Saturday, April 30, 2005

Larry Kudlow

Apparently Larry Kudlow needs a refresher course in Economics.

What, me study?

In honor of final exams, here's something completely unacademic to ponder:

What's overrated? John Derbyshire is playing "the Caesar's Bath parlor game, where you have to list five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you really can't understand the fuss over."

For Derbyshire, that would be cinnamon, basketball, Saul Bellow, philosophy, and the beach. (Obviously, he just hasn't been to the *right* beaches.)

I'd say: Rap music, Jon Stewart, Andrew Sullivan, skiing, and coffee.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Some Financial Advice


Oil-for-Food Scandal

So in case you thought Allen's conspiratorial leanings make him "crazy," check out some Rockefeller/UN connections...

So the Dollar has declined... but why the ever present trad deficit?

An explanation.

No soup for you!

The original "soup Nazi" lampooned on "Seinfeld" has big plans for a takeout soup chain in the United States, reports the NY Times.

Signs will be posted in each of "The Originial Soup Man" franchises bearing chef Al Yeganeh's strict rules for ordering, such as "Have your money ready!" and "Move to the extreme left after ordering!" But a company spokesman said workers will be prohibited from shouting, "No soup for you!" at customers who disobey.

. . . "He is a typical high-strung chef," [operations manager Linda Gavin] said, and his manner was portrayed "pretty accurately" on "Seinfeld."

(So high-strung, in fact, Yeganeh hung up on an Associated Press reporter who had lined up an interview -- before a single question was asked -- then refused all further requests for an interview.)

But, of course, he has a website.

Finals, shminals

I don't know about y'all, but I'm done with school on May 10. And then I'm going to hang out with dear leader, Ed Crane, at another Cato NYC event:

Social Security and the Future of Limited Government

Featuring Al Hubbard, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and
Director, National Economic Council, and Pat Toomey, President, Club for Growth
and Former U.S. Representative (R-PA), along with Cato's Ed Crane and Michael Tanner.

Thursday, May 12, 2005
11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Waldorf=Astoria Hotel

Cato usually offers discounts for students. Heck, they may even let you attend for free if you volunteer to help with registration and to hold the microphone during the Q&A sessions!

Show your interest in the comments section, and then I will let you know the details.

Don't let finals stand in the way of your real education!


He's not a libertarian or anything, and I don't know how he feels about trade and tax cuts, but -- God help me -- I was moved to tears by David Horowitz's speech on campus this afternoon. Down with tenured totalitarians!

What are your thoughts? I saw at least one co-blogger in attendance.

Step-by-Step to an Orwellian world

In the latest newsletter from The Liberator, there is this scary, scary threat to civil liberties...

Get ready for a national ID -- as early as next month.

In February the U.S. House of Representatives voted 261-161 to send H.R. 418,the "REAL ID Act of 2005," to the Senate. All but 8 Republicans supported thebill; three-quarters of Democrats opposed it.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill. And the REAL ID is strongly backed bythe Bush administration.

The REAL ID Act essentially turns state drivers' licenses into national IDcards, with extraordinary powers. Ominously, the bill gives authority to theSecretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally add additional informationrequirements.

Here are some details:

* The REAL ID Act would establish a vast centrally-coordinated national databaseof ID holders and their personal information, including, for starters, name,date of birth, place of residence, Social Security number, photograph, physicaldescription and possibly much more. Far more information could be required atthe Secretary of Homeland Security's wish.

* The ID would essentially be an internal passport that would have to be shownbefore buying a gun from a dealer, or accessing planes, trains, national parks,court houses, etc. It will be impossible to function normally in America withoutit.

* The national database would be shared with Canada and Mexico. "There are nolimits on what happens to the database of sensitive information on Americansonce it leaves the United States for Canada and Mexico -- or perhaps othercountries," said libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), who denounced the billin Congress.

* By calling for the use of "common machine-readable technology," the REAL IDAct paves the way for the federal government to force every state to putradio-frequency identification (RFID) chips into these ID cards. As CongressmanRon Paul notes: "This legislation gives authority to the Secretary of HomelandSecurity to expand required information on driver's licenses, potentiallyincluding such biometric information as retina scans, finger prints, DNAinformation, and even Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) radio trackingtechnology. Including such technology as RFID would mean that the federalgovernment, as well as the governments of Canada and Mexico, would know whereAmericans are at all times of the day and night."The REAL ID bill is more than a civil liberties nightmare. It exposes everyAmerican to terrible accidental or criminal abuse. Even a small percentage oferrors would cause major personal and social disruption. And the IDs would beirresistible targets for forgers and identity thieves.The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a major online civil liberties group,says: "The Senate needs to be reminded that such proposals have always beenrejected for good reason: our privacy and civil liberties are at the core ofwhat it means to be an American citizen."

Want to learn more -- and maybe do something about it? EFF has created a sitewhere concerned citizens can get more information and easily send an email totheir senators, expressing their concerns about the REAL ID proposal:

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Jagdish Bhagwati, addressing Sunil Gulati's global economy class at Columbia this afternoon:

"I was an advisor to Kofi Annan, not directly -- to the U.N. Of course, if I were Professor Sachs, I would say I was seeing Kofi Annan every other day. But I belong to a different generation; we understate things instead of overstating them."

A life in the shadows

His byline is merely "Mr. X." His burden: being a solitary Republican in the Democratic stronghold of Manhattan.

Via Don Luskin.

Funny Article...


Not even the dark side of the force is enough to keep the man at bay

A Darth Vader impersonator was fined by police for not wearing a seatbelt. Chris Gedge from Old Stratford, Northants, was driving to a promotions job in the fancy dress when he was stopped by police on the M1. He has two of his friends dressed in Stormtrooper outfits in the back of the car reports The Sun. He said: "The police pulled me over and asked me who I was. I told them I was the Dark Lord of the Sith. I'm sure they had a good laugh back at the station, saying they'd just done Darth Vader for not wearing a seatbelt."
Whole thing here.

Hot air

The Weekly Standard has a fabulous piece on why gas taxes don't lower consumption, starve Mid-East oilmen, or help the environment.

Support Diversity at Columbia

After reading Clara's post about Mark Skousen's Persuasion versus Force, I emailed the professor to ask him if he would be teaching any courses next year, and his response contained the following:

Good to hear from you. I think you hit the nail on the head.....I think politics is behind my not being asked to teach a course in economics or finance in the fall.....For all the talk of diversity in the student newspaper, it's just not happening. I'm ranked quite highly by the students at and in student surveys, but the professors and chairs have chosen to ignore that anyway. Perhaps it's time for students such as yourself to band together and demand change. I've had several students come to my office and express similar thoughts. So there are others out there who feel the same way you do.

I have talked to Susan Elmes in the econ dept and Rob Garris in SIPA about my teaching a "financial economics" course (my specialty) or any other intermediate course in economics/finance in the fall, but I have heard nothing. I understand that my teaching hasn't been ruled out yet, but so far, there's been no response one way or another.

I'm open to any suggestions.

So, any students who are interested in maintaining diversity of opinions at Columbia should email the Director of Undergraduate Studies Susan Elmes. Ask why one of the few dissenting voices on campus is being silenced. It's McCarthyism!

Ok, in reality just be polite and ask why students are being denied the chance to learn from a popular and provocative professor who has the rare and valuable trait of possesing real experience in his academic speciality (finance).

Full Disclosure: I would really like to take a SINGLE class with Libertarian professor before I graduate. Is that so much to ask? Act now. Time for me is running out!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


"historically inevitable, but oh-so-collectible!"

Conservatism today

Andrew Sullivan, writing in The New Republic [username/password here], talks about the current state of conservatism in a long but good article. It starts off with this:
Conservatism isn't over. But it has rarely been as confused. Today's conservatives support limited government. But they believe the federal government can intervene in a state court's decisions in a single family's struggle over life and death. They believe in restraining government spending. But they have increased such spending by a mind-boggling 33 percent in a mere four years. They believe in self-reliance. But they have just passed the most expensive new entitlement since the heyday of Great Society liberalism: the Medicare prescription-drug benefit. They believe that foreign policy is about the pursuit of national interest and that the military should be used only to fight and win wars. Yet they have embarked on an extraordinarily ambitious program of military-led nation-building in the Middle East. They believe in states' rights, but they want to amend the Constitution to forbid any state from allowing civil marriage or equivalent civil unions for gay couples. They believe in free trade. But they have imposed tariffs on a number of industries, most famously steel. They believe in balanced budgets. But they have abandoned fiscal discipline and added a cool trillion dollars to the national debt in one presidential term.

Thanks Nick

I'm not sure if the two are related but today the blog has recieved more visitors than any other day (110 and counting) and was also featured in Nick Rosenthal's final column:
Spiteful Rosenthal: Yeah, sure, there have been those who have disagreed with me at times. The Columbia Libertarians even started a thread on their Web site dedicated to how much they hate me: “Idiot Poker,” which can be found [here]. Only two people were involved in the discussion, which is either a testament to how beloved my column is or to how few people go to the Columbia Libertarians Web site.
Thanks for the shout out Nick, but i can't say i'm going to miss you.

It takes a nanny state

Forbes has a piece on the nanny state -- by Cato's Radley Balko -- that's enough to make your hair curl.

Lawmakers are also prone to banning trends they don't understand, or just find finicky. Wyoming is debating a regulation that would prohibit facial jewelry in the food service industry, an apparent attempt to keep the alternative girl's eyebrow ring from dropping into your macchiato, even though its backers couldn't cite a single such incident. A Texas lawmaker has introduced a bill that would outlaw "sexually suggestive" dance moves in cheerleading routines. California bans tanning beds for kids under 14, citing studies linking tanning beds to skin cancer. No word on whether they'll bar kids from lying in the sun, too.

If only legislators spent as much time devising ways to cut spending and balance their budgets.

Persuasion vs. Force

Since Allen brought it up at this week's meeting, here is Mark Skousen's memorable gold-nugget essay, Persuasion vs. Force.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "Taxation is the price we pay for civilization." But isn't the opposite really the case? Taxation is the price we pay for failing to build a civilized society. The higher the tax level, the greater the failure. A centrally planned totalitarian state represents the comoplete defeat for the civilized world, while a totally voluntary society represents its ultimate success.


Social Security

Lew Rockwell has a top 10 list (of Bush's economic errors) in an article called What Made The Next Depression Worse. I am including number 8 which deals with Social Security.

Number Eight: The Social Security Reform Hoax. Genuine privatization would be a grand idea. But that is not what the Bush administration proposes. Not anywhere close. They are proposing to partially convert the existing tax and spend system into a forced savings program. This is not choice but rather a species of socialism. The forced investments would be fed to approved funds with approved companies and be guaranteed a rate of return.

So in the end, Bush-style privatization would partially socialize the most important sector of the American capital markets, and we aren't talking about small change. And how would this transition be funded? Bush has suggested that he would be willing to lift the FICA cap, which would mean the worst tax increase in US history. Debt, taxes, inflation—take your pick. The costs are in the trillions.

Fantasize much?

NRO's Byron York reports on some real creepiness at Air America.

Oy vey

And this is just in Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More deceptive titles

To go along with the most unpatriotic PATRIOT Act, conservative members of the house are proposing "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act," HR 1528; its goals being:
  • "Fixing" federal sentencing rules thrown into doubt by recent Supreme Court cases by making the existing federal sentencing guidelines into a system of mandatory minimum sentences. Judges are forbidden in all but a few cases from departing below the guideline sentence.
  • Making the sale of a controlled substance, including more than five grams of marijuana, by a person older than 21 to a person younger than 18 a felony subject to a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. A second offender would face a mandatory life sentence, as would someone charged with that crime who had already been convicted of another drug charge.
  • Increasing to five years the mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted of drug sales within 1,000 feet of a school, college, public library, drug treatment facility, or, for good measure, a video arcade.
  • Making selling a controlled substance to someone who has ever been in drug treatment a felony with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
  • Creating a new three-year mandatory minimum sentence for parents who know of drug trafficking activity near their children and do not report it to police within 24 hours.
  • Creating a new 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for parent convicted of a drug trafficking offense in or near the presence of their minor child; i.e. in the same car or same house.
  • Eliminating the federal "safety valve" by granting exceptions only when the person has pled guilty to the most serious offense and "assisted substantially in the investigation and prosecution of another person." Such departures are expressly prohibited in cases where drugs were possessed or distributed near a minor, if the defendant did not cooperate quickly and fully in the investigation against him, or if he provided misleading or incomplete information to prosecutors.
  • Punishing defendants for the "relevant conduct" of co-conspirators even if that conduct occurred before the defendant joined the conspiracy.

Stop the Drug War aptly named this bill, "Federal Prison Drug Offender Overflow Assurance Act."

Let's go back to using horses and buggies

At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux takes on paleoconservative Paul Craig Roberts, who warns that the final days are coming -- i.e., that eventually all American jobs will end up outsourced to foreigners, with no new jobs to replace them.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Nurses against choice

Britain's Royal College of Nursing, the country's largest nurses' union, is up in arms against a government proposal that would allow patients greater choice in the matter of which hospital to go to for treatment.

Such a move could turn the nurse-patient relationship into a crude buyer-seller relationship, and unrdermine the level of trust nurses seek to gain from patients, the [union's] report warned.

More terrifying to British nurses is the prospect of being at the mercy of crass, cold competition.

While welcoming the principle of choice [Doesn't sound like they're welcoming it at all, really.], the RCN report also raised fears that the new funding system for health, Payment by Results - where money is allocated depending on patient numbers - could lead to the closure of local services if insufficient numbers opted to be treated in a given hospital.

Well, yeah, if the local McHospital is doing a crummy job, and everyone goes *into town* for superior medical care as soon as they're allowed to, why should the local dump continue coasting along -- let alone with its usual diet of taxpayer money? The place needs to shape up or shut down. Of course, things are so much easier before the introduction of that bitter ingredient, accountability.

French dining: why so expensive?

From the always-interesting, which appears not to enable trackbacking to specific posts:

Tour D'Argent, by Yishen Kuik

My wife was making reservations for good French restaurants in Paris and has been compiling recommendations for two and three Michelin star places.

I was shocked to find that the typical prices for these places ran to 300+ euros for dinner. In New York, there are a few places that run over $300, but these are the outliers. Most top restaurants have tasting menus offered between $100 and $180.

Why does such a phenomenon exist, I wonder?

Are Parisians that much wealthier than New Yorkers? Are there more wealthy Parisians than there are wealthy New Yorkers? Both are clearly not the case. Do Parisians love food 300% more than New Yorkers? Unlikely. Does labor cost 300% more in Paris? Possibly, but if price goes up, no matter the reason, quantity demanded must go down, and I should not be able to find dozens of such restaurants.

I don't know the answer for sure, but here is my guess: It is because the French have poor corporate governance.

Three kinds of people provide the repeat business at top restaurants: those who love food, those who have money and those who are on an expense account.

Perhaps the many very expnesive restaurants in Paris can be explained by the possibility that those on expense accounts do not suffer much oversight of their expenditures, a condition consistent with the assumption of weak power that shareholders exert over the daily operations of a typical French company. This explanation is aided by the other curious phenomenon that some of these restaurants are closed on the weekend.

Punctuation conundrum

Thank you, Volokh Conspiracy! I'd been wondering about this for years:

"I took a poo in the woods hunched over like an animal. It was awesome."

Celebrities: Dumber than you thought.

Via The Agitator

China's bread and circuses

Slate speculates about China's patchy transition to capitalism. The people want cell phones and big bank accounts -- but when will they start to demand freedom of the press?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Un momento... ¡Estoy hablando español!

I am working on translating the Eminent Domain Abuse Survival Guide into Spanish for the Institute of Justice. Looking for discussions of eminent domain abuse in my native language, I visited the Cato Institute's Spanish web site, El Cato, where I run into this fun quote:

“Apply yourself to the study of the Spanish language with all the assiduity you can. It and the English covering nearly the whole face of America, they should be well known to every inhabitant, who mans to look beyond the limits of his farm.”

--Thomas Jefferson to his nephew Peter Carr, Paris 1788. (Link)

(The title of this post is a line from the movie Bedazzled, from the scene where Elliot wakes up to find out he's been turned into a Colombian drug lord.)

This could get ugly

So, I just tried to post a response to this post in honor Earth Day over at the Colubmia Dems blog and it said my comment was awaiting approval. This is the first time it has happened and I didn't exactly notice their comment section being in need of moderation; though, i guess there were a few of us making some contentious comments. Let's see how this goes. Here is my comment, pretty reasonable I think.

The global warming debate is not nearly as cut and dry as you present it. As for the Kyoto Protocol, the expected reduction in global mean temperature will be 0.07 degrees celsius, a drop we are not even sure we can notice in our measurements.

In honor of Earth Day, i think we should all give credit where credit is due: let’s thank capitalism.

TSA: Thieves, Spendthrifts, Authoritarians


TSA update

The waste, fraud, and abuse never ends:
Employees with the agency in charge of safeguarding air travel spent more than $370,000 to lavishly decorate an office and then tried to cover up the cost by having an invoice rewritten, according to a government audit that blasts the agency for "wasteful" spending.

Officials at the Transportation Security Administration also bought $3,000 Subzero refrigerators and built a fitness center the size of a college basketball court, says the report, released Tuesday by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general. The costly perks were put in an office in suburban Washington, D.C., that opened two years ago as a TSA crisis management center, the audit says.

The report says TSA employees violated federal spending rules and in one case an ethics regulation. And TSA senior management "created a culture in which procurement procedures were abandoned, ethical norms slipped and fiscal responsibility was neglected," the report says.

Hat tip: Hit and Run.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Law of the Sea Treaty

Have you guys heard about LOST (Law of the Sea Treaty)? If not, I suggest you SERIOUSLY read into it.

China the powerhouse? Not quite

Yes even since the boom it has underperformed relative to Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Ben Muse cites Martin Wolf:

The key to the puzzle, Wolf says, is, "inefficiency of investment."

He points out that, among other things, the ratio of investment to additional output is high (that's bad, because "the lower [the ratio] the greater the bang for the investment buck." China's five year moving average of this ratio is now 5; Japan, Taiwan, and S. Korea all had lower ratios. The volume of bad loans by Chinese banks is also very high (in the Foreign Policy piece he notes that 40% of loans made by Chinese banks are bad).

"The principal explanation for the high level of losses [and I assume he means for the slow growth in general - Ben] has been the pouring of credit into the voracious maw of the state-owned enterprises..."

This is interesting:

"Still more remarkably, inward foreign direct investment was only about 4 per cent of GDP in the first half of the 1990s and 5 per cent in the second. Yet, according to two other IMF economists, FDI generated almost all of the efficiency gains. The share of foreign-owned companies in gross exports is also close to 50 per cent. Their share in the gross output of industrial enterprises rose from nothing in the early 1980s to 12 per cent in 1995 and 29 per cent in 2002."
From Marginal Revolution.

Book review

Daniel Drezner reviews The End of Poverty.
As the development expert William Easterly has observed, Sachs's sales pitch has been made in the past, and the results were meager.

Damn libertarians

I really am beginning to think that convincing libertarians about the merits of privatizing Social Security is actually more difficult than convincing liberals. I sent a blogger from PrincetonLibertarian (and occasional CCL blogger) an email about how he should start a Students for Saving Social Security chapter at Princeton. He responded in a well articulated no thanks. However, I have to disagree with a few points he makes.

1. New avenues for corruption. Getting on the government approved list ofinvestment vehicles (be they funds, stocks, bonds, loans, etc) would be an enormous source of capital. Every fund manager, every CEO would fall over themselves to get access to the list. The approval list would become just another way for politicians to pick winners and losers and another need for the private sector to lobby for special treatment from the federal government. I do not think corruption would be probable, I think that the financial rewards of having access to these funds would be so huge that it would NECESSITATE corruption.'
I completely agree that granting government more power breeds more corruption. However, I think you mischaracterize how exactly a system of private accounts would work. As I understand it, the government would mandate certain percentages of stocks and bonds as well as a certain amount of diversification; other than that, the individual would be free to choose where to invest his money. I agree if the government were to only let people invest in government approved funds that would be scary; luckily, that seems not to be the case.
3. Distortive impact on markets. One thing government can not do, is leave any program alone. Every representative, every Senator, every think tank, every lobbyist group would have their own pet plan to improve the myriad regulations that would govern personal accounts. Every time one of these honorable public servants succeeded in getting their regulation promulgated, it would send shock waves through the markets. The values of financial assets could skyrocket or plummet overnight on even the most innocuous sounding changes.
I agree that a system of accounts would necessarily affect the market sector, but I ask you, isn't social security as it stands now even worse. Two researchers for the Social Security Administration, Dean Leimer and David Richardson, have found that a dollar of expected future Social Security wealth substitutes for about three-fifths of a dollar of personal savings. Harvard's Martin Feldstein puts it as high as one to one. The annual loss of real income that this incurs (the difference between market returns and SS returns: 6.7%) is about 700 billion or 6.3 percent of total GDP. I happen to think that this is a much graver market distortion.

4. More bureaucracy. Its pure delusion to think that personal accounts would not be accompanied by their own federal Czar of Investment Safety and Security. This Czar would be the point man for encouraging the private market to suckle on the federal teat. He would be an unelected official with enormous power and he would be the focus of points 1, 2, and 3.
As it stands now, a system of private accounts would need less federal workers than the current Social Security administration. But again, this is a valid concern.
5. Expanding Nannyism. It would not be long before the federal government, having got the taste for micromanaging investment choices, would expand somehow into our other accounts. I don’t know how it would happen, but somehow, after “giving” us these personal accounts, government officials would start looking into how they could better manage IRA’s, 401k’s, and regular investment accounts.
The only thing that the government would be managing would be the stock/bond percentages in your account. I suppose that at some level this is managing, but it could be a lot worse, like taking your money outright and giving it to current retirees.
I don’t want to “strengthen” or “save” social security. I want it to die. And I want it to die in a way that leaves no doubt as to the cause. I’m afraid that if the personal accounts are added, as soon as things start going bad, the markets will be the scape goat and fuzzy-minds will wax nostalgic about the good old days when government was the great warm-hearted provider.

Despite the fact that I think that this is clearly politically unfeasible, there is something more problematic as well. If you were to get rid of SS while keeping the rest of government the same, you would be creating a huge moral hazard for people not to save and just take from other welfare programs for the elderly poor, like Medicare. And getting rid of the welfare state entirely is not going to happen.

I think this blogger's points are all reasonable, but I think that you have to compare a system of private accounts to the alternative and not the ideal. Appealing to the ideal is important to figure out in which direction policy proposals should head, but it is almost always impossible to implement ideal principles in policy given that we have strayed so far from it already. At least in a system of private accounts you have property rights over your money, you can invest in private markets where you can enjoy the benefits of higher returns, and if you die before you reach 65 you can actually still pass the money on to your children. Does a system of private accounts have problems, sure, but it is still an enormous step in the right direction.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Fairy tales linked to violent relationships

The lesson here is, don't let your kids watch movies like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaind." Better to let them play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. At least then they won't be subservient.

I really hope this study wasn't paid for with tax dollars...

CAFTA Video Clip

Tired of reading everything I've been writing in addition to all the links?

Here is a video clip about CAFTA. :-)

The Free Trade Charade

This is from the website. Cato (as I'm sure you all know) is in favor of free trade.

The Free Trade Charade

Commenting about NAFTA, the FTAA’s predecessor, James Bovard of the CATO Institute warned, "With each passing month, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is acquiring more protectionist overtones." Bovard notes that the pact contains Byzantine "rules of origin" for products to qualify as North American products. He also points out the unlikelihood that this treaty, which is over 1,000 pages long, could represent anything resembling bona fide free trade: "Free trade is not complex -- it is protectionism that requires endless administrative gimmicks to camouflage its true nature. NAFTA amounts to a proliferation of new definitions of fair trade."

The plan for NAFTA mandated the creation of more than 30 international government committees, subcommittees, councils, working groups, and subgroups. For example, NAFTA established the Free Trade Council with at least eight permanent committees, six "working groups," and five subcommittees and subgroups. And NAFTA’s side agreement on import surges called for the creation of a permanent "Working Group on Emergency Actions." Other side agreements on labor and the environment called for still more "law-making" bodies and advisory committees.

NAFTA supporter Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) bragged about the "iron fist" of that pact. No, NAFTA was not about free trade. Nor is the FTAA, which is based on an expansion of NAFTA. In case there is any doubt about the teeth in the NAFTA agreement, consider the candid statements of U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, the negotiator of the "side agreement" on the environment. Kantor said officially that "no nation can lower labor or environmental standards, only raise them .... " In the Wall Street Journal on August 17, 1993, Kantor explicitly stated that "no country in the agreement can lower its environmental standards -- ever."


This is not meant to be rude in ANY way at all. I'm wondering how many of you guys know the specifics of CAFTA rather than just typing out typical economics arguments for me based on free trade (all of which I've heard, and tend to subscribe to). This is not a matter of relatively better option vs. ideal. This is not free trade in any sense. The documents for these free trade agreements are thousands of pages long. Based on that alone, you guys must have significantly different perspectives on free trade than the politicians trying to put the agreements into place. For one, you seem to articulate what is involved, in a much more succinct manner (and in fact, you are right about what is involved in free trade. My point is that those agreements are not about free trade).

Here is another interesting piece of info about CAFTA: The nations of Central America will be permitted to export their goods freely as soon as the agreement goes into effect. However, American firms will not be permitted to do so until 10 YEARS AFTER the agreement is put into effect. Once again I ask, is this free trade? By the time our producers will be allowed to export freely, they will all be out of busines.

I've said it millions of times and I'll say it again: I like the concept of free trade. The only place where I will disagree with some of you, is when it pertains to a defense-related industry. Some of you will say free trade should exist in that sphere as well while I will not. That however, I think is a fairly minor point. The reason I oppose these agreements is because they have nothing to do with free trade and everything to do with creating EU-style socialist bureaucracy. Go back to the classical liberals and find for me where their understanding of free trade relates to creating forceful regulations to be followed by nations. Free trade is a voluntary process FREE of regulation/bureaucracy.

Don't let the phrase "free trade" in each of these agreements actually make you believe that that is what they deal with. What would happen if people subscribed to the "Patriot Act" based on its title?

The following is from an article written by Lawrence M. Vance, one of the Austrian economists. He is writing about the benefits of free trade as envisioned by Henry George.

"And when [Henry] George mentions free trade, he really means free trade, not the modern GATT, WTO, EC, FTAA, NAFTA, government-managed, thousand-page trade agreement variety."

When a school of thought HEAVILY in favor of free trade (in this case the Austrians) is OPPOSED to what politicians call "free trade," you should stop to think about what is really being pushed for.

CAFTA: better than no CAFTA

At Cafe Hayek, economist Russell Roberts shares his thoughts on CAFTA.

(My computer is still broken, otherwise I'd hyperlink like a pro. Excuuuuse me.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Someone please tell the Columbia Dems why they should love Janice Rogers Brown. I linked to an article, but I know someone out there knows a whole lot more about her than I do.

I'll trade you income guarantess for minimum wage laws?

[name removed at person's request], from PrincetonLibertarian, takes down a piece arguing that you need basic income guarantees if you are going to take away minimum wage laws over at The Free Liberal, a 'left-libertarian' website.The article is a little technical but accessible; what you need to know:
At a given unemployment rate, higher unemployment benefits lead to a higher real wage. A higher unemployment rate is needed to bring the real wage back to what firms are willing to pay. So the net effect of Tim's plan would be to raise unemployment with NO effect on real wages.

UPDATE: I guess i was unclear. Matt doesn't write for The Free Liberal; he was responding to one of their articles and they published it on their site.

Little surrey with the IKEA fringe on top

Interesting article on the rise of product placement in Broadway shows:

[In the NY Times. I'll link to it when I get to a computer with a *working* mouse.]

Theatergoing purists are sure to complain about this -- but hey, if it keeps ticket prices down, Christine can wash her hair with Herbal Essences shampoo in The Phantom of the Opera, for all I care.

CAFTA Comments

OK Marco, there is no need to make it clear to everyone that I'm new to blogging and create a damn hyperlink!

I won't address the comments to my link calling it a mix between Buchanan and some other person because those are not substantive remarks.

To the person who stated that free trade is good: of course free trade is good. Nobody who has any economic background (and a brain) will doubt that. The problem is that CAFTA, NAFTA, SHMAFTA, BAFTA, DAFTA, and the upcoming FTAA... HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH FREE TRADE. Ask yourself one question: why do certain advocates of free trade such as the Austrians, oppose these agreements? And also, why do I oppose the agreements if I am generally in favor of free trade?

Marco, so you're still not convinced... I'm going to give you a copy of an article (next time I see you) all about CAFTA that I hope you'll read...


Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Who would've thought?

A congressional investigation found airport screeners employed by private companies do a better job detecting dangerous objects than government screeners,according to a House member who has seen the classified report. The Government Accountability Office found statistically significant evidence that passenger screeners, who work at five airports under a pilot program, perform better than their federal counterparts at some 450 airports, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. and chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, said on Tuesday.

Whole thing here.

An open letter to the graduate students of Columbia University

If you're wearing jeans to work -- and taking classes, yourselves -- it's not a real job. Nobody promised you a CEO's salary to give a recitation once a week and do research (or whatever it is you kids do when you're not discussing Durkheim's theory of "anomie" at the Hungarian Pastry Shop).

Oh, and thanks for striking during the undergraduates' final exams. Again.

Dr. Mike Adams of UNC

Just a thoughtful post for those interested in a wonderful and provacative guest speaker.

Dr. Mike Adams of

Read his recent articles here:

Posted by [GUEST] Patrick E. Bell "Respectfully Republican"


REMINDER: Judge Napolitano


CIVIL LIBERTIES IN WARTIME: a talk by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano

"Let's put aside all of the procedural problems with enacting [the PATRIOT Act]. Forget about the fact that there was no debate. Forget about the fact that most members of Congress didn’t even have an opportunity to read it. It is a direct assault on at least three amendments to the Constitution: the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment. The PATRIOT Act legitimates the notion that if we give up certain freedoms, the government will keep us safer. I reject that notion from a moral and legal point of view. I also reject it from a practical point of view. It doesn't work. The government doesn't need our freedoms to keep us safer. No one-no lawyer, judge, or historian-can point to a single incident in American history where national security was impaired because someone insisted on their right to free speech or their right to privacy or their right to due process."
--Judge Napolitano

Time: Wednesday, April 20, 2005, at 12:30 p.m.
Location: Greene Hall 101, Columbia Law School
Pizza will be served


Judge Napolitano is the Senior Judicial Analyst at Fox News, and the author of "Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When The Government Breaks Its Own Laws." Judge Napolitano sat on the New Jersey Superior Court for eight years, and served as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall Law School for eleven years. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his Juris Doctor from the University of Notre Dame.

For further reading:
Nat Hentoff interviews Judge Napolitano for the Village Voice: "Fierce Watchdog of the Constitution."

Nick Gillespie interviews Judge Napolitano for Reason magazine: "The Born-Again Individualist."

Judge Napolitano writes for Reason magazine: "A Constitution of Convenience: The government can't have it both ways."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Remember our Free Trade/WTO/UN Discussion?

I strongly urge you guys to browse this website and check out the articles on it dealing with all the impacts of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Articles about the UN.

Here are some more articles dealing with trade.

Finally, an incredible article about the WTO (the long link is from proquest since the magazine's article isn't published online yet): link.

Silkscreen Summers

I'm tempted. I'm really, really tempted. (Via NRO.)

More on the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether a church in New Mexico can continue using hallucinogenic tea in its religious services. At issue is whether use of the tea, which contains a drug banned under the federal Controlled Substances Act, is protected under freedom of religion laws. The Bush administration contends the tea is illegal and use of it potentially dangerous for church members. Justices will review a lower court ruling that allowed the Brazil-based church - O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal - to import and use the hoasca tea while the case was appealed. Arguments will be heard in the court's next term beginning in October.
Whole thing here.

Let's see where this goes

The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether one occupant may give the police consent to search a residence, even though the other occupant already has objected. The justices agreed to hear an appeal by Georgia attorneys who cited conflicting rulings on the issue by federal and state courts. They said the case presented "a question of paramount importance" for the Supreme Court. The case involves Scott Fitz Randolph, who was charged in 2001 with cocaine possession. He moved to suppress the evidence against him, which had been seized during a search of the home he shared with his wife. She had allowed the search after he had denied permission for it. He argued the search violated his constitutional right protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures of evidence.
Whole thing here.

New Spec Piece

I'll remember to actually link to it this time:

As always, comments & suggestions are welcome.

Monday, April 18, 2005

At least she's up front about it

From the NY Times profile of Lan Samantha Chang, 40, the newly appointed director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop:

Ms. Chang is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who left China in 1949 and moved to Appleton, Wis. Her father, Nai-Lin Chang, is a retired professor of engineering affiliated with Lawrence University there; her mother, Helen Chung-Hung Hsiang, teaches piano. Ms. Chang, one of four sisters, graduated from Yale, where she was managing editor of The Yale Daily News. She was also an intern in a program at The New York Times aimed at minorities.

Well, coming from a background of such desperate intellectual and financial privation, she needed all the help she could get. Presumably, if not for the Times' charity toward non-whites, Ms. Chang would have gone straight from Yale to a job flipping burgers at Arby's.

Cheaters, cheaters everywhere

Slate's William Saletan wonders why nobody's calling Tiger Woods a cheater.

Wait a minute. If the [steroid] that helped McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998 was an unnatural, game-altering enhancement, what about his high-powered contact lenses? "Natural" vision is 20/20. McGwire's custom-designed lenses improved his vision to 20/10, which means he could see at a distance of 20 feet what a person with normal, healthy vision could see at 10 feet. Think what a difference that makes in hitting a fastball. Imagine how many games those lenses altered.

You could confiscate McGwire's lenses, but good luck confiscating [Tiger] Woods' lenses. They've been burned into his head. In the late 1990s, both guys wanted stronger muscles and better eyesight. Woods chose weight training and laser surgery on his eyes. McGwire decided eye surgery was too risky and went for andro instead. McGwire ended up with 70 homers and a rebuke from Congress for promoting risky behavior. Woods, who had lost 16 straight tournaments before his surgery, ended up with 20/15 vision and won seven of his next 10 events.

The State Expands, and Weakens

Hey Marco, remember when you assured me that "things are going in our direction..."


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Suffering for art

Psychiatrist Peter D. Kramer, writing in the NY Times Magazine, says it's time to stop romanticizing depression.

To [one] way of thinking, to oppose depression too completely is to be coarse and reductionist -- to miss the inherent tragedy of the human condition. To be depressed, even gravely, is to be in touch with what matters most in life, its finitude and brevity, its absurdity and arbitrariness. To be depressed is to occupy the role of rebel and social critic. Depression, in our culture, is what tuberculosis whas 100 years ago: illness that signifies refinement.

Violence in schools

Teacher maims teacher, gets arrested. Virginia Postrel reports:

When judicial activism comes in handy

Most Americans like to downplay the importance of the ideological gulf separating authoritarians from classical liberals. At the end of the day, we all want the same things, don't we? It's the little things that lead to squabbles, right?

Wrong. Trying reading the New York Times, or Salon, or The New Yorker -- and you'll remember that half the country sees practically eye to knee with you. (For lack of a better expression.)

Take this NY Times investigative piece on the so-called "Constitution in Exile" movement. Look out, America! While your children lie asleep in their beds, grim-faced men in double-breasted suits are plotting to dismantle environmental protections, minimum-wage laws, and everything else we compassionate Times readers hold dear.

The mastermind of this sinister plot? Chicago law professor Richard A. Epstein.

Most interesting about "Constitution in Exile" reasoning is the acceptance of -- and unabashed reliance on -- activist judges. Most conservatives, on principle, oppose legislation from the bench. I always thought that libertarians did the same. But it turns out their beef was with the decisionmaking, not with the method.

Proponents of big government are hell-bent on changing the character of American social and economic life through legal decisions. It's time to fight fire with fire, say Epstein et al. Sounds good to me.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Bold question

The Q-and-A opened with hostility as audience members expressed frustration with many of Scalia's opinions. In asking about Scalia's dissent in Lawrence v. Texas
and his view that privacy is not constitutionally protected, Eric Berndt, a law student, shocked the crowd by asking, "Do you sodomize your wife?" Scalia
refused to answer the question while the crowd gasped and the administrators
promptly turned off Berndt's microphone.
Whole thing here.

Does anyone know what Scalia said in his dissent?

Max Boot reviews Kishore Mahbubani

He closes with an obligatory plea for a kinder, gentler superpower to promote "greater respect for international law." But isn't that what Bill Clinton did? He never saw a treaty he didn't want to sign or a foreign leader he didn't want to consult. And yet that didn't prevent the growth of murderous anti-Americanism. Mahbubani, like other critics of the Bush administration, ignores Machiavelli's dictum that "it is much safer to be feared than loved." George W. Bush may not have increased the love for the United States, but if he has increased respect for American power, that's an underappreciated achievement.

Whole thing here

via Volokh Conspiracy

Who *hasn't* written a paper like this?

MIT students pull the ultimate prank on academia:

Linked via NRO's The Corner.

Flat Tax? Yes, please.

The Economist has a timely piece on that single-bracket slice of Heaven, the Flat Tax.

Fewer brackets are simpler to administer, but one bracket is simplest of all. Under a pure flat tax, the taxman takes the same cut from the last dollar you earn that he took from the first. The appeal to high earners is obvious. But the administrative elegance of such a system is not so immediately apparent. Because every dollar is taxed at the same rate, it does not matter to the tax collector how many dollars are going to whom. Thus, in principle, the taxman could simply withhold 20% of a company's payroll, without needing to know who was paid what. Add a second rate of tax, however, or a personal exemption, and the tax collector must find out how much money is going into each pay packet before he can be sure of collecting the right amount from the right person.

Free-trading faculty

A Columbia economist to watch: Arvind Panagariya.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

What slippery slope?

Heather Mac Donald, one of the Manhattan Institute's best and brightest, takes on libertarian critics of the PATRIOT Act.

The fact is, the government's power to investigate terrorism has been the opposite of a slippery slope toward tyranny. Since the 1970s, libertarians of all political stripes had piled restriction after restriction on intelligence-gathering, even preventing two anti-terror FBI agents from collaborating on a case if one was an "intelligence" investigator and the other a "criminal" investigator. By the late 1990s, the bureau worried more about avoidinga pseudo-civil liberties scandal than about preventing a terror attack. No one demanding the ever-more Byzantine protections against hypothetical abuse asked whether they were exacting a cost in public safety. We know now that they were.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

And yet my eyes are dry

Stefan Beck wants more academic diversity -- because liberal students are short-changed without it. True, that.

This is almost too much...

Two days after the end of the legislative session, state lawmakers are discovering something few were aware of: They voted to make English the official language of West Virginia. The language amendment was quietly inserted into a bill addressing the number of members that cities can appoint to boards of parks and recreation. Among mundane details about record-keeping, the amendment adds the provision that 'English shall be the official language of the State of West Virginia.'
Whole thing here.

Judge Douglas Ginsburg

Randy Barnett on Supreme Opportunity Costs:
I have long bemoaned the opportunity cost of the aborted Supreme Court nomination of Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals. Nominated in the wake of Robert Bork's defeat, Ginsburg was pressured (rumor has it by then-Drug "Czar" Bill Bennett) to withdraw his name when it was disclosed by Nina Totenberg (whose speaker's agent brags about it here) that he had smoked marijuana in the presence of law students when he was a professor at Harvard Law School. Anthony Kennedy was nominated in his place.

What happened to Judge Ginsburg was a tragedy for liberty, and a terrible injustice to a very decent man. Without casting any aspersions on Justice Kennedy, I really wish that now-Chief Judge Ginsburg, the most libertarian Supreme Court nominee in the modern era, had been on the Court these past 15 years. At any rate Ex Post yesterday posted a nice talk by Judge Ginsburg.

The new 'third rail'

Ok,this is just frustrating

Possibly the most absurd and obviously unfair pork barrel spending in the entire federal budget is the federal farm subsidy. Americans in polls are clearly dead-set against any form of business subsidies, so how do farmers get an unquestioned free lunch? Let us be clear that these are subsidies for business, mostly large farming conglomerates. There is no motivation to reduce prices for American consumers, most of the subsidized products grown are exported at global market prices. Yes, American farming may no longer be competitive on the world market, but this should have been obvious by now, and is arguably a situation caused in part by regulation such as minimum wage laws. If our farmers cannot support themselves, perhaps we should not encourage such an inefficient use of manpower and capital. What is worse is that as we are rembers of the WTO, large fines are leveraged against the US on a yearly basis because of our farm subsidies. For some reason, fines which we are quite happy to pay in order to maintain our misguided and inefficient policies. This is one of those issues that doesn't get any less absurd the
more you look at it. This utterly ridiculous Jeffersonian legacy must come to an end.

Chris Scotton

The taxman cometh, people

"Taxation with representation ain't so hot, either." -- Gerald Barzan

Paleolibertarianism and Paleoconservatism

Interesting but old (2002) article on the history of the two camps including their multiple mergers and separations.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Remember those "Geolibertarians" we talked about?

This is Murray Rothbard's response to Georgist (geolibertarian) criticisms of Austrian economics.

These articles relate to our meeting on 4/12

This link is to two articles about the Patriot Act and the actual text of the Patriot Act as well.

This link is to articles about Chinagate (Clinton's sale of military secrets to China in return for campaign contributions).

REMINDER: Meeting Tonight

Just a reminder that we have a meeting tonight at 9:00 PM in 309 Hamilton, come pick up some flyers, talk about what we are going to do for sexual awareness day, and enjoy the usual banter. See you tonight!

And we rag on the spec...

Behind every story is another story, the story of how the reporter got the story. Occasionally the veil is lifted on that process, and sometimes it sheds some light on how the news is really made.

One such story has been developing in our backyard for a few days now. On March 31, the New York Times published an exclusive about a then-unreleased report from Columbia University investigating complaints that pro-Israel Jewish students had been harassed by pro-Palestinian professors.

The problems with the piece in question are not factual -- the specifics appear to be in order -- but revolve around the more elemental issues of what the Times agreed to in order to get its "exclusive" from the university...

As for the Spectator, the Web site CampusJ (which has been on top of the story since the beginning) reported that the independent campus paper was shown the report and offered the same deal as the Times, but editors never agreed to it and pushed ahead with student interviews. (In the interest of full disclosure: A Spectator staffer works as an intern at CJR.)

The mighty Times, however, kept its word. Unfortunately, that involved a promise that should never have been made (or maybe, for that matter, offered by Columbia in the first place. PR is PR, we concede, but Columbia is the home of the Pulitzers, a top journalism school, and CJR itself. It should know better. Even its flacks should know better.)

This from the Columbia Journalism Review's blog in a post entitled: Columbia Spectator 1, New York Times 0.

Heartening that the Spec is better or disconcerting that the Spec is better?

[Hat tip: Instapundit]

Great strides in public education

At last, New York has discovered the remedy for its public-school teaching mediocrity: The teachers don't know enough about chess. As in, the board game.

Send the entire faculty to evening chess classes -- because every child deserves a second-grade English teacher who can tell a rook from a bishop.

Before class on Wednesday night, [chess insructor] Mr. Ashley explained a personal distaste for memorization and facts, and laid out his education philosophy, the one he hopes the teachers will take from the class: "Knowledge flips every day. What we know becomes wrong tomorrow. We need kids who know how to think."

The only thing we know for certain is that nothing is certain. Ummm.

Caridad Guerrero, who teaches seventh-grade math at Intermediate School 528 in Washington Heights, said she had learned that "one bad move doesn't end the game" and "to think beyond the moment."

She related that to her classroom this way: "Sometimes lessons don't go the way you planned. You had great ideas and it plays out another way. But that doesn't have to wreck your class."

Tell us more about those lesson plans, Ms. Guerrero.

So THAT'S the Purpose of a University...

One of the worst letters I've read in the spec in a long time, followed by one of the most depressing.

According to grad student Michael Schtender-Auerbach:

'Columbians for Academic Freedom do not understand the purpose of a university. They hope for a day when political groups of all forms can meet and discuss together in a mature and sophisticated manner the most controversial topics of the day. This is not a template for a university. I certainly wouldn’t want to attend a university where students controlled the debate and not the professors. If professors don’t want to enter into a debate with their students they shouldn’t be obligated; CAF disagrees. Professors obviously cannot threaten students, but intellectual intimidation should be expected. Students are here to learn; professors debate with other professors, non-academics, policy makers, politicians, writers and pundits.'

In the same issue, Kenneth Dauber, CC ’66 and professor of English at SUNY Buffalo, writes:

'As anyone in the last ten years who has ever interviewed for a job in a humanities department at any major university in the nation knows, when they take you for dinner you may rail on happily against American imperialism, you may prattle confidently about the insidious spread of globalism, you may even, with a knowing wink and a slightly lowered voice, castigate the “neo-conservative” cabal that has hijacked America’s soul. But say a word in the other direction, and you will not—you simply will not—get the job.'

So let's see... students aren't supposed to engage in debate with their enlightened faculty, because the faculty is supposed to be debating one another. But then, what of Dauber's observations of academic hegemony? Does that mean we shouldn't expect ANY debate at ANY level of the university?

Aint no thang, according to Michael Schtender-Auerbach:

'Many professors have circulated an open letter,, whose signatories include Eric Foner, Robert Jervis, Mahmood Mamdani, and over 300 others. These faculty members are the embodiment of Columbia, which continues to be a leading progressive institution. Those who want a balanced approach to the issues should consider another school.'

So keep your mouths shut or GET THE HELL OUT, you dumb students! And thank you, Mike, for showing us all just how NAIVE, COMPLACENT, and, well, DUMB some students can be.

The Breadth and Scope of Libertarianism and the Role of Student Activism

The title says it all...

Trickle-down baby naming

Slate has a two-part series on the economics of Justin, Kayley, Matthew and LaTishia.

Once a name catches on among high-income, highly educated parents, it starts working its way down the socioeconomic ladder. Amber, Heather, and Stephanie started out as high-end names. For every high-end baby given those names, however, another five lower-income girls received those names within 10 years.

I take this to mean we'll see an explosion of little Claras by 2010.

Are we in the ANCHORMAN movie?

So when I read this article in the NYTimes today, I almost thought it was a joke. Wasn't this the grand finale of ANCHORMAN (the Will Ferril movie)?

Speculation about Mei Xiang's pregnancy has drawn huge crowds to the zoo and to the Giant Panda Web site that Dr. Lumpkin maintains.


"Many people ask why are pandas so popular," said Dr. Lumpkin, explaining that the Web page received almost 100,000 hits in the two weeks after the announcement that Mei was in estrus in March.

"I don't think there's any single good answer. Pandas are rare, they're cute, they're from an exotic place. It's almost inexplicable in many ways."

This really has nothing to do with libertarianism...I just thought it was funny.

You can't miss this!

a lecture by Roger Scruton
Thursday -- April 14 at 12:00 pm
Alfred Lerner Hall, room 555
Free refreshments and beverages provided

ROGER SCRUTON has been called Britain's pre-eminent philosopher.
He has written more than twenty books. In his acclaimed "The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat," Mr. Scruton illuminates the significance of 9/11 by exploring such questions as: What is distinctive about the West? What problems and dangers does the West face today? For more about Roger Scruton, see

It was only a matter of time...

Sesame Street favorite Cookie Monster is going on a diet. He is aiming to get healthy during the show's new series reports the New Zealand Herald. Other characters will also get involved in the health drive. Elmo will be shown exercising. As part of the project, Cookie Monster, who used to sing that 'C is for cookie,' will be telling viewers that biscuits are occasional treats. He now sings: 'A cookie is a sometimes food.' The producers of Sesame Street will now start with a health tip about nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest. Producers deny that Cookie Monster has been placed on a diet. 'We would never use the word diet. with pre-schoolers,' said a spokeswoman.
From today's FND.

The community expands

Princeton Libertarian has recently joined the blogosphere, ranting about taxes, liberals, and school.

Monday, April 11, 2005

No love from The New Yorker

They've replaced it with a new article, but The New Yorker's website had a surprisingly *mixed* review of Jeffrey Sachs's The End of Poverty. The reviewer attacked Sachs from both left and right, first calling him an overeager proponent of unfettered, American-style capitalism (I'm paraphrasing) and in the next sentence taking Sachs to task for his unwillingness to lay blame for Africa's economic difficulties on corrupt governance.

If you see the magazine at Butler Library, check out this piece. It's worth a read.

It doesn't take a village

The newly released Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study reveals a grim picture of life after foster care.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

bring in da noise, bring in dabashi!

Have you seen the satirical Hamid Dabashi blog in the latest Blue and White? It is NOT to be missed.

"Daniel Pipes: Although I do not oppose your right to exist, I have blocked you from my Buddy List."
--posted Monday, 12:01 p.m.

Documentary Time

Remember Jenin? The media kept talking about a big massacre by Israeli troops, which ended up being a lie. I haven't seen this film, but I've heard very good things. It delves into some issues the media doesn't deal with- namely, the manipulation of the press by Palestinian groups and how Palestinian terrorists put their own people in danger, preferring to garner bad press for Israel than to preserve the lives of innocent Palestinians among them.

What really happened in Jenin in March 29 - April 21, 2002 - Operation Defensive Shield?
Was it a "massacre of innocent civilians" or a "raid on terrorist cells"?
What role did the media, governments and the UN play in the way the incident unfolded?
Learn more from the filmmaker Pierre Rehov, direct from Paris and Jerusalem.


a film by French journalist Pierre Rehov

WHEN: Monday, April 11, 2005 @ 7PM WHERE: Columbia University/ Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway @ 115th Street (you may need to enter at 115th Street and enter building from campus side, not Broadway)

Sponsored by: SPME; Jewish Business Student Association;
Koleinu - Columbia Law Students for Israel; The Israel Vaad

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"How to Hurt American Business"

An op-ed in the NYTimes today...

So much for the cheap dollar's help for United States exports. Beginning May 1, American companies that sell paper, textiles, machinery and farm produce to Europe are due to be slapped with punitive tariffs of 15 percent. Companies that sell oysters, live swine and certain types of fish to Canada will also be hit. Ditto for those selling certain products to Brazil, Chile, India, South Korea and Mexico.

Altogether, the tariffs will cost American exporters up to $150 million this year, but that's just the beginning. That number could multiply by leaps and bounds next year, unless Congress backs off its quest to tilt the global playing field in favor of politically powerful domestic steel companies.

So why is this happening? Back in 2000, Congress allowed a fiery protectionist, Senator Robert Byrd, to push through a bill that handed the tariffs that the government imposes on foreign competitors for supposed "dumping" infractions over to the American companies that filed the complaints. The money used to go to the Treasury.

The law was meant to help American steel companies, which are always complaining that their foreign rivals dump their products in America by charging below-market prices. It was a dumb move. The dumping charges are often pretty dubious. Foreign countries have long, and correctly, argued that the American definition of dumping often just means charging any price below the price in America.

On the up-side, the article had a good title: "How to Hurt American Business."

FIRE reads the spec...

Minnie Quach writes:
In the first article, “Another Kind of Diversity,” Jeff Waxman writes:
The ad hoc committee report, released March 31, has effectively done nothing. It’s what one would have expected: a lot of words that don’t combine to say anything. There’s plenty of talk about “grievance procedures,” “general examination,” and a review of “prerogatives and responsibilities,” but no talk about any of the real problems or any real solutions.

In the second article, “The Hypocrisy of Academic Freedom,” philosophy graduate student Costin Alamariu compares the MEALAC controversy with those at Harvard University, the University of Colorado, and DePaul University. She writes:

The fake issue of diversity is being manipulated to allow a routine abuse of academic integrity in the name of a nebulous academic freedom…. The provincialism and lack of general knowledge among graduates of this country’s best universities is unbelievable, and this is a result of an academic life that has been more concerned with indoctrinating students with pseudo-Marxist pablum than training them to be careful thinkers and readers with a broad base of knowledge. While I agree with some points made by these students, I disagree with their conclusions that the solution lies in professors’ fulfillment of their “responsibility” of presenting “real scholarship” to students. The key to having a fulfilling classroom experience is often not content itself, but how the content is conveyed, shaped, absorbed, challenged, and made into shared knowledge by all members of the class. This involves students’ being conscious actors who take their learning into their own hands and do not expect that all their professors simply provide them with exactly what they demand. As I discussed in my last post, the report (and many of the critiques of the Columbia situation) is centered not on the students, but on the professors. Students are deemed passive consumers who are unsatisfied with the educational “products” they have purchased.

Yes, professor’s pedagogical practice does play a huge role in the educational environment. The problem at Columbia and other campuses will not be resolved, however, if we don’t shift focus from what is being taught to how students (and professors) learn.

Friday, April 08, 2005

More Good Stuff in Spec!

Who would have thought it possible? Just a day after printing Jeff's cogent piece on the need for civility in the MEALAC debate, the Spec prints perhaps the hardest hitting MEALAC opinion piece yet. Everyone should check it out!

I was going to include some highlights in this post, but you should really just read the entire thing.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

New Spec Piece

I think the Spec is getting a little unorganized. They didn't tell me when this piece was going to be published, or ask me to come in and edit it, and then spelled my name wrong. Either way, I'd love thoughts, comments, or suggestions. You can leave them here or contact me through e-mail, AIM, etc. Thanks.

Edit: I'm sorry, I didn't even link to the article. Here it is:

Not your mother's student activists

Students for Saving Social Security

urban lifestyle centers

It's a street, it's a park, it's ... a shopping mall.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Planet NY Times

Larry Kudlow reminds the New York Times that tax cuts help the economy.

Social Security: Who Cares?

By [Guest] Patrick E. Bell

One of the most intriguing questions about Social Security reform is, "Who cares?" Well, I know this may be difficult for some college students, but this is a system that will, at the very least affect many of those around us. I for one hope not to require Social Security. However, we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that there are those who won't be able to get by without it. While somewhat dated, Robert Samuelson has a good handle on this topic. See generally: The Good Life and its discontent: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement. New York: Vintage Books, 1995, 1997. See also:

Many pundits and commentators are railing against Bush, shrieking that Social Security shouldn't be touched. AARP has launched several ad campaigns against President Bush's policy. One of my favorites features a bulldozer taking down a house. I digress, Bush isn't playing the cards smart on this issue. Where Bush may be going wrong: arguing that Social Security is completely broken, defunct, and won't continue to work without MAJOR changes is a skewing of the facts.

Sure, to some degree Social Security needs to be addressed, but who wants to touch the issue? An objective observer might look at all of those pie and bar charts and realize that the problem is still a long way off, at least in terms of fiscal policy and planning. Sure, we can do something about it now, but why fix something that isn't broken? Should we confront a problem that is years away, or let it ride for a while longer? Afterall, Social Security is one of the only federal programs running a surplus right now.

However, one part of Bush's reform agenda rings true for this observer. For this country's younger and more astute crowd, if WE play our cards right, we can all be a lot better off down the road. Bush's plan, however, needs more of a libertarian influence. "Choice" is the keyword, and for libertarians, "Choice" should be what makes us care about Social Security. Some of you may have heard the saying, "If Social Security wasn't run by the Federal government, it would be a Ponzi scheme!" I concur, and if you disagree, go ahead and put your money in now, don't change anything, and maybe you'll get a portion of it back later. What a crock! For me, this is a matter of choice. It's a matter of how I plan my retirement, and I for one am not comfortable letting the government manage my money anymore. What say you?

Cross posted at: "Respectfully Republican"

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bush visits the social security trust fund

You mean that cabinat is the entire social security trust fund? Yup.
All 1.6 trillian? Yup.

I guess some people never realized that they were speaking literally when they said lockbox.

[Hat tip: Donald Luskin]


Further thoughts on gay marriage...

I suppose this is one of those issues that separates conservatives from libertarians. Conservatives believe that tradition should determine the future. I disagree. Tradition can have a place in the life of the individual if he or she so chooses, but the only tradition that the government should stick to is the tradition of liberty.

There has been a lot of talk in these anti-gay marriage articles about the traditional definition of marriage. For all the talk of tradition, they leave out a lot of important information. For thousands of years, in virtually every culture (certainly the Monothestic cultures) women were considered property of their husbands. They were chattel that passed from the father to the husband. As social mores and gender roles changed, so did the definition of marriage. I see no reason why the definition must be frozen now.

Another element of traditional marriage was that it was simply a private contract between man and wife. In Judaism, fiances still sign "ketubahs" (contracts) right before thet have their marriage ceremony. Why can't we go back to this tradition? That's what marriage is, a contract. And suddenly libertarians are expected to believe the government should tell us what kind of contracts we should sign?

Can we know all the consequences of ending the prohibition of same sex marriages? No. Can we know all the consequences of ANY policy change? No. Also, what about the unforseen consequences of leaving things "as is"? As technology progresses and society changes, certainly there will be new consequences for old policies. Shouldn't we be just as concerned about these?

All the arguments against gay marriage have essentially been selective and conservative arguments. I still see no reason why a libertarian should be against gay marriage.

Of course, debate is great. I enjoy reading articles that challenge my views, and I appreciate the multiplicity of voices in the libertarian discourse. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I still can't see how a libertarian can be for government regulation of one of the most personal issue there is. And let's be clear: If you're not for gay marriage, you are for the status quo, making you against gay marriage. Does this mean every libertarian needs to be "out in the streets" supporting gay marriage? No. There are too many issues, and everyone has some issues they care about more than others. However, given a choice between the status quo and allowing same sex marriage, libertarians should clearly be on the latter side.

My $1.05

REMINDER: Meeting Tonight

Just a reminder that we have a meeting tonight at 9:00 PM in 309 Hamilton, come pick up some flyers for Judge Napolitano, talk about what we are going to do for sexual assault awareness month, and enjoy the usual banter. See you tonight!

And so it begins...

I happen to be perusing the Columbia Dems' blog and i stumbled upon this post.

Ever since the Columbia Spectator’s editorial page managed to print a character defamation, a blatant distortion, and truly unhinged rubbish, all in the same day (no small feat, I’m sure), I’ve been wary about taking them seriously. This struck me as a pretty rational reaction - after all, the defamee responded eloquently and the ridiculousness of the other two are fairly self-evident.

However, so much nonsense does get to be tiresome on the eyes, and the nonsense has unfortunately continued at full speed. Take, for example, Jeff Waksman’s recent piece, “Dean and Dems: Get It Together.” There is much silliness to poke at here, so I’ll just point out the most egregious bit: Waksman, in an attempt to demonstrate Democrats’ supposed inability to come up with any new ideas, argues that there is no Democratic plan to ’save’ Social Security.

Yup, that 'blatant distortion' is me, which makes that two CCL bashings in one post. Though the post is not about our articles specifically - it's really about Bush's plan for reform, or lack there of - I think it deserves a response.

The author [what's up with anonymous posts?] points to Eriposte, a site run by a guy who defines himself as "socially liberal, fiscally conservative (not the faux conservatism that is the norm these days, but actual conservatism) and somewhat hawkish from a foreign policy standpoint," and tries to give balanced information on various policy questions.

On the Social Security trust fund he quotes various sources. The first being Mark Weisbrot and Dean Baker of CEPR who wrote Social Security: The Phony Crises (which I have read) and excerpt that book in the Washington Post:

"That money's all been spent": When anyone lends money to the federal government by buying a bond, the government spends it. But the government still pays interest and repays what it borrowed. That goes for the Social Security trust
fund. Social Security has been running annual surpluses (now at more than $150
billion) since 1983. By law it must invest that surplus in U.S. Treasury obligations."

But the trust fund is only holding I.O.U.'s -- just pieces of paper!" Another canard: All bonds are I.O.U.'s. Those "pieces of paper" are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, which has never, ever defaulted on its bonds.

Eriposte cites more sources but they are basically reiterating the same theme.

Ok, so Baker and Weisbrot are correct in saying that, "By law [the SS trust fund] must invest [its] surplus in U.S. Treasury obligations;" I say the same thing in my op-ed, "the Trust Fund buys treasury bills, which are nothing more than government debt." Obviously the government will pay back its debts, as I say in my op-ed, "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 is not the issue in question.

What matters is what it means for the government to own and finance its own debt. When an individual buys a bond and the government pays it back, money is being transferred from one party on another. However, when the government owns its own debt, no money is actually changing hands because it all happens within the government. It's circular, the only thing that changes is a number in an accounting book. And this is all I am getting at. You cannot claim that the trust fund represents real fungible assets. If the government uses the surplus from Social Security to finance its debt, then when it has to make good on that debt it has to borrow more; it's implicit debt.

If you still don’t believe me, listen to the Social Security Trustees in their report, "Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs: A Summary of the 2005 Annual Reports, Social Security and Medicare:"

Since neither the interest paid on the Treasury bonds held in the HI and OASDI
Trust Funds, nor their redemption, provides any net new income to the Treasury,
the full amount of the required Treasury payments to these trust funds must be
financed by some combination of increased taxation, increased Federal borrowing
and debt, or a reduction in other government expenditures.
What is it exactly that i am distorting?

Lecture Tonight!

TODAY, TUESDAY -- Come hear lesbian feminist-turned-conservative Tammy Bruce in 104 Jerome Greene Hall at 8:00 p.m.

An aside: Let it be known that I'm full of posting ideas, all day, every day, for this lovely blog. The problem is the left-click button of my laptop mouse, which died several weeks ago. Until I fix the darn button, I can't hyperlink or highlight anything.

Monday, April 04, 2005

FIRE's take on the ad hoc committee's report

The report’s most glaring flaw is its refusal to explore in-depth any allegations other than those that were most prominently mentioned in the “Columbia Unbecoming” film. In other words, despite meeting with “62 individuals including students, alumni, faculty and administrators” and receiving “more than 60 written submissions,” the committee provides the public with virtually no facts beyond those publicly known and discussed at the outset of the controversy...

The report suffers from a second, more subtle, deficiency: It inappropriately levates the role of the faculty at the same time that it denigrates the vital importance of outside criticism. During its discussion of governing “norms and principles,” the Committee makes the astonishing claim that “[t]he faculty's right to decide what to teach, and in what manner, is the premise upon which the university is built.” At one stroke, this bold (and historically inaccurate) statement sweeps away any and all critiques of bias or viewpoint discrimination in the department’s composition or outlook. If the faculty has the absolute right to “decide what to teach, and in what manner,” then there is no place for an institutional choice to provide a broad spectrum of viewpoints. There is no place for effective student dissent, and there is
no place for outside criticism.


The effects of technology and globalization

Thomas Friedman, in his piece in the NYT Magazine:
Wherever you look today -- whether it is the world of journalism, with bloggers bringing down Dan Rather; the world of software, with the Linux code writers working in online forums for free to challenge Microsoft; or the world of business, where Indian and Chinese innovators are competing against and working with some of the most advanced Western multinationals -- hierarchies are being flattened and value is being created less and less within vertical silos and more and more through horizontal collaboration within companies, between
companies and among individuals.