the West has created tough working conditions for business owners, who in places are being forced to boost wages or be creative to fill their jobs.

John Francis, who owns the McDonald's in Sidney, Mont., said he tried advertising in the local newspaper and even offered up to $10 an hour to compete with higher-paying oil field jobs. Yet the only calls were from other business owners upset they would have to raise wages, too. Of course, Francis' current employees also wanted a pay hike.

"I don't know what the answer is," Francis said. "There's just nobody around that wants to work."

Unemployment rates have been as low as 2 percent this year in places like Montana, and nearly as low in neighboring states. Economists cite such factors as an aging work force and booming tourism economies for the tight labor market.

Whew... awful... starving babies in the streets, packs of dogs roaming... even a booming economy is bad news.

But jk thinks:

I almost posted this myself. My angle, mirabile non dictu, was going to be immigration. We are facing an EXTREME labor shortage in this country that threatens our capacity to grow.

Shutting down the borders will exacerbate this problem. Produce rotting in the fields.

Posted by: jk at August 26, 2007 1:38 PM
But Terri thinks:

Of course there is always shutting the borders AND increasing the yearly allotment of immigrants allowed in with papers. Not sure why that number is never re-legislated.

Posted by: Terri at August 28, 2007 8:50 AM
But jk thinks:

That could be part of comprehensive immigration reform if the pitchfork populists could take a Valium® and settle down.

Rep. Tancredo suggested, at the first GOP debate, a moratorium on legal immigration. I'm up for anything that provides our economy sufficient labor (though I find the status quo extremely cruel to the workers).

Posted by: jk at August 28, 2007 10:30 AM
But Terri thinks:

Comprehensive reform always seemed to include legalizing the illegals that are here vs increasing numbers of legalized people allowed.

(Rep. Tancredo is a bit out there on this issue. There are many more points on the spectrum)

Posted by: Terri at August 29, 2007 7:58 AM

Texas, On Messing With

Statement by Robert Black, spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, concerning the European Union’s appeal that Texas enact a moratorium on the death penalty:

230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.

Hat-tip: Insty

Posted by John Kranz at 12:19 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

He should have finished his speech with "Don't Mess with Texas" and fired a few rounds in the air.

Posted by: AlexC at August 26, 2007 12:59 PM
But jk thinks:

It was just a spokesman. Had the Governor himself delivered the message...

Posted by: jk at August 26, 2007 1:35 PM

August 25, 2007

"Top Gear" on BBC America

Great news for satellite TV customers. BBC America is now showing the best show the BBC has ever aired: Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson. I don't know how long they have been showing it, but they advertise a new episode Monday night at 8:00 Eastern and showed a couple of episodes this afternoon. It felt like connecting with an old and dear friend.

I used to watch this in the UK and have been amazed for years that they do not show it here. They have seen the error of their ways. If you have not seen this show and get the BBC America channel, give it a try.

Posted by John Kranz at 5:33 PM

Review Corner

They talk about movie plots as "formulaic;" here's the formula.

Young, idealistic member of X, where X is an element of a disadvantaged racial group in the United States encounters disadvantaged youth and winds up sharing his love of Y, where Y is an element of a popular activity but is NOT an element of activities considered popular for members of racial group X. Youths show great promise in activity Y after initial skepticism and demonstrate level of competency Z. Z is contiguous over a wide domain of X and Y.

I tease but confess that I almost always like these films. One worth watching was "Pride," newly released on DVD. X=African-American, Y=swimming, and I can't give you Z because I don’t do spoilers.

Three and three-quarters stars. If you like these films.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 12:32 PM

August 24, 2007

The Universe is Wrong

There's a one billion lightyear wide hole in the universe.

Astronomers don't know why the hole is there.

"Not only has no one ever found a void this big, but we never even expected to find one this size," said researcher Lawrence Rudnick of the University of Minnesota.

Rudnick's colleague Liliya R. Williams also had not anticipated this finding.

"What we've found is not normal, based on either observational studies or on computer simulations of the large-scale evolution of the universe," said Williams, also of the University of Minnesota.

No, it's perfectly normal... perhaps your computer simulations are wrong?

What happened to science? Computer modelling is not science!

Science Posted by AlexC at 11:54 AM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

Quite clearly, it's Bush's fault.

Posted by: jk at August 24, 2007 12:13 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Huh ... so in an infinitely large universe, they find it odd that and infinite small probability has manifested. I'm just an internet dork and even I understand the math of that.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at August 24, 2007 1:14 PM


I wanted to say something about Senator Warner's attempt to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. But Scrappleface has done it sooner and better:

(2007-08-24) — Sen. John Warner, R-VA, yesterday called on President George Bush to start bringing troops home from Iraq “to show al Qaeda that the U.S. commitment to fighting Muslim terrorists overseas is not open-ended."

Hat-tip: Insty

Senate Posted by John Kranz at 10:59 AM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

Warner's laudable intent is to compel the Iraqi government, in the person of PM Maliki, to get its house in order and become a self-sufficent nation within 4 months. But even if Maliki had been elected "dictator for life," as Hugo Chavez apparently was, such an achievement would be nigh on impossible.

Internal pressures are one thing but Iraq's destablization is a part of the dominant global cold war between the US-EU-Australia-Japan allies and the Mideast-Sino-Russian axis (I include China reluctantly as JK has been effective in lauding their pro-freedom progress, yet they're still behind the Google Curtain.) NATO's cold war bases in Germany have effectively moved to "the land of the two rivers."

C'mon Senator Warner, you're smart enough to understand all this. Stop being a chicken hawk.

Posted by: johngalt at August 24, 2007 4:12 PM
But jk thinks:

I agree but take exception to your use of "laudable." This is the freely elected government of a sovereign nation. I don't find it laudable that a Republican Senator gives credence to the (let me be fair here: completely insane) talking points of the opposition party.

I don't think we need to "send them a message" that they should take over their country. I'd rather send al-Qaeda the message that we're playing to win.

If there is a body with less courage than the US Senate, I cannot think of it.

Posted by: jk at August 24, 2007 4:52 PM
But johngalt thinks:

You are right - I retract the word "laudable."

Posted by: johngalt at August 24, 2007 5:56 PM

RomneyCare 2.0

Governor Romney (Mitt! 'round these parts) is announcing his health care plan today. And it is thankfully not an expansion of the mandated insurance plan enacted under his watch in "the Commonwealth." It sounds closer to the Bush and Giuliani plans. From the news pages of the Wall Street Journal (paid link):

In a speech before the Florida Medical Association in Hollywood, Fla., Mr. Romney will present a program that won't include new government mandates for individuals or companies to buy coverage, policies long considered anathema by many conservatives -- and that were features of the program enacted in Massachusetts.

Instead, Mr. Romney plans to focus on tax breaks and streamlining regulations, policies his advisers say would essentially create a new, freer market for health insurance, driving down costs and providing incentives for individuals to buy their own plans. It is an approach President Bush and many Republican economists have embraced.

In today's speech, Mr. Romney will nod to his 2006 success in the Northeastern Democratic stronghold, aides say. But he will also aim to reassure conservatives by saying that a "one size fits all" solution isn't right for the 50 states. As for why he would use a different philosophy as president than as governor, they say he would have greater powers in the White House. "Massachusetts didn't have the federal tax code to play with," said Glenn Hubbard, a former Bush administration chief economist, now advising the Romney campaign.

We can all evolve. Seriously, this raises the Governor a few notches in my sights, though I will be interested to see how he rhetorically squares this with his previous plan.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 10:09 AM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

He squares it by saying, "I did the best I could in Massachusetts where I was working with the most liberal legislature in the nation. In the case of the US Congress there are actually a few members who don't hold collectivism as their highest ideal. We might get a complete half of a loaf with that bunch."

John Edwards slammed the new Romney proposal saying, "If universal health care was good enough for Massachusetts, why isn't it good enough for the rest of the country?" My response to that would be "If we do something good one time why settle for not doing better?"

Mitt! is putting daylight between himself and the dour Mayor G. If Thompson doesn't announce within 30 days I'll wager that the nomination will go to the former governor of the Red Sox, not the Yankees.

Posted by: johngalt at August 24, 2007 3:42 PM
But jk thinks:

I do appreciate a bold prediction, if not a pejorative description of my favored candidate. I admit it is early, but I feel the primary voters are not warming to the Gov. Today's FOX/Opinion Dynamics poll gives Hizzoner 28% against 11 for his Mittness.

I'm the pragmatist 'round these parts, but even I have to question whether a man who has changed positions as frequently as Governor Romney can be trusted to honor his philosophical commitments.

Posted by: jk at August 26, 2007 5:09 PM

August 23, 2007

Free Health Care

At least Canadians can go to Montana to avoid free health care. This poor woman lives in the UK.

So. We have a woman in hospital waiting for the procedure that will abort her baby, a child she had wanted to bear and raise. Not a pleasant situation at any time, but what followed next was disconcerting to read about even for those who have grown weary of NHS "war stories".

I first saw this in the Times (Baby's birth and death in lavatory of hospital with no trained staff), but there is a considerably more detailed account in This Is London (Mother forced to give birth alone in toilet of 'flagship' NHS hospital) (A very similar account appeared in the Daily Mail.)

Both headlines understate the peculiarly modern horror of what happened. The reader gets a picture of nurses trying to help, but out of their depth because Queen's Hospital did not at that time have a proper maternity unit.

Natalie Solent @ Samizdata, goes on to print accounts that nursing staff refused to help. Whether that is true or not, this is about as grisly a tale as you can hear. I'm no doctor but I cannot believe that this child would noy have had a good chance at being born alive in the US.

Remember this sad story anytime anybody says "Universal Heal..." but remember it when some Michael Moore claims our infant mortality rate is higher than Country X -- you can bet the price of next month's health care premium that Country X doesn't mind allowing a premature baby to die.

If Sicko is correct, this woman was refunded her transportation expenses as she left. I'm sure that was ameliorating.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 6:21 PM

A Friendly Voice in the Crowd

The Glenn and Helen Show today interviews Law Professor Richard Epstein, about his new book Overdose: How Excessive Government Regulation Stifles Pharmaceutical Innovation.

It's a 35:16 podcast on my favorite topic. It gives me hope that this issue is starting to get a little traction outside of the WSJ Ed Page. There's a long way to go but I look forward to the book.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 4:13 PM

August 22, 2007

We're Number Thirty-Seven!

John Stossel lays low a "2000 World Health Organization (WHO) rating of 191 nations and a Commonwealth Fund study of wealthy nations published last May" which ranked the U. S. 37th in health care.

First let's acknowledge that the U.S. medical system has serious problems. But the problems stem from departures from free-market principles. The system is riddled with tax manipulation, costly insurance mandates and bureaucratic interference. Most important, six out of seven health-care dollars are spent by third parties, which means that most consumers exercise no cost-consciousness. As Milton Friedman always pointed out, no one spends other people's money as carefully as he spends his own.

Even with all that, it strains credulity to hear that the U.S. ranks far from the top. Sick people come to the United States for treatment. When was the last time you heard of someone leaving this country to get medical care? The last famous case I can remember is Rock Hudson, who went to France in the 1980s to seek treatment for AIDS.

So what's wrong with the WHO and Commonwealth Fund studies? Let me count the ways.

The US loses points for traffic accidents, lifestyle, violence and an "unfair" apportionment of health care. Stossel takes no prisoners (and scores points for invoking Friedman -- this is an ABC Journalist after all!)

Hat-tip: Mankiw

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 7:05 PM


TNR has broken its silence on the Scott Beauchamp contretemps. Jonathan Chait writes a hit piece on William Kristol:

Kristol's sensibility is perfectly summed up in one representative passage from a recent issue. The topic was The New Republic's decision to publish an essay by Scott Beauchamp, an American soldier serving in Iraq, detailing some repugnant acts he said he and his comrades committed. Legitimate questions have been raised about this essay's veracity. (We've been publishing updates on our continuing efforts to get answers to them at But Kristol rushed past these questions, immediately declaring the piece a "fiction." Offering up his interpretation of why tnr would publish such slanders, he concluded, in an editorial titled, "They Don't Really Support the Troops":

How dare he expose our making s**t up to advance our political agenda! Read the whole thing, if you can. It seems they were just "edifying their readers."

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 1:43 PM

The Least Intelligent Member of the Senate

It's a great party game and I'd be the first to concede that many of my beloved Republicans are in the running. But Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan has a special place in my heart. I once saw Larry Kudlow interview her and she had no idea where he was coming from, did not understand the questions -- I'm not sure she knew where she was.

Today, ThreeSources' big-time-blogger-friend, Extreme Mortman, gives us a quote from the junior Senator:

“The expectations when we took control in January were so high, and we all feel it,” Stabenow told the Lansing State Journal editorial board last week. “We kind of feel like everybody thought the Democrats are now in control of the House and Senate, the war is going to end, we are going to have universal health care, everybody’s going to be able to go to college, no more global warming.”

The disappointment is palpable, Senator. I still have MS and the pop music of the day is jejune and unmelodic.

Senate Posted by John Kranz at 1:22 PM | What do you think? [3]
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Dammit. The Dems lied to me! I was TRICKED! I thought they would legalize stem cell research and I would get MY MS cured too. THEY PLAYED ON MY FEARS!

Ohhh, I'm going to SO impeach their asses!

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at August 23, 2007 12:13 AM
But Josh Hendrickson thinks:

I am embarrassed to even write this, but unfortunately, she is one of my Senators. If you think this is bad, you should see her campaign commercials. . .

Posted by: Josh Hendrickson at August 24, 2007 2:27 PM
But jk thinks:

Ah yes, Levin AND Stabenow. My condolances. But it's very pretty.

Posted by: jk at August 24, 2007 4:53 PM

No Acronym Left Behind

W shill that I am, I have provided some tepid support for No Child Left Behind on this blog. I always thought that President Bush got rolled by Senator Kennedy in his "fool me once" phase of his attempts to work across the aisle. The President was seeking accountability and the Senior Senator from the briny deep was seeking more Federal dollars to hand out.

Everyday Economist links to Cato's Andrew J. Coulson's take on yet another Federal Education Acronymed Restructuring (FEAR). This time it is America COMPETES. Colson points out that it includes no competition.

Just as with the NDEA, we should not be surprised by these [disappointing NCLB] results. Measures like NCLB, America COMPETES, and their fellow alphabetic travelers are the education policy analogues of perestroika — Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempt to “fix” Soviet socialism by tinkering around its edges. Gorbachev’s efforts failed, it is now widely acknowledged, because they omitted certain crucial elements of free markets: prices that are determined by supply and demand instead of by central planners, private instead of state ownership of enterprises – that sort of thing. America’s public school monopolies are like socialist economies in small; centrally planned, uncompetitive, state-owned. Just as Gorbachev’s piece-meal reforms couldn’t fix his system, neither can such half-measures fix ours.

I supported NCLB in the context of the "ownership society" because it seeked to inject some accountability. And, laugh if you will, but anything my Union Teacher Relatives (UTRs) loathed so much had to have some redeeming qualities.

I cannot stand up to Coulson. NCLB had a wisp of competition, but if the Feds cannot break down the union monopoly, they should stay the hell out.

Education Posted by John Kranz at 12:36 PM

Rudy's Immigration Pander

The WSJ Ed Page (or, as Michelle Malkin would call them, the "Open Borders WSJ Ed Page") asks whether Mitt! and Rudy! are "competing for the Republican Presidential nomination, or for the job of vacation replacement for Lou Dobbs?"

GOP Immigration Meltdown (free link)

Both candidates, however, ignore the reality that more security measures will have limited effect if not paired with a guest worker program that gives foreign nationals more legal ways to access job offers in the U.S. The same goes for the Bush Administration's recently announced plans to step-up "interior" enforcement. Taking U.S. employers to the woodshed won't fix the illegal immigration problem, and it could do real economic harm.

Then again, maybe Hugh Hewitt is right. Trashing the economy and alienating the fastest voting block in the country really is the path to big Republican sweeps in 2008. Yaaay Team!

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 11:11 AM

Taranto Not Needed

WaPo email headline:
Politics Daily: CIA Finds Holes in Pre-9/11 Work

Ya think?

Posted by John Kranz at 10:22 AM

August 21, 2007

Can You Watch HAMNation?

I don't know if it is Vista® or some other virus (just kidding I am the third-to-last Sharanskyite and the last guy who likes Vista®) but I have not been able to watch the video clips at TownHall in many months.

Granted most of them are just telling me how swell Governor Romney is and how bad "illegals" are, but I have always enjoyed Mary Katherine Ham's HamNation clips. I get the player up, I click, and then I get control buttons but nothing ever plays.

This work for you?

Posted by John Kranz at 8:06 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

It did run for me, under Vista with Firefox. MKH doesn't seem as cute in this one as in others, don't you think? Or it might be because I'm getting pretty committed and try to keep my eyes only on a certain someone. Anyway, I run NoScript and had to give permission to and a few other sites, but it worked.

My new Dell finally arrived yesterday (the huge volume of back-to-school orders has been giving them LCD supply problems, I was told). It's my first experience with Vista. Seems ok, and Vista SP1 is supposed to fix a lot, but until I see big improvements, my favorite Microsoft OS is still Windows 2000. Now that was a solid system, still a gig+ in required space, but I thought it ran the smoothest of all Microsoft's releases.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 23, 2007 1:37 AM
But jk thinks:

You'd fit in with our IS department, Perry, they all agree with you on Win2K. The support structure forces us to upgrade, but they all have Win2K desktop or server on their own machines.

Don't know if Ms. Ham has become less cute or your eyes are glazing -- I'll try Firefox.

Posted by: jk at August 23, 2007 11:10 AM


False Dawn.
by the Editors.
Why the U.S. Must act in Darfur -- right now!

Well, something sure is false. Say, when TNR supported the liberation of Iraq.

I have complained before that it is disingenuous for them to demand action in Sudan when they have abandoned the effort in Iraq. That's old news and seeking consistency of reason from the left is a loser's game.

BUT! After l'Affaire Beauchamp, you'd think they'd be concerned about another brave generation of idealistic American soldiers, marines and airmen becoming ensconced in the depravity that is war. Why Beauchamp turned into a complete asshole in a staging base. Surely we can't subject innocent troops to this.

I linked to The Nation this morning and told my emailer that at least they were honestly whacked. TNR's fall defies description.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 3:57 PM


The Club for Growth issues it's Mitt Romney report.

"Governor Romney's economic record contains a mixture of pro-growth accomplishments and some troublesome positions that beg to be explained," said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. "While his record on taxes, spending, and entitlement reform is flawed, it is, on balance, encouraging, especially given the liberal Massachusetts Legislature. His record on trade, school choice, regulations and tort reform all indicate a strong respect for the power of market solutions. At the same time, Governor Romney's history is marked by statements at odds with his gubernatorial record and his campaign rhetoric."

Romney's strident opposition to the flat tax; his refusal to endorse the Bush tax cuts in 2003; his support for various minor tax hikes; and his once-radically bad views on campaign finance reform all cast some doubts on the extent and durability of his commitment to limited-government, pro-growth policies. His landmark steps in the healthcare arena also exhibit a mixture of desirable pro-free market efforts combined with a regrettable willingness to accept, if not embrace, a massive new regulatory regime.

Despite the reservations, they are OK with him as President.

But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

RomneyCare is based on forcing certain people to buy a service they don't want. Call it socialism, call it fascism, but it's completely anathema to the free market.

Either something is free market, or it isn't. There is no in-between. Ask yourself this: is someone being coerced?

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 21, 2007 1:30 PM
But jk thinks:

I'll crawl over broken glass to get him elected over any of the Democrats I have seen, but he is easily my least favorite of the top tier.

RomneyCare is as bad as McCain-Feingold and Senator McCain's personal style is far more attractive than Governor Romney's.

Posted by: jk at August 21, 2007 1:38 PM
But jk thinks:

Well said, Perry. When people ask me what bothers me I get into mandates and minutia, you've nailed the problem.

Somebody asked "isn't there anything in health care between socialism (HillaryCare) and Fascism (RomneyCare)?"

Rudy's got me on health care.

Posted by: jk at August 21, 2007 4:10 PM

The State of the Left

A good friend of this blog sends a pair of links to be enjoyed together.

In An Investment in Failure Thomas Sowell points out that, back to Karl Marx, the left has no interest in those rising out of poverty. Once you cease to be an object for their polity, you are -- if I may borrow a word from Senator Clinton -- invisible.

At one point, Marx wrote to his disciples: "The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing."

Think about that. Millions of human beings mattered to him only in so far as they could serve as cannon fodder in his jihad against the existing society.

If they refused to be pawns in his ideological game, then they were "nothing."

No one on the left would say such things so plainly today, even to themselves. But their actions speak louder than words.

Over at The Nation, their words speak pretty loud as well. Barbara Ehrenreich cannot contain her glee that the subprime crisis is Smashing Capitalism but she is mad that it is not self directed. You really have to read this in full (it's blissfully short), but here's a taste:
The American poor, who are usually tactful enough to remain invisible to the multi-millionaire class, suddenly leaped onto the scene and started smashing the global financial system. Incredibly enough, this may be the first case in history in which the downtrodden manage to bring down an unfair economic system without going to the trouble of a revolution.

First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract.

Like my disappointment at "The Glorious Revolution," however, the serendipity of it annoys her.
Personally, I prefer my revolutions to be a little more pro-active. There should be marches and rallies, banners and sit-ins, possibly a nice color theme like red or orange. Certainly, there should be a vision of what you intend to replace the bad old system with--European-style social democracy, Latin American-style socialism, or how about just American capitalism with some regulation thrown in?

Global capitalism will survive the current credit crisis; already, the government has rushed in to soothe the feverish markets. But in the long term, a system that depends on extracting every last cent from the poor cannot hope for a healthy prognosis. Who would have thought that foreclosures in Stockton and Cleveland would roil the markets of London and Shanghai? The poor have risen up and spoken; only it sounds less like a shout of protest than a low, strangled, cry of pain.

Capitalism will survive? Damn.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:23 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

"European-style social democracy, Latin American-style socialism, or how about just American capitalism with some regulation thrown in?"

There's some stuff a bull left in a field. A Frenchman might call it merde, a Spaniard might call it mierda, and an American baby might call it caca. It doesn't matter what you call it: it doesn't change what it really is.

Ehrenreich is truly an idiot. If she thinks defaulting on a mortgage is a revolution, what will "mortage protestors" do when they want to take out a loan? Strike one: credit history. Strike two: higher interest rates, if they get approved. Strike three: banks will stop lending money to anyone below stellar credit. Yeah, that's great. Mortgage yourself to the stars, default intentionally to hurt those evil rich people, then lose your house and never own your own home again. Brilliant!

The poor don't borrow from other poor. They don't even borrow from the middle class. When you take out a $500K loan on a new house, from whom do you think you're borrowing? John Q. types who earn mid-five-figure annual salaries, or a single millionaire? All right, so several middle-class families could save enough between themselves to lend to one family. But in a new subdivision where everybody's a new homeowner, who are they borrowing from? Certainly not from each other.

The rich are actually the ones who are invisible these days. The rest of the people don't see how their very livelihoods and borrowing depend on how wealthy "the rich" are, and that raising taxes won't do a damn bit of good.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 21, 2007 1:45 PM
But jk thinks:

How many thousands of column inches do you bet The Nation has devoted to running down banks who would not take a chance on poor or minority borrowers?

Now, giving a loan to a guy who needs it is predatory lending. I hope they never see Jimmy Stewart in "It's A Wonderful Life."

Posted by: jk at August 21, 2007 4:15 PM

Bloomberg is correct

Truer words have never been spoken:

"Nobody's going to elect me president of the United States," [Michael Bloomberg] told Dan Rather for a program that will air Tuesday on cable's HDNet channel.

2008 Race Posted by Harrison Bergeron at 11:00 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

I hope he shorted his Intrade contract before making that speech.

Posted by: jk at August 22, 2007 10:41 AM

Influential Democrat Senator calls for overthrow of elected leader

Pity the poor Iraqis. They are going to learn about democracy from the likes of Senator Carl Levin. One can question the competence or efficiency of PM Nouri al-Malaki, but he is the first freely elected Prime Minister under the new self-directed Constitution on a free Iraq. WaPo: Senator Calls for Malaki's Ouster

Levin is understandably cranky that the American troops are doing so well -- but it is still irresponsible of him to call for the ouster of an elected leader in a sovereign nation.

Declaring the government of Iraq "non-functional," the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq's parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days.

"I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said after a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan.

But the Democrats are conflicted. Is defeat their goal or should they be content to whack President Bush through any victory? We'll have to convene some focus groups, but in the meantime, there's division.
Still, Democrats have quietly begun to voice a view that Maliki must go; Durbin said he told White House national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley that last week. But they acknowledge that they do not know what would happen next. If it appeared that Maliki had been ousted at Washington's behest, his replacement would be seen as a U.S. puppet -- a "kiss of death" in the region, Durbin said.

And Democratic leaders might feel compelled to ease their antiwar position to allow a new government to take root.

"Imagine if we have to step in with a brand-new leader and a new government," Durbin said. "How many more months would we have to wait?"

I hate being such a partisan hack, but the conduct of the Democratic leadership is so much at odds with our nation's -- and the world's -- interest, I cannot ascribe any good motives.

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 10:45 AM | What do you think? [2]
But KYJurisDoctor thinks:

Should Bush not second the call for Al-Maliki's ouster by parliamentary means?

Posted by: KYJurisDoctor at August 21, 2007 10:29 PM
But jk thinks:

No sir. I am having a tough time opening your link (Google problems, I think the link is fine).

We pushed for Democracy in a land that has not seen much liberty. We cheered as they held purple fingers aloft. I cheered as they boycotted, yelled and walked in and out of legislative sessions as opposed to shooting each other.

PM Maliki is not, perhaps, the incarnation of Alexander Hamilton in our century. But he was FREELY ELECTED by free Iraqis under their own Constitution.

It sends a bad signal to have Senator Levin (and whomever is on your list) call for a supra-Constitutional "do over" because the PM is not popular in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I wish Senator Levin were as interested in removing Assad in Syria or Ahmadinejad in Iran as he was the freely elected leader in-between them.

Posted by: jk at August 22, 2007 10:33 AM

August 20, 2007

How Are You Paying Yours?

The Onion brings us this informative graph.

Hat-tip: The Big Picture

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 5:03 PM

Bill Maher, Profile in Courage

Jonathan Last at Galley Slaves is extremely impressed. It seems that Bill Maher is releasing a movie called "Religious," next Easter. And Maher is going to risk Hollywood ostracism by actually criticizing religion. I hope he does not crack under the pressure. Last says “This is why we have artists--to speak truth to the powerful."

Anyway, Maher had this to say about the movie, "We talked to everybody. We went everywhere. We went to every place where there is religion. We went to Vatican City. We went to Jerusalem. We went to Salt Lake City. And I think I’ve insulted everybody!"

Christians, check. Jews, check. Mormons, check. Yup, that's everybody! There's no other important religious group worth mentioning that maybe deserves some fun-poking and that might react badly to being ridiculed. And thank goodness the film will be released around Easter and not some other holy period.

Nobody has seen the movie yet. And maybe Maher really is an equal-opportunity offender. But if he is, I'll be pretty surprised. After all, why go after a religion where offended believers really might kill you when you can get the same thrill beating up on people who never push back.

But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

For some time, I've wanted to organize a "Koran Pooper Scooper Day": when you walk your dog, bring a copy of the Koran and rip out a few pages as necessary. Personally, I'd love having a fatwa issued against me, but there would probably be a big backlash against me at my job. Not that any of my superiors are saying I can't express myself privately on my own time, but publicity may follow me to the office and interfere with my work.

Remember, some guy named Jesus offended a whole bunch of Sanhedrin, Pharisees and scribes. Considering the political power they wielded, they were more like mullahs.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 21, 2007 1:50 PM

Some of That Free Health Care

In 1934, Canada saw the arrival of five identical quintuplet sisters. In 2007, a woman starting labor with quadruplets was flown 325 miles to Great Falls Montana to avoid free health care.

There is a difference between health care and health insurance. In capitalistic America, the concentration is on health. In socialistic Canada, the emphasis is on paying the bills. The story ended with how much the American hospital charged. Looks like a quarter-million bucks for a 5-day stay. Given that it was the quadruple birth of 2-pound babies two months premature, I’d say it was a bargain.

This is not to piss all over Canada. Nice nation. Great people. I’m sure most Canadians like their health system. Just remember, though, that Canada’s backup system is in Montana. Americans spend 15% of their income on health care. That’s why Great Falls has enough neo-natal units to handle quadruple births — and a “universal health” nation doesn’t.

Don Surber also brings up the irony of being flown from Calgary, a modern metropolis with more than 1,000,000 people to Great Falls Montana (pop. 56,215).

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 1:31 PM

Sharanskyism, circa 2007

This blog was christened in the heady days of the Orange and Cedar revolutions. Secretary Rice and President Bush were photographed with Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy. The second inaugural address was a book report.

The WaPo carries a comprehensive and sobering look at Bush's goal to end tyranny. Peter Baker's piece is titled "As Democracy Push Falters, Bush Feels Like a 'Dissident'" The President says he wears the "dissident" label with pride but I don't think anybody can be satisfied with "falters."

The days after the speech were heady. Eight million Iraqis went to the polls to elect an interim parliament, their purple-stained fingers a global symbol of emerging democracy. A political assassination in Lebanon triggered demonstrations known as the Cedar Revolution that toppled a pro-Syrian government and forced Damascus to end a three-decade occupation. And protests over a stolen election in Kyrgyzstan ousted another entrenched leader in the Tulip Revolution.

"There was this sort of euphoria," recalled Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, which promotes democracy worldwide.

Bush and his team tried to demonstrate their commitment. The president met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovakia for a tense discussion about the Kremlin's crackdown on dissent. And when Egypt arrested opposition leader Ayman Nour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a trip to Cairo. Two weeks later, Egypt released Nour.

When the Iraq poll numbers were nose diving, I told people that I was the last Sharanskyite. Now that the ambition is being blasted from Senator Carl Levin and Rep Ron Paul, I read this blog's beloved tag line and affirm myself to the Case.

Some people I respect around here are comfortable with a Hobbsion bellum omnium contra omnes but I see American economic and security interests are well served by the propagation of liberal values. Today, totalitarian regimes -- maybe someday even the U.S. State Department.

It's going to take time. I would have been a little kinder than Sharansky:

Still, after an invigorating start in 2005, progress has been harder to find. Among those worried about the project is Sharansky, whose book so inspired Bush. "I give him an A for bringing the idea and maybe a C for implementation," said Sharansky, now chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Israel. "There is a gap between what he says and what the State Department does," and he is not consistent enough.

The challenge Bush faced, Sharansky added, was to bring Washington together behind his goal.

"It didn't happen," he said. "And that's the real tragedy."

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 11:24 AM

Down, the Republican Party

"Immigration will be to the Republicans what Iraq withdrawal is to the Democrats," says Jeff Birnbaum on FOX NEWS's The Beltway Boys. It is August and the folks at FOX could not round up a liberal to fill Morton Kondracke's seat.

But both conservatives -- I emphasize the word "conservative;" these guys are both more conservative than I -- see the approaching electoral train wreck. They don't blame the other ThreeSourcers directly but...

UPDATE: YouTube is a great forum for nuanced debate. The comments I drew to my posting on Speaker Pelosi made we want to join her side. Today I get this:

The Beltway Boys are for Open Borders. Screw them!

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 10:31 AM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

I have NEVER found Jeff Birnbaum to be a conservative.

Posted by: johngalt at August 21, 2007 3:07 PM
But jk thinks:

Okay, Fred Barnes and Karl Marx say the GOP is in trouble from immigration. The point holds.

Posted by: jk at August 21, 2007 4:18 PM

August 19, 2007

NASA Scientist Lashes Out

Dave Price at Dean's World compares NASA Scientist James Hansen to Ann Coulter. He's dead on, although I bet she has better hair.

When you're working to advance science, the appropriate response when someone finds an error in your data or calculations is contrition (best expressed by an openness to further scrutiny and re-evaluation), and perhaps gratitude that truth has been served. James Hansen, on the other hand... well, read for yourself:

Do read it for yourself. Errors are discovered in his data set, so he calls those who found them "jesters" and impugns their motives. Our tax dollars at work. It is as polemical as Ms. Coulter but I never heard her sound quite so childish.

On the good side, I give Hansen points for using the word 'usufruct,' although he seems a couple of degrees off there as well.

August 18, 2007

More Media Nonsense

The media has absolutely nothing to say about anything -- at least not enough to maintain 24-hour news channels. First, Obama wasn't black enough. Then Hillary wasn't woman enough. Now, Fred doesn't know which shoes to wear. All this is apparently considered important information when choosing our next leader.

Politics Posted by Harrison Bergeron at 9:53 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

They should just stick to the important things, like how we're losing the war and the devastation of global warming.

Posted by: jk at August 19, 2007 11:45 AM

August 17, 2007

A Stand Up Economist

Hat-tip: N. Gregory Mankiw.

Posted by John Kranz at 5:38 PM

The 08 Race

Zoinks... Senator Foot In Mouth is down by 30 points to Senator Former First Lady in California.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is expanding her lead in California as excitement for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is fading among Golden State voters, a new Field Poll revealed Thursday.

The New York senator held a commanding lead over the Democratic field, with 49 percent support to 19 percent for Obama and 10 percent for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

The survey of 418 Californians likely to vote in the Feb. 5 Democratic presidential primary showed Clinton leading -- and gaining support -- in every demographic category and California region measured.

On the GOP side, Mitt! won an Illinois straw poll.
Illinois state Republican party chairman, Andy McKenna, said Romney won the Illinois Straw poll at the Illinois State Fair. "Congratulations to Mitt Romney, whose strong showing today indicates he has begun to put together a strong statewide organization," McKenna said. "There's no question that Illinois' demographics closely match those of the United States and this could be an indication as to whom Illinois voters are leaning toward this coming February."

Romney secured an overwhelming victory with 40.35 percent of the vote. Former Senator Fred Thompson, who is expected to formally enter the race for the GOP nomination next month, came in second with 19.96 percent of the vote.

Rudy! came in fourth, seven point behind Ron Paul, of all people.

The other day, a friend told me that he thinks Fred! Thompson wouldn't be entering the race... certainly I'm getting tired of waiting. Though I will probably support the GOP ticket no matter what, I would be favorably disposed to a Romney/Thompson ticket, if he doesn't run, or a Thompson/Romney ticket if he wins.

If Hillary! trounces the rest of the field, does that adversely impact her choosing a VP from the also-rans? John Edwards toughed it out with John Kerry well into the primary season, possibly helping him secure the nod. (Being a southerner didn't hurt either)

But jk thinks:

After watching the Democratic debates, I cannot imagine a GOP ticket I would not support. Senator Clinton is a formidable candidate and I'm not sure she wants another big name on the ticket. I'm thinking of Little Richard firing Jimi Hendrix. The Clinonistas will want to own the message and the messenger.

Richardson is an FOB, but I don't see Obama or Edwards on the ticket. Better to grab an Evan Bayh or even a DLC type that can run more moderately in the general.

Do me a favor and watch the Kudlow-Giuliani interview. See if you cannot forgive him for a few differences.

Posted by: jk at August 17, 2007 5:27 PM

Who is John Galt....

...and where the heck has he been for the last month? I'm sure that everyone's missed my polite rectitude and insightful wit as I've been too busy to post, comment, or even read the blog. Here's why:

This is the "hot box" facility within dagny's new indoor riding arena and horse barn. It's comin' along...

But jk thinks:

I know Dagny's good, but I think you're going to have a hell of a time getting the horses up on those ladders.

Posted by: jk at August 17, 2007 4:25 PM
But AlexC thinks:

For horses, or Gitmo relocation?

Please ensure the toilets are of suffient "book flushing" size.

Posted by: AlexC at August 17, 2007 5:14 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The septic system contractor starts work in 2 weeks. I'll be sure to add "Koran compatible" to the specification sheet. Thanks for the reminder.

Geez, I've missed you guys!

Posted by: johngalt at August 17, 2007 6:09 PM
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Heh ... that facility looks awfully like a dot com sweatshop I worked in once, but we did not get 5000 calories a day with rice pilaf or sugar cubes ... just chants 'arbeit macht frei' and the looming fear that while they rode us to death, they might just not pay us at the end of the month!

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at August 17, 2007 9:35 PM

Karl Rove

Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson pens a nice piece about "the architect."

But in several years as a colleague, I found Rove to be the most unusual political operative I have ever known; so exceptional he doesn't belong in the category. His most passionate, obsessive love -- after his wife -- is American history. He visits its shrines and collects its scraps -- carefully archived pictures of President William McKinley's funeral, original ballots from the 1860 election. And from American history Rove knows: Events are not moved primarily by techniques; they are moved by ideas.

Rove's main influence on the Republican Party has not been a series of tactical innovations but a series of strategic arguments. In this way, Rove is the opposite of a cynical political operator. He is not only a partisan for George W. Bush but the most serious, tireless advocate of Bushism.

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 1:16 PM


Harrison Bergeron's post last week on "Kos" highlighted what a negative impact the Netroots' tactics will have on their own preferred candidates. Today Kim Strassel interviews a moderate Democrat who survived a Kos-inspired primary challenge: Henry Cuellar (free link).

Yet a lively midweek chat with Mr. Cuellar suggests that this campaign of threats isn't necessarily having the intended effect. If anything, it might be backfiring. "They win when they intimidate people," says Mr. Cuellar. "I've taken everything they've thrown, plus their kitchen sink, and I still stand proud as a moderate-conservative Democrat." He says his triumph over blogger fire has only strengthened his conviction that his party will only win elections if it continues to be a "big tent" open to all views. "To make that tent smaller, to force people--not to persuade, but to force, because these are threats--to quiet down, that's destructive in the long term and the short term."

Though we have different limits around here, I think we all agree that politics is a balance of enlarging the tent for electoral victory and maintaining ideas to make it meaningful.

Kos seems to be bent on creating the smallest Democratic tent and, as hb exposed, not bothering to tie it to any ideas or policy of consequence.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:40 AM

August 16, 2007

Rudy! Immigration!

I can't sit on bad news. John Fund writes a troubling item in Wednesday's Political Diary:

Rudy Giuliani has decided to become very tough on immigration. Stung by criticism from Mitt Romney that he presided over a "sanctuary city" in the 1990s when New York refused to report the immigration status of illegal aliens, Mr. Giuliani gave a speech in South Carolina yesterday in which he announced: "We can end illegal immigration. I promise you we can end illegal immigration."

The former New York mayor backed up his words by announcing he would push for a "national database of foreigners," an increase of 20,000 border patrol agents to deport illegal immigrant felons, and the erection of a fence along the U.S. border.

All this tough talk amuses anti-immigration forces, which have been critical of Mr. Giuliani ever since he opposed the 1996 welfare reform bill in large part because of its treatment of illegal immigrants. "It sounds like an effort by Giuliani to make himself seem like a hawk on immigration when, in fact, he's been a dove all along," Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies told the New York Sun.

Advocates for immigrants are appalled at Mr. Giuliani's new tack. They point out that while mayor he created the mayor's office of immigrant affairs and also sued the federal government for trying to allow city employees to turn in illegal immigrants who applied for government help.

Indeed, in 1996 Mr. Giuliani gave a speech at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in which he declared: "The reality is, people will always get in. And the reality is, the federal government does not deport them... So illegal and undocumented immigrants are going to remain, and even increase. And nothing that is now being proposed in Washington would realistically change that very much."

Everyone is allowed to alter his or her position on issues, and Mr. Giuliani says he remains firmly committed to more legal immigration than is now allowed. But nonetheless his current attempt to remake himself into a "Border Patrol" champion is one of the more dramatic and surprising transformations of the presidential race so far. It is further proof of just how much the politics of immigration have changed in recent years.

I'm still on board, but this is easily the most disappointing thing I have read about Giuliani. His position has "evolved" from right to wrong.

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 5:11 PM | What do you think? [6]
But sugarchuck thinks:

You expected, perhaps, a pro illegal immigrant speech? Your assessment of Rudy's evolution is, in a nutshell, the reason you and Bush and Ted Kennedy can't get any support on the this issue; you don't want border security, legal immigration or an honest guest worker program. You want open borders, a legalized version of the chaos we have now. You cover yourself with rhetorical fig leaves but they fall to the ground when you equate a desire to end illegal immigration with a move from "right to wrong".

Posted by: sugarchuck at August 17, 2007 9:33 AM
But jk thinks:

No, I was talking to Senator Kennedy the other night, making big plans for the future, and he said...

Seriously, I begged for a guest worker program for years around here. The rough riders of talk radio rose up in a populist revolt and killed it.

Mayor Giuliani was eloquent in the FOX News GOP debate when Rep, Tancredo was suggesting a moratorium on legal immigration. I'd say the 1996 described above is about right: admit the exigencies of a lengthy border and open society and seek a more political solution. Fair point on the pro-illegal speech, but Giuliani has pushed free market, classical liberal ideas on heath care, regulation, and taxation. I'd have loved him to propose something a little more nuanced than a fence.

Lastly, my concern is not just immigration. This is the first time I see (my) candidate choosing politics over principle. That never ends well.

Posted by: jk at August 17, 2007 11:14 AM
But Terri thinks:

If you're saying that "right" is all the illegal immigration that is possible and "wrong" is increasing the numbers of legal immigrants allowed, then I'd say you have it wrong.

Posted by: Terri at August 17, 2007 11:19 AM
But sugarchuck thinks:

The guest worker program you begged for years ago, without a muscular enforcement of our borders, would be that fig leaf I was talking about. You can't have one without the other, and enforcement has got to come first. As to Rudy picking the political over the principal, isn't that precisely the kind of pragmatism he'll have to embrace if he wants to save us from Hillary? Just askin'....

Posted by: sugarchuck at August 17, 2007 11:52 AM
But jk thinks:

Right is having enough free labor to expand our economy and create wealth. I want to do that in a legal context where we know who is here and can keep out those who do not abide by our laws.

I do not join my blog brothers to say that an illegal border crossing under the current circumstance is enough of an infraction to call someone illegal. That would be like Barney Fife putting everybody in jail if they drive five mph over the speed limit.

Millions came here to freely trade their labor and create contract with employers who require them. It is insane that we force people to pay criminals and risk their lives.

Posted by: jk at August 17, 2007 12:41 PM
But jk thinks:

I have always held that enforcement and a guest worker program are complimentary. The guest worker program keeps the pressure off the fence. Enforcement pushes people to use the legal method.

Gotta have both. Ergo, comprehensive reform.

Posted by: jk at August 17, 2007 1:34 PM

One Good Thing bout Rudy


After being virtually tied with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for several months, Republican contender Rudy Giuliani now leads Clinton up 47% to 40% in the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Clinton leads Senator Thompson by three.

Hat-tip: Insty

Posted by John Kranz at 5:08 PM

They Can't All Be Beauchamp

Great dispatch from Iraq in The Corner.

Along the op route, we stopped by the house of a poor Iraqi family with at least seven small kids — beautiful, smiling children (girls and boys, none more than 10-years-old) all wanting to hold my hand, and wear my sunglasses and helmet. Of course, I let them. One of them — a smiling boy of about eight— was sitting on the floor, naked, his lower body partially covered by a sheet. At first I noticed his little hand when he reached up for mine: His left index finger was gone and the dirty remaining nub was somewhat ragged looking.

That depravity of war thing. If you can read this coast to coast without tearing up, you have no pulse.

Thanks to all who serve.

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 1:17 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Nope, not a drop of extra moisture from me. Some might say it's because I'm a sick, jaded bastard, and at least one of those is true, but, I am Locutus of Borg. The experience of the human...jk...had prepared me.

So where are the bloodthirsty American troops we keep hearing about, the ones that would have killed the kid for fun, let alone a mercy killing, after raping the mother and daughter?

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 16, 2007 3:07 PM

August 15, 2007

Oldies but Goodies

Extreme Mortman remembers Newsweek's Global Cooling.

Who Said This?

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.


But jk thinks:

Yeah, Perry was beating me up about that around here last month. It is not my favorite quote, but I cannot disregard a candidate who is starting to excite me over a 14-yearold speech.

Posted by: jk at August 15, 2007 2:25 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Giuliani has never given any indication that he doesn't believe the proto-fascism of his speech, and I invite him to disavow what he said. Be careful about supporting someone who's talking right, because the person could, for all we know, be a Hillary "Say Anything" type. Believe not every spirit, but test each one to see if he's of liberty.

I can forgive statements and actions of the past if the person has sincerely changed. That makes all the difference. For example, Bob Barr voted for the Patriot Act when he represented Georgia in the House, being caught up in the post-9/11 hysteria. However, he later regretted his vote. Having met him a couple of times, I believe he's sincere.

I was a Marxist once upon a time.

Milton Friedman and withholding income taxes.

Bill Clinton and women.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 16, 2007 3:16 PM
But jk thinks:

Giuliani is an ex-prosecutor and a bit authoritarian for my liking, I don't expect him to refute or stand by every word he ever said. I'd accept an "I wished I had phrased that better" and expect I would get it.

As I defend him on this, I must confess I am deeply disturbed by his recent authoritarian push on immigration. Hello, Irony Department?

Posted by: jk at August 16, 2007 5:01 PM

Good News from the Battlefield

Pretty good news out of Iraq these days, but I am talking about Roy Spencer's piece on TCSDaily: "A Report from the Global Warming Battlefield." He is right that it has become a war.

In case you hadn't noticed, the global warming debate has now escalated from a minor skirmish to an all-out war. Although we who are skeptical of the claim that global warming is mostly manmade have become accustomed to being the ones that take on casualties, last week was particularly brutal for those who say we have only 8 years and 5 months left to turn things around, greenhouse gas emissions-wise.

I'll admit that I find myself hoping for a slow hurricane season, just to confound the alarmists. Of course, that is childish, unscientific, and irrelevant. At least I am not rooting for hurricanes like the other side.

Spencer lines up the Y2K bug, faulty thermometer placement, then adds a paper that he has published.

Next, my own unit and I published satellite measurements that clearly show a natural cooling mechanism in the tropics which all of the leading computerized climate models have been insisting is a warming mechanism (Spencer et al., August 9, 2007 Geophysical Research Letters).

We found that when the tropical atmosphere heats up from extra rain system activity, the amount of infrared heat-trapping cirrus clouds those rain systems produce actually goes down. This unexpected result supports the "Infrared Iris" theory of climate stabilization that MIT's Richard Lindzen advanced some years ago.

No one in the alarmist camp can figure out how we succeeded with this sneak attack. After all, there isn't supposed to be any peer-reviewed, published research that denies a global warming Armageddon, right?

All this against a Newsweek cover story that was refuted by a Newsweek columnist. A good week.

Kos is not a libertarian

We know that Markos Moulitsas is a partisan hack. He believes that Karl Rove is responsible for the bridge collapse in Minnesota, he believes that socialist progressives (my words, not his) are the new "center", and he does not think that Democrats should ever be criticized (although he does believe that the party needs cleaning). Kos also pretends to be a libertarian, abeit in is own words a "modified and twisted around version of libertarianism." In reality, Kos and his followers are a growing threat to individual liberty and freedom from government.

What is disturbing about Kos is that, unlike many activists, he is not really an idealogue. When asked for the three most important issues for the candidates in 2008 on Meet the Press, he did not name a single issue. His sole purpose in life, it seems, is to get Democrats elected (well, only those who oppose the war in Iraq).

The political realm should be one of ideas. Personally, I subscribe to the ideas of individual liberty and free market economics. Kos, however, subscribes to the idea of party loyalty and ridding the party of those who are not loyal to the cause.

Given the fact that the Kossacks are big government socialist progressives, my hope is that the Kossacks are simply a fad within the Democratic Party.

Politics Posted by Harrison Bergeron at 10:54 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

I have to admit that I do not pay a lot of attention to Kos. He whips up a lot of fury, but they are so outside the mainstream, I don't see their affecting much more than party politics.

It seems you're right, they push the Democrats to purity yet don't push ideas -- that strikes me as anti-pragmatism, the least effective of both worlds.

Posted by: jk at August 15, 2007 12:25 PM


Mayor Giuliani was in top form again on Kudlow & Company Monday night. Here is the segment on Health Care.

From the same interview:

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 10:48 AM

Rooting For Global Warming

Canadians. Really.

A "drain hole" in the St. Clair River caused by dredging and other commercial projects is costing Lakes Huron and Michigan a combined 2.5 billion gallons of water each day, according to a Canadian study released Tuesday.

That exceeds the amount diverted from Lake Michigan to provide Chicago's daily water supply, the Georgian Bay Association said. The group based its findings on water level data compiled by U.S. government agencies.

Lake St Clair is two feet shallower than it should be.

Time for some glacier melt, man.

Environment Posted by AlexC at 12:31 AM

August 13, 2007


Hizzoner will be interviewed on Kudlow & Co. tonight. I encourage everyone to watch. Giuliani gets the supply side thing and Kudlow is a great venue for him.

A good friend of this blog also sends along a link to a New Yorker piece on Giuliani in South Carolina. I am just a few pages in and the piece drips with venom for those back-ass-ward southern Republicans, but it looks good.

UPDATE: Whoa. I think I'd be safe calling that a hit piece. Enmity from a New Yorker writer could be a big asset to the campaign. Rudy Giuliani as "Mayberry Man," indeed.

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 4:43 PM

Review Corner

I've made no secret of my appreciation for Christopher Hitchens. "Hitch" has shown great courage, breaking with his fellow, Trotskyite travelers twice. Once to hold President Clinton accountable in the superb "No One Left to Lie To." Then, to support the war against Islamofascism, seeing the terrorists' goals as an assault against all that the left claims to hold dear. Even when he's not agreeing with me, he is an honest interlocutor for the left.

And yet. I just read his treatment of Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man." This is in the Books That Changed the World series, which I call Cliff's notes for grownups. P. J. O'Rourke's treatment of "Wealth of Nations was pretty good, but the overviews tend to be a little light for a book that you that truly interests you.

Hitchens's book on Paine is 158 pages. Amazon lists dimensions as 8.2 x 5.3 x 1 inches. You could hollow out a copy of the new Harry Potter and smuggle a dozen of these. He subtitles it "An Autobiography." He is far more concerned with the feud between Edmund Burke and Paine than in exegeting "Rights of Man." Fair Enough.

Paine was a complex figure. Most appreciate has fiery rhetoric in Common Sense, and the verve and fire he inculcated into the American Revolution. He was a champion of liberty, opposing monarchy, slavery, and religious oppression.

But he was completely hoodwinked by the Jacobins and could never see the French Revolution clearly. Hitchens doesn't sweep any of his flaws or failings under the rug, but he is willing to let a lot of them slide. I suspect that he wrote this simultaneously with "God is Not Great" and became enamored with a Paine-Hitchens congruence on religion. Plus the left does keep a soft spot for 1789.

In the end, Burke was right. Paine and Hitchens can legitimately criticize monarchy, but the Glorious Revolution that gave Britain its hybrid parliamentary monarchy has been a better friend to liberty than has France.

It's a quick read, Amazon will hook you up for $13.57, and I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it. But I was not convinced. Three-point-seven-five stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 11:47 AM

August 12, 2007

Body Mass Index

The Becker-Posner Blog has another stellar discussion, this time on the obesity epidemic. Interesting points are made, although not as well as Penn & Teller's "Fat Guy Olympics." Gary Becker discusses societal reasons for obesity and the social networks (or secondhand fat) aspects. He accepts the Body Mass Index (BMI) uncritically:

Obesity is defined usually as a body-mass index of 30 or greater, where the body-mass index adjusts weight for height by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters.

Penn & Teller, by contrast, do not accept the BMI uncritically, pointing out it was the handiwork of a 19th Century Belgian. (!!!)

I challenge it as well. I'm tall and heavy and deserve whatever names old dead Belgians want to call me, but I think a little elementary math shows that vertical achievers come up short. The weight of a person sized object in good old Earth gravity will be directly proportional to its mass. I'll assume an average human density (imperfect but negligible for my purposes), so one's weight is proportional to one's volume.

This leaves us with a classic "related rates problem" in differential calculus. A spherical person would increase with the cube of his height, a cylindrical person would increase as the square assuming his radius were constant. So the BMI is appropriate, assuming that a 6'8" does not require any additional width than his 5'4" counterpart.

Does anybody believe this? The BMI might make some sense as a model, but it needs to be altered with a realistic exponent, between 2.0 and 3.0.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:52 PM | What do you think? [1]
But dagny thinks:

There is another significant problem with the BMI. It makes no accomodation for athleticism or bone structure. Some very large percentage of professional atheletes would be considered overweight and a significant percentage come out as obese.

When I was in the best shape of my life and competing at the highest levels in the country in my sport, I was still considered, "overweight," for my 5'3" frame.

At that time, I decided the BMI concept was not flexible enough to deal with actual human beings and should be saved for Barbie dolls.

Posted by: dagny at August 12, 2007 11:04 PM

August 10, 2007

Thw W is now in question

Deleterious Anthropogenic Warming of the Globe (DAWG).

When I tell people about, I say that as we move right to left down this tendentious acronym, things get a bit harder to prove.

G - I like to concede that the Earth is round; this gives me a lot of cred around lefties.
W - I usually concede that most data show warming. But that some question the methods and accuracy.
A - I claim this is the stinker. Mars seems to be warming, pari passu, with Earth -- with no SUVs.
D - Here I quote Bjorn Lomborg who believes 100% in A, W, and G. Yet he thinks there are far more pressing needs and that a longer growing season might be beneficial to humankind.

This is to avoid the dreaded "denier" label that Newsweek has now picked up (raise your hand if you're surprised). I'm a skeptic, says I. Then I bring up the epistemology of Karl Popper and their eyes glaze over and they ask "do you have any more beer?"

Of late, there have been two stunning hits at the W. The first is the superb original blog reporting from who had visited the collection sites in California and found egregious contraventions of standards: some comical like an asphalt parking lot under the sensor or a barbecue pit 10 ft away. (DoS attack on link at present. No comment.)

Yesterday, I read about the Y2K bug (I think off Insty) and I looked forward (lazy blogger, no link, no biscuit!) to somebody else fleshing it out. Not to be overly literal, but how did the Y2K bug affect the 1998 readings?

Bill Hobbes does not answer that penetrating question. But he does catalog some of the issues, challenge the media to report on them, and call for new demands for accuracy.

The private sector ought to demand the government revamp the temperature sensor network, with input from private-sector scientists and academia, to ensure that the data being collected is accurate from each sensor, and broadly accurate as well. The problem is that even if such a network of sensors was installed today, its data would still be compared to historical data from the current problematic network. Still, is it too much to ask that global warming policy be based on facts that we can trust?

If you see some good links on flat earth, let me know. We can kill this Global Warming thing where it lives.

UPDATE: Don Luskin is on it,.

UPDATE II: I have always hoped this acronym would be picked up by a bigger blog. Last night I thought a catchy jingle might help. To the tune of Nat King Cole's "L-O-V-E:"

D, is Dallas under rising seas,
A, And it's caused by S-U-Vs,
W is Well determined
G, Grossly endothermic.
It's here. It's bad, It's caused by we.

Quote of the Day

"It's a waste of money" -- Rudy Giuliani, asked at a campaign event in Bettendorf, Iowa, why he wasn't taking part in Saturday's straw poll.
Now, that's fiscal conservatism. Stolen from OpinionJournal Political Diary.
2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 1:20 PM

That right to life thing again

Under a Constitution that expressly protects the right to life, how did we get to where government can effectively restrict the right, and the courts will do nothing?
Blogging on Steroids® makes me a more loquacious blogger. Sorry for the post lengths. This was to be included in my earlier post. They are separate but related ideas. And I thought folks might need a breather.

After my rant on the roadblocks to self directed health care and rent seeking mechanism that the pharmacy laws represent, Cato's Roger Pilon writes a guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal (free link on Cato site). He touches on the pharmacy regulations as a side effect of my other favorite topic: the FDA's clearly unconstitutional restrictions of our right to life. A D.C. Circuit decision has not gone my way, but Pilon shares a striking dissent, written by Judge Judith Rogers and joined by Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg.

Citing the Fifth Amendment's right to life, the Ninth Amendment's assurance to the Constitution's ratifiers that the rights retained by the people far exceed those named in the document, and the Supreme Court's "fundamental rights" jurisprudence, Judge Rogers argued that the right to life, the right to self-preservation, and the right against interference with those rights — which the FDA is guilty of — are of one piece. They are deeply rooted in common law and the nation's history and traditions, implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, and thus "fundamental."

Indeed, it is startling, she noted, that the rights "to marry, to fornicate, to have children, to control the education and upbringing of children, to perform varied sexual acts in private, and to control one's own body have all been deemed fundamental, but the right to try to save one's life is left out in the cold despite its textual anchor in the right to life." Because the rights at issue here are "fundamental," she concluded, the court must apply, in judicial parlance, "strict scrutiny." The burden is on the FDA to show why its interference is justified — to show that its regulatory interests are compelling and its means narrowly tailored to serve those interests.

Read this brilliant piece coast to coast, even if you don't then have time to read my whiny personal post below.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 12:59 PM

Common Resources

Steven Colbert explains why common resources disappear and private goods persist (albeit in satire):

Economics and Markets Posted by Harrison Bergeron at 12:36 PM

Blogging on Steroids®

I am going to have to join the libertarians. I never use that appellation on myself except when stealing Milton Friedman's line about a little-l libertarian and a big-r Republican. Yet I have allowed my National Review subscription to expire and find myself very excited when a new Reason shows up. I called myself a libertarian a few weeks ago for the first time.

Pardon the navel-gazing but I am "Blogging On Steroids®" this weekend. My last batch cost me $400 for the meds and $350 for home nursing services. Colorado suffered from extreme blizzards that week and, as I was experienced doing my own infusions, I told the nurses not to brave the elements. (UPDATE: Needless to say, they did not respond with "Okay, keep your $350.")

Thinking I am a pro now, I investigated a self-directed plan for this dose. The nurse I see for my clinical trial agreed to put the IV in. I had a few needle/catheters and supplies from the last batch. I still have a stand, and a couple of tubes, &c. Walgreens pharmacy said they could hook me up with the drugs for $269 (something about a Barry Bonds Special, I didn’t catch all the details...)

After every dose, you wash the line with a saline syringe and shoot in some Heparin, to keep your line smooth, clean and free of gunky deposits. I asked the Walgreen's Pharmacist about getting these and he could not without a separate prescription. I have a prescription for home care or ER for the application. Either would supply me a gob of these (35 ml in a gob).

But Mr. Pharmacist would not. "Federal Regulations" he tells me. I decide now is not the time for a Ninth Amendment discussion.

I call around and look around, but there seems to be no choice. I go to the Urgent care clinic. They are swell folks and check me into a room, offer me juice and take superb care of me. As they will on the next nine visits. The care is superb, but I will pay $500 bucks in copays and I-don't-even-wanna-know how much for hospital prices on the prescription. It is probably going to cost me $750 because the Pharmacist is proscribed from selling me an IV supply with an IV prescription. Madness!

I get my first dose last night. At the end she flushes with saline and I ask "Aren't you going to use Heparin?"

"No," she says. "We don't do that anymore."

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 12:02 PM | What do you think? [4]
But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Prednisone? Ghaa ... hate the stuff. And that damn 'cyborg' catheter in the vein. You just cannot do anything without it snagging on something.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at August 10, 2007 3:08 PM
But jk thinks:

Solumedrol (is that a Prednisone derivative?) Other than a horrid last-night's-stout-and-cigars taste in the back of my mouth, I don't have any real problems. Last time I got some very good results from it. They did not last long, but it was a welcome vacation from the worst bits of MS.

Posted by: jk at August 10, 2007 3:42 PM
But Terri thinks:


Madness is right!

Posted by: Terri at August 10, 2007 6:59 PM
But jk thinks:

An update: I think my point still holds, but before you all start crying on my behalf, I will point out that things are going well.

It turns out that the copay, like ice skating at the Y, is an all-day pass, so I can do two sessions on one. Had I known, I wouldn't have started at night, but...

The care has truly been stellar. These people are friendly and professional and I would be foolish not to put value on having professional care nearby in case of problems, expert opinions on the condition of the injection site, and new bandages and packing with each infusion.

I would still like the choice, and I think our health care system needs to move to be friendlier to self-directed care. But this is working out okay for me. Y'all can stop mailing the 10s and 20s...

Posted by: jk at August 12, 2007 1:27 PM

August 9, 2007

Liberals Care

TNR's Jonathan Cohn (did I motion his great hair?) has bravely read the troglodytes at National Review and found the difference between liberals and conservatives. It seems liberals care. Cohn found this outrageous gotcha quote in NR:

For liberal proponents of the expansion, all that matters is the net increase in insured children.

Cohn knows when to pounce:
Exactly! Liberals (and plenty of non-liberals) want to expand S-CHIP because they are determined, first and foremost, to maximize the number of kids with health insurance. You see, kids with health insurance can get medical care without causing their families financial difficulty, which means they tend to get more preventative care, and so on and so on...

I'm not inclined to defend NR to the hilt. We haven't really found rapprochement after they lead the party yahoos on immigration. But I am convinced that that line was part of a nuanced article about the wisdom of getting more people on government care and crowding out private insurance. Cohn finds the "but" quote and disingenuously runs with it.

And we cannot link to TNR without noting more deafening silence on l'Affaire Beauchamp. Galley Slave Jonathan V. Last credits TNR with a coup for signing the exceptional-former-Buffy-writer Jane Espenson. I think it is great too, but wonder if their marketing department really wants to push the addition of a great fiction writer to the staff. Maybe next month...

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 11:52 AM

Lame Duck This!

Please oh please oh please let this bylined story in the WaPo be true.

President Bush said yesterday that he is considering a fresh plan to cut tax rates for U.S. corporations to make them more competitive around the world, an initiative that could further inflame a battle with the Democratic Congress over spending and taxes and help define the remainder of his tenure.

That would be a good fight to spend the balance of his tenure upon. It's a good story, covering Bush's tough stance on letting his signature tax cuts expire, and the fight over whether a Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bailout is the best solution for the "subprime-lending-crisis." Senator Schumer and Congressman Frank, mirabile non dictu, think that's a good idea.

Thankfully, for a year and a half, we have the right person in the White House.

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 11:39 AM

August 8, 2007

Populism and Transportation

In the wake of the bridge collapse in Minnesota, The New York Times recently published a piece on the bizarre spending habits of the government when it comes to transportation:

Despite historic highs in transportation spending, the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need, has typically driven where much of the money goes. That has often meant construction of new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones.

Further, transportation and engineering experts said, lawmakers have financed a boom in rail construction that, while politically popular, has resulted in expensive transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters.

Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent out a news release last month boasting about Minnesota’s share of a recent transportation and housing appropriations bill.

Of the $12 million secured for the state, $10 million is slated for a new 40-mile commuter rail line to Minneapolis, called the Northstar. The remaining $2 million is divided among a new bike and walking path and a few other projects, including highway work and interchange reconstruction.

Reading the article, I could not help but to be reminded of this:

But mdmhvonpa thinks:

The light rail system was a major boondoggle that will be mentioned over and over again in the coming election cycles.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at August 9, 2007 10:02 AM
But jk thinks:

"Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken." Awesome!

Sadly, the I35 bridge will be used to demagogue a huge increase in Federal spending and control. Even Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard said last week that "small government conservatives are going to have to support increased taxes for infrastructure needs." Et tu, Fred?

Posted by: jk at August 9, 2007 10:08 AM

"Jimmy P" on Democrat Campaign Economics

James Pethokoukis (Kudlow calls him "Jimmy P") watched the Democrats debate in front of organized labor the other night, and says Democratic Debate Spawns Weird Economics.

It is worth noting what a service to the world that US News and World Report provides by carrying Pethokoukis (and Michael Barone, of course). I always lumped it in with Time and Newsweek, but these are two thoughtful and talented writers.

Hat-tip: Instapundit

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 5:46 PM

Happy Birthday, Insty!

As the breast blogger said (I cannot quite find the link, sorry) "Glenn wouldn't link to me if I were on fire and was liveblogging it." AlexC has scored the coveted Instalanche on both ThreeSources and Pstupidonymous.

But I come to praise Glenn, not spam him in link-whoring messages. Seriously, his six years of prolific and intelligent production on Instapundit has altered our world as significantly as most politicians, media figures and business leaders.

He has kept his edge and his cool. I disagreed with him violently on immigration, but on about everything else he either hits me where I live, or gives me a new way to think it. I started reading Andrew Sullivan more than Professor Reynolds, but I think I've read every post of his for the last four years at least.

Well done, sir.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 1:08 PM

There Are Free Lunches

I don't wish to besmirch Robert Heinlein's Centenary. Yet I fear that his words are being used in a way of which he might have disapproved.

TNSSAAFL is a great tool for those who oppose expanding the scope, cost, and coercive power of government. It is a good principle to keep in mind, but I suggest that it is not universally true. The free market delivers millions of free lunches everyday.

I signed up for the Eat & Enjoy Rewards card at Chili's (yes, I am quite the epicurean!) For registering it online, I get a free appetizer. Have you seen their portions? I can make a lunch out of that and probably bring some home. "But you gave them your email address, they can spam you and track your purchases!" Still pretty close to free for me. I get 142 spams a day instead of 141 -- I bet there's will be better than discu0nt c!@l|s.

I'm not shilling for the card, I'm shilling for the free market. Blog friend Josh Hendrickson invokes TNSTAALF on a great post today about The Myth of Preventative Health Care. I don't disagree with the thesis of the article. But the linked article makes a leap:

“Fundamentally, if you’re going to control health care costs, it involves denying people care they want — or things they’ve been trained to think they want,” Mr. Gruber says. “There is no easy answer.”

I disagree. The market frequently provides people what they want -- or things they have been trained to want. I just got a free Motorola Razr for upping my service contract for two years. I want the phone, and I am happy on T-Mobile. I can get calls at Chili's for free on weekends.

In health care, I always cite maternity care and Lasik surgery. Two areas where the free market has influenced price and service have seen drastic improvements while the rest of the health care system has seen price gains and service stagnation. Insurance typically does not cover Lasik surgery, so market forces prevail. The costs have gone from thousands per eye to hundreds for both. Our bass player got a guarantee: anytime his vision drops below 20/20, they'll provide the procedure for free.

They built a beautiful new hospital in Boulder that I've heard called "the Maternity Marriott." It has WiFi and nice chairs and stylish hallways. The specialty is maternity. Services are still funded through insurance, so there is no price competition. Yet this hospital is one of many updating comfort, design and service to compete for a hospital stay where the choice is the patient's and not the ambulance driver.

Dig Heinlein, fight government intrusion, but do not use TNSTAAFL to accept the status quo ante.

But Josh Hendrickson thinks:

That Chili's card wasn't free. You are overlooking the time cost associated with registering online.

The point Gruber is making is not that the free market is ill-equipped to provide individuals what they want, but rather that any attempt to control costs by insurers and government must be done by reducing care.

Posted by: Josh Hendrickson at August 8, 2007 2:12 PM
But jk thinks:

That's exactly the part I reject. As I mentioned, I liked the rest of the article. The Lasik providers are not controlling costs by reducing care. Nor are nurse-staffed RediCare clinics in Wal*Marts and CVS stores or Wal*Mart's $4 generic prescriptions.

That does not directly contradict your point about insurers or government. I think, however, that too many health care debates start on the premise of a scarcity that is more manageable than many on both sides will admit.

The free market will provide a lot of very low cost lunches if allowed so to do.

Posted by: jk at August 8, 2007 5:33 PM

August 7, 2007

Yo, China Bashers!

The Club for Growth has compiled stats on the rate of growth of exports to China by Congressional District and has posted those of the members of the House Ways & Means Committee on its blog.

These are awesome numbers! Why on Earth would we want to enact protectionist policies against China and put at risk our ever-increasing ability to send them more of our stuff? Bottom line: For the last seven years, American businesses in these 41 districts have experienced an average growth rate of 321% in their sales to China. But despite this fabulous surge, some of the members listed below want to enact policies that will spark a trade war and defuse this growth, the idea of which is pure lunacy.

I know what you're thinking. What about New York and South Carolina - the two states represented by the leading anti-China protectionists in the Senate, Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham? New York's exports to China between 2000 and 2006 grew 180% compared to 34% to the rest of the world. South Carolina was 453% and 56%, respectively. Not too shabby.

Larry Kudlow calls the "Smoot" Schumer and "Hawley" Graham. Yeah, let's start a trade war.

Hat-tip: Don Luskin

110th Congress Posted by John Kranz at 6:57 PM

We've Always been at War with Eurasia!


A search on The New Republic for “Shock Troops” turns up no results; they’ve apparently removed Scott Beauchamp’s articles without a word.

A once proud magazine. Marty Peretz, come home, we need you.

But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Who is this Scott Thomas fellow you speak of?

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at August 7, 2007 8:39 PM
But jk thinks:

It must've been a dream. I thought TNR hired the husband of one of its writers to do dispatches from Baghdad. He went all John Kerry and wrote of atrocities that were disproved.

I have to stop eating Thai food beofre bed...

Posted by: jk at August 8, 2007 10:39 AM

Racism and Sexism in Politics

Elizabeth Edwards thinks her poor, white husband just cannot catch a break:

"In some ways, [Web marketing is] the way we have to go," Edwards says. "We can't make John black, we can't make him a woman. Those things get you a lot of press, worth a certain amount of fundraising dollars. Now it's nice to get on the news, but not the be all and end all."

I don't know where to start, this is wrong on so many levels. So, I think I'll stop.

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 11:52 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Terri thinks:

Since it seems to be the thing for the self repressed to do, maybe he could start a union.
"For the majority demographically stunted."
He could picket so that fundraising dollars/press could be more evenly distributed amongst him.

Isn't he the doof who spoke with Hillary about disallowing also rans from being involved in the debates? Isn't at least one of them Hispanic? ROFL

Sorry - I had to try a level.

Posted by: Terri at August 7, 2007 1:50 PM
But jk thinks:

The only thing better would be if they had to shut down the campaign because of a frivolous lawsuit.

Posted by: jk at August 7, 2007 5:17 PM

August 6, 2007

Son of Anarcho Capitalism

We dabbled a bit in the far reaches of liberty theory last month, thanks to papers on Anarcho Capitalism provided by ThreeSources brother Harrison Bergeron. I had a good time, but remained unconvinced.

Peter Leeson, who wrote one of the papers in question has a commentary on Cato's Unbound section on the topic. If you did not read the paper, be sure to at least read this. It is interesting and it pushes one's notions of the purpose of government (hat-tip to Everyday Economist).

I was thinking about this as I read Michael Barone's "Our First Revolution" (review). Leeson opens his second paragraph invoking Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes wrote Leviathan in 1651, after the civil was and beheading of Charles I. He discusses Bellum omnium contra omnes and, famously, describes "the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Among Hobbes's complaints is that the environment made wealth creation impossible. This got me thinking of Deepak Lal's Liberal International Economic Orders and the first logarithmic rise in wealth under Pax Britannia.

I don't think I'll join Hobbes in the call for a strong sovereign, but I take his description to heart and cannot be moved by Leeson's descriptions of success in Somalia.

In a recent study I compared Somali welfare under anarchy to welfare under government using all key development indicators for which data allowed comparison.[15] According to the data, of the eighteen development indicators, fourteen show unambiguous improvement under anarchy. Life expectancy is higher today than was in the last years of government’s existence; infant mortality has improved twenty-four percent; maternal mortality has fallen over thirty percent; infants with low birth weight has fallen more than fifteen percentage points; access to health facilities has increased more than twenty-five percentage points; access to sanitation has risen eight percentage points; extreme poverty has plummeted nearly twenty percentage points; one year olds fully immunized for TB has grown nearly twenty percentage points, and for measles has increased ten; fatalities due to measles have dropped thirty percent; and the prevalence of TVs, radios, and telephones has jumped between three and twenty-five times.

You'll pardon me for suggesting that improvement over 1990s Somalia is a pretty low bar. I appreciate Leeson's points as academics and philosophy. When people seriously suggest them as an improvement or a blueprint for the governments in the US or Western Europe, I balk (as does Leeson).
Sadly, well-functioning, well-constrained governments like the ones we observe in the U.S. and western Europe are not part of this choice set. Ultra-predatory, corrupt, and abusive governments, however, are. And so is anarchy. As Somalia’s experience illustrates, for many LDCs with these limited options anarchy may very well be the best feasible choice.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 7:33 PM | What do you think? [4]
But Jim thinks:

Until the people of Somalia are ready to take on the responsibility of an enlightened, Western-style government, what else is there to do but accept the fact that functional anarchy has improved the lives of the people? Most attempts to install democracy in countries that aren't ready for it results in military coups or the dissolution of order--the leaders have little concept of accountability and responsibility and the people have no faith in the system to hold the leaders accountable. The Cato Unbound lead essay isn't saying that anarchy is preferable to a stable, functioning democracy (it specifically rejects that idea) but that there may be times in the development of a people from totalitarianism to enlightenment where anarchy is a necessary step--more or less the same argument I make in my blog in response to the lead essay.

Posted by: Jim at August 7, 2007 2:30 PM
But jk thinks:

Jim: I absolutely agree. Anarchy is superior to bad government and many people would likely be far better off were Castro, Mugabe, (your favorite despot here) replaced with "None of the above" (Chavez would be a draw).

I hope I am not putting words into people's mouths, but some frequent guests of ours around here were making the case that Anarcho Capitalism was a good model for developed countries.

Posted by: jk at August 7, 2007 3:29 PM
But Jim thinks:

Ok, I get it then. I'm a libertarian, but have a difficult time fathoming such concepts as an anarchy-based coordinated national defense in this modern age of warfare. Pirates, the example used in Cato Unbound, had numerous advantages from a self-preservation standpoint that an anarchist territory would not.

Posted by: Jim at August 7, 2007 4:26 PM
But jk thinks:

I might be overstating others' positions.

I get in trouble around here because -- while I yield to no one in respect for market economics -- I have an almost Hamiltonian belief that freedom and abundance grow best in an orderly universe.

Posted by: jk at August 7, 2007 5:27 PM

If Other States Want...

"States shall Choose Electors" but the Constitution provides great latitude. John Fund reports on an interesting bit of Inside Baseball in the Political Diary:

Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, knows a trap when he sees one. The Democratic state legislature in North Carolina was on a fast track to pass a bill that would have ended the practice of apportioning all that state's Electoral College votes to the statewide winner. Instead, the winner of each of its 13 Congressional districts would win one electoral vote, while the remaining two (representing the state's two U.S. Senate seats) would go to the statewide winner. In 2004, under the proposed formula, John Kerry would have won three electoral votes from North Carolina rather than zero. Only the small states of Maine and Nebraska currently apportion their electoral votes in such a manner.

The North Carolina Senate had already approved the measure and the State House was within hours of sending the bill to Democratic Gov. Mike Easley's desk when Dr. Dean called and urgently prescribed the patient's death. "He said the party had suddenly learned a similar measure was being proposed by Republicans in California and that could mean over 20 electoral college votes in that state going to the GOP," one Democratic state legislative staffer told me. "That meant [Democrats] would be tagged as hypocrites if we proceeded to do the same idea in North Carolina and then opposed it in California."

Indeed, last month Thomas W. Hiltachk, a Republican attorney in Sacramento who is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's personal lawyer on election matters, filed a proposed initiative to allocate the state's Electoral College votes precisely as Democrats had planned to do in North Carolina. The difference is that California is such a megastate that even though President Bush lost statewide in 2004 by 10 percentage points, he nonetheless won a majority in 22 Congressional districts. Hendrik Hertzberg, a liberal New Yorker magazine columnist, says that if voters were to approve the initiative in California's June primary next year, it would represent an "unearned, Ohio-size gift of electoral votes" to next year's GOP nominee. Democratic strategist Chris Lehane says that if the rule were adopted, it would "virtually guarantee that a Republican wins the White House in 2008."

No one knows if Republicans will invest the $1 million it would take to qualify such a measure for the California ballot, much less the millions it would take to withstand the Democratic onslaught against it. Democrats worry that the measure has the appearance of creating more fairness than the current winner-take-all formula -- which is precisely why they thought they could get away with the ploy in North Carolina. They also worry that in a low-turnout primary in which only local offices are on the ballot (California's presidential primary has been moved to Feb. 5), the measure just might pass.

If the proposal does appear on the June ballot, expect the mother of all battles. It's not too much to say next year's entire presidential race could be played out in the California ballot battle even before the two parties' candidates are officially nominated at their respective conventions. And you thought the presidential campaign process was already front-loaded?

I fought tooth-and-nail against Colorado's attempt to do this, and was glad to see it go down in flames. Even though we're pretty close to flipping blue, I think it reduces a states importance. Colorado is becoming a swing state and seems likely to pick up a seat in the 2010 census. It seemed crazy.

If other states wish, however, I guess I've no objection. Any strong feelings in ThreeSources land?

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 5:24 PM

Bloggers' Union

"Bloggers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but ..... um.... absolutely nothing."

Organizers hope a bloggers' labor group will not only showcase the growing professionalism of the Web-based writers, but also the importance of their roles in candidates' campaigns.

"I think people have just gotten to the point where people outside the blogosphere understand the value of what it is that we do on the progressive side," said Susie Madrak, the author of Suburban Guerilla blog, who is active in the union campaign. "And I think they feel a little more entitled to ask for something now."

But just what that something is may be hard to say.

In a world as diverse, vocal and unwieldy as the blogosphere, there's no consensus about what type of organization is needed and who should be included. Some argue for a free-standing association for activist bloggers while others suggest a guild open to any blogger -- from knitting fans to video gamers -- that could be created within established labor groups.

Others see a blogger coalition as a way to find health insurance discounts, fight for press credentials or even establish guidelines for dealing with advertising and presenting data on page views.

"It would raise the professionalism," said Leslie Robinson, a writer at "Maybe we could get more jobs, bona fide jobs."

Susie Mandrak was Philly mayoral candidate Tom Knox's blogger.

Look, if you love blogging, that's great. If you want to make a career of it, best of luck to you, but don't expect to be richly compensated in life for anything you love to do.

I would like to make a fabulous living out of model railroad and fly fishing, but I'm not expecting to do so.

As it turns out, there already are unions for writers. They're in every newspaper in the country. Join one of them... otherwise you're dependant on your readers and advertisers.

Around the 'sphere....

No, the big news coming out of the big fancy extreme left-wing neo-comm (patent pending) blogging convention was the groundswell of support with the rank and file nut job liberal blogger for – get this – unionization!

That’s right, our favorite regressives apparently aren’t satisfied with their work conditions, their long hours, their poor pay and their lack of fringe benefits. They’re mad as heck and they’re not going to take it anymore. Their bosses are probably mobilizing the lawyers, drafting federal union busting legislation and plotting new and creative ways of making their employees lives a living heck.

There’s just one little teensy tiny detail they seem to be overlooking. BLOGGERS ARE THEIR OWN BOSSES!

Ed Morrissey is also scratching his head.
But this is the point; blogging, with only a few exceptions, isn't a job at all. The blog writers own their own publishing, which is the entire point of blogging. In essence, the suggestions by Susie Madrak and Kirsten Burgard amount to a call to organize owners, not labor. From whom will the union protect us -- ourselves? Will we have to have a union steward to make sure we pay ourselves overtime?

The National Writers Union seems very interested in representing us. I'd like to know how they can structure a deal to get more from myself than I'm already paying me. If they can explain how they can get me more than 100% of my own self-generated income, I'd love to hear it. If the guildsters can explain how their editorial control benefits me more than my own, I'd be all ears. In the meantime, I'll just rely on my own executive decisions and overwork myself to my heart's content. In the case of the blogosphere, the workers have taken over the means of production -- and the Marxists still aren't satisfied.

But jk thinks:

I was gonna post something but I was on break. Good work, ac.

Posted by: jk at August 6, 2007 5:16 PM
But TrekMedic251 thinks:

Being an honest working person,..the very idea of a union is totally anathema to me.

Besides, I blog on my own time and at my own pace.

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at August 7, 2007 9:56 AM

White Kossaks

Trouble in Kos land: A By-lined story in the WaPo reports "A Diversity of Opinion, if Not Opinionators"

"It's mostly white. More male than female," says the former high school math and science teacher turned activist. "It's not very diverse."

There goes the open secret of the netroots, or those who make up the community of the Internet grass-roots movement.

For all the talk about the increasing influence of this growing group -- "We are a community . . . a movement . . . an institution," Cooper said in a speech Saturday night -- what gets scant attention is its demography.

I am not ready to concede that they have such great diversity of opinions either. Some think Bush is a fascist, some think he is the antichrist?

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 11:40 AM

Will Somebody Please Tell Ann and me

(And I'm totally surprised to read that there was another debate. I am constantly paying attention to the news and want to watch all the debates, yet I knew nothing of this one. How do they expect normal people to notice?)
That's Ann Althouse, after celebrating a few good GOP lines from yesterday's debate.

I, too, found out there was a debate ex post facto, as it were. I have missed two Democratic debates and one Republican. Like Althouse, I consider myself pretty well tuned into politics. Can't they put ads on beer cans or something?

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 10:11 AM

NYTimes Headline

Bush Signs Law to Widen Legal Reach for Wiretapping

I suppose that's accurate, it seems it could have been worded differently.

But TrekMedic251 thinks:

At least they acknowledge that its a LEGAL reach for a change.

Usual NYT stuff is "W=1984"

Posted by: TrekMedic251 at August 7, 2007 9:59 AM

August 5, 2007

Review Corner

We don't have a lot of "Public Intellectuals" these days. Academics have poisoned their own reputations with lack of scholarship and partisan sniping, few artists have stepped up to the plate. Politicians and pundits have been too partisan.

I would suggest, however, that Michael Barone carries the torch into this century. Barone is conservative and passionate in ideas, yet few would call him partisan. Even Newsweek's Eleanor Clift is deferential to him on "The McLaughlin Group." I treated myself to a purchase of his Almanac of American Politics in 2004. It comes with a subscription to a web version. I will never be without it again.

I really enjoyed two of his other books and recommend, highly, both. "The New Americans" was written before the great immigration contretemps, yet provides sagacious counsel about immigration and assimilation. His "Hard America, Soft America" should be read by every American as a prerequisite to making any political comment. It lays out the importance of a free market, competitive Hard America and also gives thoughtful voice to the need for a Soft America. It is an evenhanded and thoughtful work.

I just finished Barone's "Our First Revolution." I can heartily recommend this one as well.

Looking back 90 years before the American Revolution, Barone sees the seeds of the American Revolution in "The Glorious Revolution" which unseated the Stuarts, set up Britain -- almost accidentally -- as an archetype of representative government, cemented her as a defender of personal liberty, and created a military and financial power.

Of course, England had the Magna Carte, and natural law. Yet Britons had no rights which could not be waived by a monarch or suspended by Parliament. "Parliament was an event, not an institution," says Barone. Kings ruled for a dozen years, only calling a Parliament when they needed money. After the Glorious Revolution, Parliament has met every year since 1689.

One also sees the beginnings of party politics as the Whigs and the Tories are born (both are pejorative). Mostly one sees the roots of the bill of rights. As Parliament crafts a weaker version, the ideas took root in the American colonists who wanted, as Barone points out, the liberty they thought they had secured themselves as British subjects.

I found the first half to be a little work. If you don't know the players and the history leading up to it, there are a lot of data to juggle. If you don't have Barone's memory, you'll need to bookmark the family tree, maps, and footnotes.

I was also hoping for a Lockean demand for rights and liberties (Locke is in it) and moderately disappointed that it was just a typical, European, dynastic conflict and religious war. You don't find the purity of the American Declaration of Independence, At the same time, you get a clear picture of why they eschewed "an established religion," why the right to bear arms was enshrined and, with my apologies to the Jacksonians and Taneyites, why Alexander Hamilton sought a national bank.

Barone's a gem. When you get acclimated to the cast, the book moves like a rocket: informative and entertaining. I give it four-and-a-half stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 5:22 PM

More of the Same...

More of the same from the "reform-minded" Democrats:

If the idea was to shame lawmakers into restraint, it did not work.

Eight months after Democrats vowed to shine light on the dark art of “earmarking” money for pet projects, many lawmakers say the new visibility has only intensified the competition for projects by letting each member see exactly how many everyone else is receiving.

So far this year, House lawmakers have put together spending bills that include almost 6,500 earmarks for almost $11 billion in local projects, only half of which the Bush administration supported...

...The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has obtained about $63 million worth of projects, most of them in or near her district in San Francisco. But Ms. Pelosi was overshadowed by Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, who obtained $163 million in pet projects — more than anyone else in Congress and more than his own previous record of about $100 million.

And the money quotes:

“We’re lying to the American people when we say we’re fixing earmarks when we’re not,” said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, during debate this week on the Senate floor.

But Democrats respond that the changes are a big improvement. “This is just sour milk,” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said of Mr. Coburn.

Politics Posted by Harrison Bergeron at 4:25 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

Tases like sour milk to me too, Senator. The 110th is going to take a victory lap for their brave reform efforts. Insiders know these laws have no teeth, yet the Democrats get a win.

C'est le guerre...

Posted by: jk at August 5, 2007 5:22 PM

The Blame Game

Terri at I Think ^(Link) Therefore I Err, gets the segue prize today (It is unfortunately not a Segue) for her post The Blame Game: She ties the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mark Steyn, Senator John McCain, a reporter for the Arab News, and Senator John Edwards into a single post. Kids, don't try this at home.

But Terri thinks:

Truly - it's an honor!
I'd like to thank today's news sources for making the post so easy to write that I actually posted on a Sunday!
And thank you of course to the academy at Three Sources without which I would still be humble.

Posted by: Terri at August 5, 2007 12:03 PM

August 4, 2007

ThreeSources Server move

About 8:00 PM Eastern, ThreeSources will be moved to a different server (same host). All manner of flakiness could ensue. Johngalt might call for nationalized oil, comments could be unavailable, who knows...

Just hide under your pillow until tomorrow and it should be all right.

UPDATE: Looks like we're okay -- the forces of darkness and anti-modernity have not stifled ThreeSources.

Posted by John Kranz at 1:01 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

Test. 1. 2. 3. Workers of the World, unite!

Posted by: jk at August 5, 2007 11:30 AM

August 3, 2007

The Jobs Numbers

The disappointing jobs figures of 90K have received a lot of press, as has the unemployment skyrocketing to 4.6% from 4.5% Leave it to Larry Kudlow to find the bright side:

Just this morning, for example, we got a Goldilocks jobs increase of 92,000. Wall Street was expecting 130,000, but actually private payrolls increased 120,000, while the government lost 28,000 jobs. That can’t be all that bad.

Twenty-eight thousand government jobs lost! I'm thinking it's time for a party.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 1:54 PM

Whadd're Ya Gonna Do For Me?

Somebody else be the optimist this week. I see the health care debate slipping away. Three random events have combined to give me a queasy feeling.

1) A relative who deeply distrusts Michael Moore and generally votes Republican saw "Sicko" with some friends and came away feeling that the movie made "many good points."

2) This video from the WaPo site. I deeply dislike RomneyCare and have avoided the Governor of the Commonwealth because of it. Look at this woman and her treatment by the WaPo. Then try to believe that we have any chance of avoiding socialized medicine.

I'm sorry for this woman's hardships. But she is -- let's be fair -- a crank. She begins with health care discussions, is unsatisfied even after the candidate interrupts his speech to answer her heckling, then disparages Hillary Clinton for not getting universal care passed as first lady, carpetbagging, then coveting the candidate's clothes and automobiles.

Yet she is not portrayed as a crank, she's an American woman who needs a little help.

3) Daniele Capezzone (I think he might be Italian) poignantly details the problems in Italy with Socialized Medicine, in a guest editorial for the Wall Street Journal (paid link). The problems are structural and political, having removed the system from the free market.

Part of the problem is that regional authorities manage most of Italy's health-care spending. A strike by health-care personnel has an immediate impact on the region, but the consequences of cutting the budget for medicines are only felt in the long term and distributed across the nation. Hence, local authorities continue to focus on personnel and infrastructure in an age when medical research has become the most efficient way to improve public health.

Most recently, some Italian regions decided to drastically expand the scope of reference pricing, in open defiance of the central government. Reference pricing is used in most European countries to reduce government spending on medicine and is one of the reasons the Continent is lagging behind in pharmaceutical research. New drugs are grouped with existing drugs used to treat the same medical condition, and the government typically limits reimbursement to the cheapest price in the reference group. This way, patients are discouraged from using the most modern and more expensive medicine.

The Italian regions, however, are taking reference pricing one step further by grouping together drugs that do not necessarily have identical therapeutic effects. This way, the reference groups grow larger, and the regions can save more money. But patients are forced to choose between paying high out-of-pocket expenses or the risk of taking the wrong medicine.

Why does this trenchant rebuttal to Michael Moore depress me? Because few will read or understand it. Yet many will see -- and everybody will understand -- the plight of Ms. WhatareyougoingtodoforME?

I have to revisit it when I am cheerier. But maybe this pragmatist has to see that crappy, mandated, intrusive, RomneyCare is the only chance of avoiding HillaryCare. You tell people about employer-provided care as a holdover from post WWII wage controls and inefficiencies and you can see their eyes glaze over. Ms. WhatareyougonnadoforME strikes a chord.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 11:16 AM

August 2, 2007

TNR Stands by Story

"Kuwait, Iraq -- one of those sandy, hot countries..."

The New Republic has completed its review of the "Scott Thomas: Shock Troops" story and has found only one error. The mess hall where the diarist claims to have personally mocked a woman who was disfigured with war wounds was in Kuwait, not in Iraq. "We sincerely regret this mistake."

The manufacturer of the Bradley vehicle says it is agile enough to hit a dog, so the story of a US military professional who routinely risks his life, civilians and the crew for sadism stands.

No doubt it could be true. I still find it instructive that TNR can find little space for military victories, heroic exploits, or the overwhelming kindness shown by soldiers and contractors, yet they can make space for a column disparaging the troops. At least the story has a happy ending:

Although we place great weight on the corroborations we have received, we wished to know more. But, late last week, the Army began its own investigation, short-circuiting our efforts. Beauchamp had his cell-phone and computer taken away and is currently unable to speak to even his family. His fellow soldiers no longer feel comfortable communicating with reporters. If further substantive information comes to light, TNR will, of course, share it with you.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy...

UPDATE: Dean Barnett, who has really owned this story, provides a more thorough and harsher reaction to the TNR defense.

UPDATE II: ThreeSources friend Perry is not buying it.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 6:23 PM

What a Tool

Time for an ad hominem attack. Today's target is TNR's Jonathan Cohn. Cohn is a very serious minded young man. He has appeared on Kudlow & Company a few times and is the archetype of the young, idealistic, progressive journalist/activist. I'm sure he's a bright guy: TNR's a good gig. And, in full disclosure, I must admit to being extremely jealous of his hair. He makes Senator John Edwards look like, er, me.

I called him "a tool;" I am borrowing that epithet from Don Luskin. Half its meaning is that he is "a tool" for the progressive cause. On Kudlow, or in TNR, he can be counted on to spout whatever orthodoxy will promote the progressive cause. Wage disparity, the "debacle" in Iraq -- whatever the occasion calls for. The other half-meaning of that sobriquet is a little more of a personal attack. I think Luskin uses it in the same split sense.

Today, in TNR (free link -- I'm pretty sure I'm not re-subscribing in the near future), Cohn has a piece called RudyCare, but the subtitle says it all: "Why Giuliani wants millions of Americans to stay uninsured." Cohn, I see, has written a book on health care (sadly, at #6,878 it outsells Arnold Kling's). He wears his heart on his sleeve in his column. Any alternative or delay to full socialized medicine is a mistake.

Both Gratzer and Pipes are Canadian by birth. Both have spent enormous time warning people that health care in their country means long waits, no cutting-edge care, and maddening bureaucracy. And what's true of Canada, they suggest, would be true of any system giving insurance to everybody. "A universal health-care system run by government will reduce the quality and access to health care for all Americans," Pipes wrote for National Review Online in 2003. "It's a prescription for disaster."

This is a pretty good harbinger of how the debate over universal health care will play out should it become a huge, all-encompassing fight in 2009, just like it was in 1993 and 1994 when Bill Clinton tried it. Conservatives will promise a little help, for some people, but mostly they'll tell scare stories about universal health care.

That's Canada, but it's swell in Switzerland and Sweden and France and we cannot bring it here fast enough to suit Cohn. Giuliani wants people to not have insurance (that bastard!), but the column strangely enough never does tell us why.

But we know. Republicans. They hate the poor.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 11:47 AM | What do you think? [1]
But Harrison Bergeron thinks:

Our health care system would undoubtedly be worse with universal care. The problems with our current system are directly as a result of government involvement, not the lack thereof.

Posted by: Harrison Bergeron at August 2, 2007 12:33 PM

Sequitor Non

WASHINGTON -- Americans are feeling decidedly sour about the economy and those in charge of it, fueling Democratic efforts to target business interests in the 2008 election campaign.
That's John Harwood, writing in the Wall Street Journal. Harwood's a smart guy and the whole piece (paid link) is a nuanced look at Main Street jitters and lack of confidence in the President, Congress, and business.

But I am disturbed that his lead paragraph is not laughed off the page. We are worried about the economy -- so let's attack business. That will help.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 10:37 AM

August 1, 2007

"Secondhand Fat?"

Smith & Engles is not buying it.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:41 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Once again, the scientists confuse cause and effect, forgetting the old lesson that "correlation does not equal causation." The common obesity is a symptom, not a cause: people tend to spend leisure time with others who share common interests and/or values, including eating habits. The people were already fat, or already skinny, and tended to be with others like them.

I guess I'm an exception. Until I lost weight, most of my friends are/were in much better condition. Trim, if not in great shape (one can be slender and yet not be physically fit). I was the one ordering a burger and fries when we went out, while everyone else ordered something sensible.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 1, 2007 4:16 PM

Save the Debate

Everybody knows how much I love an online petition...

But I did sign, and encourage others to sign, Save the Debate, encouraging the candidates not to chicken out of a GOP You Tube debate.


Hat-tip: Patrick Ruffini

2008 Race Posted by John Kranz at 1:06 PM

Economists for Free Trade

Greg Mankiw links to a petition signed by 1,028 economists. (Who says if you laid 1,028 economists end-to-end they still wouldn't reach a conclusion?)

We, the undersigned, have serious concerns about the recent protectionist sentiments coming from Congress, especially with regards to China.

By the end of this year, China will most likely be the United States' second largest trading partner. Over the past six years, total trade between the two countries has soared, growing from $116 billion in 2000 to almost $343 billion in 2006. That's an average growth rate of almost 20% a year.

This marvelous growth has led to more affordable goods, higher productivity, strong job growth, and a higher standard of living for both countries. These economic benefits were made possible in large part because both China and the United States embraced freer trade.

It's funny how the Democrats and media love to trust experts in the field -- except when it does not meet their needs. Their need to serve labor and environmental constituencies trumps the overwhelming support free trade has enjoyed among economists for decades.

UPDATE: jk loses nine points for not getting the historical allusion (and another for talking about himself in the third person). Don Luskin reminds that 1,028 economists signed a petition to stop Smoot-Hawley.

But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I was taught by one on the list. Dr. Sanford Ikeda teaches Austrian economics at SUNY Purchase and NYU, and it was he who showed me the error of my protectionist ways.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at August 1, 2007 4:17 PM
But jk thinks:

Me too! Dr. Gary Wolfram (not of the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart) of Hillsdale College taught an online Econ 101 course at Yorktown University. Dude turned me on to Bastiat and gave me an 'A.'

Posted by: jk at August 1, 2007 5:02 PM

Government to Kill More People

I do go on about the FDA. But, freedom lovers, let me remind you that John Locke and Thomas Jefferson claimed life to be the first birthright: life, liberty, estate/pursuit of happiness.

A guest editorial in the WSJ today (right next to Greta's column on a missing college student), tells of five promising Cancer drugs that have been pulled because the manufacturer felt they could not get FDA approval -- even after successful trials. Dr. Richard Miller, president and CEO of Pharmacyclics, and adjunct professor of oncology at Stanford University Medical Center, is concerned that "the fight against tumors is regressing."

This is not the way the regulatory system is supposed to work for patients with life-threatening diseases such as AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer's. Thanks in large part to AIDS activism, Congress passed legislation that in 1992 resulted in new regulations that streamlined the approval process for drugs intended to treat life-threatening diseases. One such regulation, accelerated approval, gave desperately needy patients faster access to new drugs. It allows for conditional approval based on data "reasonably likely" to predict clinical benefit while more definitive trials are being conducted.

The idea worked: 26 new cancer drugs for 30 different clinical indications were approved between 1995 and 2005 under the accelerated approval regulation. Important drugs such as Camptosar, Eloxitan, Gleevec, Temodar and others were made available to patients more quickly than under the standard approval procedures. Thousands of patients benefited from faster access, and these drugs went on to find vital and expanded roles for the treatment of many types of cancer.

There appears to be no evidence that any harm was done by accelerating the approval process for these products. Indirectly, the streamlined review and approval process has also stimulated the pharmaceutical industry to invest in the development of new drugs for these diseases.

In recent years, the FDA has effectively regressed to a pre-AIDS mindset. The accelerated approval requirements have stiffened and the real benefits of the process for patients have been whittled away. Since 2005, only one drug has achieved accelerated approval and this year none have been able to break through the FDA's iron gate.

I feel a little lonely in this fight some days. It seems that only me and the WSJ Ed Page care (and the Ed Page was just sold). But I read an article in last month's Reason that is now available online..

Kerry Howley shares my concern and makes a point I had not contemplated. The current system for approvals cannot allow dying patients access to lifesaving drugs because it requires a continuing stream of desperate, dying patients who are desperate enough to sign up for a placebo trial for a terminal illness. I'm paraphrase sensationally, but read the whole thing. I'm paraphrasing accurately.

Since the 1960s, when randomized, double-blind clinical trials became a standard requirement for bringing new drugs to market, clinical researchers have confronted the chaos of disease with the trappings of a regimented, uncompromising order. Drug trials are rooted in centralized authority: trial slots are numbered, subjects handpicked, control groups maintained, patients monitored. Maintaining this level of precision requires not only the cooperation of willing test subjects, but the coercion of the general population. To preserve pristine testing conditions, the federal government curtails our freedom of exchange and our right to take risks. Ailing individuals and drug companies are prohibited from trading in unapproved drugs, and terminal patients forbidden to experiment outside a clinician's watch.

This approach to drug testing is rife with serious ethical problems, but the preconditions for meaningful change are mind-boggling. The current clinical trial regime is cemented in place by legal restrictions that prevent patients from waiving their rights to sue and a regulatory regime that resists even incremental change. Alternatives to the standard placebo-controlled, closed clinical trials exist, but guarantees that such trials will lead to a drug's approval do not. A system meant to facilitate innovation in drug development is itself resistant to change.

It is a serious and heartbreaking story. Government bureaucracy is stifling innovation, chasing capital out of the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, and killing tens of thousands of Americans every year.

I can blame my buddy FDR. There is a great story in "The Forgotten Man" where the publisher of Good Housekeeping gives one of Roosevelt's cabinet an earful because the government is taking over the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval." Drug testing is a private function in Europe and should still be here.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 11:21 AM

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