Friday, January 28, 2005

Romanian red tape

Government bureaucrats can't seem to help Constantin Putica get a name change. It's not that he doesn't have a legitimate complaint, considering what "putica" means in Romanian.

Feminist revolution skips Italy

Alimony payments can add up quickly: there's college tuition, food, clothing, kibble....

"He has to pay maintenance for our two children, so why shouldn't he pay for the care of our dog Pepi, which we bought together?

"With food and vet bills a dog can cost almost as much as a child to raise."

An Italian divorcee filed a complaint against her former husband for refusing to provide money for "Pepi". The judge ruled in her favor.

Crouching tiger

In America, you know she'd file a lawsuit.

A Chinese pensioner had to be taken to hospital after she mistook a painting of a tiger for the real thing.

The woman, in her 70s, spotted the 'tiger' in a dark alleyway after shopping at a nearby supermarket.

According to Shanghai Evening Post, she screamed, turned and ran after seeing a 'tiger' coming at her. But the woman, who the paper named as Mrs Wang, slipped on ice and fell heavily.

The tiger turned out to be a painting displayed with clever backlighting in a shop window.

Falling dollar attracts foreigners to the Big Apple

...but not enough to match pre-9/11 levels.

The city's tourism bureau estimates that 5.3 million foreign tourists came to New York last year, far fewer than the 6.8 million who flooded the city in 2000 but up 10 percent from 2003. Initial estimates show that the number of tourists from Britain rose 12 percent in 2004 from 2003, when the group led the return of international tourism to New York with 870,000 visitors. (Canadians came in second with 690,000 and Japanese tourists were a distant third, with 292,000 visitors in 2003.)

It's hard to believe that NYC tourism still feels the effects of 9/11. Are foreigners afraid to visit? Do they have trouble getting through airport security? Wazza problem?

J-No at Davos

NRO's Jay Nordlinger reports from Davos, Switzerland, where he's attending the annual World Economic Forum.

At my table (I am a "facilitator") I discover something that can be discovered anywhere around town: The United States is a stunningly powerful country, even an all-powerful country. It is responsible for nearly everything bad -- war, pestilence, famine. It can do anything. Every problem in the world is its fault, and every solution is within its grasp, if only it weren't so malevolent.

The United States could create peace in the Middle East tomorrow, if it were so minded. It could cure AIDS, if it wanted. Two of the problems we have been asked to consider are poverty and American leadership (no, I'm not kidding). But really, I hear, these problems are one, because the United States is the cause of poverty throughout the world.

He's being sarcastic, by the way. A few words on Tony Blair's performance at the forum:

After his speech, he gives maybe the best answer to any question I have heard at Davos. Klaus Schwab asks him what the "business community" can do to help the world. Blair says, "First of all, the business community can make sure its businesses work well -- and make a profit." That receives a smattering of applause. Blair smiles, "That's the first time I've ever been applauded for making that point."

Who's the dummy?

The campus socialists are out in full force today, passing out pamphlets in the bitter cold. Seen in bright red marker at the 116th-St. gate:

"Social Security -- Bush's Achilles heal!"

Propaganda 101...

...Perhaps the only class Bush passed in his Yale days.

So now we have three columnists who were promoting administration policies while SECRETLY on the White House pay roll. Libertarians should be doubly offended, for not only is this a terrible episode of government trying to influence opinion, but it is also a gross misappropriation of taxpayer money. Michael McManus, Maggie Gallagher, and "Stretch" Armstrong Williams. There are bound to be others. Let's hope, for the sake of "uniting, not dividing," that the Bush administration reveals the rest of the hacks on their payroll.

The emerging trend of of columnists on the payroll doesn't mean every conservative media figure is sucking from the Administration's nipples, but it certtainly makes them look pretty bad, as intelligent conservatives recognize: "If other contracts exist, then the White House should disclose them," says Jonah Goldberg, editor at large for National Review Online.

To be sure, the McManus and Gallagher cases are not on quite the same level of impropriety as the Williams fiasco. From

Horn insists that HHS was not paying Gallagher and McManus to write about Bush administration initiatives but for their expertise as marriage advocates. "We live in a complicated world and people wear many different hats," he says. "People who have expertise might also be writing columns. The line has become increasingly blurred between who's a member of the media and who is not. Thirty years ago if you were a columnist, then you were a full-time employee of a newspaper. Columnists today are different."

The problem springs from the failure of both Gallagher and McManus to disclose their government payments when writing about the Bush proposals. But one HHS critic says another dynamic has led to the controversy, and a blurring of ethical and journalistic lines: Horn and HHS are hiring advocates -- not scholars -- from the pro-marriage movement. "They're ideological sympathizers who propagandize," says Tim Casey, attorney for Legal Momentum, a women's rights organization.

Some other examples of impropriety in the admin-media relationship:
[L]ast week it was disclosed that Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, as well as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, helped Bush with his inauguration address -- an address the two men praised publicly without revealing their hand in crafting it.

"When you sign your name to a check, that's as clear-cut an example of conflict of interest as there could be," notes Newsday columnist James Pinkerton, who worked in the White House for six years under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "I haven't taken a journalism class since high school. But even then, I think they said you shouldn't be on the government payroll. It's KGB-ish."

Exactly. I've recently acquired and begun reading Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, and it's surreal how our "conservative" government is doing exactly what Hayek warned the path of a socialist government would be (warning: broad generalization ahead): Introduce bloated and unecessary central policies (NCLB, Marriage Initiative), and then because not everyone will agree on how these overreaching policies should work, introduce propaganda to sway public opinion in government favor.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The unselfish gene?

According to Israeli psychologists, "a link exists between people who appear selfless and seek to help others, and a gene variant on chromosome No. 11."

Volunteers who filled out a questionnaire exhibiting these traits then had DNA samples taken where the gene variant was discovered - which boosts receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine, giving the brain a good feeling. The study appears in the online edition of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

But is it really altruism if it makes you feel warm and fuzzy?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Guns and crime

Alex Tabarrok points to an article about the Swiss festival Knabenschiessen.

The greatest shooting festival in the world for youngsters takes place every year in Zurich, Switzerland. Imagine thousands of boys and girls shooting military service rifle over three days amid an enormous fair with ferris wheels and wild rides of all kinds. You’re at the Knabenschiessen (boys’ shooting contest).

Held since the year 1657, the competition traditionally has been both a sport and a way of encouraging marksmanship in a country where every male serves in the militia army. Today, girls compete along side the boys. In fact, girls are now winning the competition.

It’s September 13, 2004. In the U.S. on this date, the Clinton fake “assault weapon” ban sunsets. In Zurich, some 5,631 teens – 4,046 boys and 1,585 girls, aged 13-17 – have finished firing the Swiss service rifle, and it’s time for the shootoff.

That rifle is the SIG Strumgeweher (assault rifle) model 1990 (Stgw 90), a selective fire, 5.6 mm rifle with folding skeleton stock, bayonet lug, bipod, and grenade launcher. The Stgw 90 is a real assault rifle in that it is fully automatic, although that feature is disabled during the competition. Every Swiss man, on reaching age 20, is issued one to keep at home. Imagine all those teenagers firing this real assault rifle while their moms and dads look on with approval, anxiously awaiting the scores.

Not surprisingly, the Swiss don't have much of a fondness for gun laws.

The Mayor is a member of the Socialist Party, but being on the left does not necessarily entail being anti-gun. A few years ago, the socialist fringe wanted to ban the Knabenschiessen, but the proposal was promptly shot down. Last year Switzerland’s Minister of Justice was voted out of office after proposing firearm registration. Switzerland stands alone in Europe with her free market economy and respect for firearm ownership, and citizens vote accordingly.

Which led me to wonder, what is their murder rate? According to Nation Master, there were 69 murders in 2000, of which 40 were by firearm. Unfortunately, they only get down to the hundredths place when listing their murders by firearm per 1000 capita, because that gives you a very unenlightening 0.00. Estimating that the population in 2000 was around 7,000,000 [rounding down], we get 0.0057. This compared to the US's .02 murders by firearm per 1000 capita in 2000. So do gun control laws have any effect?

Well, the National Academy of Sciences seems to think not in their recent report on gun control laws. As John Lott stated over at the Volokh Conspiricy:

Based on 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, and some of its own empirical work, the panel couldn't identify a single gun control regulation that reduced violent crime, suicide or accidents.

From the assault weapons ban to the Brady Act to one-gun-a-month restrictions to gun locks, nothing worked. (Something that I have been the first person to investigate empirically for many of these laws, and I also had been unable to find evidence that they reduced violent crime.)

The study was not the work of gun-control opponents. The panel was set up during the Clinton administration, and of its members whose views on guns were publicly known before their appointments all but one had favored gun control.

The one issue that has gotten some attention is the report's claim that right-to-carry laws do not deter crimes. However, Lott, who has published about this before with the conclusion that they do in fact reduce crime, is dubious about their findings. He brings to attention the fact that one of the committee members for the study, James Wilson, a professor of management and public policy (emeritus) at UCLA and Ronald Reagan professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, wrote a dissent with regard to this conclusion. As Lott notes,

James Q. Wilson's very unusual dissent is very interesting (only two out of the last 236 reports over the last 10 years have carried a dissent). Wilson states that all the research provided "confirmation of the findings that shall-issue laws drive down the murder rate . . . " Wilson has been on four of these panels and never previously thought that it was necessary to write a dissent, including the previous panel that attacked Isaac Ehrlich's work showing that the death penalty represented a deterrent.

Wilson said that that panel's conclusion raises concerns given that "virtually every reanalysis done by the committee" confirmed right-to-carry laws reduced crime. He found the committee's only results that didn't confirm the drop in crime "quite puzzling." They accounted for "no control variables" - nothing on any of the social, demographic, and public policies that might affect crime. Furthermore, he didn't understand how evidence that was not publishabled in a peer-reviewed journal would be given such weight.

Maybe we should do a debate about gun control.

Libertarianish letter in British Medical Journal

There was a small study published in the BMJ in 2003 that followed 137 users through drug treatment and afterward to find out if there was excess risk of overdose due to lost tolerance to opiates in particular.

There was excess overdose among those who finished treatment (of the 100 individuals who did not complete treatment, nobody overdosed; of the 37 who completed, five overdosed).

An author commenting on the study noted that prescribed injection methadone led to problems of injection (methadone and heroin are injected in different places in the body and in different ways; heroin is a powder dissolved in water, methadone is a thick, syrupy substance). Up to 30% of injection methadone users were found to have complications ranging from deep vein thrombosis (a risk for leg ulcers) to necessitated amputation. He also noted a study in which children died after getting into take-home methadone prescriptions, and referred to the persistence of hepatitis even among participants in syringe exchanges (could be a lot of reasons for that - shared cookers are breeding grounds for Hep C and clean needles do not necessarily mean clean cookers; also, cotton filters through which heroin is drawn from the cooker into the syringe are frequently "squeezed" of excess heroin by people searching for a free fix).

His conclusion?

"Treatments pose a greater threat to public health than the underlying problem. Other than managing the inevitable physical complications of drug misuse, the medical establishment has nothing to offer drug users. Their interests are best served by deconstructing the current medical models of addiction treatment to allow response from the community through non-statutory helping agencies. Policy makers will find it difficult to persuade the conventional psychiatric based services to undergo this exigent fundamental reform."

Not your father's TV weatherman

Mark Mathis pushes the boundaries of normal (video here). Via NRO.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No smoking.. at work or at home

What do you think of a firm refusing to hire employees who smoke in their free time? The company wants to keep its health care costs to a minimum.

I saw people can hire whomever they darn well please. If you agree, just keep in mind that people could use the same health-cost argument to avoid hiring gay men, among other groups. Now that would cause an outcry -- but smokers aren't protected by political correctness.

Don't email your senator

From Taranto's Best of the Web, a story proving that the political is personal:

John Ford, who lives in Memphis, Tenn., has, shall we say, an interesting personal life. The Memphis Commercial Appeal describes his testimony at a recent Juvenile Court hearing:

Some days, Ford said, he lives with ex-wife Tamara Mitchell-Ford and the three children they had together. On others, he stays with his longtime girlfriend, Connie Mathews, and their two children.

This, despite a raucous 2002 divorce that led to Mitchell-Ford's jailing after she plowed her Jaguar through the French doors of Mathews's Collierville home.

Ford said he pays nearly all bills for both families. They stay in houses he owns and where he also lives.

Wait, it gets better. The reason Ford was in court was that he is "battling a suit by a third woman, Dana Smith, who is trying to increase his court-ordered support of a 10-year-old girl he fathered." In his defense, Ford cites a state law "that keeps court-ordered support lower when a father is financially responsible for other children."

But here's the kicker: Ford wrote the law whose protection he now seeks. He is a member of the Tennessee Senate and chairman of its Child Welfare Committee.

Maria Full of Grace

If you haven't checked out the film Maria Full of Grace yet, I highly recommend it, especially for those of you interested in the war on drugs. Students for Sensible Drug Policy is likely going to have a showing on campus this spring and I'll post details here, but don't wait - it's out on DVD.

Lead actress Catalina Sandino Moreno was nominated for Best Actress today, and I haven't seen any of the other movies whose actresses were nominated (details here), but she was outstanding. The film won the Audience Award at the Sundance film festival, for whatever that might be worth.

Warning: Parts of the film are gruesome and gut wrenching.

...and the Christian right step in...

So it seems that the Christian right are not happy with President Bush. They refuse to support the privatization of Social SEcurity unless Bush pushes the gay-marriage ammendment again.

A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.


The members of the coalition that wrote the letter are some of Mr. Bush's most influential conservative Christian supporters.


Several members of the group said that not long ago, many of their supporters were working or middle class, members of families that felt more allegiance to the Democratic Party because of programs like Social Security before gravitating to the Republican Party as it took up more cultural conservative issues over the last 20 years.

So unfortunately, there really is no free lunch. In order to get more economic liberties, perhaps the trade off is to take away civil liberties. Hopefully, the Christian right is not that influential, but if Bush can't even get support from his own party on the SS issue, he may have to appeal to the social conservatives somehow. Stupid me to think that something could actually get done in government without this kind of bribery.

It's not just a theory if science backs it up

At NRO, Judith Kleinfeld explains what most people should already know: the sexes are different.

When female-to-male transsexuals are given high doses of testosterone in preparation for sex-change therapy, their visual spatial skills improved dramatically and their verbal skills (where females on average surpass males) decline.

More on that... and very interesting stuff. Read it.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Murray on the Summers thinking-out-loud thing

AEI's Charles Murray, no stranger to controversy himself, rises to Summers' defense with a piece in the New York Times on sex-difference research:

"Exciting" is the right word for this work, not "threatening" or "scary." We may not know the answers yet, but we can be confident that they will be more interesting than, say, a discrete gene for science that clicks on for men differently than it does for women. Rather, it will be a story of the interaction of many male and female genetic differences, and the way a person's environment affects those differences. Hardly any of the answers will lend themselves to simplistic verdicts of "males are better" or vice versa. For every time there is such a finding favoring males, there will be another favoring females.

Some people will find the results threatening - because some people find any group differences threatening - but such fears will be misplaced. We may find that innate differences give men, as a group, an edge over women, as a group, in producing, say, terrific mathematicians. But knowing that fact about the group difference will not change another fact: that some women are terrific mathematicians. The proportions of men and women mathematicians may never be equal, but who cares? What's important is that all women with the potential to become terrific mathematicians have full opportunity to do so

That last sentence was a pathetic bone tossed to the Times readership. Just tell me Western women don't have "full opportunity" to become mathematicians. Go on, I dare you.

Some sensibility about the Summers fiasco.

Eugene Volokh points to an article in Slate by William Saletan, an excerpt:

Let's be clear about what this isn't. It isn't a claim about overall intelligence. Nor is it a justification for tolerating discrimination between two people of equal ability or accomplishment. Nor is it a concession that genetic handicaps can't be overcome. Nor is it a statement that girls are inferior at math and science: It doesn't dictate the limits of any individual, and it doesn't entail that men are on average better than women at math or science. It's a claim that the distribution of male scores is more spread out than the distribution of female scores—a greater percentage at both the bottom and the top. Nobody bats an eye at the overrepresentation of men in prison. But suggest that the excess might go both ways, and you're a pig.

Whole thing here.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Sharing the streets

Call me an anti-libertarian, but this sounds like a bad idea.

Who raised THAT kid?

In case you didn't see the bus-hijacking story on Drudge -- the schoolbus hijacking. This is the most frightening thing I've read in a while.

Kids these days . . .

"Kids going to college this fall were born the year I graduated from high school. Which means that I was going to bars three years before they were born."

Jonah Goldberg gets old. Sort of.

May you live in interesting times

Saturday Night:

Snow...heavy at times. Visibility one quarter mile or less at times. Total snow accumulation of 12 to 18 inches. Very windy with lows around 18. North winds 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph. Wind chill values as low as 2 below.

This is going to rock! Stay warm, everyone. =)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Open to interpretation

I've always been inspired by "The New Colossus," the famous poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It's a paean to freedom from oppression, the never-ending story of immigrants landing on America's shores in search of a better life through hard work and innovation.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Actually, no -- it's about being a wealthy, sheltered New Yorker attracted to Marxism. I should have known. Has there ever been a pro-capitalist poet?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Again with the "divided country" business

NRO's Kathryn Lopez:

Judy Woodruff said on CNN a little ago that the increased security [in DC for the inauguration] reminds us that we are divided country. Weird. Reminded me we're at war with an enemy that wants us all dead and managed to kill a bunch of us on 9/11/01.

True dat, I.M.H.O.

Willful Suspension of Belief

In today's WSJ, Treasury Secretary John Snow quotes the late Patrick Moynihan: "We all have our own political views. Before we proceed, can we agree to get the facts first and only after we have the facts bring our own political views into play?" The facts Mr. Snow wishes us to agree upon concern the systemic failure of our national pension system:

...the Social Security Trustees report has said the system is not financially sustainable and every year we fail to act the problem gets more severe. Social Security has a long-term structural deficit-currently forecast to be more than a $10 trillion shortfall. Each year we wait to fix the problem will cost an estimated $600 billion, according to the trustees report.

However, certain individuals seem to have a bit of a problem accepting the facts; for instance Roger Lowenstein in last sunday's NY Times Magazine:

No one can definitively predict that outcome [the long term financial state of the trust fund], either, of course, but David Langer, an independent actuary who made a study of Social Security's previous projections compared with the actual results in 2003, thinks the "optimistic'' case is its most accurate. Over a recent 10-year span, the trustees' intermediate guesses turned out to be quite pessimistic. Its optimistic guesses were dead on, and its pessimistic case -- sort of a doomsday situation -- was wildly inaccurate.

It's interesting that those who claim privacy advocates wish to gamble with retirees' financial futures base their arguments on "optimistic guesses" and ignore that real gains have been made in countries that turn to a system of responsible investment through private accounts, such as Chile where the average real return on personal accounts since the program's inception in 1981 has been 10 percent a year.

Now, if only CCL will finance a trip to Patagonia this weekend so I can learn more.

This might help.

Groucho Marx once said he wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have him as a member, but the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma wants Democrats and Republicans who would never consider becoming Libertarians to be able to vote in its primary elections. Yesterday, the party asked the U.S. Supreme Court to free it from a state law prohibiting such crossover voting.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Monday, January 17, 2005

I know where he can put his little proposal

The UN's Millenium Project wants YOU . . . to fork over the cash so the UN can continue its proud tradition of wealth redistribution.

"We're talking about rich countries committing 50 cents out of every $100 of income to help the poorest people in the world get a foothold on the ladder of development," said Professor Sachs, who was appointed to lead the project by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2002.

No word yet on when the good professor will sell his $8.2 million Manhattan townhouse to feed the hungry.

Professor Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia and a specialist in economic development as well as health policy and management, said many poor countries were ready to move forward on many fronts, especially with infusions of aid to improve their administrative and information systems. "The problem is not really the range of issues," he said, "but the lack of financing."

Of course, a lack of financing. Poverty is always and everywhere the result of other people's stinginess. No other way to solve it but to impose a global income tax -- and shut down those brutal sweatshops!

Summers lovin'

Uproar at an academic conference after Harvard president Lawrence Summers suggests that women are underrepresented in math and science because a) they choose reproduction (babies) over research, or possibly because b) they aren't suited for top achievement in these fields.

I'm experiencing major Summers-envy right now. Why doesn't Columbia have such a straight-talking president?

The worst way to prepare for takeoff.

All eyes on the in-flight movie. Quick!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

All part of the plan....

Maybe the New York Times hired its new "public editor" so we'd all long for the good old days before Daniel Okrent started sifting through the back issues and calling it his day job.

This letter to the Times says it best:

Why must you torture me with this obsessive introspection? I don't care about the sensitive, tormented souls at your newspaper. They get paid good money to do accurate reporting and spirited writing. You are all lucky to have such rewarding, responsible jobs.

Just cover the news and quit thinking about yourselves so much. You and your editorial issues aren't nearly as compelling as the people and events you need to be telling us about.

JANE LANE Smithtown, N.Y., Dec. 27, 2004

Saturday, January 15, 2005

A (literary) trade deficit the Left can embrace

The NY Times asked contemporary young authors to talk about the writers who influenced them. One writer saw the interview as an opportunity to show how worldly and multicultural he is, despite being a white male American peddling his works for money. Here's how Jonathan Safran Foer responded (an excerpt):

Shamefully, fewer than 3 percent of literary books published each year in the United States are translated from foreign languages, compared with vastly higher percentages (25-45 percent) in virtually every other country. And much of our 3 percent consists of retranslations of classics, so the real number for new foreign voices is quite a bit lower. We focus virtually all of our political and military attention on the Middle East, but how many of us could claim to have read a single work of Arabic literature in translation? For a citizen, it's scary to contemplate a future in which relations with those we need to relate to are diplomatic, and not humane. It's with art, after all, that a culture best expresses its humanity.

So Foer wants us to start importing books -- particularly from cultures that breed international terrorism, sexism and religious intolerance. Anyone who reads American books is just navel-gazing. Will J.S. Foer volunteer to be the first American writer to remove his books from the shelves?

Let Harry be Harry (i.e. stupid)

The Wall St. Journal printed my comments on their Prince Harry article today (about the Prince's poor choice of costume). See the comment at the bottom of the list.

Stop me before I shop again

American media aren't the only ones fretting about teens with credit cards. The UK's National Consumer Council recently reported its findings about Britain's young generation of female "shopaholics".

But Scott Campbell detects
an ulterior motive in the NCC's alarmist report.

Well, who would have thought it? Most girls enjoy shopping! Personally, I thought girls liked reconstructing old cars and collecting war memorabilia. Good thing we have the NCC to tell us otherwise.

. . . This, of course, fits in with the government's explicit push to extend the nanny state into the family. If families can't stop their girls from shopping, and enjoying it, then clearly the state will have to step in to educate them. 'One doll good, three dolls conspicuous consumption.'


The end is near, say eco-nomist greens

Paul Ehrlich, still a highly respected environmentalist and biology professor at Stanford University, predicted in The Population Bomb in 1968 that: 'The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.'

::cricket sound:: ::cricket sound::

We're still waiting, Paul. Follow the link for more
comic relief about unsustainability. Another excerpt:

Underlying environmentalist confusion on limited resources is a deeply pessimistic view of human ingenuity. Environmentalists tend to project the current level of human know-how and skills in the future. Yet historically humans have proved adept at developing their capabilities over time.

You don't say.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Guns and crime

The most pre-eminent scientific group in America has produced a definitive analysis of our decades-long experience with gun control and shattered what has become an article of faith among proponents.

The 328-page report by the National Academy of Sciences is based on 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, a survey of 80 gun-control laws and some of its own independent study.

It could find no evidence to support the conclusion that government restrictions on firearms reduces gun crime, gun violence and gun accidents.

Read the whole thing.

So much for all those good lawyer jokes.

Two pensioners were arrested outside a New York court for telling jokes about lawyers.
The men were telling jokes while queuing to get into the First District Court in Hempstead, reports Newsday. "How do you tell when a lawyer is lying?" Harvey Kash, 69, said to Carl Lanzisera, 65. "His lips are moving," they said in unison. But a lawyer standing in front of them in the queue was not amused and had them arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. "They put the handcuffs on us, brought us into a room, frisked us, sat us down and checked our driver's licenses to see if there were any warrants out for our arrest," Mr Lanzisera said. The men are founders of Americans for Legal Reform, a group who use confrontational tactics to push for greater public access to courts. One tactic is driving a truck around the Huntington area emblazoned with the slogan 'Stop The Lawyer Disease'. Dan Bagnuola, a spokesman for the Nassau courts, said the men were causing a stir and that their exercise of their First Amendment rights to free speech was impeding the rights of others at the court. "They were being abusive and they were causing a disturbance," he said.

Truth in advertising

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority investigates a misleading TV ad aimed at recruiting state schoolteachers. The ad implies that teaching literally keeps you young--better than any anti-aging agent.

Please. Anybody who'd throw out the wrinkle cream after seeing that slogan is too dumb to become a teacher.

"Zambia Elects Black President"

I can't decide whether The Onion's latest issue, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, is profoundly funny or profoundly offensive. But at least the satirical rag is an equal-opportunity insulter: this week, it's race-consciousness that they mock--next week, tax-cutting fat-cats.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

New York City: a bargain-free zone

Under pressure from labor unions, NYC politicians are taking a stand against Wal-Mart, which wants to bring its low prices to Queens, NY. Nobody exposes the hypocrisy of Wal-Mart opposition like Ryan Sager:

While members of the New York City Council stump endlessly for "affordable housing" and "affordable health care," they're apparently less keen on affordable clothing, toys, electronics, furniture and groceries.

The unions feel threatened by low-price chains that could compete with--and probably defeat--unionized stores with inflated labor costs. But, as the story generally goes, what's bad for the unions is marvelous for everyone else.

"New Yorkers have shown for years that they'll shop at these stores, in or out of the city," says Steve Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Malanga points to Queens, which has lost retail business to neighboring Nassau County, where zoning restrictions are less stringent and "big-box" stores have proliferated. Though Queens residents have higher personal incomes than Nassau residents, Nassau has 40,000 more retail jobs than Queens.

Many of those are jobs (and tax dollars) that could be brought to New York City. The few big-boxes that have slipped through New York's defenses — such as Home Depot, Target and BJ's Wholesale Club — have met with tremendous success. Home Depot's first Queens store became the highest-grossing in the chain.

I'd like to hear a cogent argument against Wal-Mart. Because, really, I can't imagine one. I set foot in Wal-Mart (in Maryland) for the first time yesterday and instinctively looked for the exploited, starving workers. Couldn't find them, but I did see some cheerful employees (who applied to make money working at Wal-Mart, let me remind you)--and customers snatching up the 6-dollar shirts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Makes sense...

Thomas Szasz over at Reason offers a refreshing and innovative proposal for ending the medical malpractice crisis.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Monday, January 10, 2005

Bullish Democrats, Bearish Bush?

James Taranto spots an economics flip-flop in the Washington Post, for which there's no right time for a tax cut.

"President Bush had great success in his first term by defining crises that demanded decisive responses," reports the Washington Post in an "analysis" piece, which notes that "Democrats contend Bush . . . exaggerated the nation's economic problems to justify tax cuts."

Hmm, would those be the same Democrats who kept insisting last year that the economy was the worst since the Hoover administration?

Taranto's Best of the Web found here.

Who WOULD defend NCLB without being paid?

You've probably heard about the Armstrong Williams scandal. Williams is a conservative columnist who praised No Child Left Behind and other programs on the Bush agenda. Now, he's revealed to have a conflict of interest because his TV program ran paid advertisements for NCLB from the Department of Education.

It doesn't seem a big deal to me. Where else should these ads run--some left-wing station? Join-the-Army-now ads probably run on Fox News Channel, and when Fox people tell us to "support the troops," no one says that they're being bought off.

But the best word on this story belongs to NRO's Kathryn Lopez:

I remain insulted no one has offered me money to promote a flawed federal program to Americans with Spanish surnames. Or to women. Or anyone.

UPDATE: Whoa, was I ever wrong about what Williams did. USA Today reports that he had a $250,000 contract with a PR firm requiring the pundit "to comment on Bush's program on his TV and radio show, to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige and to produce radio spots that aired on his show."

Why bad things happen to non-Christian people

At a congressional prayer breakfast, Tom Delay seemed to imply that Asian tsunami victims died because they were evil doers.

This is much, much bigger than whatever Trent Lott said at Gampy's birthday party. Let's see how the media react.

Prepare to get free phones in the mail

A revolutionary kind of pay phone emerges:

Cellphones are becoming mainstream payment devices in Korea and Japan. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo, the mobile phone operator, said that it had already sold more than a million phones equipped with chips that include the payment function.

These are cellphone-credit card combos. I wager Americans will start carrying them within five years.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

NY Times' new target: anti-EU Brits

Some Britons, the kind who own Cowboy Capitalism, favor free markets, and don't want global tests for UK foreign policy, have voiced concerns about signing Britain over to the European Union.

But according to the Times, it's all about tea and bigotry.

The European Union can be a convenient scapegoat for the end of a world of cooked breakfasts, drafty houses, nondecimal currency and afternoon tea and its disorienting replacement by a world of gay rights, immigration, espresso and laws against smoking. There is a strong mood of longing for the past among Britons.

Do I detect a note of condescension?

Gandalf the War Criminal

"More of his smoke and mirrors, yes? Gandalf conjures the dragon Smaug to scare the people."

"Oh, of course not. Of course not. Because everyone here has a vested interest in keeping the Orcs down."

Chomsky and Zinn on the military-industrial complex of Middle Earth. (A parody, but a good one.)

The Guardian is evil -- and sloppy, too

According to my favorite UK-based blogger.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Who knew, the trust fund is in West Virginia.

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. Anyone wondering where the Social Security trust fund is can find it right here in this city of about 17,000 people, five hours from the nation's capital.

Actually, the trust fund is an accounting device, a mere notation in a government ledger, explains research fellow David John of the Heritage Foundation. But with concern deepening about the future of the trust fund, lawmakers have felt compelled to give constituents tangible proof that Social Security taxes are dedicated to Social Security.

"About 10 years ago, Congress decided that [the ledger notation] wasn't important enough," John said. "So, now there is a laser printer in the Bureau of Public Debt’s office in Parkersburg, W.Va., that spits out a special-issued bond. ... Somebody picks it up off the printer and they carry it to a fireproof filing cabinet that has a combination lock, and that is the Social Security trust fund."

I always wondered where they kept all those IOU's. Kind of a small file cabinet for holding 1.6 trillion, don't you think.

And why do they bother with locks, its not like the bonds are transferable.

It's amazing what a little competition can do.

American Airlines, the world's largest carrier, announced significant reductions in its airfares on Thursday, while announcing a simplified airfare structure for its entire domestic network. Northwest Airlines also announced reductions in its unrestricted airfares across several routes and hubs. Continental Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways have also announced certain revisions to their airfare plans, making way for an imminent airfare overhaul across the US airline industry.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I bet some of you wish you had a governator right about now.

Mr. Schwarzenegger proposed turning over the drawing of the state's political map to a panel of retired judges, taking it out of the hands of lawmakers who for decades have used the redistricting process in a cozy bipartisan deal to choose their voters and cement their incumbency.

Seems only fair when

According to The Cook Political Report, 151 Congressional seats were considered competitive after the redistricting that followed the 1990 census. After the 2000 redistricting, only 45 seats were considered competitive. In 2004, only 13 changed party hands and only 7 incumbents lost.

Not to mention...

He endorsed a controversial proposal to convert the state's public employee retirement system from a traditional pension plan to an employee-directed program similar to the 401(k) plans often used in the private sector. He proposed a constitutional amendment that would impose automatic across-the-board spending cuts if state spending grew faster than revenues. And, calling California's public schools a disaster, he proposed that new teachers be paid based on merit, not just seniority.

And to think, the shit I got for this man being elected my governor.

From today's NYT.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Couldn't have said it better myself...

OH YES, GOP IS THE RED PARTY: The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal just released their 2005 Index of Economic Freedom. It includes one big surprise for all who consider Sweden semi-socialist and USA laissez-faire: Sweden and USA gets almost the same economic freedom score (1.85 vs 1.89). This is partly because Sweden is a bit better than its rumour. But most of all this is because America's economic freedom is being constrained on president Bush's guard: Out-of-control government spending, massive farm subsidies, expansion of Medicare, a heavier regulatory burden and new anti-dumping tariffs.

Do we need any more proof that the Republicans are simply not a valid electoral alternative for libertarians?

Thanks Johan. Your style may be stuck in the 80s, but your mind is truly cutting edge.

I just purchased his book "In Defense of Global Capitalism" which is chock full of the intellectual ammo you need to argue with any luddites/anti-globalists. I'm almost glad (actual name deleted) refused to lend it to me because it's a real keeper. Everyone should own it.

UPDATE: My bad

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Europe vs. America

So the NYTimes had an article today about the European versus the American economies. It's nothing most of you need to be convinced of, but here it is anyway...The actual article has specific numbers as well...

"Over the past 50 years, we've been having a big debate over two rival economic systems. Conservatives have tended to favor the American model, with smaller government and lower taxes, but less social support. Liberals have supported programs that lead to the European model, with bigger government, more generous support and less inequality.


Europe may find itself locked into a vicious circle: an aging population means more public spending, which means higher taxes, which means lower growth, which means higher unemployment, which means more public spending, which means more taxes and even lower growth.


Which brings us to the current moment. In Europe, everybody is aware of the problem, but the remedies are so bad that most countries avoid them. Meanwhile, we in the United States are embarking on our own debate over the future of Social Security. Many liberals are claiming that we don't need to fundamentally revamp our system because there is no crisis. To the extent that's true, it is because we have not been taking their advice for the past 50 years.

We have stuck with a low-tax, high-growth economic model. This gives us the resources and the flexibility to deal with the problems caused by an aging population without having to face, at least for now, the horrific

choices that confront our friends across the Atlantic.

And a nice closing note...

The question is: Will we leave our children a system as flexible, dynamic and productive as the one that was, fortunately, left to us? Or, by doing nothing, will we succumb to the same ineluctable pressures that now afflict Europe, and find that we are immobilized at the exact moment China and India are passing us by?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

British taxpounds at work

In the British Parliament, a committee is polishing the forthcoming Animal Welfare Bill, but already some members have concerns about, well, animal welfare.

For example, the bill fails to address concerns raised by animal welfare groups concerning "the fitting of bits, masks and spectacles" on birds being raised as game.

Spectacles? On birds?

The committee also expresses concern about cruelty to shellfish, which were excluded from the provisions of the draft bill, and has "called on the Government to reassess whether ... octopuses, crabs, lobsters and crayfish had the capacity to experience pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm."

If they're going to take away your money, they mind as well spend it on cancer research... but this? Read the rest--to learn about humane ways to stun crabs prior to cooking.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


Palestinian terrorists kill a 10-year-old girl. She's one of their own, though--not a child of the enemy.

You want to see pollution? Go back 200 years.

Speaking of capitalism and pollution, I think Mr. Biscaye owes modern technology a great deal of thanks for cleaning up our world. I've had the pleasure of hearing GMU's Professor Donald Boudreax give a speech about his thoughts on this subject. In a nutshell:

We have the luxury of bathing more often -- reducing pollution from bacteria and lice.

Inventions like refrigerators, disinfectants and water purifiers get rid of bacteria that killed our ancestors in the olden days. We also have affordable mouthwash, toothpaste, and soap.

Modern plumbing and sewage -- that's a big one. Nothing says "pollution" like wading through streets filled with the waste of horses and humans. And, as Boudreaux points out, the free market wasn't even satisfied with manual toilets:

Consider, finally, a very recent victorious battle against pollution: toilets and urinals that automatically flush. . . As automatic flushers replace manual flushers, we no longer must pollute our hands by touching filthy flush knobs.

These are just some examples of the countless ways that our ordinary lives are less polluted than were the ordinary lives of our ancestors. The danger is that [some people] wrongly believe that the world is dirtier and less healthy today than in the past. And they blame capitalism. While some environmental problems still exist, they aren't dire and they are nowhere near as great as were the problems with filth that regularly harassed our grandparents and great-grandparents.

Aren't you glad you live in a world where the biggest enviro-gripe is that there aren't as many spotted owls as before?

Each according to his shoveling skills

NRO's Mark Krikorian provides a snow-covered example of the government's refusal to grant the fruits of private labor:

Boston's mayor has ordered the removal of lawn chairs, trash barrels, and other markers that people use to reserve street parking spaces which they have cleared of snow. Now, those of you from warmer climes won't have experienced this, but when you spend two hours cleaning a pile of snow from a parking spot, common sense (not to mention natural law) suggests you've earned the right to use that spot. Ordinary people are rebelling against this latest outrage from their socialist betters, providing a golden opportunity for Republicans to explain to the inhabitants of Irish South Boston, the Italian North End, and elsewhere how this sums up the difference between the parties: the GOP believes you should keep what you earn, while the Democrats want you to do the work, and someone else to benefit from it.