Monday, August 29, 2005

This Contest Can't Be Rigged.

Think global warming is a myth? Why don't you put your money where your mouth is?

That's what two Russian solar physicists are doing, betting $10,000 against a British climate expert who says the planet's surface temperature will increase in 10 years. They say the temperature will fall -- because of sunspots.

The pair, based in Irkutsk, at the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics, believe that global temperatures are driven more by changes in the sun's activity than by the emission of greenhouse gases. They say the Earth warms and cools in response to changes in the number and size of sunspots. Most mainstream scientists dismiss the idea, but as the sun is expected to enter a less active phase over the next few decades the Russian duo are confident they will see a drop in global temperatures.


We shall see.

What the F***?

A quaint, 32-house village in Austria, near the German border, attracts visitors from around the globe. Foreigners come here for a wide range of reasons -- some of them a bit juvenile -- according to local guide Andreas Behmueller.

"The Germans all want to see the Mozart house in Salzburg," [Behmueller] explained.

"Every American seems to care only about 'The Sound of Music' (the 1965 film shot around Salzburg). The occasional Japanese wants to see Hitler's birthplace in Braunau.

"But for the British, it's all about F---ing."

Yes, that's the name of the town: F---ing. And if you've stolen a "Welcome to..." sign, they want it returned on the double.

Linked via NRO. File this post under Non-libertarian blogging is better than no blogging at all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Be kind to nerds.

Some day, one of them will interpret the law.

Judge Roberts had deep friendships with other students, several of whom remember him as their sharpest peer. Although four boys in his [high school] class won mention for a single subject, records show that Judge Roberts won "graduation prizes" for chemistry, English, English essay, French, history, history essay, mathematics and theology.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Welcome to your nanny-state


Sorry for the long absence from blogging but i have been out of town and away from an internet connection, hopefully this gem will make up for it.

Via the agitator.

Friday, August 05, 2005

ACLU

There is quite an interesting conversation going on at the Volokh Conspiracy concerning the ACLU re: the Manhattan subway searches. I don't know how to put links, but its at www.volokh.com and Eugene Volokh (who is a brilliant writer and scholar) has made some very cogent remarks. The debate deals with the 'legality' of the ACLU's challenges, not just in the subway search instance, but ALL of the time. Some posters over there have argued that teh ACLU is a meaningless organization that damages the fabric of our society and is actively engaged in frivolous law suits that cost tax payer dollars. Professor Volokh has, I think, answered those questions quite neatly. However, seeing as how I just finished writing a brief in opposition to the Indiana branch of the ACLU in a search and seizure case, I thought I'd weigh in on the merits of the ACLU as an organization.

I don't like most of what the ACLU does. I agree with the general sentiment of the right that the ACLU exists to further the ideals of a minute percentage of the population at the expense of the general will of most of America. However, the ACLU serves an important and essential purpose: it represents unpopular clients who were exercising the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution. The biggest problem with the ACLU was expressed by Professor Richard Posner when he came to speak at Columbia Law School last fall. The ACLU takes ALL the cases. They don't pick and choose amongst clients to find situations where they will win, or even to find sympathetic clients. They will (and have done so in the past) defend even the most out of control individual or agency, such as the KKK. I don't want the KKK to be able to march down Broadway screaming hate slogans, but the ACLU will represent them, and do their best to make sure that the KKK has that right.
That said, I'm glad that the ACLU represented the KKK. I hope they would do it again. I don't like a lot of the issues the ACLU stands up for in court, but I like the fact that our government and our constitution allow for them to do so.
Most of the attacks on the ACLU from the right contain snide remarks about how this particular client is so far out of the mainstream that his rights should fall by the wayside in favor of the general designs of everyone else. But those comments are made by people who are in the dominant paradigm. If, all of a sudden, our country encountered a radical cultural flip-flop, and Rush Limbaugh was driven off the airwaves, I have to believe that the ACLU would stand up for his rights as well.
You don't have to like what the ACLU argues for in court. You don't have to want them to win. But if my rights were trampled on, the ACLU would stand up for me, just as soon as it would a left-wing nutjob. I don't like the ACLU. I find them smug and arrogant. But I like the fact that an organization like the ACLU is allowed to exist. And I like the fact that they are consistent enough to represent everyone. Even a right-wing nutjob like me.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

WHAT!? A pro-WalMart piece in the NYTimes?!

Well-written piece in the NYTimes today about how WalMart is a good thing:

to chalk up Wal-Mart's success simply to the exploitation of its work force, as many of the company's most ferocious critics do, is simply wrong, for two reasons.

First, Wal-Mart hasn't just sliced up the economic pie in a way that favors one group over another. Rather, it has made the total pie bigger. Consider, for example, the conclusions of the McKinsey Global Institute's study of United States labor productivity growth from 1995 to 2000. Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics and an adviser on the study, noted that the most important factor in the growth of productivity was Wal-Mart. And because the study measured productivity per man hour rather than per payroll dollar, low hourly wages cannot explain the increase.

Second, most of the value created by the company is actually pocketed by its customers in the form of lower prices. According to one recent academic study, when Wal-Mart enters a market, prices decrease by 8 percent in rural areas and 5 percent in urban areas. With two-thirds of Wal-Mart stores in rural areas, this means that Wal-Mart saves its consumers something like $16 billion a year. And because Wal-Mart's presence forces the store's competitors to charge lower prices as well, this $16 billion figure understates the company's real impact by at least half.

These kinds of savings to customers far exceed the costs that Wal-Mart supposedly imposes on society by securing subsidies, destroying jobs in competing stores, driving employees toward public welfare systems and creating urban sprawl. Even if these offenses could all be ascribed to Wal-Mart, their costs wouldn't add up to anything like $16 billion.

Similarly, the savings to customers also exceed the total surplus the company generates for its shareholders- a surplus that would be wiped out if Wal-Mart's million-plus employees were to receive a $2-per-hour pay increase, modest though that sounds. Such a possibility would be unacceptable to Wal-Mart's shareholders, who include not only Sam Walton's heirs but also the millions of Americans who invest in mutual funds and pension plans. Instead, the more than 100 million Americans who shop at Wal-Mart would most likely just end up paying higher prices.

This last point suggests that the debate around Wal-Mart isn't really about a Marxist conflict between capital and labor. Instead, it is a conflict pitting consumers and efficiency-oriented intermediaries like Wal-Mart against a combination of labor unions, traditional retailers and community groups. Particularly in retailing, American policies favor consumers and offer fewer protections to other interests than is typical elsewhere in the world. Is such pro-consumerism a good thing?

The answer depends on who these consumers are, and Wal-Mart's customers tend to be the Americans who need the most help. Our research shows that Wal-Mart operates two-and-a-half times as much selling space per inhabitant in the poorest third of states as in the richest third. And within that poorest third of states, 80 percent of Wal-Mart's square footage is in the 25 percent of ZIP codes with the greatest number of poor households. Without the much-maligned Wal-Mart, the rural poor, in particular, would pay several percentage points more for the food and other merchandise that after housing is their largest household expense.

So in thinking about Wal-Mart, let's keep in mind who's reaping the benefits of those "everyday low prices" - and, by extension, where the real conflict lies.