Friday, December 31, 2004

Libertarian brawl breaks out

Instapundit savages Reason's Tim Cavanaugh for savaging a nonchalant tourist who is now looking for a good time on the beaches of Malaysia.

Cavanaugh's original commentary was short and vague ("Western civilization is in a state of terminal decadence"). And, true, he deviated from the Libertarian line that assigns no value to emotions and intent -- only to the results on a balance sheet.

I don't think anyone at Reason would wish away the few tourists South Asia still attracts, as Instapundit suggests. Cavanaugh was simply appalled at the tourist's indifference to the suffering all around him. When he walks down the empty corridors of his hotel, past the silent restaurants and shops, won't he feel a little . . . strange?

Happy New Year!

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy and safe new year; and thank everyone who has made this blog a success, from the bloggers to the readers. Thanks for making this semster so great!


Bad Charlotte

In the London Review of Books, a devastating review of Tom Wolfe's latest novel.

But information compulsion is not the only thing Wolfe suffers from. Another is repetition compulsion. When in doubt, repeat words for emphasis. Hoyt's smile, for instance, is described as 'so warm, warm, warm, loving, loving, loving, so warm and loving and commanding, all commanding' that Charlotte 'couldn't move'. But later, when he deserts her, she gives way to 'sobs sobs sobs sobs sobs sobs racking racking racking racking racking racking convulsive sobs sobs sobs sobs sobs'. A description of a basketball match begins: 'Static::::::::::: Static::::::::::: Static::::::::::: Static::::::::::: [repeat 12 further times] choked the Buster Bowl.'

Sounds like a real page-turner.

The war on pharmaceuticals...

"[I]n a tiny nook of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, Detective Jason 'Jake' Grellner is leading a campaign to cut off the supply of over-the-counter cold pills that have fueled the explosion of methamphetamine production across the nation's heartland. 'To say that we're excited is an understatement ... 2005 is going to be our year,' said Grellner, who has spent much of the last few weeks working with legislators and policymakers from across the Midwest. Their goal: to severely restrict sales of pseudoephedrine, the active chemical in scores of decongestants and the backbone of the $3 billion U.S. market for over-the-counter cold remedies."

This time its cough medicines, other times its pain killers.

[Link via Freedom News Daily]

A step in the right direction

"The gay and lesbian partners of Montana University System employees have the same right to health insurance benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, the Montana Supreme Court ruled Thursday. To deny gays and lesbians the same benefits available to unmarried heterosexual employees of the University System violates the equal protection clause of the Montana Constitution, Justice Jim Regnier wrote in the 4-3 majority opinion that overturned a 2002 lower court decision."


Obvious Questions

For despite the fact that farm income has doubled in two years, federal subsidies have also gone up nearly 40 percent over the same period - projected at $15.7 billion this year, and $130 billion over the last nine years. And that bounty is drawing fire from people who say that at this moment of farm prosperity, the nation's subsidy system has never made less sense.

Even those deeply steeped in the system acknowledge it seems counterintuitive. "I struggle with the same question: how the hell can you have such high government payments if farmers had such a great year?" said Keith Collins, the chief economist for the Agriculture Department.

Me too.

Keynesian economics & the Tsunami "boom"

NPR interviewed an economist, C. Fred Bergsten, who pushes optimism in the wake of a tragedy to new levels. Sure, the tsunami killed tens of thousands of people and robbed a poor country of countless dollars in lost tourism and property damage --

but think of the flurry of economic activity that will result from the rebuilding process!

Does Bergsten envy the people - excuse me, the survivors - in South Asia's disaster area?

Link via Clubforgrowth.

More on Stingyness

Daniel Drezner chimes in on the subject:

Having blogged on the topic, and written elsewhere about it. More importantly, I'm on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Global Development's Ranking the Rich exercise, which means I've seen a lot of these debates in the past. So I guess I have a duty to fill the information gap here...

Out of the 21 major donors, we're ninth -- hardly stingy, though not the most generous. One could make the case that comparing large economies with Scandanavia or the Benelux states is unfair, because the bigger economies have other public goods functions to fulfill (see Bruce Bartlett for this argument). If you limit the comparison to the G-7 countries, only Great Britain is more generous. Indeed, the most shocking figure in that table is how ungenerous the Japanese have been on this front.

Check out the post for more thoughts and numbers.

Cry me a cyber-river

In the WSJ, Cameron Stracher wishes we could just turn off all the gadgets and connect with one another, for goodness' sake.

Even city streets, which used to be a veritable Petri dish for communication, are being overrun by headsets and Blue Tooth-enabled cell phones that allow people to walk, talk and chew gum while ignoring everyone around them. Get in a cab, and the driver is chatting away, but not with you. The advent of the Internet has only made matters worse, as children retreat to their rooms to surf the Web and IM their friends, whereas at least there used to be a fighting chance to get them into the family room to watch "Seinfeld."

Annoying, isn't it, that people with radically diverse tastes no longer settle for being on the same communal "page" when there's an alternative that suits them?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The tsunami was NOT our fault.

It was only a matter of time before someone blamed America for the tidal wave in South Asia.

Is anyone else getting tired of the way people demand handouts from the US government in the wake of tragedies? Charity is great -- and it has nothing whatever to do with the duties of governments. If a private school building burns down in NYC, do the administrators of that school go running to other private schools and demand assistance? (Well, nowadays, probably.)

NRO's Jim Boulet is irritated by the inability of left-wing humanitarians to just shut up and give:

Seems like liberals are all full of ideas on who should be giving money. Bonus-rich Wall Street brokers are a popular choice. The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins nominated America's football-playing colleges: "The big football schools should take all that ill-gotten Bowl Championship Series money, $14.3 million each, and send it to Phuket. Come on guys, feed the world."

Not one of these articles insisting upon enormous generosity by others has begun thusly: "While personally donating my own money to the relief effort, I had an idea ..." Too many liberals seem to believe charity should begin anywhere but from their own purse. Or as a smart man once defined liberalism as "where A meets with B to decide how much C will give to D."

Kind of reminds me of something that struck me deeply as a kid, long before I read Atlas Shrugged and got sucked into politics. I grew up in an east-coast suburb peopled with educated, left-wing professionals. In town was a huge charity organization that chose its division leader based on who donated the most each year.

For two years in a row, the leader of the "young physicians" division was a quiet, self-effacing Republican. Believe me, this man was of average means. He had a small bank account and, unlike his left-wing counterparts, a big heart.

I'm not endorsing huge charity-dispensing, least of all when you can't really afford it. Just thought that story was worth telling.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


From Reason's Weekly Dispatch:

Parents let inexperienced teen driver have "too much car," teen flips car and dies. The culprit? Yep, SUVs.

Not to mention that she was speeding and had been drinking.

Say it with me: "Useful Idiot"

From the New York Times' 5-page eulogy of the "telegenic" Susan Sontag:

She could be provocative to the point of being inflammatory, as when she championed the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl in a 1965 essay; she would revise her position some years later. She celebrated the communist societies of Cuba and North Vietnam; just as provocatively, she later denounced communism as a form of fascism.

In other words, she was wrong when it mattered the most -- and right when it was so late that nobody even paid attention. (Who ever heard of Susan Sontag, ardent anti-communist?)

Clara runs out of blog fodder

This is how I feel when someone violates my rights to life, liberty and property.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Congratulations, Mr. Yuschenko

And congratulations to the people of Ukraine.

pBS goes pro-Soviet

I just saw a couple of creepy documentaries about WWII spies, and I'm haunted by more than the music.

It's amazing how much PC baloney has tainted "history" as told by movie people. First I saw some sob-story about Soviet spies and their aging, completely unapologetic loved ones. It was UNfrigginBELIEVABLE. And, of course, they portrayed all the officers who tried to catch Ted Hall, the Rosenbergs, et. al as trigger-happy hicks.

Ooooh, it was just so unfair and mean when they dragged Ted Hall and Saville Sacks in for questioning to get confessions that never came. (The investigators knew perfectly well these men were spies, see, because they'd cracked coded Soviet documents that said as much -- but they couldn't use that evidence in a trial b/c then the communists would know that the US had cracked the code.)

The documentary had an interview with some Leftist scholar who gravely intoned that Ethel Rosenberg was "murdered in cold blood." Trust me, the way they put the program together, you were supposed to nod and shed a tear when he said it.

Of course, the men who sold bomb secrets to the communists were just "idealist, earnest young men" who wanted to "level the playing field" or whatever. Really, the documentary people tried so hard to interview people - like Mrs. Ted Hall - explaining how these traitors were actually American patriots trying to avert a nuclear disaster. How's that?! And why isn't the missus in jail for admitting that she helped her husband dump boxes of "left-wing papers" into the river before the officers could search his home? Her husband, whom she KNEW was a Soviet spy when she married him?

Then they interviewed a Russian, a former KGB agent now living in London, sitting in his kitchen, looking like a regular guy. He mentioned that we now know for sure that Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy. (Well boy, it's good to put all those doubts to rest!) Aye, but here's the rub -- this former KGBer (he was awfully young, too) looked up wistfully and said that the Americans who gave bomb secrets to the KGB were "true heroes." Or something like that. And that was the last thing he said on the film.

Umm... how about some equal time for the anti-communists?

Right after that program, the same channel had a documentary that was refreshingly pro-Allies in comparison... but it focused on the "brave" women secretaries at BCS, a Canadian pro-British spy agency based in NYC during the war. Okay, whoop-dee-do for these secretaries, but they weren't "the real heroes" in any sense, and their stories of typing up and passing along messages they knew nothing about really does not "need to be told."

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Don't touch the Powerline... zzzt

Powerline's Hindrocket is all over Tom Friedman's snarky little news round-up, which tests readers' knowledge of how much the Bush Administration messed up by not making Tom Friedman lord high chief advisor. Right.

"3. The report that the Bush-Republican budget for 2005 contained a $100 million cut in federal funding to the National Science Foundation."
This one I think is true; the cut represents a 1.9% decline.

Heh. And when Friedman runs out of scare stories, he just plugs in the phrase "tax cut" to get a rise out of his Times readers:

"9. The report that among President Bush's top priorities in his second term is to simplify the tax code and to make the sweeping tax cuts from his first term permanent."

Also in this Powerline post: some handy charts on per capita education spending -- handy if you disagree with the belief that we're sucking the kids dry.

Et tu, Kudlow?

Larry Kudlow chucks free markets out the window and concludes that reimporting drugs from Canada would be a dangerous blunder. For one thing, Canada's supply would scarcely be "enough" to meet American demand. (Okay, so let's not even bother.) Moreover, these pills aren't subject to life-giving FDA scrutiny. Oh, the humanity!

But Cato's Roger Pilon cautions against the fear-mongering. (He also lists some reasonable reason to oppose reimportation -- like worries that we'd just be importing Canada's price controls -- but knocks down each of these objections.)

An aside: Pilon makes it seem like the FDA is to blame for insisting on extensive safety testing, which drives up R&D costs ($800 million, on average, for a new compound that reaches the market). Bad, stupid, monopolizing FDA.

Step Right Up!

And test your mastery of news trivia...

May require registration.

Clara, I'm expecting a good show!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Friday, December 24, 2004

Bailey on babies and non-babies

I tend to lean pro-life, but this is sort of compelling.

killing in the name of... the death penalty!?

"Assailants claiming to be members of a revolutionary group opposed to the death penalty opened fire on a public bus in northern Honduras, killing at least 23 passengers and escalating an ongoing battle between gangs and a government dedicated to fighting them."


Thursday, December 23, 2004

You knew this was coming

France has outlawed anti-women and anti-gay speech.

The law puts anti-gay and sexist comments on an equal footing with racist or anti-semitic insults, allowing French courts to hand down fines of up to €45,000 (£30,000) and jail sentences of up to 12 months for "defamation or incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence on the grounds of a person's sex or sexual orientation".

Whoa there. Why doesn't everyone get protected status? How about anti-Clara speech?

UPDATE: Never mind -- I'm a woman, so I'm covered. Also, I have a race. =)

Talk about stepping on the little people

Why then, as their flagship hero, does Nintendo choose an overweight, big-nosed plumber with an ungainly mustache and ridiculous suspenders? Why was this, the most unlikely heroic figure, chosen? Unusual yes . . . but deliberate?

A website unconvers the not-so-subtle Communist propaganda of... Super Mario Brothers. (Via the Corner)

. . . Mario, and his short-lived brother, are none other than cartoon representations of Joseph Stalin. Stalin was Russia's amicus humani, amor patriae or communist super man. So could this "super" Mario represent another "super" man?

Don't miss the link at the bottom of the page -- for a hilarious interpretation of the REAL Mario story.

One wonders what will become of the Princess he is attempting to "rescue" once Red Mario seizes power himself . . . .

And think of all the U.S. productivity hours lost to that addictive game. Oh, it all makes sense now!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Mideast Internet censorship

No, not Syria -- Israel, which shut down "Hebrew Labor," a site that matched Jewish employers with Jewish jobseekers.

I should add that these were employers who hired only Jews.

The site's philosophy is morally repulsive, to be sure -- especially when there are thousands of peaceful Christians and Muslims living as Israeli citizens -- but people have the right to be morally repulsive. Don't they?

Weasels Ripped My Flesh!!!

A random tribute to my favorite Sicilian, Italian, Greek, Arab, French, Irish, German (i.e. AMERICAN) Artist, Frank Zappa.

(Hey, at least I'm not forcing you to listen to his music like I did Marco and Adam)

From his Wikipedia Entry:

Back in 1965:
After being approached by a customer who wanted him to produce a suggestive tape for a stag party, Zappa and some friends jokingly faked the 'erotic' recording, which purported to contain the sounds of people having sex. Unfortunately the customer turned out to be an undercover member of the Vice Squad and Zappa was jailed for ten days on charges of supplying pornography. His entrapment and brief imprisonment left a permanent mark on him, and was a key event in the formation of his anti-authoritarian stance.

During a residency in New York's Greenwich Village in late 1966, Zappa became friends with Jimi Hendrix and is reputed to have introduced Hendrix to the Wah-wah pedal.

The Mothers' anarchic stage shows were legendary — during one famous 1967 performance at the Garrick Theatre in New York, Zappa managed to entice some soldiers from the audience onto the stage, where they proceeded to dismember a collection of baby dolls.


From the 'Mothers of Invention Anti-Smut Loyalty Oath,' September 1970:
I _(you just fill in the blank)_, do hereby solemnly swear, in accordance with the regulations of the contract with this here rock and roll engagement, and the imbecilic laws of the State of Florida, and the respective regulations perpetrated by Red-Necks everywhere, do hereby solemnly swear, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, TO REVEAL MY TUBE, WAD, DINGUS, WEE-WEE, AND/OR PENIS ANYPLACE ON THIS STAGE!! This Does NOT include Private Showings in the motel room, however.

On September 19, 1985, Zappa testified before the US Senate Commerce, Technology, and Transportation committee, attacking the Parents Music Resource Center or PMRC, a music censorship (though others would say watchdog) organization founded by then-Senator Al Gore's wife Tipper Gore and including many other political wives, including the wives of five members of the committee. He said,

'The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design.

'It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation.'


'I wrote a song about dental floss but did anyone's teeth get cleaner?' in response to Tipper Gore's allegations that music incites people towards deviant behavior, or influences their behavior in general

What would we do without U-M studies?

U-M study: Men prefer subordinate women.
(Yes, I'm covering the "what would we do without..." beat while James Taranto is on vacation.)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.--Men are more likely to want to marry women who are their assistants at work rather than their colleagues or bosses, a University of Michigan study finds.
. . . Brown and Lewis found that males, but not females, were most strongly attracted to subordinate partners for high-investment activities such as marriage and dating.

What next -- women are attracted to men of higher status? Get outta here!

The stuff that "disappearances" are made of

"Police Need Not Say Why Arrest Made: U.S. High Court Overview"

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Police officers don't have to give a reason at the time they arrest someone, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a ruling that shields officers from false-arrest lawsuits.

The justices, voting 8-0, threw out a suit against Washington state police officers who stopped a motorist and then told him he was being arrested for tape-recording their conversation. Although the recording was legal, the high court said the arrest was valid because the man could have been arrested instead for impersonating a police officer.

In an opinion for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the officers didn't have to provide a reason for arresting the man at all, as long as they had probable cause to do so.

"While it is assuredly good police practice to inform a person of the reason for his arrest at the time he is taken into custody, we have never held that to be constitutionally required," Scalia wrote.

[Hat tip: Bureaucrash]

Guns don't kill people; Wal-Marts do

DALLAS -- Near the end of her short life, Shayla Stewart, a diagnosed manic-depressive and schizophrenic, assaulted police officers and was arrested for attacking a fellow customer at a Denton Wal-Mart where she had a prescription for anti-psychotic medication.
Given all those signs, her parents say, another Wal-Mart just seven miles away should have never sold her the shotgun she used to kill herself at age 24 in 2003.
Her mother, Lavern Bracy, is suing the world's biggest store chain for $25 million, saying clerks should have known about her daughter's illness or done more to find out.

Gee, can you think of someone else who should have known about Shayla's problems?

Mr. Walton, tear down this Wal-Mart!

The Nation urges shoppers to rise above greedy self-interest and resist the seduction of Wal-Mart bargains.

It is crucial that Wal-Mart's liberal and progressive critics make use of the growing public indignation at the company over sex discrimination, low pay and other workers' rights issues, but it is equally crucial to do this in ways that remind people that their power does not stop at their shopping dollars. It's admirable to drive across town and pay more for toilet paper to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart, but such a gesture is, unfortunately, not enough. As long as people identify themselves as consumers and nothing more, Wal-Mart wins.

This article also exposes what The Nation gravely calls "Wal-Mart's wefare scam" -- i.e. the store encourages low-income workers to get on welfare, food stamps, the works.

First, a Dem strategist railed against red-state welfare; now The Nation slams Wal-Mart for taking over the job of welfare-and-needy matchmaker. Has the world gone mad?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

He WEARS red...

Is Santa Claus a Republican?

"Santa is clearly a proponent of the Patriot Act. He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He doesn't bother with warrants or court orders or international conventions controlling satellite surveillance, so be good for goodness' sake."


"Santa has not shipped a single job to Mexico, despite the obvious financial benefits from hiring Mexican elves. Also, rather than driving a gas-guzzling SUV, Santa operates a vehicle that runs on a renewable resource: magic."

Won't Get Fooled Again

From the Jewish Telegraph Agency:

Anti-Semitic graffiti in a Ukrainian city may be a political provocation aimed at discrediting presidential challenger Viktor Yuschenko.

Slogans reading �Kikes get out of here!� and �Yes, Yuschenko!� were spray-painted over several buildings and the World War II memorial in the city of Chernigov early this week, days before Sunday�s presidential election. �I believe that it is an anti-Yuschenko provocation,� said Irina Lipkina, a Jewish leader in Chernigov. A leading member of Parliament told JTA he agrees: �This is a dirty provocation,� said Gennady Udovenko, head of the Ukrainian Parliament�s Committee on Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities.

I've been following this election pretty carefully, and it's incredible to see how wise the Ukranians have been to Yanukovich's dirty tricks. Maybe it's the internet, or perhaps its their yearning to get away from Putin's grasp before turning into another Belarus, which is a dictatorship whose stalled economy is increasingly reliant on Russian aid (mostly in the form of free energy).

Of course, there are some legitimate reasons to support Yanukovich. Yuschenko's opposition movement (like many of the post-Soviet independce movements) is associated simulataneously with pro-Western Democrats and Ukranian nationalists, leading some minorities (Russians and Jews, for instance) to feel that the stability and safety they have under Yanukovich is worth closer relations with an undemocratic and domineering Russia.

But it's not that simple. As for Ukraine's Jews, they're split between young and old.

Ebay India [update]

CEO wins bail.

Greedy, greedy Wal-Mart

First store on the block to offer $500 laptops, which I'm sure is bad and evil and part of their plot to oppress and destroy us all.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Happy Holidays

Thanks to Julian Sanchez at Reason for this fine expose of the "Christmas-Under-Attack" myth:

It's a Christmas tradition as venerable as mistletoe and caroling: As the days grow shorter, conservative activists claiming to speak for American Christendom raise their voices, not for a rousing round of "Good King Wenceslaus," but to complain that the roughly 75 to 80 percent of Americans who profess allegiance to some denomination or another of Christianity constitute a cruelly oppressed minority.

The kvetching is especially loud this year, with a spate of stories chronicling the outrage over a particularly insidious form of anti-Christian bigotry: the Satanic phrase "happy holidays."

In order to pull off the sort of grab at victim status conservatives used to deride as a tactic of the left, self-appointed defenders of the faith draw from a cornucopia of bogus anecdotes about oppression.

To some extent, the feeling of marginalization may be the result of the very real process of cultural fragmentation. There is probably now as rich and varied a marketplace of Christian media—from Veggie Tales cartoons to the apocalyptic fantasy of the Left Behind series and its spinoffs—as there's ever been. But it's perceived as niche culture, in large part because cultural products are increasingly tailored to niches. As a recent New York Times op-ed notes: "Plain-vanilla Top 40, once the chief vehicle for hit songs, is now the format for only 5 percent of the nation's 10,000-plus stations." A few crossover hits notwithstanding, a young singer who wants to incorporate her faith into her music is now likely to narrowcast to a Christian rock audience because, well, she can.

What remains of the mainstream, meanwhile, steers clear of potentially divisive religious themes, not just because American society is gradually becoming more pluralistic in terms of the proportion of Christians to devotees of other faiths, or of none, but because the idea of a monolithic Christian audience is a lot of nonsense, however useful it is to demagogues. Many believers, after all, don't much care for the Left Behind books. Critics of the "Anti Christian Lawyers Union," for that matter, tend to forget that the lead plaintiffs in Abington School District v. Schempp, which barred schools from conducting morning Bible readings, were Unitarians who resented the school's usurpation of their prerogative to teach their children about the Bible in their own way.

So are we really seeing an unprecedented wave of hostility toward either Christmas or Christianity? Or is it, rather, that the waning of the cultural hegemony to which some Christians have come to feel entitled is perceived as an attack? Many of the most loudly trumpeted complaints in this vein are, after all, complaints about the absence of special treatment: no special spot for the Ten Commandments in the courthouse rotunda; no pride of place for Christmas among those happy winter holidays; no exceptions for the Christian charity.

Since "special rights" has been a term of aspersion among conservatives for decades, would-be theocrats have at least the decency to be too ashamed to demand them explicitly. Instead, they've learned the power of the victim narrative, of framing the debate to cast themselves as underdogs. Rather than attempting to entrench their values, demagogues purport to be playing defense against a plot to "purge religion from the public square," trading on the same ambiguity in the word "public" that has eased the acceptance of ever more regulation of privately owned establishments that are open to the public, and allowed for the metastasis of the term "public health," which now apparently covers not just infectious disease control or mosquito abatement, but smoking and obesity. Since the battle is a reactive one against the undifferentiated forces of anti-Christian bigotry, such nice distinctions as that between a business that fails to cater to its customers and an arm of the state adhering to strict neutrality can be dispensed with. More importantly, moderate Christians with no desire to impose their faith on others might be convinced to support a re-Christianization of public life on the premise that they'd only be defending themselves against marauding secularists.

The stratagem is so perverse as to be almost admirable: Take a holiday associated with sentiments like peace and goodwill, mix in some well-intentioned attempts to acknowledge it in an inclusive way suited to a pluralistic society, and then use the combination to generate fear, divisiveness, and high ratings. But whether we're impressed or appalled by that cynical ploy, whether we're gearing up for Christmas dinner or just a post-Ramadan pig-out, we can all breathe a little easier knowing that the anti-Christmas "jihad" is no more real (sorry kids) than Santa Claus. Happy holidays.

Speaking of niche markets, i've been grooving to the hasidic reggae stylings of Matisyahu recently... great music for studying and chilling.

My first post, and i've already cornered myself in as the shylock...

Choice and Information

From Glenn Reynolds' Tech Central Station column:

The trouble is encapsulated in Ken Layne's now-famous statement, "this is the Internet, and we can fact-check your ass." Where before journalists and pundits could bloviate at leisure, offering illogical analysis or citing "facts" that were in fact false, now the Sunday morning op-eds have already been dissected on Saturday night, within hours of their appearing on newspapers' websites.

Annoyance to journalists is the least of this, because what is really going on is something much more profound: it's the end of the power of Big Media. For almost a hundred years - from the time William Randolph Hearst pushed the Spanish-American war, to the ascendancy of talk radio in the 1990s - big newspapers and, later, television networks have set the agenda for public discussion, and tilted the playing field in ways that suited their institutional and political interests.

Not any more. As UPI columnist Jim Bennett notes, what is going on with journalism today is akin to what happened to the Church during the Reformation. Thanks to a technological revolution (movable type then, the Internet and talk radio now), power once concentrated in the hands of a few has been redistributed into the hands of the many.

This article spoke to my belief that all too often debates centered on choice ignore the flip side of the issue - information. Here is an example from The Washington Post:

It's not just that financial planning is a dry topic to most folks. It's that modern life is overloaded with choices. In "The Paradox of Choice," the Swarthmore College psychologist Barry Schwartz shows how a certain measure of choice can be liberating but how too much is a treadmill -- sometimes even triggering depression. Freedom and choice are wonderful things that allow us to realize our human potential. But there's a limit to how many choices each of us has time to make, and most people in the rich world are pretty much maxed out already.

You see this truth in the behavior of the affluent, who actually pay to avoid choices. They hire home decorators so they don't have to stare glassily at 200 kinds of curtain rail. They hire marriage planners so they don't have to fret about cream napkins vs. white ones. There are said to be 10,000 wedding consultants practicing in the United States. If the rich are deliberately avoiding choice, why are we so sure that the majority want more of it?

But what about the other side of the equation? The author makes no mention of the fact that information is now more plentiful, expansive, exchangable, and accessible than ever before. It is no surprise that the Gutenberg's invention predated the Reformation and not the other way around. Information supports a diversity of choices and these choices in return fuel the need for more information. It is undeniable that the premium on information has come down considerably and will on continue to do so. And so while it is true that if I have the same amount of information to choose between 3 choices or 10; the latter may be more stressful, that is probably a gross simplification of reality. Ultimately, it seems that in a world where the premium on information is falling and the number of choices available are increasing, the argument for an elite class deciding for all becomes weaker and weaker; simply because of the reality that individuals from all walks of life are much better than some government expert at choosing for themselves.

On a side note, it's funny how the author ignores the fact that hiring a marriage planner is in itself a choice. And, for the record, the author is trying to dislodge the legitimacy of choice as a guiding ideal for public policy in general and for social security specifically.

N Y political thugs freak out

While drug policy might not be "resonating" around the country, it resonated like hell in Albany County. "There's a new sheriff in town," or at least a new District Attorney, and it looks like David Soares is scaring the living crap out of Albany's ruling political crony class.

"Some longtime observers of New York politics and its cycles of reform see something different this time. One of them is Representative Jerrold Nadler, who is a product of the Upper West Side's 'This time it's deeper,' he said. 'Then it was about reforming politics. Now it's about the government itself.'"

2005 Freedom House rankings

Russia is back in the "not free" category, thanks to Putin's strikes against independent media and democratic elections. Not since the USSR collapsed 14 years ago has Russia earned this badge of shame from Freedom House.

Freedom House said that on balance, the world saw increased freedom in 2004: 26 countries showed gains while 11 showed decline. Of the world's 192 countries, it judged 46 percent free, 26 percent not free, and the rest partly free. Eight rated as the most repressive: Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Turkmenistan.

Rethinking red-state/blue-state

They misspelled "respondent," so I'm not sure how scientific this is. (via the Corner)

Some Perspective

Often we get cought up with what we percieve as encroachments on our freedom without realizing that things could be a lot worse:

The CEO of eBay's Indian subsidiary,, was arrested Sunday following an attempt by an Indian teenager to sell a pornographic video on the auction site. eBay has expressed outrage at the arrest, saying it removed the listing when it learned of its content, and that it has cooperated with police.

Bajaj was arrested on December 17th under section 67 of India's Information Technology Act, which covers the transmission of obscene material via electronic media. The arrest follows an attempt by an Indian teenager to sell a pornographic video on Under Indian law, all sex videos are considered obscene.

Whither power to the people?

Reason kicks around FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Not too hard, thankfully -- since he seems like a nice chap.

Reason: What about the price consumers are bearing by having government regulation of electronic equipment, like the broadcast flag for Hollywood?

Powell: Specifically what?

Reason: The price of innovation being reduced by someone having to come and beg your agency for approval to implement a new consumer-friendly device like TiVo.

Powell: I think the premise of your question is false. The notion that a complete laissez-faire deployment of equipment always will produce a quicker and more optimal, more innovative solution is not accurate. You wouldn't have a personal computer if there weren't a standard. You wouldn't have the production of content if there weren't protections for the creators of content.

The stuff you find on the Internet...

Amnesiac rediscovers his identity online. Very cool story.

Licensing Everything

I'm sure Damain will love this.

Strippers in [San Antonio] will soon have to put on something they can't take off -- a business license. The City Council on Friday approved a measure requiring exotic dancers to apply for permits and wear them while performing. Law enforcement authorities said the rule, which was unanimously approved by the 11-member council and goes into effect in 10 days, will allow them to quickly identify those dancers who are breaking nudity ordinances. (Among other things, full nudity and contact with customers are not allowed in San Antonio strip clubs.) ... The permit -- expected to be roughly half the size of a credit card -- would include the dancer's stage name and a photo. Police would be able to check that information against club records to determine her real name and other personal data.

Governor Erhlich isn't going to take it any more

Maryland, my home state, has its first Republican governor in 36 years. The Baltimore Sun remains as leftist as ever, though -- and Ehrlich's decided to completely freeze out the Sun's reporters. I have a feeling this isn't the best way to go about things.

Ehrlich and some Md. Democrats support medical marijuana, BTW.

What not to bring to the airport

Your red-state boyfriend's "mystery gift."

Baby talk

Dean Falk, an anthropologist at Florida State U., believes she's discovered the key to the evolution of human language.

"The epiphany for me was that I knew chimp mommies don't make these noises, so I knew something happened during evolution," she said. "The missing puzzle piece was bipedalism. We stood up; we lost hair. It was then that babies could no longer hang on to their mothers. Mothers had to hang on to their babies. That was a eureka moment."

Forced apart, she says, mother and child had to communicate somehow.

Foraging mothers would have had to put their babies down to search for food. They may have made noises to reassure them. These noises would have served as codes, and eventually evolved into words.
"The behaviour of chimp mommies and babies and human mothers and infants are delightfully identical in many ways but we are dramatically different in other ways," Prof Falk said.
"We vocalise continually in a way that helps babies begin to learn language. I wanted to find out why we are the only animals that talk, and this need to pacify our babies as humans evolved may be the reason."

This could be the root of it all, but I have my doubts. Language serves a bigger purpose when neither interlocutor is a baby. After all, how many words can an infant understand? I don't know that it's particularly important for babies to have access to meaningful words; after all, baby talk is just meaningless yet "reassuring" syllables.

UPDATE: It makes a lot of sense, actually, when you think about it.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Joy to the *world*

I almost cried when I read this, but that may be because pre-finals cramming has made me a little jumpy.

Dems change their tune on welfare?

That's right -- now that they think they're footing the bills. A Wall St. Journal op-ed says that Democratic strategist Lawrence O'Donnell

complained on MSNBC that "the segment of the country that pays for the federal government is now being governed by the people who don't pay for the federal government." Mr. O'Donnell added for good measure, "Ninety percent of the red states are welfare client states of the federal government."

Whoa there. People with higher incomes are being forced to give money to those with lower incomes? When did this start?!

Blue states have more high earners; these people pay more taxes. Republicans have been complaining about this for years, and they've been called "greedy class warriors."

Using the Kerry campaign's $200,000 income cutoff, four times as many Connecticut residents as Oklahoma residents would have seen their taxes go up.

So why didn't O'Donnell air his concerns before the election, instead of backing the candidate who'd have raised taxes on the blue-state wealthy?

Spamming the spammers

Great stuff. (Via the Corner)

Driving while advertising

This is interesting.

I just encounter a minor act of marketing genius. I was walking back to my apartment when I saw a guy inching up to a stoplight with a large (venti?) Starbucks cup on his driver's side roof. In my Good Samaritan act of the day, I stopped at his window to let him know he had a cup on his roof. He rolled down his window and explained that it was a promotion and the cup was stuck up there with a magnet. Feeling kinda dumb, I walked away when the people from the car behind rolled down their window and asked me, "What's going on? Does he want that cup on his roof?" So the buzz is already beginning...

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Turkey and the EU

Johan Norberg writes:

Churchill once said that "The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative". Well, I think you can say that the EU invariably does the right thing, after having said so many nice things about the right thing at ceremonious occasions, as to make it too late to look for alternatives.

EU leaders have agreed to begin membership talks with Turkey in October 2005. Despite the fact that this is merely the start of a very long journey, this is cause for celebration. After the rapid political and economic reforms in Turkey the last few years any other decision would have been discriminatory, and a way of saying that the EU is an exclusive Christian club. Of course there are implementation problems in Turkey, particularly about human rights, but the same goes for Romania and other countries cleared for membership. Opening negotiations is the best way to make sure that this positive process continues in Turkey.

The critics say that Turkey is big, poor and Muslim. I say that this is exactly why it's so important to make it an EU member. It's big - and an ageing Europe needs its millions of workers. It's poor - which means that it really needs the open European market, and it also means that the bizarre regional funds of the EU won't be able to survive such an enlargement. It's Muslim - and Islam desperately needs to be secularised, just as Christianity was. Helping secular and Muslim Turkey to become a stable and rich democracy is our best hope to contribute to such a transition. And a union which includes the country that used to be the heartland of Islam would be an efficient way of avoiding a clash of civilisations, and proving that the present conflict is really a civil war within Islam.

"Smile to hardship O youth, because you are on your way to Paradise!"

Kind of random, but I just came across this. Very enlightening, if you want to know what we're dealing with.

It's voluntary, he says

Neal Boortz gets excited about the Fair (consumption) Tax.

It is amazing how many people don't like the idea because they don't think that the rich will be paying enough in taxes. It doesn't matter that paying taxes will be voluntary under the Fair Tax plan. It doesn't matter that nobody pays the retail sales tax on the basic necessities of life. It doesn't matter that lower income Americans will virtually get a free ride when their entire federal tax liability disappears, including Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Hmm. I'd much prefer a flat tax. The Fair Tax really would punish the poor (and it's not often I say that), who spend the bulk of their incomes on consumption. Some people would have more money to spend, but what about those with no accumulated wealth? The prices would be steeper for them, too. Maybe there's some economic argument I'm missing here.

Quit toying with us

Make the tax cuts permanent:

Since these tax cuts were first implemented in May 2003, the Dow Jones Industrial average has increased by nearly 30 percent and GDP has surged forward by 4.5 percent. Without the stimulative effect of these tax cuts, John Kerry's tailor might now be measuring him for a new Inauguration Day suit.

. . . There is one faction within the GOP that wants to put off tax cuts, and that is the deficit reduction crowd. They insist that the tax cuts must be "paid for" before they are made permanent. Yet, the evidence shows that because the Bush tax cuts revived economic activity in 2004, the Treasury collected about $60 billion more in tax revenues than was expected during the year, and the deficit shrank by $103 billion from its projected level. So the cuts already are paying for themselves. Moreover, the deficit hawks should be refocusing their ire at the source of the red ink problem: out of control federal spending.

True dat.

Professor Un-Profound

I felt like this class was anti-educational. . . . [Prof. X.] does not engage the students at all, and she speaks at about one word per minute, without substance. She never says "today we will talk about x, y, z" - she just rambles and emphasizes certain euphemisms as if trying to provoke a response transmitting information.
Here's an example: she taught us a bit about May 1968 and would say things like "A student ... REVOLT ... took ... PLACE" then pause for five seconds afterwards as if she said something very profound. Given that there is no textbook, it's not as if we had background knowledge, and I'd prefer she speak more efficiently and actually tell us many more specific details. . . .
People fell asleep and played computer games without consequences. . . .
One of the essay questions asked something like "Talk about the consumer culture after World War II and how it affected social ties, say, gender relations." It literally used the word "say" as the transition. When I got my paper back, I got comments that said that I didn't make enough of a big deal out of gender in my thesis. . . .

Ah, the stuff you find on CULPA. (And no, I didn't write it. I only give rave reviews.)

You better not pout; you better not cry . . .

Here's Charles Krauthammer on majorities, minorities, and sensitivity:

[M]ore than 80 percent of Americans are Christian, and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of . . . what? The winter solstice?

He mentions a bit about the way Jewish holidays -- and even Kwanzaa -- have been hoopla'd up with store decorations and cards (alright, part of that is thanks to savvy capitalists). The point is, in America, other religions are tolerated -- and then some.

To insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public so that minorities can feel "comfortable" not only understandably enrages the majority but commits two sins. The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions.

Until non-Christians come up with something more beautiful than "Little Drummer Boy," I predict that Xmas is here to stay. And, when you think about it, they're celebrating the birth of a Jew. That should please the Anti-Defamation League.

No crime here

From the WS Journal, on the Valerie Plame spy-cover-blowing-or-not affair:

The Plame inquiry is justified, we're told, by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which Congress passed because our intelligence community was apoplectic over Mr. Agee's "outing" during the 1970s of CIA covert agents stationed abroad to purposefully disrupt the agency's operations. The bill probably should have been called the Get Philip Agee Act.

The law requires a prosecutor to show that a person has disclosed information that identifies a "covert agent" (not an "operative") while actually knowing that the agent has been undercover within the last five years in a foreign country and that the disclosed information would expose the agent. For a person who had no classified access to the outed agent's identity, the law provides the additional hurdle of proving a pattern of exposing agents with the belief that such actions would harm the government's spying capabilities.

As a practical matter, this high degree of proof of willfulness or intentionality would be almost impossible to find in any circumstances other than in a Philip Agee clone (and maybe not even him). To interpret the statute more broadly would flout the longstanding American jurisprudential tradition of narrowly construing criminal laws, especially those that encroach upon free-speech values.

True dat. Set 'em free. But it sure was fun watching those Times reporters squirm for a while.

"Moderate," my . . . .

One man's moderate is another's whiny hypocritical tree-hugging crusader for social justice who just wants to sell books and buy a bigger house while pretending to be a woman of the people. So they say.

Friday, December 17, 2004

"I don't think history has any reason to be kind to him."

-- CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer on Ronald Reagan.

Media Research Org. posts the most outrageous quotes of the year.

My personal favorite is Katie Couric discussing Time's Person of the Year cover:

Couric: "Tell me why you all decided to honor the American soldier? Wondering why there's no woman on the cover, too?"
Time's Jim Kelly, pointing to cover: "This is a woman."
Couric: "Oh, there you go, oh sorry....I couldn't tell because of her helmet."

Never again . . .

. . . will I click on anything posted by Jonah Goldberg on NRO.

UPDATE: JG just linked to us. We're famous!!! I can't seem to link to it, but it's this:

I've lost the Columbia College libertarians!

UPDATE: Here is the link.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Cato hogs all the innovative people

Apparently Tom Palmer, like, invented the idea of gay marriage.

Just tape the kids' mouths shut

The Plano school district in Texas cracks down on Christmas -- big time:

In addition to banning Christmas colors, school officials have reportedly prohibited students from exchanging candy canes and pencils with religious messages on them, using reindeer symbols, or writing "Merry Christmas" on greeting cards to U.S. soldiers because the phrase might "offend someone." The district has even applied its policy to parents involved in school activities, barring them from exchanging "religious" Christmas items with other parents.

The Alliance Defense Fund will sue. Should be an easy win. Christmas colors? Come on.

The Social Security Trust Fund

We find that there is no empirical evidence supporting the claim that trust fund assets have reduced the level of debt held by the public. In fact, the evidence suggests just the opposite: trust fund assets have probably increased the level of debt held by the public. Moreover, the adoption of a "unified budget" framework in the late 1960s appears to play a statistically significant role in this result. We show how this counterintuitive result can be explained by a simple "split the dollar game" where competition between two political parties exploits the ignorance of voters who don't understand that the government's reported budget surplus actually includes the "offbudget" Social Security surplus. To be sure, this evidence is based on a limited annual time series (1949 – 2002) and so the results should be interpreted with caution. But the empirical tests are, if anything, biased toward finding a reduction in the level of debt held by the public, and not the increase that we find.

This excerpt is from an interesting study about the Social Security Trust Fund by Kent Smetters of the Wharton School. Something which I had not thought of, and which also happens to be another reason to support the personalization [after reading Luskin's use the word I have realized it is the right way to go; unfortunately, we all know that 'privatization' scares people] of accounts, is that the government will no longer have a sure source of capital to buy up Treasury bonds (debt). Wonderful.

Don Boudreaux = kewl

Don Boudreaux casts aside the lid on social attitudes. Behold:

Ever notice how enthusiastically our popular and political culture endorses and even celebrates self-interestedness?

Nope. But wait --

Many obviously self-interested actions are admired and encouraged. Only some self-interested actions are slapped with the label "greed" and condemned as ugly and harmful.

Jogging to stay healthy is virtuous; managing your pharmaceutical firm to stay profitable is inconsiderate (and for many people downright scandalous).

Damned greedy, those joggers.

Boudreaux analyses the patterns of double standards in the "greed" definition -- and reaches a surprising conclusion.

Don B. doesn't delve into the whys and wherefores here, but I think people tar financial aspirations as "selfish" because they believe it's a zero-sum game. Nobody loses out if you run a mile, but if you earn a hundred dollars -- why, you might as well have taken it out of a homeless person's pocket, the way you'll be reviled.

Sixteen at Harvard alone


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

World to End: Women Hardest Hit

From an AP article filed in Argentina:

Severe weather caused by global warming can pose greater physical danger to women than men, a Canadian attending a UN conference on climate change said Friday.
"For instance, often women don't know how to swim, so in a flood situation that can lead to a higher instance of death or injury," Angie Daze, a program manager with a Canadian group called Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change, said.

But Rush Limbaugh says we musn't underestimate the survival skills of the fairer sex:

Where does this statistic come from that women can't swim? I can tell you what, I have a little common sense and I know that women have a little bit better ability to float than other people. There's fat content, folks. Think about it. Don't make me explain this. I don't want to get an FCC fine although that may help you out here. Think Pamela Anderson sinking. It's just not possible.

Besides that, it's insulting. Any fool knows how to grab hold of a piece of driftwood. Why am I even discussing this on the night before my macro exam?

Say Hello to the Supremes on February 22

You heard it here first: The date is set for oral argument in the Supreme Court case of Kelo v. City of New London, where the Institute for Justice represents homeowners who are fighting the abuse of eminent domain.

We are planning a short trip to the Imperial Capital (Washington, D.C.), to see the IJ attorneys razzle dazzle in the nation's highest court, visit the magnificent glass temple that houses the Cato Institute, and spend some quality time with think-tank dwelling libertarian scholars and policy wonks. Mark your calendars:

Tuesday, February 22, 2005.
Hat tip: Puja (CC '04), former CCL member and IJ paralegal extraordinaire.
Extra: Visitor's Guide to Oral Argument at the Supreme Court of the United States (PDF)

Classroom bias: Starting 'em young

Really young, according to the Manhattan Institute's Sol Stern.

What all conscientious teachers ought instead to try to inculcate in students is "literacy for social equity and social justice," a literacy that can deconstruct language and show how it is used to maintain power and privilege in our current society.

These are the views of Brian Cambrough, a professor in New South Wales and a leader of the "whole-language movement." Cambrough's wisdom plays a dominant role in a new New York City public school how-to-teach-reading campaign.

Another unscientific theorist involved is Lucy Calkins, a professor at Columbia's Teachers College. Stern on Calkins:

As I pointed out in "Breaking Free," her approach to teaching reading and writing to young children is based on the Romantic idea that all children are "natural readers and writers" and should be encouraged to start scribbling in journals and rewriting composition drafts without worrying or being taught much about formal grammar or spelling. Under Ms. Calkins's tutelage, the city's new literacy curriculum encompassed two of progressive education's key commandments -- that teachers must not "drill and kill" and that children can "construct their own knowledge."

Or they can actually learn to read.

Pity the "liberated" schoolchildren. Those with dedicated parents will learn to read at home -- because they certainly won't get the instruction at school.

Social Security Talk Points

Here is a primer for the arguments people have been making against a system of private accounts.

[Hat tip: Donald Luskin]

I had no idea...

...that public school teachers had tenure, from today's NYT:

Two months ago New York City's teachers' union appeared to be speeding toward a breakthrough deal in negotiations with the first deputy mayor and the labor commissioner. The two sides talked of a 14 percent raise in exchange for productivity increases in the form of a longer school year and longer school day.

The president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, was making negotiating progress with Deputy Mayor Marc V. Shaw and Labor Commissioner James F. Hanley, and she hoped to wrap up the contract quickly. But then she met with Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein one on one. There, he made several demands, among them eliminating tenure for teachers.

"My members would never agree to that," Ms. Weingarten said in an interview yesterday. "Tenure is the real stumbling block to a deal."

The article does, however, end with some words of wisdom from the president of Teachers College, Arthur Levine:

"Ultimately both sides are right," Mr. Levine said. "Right now we have a system where teachers are systematically underpaid and our schools aren't competitive with the suburbs. On the other hand, we haven't managed to achieve anything resembling accountability for teachers, and tenure certainly militates against that."

Thanks to Casey for the link.

Baby Boomers and Drug Reform

Yet history will show that, for all their organizing skill and moral sensitivities, the boomers took a pass on actually changing one hellish state policy rather than have a few uncomfortable conversations with their kids. Gotta have that moral high ground even at the kitchen table, it seems. Boomers have collaborated and shamelessly switched sides on the war on drugs with full knowledge of the repercussions. If the greatest generation had landed at Omaha Beach, pissed themselves, tossed their weapons into the sea, and begged to serve as Nazi slop-boys, then you might have an equivalent act of mass cowardice.


Chomsky the Libertarian

Reason's Julian Sanchez on his website:

Libertarians aren't supposed to like Noam Chomsky. For many classical liberals, mere mention of his name is enough to provoke a visceral rage, matched in intensity only by the fawning adulation he receives from so many of my crunchy comrades at NYU. But for years, his books have been a guilty pleasure of mine. So how could a nice free-market boy like me find himself curled up in bed (figuratively speaking) with the radical left's most notorious demagogue?

Let me answer by way of anecdote. I recently attended a 15th anniversary gala for FAIR, the ultra-left media watchdog group, at which Chomsky was the keynote speaker. He was introduced by the spectacle of Phil Donahue, visibly humbled after his ouster from stardom by the likes of Oprah and Springer, and clearly yearning, despite his professions of radicalism, to return to the womb of the Democratic Party. Old Phil was flung from the political mainstream, he explained, by his conversations with Chomsky, which began with a single sentence, still vivid in Donahue's mind: "Never trust . . ." Big corporations? Exploitative capitalists? Nope: "Never trust the state!"

This was an "applause line," but the crowd's response was palpably lukewarm: their animus was towards capitalism, and only secondarily towards the (current, ostensibly capitalist) state. Unlike his acolytes, who play at revolution by flying to WTO protests on daddy's credit card, Chomsky is the genuine article: an anarchist. (Well, a tenured anarchist, but close enough.) And believe it or not, that puts him a hell of a lot closer to libertarians than he or his groupies dare admit.

Read the whole thing, it something you don't hear everyday. But I have to say, what i found most heartening was the final pararaph:

Libertarians have spent so much of the last decade cozying up to conservatives that the snide characterization of us as "Republicans who smoke pot" is beginning to feel uncomfortably apt. This strategy has had some degree of success (in getting funding for our think tanks, at least), but has also left plenty of "low-hanging fruit" unplucked among the ranks of the student left. How many of these kids are only a copy of Economics in One Lesson away from realizing that markets, rather than statism in the guise of "democratic social justice", are the last, best hope of the world's poor? Remember, the late and very brilliant Robert Nozick started out a socialist, only to be brought around by a libertarian friend. For all we know, his successor is standing on a protest line now, waiting to be turned. If we don't soon get over our myopic focus on the right as a source of potential allies, we may have another Chomsky to grapple with instead.

I hate to always bring it back to this, but this is exactly why these debates are so damn impotant for us. There are droves of liberals just waiting to become libertarains. Right Avi?

Thanks to Avi for the link.

So close to the socialist dream, and yet . . .

You almost have to laugh to keep from crying. Via LGF.

Eloquent defense of school choice

By Will Wilkinson at Reason.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

And now let's go to Michael Crichton for the latest weather...

From CNN:

Now he's questioning global warming in his new thriller, "State of Fear,"
about eco-terrorists who plot a series of natural disasters -- earthquakes,
underwater landslides, a tsunami -- to prove that global warming is a threat to
humanity. A ragtag band of scientists and lawyers uncovers the scheme.

"State of Fear" sounds like a typical Crichton thriller, but this time he's
using the novel as a platform, tacking on a five-page message stating his notion
that the theory of global warming is speculative at best, and a 14-page
bibliography of works supporting his views.

That's all too bad about global warming being junk science. I was looking forward to it. In the words of Dennis Miller (scroll to the bottom), "I'm always a little chilly anyway"

On the bright side

It might not get any worse, says the Weekly Standard's Irwin Stelzer.

The budget deficit . . . might be headed in the right direction. In the fiscal year that ended on September 30 the deficit came to $412 billion, the same percentage of GDP--3.5 percent--as last year. That compares with forecasts that centered around $500 billion, or a 4.25 percent of GDP.

It could even improve. Sorta.

Better still, reliable sources in the government assure me that on current trends the deficit will shrink to about half the current level as the economy grows. Assuming, of course, that Congress and the president finally meet a new expenditure they can do without.

But, as James Taranto would say, "It may, or it may not."

North Korea's Revolution

SEOUL - A creeping revolution, both social and economic, is under way in North Korea and it seems there's no turning back. For decades, the country served as the closest possible approximation of an ideal Stalinist state. But the changes in its economy that have taken place after 1990 have transformed the country completely and, perhaps, irreversibly.

For decades, Pyongyang propaganda presented North Korea as an embodiment of economic self-sufficiency, completely independent from any other country. This image sold well, especially in the more credulous part of the Third World and among the ever-credulous leftist academics. The secret of its supposed self-sufficiency was simple: the country received large amounts of direct and indirect aid from the Soviet Union and China, but never admitted this in public. Though frequently annoyed by such "ingratitude", neither Moscow nor Beijing made much noise since both communist giants wanted to maintain, at least superficially, friendly relations with their small, capricious ally.

But collapse of the Soviet Union made clear that claims of self-sufficiency were unfounded. From 1991, the North Korean economy went into free fall. Throughout 1991-99, the gross national product (GNP) of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) nearly halved. The situation became unbearable in 1996, when the country was struck by a famine that took, by the best available estimates, about 600,000 lives. The famine could have been prevented by a Chinese-style agricultural reform, but this option was politically impossible: such a reform would undermine the government's ability to control the populace. [...]

In the 1960s, North Korea was unique in being the only nation in the world where markets were outlawed. The retail trade in a strict sense almost ceased to exist since virtually everything, from socks to apples, was distributed through an elaborate public distribution system with money payments being rather symbolic. The rations depended on a person's position in the intricate social hierarchy, which eventually became semi-hereditary. In Kim Il-sung's North Korea, there was almost nothing that could be sold on market since production outside the state economy was almost non-existent. [...]

However, the economic disaster of 1991-95, and especially the subsequent famine, changed the situation. Markets began to spread across the country with amazing speed. From 1995-97, nearly all plants and factories ceased to operate. The rations were not issued anymore: in most areas people still received ration coupons but these could not be exchanged for food or other rationed goods. Only in Pyongyang and some other politically important areas did food continue to be distributed. But even there, the norms were dramatically watered down. In such a situation, the ability and willingness to engage in some private business became the major guarantee of physical survival.[...]

In North Korea, which for decades was so different, this meant a revolution. The new situation undermined the government's ability to control the populace. People involved in the new market activities are independent from (or inured to) subtle government pressures that had ensured compliance for decades. One cannot promote or demote a vendor, transfer him or her to a better or worse job, nor determine his or her type of residence (though admittedly, most people still live in the houses they received when the old system was still operating). [...]

Until recently, the government did not try to lead, but simply followed the events. The much-trumpeted reforms of 2002 by and large were hardly anything more than the admission of the situation that had been existing for a few years by then. The official abolition (or near-abolition) of the public distribution system did not count for much, since this system ceased to operate outside Pyongyang around 1995.

But the North Korean economy has indeed come a long way from its Stalinist ways. Now the government has neither money nor support nor the political will to revive the Stalinist-style central economy. There is no way back, only forward. Stalinism is dead. Welcome to capitalism, comrades!

Hopefully the road to capitalism is as certain as the road to serfdom.

[Via: Hit and Run]

PS: we have past 100 posts, thanks to all


Bush fires Tenet, then awards him Medal of Freedom.

This just in: the blogosphere leans free-market

Republican and libertarian blogs get the top honors in a Washington Post survey:

National Review Online's The Corner was the winner in the "Best Rant," "Best Democratic Party Coverage," "Best Republican Party Coverage" and "Best Inside the Beltway" categories. Another National Review Online blog, "Kerry Spot," won the "Best Campaign Dirt Category."
The only other blog to win in multiple categories was, which won for "Most Likely to Last Beyond Election" and "Best Outside the Beltway."
Other winners were Little Green Footballs for "Best International," ScrappleFace for "Class Clown," and for "Most Original."

One word... and they couldn't get it right

James Taranto reports on a troubling error in Minnesota's electoral process. He quotes the Minnesota Star Tribune, which states:

One of the 10 handwritten ballots cast for president carried the name of vice presidential candidate John Edwards (actually spelled "Ewards" on the ballot) rather than Kerry. . . .
There was stunned silence after the announcement that Edwards had gotten a vote for president, but none of the 10 electors volunteered that they voted for Edwards as a protest, nor did anyone step forward to admit an error.
"It was perhaps a senior moment," said elector Michael Meuers, 60, a Bemidji marketing consultant for a health care firm, the second-youngest member of the Minnesota delegation to the Electoral College.

Taranto adds, "The Associated Press reports that Edwards carried all 10 votes for vice president, making this, so far as we know, the first time an elector has backed the same candidate for both offices."

I'm lovin' it.

Cato's Dan Griswold on the $55.5 billion trade deficit:

This morning's trade deficit report, far from being bad news, testifies to the continued expansion of the U.S. economy. . . . As usual, rising imports have been accompanied by rising GDP, industrial output, and employment. Meanwhile, import competition keeps inflation down and raises real living standards for American workers.
The other piece of good news in the report is that monthly exports of goods and services reached another record. Total exports are up nearly 13 percent so far this year compared to 2003, another sign of an expanding global economy. America's growing volume of imports and exports reminds us that trade and prosperity are a package deal.

Alas, 95% of America persists in the belief that trade is a zero-sum game -- i.e., imports take the place of good ol' American exports.


What an appalling lack of judgment.

Google to Add Major Libraries to Its Database

Google, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search service, plans to announce an agreement today with some of the nation's leading research libraries and Oxford University to begin converting their holdings into digital files that would be freely searchable over the Web.

It may be only a step on a long road toward the long-predicted global virtual library. But the collaboration of Google and research institutions that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library is a major stride in an ambitious Internet effort by various parties. The goal is to expand the Web beyond its current valuable, if eclectic, body of material and create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the world's books, scholarly papers and special collections. […]

"Within two decades, most of the world's knowledge will be digitized and available, one hopes for free reading on the Internet, just as there is free reading in libraries today," said Michael A. Keller, Stanford University's head librarian.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Hoo boy

Discrimination scandal breaks out at the New York Times' printing plant in N.J.:

The newspaper maintains "a hostile and pervasive work environment" based upon "the widespread use of racial and religious epithets" and the "disparate treatment" of employees "based upon race, color, national origin, and religion," according to the 16-page complaint.

Somehow I don't think this will make the Times' front-page news for 4o days like Abu Graib did.

The new "privileged," resented whites?

This community . . . numbers about 2 million, and they are the fastest-growing such community in the nation. Their median income is $60,000 (as against the general American one, about $39,000). They boast something like 200,000 millionaires. They are extraordinarily educated, leaders in many professions. They include about 40,000 doctors -- a staggering figure -- to which you can add about 12,000 medical students and interns. Famous small-business owners, [they] preside over nearly 40 percent of hotels in the United States. In short, this is a group of American superachievers.

-- Jay Nordlinger in the latest issue of National Review, writing about Indian Americans.

The Economist on social security reform

Who is right? In theory, creating private accounts need not make the hole in the government's finances bigger than it already is. The government is merely reducing its implicit future liabilities and increasing its explicit current liabilities. If financial markets are efficient, they should spot this and ought not to demand higher interest payments on government bonds. The current-account deficit (the difference between national spending and national income) need not widen because national saving would be unaffected by the reform. Although the government would be borrowing more to make up for the money diverted into individual accounts, private saving would rise by exactly the same amount. [...]

In any event, the creation of private accounts will not in itself eliminate the unfunded liabilities implicit in today's pension system. That, however, is what the politically alluring proposals from some Republicans in Congress seem to assume. But as Gregory Mankiw, head of Mr Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, said recently, there is no free lunch: if the sums are to tally, and if higher taxes are off limits, benefits will have to be cut. The question is whether Mr Mankiw's boss will listen.


Oh, for ***'s sake

From National Review's 12/27/04 issue:

Tasked by her teacher with writing a Thanksgiving poem, fifth-grader Kaeley Hay of the Lincoln-Franklin Elementary School in Garwood, N.J., came up with this charming little idyll: "Leaves are falling out of the air, / Piles of leaves everywhere. / Scarecrows standing high up with the corn, / Farmers harvest in the early morn. / Pilgrims thank God for what they were given, / Everybody say . . . . happy Thanksgiving!" Kaeley's classmates liked her work so much they voted to display it on the school's bulletin board November 10, just in time for parent-teacher night. The poem was duly posted . . . . but not before a vigilant staff member, sensing danger to the Republic, had struck out the word "God." The child's mother complained. After consulting their attorneys, the school board reinstated the offending word. Another constitutional crisis narrowly averted! Thank goodness we have attorneys to tell us what we may do.

Now, really, that's a bit much. Give the kid a break; at least she wasn't carrying scissors.


The Economist looks at the state of higher ed. in the States:

. . . And things are likely to get less balanced, because younger professors are more liberal. For instance, at Berkeley and Stanford, where Democrats overall outnumber Republicans by a mere nine to one, the ratio rises above 30 to one among assistant and associate professors.

Oh, @%#! I'll just have to send the [future] kids to Hillsdale. Or to St. John's College, where my little brother is a freshman.

UPDATE: Links fixed.

The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses

I just got a signed copy of this book in the mail completely unsolicited. So my first thought was, wow, these guys are desperate for speaking gigs. But after reading some Amazon reviews, maybe we should invite them. Here is one of the reviews:

The Shadow University by Kors and Silverglate presents a meticulously documented and chilling account of the infringements on free speech, free association, free thought, and due process forced onto students and politically incorrect faculty at some of this country's most prestigious colleges and universities. It also shows how shallow are the efforts of campuses to showcase "diversity" of culture when the real role of a college or university should be to present and protect diversity of ideas.

The book documents how the lack of basic civil rights on campuses is generally unknown outside of the closed academic society and how courts have consistently ruled against the colleges and universities on basic constitutional grounds when their policies, such as speech codes, have been challenged.

The stories recounted in the book show the duplicity and hypocrisy of many college administrators and some faculty. Fortunately, common sense and a faith in basic rights of free speech and due process can correct the problem, but only if enough people recognize the threat to freedom on campus. This book should be required reading for all college administrators, trustees, and faculty, as well as being highly recommended for all students and parents. We owe Kors & Silvergate (and groups such as the ACLU) a great debt of gratitude for their efforts to restore and preserve freedom on campus.

Anyways, if you want a copy of the book, they are going used off Amazon for 2.49. If anyone has read it or heard anything about it let me know.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

another reason why to tell children not to play with scissors

A 10-year-old fourth-grade girl at Holme Elementary School in the Far Northeast was pulled out of class, handcuffed, and taken to the local police station in the back of a police wagon earlier this week after a pair of 8-inch scissors were found in her book bag, according to authorities and her angry mother.

School district and police officials said yesterday that they were following state law and procedures in dealing with students who have weapons on school property. They say that those rules demand police be called and that procedures call for handcuffing suspects regardless of age or crime.

Porsche Brown's mother, Rose Jackson, was outraged