Monday, February 28, 2005

Creative, techie libertarian needed

Does anybody want to draw a new club logo? We want to still keep the same idea - lady liberty with the columbia crown - just just a better version. Here are the details:

For the web size we need one small logo, size 117 x 142 pixels.
For Café Press merchandise, we need PNG files at 200 dpi, max file size 4MB, in the following sizes, in inches:
6 x 6 for the pocket in the front of regular t-shirts,
5 x 4 or 4 x 5 for the pocket in golf shirts,
8 x 10 or 10 x 8 if we want a big picture in the front or back of t-shirts
2.75 x 2.75 for a thong (you never know)

this is what the logo looks like now:

Schadenfreude, anyone?

Germany sucks.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

What risk?

Over the past two decades, the industrial world has fended off two severe stock market corrections, a major financial crisis in developing nations, corporate scandals, and, of course, the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Yet overall economic activity experienced only modest difficulties. In the United States, only five quarters in the past twenty years exhibited declines in GDP, and those declines were small. Thus, it is not altogether unexpected or irrational that participants in the world marketplace would project more of the same going forward.
Alan Greenspan in his testimony to Congress.


Although my memories of what happened after Greg Lukianoff's excellent talk are buried under a few pints, I recall some discussion of organizing a CCL trip to a shooting range.

What kind of interest would there be for such an event among blog readers? I know a lot of people who aren't involved with CCL and would be very down for such a trip. It could generate a lot of interest in Libertarians on campus, and at the very least would get our group a lot of publicity.

To get the organizing started, I just checked Yahoo! Local for shooting ranges in the area, and there are two in Manhattan, one in Westchester (HOLLER) and three in North Jers.

Seventh Regiment Rifle Club
(212) 772-7219
643 Park Ave
New York, NY 10021
2.1 mi S - Directions

West Side Rifle Pistol Range Inc
(212) 929-7287
20 W 20th St
New York, NY 10011
4.1 mi S - Directions

Mt Vernon Shooting Center
(914) 664-6611
174 Gramatan Ave
Mt Vernon, NY 10550
11 mi NE - Directions

North Jersey Gun Club Inc
(973) 227-1139
488 Horseneck Rd
Fairfield, NJ 07004
20 mi W - Directions

Florham Pistol & Rifle Club Inc
(973) 377-4272
90 Brooklake Rd
Florham Park, NJ 07932
22 mi W - Directions

Thunder Mountain Skeet & Trap Sh...
(973) 962-6377
Ringwood State Park
Ringwood, NJ 07456

Field trip, anyone?

Libertarian-Conservative alliance reconsidered

Everyone should read Radley Balko's reflections on CPAC, the annual Conservative love-fest. Some very interesting and positive observations.

Live debates, maybe not

This is what I wrote regarding the debates to the other people involved. What do you guys think of having the debate on a blog instead live?

Hey guys, I was thinking about these debates and I've had a bit of a change of heart. I'm not sure that the most effective way we can discuss these issues is in live debate format. What do you guys think of having this debate on a blog? The WSJ's Econoblog does this effectively for what I find to be two reasons. First off, it can't turn into a screaming match with people cutting each other off; it's just a more civil medium. And second, it keeps a perfect record of what has been said, allowing people to accurately characterize and criticize what others have said. Not to mention that all it takes is a hyperlink to reference sources, something that is always lacking in live debates.

The convenience factor is hard to beat too. We don't need any rooms and we can hold these debates over long enough periods of times that irrespective of our personal or club schedules we should all be able to contribute exactly what we want. And this convenience is not just for us as debaters, it's also so for people who are interested in hearing the debate. They can catch up on the debate when they have some free time, making it substantially easier for even those marginally interested to take a look and comment themselves.

And this would certainly help exposure. I remember Dennis and Jon telling me that there were around 20 people at the presidential debates, and, honestly, I can't imagine many more than that coming out to one on social security reform. The CCL Blog already gets about 50 visitors a day and I'm sure the Dems blog will attract a good sized audience as well when it gets up and running. This would definitely be a great way to increase campus dialogue between the groups, and similarly within our respective groups.

I don't know exactly how the format would work - whether the CPU would start a blog and we would do it there, or if we would do it between our respective blogs - but regardless of the details, I am curious as to what your thoughts are about this. All the best,


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Live-blogging the Harvard Fed Soc conference

Lots of juicy tidbits for those of us who didn't shlep to Boston.


Here is a set of images of the tsunami recovered from a deceased couple's digital camera.

Via Instapundit.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Road to $5,000

The Institute for Human Studies will take submissions for its Hayek essay contest until March 1.

Weak Harvard women unite!

From the Harvard Crimson:

A student group called Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe has been "brainstorm[ing] ways in which current University policies hinder female students from concentrating in the sciences."

At least that's how the Crimson article starts out. But it fails to mention a single inkling, iota, or scintilla of *hindrance* on the part of the university. To anyone but the most ideologically driven reader, the article gives the impression that Harvard females aren't concentrating in science for a different reason altogether: they simply don't want to.

Students cited their experiences in introductory courses as particularly traumatic—saying that some male teaching fellows would drive their classes at relentless rate and would deflect questions from female students.

What does the pace of a course have to do with sex discrimination? I don't like what I'm hearing. If, say, Larry Summers said that, people wouldn't just nod and smile. As for the allegation that teachers are misogynists. . . if this is true, Harvard and Columbia are worlds apart. What about the guilty male science profs who rushed to denounce Summers? Presumably, the girls in their classes learn greater amounts of material and ace all the tests.

To counter this, Tracy E. Nowski ’07 and Patricia Li ’07, co-chairs of the policy committe of WISHR, suggested optional sections created specifically for women, perhaps being even taught by female teaching fellows.

On my campus, we're urged on a daily basis to be "strong Barnard women." But if Harvard girls want to be university-recognized sissies, that's okay too.

And Li and Nowski said that the potentially stressful experience of placement exams can turn women off from the heavy competition of the sciences.

No comment. (The Onion couldn't do a better job of this article. Unbelievable.)

“Even a two or three hour review session, right before placement tests would help,” said Nowski, who is a concentrator in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Looks like somebody couldn't handle those stressful placement tests.... *cough cough*

Link via James Taranto.

Group uses guilt by association to silence debate

It appears that the AARP's magazine will not publish an article about medical marijuana in the upcoming issue, all because of the vicious attacks of the dubiously-named partisan watchdog "Accuracy In Media".

What exactly is AIM's problem with medical marijuana? According to their executive director, they don't seem to have one. That is, he doesn't offer any evidence against marijuana as medicine. Rather, he reveals that some of the current staff of the AARP magazine had once written for High Times and Playboy. Does this prove that marijuana is not effective as medicine, or even that older Americans don't support it in such a capacity? It achieves neither. All it does is silence the debate with good old fashioned mud slinging. And this isn't even an election year!

BTW, what's wrong with having writers who once wrote for playboy and high times? Gore Vidal regularly contributes to the former, and the latter is edited by John Mailer, scion of a great literary family. Also, The Economist supports the decriminalization of drugs- is AIM going to smear "The Right Nation" (Damian/Marco: time to get that Amazon thing going and make some money for the group) and other projects by current and former Economist staff?

The AARP had already released the results of a poll commisioned for the article: 72% of Americans 45 and older support making marijuana legally availble with a doctor's perscription, and 55% would obtain medical marijuana for a loved one if they needed it.

Baby, it's cold outside

Pretty amazing that we've devised ways to survive and get around in these conditions. (Scroll down for larger pictures of a Swiss neighborhood under ice.) Via

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Overstretch Myth

Fabulous piece on the U.S. current account deficit in Foreign Affairs. You can just tell, when the author frames it as an issue of global *confidence* in our assets, that the article has a Cato Institute type of view.

Discussion of the United States' "net foreign debt" conjures up images of countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Turkey, evoking the currency collapses and economic crises they have suffered as models for a coming U.S. meltdown. There are key differences, however, between those emerging-market cases and the current condition of the global hegemon. The United States' external liabilities are denominated in its own currency, which remains the global monetary standard, and its economy remains on the frontier of global technological innovation, attracting foreign capital as well as immigrant labor with its rapid growth and the high returns it generates for investors.

I suggest you read the whole thing.

Could we lower the cost of being a dissident in Cuba? Hmm.

Over at the Club for Growth blog, Andrew Roth reviews the book The Case for Democracy by Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky:
... Sharansky argues that the cost of dissent needs to be lowered in order to
achieve freedom, both internally by the dissidents themselves and externally by
the “forces of freedom” like the United States. How to reduce that cost is the
theme of the book. You should read it.
Buy you should read Roth's review first.

Where are the left-wing grown-ups?

Slate runs a piece comparing President Bush to the retarded narrator of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

"Hello Georgie," Condi said. "Did you come to see Condi?" Condi rubbed my hair and it tickled.
"Dont go messing up his hair," Dick said. "Hes got a press conference in a few minutes."

Real mature, guys. Now remind me... what is it about Ann Coulter's style that so offends you?

The Epic Story of Social Security Reform,
Starring Crane And The Others

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum of the Washington Post is our chronicler, although the story appears in the Concord Monitor:

Twenty-five years ago, Peter Ferrara was a Harvard Law School student with what he called "the craziest idea in the world." In a paper he wrote before graduating, he suggested converting the government-run Social Security program into a web of private investments.

The paper caught the eye of Edward Crane, a former head of the Libertarian Party who had recently started the Cato Institute, which has a stated mission of encouraging "limited government." To him, Ferrara's idea wasn't crazy at all, but a way to challenge Washington's largest and most revered social program.

The saga continues here.

That's a whopper, even for Dean.

Jay Nordlinger wishes white liberals would stop playing the race card.

Dean's latest is to have said this, while meeting the DNC's "black caucus" (about that, more later): "You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here."

I have talked about race obsession for a very long time; indeed, you might say that I have an obsession with race obsession. You see, I've known people like Howard Dean all my life; had some of them in my own family. These are people for whom skin color is supreme, for whom proximity to blackness is validation, and for whom a deficiency of blackness is condemnation.

(I'm talking about white people, of course — white liberals.)

Do you know this type? They flip through magazines, searching for black models in the ads; if there aren't enough of them, they complain to the magazine. They judge a neighborhood, an institution, or even a cocktail party by its degree of integration. They can't look at a crowd without taking a little racial census, mentally.

One of the reasons I affiliate myself with the Republicans is that I abhor this racial-mindedness. I think of what Condoleezza Rice said, when she spoke to the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia. She was explaining why she became a Republican. She began, "I joined the party for different reasons. I found a party that sees me as an individual, not as part of a group . . ." That was number one, note.

. . . One more thing about Howard Dean, and his comments, and the DNC: Do you look forward, as I do, to the day when having a caucus based on race — e.g., the black caucus — will be seen more universally as gross? I mean, of all things to caucus around, politically: skin color! Better to caucus around your hatred of Social Security privatization (for example).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What do you think about blogs?

I'm sure that some of you have seen what Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, said at the recent Blue Pencil Dinner, an annual Spectator fund-raiser held in Low Rotunda. But for the rest of you, here is what the spec reports:
Keller’s speech focused on the struggle of print journalism to maintain its relevance in the face of constant cable news updates, increased blogging, and failures in credibility.

He noted that, according to a recent opinion poll, the public’s trust in journalists is at its lowest point in decades. He attributed this in part to the increasingly polarized nature of the American public, who look to the press for support of their viewpoints.

“At the moment,” he said, “the major press is under attack from ideologues on the right and left.”

Keller also sees “blogging,” or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger’s ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog’s inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. “A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole,” he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a “one man circle jerk.”

“There is a pressure to feel well informed without ever confronting an opinion that confronts your prejudices,” he said of blog readers.
He talks about other things as well, but it is mainly this point that interests me -and it is also what other blogs focused on; see here and here. As Daniel Drezner notes,

What's interesting about these different Keller episodes is that the Columbia Spectator reporter probably took just the juiciest bit from Keller's comments regardless of whether they were consistent with the overall tenor of his remarks -- whereas Jarvis ("mediaman by day, blogboy by night") reprinted all of Keller's comments, allowing one to judge Keller's argument in toto.

Oddly enough, this is undoubtedly one trait that good bloggers share with the New York Times. The Times, as the "paper of record," was very good about printing the
full text of important documents and speeches before there was a world wide web.
The best bloggers, through hyperlinks, can engage in a similar practice when parsing out someone's comments.

For some context, Keller has voiced his opinion about blogs before in an email exchange with Jeff Jarvis from buzzmachine. Here's a quote:

Can I just state something for the record? While we probably have our differences on the role of the MSM (btw, I personally favor "elite media," at least as it pertains to the NYT) I would like to make clear that I consider blogs relevant and important. I do not hold them in disdain, as you imply. I won't risk embarrassing my favorite bloggers by identifying them (except to say that buzzmachine is bookmarked in my office and at home) but I find the best of them to be a source of provocative insights, first-hand witness, original analysis, rollicking argument and occasional revelation. As I'm sure you will agree, you can also find bloggers who are paranoid, propagandistic, unreliable, hate-filled, self-indulgent, self-important and humorless. (Just like people!)
Which brings me to my question: how do you see and or use blogs? I've got to give Keller credit for his comment; I find it quite amusing and accurate. Personally, I'm not too big into the David vs. Goliath metaphor as applied to bloggers and MSM. I see good blogs as reliable news filters and commentators that, obviously, must be predicated on there being news to be filtered and commented on. This function creates - and allows for - an enormous amount of scrutiny to be applied wherever it is due, something I love. Ultimately, the dialectic between the two is much more interesting than hearing the static banter of either one, be it from the elite media or a loud-mouthed blogger.

UPDATE: I changed the title of this post to get some of you to comment. I am quite curious as to what poeple think.

Split or Alliance Between Libertarians and Conservatives?

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) collects some blogosphere activity and chimes in with his own thoughts:
My experience is that I probably agree with the Left on more issues
(certainlymore "social" issues) than I do with social conservatives, but the
Lefties, forthe most part, have very little tolerance for disagreement on
anything, whilethe Righties tend to stress areas of agreement. I suspect that
this is a moreeffective strategy over the long term.
As usual, whole thing here.

A Better Solution to Class-Action Abuse: Opt-In

Cato's Mark Moller says that more competition, not less, is the way to solve our class action problems:
Current law presumes that you "consent" to be included as a plaintiff in a class
action if you don't ask to be excluded. This takes away your control over where
and when and how to sue. It's like a system in which the government forces you
to buy a product from a preferred seller—here, it's a court and some plaintiffs
lawyers that are "selling" a particular legal proceeding—unless you ask for
permission to buy from someone else. Indeed, unless you raise your voice, this
system forces you to buy from a preferred seller even if your preference would
have been to buy nothing at all.
The Right to Choose Your Own Lawyer Act would change this dynamic. It would force a court to assume that people don't want to be involved in a class action unless they actually ask to be included (or, in legal jargon, "opt in" after receiving judicial notice). That returns the power of choice to the lawsuit consumer.
The article is aptly titled "Let a Hundred Cases Bloom," and you can read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I've got trucking and bartering in my blood

Cato's Will Wilkinson, as entertaining as usual, on the evolutionary roots of capitalism:

Trade and mutually beneficial exchange are human universals, as is the division of labor. In their groundbreaking paper, "Cognitive Adaptations for Social Exchange," Cosmides and Tooby point out that, contrary to widespread belief, hunter-gatherer life is not "a kind of retro-utopia" of "indiscriminate, egalitarian cooperation and sharing." The archeological and ethnographic evidence shows that hunter-gatherers were involved in numerous forms of trade and exchange. Some forms of hunter-gatherer trading can involve quite complex specialization and the interaction of supply and demand.

Most impressive, Cosmides and Tooby have shown through a series of experiments that human beings are able easily to solve complex logical puzzles involving reciprocity, the accounting of costs and benefits, and the detection of people who have cheated on agreements. However, we are unable to solve formally identical puzzles that do not deal with questions of social exchange. That, they argue, points to the existence of "functionally specialized, content-dependent cognitive adaptations for social exchange."

In other words, the human mind is "built" to trade.

So the New York Stock Exchange is not a testament to our status as the most advanced civilization in the Earth's history, but merely the equivalent of a caveman's grunt? Well, at least now we can blame *corporate greed* on ... genetics.

Another basic human right: the Grammy Cam

Would it be rude and insensitive of me to ask who's going to pay for this?

UPDATE: Never mind. It seems the federal bill will just force nursing homes to allow cameras in the rooms of patients. My radar shot way up, though. Why is the government getting involved at all? If one nursing home does this, they'll all follow suit, anyway--competing to be *safest* and *most transparent*. So why all the bureaucracy?

I still wouldn't be surprised if this BILL turned out to be something taxpayers have to foot.

"Eventually, there won't be any tax base, because all Americans will be jobless!"

Last night my Global Economy class had an outside-of-lecture movie night. We sat through this, the silliest excuse for a documentary that I've ever seen.

Today in class, the filmmaker--who, by the way, has probably never cracked open an economics textbook in his life--will be our *guest speaker* on the perils of outsourcing Our Jobs to those wascally foreigners.

I will KEEP YOU POSTED after I tear this moron to shreds.

Monday, February 21, 2005

RIP: Hunter S. Thompson

You didn't really expect Hunter S. Thompson would let age, illness or infirmity slowly sap the life from him.

Did you?

After all, in "What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?," which he wrote for The National Observer in 1964, Thompson concluded of Papa: "He was an old, sick and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him...

So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun."It wouldn't be accurate to say Thompson had a death wish. Just the opposite: He was the self-described "champion of fun."

As Paul Perry, one of his biographers put it: "He rides the edge at high speed while engaging in a mix of raucous verbal and gestural antics: hoax, legerdemain, gargantuan exaggeration, buffoonery, conscious alteration, threat, insult... He gets people hooked on him because he's fun, irresistible, liberating, infectious."But once the fun was over, Thompson often made clear, he wasn't going to stick around and watch the janitors sweep up...

Like Hemingway's, though, it was a quieter end that Thompson chose Sunday afternoon, alone, at his ranch. Thompson "took his life with a gunshot to the head," his wife and son said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News. He was 67...

Rather than the "old, sick and very troubled man" he saw in the latter-day
Hemingway, many will remember Thompson with the epitaph he bestowed on Acosta: "Too weird to live, too rare to die."

And always, dancing beneath the diamond sky, with one hand waving

Whole thing here.

Not to mention that he said he was a libertarian at heart.

Greg sets the record straight.

Greg Lukainoff, from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education - who recently gave an excellent lecture here at Columbia - writes in the spec what is and isn't going on in the MEALAC department.

Four months after The David Project released Columbia Unbecoming, Columbia is embroiled in a public fight over allegations against the Middle East and Asian languages and Cultures department. The latest, longer version of the film includes more examples of what it sees as "bias," "intimidation," and "harassment." While he David Project and its supporters have every right to protest and expose perceived buses at Columbia, it is essential for all involved to understand that nothing described in the film constitutes either harassment or intimidation in any formal sense...

Students at Columbia have every right to protest what they see as unprofessional behavior by professors and to demand the right to dissent in the classroom. It is also fully within their rights to ask Columbia to hire more professors with differing perspectives (and Columbia would be within its rights to hire a more ideologically diverse faculty), but when students accuse professors of serious offenses like intimidation or harassment, they are on shaky ground.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Supply and demand

When Austin High School administrators removed candy from campus vending machines last year, the move was hailed as a step toward fighting obesity. What happened next shows how hard it can be for schools to control what students eat on campus.

The candy removal plan, according to students at Austin High, was thwarted by lassmates who created an underground candy market, turning the hallways of the high school into Willy-Wonka-meets-Casablanca....

"It's all about supply and demand," said Austin junior Scott Roudebush. "We've got some entrepreneurs around here."

Whole thing here. [Hat Tip: MR]

Too cruel

Christo's "Gates" don't hold a candle to this fun-sized masterpiece. Link via NRO.

The Donald is ... hired!

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has drafted Don Boudreaux to write stuff. Twice a month! Before long, all of Pennsylvania will be high on capitalism and freedom. (Yes, he's keeping his day job as chairman of the GMU economics department.)

For his first column, Boudreaux aims low and tackles a minor subject--a straw man, really: the legacy of slavery as it relates to the American economy. (Just a little sarcasm, people.)

::gnashing teeth::

If I had a dime for every time I tried to articulate a defense of our nation's stupendous wealth against those who say Dell computers were built on the backs of cotton-picking slaves two hundred years ago.... *sigh* But, of course, Boudreaux gives an explanation as if it were the simplest topic in the world.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


President George W Bush added a new twist to the international tension over Iran's nuclear programme last night by pledging to support Israel if it tries to destroy the Islamic regime's capacity to make an atomic bomb. ... 'Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened.' ... coments later, Mr Bush was asked another question on Iran and appeared to return to his script -- this time emphasising the need for a diplomatic effort.

I don't like this.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Me and California

Hey, now that I've got a username I'm now ready to go on the CCL blog. I'll start off my first post by blasting my favorite state in the country, the People's Republic of California (sorry, Marco). First, as I mentioned on Tuesday, some California lawmakers are looking for even more way to make money. They're upset that so many people are trying to save gas and are buying hybrids, because it means less state revenue through their gas tax. So, they want to put GPS devices on every car, tracking everywhere each car goes, and then start charging each driver for every mile that they travel on state roads.

In other news, there's to be no more trading school lunches at several elementary schools. That's too bad, I used to have quite a racket going in 2nd grade when I could almost always find a way to finagle some powdered donuts...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I heart LHS

Harvard has posted the full transcript of Lawrence Summers's talk on "diversifying" the math/science workforce.

How did a guy with the PC tolerance threshold of AEI's Charles Murray rise to the helm of Harvard University? This witch hunt has been a long time coming, I'd imagine.

UPDATE: Friday's NY Times has an article on the grave situation at Harvard -- the "linger[ing] furor," as the Times matter-of-factly reports. But where all the jilted female academics tendering their resignations? Where are the Harvard students marching in the streets and holding sit-ins? We saw more outrage at Columbia last year when The Fed printed that stupid cartoon.

Okay, so maybe 99% of Harvard affiliates were not grossly offended by Summers' speculation that men and women are different. But lo, the Times quotes, like, two people who were -- Cornel West (fired by Summers) and some other guy:

"What bothers me is the consistent assumption that innate differences rather than socialization is responsible for some of the issues he talks about," said Howard Georgi, a physics professor who has been part of a successful effort in Harvard's physics department to recruit more women for tenured positions.

"It's crazy to think that it's an innate difference," Professor Georgi added. "It's socialization. We've trained young women to be average. We've trained young men to be adventurous."

Whoa, Mr. Physics! Larry Summers didn't assume anything. In fact, he listed and carefully described three distinct possibilities for why men outnumber women in science and engineering.

It's crazy to think that an Ivy-League physics professor would shut himself off to fact-based analysis like this. And if he's so interested in boosting the raw number of physics professors with girly parts, why doesn't he hand over his job to the first female who applies?

Easy for them to say

Reason pooh-poohs campus bias.


Dear Columbia Libertarians,
My name is Tao Tan and I am currently a sophomore in the College. I write for the Spectator and I serve on Student Council. I'm writing because there is a matter afoot which your organization might be interested in. This matter is Manhattanville.

In the past few weeks, the Coalition to Preserve Community had repeatedly threatened the construction of a "tent city", in effect, a forcible occupation - if you will - of Columbia's grounds to protest Manhattanville.

Last night, at a forum held here, I believe they went over the top. The following is a quote from a Spectator article:

'The discussion ended with a question from first-year SIPA student Vincent Villano, “How might we able to get President Bollinger to actually talk to the community?”
DeMott responded, “Storm his office."'

The group is now actively promoting student uprisings and have themselves hinted at violence and force (they talk about their tent city as a "counterattack").

The last time this happened, in 1968, a group called the "Majority Coalition" - so named because they collected the signatures of 2000 students, the majority of the CC student body at the time - formed. Wearing a set uniform (back then jackets and ties), they held counter-protests while Mark Rudd took over buildings. Essentially, they blocked the exits of the buildings and denied food from being passed in while people were perfectly free to leave.

The Majority Coalition's mission was simple back then - leaving aside the issue of the gym for the moment, they opposed the forcible occupation of Columbia's buildings by a small, vocal, and determined minority and the disruption of University life.

Additionally, it is important to understand that in 1968 Mark Rudd never wanted to talk. He just wanted to smear Columbia. He refused any form of negotiation, and so President Kirk was forced to call police. With the resulting media circus and decades of bad publicity, he nearly achieved his goal. Thus, it is vitally important that if and when this "counterattack" happens, the police not be called but that the students themselves demonstrate their opposition to this group occupying the Columbia campus.

Accordingly, I am reaching out to see if groups on campus might be interested in taking part in a new Majority Coalition to oppose this "counterattack", to do it peacefully (to avoid a media circus which is exactly what the CPC people want), and to provide a visible representation of the silent majority who do support expansion, the debate on which is currently being fueled by elements from the far left.

Please let me know if this is something your group and your members would be interested in.


Tao Tan, Class of 2007

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Underminer

Not blog-relevant, but it's too good to leave out.

Who are we? Why are we here? Where are the links?

In recent posts, two of our bloggers have tried to set the record straight with regard to some factual inaccuracies or outlandish opinions that appeared on the editorial pages of the Columbia Spectator. The posts feature one op-ed and two letters to the editor. One of the letters to the editor was rejected for publication (no word yet on the other pieces), so this blog is the only place where you can read it.

Are we becoming to the Spec what the blogosphere generally is to the MSM (mainstream media, for the blog virgins out there)? I'm talking about what Eugene Volokh and Randy Barnett (who will be visiting Columbia on Thursday, March 3, by the way) discuss here, here and here. I know we are not quite there yet, but is that where we are headed?

UPDATE: More on the evolving relationship of blogs and the MSM in Peggy Noonan WSJ's column.

While we are at it, we should take full advantage of the medium and add links when posting a piece that was first written for a print premium. On this issue, I recommend Volokh's ongoing posts criticizing Slate's failure to include links in its "Bushism of the Day" section.

Which is not to say that we should not continue with assorted commentary and the lighthearted stuff.

My Kid Brother Sends a Joke

Eugene Volokh has a younger brother, Sasha, who makes occassional contributions to the Volokh Conspiracy. I have a younger brother too, and he sends this joke:

AP and UPI reported that the French Government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "run" to "hide." The only two higher levels in France are "surrender" and "collaborate." The raise was precipitated by the recent fire which destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively disabling their military.
Thanks, Daniel.

Time to find a new Dem talking point

At NRO, Larry Kudlow has a column on the Democrats' bungled attempts at fanning the fames of class war.

In the 2004 election, "exit polls showed that people earning $50,000 and above — a group representing 55 percent of all voters — went for Bush 56 percent to 43 percent."

Another reason for plunging Democratic fortunes is that roughly 50 percent of U.S. families — or about 95 million people — are card-carrying members of the investor/ownership class. Investors tended to vote in favor of Bush by about 10 percentage points.

The party of the rich is morphing into everyone who isn't a tree-hugger or a feminazi, slowly but surely . . . but that's just my assessment.

You got it here first

Here is the op-ed i wrote for the spec in responce to this one published yesterday. Let's hope the publish it.

What the Trust Fund Isn’t
By Marco Zappacosta

It only took the first paragraph of Adam Sacarny’s recent Spectator op-ed, “Trusting the Trust Fund,” to wash away my hopes of having someone genuinely spell out how the Social Security Trust Fund actually works. In his first sentence, he boasts that the fund “has effectively become one of the world’s richest bank accounts,” but later he states that Bush is somewhat right when he says that “the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the system afloat.” So what’s the deal? Is there money in the Trust Fund or not?
The answer is plainly no. The Social Security Trust Fund contains nothing more than $1.6 trillion worth of IOU’s. Don’t believe me? How about the Clinton administration’s fiscal year 2000 budget:

These [Trust Fund] balances are available to finance future payments and other Trust Fund expenditures – but only in the bookkeeping sense. These funds are not set up to be pension funds like the funds of private pensions plans. They do not insist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures. The existence of large Trust Fund balances, therefore, does not by itself have any impact on government’s ability to pay benefits. (Executive Office of the President of the United State, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2000, Analytic Perspectives, p. 337. Emphasis Added)
This point becomes quite clear when you realize what the government is doing. As Adam correctly points out, the Trust Fund buys treasury bills, which are nothing more than government debt. And this is where everyone should pause and say to themselves, “Wait, so the government is first spending this money to finance its own debt and then claiming that its saving it in a lockbox, what?” You can spend or save, not both. Adding insult to injury, the government also claims that these ‘assets’ are earning interest, increasing the unfunded liabilities that our generation is going to have to deal with.

I can just hear people now, “But that is my money, they can’t just spend it!” Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the United States doesn’t agree. In 1954, after having his old-age benefits revoke after his deportation back to Belarus (due to his involvement with U.S. Communist Party), Ephram Nestor sued the government under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. He understandably assumed that since he had paid into the system, he was entitled to his benefits. The Court disagreed and Justice Harlan wrote, “To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of ‘accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands”.

So where does that leave us? Unlike Adam, I think it is extremely unlikely that the government will flat out default on the treasury bill holdings in the Trust Fund. There is a reason why treasury bills are considered the safest investment in the world; the U.S. government does not default on its debt.

But this implicit debt, and the unfunded liabilities that Social Security faces on a whole, will have to be addressed – the only question is how. Be it through the transition costs in Bush’s private account system, lowering benefits, raising taxes, or issuing more debt, these are all manifestations of the reality that we have promised a lot more money than we have.

So remember, regardless of political hue; don’t let anyone convince you that there actually exist any tangible assets in the Trust Fund or that you have any property rights over them. This is an important debate; let’s at least get the facts right.

Hypocrisy in the Social Security debates

From Pete Du Pont's WSJ editorial:
AARP opposes individual Social Security investment accounts, running advertisements saying they are "insecure" and characterizing them as "gambling." So market accounts are sound for their 35 million members but not for the 154 million who pay Social Security taxes?

The AFL-CIO's Web site argues that "the stock market is too unstable" to allow working people to have Social Security market accounts, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees opposes such "risky investment accounts." Yet both organizations' employees can participate in exactly such retirement investments. Why is it all right for them and too risky for other Americans?
Read the whole thing here.

Back to T-shirts

I really like the idea of selling t-shirts. I want to keep this discussion going cause the more clever the more we'll sell. Keep the ideas coming.

Some attempts:
(These are slogans for the back. The front will say Columbia Libertarians or have the crowned-liberty image)

It's all about the Hamiltons, baby
(The founding father could be changed... anyone have an idea as to which one was the most pro-liberty?)

Make money money

Peace. Property. Prosperity.

Because you know what's best for yourself.

Legalize Everything

Choice is Good

Freedom: It does a people good

Tax is Wack
(ala Keith Harring)

Just some ideas. Thoughts?

For those of you wondering about the environment...

The other day at the meeting we were talking about the environment:

The Clear Skies Act "would cut by more than 70 percent the amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury emitted by power plants. The first two substances cause acid rain and contribute to respiratory disease; the third is a poison. The plan would also permanently cap plant emissions nationwide, meaning that pollutant levels must not rise no matter how much more power is generated in the future. "

But here's the even better part:

The Clear Skies plan would replace that case-by-case system with a streamlined "cap and trade" approach. This plan simply sets an overall reduction for the power industry as a whole, then leaves it up to companies and plant managers to decide for themselves how to meet the mandates, including by trading permits to one another.

In practice, cap-and-trade systems have proved faster, cheaper and less vulnerable to legal stalling tactics than the "command and control" premise of most of the Clean Air Act. For example, a pilot cap-and-trade system, for sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants, was enacted by Congress in 1990. Since then sulfur dioxide emissions have fallen by nearly a third (the reason you hear so little about acid rain these days is that the problem is declining - even though the amount of combustion of coal for electricity has risen.)

A pleasant surprise of that 1990 program was that market forces and lack of litigation rapidly drove down the predicted cost of acid-rain controls. Now Mr. Bush proposes to apply the same cap-and-trade approach to the entire power industry, in the hope that market forces and fewer lawsuits will lead to rapid, relatively inexpensive pollution cuts.

Here is the real beauty of the Clear Skies plan, something that even its backers may not see: many economists believe that the best tool for our next great environmental project, restraining greenhouse gases, will be a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide. Should President Bush's plan prove that the power industry as a whole can be subjected to a sweeping cap-and-trade rule without suffering economic harm or high costs, that would create a powerful case to impose similar regulation on carbon dioxide, too.

It seems like a pretty good and effective compromise to me...and a good way to show all of those people who say that "capitalism ruins the environment" to show them how market forces really are in fact the most effective in helping it.

Another dead innocent bystander

A pedestrian in Baltimore is dead, but at least they got a guy who was suspected of "trolling for drugs" off the street.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

He's kidding. Right?

From James Taranto's "Best of the Web":

World Ends, Poor Hardest Hit
"If New York or London or Paris or Berlin were hit by a nuclear terrorist attack, it might not only kill hundreds of thousands in an instant. It could also devastate the global economy, thereby plunging millions into poverty in developing nations."--U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 14

I'm reminded of my high school French teacher, who used to say, "Hey kids, don't lean out the window -- You might fall and land on someone!"

Norberg notices a paradox

Swedish working conditions are among the safest and healthiest in the world. But acording to statistics on sick leave, Swedes are also less healthy than almost all other populations. Today this puzzle was solved by a new study showing the results of high taxes and high sickness benefits. 90 percent of the women in Sweden who are on long-term sick leave would lose money if they got back to work, if you include the extra costs for transport and lunch. No, that wasn´t a typo. 90 percent.

Funny how that works.

REMINDER: Meeting Tonight

Just wanted to remind people that we will be meeting tonight at 9:00 PM in 309 Hamilton. If you enjoy the banter that happens on this blog and would like to engage in it in real time, stop by. And remember, for those of you that want a dose of sensible drug policy, SSDP will be having its meeting just one door away (I hear they will have cookies too).

Equity strikes again

A New York judge has ordered a 43 percent increase over the annual budget of NYC schools. Justice Leland DeGrasse

ruled last night that an additional $5.6 billion must be spent on the city's public schoolchildren every year to ensure them the opportunity for a sound basic education that they are guaranteed under the State Constitution.

Beyond that, another $9.2 billion must be spent over the next five years to shrink class sizes, relieve overcrowding and provide the city's 1.1 million students with enough laboratories, libraries and other places in which to learn.

. . . "We're very pleased," said Michael A. Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the plaintiff in the case. "After 12 years, there's finally a dollar figure. We hope the governor will sit down and meet with us, and with the Legislature. Let's wrap this thing up."

Who's the defendant in this case? The taxpayer?

Monday, February 14, 2005

A quick poll

I just got an email saying that Students for Hillary will be selling their swanky Marc Jacobs t-shirts tomorrow. Which got me thinking: we should sell shirts too. Luckily, Damain has already designed a CCL shirt, so i was wondering how many of you out there would be interested in owning one of these? Yes, of course, they would be made available at marginal cost.

The Spec doesn't read Reason.

From today's front page Spectator article: "Surfing From the Street."
This month, the New York City Department of Information Technology and
Telecommunications will take the next step in its plan to create a complete
citywide mobile wireless communications network. The department will grant
contracts to at least one company to test strategies to bring wireless radio,
more commonly known as Wi-Fi, to the city.

To set up the network, the city will have to lease areas for nearly 20,000
signal emitters, potentially including light poles and traffic signs. Once the
system is installed, the city could end up turning a profit by selling
subscriptions to users.A group of New Yorkers opposed to the new network dread
the addition of thousands of antennae to the city.The system will likely not
affect current Columbia students, as the project will take close to ten years to

The system will, among other things, eliminate the need for many of the
leased wires that operate traffic signals in the city. The system plans to take
advantage of Wi-Fi “mesh” technology which should fight the problem of
projecting a signal in the urban canyons of downtown. Estimates have put the
cost of the project at as much as $1 billion.
Clearly, the author had not read Tim Cavanaugh's piece, "Why ask Wi," in Reason.
We will not stop until every San Franciscan has access to free wireless
internet service," the 37-year-old Democrat declared.

But some believers in sensible governance or reliable technology might
hope they can be stopped. With the rapid expansion of wireless broadband
protocols—802.11(b) anyone? How about (g), or (n)? And what of WiMax?—it's
unclear how the city can put up a network that won't be obsolete in six months.
And WiFi, despite its intriguing name, doesn't really come out of the air: It
communicates old-fashioned internet connections at very limited ranges...

"Some of these experiments aren't bad, and shouldn't necessarily be
dismissed," says Tom Hazlett, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "The
problem is that city regulators keep out the real networks people are trying to
build, by holding up rights of access."
No news here unfortunately.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

What Teachers College Taught Me

TC President Art Levine articulates a bold new vision for the school:

"We decided to focus on equity, which has become an issue of profound importance in our society, because there are large differences between the educations available to high and low income, suburban youngsters and inner-city children, and people of different races. We're talking about how to bridge those differences. This issue has a host of different names; maybe the most common is 'the achievement gap.' But what we mean, precisely, when we talk about educational equity, is the discrepancy in access, expectations and outcomes between the most affluent and least affluent populations."

You see, future teachers of America, it's not how much the kids learn; it's whether they all learn the same exact amount. For this, we must focus on "equity" and "bridging differences" and . . . anything but how to divide fractions.

This Just In...

Government Leader Asks Media for More Criticism!

From JTA...

Two weeks ago, [Palesstinian Prime Minister] Abbas met with the heads of Palestinian Television in Gaza and asked them to refrain from the longstanding practice of heaping praise on Palestinian leaders.
The directive may have been a function of Abbas’ modesty, but more likely he understands that he stands to gain more from democratic measures than from an Arafat-style personality cult.
Arafat expected the media to treat him as if he were one of the prime heroes of Arab history. Like government-controlled media elsewhere in the Arab world, Palestine TV used to air songs hailing Arafat as one of the “great leaders of the Palestinian people.” He used to compare himself to Saladin, the Arab hero who took Jerusalem from the crusaders.
After so many years, some wonder if the culture of fear, intimidation and self-censorship has become ingrained. Palestinian journalists, in transition, are confused.

Last week, for example, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate reversed an earlier decision to ban local and foreign journalists from taking pictures of masked gunmen or of children carrying weapons or wearing military uniforms in street demonstrations. The union had said that any Palestinian journalist filming or photographing such images would face sanctions because such pictures “serve Israel” and its “campaign against our just cause.”

At first, local press authorities thought the ban would improve the Palestinians’ cause by hiding the belligerent reality from public view. But they began to feel local and international pressure to reverse the decision.

“Reporters Without Borders,” an international journalists’ rights organization, called the ban “a misguided way to protect children, aimed at misinforming the world about the real situation in the Occupied Territories.”

I must give credit where it is due. Mr. Abbas, I'm impressed...

Friday, February 11, 2005


...didn't the Supreme Court rule on this?

The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block a New
Mexico church from using hallucinogenic tea that the government contends is
illegal and potentially dangerous. The appeal from Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales argues that a lower court was wrong to allow the Brazil-based O Centro
Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal to import and use the hoasca tea as part
of its religious services. "The court's decision has mandated that the federal
government open the nation's borders to the importation, circulation and usage
of a mind-altering hallucinogen and threatens to inflict irreparable harm on
international cooperation in combating transnational narcotics trafficking," the
filing states.

Mark Steyn: "the Dems are all exit and no strategy."

Mark Steyn on Bush's push for *climate* change:

This week's U.N. report on Sudan nicely captures the alternative to Bush-style climate change. After months of expressing deep concern, grave concern, deep concern over the graves and deep grave concern over whether the graves were deep enough, Kofi Annan managed to persuade the U.N. to set up a committee to look into what's going on in Darfur. They've just reported back that it's not genocide. Phew, thank goodness for that. It turns out it's just 70,000 corpses who all happen to be from the same ethnic group; could happen anywhere. But it's not genocide, so don't worry about it.

That's the transnational establishment's alternative to Bush dynamism: appoint a committee that agrees on the need to do nothing. By happy coincidence, that's also the Democrats' line on Social Security. In a sense, these two issues are opposite sides of the same coin. It was noted in the chancelleries of certain capitals that, in a speech aimed in large part at a global audience, the president didn't even mention Europe. Why would he? One reason the Continent is in no position to make any kind of useful contribution to the war on terror or reform of the Middle East is because of its inability to get to grips with the looming disaster of its own state pensions liabilities.

For purposes of comparison, by 2050 public pensions expenditures are expected to be 6½ percent of gross domestic product in the United States, 16.9 percent in Germany, 17.3 percent in Spain, and 24.8 percent in Greece.

Looks like Europe could use a dose of cowboy capitalism.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

An "extraordinary accomplishment?" Stop it -- I'm blushing!

You'll never guess who Michael Scheuer is talking about.

"I always have thought that there's nothing too dangerous to talk about in America, that there shouldn't be anything. And it happens that [this] is the one thing that seems to be too dangerous to talk about. And I wrote in my book that I congratulate them. [Theirs is] probably the most successful covert action program in the history of man to control--the important political debate in a country of 270 million people is an extraordinary accomplishment. I wish our clandestine service could do as well."

This dangerous group bent on America's destruction is -- no, not those Semites. It's the Jews. Michael Scheuer, the author of Imperial Hubris, used to work at the CIA, where he headed our nation's Bin Laden investigative force. Good to know he was keeping an eye on the bad guys.

Flyer with Goldwater Quote

I liked Barry Goldwater's quote about gays in the military so much that I made a little flyer. You can see it here in Word format.

In case you missed my previous post, what this grandfather of the modern conservative movement said about gays in the military is:
You don't need to be "straight" to fight and die for your country. You just need
to shoot straight.
What says you? Should we print the flyer and put it up around campus? Any ideas for other flyers?

Who would've thought?

About 50 percent of health care spending is eaten up by waste, excessive prices and fraud, according to a report set for release today by Boston University researchers. Major sources of unnecessary spending include administrative costs and profit in the insurance industry, high prices of prescription drugs and health services and, to a smaller extent, theft and fraud, according to the study.
Whole thing here.

The Military, Gays, and Campus Recruiting

The always reliable law prof Eugene Volokh has an interesting take on the efforts of some law schools to prevent the military from recruiting on campus:
[O]fficers coming from (say) Yale Law School would likely be more tolerant of homosexuality than the average officer. As a purely practial matter,
discouraging Yalies from joining the military may make the military slightly
less gay-rights-friendly.
And more:
And as a matter of symbolism, the symbolic message isn't "We detest discrimination." Rather, it's "Discrimination is so bad that we must wash our hands of the military, in spite of all the good the military does." The boycotters have weighed the military in the balance, and they have found that on balance it should be excluded, rather than included. The symbolism of that is pretty clear.
Read the entire article here.

Further: Volokh hedges his bets early in his article, saying that "a person's sexual orientation is none of the government's business," but that "[t]here are decent pragmatic arguments for why the military is different; and these arguments might be right, though I'm not expert enough to tell."

Let's consult then with a military expert, one who "served in the armed forces ... [flew] more than 150 of the best fighter planes and bombers this country manufactured ... founded the Arizona National Guard [and] chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee:" Barry Goldwater.

Goldwater, a senator from Arizona, was the Republican presidential candidate in 1964. In June of 1993, both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times carried identical editorials where Goldwater critized the "don't ask-don't tell" policy. The piece was entitled "The Gay Ban: Just Plain Un-American," and it contains gems like this:
The conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets
the belief that government should stay out of people's private lives. Government
governs best when it governs least -- and stays out of the impossible task of
legislating morality. But legislating someone's version of morality is exactly
what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays.
You don't need to be "straight" to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.
Read the whole editorial here. If you don't know about Barry Goldwater, read his Washington Post obituary here, and find out how libertarian this icon of conservatism really was.

Freaky number guesser

How does this work? I'm completely stumped.

Life Imitates Art; Law Imitates Atlas

Even in death [John] Galt struck a blow for what he held most dear; for State ex
rel. Smith
is a case about private property. "[T]he substance of the claim here
is not wrongful death," the Court said: "It is property damage."
The Law of Atlas Shrugged, a classic Volokh Conspiracy post, here.

A heads up

Tonight at 7:00 PM in 602 Hamilton, Michael Meyers will be speaking. A native of Harlem, Meyers has spent his entire professional career working in the fields of civil rights, civil liberties, law and education, and urban affairs, and is regarded as an expert on civil rights matters and race relations. Former executive director of the NYCLU, and assistant director of the NAACP, Meyers currently is on the board of FIRE and is the founder and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. We are co-sponsoring the event so hopefully a few people will show up; unfortunately, i will be taking a bio test during that time.

Fiscal responsibility, drug war style

Back in 2000, Congress decided to end this drug problem once and for all by funding more than $1 billion for spraying glyphosate (Round-up, concentrated) on Colombian coca fields (and coca farmers, and the food of coca farmers, though they deny all that, much to the dismay of the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who was sprayed when inspecting the spraying).

It's 2005, and the program was scheduled to end this year, but since this is the drug war, and since this program, like all of the other drug war programs, has been an unmitigated disaster and complete waste of taxpayer dollars, the Bush budget includes another $332 million to fund it. With military assistance that will be included in the military budget, total aid to Colombia for 2006 alone should rise to over $740 million.

Check out for a beautiful new website dealing with the whole mess.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bloggers: A Call to Arms!

Not really. Just a call for feedback on all the changes I've been making to the design of the blog. Archives, typefaces, links. Pixels, points, picas, ems. Just tell me what needs fixing or improving, and I promise not to bore you with the finer points of cascading style sheets.

Comment away.

Another Voucher Program

I just found this City Journal article that takes a look at a Nixon-era voucher program that's still in effect today. I'm not sure if there's a school voucher analogy to be had here, but there you have it.

TITLE: "Guide for the Mexican Migrant"; AUTHOR: The Mexican Gov't

So the Mexican government published a guide book on how to safely cross the Mexican border into the US.

The 31-page pamphlet, "Guide for the Mexican Migrant," has infuriated some American politicians and citizens who say the Mexican government is effectively encouraging a criminal activity that is fraying the American cultural fabric and draining state and local municipalities.
The Mexican government says it is simply recognizing reality.

Althought the illegal immigrants speaking in the article say that they have better advice (which they give in the article!), it would be pretty great if America would understand what the Mexican government is realizing: immigration is inevitable whether its legal or not, and if you don't want people to die trying to get to the US, you had better admit that and do something about it.

FIRE's new blog

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has a new blog. For those of you that came to hear Greg Lukainoff speak about academic freedom know how good he was and can expect more of the same.

Those Crazy Europeans

I am always amazed at French attempts to get people from different backgrounds to get along by suppressing all external manifestations of the differences between them. What a cop-out. In America, every day we get better at living in what has to be the most diverse society in history, and we do it without trying to suppress individuality and forcing everyone to look the same.

You would think that the Dutch, what with Amsterdam and all, would deal with such matters more intelligently. You would be wrong:

Dutch Schools Ban the Dutch Flag

The flag of the Netherlands is composed of red, white, and blue stripes, and its roots stretch back to the Dutch war of independence against Spain in the 16th century. At the time, the Dutch Calvinists believed that freedom from Spain's awful dictatatorship and the Spanish Inquisition was worth the fight. The independent Netherlands soon became the first nation in Europe to allow genuine freedom of religion.

If the Dutch cannot even defend their right to display their own flag, it seems questionable whether Dutch liberty and independence will survive the 21st century.
Read the full Volokh Conspiracy post here.

ATTN: Plumbers

Virginians who wear their pants so low their underwear shows may want to think about investing in a stronger belt. The state's House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday authorizing a $50 fine for anyone who displays his or her underpants in a 'lewd or indecent manner.' ... the measure was approved 60-34. It now goes to the state Senate. The bill's sponsor, Del. Algie T. Howell, has said constituents were offended by the exposed underwear.

This law offends me, can we do something about that?

Hat tip: Adam

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The nice guy loses again.

Twenty-three years of sexual rejection might have been too much. The San Francisco Zoo's new male gorilla, successor to the late and virile Kubi, is finally spending quality time with the public and his four female companions -- and so far, the public seems more interesting. 'Sometimes the libido doesn't kick in right away,' said longtime gorilla keeper Mary Kerr. Zoo spokeswoman Nancy Chan put it more bluntly. 'He's a wimp,' she said. ... [O]ne thing is clear: he's still a virgin at 23, spurned repeatedly by the four females in Buffalo, who preferred a short, dumpy ape called Omega. 'You can sort of tell he's inexperienced,' Kerr said. 'He's not as assertive as most silverbacks would be.' ... 'He's too nice a guy,' Chan said. 'It might be the problem with why he never bred.'

More here.

Not open to discussion

Stephen Pinker says the Summers flap is important for what it tells us about our closed-minded, rigidly P.C. selves.

The analysis should have been unexceptionable. Anyone who has fled a cluster of men at a party debating the fine points of flat-screen televisions can appreciate that fewer women than men might choose engineering, even in the absence of arbitrary barriers. (As one female social scientist noted in Science Magazine, "Reinventing the curriculum will not make me more interested in learning how my dishwasher works.") To what degree these and other differences originate in biology must be determined by research, not fatwa. History tells us that how much we want to believe a proposition is not a reliable guide as to whether it is true.

But no, we didn't even want to hear an alternative hypothesis.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Third time's a charm

The White House proposed for the third time on Monday repealing a subsidy program for U.S. companies that has been declared illegal by the World Trade Organization.

In its annual budget recommendations to Congress, the White House said repealing the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, also known as the Byrd amendment, would save an estimated $1.608 billion in the 2006 budget year.

The United States faces about $150 million in possible trade retaliation from Japan, the European Union and six other trading partners if it does not repeal the Byrd amendment.
The measure, named after U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, distributes money collected from anti-dumping duties on imports to companies that initially requested the anti-dumping protection.

The program has paid out more than $1 billion in subsidies to ball bearing, steel, candle, pasta and other companies over the past four years.


NYT quote of the day

"There is a problem when the turnover in the United States House of Representatives is lower than it was in the Soviet Politburo."NATHANIEL PERSILY, an election law expert at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.


Expert on poverty, work and opportunity: John Edwards?

From Taranto's Best of the Web:

"Former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards will begin a two-year stint as a part-time UNC professor this month, heading a new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and floating into classes for lectures and guest appearances," reports the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun.

He'll be "floating into classes"? Well, the rap on Edwards always was that he was a lightweight.

Naughty, naughty.

Well, when you put it that way....

Prof. Richard Posner says Leftiversities weaken the Left:

Today in the United States, most of the leading research universities are dominated by persons well to the left of Larry Summers, and they don't take kindly to having their ideology challenged, as Summers has now learned to his grief.

There is nothing to be done about this, and thoughtful conservatives should actually be pleased. As John Stuart Mill pointed out in On Liberty, when one's ideas are not challenged, one's ability to defend them weakens. Not being pressed to come up with arguments or evidence to support them, one forgets the arguments and fails to obtain the evidence. One's position becomes increasingly flaccid, producing the paradox of thought that is at once rigid and flabby. And thus the academic left today.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Race-consciousness: all wrong, all the time

~ Warning: random race rant below ~

Whether your aim is to tout the superiority of one group or to claim we're all the same -- and should be equally "represented" -- I say it's race-consciousness, either way.

I was provoked to write this after a paleoconservative acquaintance sent me an email discussing the disproportionate number of Jewish Nobel prizewinners. He concluded with something like, "We cannot expect any notable scientific achievement from a black female."

First of all: who cares if Einstein was a Jew? Or Mises, or Rand? Does that give some random Jewish person bragging rights? No. Does it raise society's expectations of Joe Schmoeberg? It shouldn't.

But there's a bigger problem with race-consciousness... as it relates to hiring practices. When women agitate for more "representation" among the tenured physics professors at MIT, they fail to think ahead. Where will this get the average girl on the street? Unless you're one of those lucky female scientists who get boosted above male colleagues, this reverse discrimination affects you not at all. So let's stop pretending the female prof who file a lawsuit to get tenure is such a martyr. Hers is a 100% self-interested act (not that there's anything wrong with that).

I don't give a rat's patoot whether my teacher's a male, female, Asian, Jamaican... so long as the teacher is brilliant. And as universities step up the number of mediocre affirmative-action hires, my teacher is bound to be less than brilliant. So actually it hurts the socially-conscious young minds in the classroom.

It hurts the affirmative-action hires, too, for reasons you're all familiar with. There ARE intelligent, capable blacks, hispanics, and women. (I know it because I've met quite a few.) But the way things stand, no one would ever guess they got their jobs based on anything but pity. And that's a shame for everyone.

Friday, February 04, 2005

With tax relief, the desert blooms

Greg Kaza of the Arkansas Policy Foundation on what's right with Nevada.

Nevada, which does not levy a state corporate or individual income
, has recorded the highest percentage employment growth in the U.S.
for the second consecutive year.
Is there a pattern here?

Michigan has an abundance of water and natural resources -- and a crippling
"single business tax" levied by a political class that doesn't get it. It is
also the only state to record net job losses for 4 consecutive years (2001-04).
The author anaylzes the sluggish performances of other business-UNfriendly states, like California and Arkansas. You'll find it in the rest of his article.

. . . Nevada, meanwhile, was among the 10 states that began 2004 with the most
business-friendly (and, hence, job-producing) tax systems, according to the
nonprofit Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C. Another business-friendly state
without a corporate income tax -- Washington -- ranked sixth in job creation.

They call it benevolence

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

-- James Madison (fourth U.S. President, known as "the Father of the Constitution"), 1794.

It's Getting Better All The Time

The liberal-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz has published the story on an Israeli journalist of Iraqi descent who went to Amman to vote. The article has some interesting memories from Iraq's past, and a lot of hope for the future. An excerpt:

all the members of the committee crowded around me and pored over my Israeli passport, but were especially fascinated by the 1951 Iraqi laissez-passer. They gazed at the photograph of my grandparents and complimented me on their Iraqi appearance, noting that I look rather less Iraqi. I knew that. When they came to page six of the document, they stopped and conversed among themselves in Arabic.

Above the group portrait of the brothers and sisters something is stamped in Arabic and adorned with the curlicue signature of an Iraqi official. "Do you know what is written here?" one of the women asked me. I know, because Uncle Menashe told me, but I nevertheless ask her to translate.

"It is written here that they are allowed to leave Iraq, but can never come back," she said.

"And what is your opinion of that?" I ask.

"That was then. Today Iraq is something else," she replied with a smile.

Whole thing here.

Surprise, surprise, Nepal cracks down as king assumes total power.

Three days after Nepal's King Gyanendra assumed direct powers in the Himalayan kingdom, reports trickled in Friday of a severe clampdown on all voices of dissent. India's Hindustan Times quoted sources in Kathmandu as saying that helicopters from the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) had fired on student protesters in the town of Pokhra soon after King Gyanendra dismissed the government of Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday. ... Nepal's Foreign Ministry has warned that anyone who defied a six-month ban on publication of news, views and articles related to acts of terrorism would be punished. Armed troops were stationed at television stations, NDTV correspondents reported, while army officers were checking all articles at newspaper offices.

From the Khaleej Times.

I don't how many of you have heard of the Theory of Democratic Peace, well, it goes something like this: "democracies do not (or virtually never) make war on each other; the more democratic two regimes, the less likely violence between them; the more democratic a regime, the less its overall foreign violence; and the more democratic a regime, the less its genocide and mass murder." And the nice thing about this theory is that it is supported in practice as well:

This is from Rudolph J. Rummel, a professor at the University of Hawaii, who researches death by government and has an amazing website filled with many of his books and more facts about death than you would ever want to know. He has a book about each of the regimes that killed more than 10,000,000: the Soviet Union, communist and Nationalist China, Nazi Germany, as well as other books about the not-quite-so-megamurderers. Rummel uses the term democide to cover genocide, politicide, massacres, extrajudicial killings, and other forms of mass murders. A review of the 20th century:

And guess what he found to be empirically true? That governments have killed 170,000,000 people this century alone, more than four times the number of people killed in all of this century's armed conflict. Namely, he proved empirically that: power kills, and absolute power kills absolutely. And you thought corruption was bad.

Did i mention he was one of five finalists for the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize.

UPDATE: I added the definition of democide, thanks Adam.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Finally! Some respect for liberty!

"Escaping from prison is not a crime in Mexico. There is no penalty as long as another crime, such as assaulting a guard, is not committed during an escape. As one Supreme Court justice has explained, 'The person who tries to escape is seeking liberty, and that is deeply respected in the law.'"

The rest of the article, which is an unsettling look at Vicente Fox's drug war in Mexico, is here.

Food gets an upgrade

This doesn't look like "the next big thing," but I could be wrong.

[Chicago chef Homaro Cantu] prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings.

And the menu? Edible, too.

Sometimes he seasons the menus to taste like the main courses. Recently, he used dehydrated squash and sour cream powders to match a soup entree. He also prepares edible photographs flavored to fit a theme: an image of a cow, for example, might taste like filet mignon

But wait, you say. Food is so boring when it sits idly on the plate. Can't this guy do anything to fix that?

Mr. Cantu is experimenting with liquid nitrogen, helium and superconductors to make foods levitate. And while many chefs speak of buying new ovens or refrigerators, he wants to invest in a three-dimensional printer to make physical prototypes of his inventions, which he now painstakingly builds by hand.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

...clearly the only way to have a stable country... to suspend all civil liberties. At least according to the king of Nepal.

Professing himself a champion of multiparty democracy (hahaha), King Gyanendra announced on state-run television that he had fired the multiparty government,


the king also suspended the constitutional freedoms of press, speech and expression; the freedom to assemble peacefully; the right to privacy; and the constitutional protection against news censorship and preventive detention,

Obviously, the people of Nepal are in such a state of danger that having any sort of freedom is just too risky; having no rights whatsoever clearly is for their own well-being.


Vaclav Havel for UN Secretary General

Let's join in with the Volokh Conspiracy, Glenn Reynolds, and who knows who else, in finding a suitable replacement for Kofi Annan.

Vaclav Havel on the New EU Policy Opposing Human Rights Activists in Cuba

Free the Tomatoes!

Down with the Supreme Soviet Council for Tomato Planning and Production! I mean, down with the Florida Tomato Committee:

Tomato Tyrants Ban Better Fruit