Monday, December 17, 2007

Paul Krugman: Socialism Tastes Good - ala Mode

I usually will skip over the New York Times editorials but this one caught my eye. I wanted to read about why Paul Marx Krugman thinks Obama is the "anti-change candidate" but instead was treated to a warm piece of socialism ala mode.

"Mr. Obama who’s being unrealistic here, believing that the insurance and drug industries — which are, in large part, the cause of our health care problems — will be willing to play a constructive role in health reform. The fact is that there’s no way to reduce the gross wastefulness of our health system without also reducing the profits of the industries that generate the waste."

This is so crazy coming from an "economist". Profits are the problem? Profits cause waste? What economics theory produced such nonsense.

Reduced profits = less research and development

If a reduction in research is what the desired outcome is then using government to take away profits is probably a good idea. I'm going to assume that Krugman doesn't want that to happen. Using that assumption im not sure what he thinks is going to happen. Does he think that companies are going to make large quantities of high quality pills if there is no profit incentive? Interesting. Maybe he knows something that the economics field does not already know.

The real problem is collectivist health care systems around the world. Essentially, American health care consumers subsidize health care costs for the advanced nations. How? Because they cap prices and have collective bargaining schemes to drive down prices. Where do pharmaceutical companies make up the lost revenue? From us. That is one of the fundamental problems and it has no logical solution.

Taking away profits away from pharmaceutical companies will not improve health care quality any more than taking profits away from Intel will improve processor speed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Currently Being Crushed

The weight of finals etc is heavy.

No postings until next week unless something exceptional happens.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Muhammad Teddy Bear Story Goes from Abnormal to Unbelievable

I usually don't write about stories like the Muhammad teddy bear because it is a better fit for alarmist talk radio, but this is too crazy not to write about.

As you probably already know, an English teacher was sentenced to jail (a lesser punishment considering she escaped 40 lashes) in the Sudan for allowing (encouraging?) her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

This story didn't surprise me in any way. That society has decided that they want some form of theocracy. Fine. Let them have it. I don't live there and never will. My knowledge of Sudan's legal system is not up to par, but if they had a clearly stated law against naming animals Muhammad then I don't know what all the fuss is about.

The problem is this. These people are rallying in the streets with clubs and axes demanding that the teacher be executed.

I think I am speechless. Not exactly, but nearly.

Mostly, I think this is a control issue. Muslims feel dominated and disgraced by their lack of economic and military progress in the last 500 years so they show their superiority where they can. I do not think there is any coincidence that the teacher is British. The Islamic state of Sudan was originally created after the original expulsion of the British under the leadership of Muhammad ibn Abdalla. Abdalla fought for the return to a more pure form of Islam; a fight that continues today.

In short: the people rallying are saying we want a return to a pure form of Islam and we don't want to be walked dominated by Western powers. They picked an absurd event to make their statement, but they are Abdalla's hordes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pelosi Strikes Again

Common sense? Who needs no stinkin common sense!

This appears to be the motto of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Why?

She is holding up the $53 billion dollar Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) budget because she thinks employers should be allowed to have English only policies in the workplace. Senator Alexander's amendment to the CJS appropriations bill (the source of her angst) strips EEOC funding for lawsuits against English in the work place policies.

Beyond objections from the Hispanic caucus and ACLU types there is no reasonable objection. The employers who were being sued were not impinging on any rights because they did not dictate which language employees spoke on their free time. I could probably make an argument for the employers about efficiency, but what about common sense? If an employer can't dictate how an employee acts at work then what can they dictate? Maybe disgruntled employees should get the EEOC to start suing employers who mandate culturally insensitive uniforms etc.?

I'm not sure how or why the Hispanic caucus in Congress got so powerful, but she must find a backbone. I'm not holding my breath while i wait.

Thanks to John Fund at the Wall St. Journal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Financial Collapse Continued

I hope this doesn't become a 'cry in your beer blog' but i can't ignore the bad financial news. There is almost literally a story every day about a major financial institution getting the smack down. Here are the latest and greatest.

Freddie Mac- $2 billion dollar loss for the third quarter

H&R Block - Chairman and Chief Executive Mark Ernst resigned today because of subprime exposure through Block's subsidiary Option One Mortgage Company

The Freddie Mac news may be the worse yet because investors may lose confidence in the governments will to bail out financial institutions. I don't think the government should do anything (after all they got us into this mess in the first place) but investors have held somewhat steady because the fed had already opened up the vault to be raided once. With inflation fears growing it is doubtful they will do the same again. Combine that with continued weakness in the overall housing market, retail weakness (Target's weak earnings), and weakened dollar (gold spiked about $20 an ounce today/yesterday), and you have the makings of a recession.

Buckle up.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tough Primary Decisions

This morning I was swayed to support Mike Huckabee. There is now no choice based on this video.



Then I came to my senses. I am going to be voting for Ike based simply on his ad (via TruthCaucus).

Vote Ike 2008.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Financial Collapse Continued

About a week ago i wrote a post about how the subprime crisis is going to tighten capital markets. I provided a list of real estate failures that painted a stark picture. Little did I know that there would be more evidence in the coming days.

Barclays Capital - Announced write-downs totaling 2.67 billion

HSBC - $1 billion more in write-downs

As I said in the last post about this issue, the danger is not that these companies are going to go under. In fact, Barclays still turned a profit (amazingly). The problem is that capital markets are going to tighten. Lending institutions are going to make it harder to lend money. Less money means less investment. Less investment means less jobs.

Buckle in because its going to get bumpy.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fred Thompson is the Heir Apparent to W


Fred Thompson seems to be the heir apparent to W. Why? Because Freddy has been light on the details and heavy on talking to the 'folks' its tough to know if he matches W in the policy realm, but phonetically he appears to be a perfect match. Here is an excerpt from his Meet the Press interview yesterday regarding a drug dealer friend of his (Los Angeles Times here),

"I'm not going to throw my friend under the bus for something he did, you know, 25 years ago if he's OK now," Thompson said. "On the other hand, I'm running for president. I've got, you know, to do the right thing, you know, and problems occur, and I'll just have to figure it out."

He manages to say 'you know' 3 times in 3 sentences. One word comes to mind: amateur. When a speaker feels nervous they tend to fill in the gaps with 'um' and 'you know' etc. A good speaker, when hit with a tough question as Thompson was, will pause. It is amazingly difficult to pause and collect your thoughts when eyes (and in this case cameras) are glaring, but is essential in public speaking. While it is true that he was hit with a very difficult question that he did not expect, it is also true that he normally speaks poorly. It is why he seems uninterested and bored.

At least George W. was animated when he would jump off the grammatical cliff. Maybe Thompson should take a page from W's book.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quote of the Day

It is remarkable how many political "solutions" today are dealing with problems created by previous political "solutions."

Thomas Sowell

Monday, October 29, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Random Rumination

I have been steeped in thought for some time. I have been thinking about the Civil War and its affects and the Federalist papers (don't ask, i have an odd mind) lately and have come up with a conclusion: the defeat of the south has extinguished the check on government power intended by Madison and the founders.

It is normally apostate to say anything negative about the south losing the civil war but stick with me here. In Federalist 10 Madison wrote about faction. He basically explained his plan to stop the hording masses (factions) from using the democratic system to take peoples private property. He first explains that we cannot extinguish the fire that is faction. Faction is to democracy what air is to fire (rough paraphrase). To outlaw faction would be to enact a cure that would be worse than the disease (rough paraphrase again). His plan was instead to widely distribute power. Have each state act as a sovereign entity with all powers not enumerated to the federal government. Therefore, the competing interests of sovereign states would prevent a metaphorically huddled mass of poor voters with pitchforks.

This seems to make a lot of sense. But there is one problem: states are no longer sovereign entities. Not since the Civil War. States lost sovereignty rights at Appomattox court house. North and South.

So if states are no longer sovereign then what is preventing the masses armed with pitchforks and ballots from seizing the property of the minority? Not much. We have seen the power of the federal government increase in all areas of life and there seems to be no brake peddle. The middle class acted as the stopper in the past but they have realized that there is no need to get screwed. Just join the party. Get tax cuts without sacrificing government insurance or things like corporate welfare, and continue to demand more services.

I guess Madison's brilliant architecture couldn't last forever.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Economic Outlook...Dim Government's Response....Worse

American's seem to have an amazingly tiny attention span. When the "subprime" mortgage problems began to bubble up people were worried. Now? Most people don't seem to care. That's unfortunate because the hammer hasn't fallen yet. It takes time but it will trickle down. Buckle up.
Merrill Lynch - $8 billion in write offs for bad debt. They went from a profit of $3 billion to a net loss of $2.3 billion.

Bank of America - 32% drop in 2007 Q3 profits. Net income fell 1.72 billion dollars.

Bear Stearns - 61% drop in 2007 Q3 profits. Total revenue fell 38%.

Countrywide Financial - 37% drop in Q1 2007 profits. Net income fell 249.5 million.

Citigroup - 57% drop in Q3 2007 profits. $6.5 billion in pretax losses and write downs.

I could go on, but these are the best examples. The bigger question is what does this mean? The drop in profits alone is irrelevant for the wider economy. What is relevant is how these loses have tightened equity markets. Less capital leads to less investment which leads to fewer jobs. It is a very simple equation. The fed has bailed out the banks with bundles of cheap cash (notice the dollar's value falling hourly?), but banks will still tighten their lending practices.

What is the government proposing to do? Exacerbate the problem of course. Congressman Barney Frank is proposing to...

"require all mortgage originators to present consumers with loan products appropriate to their current circumstances, ban prepayment penalties for sub-prime mortgages and forbid incentive payments to lenders who steer borrowers into higher-cost loans" (from The Hill)

Imagine if we instituted such rules for restaurants. What would happen? The menu would change for most people depending on who decides the definition of "appropriate", the restaurant wouldn't be able to punish you if you walked out on your check, and waiters would not be allowed to encourage you to buy the extras (desserts, appetizers, drinks). Does not sound like a desirable economic situation for either the buyer or the seller. Essentially the same will happen in the real estate market. There will be a capital crunch.

I'm no historian but this is eerily similar to what happened in the great depression.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Some Common Sense On Iran

For some time I have been frustrated over the inevitable war coming with Iran. The administration has made it abundantly clear that Iran is the center of all the worlds ills. This should come as no surprise. Along with being a convenient diversion from the failures in Iraq, it is a great way to coalesce the American people against a common enemy. It worked wonderfully for so many years so why abandon the formula?

The only problem is that it is divorced from reality. Fareed Zakaria tosses a dash of common sense over the issue below...

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

The only advice i can give is to hold onto your oil stocks and wait for the war.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Midterms

Midterms killing me at this time. Check back for a pulse.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

State Secrets?

What information can be considered a "state secret"?

Here, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case in which a German man was mistakenly abducted in Albania and tortured in a secret Afghanistan prison. Khaled el-Masri's lawsuit was tossed out of federal court and the 4th circuit court of appeals before being turned down by the supremes because the government claimed the case would compromise national security. The precedence for the case in the article below....

The Supreme Court created the doctrine in a 1953 decision, United States v. Reynolds, which began as a lawsuit by survivors of three civilians who had died in the crash of a military aircraft. In pretrial discovery, the plaintiffs sought the official accident report.

But the government, asserting that the report included information about the plane’s secret mission and the equipment that it was testing, refused to reveal it. The Supreme Court upheld the government, ruling that evidence should not be disclosed when “there is a reasonable danger that compulsion of the evidence will expose military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged.”


It appears that there may be some risk involved in revealing the location of secret prisons, but what is the criteria? I am not a lawyer (I only play one on the Internet), but it seems the government has a free hand to define "state secret".

There is no burden to prove that a fact must remain secret beyond merely stating so. Is what happened to Pat Tillman a state secret? It is if they want it to be. Also, what does the term "national security" encompass? That is potentially a very large field. According to the presidential candidates regulating the Internet and global warming are "national security" issues.

I can only hope the judiciary would not allow such a wild expansion.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Non-Interventionist vs Isolationist

Most people commonly confuse a non-interventionist with an isolationist foreign policy. Here, Ron Paul distinguishes the two.

In economics they are very different but are similar regarding diplomacy. A non-interventionist favors free trade and open travel (as Paul mentions) while an isolationist is not thrilled with either idea. A good example of a classic isolationist is Senator Webb. He is against the war and an intrusive foreign policy in general, but also opposes free trade deals because he claims they hurt American workers. The non-interventionist Ron Paul is also against an intrusive foreign policy, but supports free trade, travel, and currency.

In foreign policy there is very little difference. They are very similar in how they oppose the current administrations quest to spread democracy. To be fair to Bush, he isn't the first and will not be the last to take the democracy mantle, but he has taken it to new heights. Democracy cannot be exported to whoever we want whenever we want. In fact, there is no example of a country successfully importing democracy without several preconditions being met in the modern world.

A country must first have a somewhat distinct middle class, a history with free or semi-free markets, a common cultural bond, and a functioning judicial system able to protect private property rights. Iraq met only one of the above criteria (a middle class, however weak). No surprise that they have failed miserably in the short run. Maybe in 10-20 years it will catch-on, but don't hold your breath waiting.

Paul is correct to distinguish non-interventionism from isolationism in the economic world but they are exceedingly similar in the foreign policy world.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Need inspiration or motivation?

The 60 minutes interview with Clarence Thomas is the best interview i have seen in a long time. Justice Thomas is an interesting and captivating individual, but it is his personal story which is inspirational. After seeing it I honestly felt energized and motivated. Hope it does the same for you if you have not already seen it.

Interview Part 1
Interview Part 2

Friday, September 28, 2007

It's official: Kennedy is Senile

I had an internal debate as to whether or not I should write this post. Reading this article was infuriating and writing blog posts while angry is akin to going food shopping hungry. Neither is a particularly good idea. Both invariably lead to excess. So I will write very little about the Kennedy hate crimes bill.

1) A hate crimes bill should not be attached to a defense bill for obvious reasons.

2) He thinks that expanding hate crimes legislation will protect the military by ending crimes that the military commits. He is either senile or this is all a big rhetorical joke.

3) The bill also covers "perceived" gender/orientation crimes. Without the fancy law degree I can say with some certainty that the ambiguity of the word "perceived" opens a large door.

4) Is there a violent crime that isn't a hateful crime? I can comfortably answer no here, so why are some crimes committed in hate worse than other crimes committed in hate? There is no logical answer. The only logic that can be used is the first Tuesday in November.

Thanks go to Byron York for writing about this because it is destined for the back pages.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

# 160

I didn't think I would get to 160 so soon but here it is. The good news is that SHIP doesn't have the votes to survive a Bush veto. The bad news below:

The bill drew support from 45 House Republicans, many of them moderates who do not want to be depicted as indifferent to low-income children's health needs when they seek re-election next year. But 151 Republicans sided with Bush, a move that Democrats see as a political blunder.

It hardly matters that the expansion would be expensive or a step toward socialized health care, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said during the House debate. When lawmakers go home, he said, "the question is, Were you with the kids or were you not?"


It just seems crazy to me that politicians can openly flaunt their status as populist (kids divert your eyes) sluts. Maybe I'm wrong but wasn't there a day when politicians would only say these things in smoke filled back rooms. Oh wait....smoking is illegal. Maybe all the smoke filled back rooms have been closed and the only alternative is to give bad speeches on the floor of the house. I have no clue.

The health care system may have its problems now, but in 5-10 years it is going to be broken. What do i mean by broken? All vestiges of a free market will be banished (free market in the Milton Friedman sense not the faux free Willard Romney prefers). Once price signals are eliminated quality will decrease, choices will vanish, and the US will lose its edge. Can't wait.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reason to Hate Politics - #159

The impending expansion of SCHIP is placing the Republicans lack of courage on display. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, Republicans fought against government control and socialized anything. Now they don't have the backbone to defeat a bill which is simply another step closer to federal control of the health care system. Although some politicians like Senator McConnell are standing strong, the head counters predict 69 votes for SCHIP in the Senate here.

Senator Grassley isn't worried. It is only going to cost a mere $35 billion. Whats a few billion among friends? They also have it paid for. Tax those dirty cigarette smokers. In exclusive Free to Choose breaking news I have obtained the formula used by genius law makers:

61cents on every pack of cigarettes - any recognition that people are smoking less in this country + absolutely ignoring the possibility that the $35 billion figure will not increase at a time when we don't know how we are going to pay for social security and Medicare = sound policy

I'm sure it makes a ton of sense now that I have revealed the formula.

If you want solid evidence that this is bad policy look at what America's Health Insurance Plans (the largest insurance lobbying group according to the Post) said:

"It repairs the safety net and is a major movement toward addressing the problems that states and governors have been trying to address, which is how to get access for children"

Translated for the politically impaired: "We want the government to use your money to guarantee our sales. Thank you hapless voter."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Quiz Answers

Source: Cafe Hayek cites these statistics from a Cato study here.


1) e. 2006 (Source: Economic Report of the President, 2007)

2) e. 2006 (Source: Bureau of the Census)

3) e. 2006 (Source: Bureau of the Census)

4) a. 2006 (Source: U.S. International Trade Commission)

5) d. $66,414 (Source: National Association of Manufacturers)

6) c. The U.S. output is 2.5 times as much as China (Source: U.N. Industrial Development Org.)

7) e. U.S. manufacturing output is 21 percent of world total (Source: U,N. Industrial Development Org.)




Thursday, September 20, 2007

Correction

I extend my sincerest apologies to Willard. I mistakenly used Millard in a previous post.

Sorry Willard.

Quiz

Because we are saturated with O.J., Brittney, Jena 6, and Ahmadinejad, I have have decided to go with something a little sexier: US Manufacturing!

Here is a quiz that was posted at Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux (don't cheat!). Answers will be posted tomorrow.

1) In what year did U.S. Manufacturing output reach its all-time peak?
a.
1966 b. 1976 c. 1986 d. 1996 e. 2006

2) In what year did U.S. Manufacturing revenue reach its all-time peak? (inflation adjusted)
a.
1966 b. 1976 c. 1986 d. 1996 e. 2006

3) In what year did U.S. Manufacturing profits reach their all-time peak? (inflation adjusted)
a.
1966 b. 1976 c. 1986 d. 1996 e. 2006

4) In what year did U.S. Manufacturing exports reach their all-time peak? (inflation adjusted)
a.
1966 b. 1976 c. 1986 d. 1996 e. 2006

5) Average annual compensation (wages + benefits) for US manufacturing jobs is
a.
$36,000 b. $46,0000 c. $56,0000 d. $66,000

6) What are the relative sizes of the US and Chinese manufacturing sectors?
a.
China outputs 2.5 times the US b. Equal c. The US outputs 2.5 times China

7) Which country produces the largest share of total world manufacturing output?
a.
China b. Japan c. Germany d. France e. US

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thank you Willard Romney

Thank you for opening the door Willard. The door to universal health care. Now Hillary can deflect charges of socialistic medicine by pointing to Willard, a "conservative" Republican. What is the proper retort to that? I can't think of one. Many "conservatives" had few reservations because the Marx-Guevara Provide Everything For Everybody, Especially Women, Children, Elderly, Hobbits, and Lepers Act of 2006 (you may know it as Romneycare) was endorsed by Heritage. Their excuse now is that the darn liberal Democrats changed everything. They did tinker with the bill (including tax issues) but the essence was unchanged.

Willard has done more than open the door. He has has provided a blueprint. Hillary's plan (here) is very similar. I'm sure that it is a TERRIBLE idea now that Hillary is onboard the Millard cool aide train. If I am correct that she is sailing towards the next presidency (and i see no evidence to the contrary) we can expect to hear Willard's name being used to justify her plan.

Thank You Willard.

Friday, September 14, 2007

When did Iowa Become New York?

I just don't know what to say about this. We all know by now (or have been forced to cede by college professors) that the government will eventually create utopia by slowly picking away our freedoms in the name of "common sense" or "fairness" or "equality", but can't we stick to the best bad policies.

No government should be banning trans fats. We should make the decision to consume or not to consume privately, but at least there was a rational (however poor). Banning a corn eating contest has no rational. And yes this is quasi public policy because a publicly funded institution is attempting to sway societal behavior in a distinct direction.

Has everyone gone crazy?

The War On Fat (And Tradition)

What's the world coming to when fans of Iowa's Hawkeyes cannot fuel their fervor for the annual Cy-Hawk Trophy tussle with the hated Iowa State Cyclones by devouring as much locally grown corn as possible? Yes, the students' annual corn-on-the-cob eating contest has been cancelled. Iowa's vice president for student services, Phillip Jones, explains that the contest promotes gluttony and collides with initiatives to curtail obesity. According to the FDA, a cob of corn contains about 150 calories and 31 grams of fat, if it's not lathered up with a bunch of butter. That doesn't seem too bad.

Still, Jones probably prefers that students limit their pregame tailgate menu to celery sticks and rice cakes, washed down with a nice glass of water.

No word on whether Iowa's bratwurst eating contest, which was a hit last year, will be permitted.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thompson Torn to Pieces

Here, (printed in the Washington Post and linked on RealClear) George Will absolutely annihilates Fred Thompson. It is well known that Will is a Giuliani supporter and it is obvious in the article. He makes several points that bolster the anti-Thompson arguments. Will paints the picture of a cosmopolitan DC insider who is now trying to reclaim the pickup truck and flannel shirt. Although I personally don't care about a politicians personal life, it would be nice if they were at least slightly genuine.

More importantly he absolutely eviscerates Thompson on campaign finance reform. You can read it below, but the real impact is it feeds into the attack line that Thompson will hear until January (December?): he is lazy. I have no idea if he is lazy or not, but if he can't get his story straight on campaign finance then is he presidential material? The average voter may not care about losing basic individual freedoms in the name of "fairness" but the voters do care about a candidates understanding of the issues.

Here is Will's thrashing of Thompson.

Consider his confusion the next day when talk radio host Laura Ingraham asked him about something he ardently supported -- the McCain-Feingold expansion of government regulation of political speech. His rambling, incoherent explanation was just clear enough to be alarming about what he believes, misremembers and does not know.

Thompson said he had advocated McCain-Feingold to prevent, among other things, corporations and labor unions from "giving large sums of money to individual politicians." But corporate and union contributions to individual candidates were outlawed in 1907 and 1947, respectively.

Ingraham asked about McCain-Feingold's ban on issue ads that mention a candidate close to an election. He blamed an unidentified "they" who "added on" that provision, which he implied was a hitherto undiscussed surprise.

But surely he knows that bills containing the ban had been introduced in previous sessions of Congress before passage in 2002.

In 1997, Thompson chaired a Senate committee investigating 1996 election spending. In its final report, issued in 1998, Thompson's committee recommended a statutory "restriction on issue advocacy" during "a set period prior to an election" when the speech includes "any use of a candidate's name or image." And in 1999, Thompson co-sponsored legislation containing what became, in 2002, the McCain-Feingold blackout periods imposed on any television or radio ad that "refers to" a candidate for federal office -- a portion of which the Supreme Court in June declared unconstitutional.

Thompson, contrary to his current memories, was deeply involved in expanding government restrictions on political speech generally and the ban on issue ads specifically. Yet he told Ingraham "I voted for all of it," meaning McCain-Feingold, but said "I don't support that" provision of it.

Oh? Why, then, did he file his own brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold McCain-Feingold, stressing Congress' especially "compelling interest" in squelching issue ads that "influence" elections?

Most lamely, Thompson takes credit for McCain-Feingold doubling the amount of "hard money" an individual can give to a candidate, which he says reduces the advantages of incumbency. But that is absurd: Most hard money flows to incumbents.

Ingraham asked why government should be telling individuals how much they can give to fund political speech by candidates they support. Thompson replied: "Why should the government ... tell a loan officer that he cannot accept money from someone trying to get a loan from him ... and then go ahead and give that person a loan? ... I mean, it's bribery in the real world."

So he believes, as zealous regulators of political speech do, that political contributions are incipient bribes -- but that bribery begins with contributions larger than $2,300.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quote of the Day

Sometimes I feel as if I must be one of the few people left in America who is not a military expert.

For example, all sorts of politicians have been talking about all sorts of ways we ought to "redeploy" our troops. The closest I ever came to deploying troops was marching a company of Marines to the mess hall for chow.

But people who have never even put on a uniform are confident that they know how our troops should be redeployed.

Maybe this is one of the fruits of the "self-esteem" that is taught in our schools instead of education.


Thomas Sowell

Monday, September 10, 2007

Presidential Debate in Spanish?

I wish somebody could give me a good reason why this country needs a presidential debate in Spanish (here) .

I have made my opinion about English and assimilation issues clear here in the past, but this is silly for several reasons. First, we haven't had one in English yet. The debates (which I do my best to avoid) are centered around sound bites that have no bearing on policy. They attempt to create an image in 30 second increments which is foreign to reality if you ask me (and of course nobody asked me).

Secondly, if they are going to debate in Spanish then they should begin scheduling debates in Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, French, German, Arabic, etc. There are around 300 languages spoken in the U.S. so there is a lot of scheduling ahead. We have to either operate in all languages or one. I vote for one...English. If these languages had a national television station would they have their own debates? It would be a wonderful mess.

This is not a matter of public policy and is only irritating, but I wouldn't spout off about it if there was a debate held in English first. Maybe in my lifetime. One can only hope.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cry me a River Paul Bremer

The New York Times editorial page today features a "don't blame me" article by Paul Bremer.

I don't even know where to begin. Lets start with the title: "How I Didn't Dismantle Iraq's Army". That is an outright lie. He did. While he is correct in saying much of the army had already dissolved, he doesn't mention the real reason they wanted to erase the existing structures: Baathphobia. The administrations heavy reliance on people like Ahmed Chalibi caused Baathphobia which went beyond reality. Chalibi had an ax to grind and we facilitated his singular cause. Many within the Baath party were simply ordinary citizens trying to make a living, not tyrannical dictatorship conspirators. Individuals within the party could be jailed for 10 years if they refused a party promotion. Would you turn down a promotion at work that offered more pay to be sent to jail? These people were supposedly the enemy.

He explains that other high ranking officials also supported disbanding the army. Sure he wasn't alone in the decision process, but it was his decision. Citing other sources who agreed with him does not erase culpability. The buck stopped with him. He was essentially the viceroy of Iraq.

Bremer then goes on to show why they dismantled the army. According to him it was dismantled because it symbolized the end of the Saddam era. Also most of the Shia conscripts wouldn't want to come back and serve under Sunni commanders. Wait a minute. This is an odd argument considering he first claimed he DIDN'T disband the army. In a true moment of narcissisms he even claims that what he did/didn't do was the correct decision?!


Lets parse this out. He claims that he didn't make the "right" decision of disbanding the army. An army that had to go. A twisted trail of logic to say the least.

We all make mistakes in life. At some point it makes sense to own up. In his case he just shouldn't make a terrible argument in the most prominent newspaper in the world to cover-up bad decisions. Move on.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Appalachian State Victory in Perspective

Appalachian State has achieve the unthinkable: defeat a powerhouse division 1A team. There is no doubt about that, but was it the greatest upset ever? A few pundits have exclaimed so, but I have my reservations.

Appalachian State did not defeat a ho-hum 1A program. Michigan has several players that are (were) considered definite NFL prospects, were ranked 5, and playing at home. The entire city of Boone North Carolina (yes this is where Appalachian State is located if you didn't know) can fit into the Wolverines stadium....eight and a half times. Yes that is correct the town of Boone, population 13,000 can fit into the big house, capacity 110,000, 8.5 times!

It was no doubt a great accomplishment, but it still finishes second. I cannot rank Appalachian State above the Lake Placid U.S. Hockey victory. I just can't do it.

The U.S. victory over the Russian hockey team was more than a game. It transcended sports. The victory did end the cold war or help defeat the Soviets, but it did provide a much needed boost to the sagging American psyche. Appalachian State defeating Michigan had no such affect. Furthermore, it was not a global phenomenon.

Lake placid is still the site of the greatest upset in U.S. sports history.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disturbing



Courtesy of Hedgehog Report

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Death of the Two Party System

While the party system isn't dead, it is on life support.

A political party derives it power essentially in two ways: controlling both the nominating process and the money. The latter has been consistently weakened over the years. While rule changes have definitely hastened party control of the money, it is advancement of society which has cemented it. Candidates can now appeal directly to the people for money and the average American has more cash to give.

Party control of the nominating process has also been weakened in recent history, but it is now approaching code red. The Democratic party has already taken away Florida's delegate votes and now the Republican party is threatening to do the same to Florida, New Hampshire, Wyoming Michigan, and South Carolina (here). Essentially the system is in chaos.

The party may stave off this attempt but in the long run they will lose. If every state moves their primary forward will they take away all delegates? No. They can only hold the line temporarily. Also the party cannot control the Ned Lamonts and Steve Laffeys (Rhode Island) of the world from mounting primary challenges. Voter turn out in primaries have shrunk along with party enrollment making the primary electorates sufficiently extreme and polarized group to open the Lamont window.

How will this play out in the long run? Third parties will proliferate. The long run may be 50+ years, but in the end the two party system will crumble. A lot must happen to get there including loosening ballot access restrictions, redrawing ultra-gerrymandered districts, and a reversal of Buckley v Veleo (this limited individual contributions to candidates), but it is only a matter of time.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ocular Penetration Act of 2007

This is a wonderfully eloquent speech delivered on the floor of the house. Due to the level of pitched emotional oratory you probably should keep the volume low around delicate ears.


Live From Congress: The Skull Fucking Bill Of 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Banana Republic

The trial of Lt. Col. Steven Jordan is a joke. He is being tried for what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. It is too crazy a story to recount here but you should read it HERE.

It seems that the military brass has come to the conclusion that they have to bring some high ranking officer to trial for Abu Ghraib to silence critics. They found their goat in Lt. Col. Jordan. Regardless of what you think of him being tried, if there is a trial it should be real.

The prosecution called witnesses that sided with the defense and the judge shushed the prosecution in odd fashion. That is on top of the oh-so-convenient revelation that the Lt. Col. was never read his rights.

This is a sad day in the history of law.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Right to Violent Video Games Upheld

According to the NYT here, courts around the country are protecting the right of minors to purchase violent video games.

This is good news for a couple of reasons. First, the government should not be telling parents what their children can and cannot consume. The anti-video game laws would make sense if there were hoards of children invading video game stores and bringing them home to their parent less abodes. The reality is that they may be able to buy the game without their parents, but they cannot play it without parental supervision. Maybe there are some kids sneaking their television and xbox into a dark alley to play but in most cases their parents know exactly where they are and what they are doing when they are playing. Mom and Dad can easily pull the plug. Lazy parents should not be allowed to abdicate their duties to a government for convenience sake.

Secondly, kids cannot be shielded from life. Maybe someday the government can turn us all into bubble boys but until then it doesn't make sense to nuder every kid in the name of "safety" or other undefined lofty goal. In the words of the Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals...

“Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low,” he wrote. “It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it.”

Quixotic is a good explanation. He also said that if an outlaw of violence is constitutional then it must logically extend to books such as "The Odyssey" and "War and Peace". A slippery slope.

In the end it is simply a populist knee jerk reaction to a minor issue. Makes good headlines that politicians crave.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Headline of the Year

"Bears Eat Man at Beer Festival"

This headline via CNN contains everything one could want: Bears, Bears eating people, beer, and a festival. I'll call it a headline novel. A headline that can be turned into a novel, or maybe a good story in the ADD media (Read: Maxim etc.).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rove employs the only strategy that will put a Republican in the White House: defeat Hillary in the primary!

Assuming Bloomberg does not run, there is no doubt in my mind that Hillary is the next president.

While my opinion and a dollar will get you a can of coke, somebody more important agrees with me: Carl Rove.

Why else would he attack her here? He either believes that Republicans should somehow ensure her defeat in the primary, or that she must be battered from now until Nov. 08. The former is most likely true because I don't see how saying she is unelectable will get Republicans to run to the polls to vote against her. I do see how Democrats may take a second look if they believe she can't win in the general election.

Making Democratic primary voters believe she is unelectable is essentially the only way she does not become the next president. Her 'negatives' which Rove (and every other Republican that has no other rational) cites are only a useful stat if there is an opponent. If Sam Brownback becomes the nominee does that matter? No. Who else could compete? Romney? No. Thompson? No. Gingrich? Hell no. McCain? Maybe, but he can't win the primary.

Secondly, Hillary cannot be attacked like a John Kerry. She is the first woman in the history of our country to have any chance whatsoever of becoming president. You will see a sizable backlash from Independents and women who don't necessarily like her when the campaign gets dirty. Therefore, Republicans will not be able to capitalize effectively on her vaunted negatives.

If Rudy is the nominee i would be willing to make a sizable wager that she wins, if anybody else is nominated i will bet everything i own on her.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Unmanned Military?

An unmanned military may not be far in the future. Although there will always be a need for boots on the ground, the Navy is now experimenting with landing unmanned drones on aircraft carriers. This article from military.com breaks down exactly how the Navy intends to land the aircraft.

The benefits of an unmanned fleet of fighters may also be its weakness. Without a human pilot there is no danger of losing a life. The threat of losing just one life gives reason for pause before ordering a mission. Without that, the only barrier is cost. I don't think that it is unreasonable to think that political and military leaders would be become more willing to strike more targets.

Because the march of progress will go on there is no way to reverse it, but the unintended consequences should be pondered and somehow mitigated.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Economic Pain Forthcoming

I am now completely divested from the stock market and I advise you to do the same if possible. Usually I don't make predictions because of the high probability of looking silly, but a downturn seems imminent.

Why? Because there isn't enough liquidity in the market. From the NYT...

"The pain for hedge funds and banks has been broad, starting in the mortgage market, spreading to the wider credit markets and ultimately the stock market.
The problems have been worsened by the debt that hedge funds have taken on and used to invest to amplify gains.
Now hedge funds are quickly taking off that leverage, responding to tighter lending standards from banks or redemptions from anxious investors.
The casualties have included investment banks like Bear Stearns, which witnessed the collapse of two hedge funds that were invested in mortgage-backed securities, and blue-chip quantitative funds, whose computer-driven trading models did not anticipate recent market movements.
Now the ripples have spread to Goldman, whose stellar results have made it the firm to beat on Wall Street in recent years."

The cheap cash the Fed was showering on us through low rates led to a predictable overextension. People bought houses they couldn't afford while businesses received loans they didn't deserve. If millions of people begin defaulting on their homes (Jim Cramer predicts 7 million possibly) and investment firms don't have money to invest there will be tough economic times ahead.

The saving grace may be that many good companies are sitting on large cash positions. Many corporations learned their lesson from the dotcom market bubble burst and began stockpiling cash. But there is no reason to predict that they would begin investing it if the entire credit market begins to implode. Instead, they may decide that the prudent move is to continue sitting on all the cash. Central banks around the world including in the U.S. have been fighting the situation by pumping cash into the system at an incredible pace (here).

I am not knowledgeable enough to break down the entire situation. I am knowledgeable enough to know that when central banks have to pump billions of dollars into the system to keep the credit market alive that it is time to get on the stock market sidelines. Sell and live to tell.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Week Break

I will be most likely not posting until next week. My work has brought me to the home of the socialist revolution where the remaning guerillas are hold up: Boston.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Apprehensive about FISA expansion

The latest "secret" FISA ruling is good and bad. They struck down the governments ability to intercept foreign calls being transmitted in the U.S. under the FISA law. Republicans were quick to react and claim that they have Democratic support for expanding the FISA law to allow for the wiretapping.

After reading this article in the Post it does make some sense. If somebody in Afghanistan is talking to somebody in Iraq and that call is being transmitted through the U.S. (and yes many international calls are somehow routed through the U.S. amazingly) then why shouldn't the government be able to tap it? They are not American citizens and not entitled to our constitutional protection. So why am I still apprehensive?

Because as we know from 200+ years of democratic governance, government only expands, it does not contract. It is only a matter of time (probably not long) until this is expanded. Its bad enough they can already intercept a foreign call to an American citizen. I guess I can even swallow this but the shadowy nature of the whole process is what really concerns me. I feel as if we are getting the "trust us" wink. Well big surprise, I don't trust them.

Unnamed judges in secret courts whose records are sealed are going to protect our rights? Conservatives arguments on this are honestly pathetic. They talk in generalities about "fighting terrorism" or about "preventing another 9/11" but the reality is they would have a much different opinion if Bill or Hillary were president.

This brings me to ask a similar question that I posed to "conservatives" about the enemy combatant label issue: Do you trust Hillary Clinton with the ability to use unnamed judges, in secret courts, with classified results to not abuse that power?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fashion Timeout


I am perplexed about how powerful rich men can't find suit jackets that fit. That jacket sleeve almost looks like its going up to his elbow. Same is true for his right arm which isn't extended.

All I can think about is Chris Farley singing "fat man in a little coat...fat man in a little coat..."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Shockingly Positive Article on Iraq

Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack have published a shocking editorial in the New York Times (here).

These two (especially Pollack who I follow more closely) have been against the war, and more importantly heavy critics, from the beginning. Today, they are reporting success on the ground in Iraq that cannot be ignored unlike the normal garbage at National Review/Weekly Standard.

They credit the new strategy in Iraq for reaching out to Iraqis on a local level (Pollack has criticized the administration for prosecuting a centralized war incapable of reaching out to locals in The New Republic previously), spurring local economic development through initiatives such as microloans, creating a more diverse Iraqi military, and raising U.S. troop moral levels.

It is saddening to think of the way the war was fought from the beginning. We wasted all this time, boat loads of money, and thousands of lives waiting for a coherent strategy. Sad.

Geopolitical Setback for U.S. in Japan

The Liberal Democratic Party's electoral loss in Japan is a big blow to the U.S.'s geopolitical position in Asia, because President Shinzo Abe has been a bright spot as our ally.

His willingness to support the U.S.'s battles is admirable, but his push to amend the constitution would have strengthened our hand in the region. Currently, their constitution only allows the maintenance of a military for defense. Heavy spending over the years has built a military as capable as any in the world (I have seen their Navy personally and it is capable of a lot more than defense) and President Abe wanted to reserve the right to use it.

The thrashing that LDP took at the polls will not only make Abe a lame duck (and according to this article he will be pressured to resign), but it will nix any future talk about changing the constitution. His successor would have to be mentally ill to pursue such a course after this election. Thats a setback for us because A free Japanese military would have assisted the U.S. in containing China through the mere implicit threat of force. China knows they could not compete with the Japanese military, more specifically their Navy, which would make them think twice about ill advised conquests.

Maybe next decade.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rapist goes free because he doesn't speak English

I am too busy to write about how crazy this is but the details speak volumes.

A Liberian man was set free in Maryland because the court could not find an interpreter for his African language. The man raped and repeatedly sexually molested a 7 year-old girl.

You did not read it wrong. He was simply set free.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Charter School Progress

The education issue may be vast, but the solution is simple: competition.

Charter schools are a great way to challenge the government's monopoly on education with competition. This article is a good story about how the status quo is being challenged in Los Angeles by Steve Barr. Coincidently the article also contained the quote of the day:

“If the district doesn’t work with me, I’ll compete with them and take their kids”

This is exactly the intended attitude. Schools should be competing for kids. The schools producing the better students will receive more students while failing schools will be driven out of business. Mr. Barr is competing head-to-head with the government monopoly and, by this account, winning.

He is winning for two reasons. First, he is tenacious, even willing to "steamroll" competition. Most people don't associate this style temperament with education but they should. It is what drives innovation in every other successful industry and education is an industry like it or not.

Secondly, he has worked with the establishment. As the article states, the charter school movement is often associated with with the anti-union movement and resisted by the establishment. Mr. Barr took a very different tact. Instead he welcomed unionization. The contracts nixed tenure but gave the teachers more flexibility in how they structure their classes. Predictably the older teachers still resisted the change, but the younger teachers have embraced it. He also involved parents and the community at-large. The charter school movement there seems to be just that, a movement, instead of an isolated school opening.

Good for him. Hopefully other charter schools will adopt Barr's unorthodox style. We will all be better off if they do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why is Prostitution Illegal?

With Senator Vitter back in the news today, I though this would be a good time to say what must be said about prostitution: it should be legal.

The United States has some of the strictest anti-prostitution regulation/enforcement anywhere in the world outside of the Middle East. Why? Moralistic impulse. I have never understood why one individual cannot pay another for sexual acts. While it may give us a nice little 'holier than thou' buzz to condemn it, condemnation accomplishes nothing.

Actually, I would argue the opposite. Because prostitutes must deal in the black market, they are a diffuse shadowy bunch. Why is that important? It is important because it attracts a criminal element. The lowly ranks are populated by the drug and disease infested dregs of society. If it were legal it could be regulated and contained.

Opponents of prostitution normally cite the spread of diseases as one of the reasons for making it illegal, but legalization would lessen the threat. Having a license regime could force prostitutes to be tested for STD's and AIDS. No paying customer in their right mind would contract a partner without this license because their risk of disease would be multiplied dramatically. Bordellos would be placed in designated areas (similar to strip clubs in red light districts) removing the need for 'street walkers' and 'pimps'.

It may be tough to look at the issue systematically because of Americans immediate impulse to take a moralistic stance, but the logic is undeniable. 'Prostitution is bad, therefore it must be illegal' is a horrible argument but it works on election day.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cure for World Aids Epidemic

Although I have castigated Zimbabwe in the past, it is high time to congratulate them for making a large step forward in curbing the aids epidemic here.

It's not only the prices of bread and eggs that are out of control in Zimbabwe, land of 4,000 percent inflation. For the man inclined to cheat on his wife, these are trying times. Keeping a mistress, visiting a prostitute or even taking a girlfriend out for beers is simply becoming too expensive, men say.

But their strain is Zimbabwe's gain in its fight against AIDS. Alone among southern African countries, Zimbabwe has shown a significant drop in its HIV rate in recent years. A major reason, researchers say, is the changing sexual habits of men forced to abandon costly multiple relationships.

"Those extramarital relationships, they're getting tough to sustain," said Thomas Muza, 37, who is struggling to support his wife and a mistress on the shrinking value of a math teacher's paycheck.

So to you Zimbabwe I say congratulations. This story has spurred me to wonder how long the Gorite eco-socialists will take to implement similar policies to curb "global warming" or "climate change" or whatever its called today.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Senator Webb Gives a Good Example of How Not to End the War

Note to Senator Webb: You are not the president and Congress is not the Executive branch.

In a 56-41 vote, Webb's amendment would have required troops in Iraq to have time at home equal to time served in theater. While it is a clever attempt to end the war, it is not the province of Congress to control the military. Congress has one true constitutional avenue to end the war: cut off funding. Anything apart from a cut in funding is simply an attempt at usurping power.

I understand the Democrats desire to end the war. Their attempts are simply a reflection of their constituents demands, but that doesn't mean they should do so in a way which will would alter forever how the U.S. engages in warfare. Imagine if congress could have voted on the storming of Normandy, or island hoping in the Pacific? It would have been a bureaucratic nightmare.

The bottom line is that if Jim Webb and his friends on the hill wish to end the war they should have the political courage to simply cut off funding. If they fail they should try again. Then again who ever let the pesky constitution get in the way of a good idea.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

"The same people who think it was wonderful that the Warren Court forbade government to assign children to schools on the basis of race think it is terrible that the current Supreme Court has recently stopped local governments from assigning children to schools on the basis of race."

Thomas Sowell

Trade Gap with China is Positive

This may sound counterintuitive, but the trade gap with China is not so bad. Most people believe that it is a negative because they long for an age when products were "Made in America". The longing is based more on nostalgia than economics. Was working in sweatshops for peanuts really the good old days? I say no. Let the low wage, low skilled work go overseas to places where they have the people to fill those jobs. We don't need them here. We have a service based economy which relies more on skills and education.

Secondly, the trade gap misses many knowledge based products. Is a student who comes to an American university and then returns home an export? Yes. Is that counted? No. The same scenario holds true for medical treatment, and some research and marketing (among others). This may account for a small percentage but it is worth mentioning.

Thirdly, our ability to import extremely large quantities exhibits economic strength, not weakness. It is because of our great wealth that we are able to buy in such large quantities. Maybe an analogy will help make the point. Using the logic that the trade deficit is bad then one would also have to believe that a lawyer who lives in a big house with several cars, and a boat is in a bad position because he is buying more than he is selling. He is producing no physical product and only sells his knowledge and abilities. His surplus of products shows his economic strength.

This story today about the record trade deficit with China will no doubt increase calls for protectionist measures which will surely hurt our economy. I wish I could blame this all on the Democrats, after all they are the worst economic demagogues, but many Republicans are going wobbly. I believe that the debacle of a war in Iraq will only increase public support for isolationist policies. This is very unfortunate but regrettably predictable.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Another Defector

Senator Domenici is the most recent addition to the GOP revolt over Iraq. He joins Voinovich and Lugar in just the last week.

This is slightly surprising. I thought they would have waited until the September report. After that they would be able to use it to 'prove' that progress in Iraq is too slow (or whatever else they want to 'prove'). While I am no fan of the Iraq situation, I am miffed by lack of a plan by the defectors. They make empty pronouncements about funding the troops and denounce timetables but what are they for? I haven't heard any coherent plan from them, and definitely not from the Democrats either.

Regardless how we got into Iraq, we cannot simply pull out. In short, it would be a recklessly irresponsible move. Some semblance of order, however slight must be established. What does that mean? It means that an Iraqi citizen can go to the market without wondering if he will return. It means that there is an agreement, however tenuous, which allow for a form of power sharing and oil wealth distribution. It means that foreign terrorists with a singular goal of instability are mostly driven out or contained. It does not mean that Iraq must look like a mini-America, which was the major problem from the beginning. Actually i would argue that is what got us into this mess, but that is another story for another day.

Regardless, exit will not be pretty. It will most likely look like a post-civil war Lebanon. Several groups involved in an uneasy power sharing agreement where each side distrusts the other. Such an arrangement will be fragile and easily disturbed. Read this for a more in depth analysis.

As is life. It is not pretty but its what we will most likely leave. Anything less is unacceptable.

The real problem I have with the defectors is their lack of vision. Actually I take that back. They do have a plan. They plan on winning re-election in 2008. But when it comes to an issue such as this there should be more than politics at play. The world is watching and we will either be more damaged than we already are diplomatically or we will reserve some semblance of legitimacy.

You can't be against the 'war' and be for an alternative.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Quote of the Day

"[The] promise [from the Brown v board of education decision]-- a colorblind society -- has been traduced by the "diversity" exception to the Equal Protection Clause. That exception allows white majorities to feel noble while treating blacks and certain other minorities as seasoning -- a sort of human oregano -- to be sprinkled across a student body to make the majority's educational experience more flavorful."

George Will

The never ending haircut

A story in the Washington Post today reveals that John Edward's infamous $400 haircut was actually a third of what he once paid. The self styled poverty pimp actually paid $1,250 for a cut in 2004.

His styalist to the stars, Joseph Torrenueva, would charge Edwards for airfare and hotel when he traveled outside of California. Torrenueva charged $1,250 for the 2004 session because he missed two days of work to fly out to meet Edwards in Atlanta.

There is no need to insert a punchline. This guy is ridiculous and a horrible politician to boot.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Quote of the Day

"before every American boy gets out of high school, he should take a punch to the face. You take one punch, Dobler says, and you learn that you can handle pretty much anything, that nothing hurts as much as you might think"

From former NFL lineman Conrad Dobler (once named the dirtiest player in the NFL) in an ESPN article.

Monday, July 2, 2007

English Update

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander introduced an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill which will restrict funds for anti-English lawsuits.

The amendment passed 15-14 late last week. His amendment was prompted because of a case in Massachusetts where the EEOC filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army which was forcing its employees to speak English on the job.

If a business can't tell its employees what language to speak on the job then what can it do? Can it tell the employees to work? I'm honestly not certain of the answer. Speaking the same language as the customers is integral for an organization to conduct business. Isn't this common sense? Two employees speaking another language while on the job is more than inefficient, its also rude. The Salvation Army didn't surprise these employees wither with a new rule. They posted the regulation and gave the employees a year to comply.

If that is discrimination then I need to re-learn what the definition of discrimination. I should probably take that back before I land myself in a Hillary Clinton re-education camp in 2010 or so.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Why vote Republican in 08?

If your like me, then you are in the process of, or have already lost faith in the Republican party. But, there is still one issue for which I will surely pull the R lever in 08: the Supreme Court. This week two cases in particular have reminded me that although Republicans have forgotten their small government promise, their Supreme Court justices have delivered in the clutch.

The first case is very well known by now. In a 5-4 decision the court decided that "public school systems cannot seek to achieve or maintain integration through measures that take explicit account of a student’s race." While this is somewhat ambiguous, it is a strike at race based criteria for school children. While I can already imagine (I try not to read their nonsense so i have to imagine) liberals crying about how this is some return to segregation, it is actually comeback for common sense and the constitution. The actual cases involved schools that were attempting to achieve some sort of perfect racial harmony (and of course any elite liberal knows the exact mix which constitutes harmony); they weren't trying to mix a segregated school. A child in one case was prohibited from transferring to a better school because it would have thrown off the balance. Was this the purpose of desegregation? Are we to micromanage the exact numbers of each race in every school? No. Well at least not any longer.

In another case which received much less attention, the court struck down a remnant from that pesky Sherman Antitrust Act which stopped distributors and manufactures from setting retail prices (hence the term suggested retail price). Actually the arguments were rather silly. One side argued that it will hurt consumers while the other side argued that it may draw down prices. When did the Supreme Court become a deliberative governing body? The prices of goods should have zero bearing on the decision while the constitution should have 100%. Although the script was flipped, they made the correct decision.

After tax cuts, rulings like these are the only thing that keeps my hand on the R lever. The next president will have AT LEAST one appointment maybe two or three. Ginsburg's years are numbered and Stevens is old enough to be my great great great grandpa. The possibility of three nominations leaves one slot open for surprises. Remember, Scalia has gone hunting with Cheney in the past...you never know.

If Ginsburg or Stevens (or both) are replaced with conservatives then we will hold the court for the foreseeable future. This is enough to vote R.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Immigration Bill Dead

Final vote on cloture: 46-53

RIP

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The REAL Problem with the Immigration Bill

As we all know the immigration bill is back, and (in my opinion) will pass the Senate. I had deep concerns when this bill first surfaced over its impact on the labor market.


Essentially the bill would take the demand mechanism away from business and give it to government. It would make government the clearing house for workers under a point system. The system will fail because government cannot possibly sort through the price signals which make up the labor market. Neither can business. They can only do it for their market for which they specialize, which is why the system works so well. It is not possible for a central bureaucracy to sort these issues out.

My concerns were confirmed today here. Apparently Canada has a similar points system and it is cramping the labor market. Huge surprise! Labor shortages in blue collar jobs (especially the fast growing oil sector) and long waiting lines (backlog of 800,000 applications with a wait of four years or more).

Everybody is so scared of Mexicans, while I'm scared of the government.

Zimbabwe: Global Example for Economic Disaster

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has set a wonderful example for how to destroy a country. I can only hope that when I am a benevolent dictator of some sleepy island in the pacific that I will have such foresight if i decide to rape my country.

His plan for developing the economy according to the NYT:

"[Mugabe's] legislation would establish a government fund to help citizens buy stock in public companies, and would allow the government to reject any corporate mergers, acquisitions, investments and other transactions in which so-called indigenous Zimbabweans did not hold a 51 percent stake. It was unclear, however, how Zimbabwe’s bankrupt government, beset by hyperinflation and a currency crisis, would finance the transfers."

What a wonderful idea. Rake the few remaining employers over the coals by essentially mandating a takeover and outlawing rational decision making. As any good politician would do, he is calling for patience. Thats because of the above stated hyperinflation problem. How bad is it? Comically bad.

"Prices change daily, if not hourly; one news report last week noted that golfers at a Harare country club were paying for their 19th-hole drinks before teeing off after discovering that prices were rising while they were on the course."

Yes, for only 400,000 Zimbabwe dollars you too can own a single American dollar.

I feel bad for the people of Zimbabwe. How do you rectify this problem? Elections? It is extremely difficult to defeat a person who has utilized such deep patronage politics for so many years and more difficult to find an honest candidate. Overthrow the government? Good luck.I guess the only answer is to move. A tough chore for a person with little money, education, and direction. The only positive is that it reinforces how lucky I am to live in the US despite the various faults.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two Palestinian States

A headline in the NYT today read "Quartet Meets on Israeli-Palestinian Relations". The headline should have read "Quartet Meets on How to deal with Palestinian Civil War Which Threatens to Create Separate Terrorist State in Gaza". Admittedly, this isn't a very good headline, but it would explain the reality of the situation.

No serious observer truly believes that peace can be brokered among chaos. On one side there is a terrorist organization taking control by force and elections. On the other side is corrupt organization led by an ineffectual leader that is too weak stave off insurrection. Classic lose-lose situation.

Honestly this is one area where i have no coherent policy suggestion. There is no credible solution I have heard that can be noted here, and that is without the inter-Palestinian chaos.

Give land back to the Palestinians that Israel has 'taken', and they will incite more attacks. Respond swiftly and decisively to provocation, and they will incite more attacks. Build barriers to slow the influx of potential terrorists and be condemned by the international community. I have no clue.

I you have a clue please forward your suggestion to me and please CC or BCC it to condelezza@state.gov. Thanks for helping save the world.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Headline: "Gas shortages experienced around the country, regulaters miffed while politicians promise to fix the problem"

No this headline hasn't appeared yet, but it a distinct possibility if the current energy bill becomes law. I'm not certain about the bills chances in the house, but I am very hopeful the president will use the veto. It passed the Senate by a somewhat surprisingly large margin: 65- 27. Although there are a few annoying features in the bill, the price gouging issue is the worse.

Our comrades in congress will have the ability to throw penalties at oil companies whenever they feel unloved. This is crazy. In congress' ever expanding need for power they have decided to wade into the gray area of private pricing practices.

This is a de-facto price control mechanism. The threat of penalties will change the natural price signals mechanism. For those of you who have not been through Econ-101 (and it seems a majority of Senators haven't) that means shortages will follow. I wish I had some long technocratic jargon laced explanation backed with fancy math equations that nobody understands, but it isn't necessary. Price ceilings cause shortages. End of story.

So when there are gas lines and everybody is crying "why? why?" they can look back to the 2007 Energy bill for answers.

John Edwards exposed as fraud by main stream media

The second part of the headline, not the first, is the shock. Any warmblooded mammal with a brain larger than a pea already knew that Edwards was a fraud, but now liberals will have a hard time refuting it after this article.

We all know about his $400 haircut (which he blamed on his staff as any true leader would) but now we learn that he was using his non-profit 527 group OneAmerica and the Center for Promise and Opportunity, to fund his political jaunts.

Because of his purely demagogue standing, I wont waste my time blasting him. He is useless.

What I do find interesting is his opening of Pandora's box. His utilization of tax free issue organizations that are not binded by donation limitations is the wave of the future. It accomplishes a few things. First, it obviously allows one to collect donations with no limit. One might say that this money can't be used for political purposes, but how is 'political' defined? Is a commercial featuring a politician that reads 'vote for me' political, while a commercial featuring a politician saying 'cure poverty' not political? They both can achieve name recognition and frame the candidates character.

The goal of any campaign is to create and control their candidates image. This is the genius of Al Gore's stealth campaign. He is the foremost expert on global warming. I am not saying that he actually knows what he is talking about or is correct, but I am saying that John Q. Public believes it. Perception is reality in politics.

Expect to see the Edwards model utilized in the future.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

McCain on making English the official language: it is a "despicable influence"

I know McCain is not fond of official English legislation, but I didn't know he went this far...


"I'm not sure why McCain would go along with [the official English amendment to the immigration bill]. Back in 1988, when Arizona voters were being asked to approve an English-only proposition, then-Rep. McCain and two other Arizona congressmen sent a letter to then-Sen. Barry Goldwater, an honorary chairman for the drive. They asked Goldwater to remove his name from the effort, which they said was spreading a "despicable influence into Arizona."

When asked at the time about efforts to make English our official language, McCain said, "Our nation and the English language has done quite well with Chinese spoken in California, German in Pennsylvania, Italian in New York, Swedish in Minnesota and Spanish throughout the Southwest. I fail to see the cause for alarm now.""


From the Arizona Republic.

Worker Intimidation Act of 2007

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell has renamed the "Employee Free Choice Act of 2007" to the "Worker Intimidation Act of 2007" here.

The Democrats on the hill are desperate to hand their Union friends the ability to intimidate employees into voting to unionize by eliminating secret ballots. Although I know this is purely political, I would like to hear a logical reason why secret ballots must be banished.

Supporters seem to admit that workers will be intimidated into unionizing because they only talk about the benefits of unionization. Why would more employees vote for unionization if the ballots are made public? Would they have a sudden epiphany? Does the secret ballot blind them to the realities of the benefits of forming a union?

The secret ballot protects workers from being intimidated by their employer. Why relinquish this protection? To expose workers to intimidation from union bosses, hence the new name "Worker Intimidation Act of 2007".

Monday, June 18, 2007

Good news in Iraq

I haven't said much about the situation in Iraq because I am actively involved in trying to have an analysis of the situation that I wrote published. It wont be in Foreign Affairs or anything of that stature but published is published. We'll see. But writing about it here after reading and writing about it for hours is not appealing in the least. After reading this article in the Washington Post, I decided to write something short.

I'm not sure how long it has been since I have read an article about U.S. policy in Iraq that I liked or agreed with; the long drought is now over. The military is now looking to co-op certain Sunni Arab groups in the fight against al-Qaeda. It is about time.

The real threat in Iraq is al-Qaeda.
Rhetoric surrounding al-Qaeda is often false or overblown. The case is often made that Iraq will become a "safe haven" or "breading grounds" for al-Qaeda if we "fail". Although this could happen a much bigger danger is a wider civil war which involves neighboring countries. This could be a catastrophic event that will greatly overshadow a few extremists planning attacks on the U.S.

How will this catistrophic event be realized? Through flaming sectarian hatred spread by al-Qaeda. They are small and relatively weak, but know how to cause trouble. The Sunni's have tolerated them because of their lack of power after the fall of Saddam (simplistic explanation but will due for now). This is essential because they need local support to operate. It seems that many Sunni tribal leaders have come to realize that a civil war is not in their best interest. Their minority status combined with lack of oil resources on their lands would give the Sunnis immediate underdog status.

Instead some groups have decided that al-Qaeda is the enemy (with the U.S. a close second and Israel a close third). Therefore, we should assist them in exterminating the biggest threat to stability in Iraq. To nobody's surprise the Kurds and Shiites don't like this idea. They claim that we may be arming people who have attacked the U.S. They also claim that these guns may be turned on them later. Both are valid concerns, but the need to defeat (or at least marginalize) al-Qaeda is more important.

Cato on Enemy Combatant ruling

Cato has a good summary of the enemy combatant ruling in the al-Marri case that I have written about in previous posts. I am no lawyer, but maybe I should be. Cato's legal expert Tim Lynch gives a legal opinion here that is stunningly close to my assessment. I'll paste his brief opinion but there is more info here.

The Al-Marri ruling (pdf) this week brings the “enemy combatant” controversy back into the news. I addressed the Al-Marri case in this article (pdf) for the Cato Supreme Court Review (see pp. 37-39). In the article, I set forth a legal framework for analyzing the competing claims of security and liberty. I think factors such as citizenship and place of capture matter.

President Bush advances the sweeping claim that the entire world, including every inch of U.S. territory is a “battlefield.” He then argues that the “battlefield” is no place for police officers, search warrants, trials, and judges. There are no rights on the battlefield. Bush is the commander-in-chief and he’ll decide who needs to be killed or locked up. And his decisions are final. No “second-guessing” by the Congress or the judiciary.

Despite his sinking poll numbers, Bush’s dangerous legal claims are alive and well. This evening, Bush could have any American secretly arrested and put on a plane for incommunicado detention and interrogation at Guantanamo. This is what a federal appellate court ruled in the Padilla case. And just when it looked as if the Supreme Court was ready to overturn that case and declare Bush’s policy (at least with respect to citizens in the USA) illegal, the Bush administration suddenly moved Padilla from military custody to civilian custody where he is now on trial in Florida. Bush’s lawyers told the Supreme Court that there was no longer any need to hear the case–since Padilla was no longer in military custody. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court agreed. By declining to hear Padilla’s appeal, the lower court precedent approving Bush’s sweeping legal claim was left in place. If an American were to be sent to Guantanamo this evening, it would take several years of litigation before the Supreme Court would be ready to rule on the matter. It is thus no exaggeration to say that right now the liberty of every American rests upon the grace of the White House.

Al-Marri’s case is about non-citizens imprisoned in military brigs inside the United States. Al-Marri is a citizen of Qatar. He entered the U.S. one day before the 9/11 attacks and the government says he is a terrorist and his mission was to engage in follow-on attacks here in the U.S. He was initially arrested and charged with criminal offenses, but then he was declared an “enemy combatant” and was moved to a military brig. He has been imprisoned in a South Carolina military prison for four years while his attorneys challenged the legality of his imprisonment. This week a federal appeals court ruled that Al-Marri must be (1) deported; or (2) charged with a crime; or (3) released from custody. The U.S. military cannot continue to keep him locked up.

This outcome creates a weird situation in which an American can be held in military custody, but a legal immigrant cannot be. I don’t agree with everything in the Al-Marri ruling, but it does reject Bush’s most sweeping claims about his power. Excerpt: “To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians, even if the President calls them ‘enemy combatants,’ would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution — and the country. … We refuse to recognize a claim to power that would so alter the constitutional foundations of our Republic.”

Mr. Bush’s lawyers say they plan to appeal the ruling.

McCain: Good, Great, Bad, and Awful

If one person could ever be described in such a way it is John McCain. After reading government documents all weekend, I have decided to assign McCain an acronym: GGBA. Maybe BAGG. Yea thats better; McCain is a BAGG.

He confounds me. I would love to support him. He is truly a great war hero. It is impossible for any of us living our comfortable American lives to imagine what he went through. After being shot down over North Vietnam he was held prisoner for almost a decade (which must have seemed like centuries). His captivity began with him in a body cast lying in the mud being fed essentially flavored water. This would have been bad enough for anyone, but it was worse for him because his father was chief of all Naval operations in the pacific or CINCPAC for you acronym freaks. His father's position heightened his importance and intensified his cruel treatment. If McCain's story interests you then I highly suggest reading Faith of My Fathers. It is a truly inspirational book.

The good is commendable also. He has been a critic of Bush's handling of the war since before it was cool. Although his criticisms of the war were not heeded, it was the right thing to do. On earmarks and spending in general McCain is a hawk. Again here too he took a stance when it wasn't cool. Republicans were enjoying their raid on the bank while McCain was of the remaining fiscal conservatives left standing. Going against the popular political grain is tough enough, but it was his stance against the military industrial complex that is exemplary.


"Military industry lobbyists say they have long dreaded the prospect that Mr. McCain might ascend to the chairmanship of the committee, much less the presidency. He is the Senate’s most outspoken critic of military procurement policies, big Pentagon contracts, and especially earmarks — the Congressional add-ons to military spending bills that contractors crave.

“McCain has been a one-man wrecking crew,” said a prominent military lobbyist, speaking on condition of anonymity because he lobbies the committee." says the NYT


He has eschewed political expediency and fund raising (which may in the end sink his presidential campaign) for principle. I'm not sure there is a higher attainment for a politician than this.

The problem is when his stubbornness and political will is pointed in the wrong direction. This is where the ugly comes in. After the issues mentioned above, I can't think of a single issue that I agree with him. Not only has he been on the wrong side of many issue, but he has been the leader. He was not a sponsor for campaign finance; he did not simply vote for it; he is it. McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform is an abomination. Beyond being merely ineffective and reorganizing political campaigns (by shifting money towards independent 527's), it has pushed the constitution aside. Political speech is the target of the first amendment, not pornography or hate speech. That doesn't mean that I don't think that non-political speech shouldn't be protected. I do. But squelching political speech is in direct contradiction to what the founders intended. McCain should realize that all speech is equal. It is of no consequence if the person speaking has the opportunity and ability to speak more, i.e. rich.

Even his stance against earmarks and government spending is sometimes perplexing. The purpose of cutting spending should be to shrink the government. McCain has no desire to shrink the government. In fact he has seemed to support a larger government role in people's lives. At times he has even hinted at some sort of compulsory service requirement for all Americans. When he talks about service to country i sometimes can't hear what he is actually saying but instead hear the slight whisper of draft...draft...draft.

For these reasons, I cannot support him. For some odd reason though I still hate reading about his political downfall (the article cited above, and his recent poll numbers). Perplexing.