Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Anyone Miss Colonialism?

Robert Mugabe wants to be given our sedentary, our obese, our lardos yearning to be thin:

ZIMBABWE has come up with a bizarre proposal to solve the food crisis threatening half its population with starvation. It wants to bring in obese tourists from overseas so that they can shed pounds doing manual labour on land seized from white farmers.

The so-called Obesity Tourism Strategy was reported last week in The Herald, a government organ whose contents are approved by President Robert Mugabe’s powerful information minister, Jonathan Moyo.

Pointing out that more than 1.2 billion people worldwide are officially deemed to be overweight, the article exhorted Zimbabweans to “tap this potential”.

“Tourists can provide labour for farms in the hope of shedding weight while enjoying the tourism experience,” it said, adding that Americans spent $6 billion a year on “useless” dieting aids.

“Tour organisers may promote this programme internationally and bring in tourists, while agriculturalists can employ the tourists as free farm labour.

“The tourists can then top it all by flaunting their slim bodies on a sun-downer cruise on the Zambezi or surveying the majestic Great Zimbabwe ruins.”

The marketing could use some tweaking.

The Only Solution to New York's School Crisis...

Is contained within this short article by Dwight R. Lee (found through the good offices of NC State's Craig Newmark and SCSU Scholars):

Even popular entertainers and athletes, who receive enormous total satisfaction from their jobs, perform in late-night shows, take road trips, and put in extra hours rehearsing and practicing when they would rather be doing something else. But because their performance is valued so highly by consumers who communicate that value with extremely lucrative compensation, they put in the extra hours.

I am not claiming that compensation is always tied directly to worker output. That is not always practical. But even when employees are being paid about the same, even though some are better workers than others, long-term considerations can still connect pay to performance.

Those who miss too much work are dismissed; less productive workers are more likely to be laid off in business downturns; and more productive workers are more likely to be given better work schedules and promoted. Responding to consumers effectively requires that firms have compensation arrangements that, over time, connect pay to contribution.

Obviously cooperation is important in the workplace. But few things can reduce cooperation more than the perception that compensation isn’t tied to contribution. There is a strong temptation for workers to shirk, at the margin (and it can be a wide margin), even when they enjoy their jobs, if they don’t see a financial reward for diligent effort.

Even assuming that most workers were willing to put in a full day of responsible work without the incentive of pay, a few will always take advantage of the opportunity to shirk if there is no penalty.

This will be noticed by the dependable workers, who find their effort harder and less productive because of the shirking of the few, and who will begin to feel like suckers since they are receiving no more than the slackers. So a few more will decide it is better to be a shirker than a sucker, increasing the temptation of the rest to slack off.

The result is a destructive cycle of shirking that undermines productive cooperation among workers.

And of course, in the article linked to in the immediately preceding post at LFUTB, the panel that studied New York City's disastrous (and expensive) public schools ruled out any consideration of introducing an element of competition that would force New York's public schools to perform competently or be replaced.

Or, They Could Eliminate the Middlemen and Just Burn Hundred Dollar Bills Every Day in Times Square

How do supposedly sentient adults get themselves to believe the patently ridiculous? Even having to ignore the separation of powers inherent in a state constitution.

It's another verse of New York, New York:

ALBANY - The plaintiffs in a lawsuit over funding for New York City schools were negotiating a settlement with the Pataki administration yesterday in a last-minute effort to avoid having a solution imposed on state lawmakers by the courts.

One proposal from Governor Pataki would have increased the city schools budget by $5 billion, or about one-third, over the next five years....

The plaintiffs in the 11-year-old constitutional lawsuit, known as the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, and Mayor Bloomberg both rejected that proposal as inadequate....

[The proposal was] aimed at heading off a potentially costly court order by the judge supervising the case, Leland DeGrasse of the state Supreme Court at Manhattan. Today, Judge DeGrasse is due to receive the report of a panel he appointed to study the issue, which is expected to recommend increasing education funding by several billion dollars.

Once that figure becomes public and Mr. DeGrasse converts it into a court order binding on state lawmakers....

Yes, the judicial branch is ordering the legislative branch to not engage in their constitutional duty. Anyone remember that Constitutional requirement for states to have a republican form of government? How quaint.

Of course, no article about NYC public schools would be complete without:

Almost four years ago, Judge De-Grasse determined that the city schools were failing to provide the basic education mandated by the state constitution and blamed the problem on a shortage of funding. ....

New York already spends more than $35 billion on its public schools, or about $13,000 a student - more than any other state.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Swift Boat Veteran Fired For The Truth

The Kerry campaign claimed at least one victim, Steve Gardner seems to have been fired for his role in exposing the fraudulent war record of the Democrat's nominee:

Gardner told this story and others to radio stations and he wrote a piece for the local paper. Then, he says, he received a phone call from John Hurley, the veterans organizer for Kerry's campaign. Hurley, Gardner says, asked him to come out for Kerry. He told Hurley to leave him alone and that he'd never be for Kerry. It was then Gardner says, he was threatened with, "You better watch your step. We can look into your finances."

Next, Gardner said he received a call from Douglas Brinkley, the author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. Brinkley told Gardner he was calling only to "fact check" the book -- which was already in print. "I told him that the guy in the book is not the same guy I served with. I told him Kerry was a coward. He would patrol the middle of the river. The canals were dangerous. He wouldn't go there unless he had another boat pushing him."

Days later, Brinkley called again, warning Gardner to expect some calls. It seems Brinkley had used the "fact checking" conversation to write an inflammatory article about Gardner for Time.com. The article, implying that Gardner was politically motivated, appeared under the headline "The 10th Brother."

Twenty-four hours later, Gardner got an e-mail from his company, Millennium Information Services, informing him that his services would no longer be necessary. He was laid off in an e-mail -- by the same man who only days before had congratulated him for his exemplary work in a territory which covered North and South Carolina. The e-mail stated that his position was being eliminated. Since then, he's seen the company advertising for his old position. Gardner doesn't have the money to sue to get the job back.

"I'm broke. I've been hurt every way I can be hurt. I have no money in the bank but am doing little bits here and there to pay the bills," he said.

Loose Ends From the Carter Administration

In the latest Axis of Evil news:

Registration forms being filled out in the offices of an Iranian aid group and in the presence of Iranian government figures offer volunteer suicide commandos the following three options, it emerged yesterday: attack American soldiers in Iraq, kill Israelis, or fulfill a 15-year-old fatwa ordering the assassination of the author of "The Satanic Verses," Salman Rushdie.

The suicide commandos story, reported by the Associated Press yesterday in Tehran, puts into sharp relief the stakes of the latest round of nuclear brinkmanship between Iran's ruling mullahs and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran reversed its position yesterday and said it would agree temporarily to halt enrichment of uranium.

....A meeting where some 300 new recruits were enlisted also attracted a member of Iran's Parliament, Mahdi Kouchakzadeh, and General Hossein Salami of the Revolutionary Guards. The wire dispatch quoted Mr. Kouchakzadeh as saying, "At a time when the U.S. is committing the crimes we see now, deprived nations have no weapon other than martyrdom. It's evident that Iran's foreign policy-makers have to take the dignified opinions of this group into consideration."

The group in question, Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, enjoys a semiofficial status inside Iran.

This is the country the French want to supply with nuclear reactor technology.

Let Go by Lego

Europe's Grinched by the new economy:

Frankfurt - With their products cast aside by children in favour of video games or television, the makers of traditional toys are facing a miserable Christmas.

Toy makers in Europe say they are increasingly finding their market eroded by shrinking attention spans and intense competition from Asia.

An electric train set for instance was once top of every little boy's Christmas wish list, but no more.The world leader in electric toy trains, the German firm Maerklin, announced in October that following several years of declining sales it was laying off 400 staff in Germany alone.The company, based in Goeppingen, near Stuttgart, has a long and distinguished history, having started business 140 years ago by producing miniature lead soldiers before diversifying into train sets in 1891.

But Maerklin has learned that tradition counts for nothing."

...even bigger names in the toy world are faring no better.

Lego, the Danish maker of the renowned multi-coloured building bricks, is facing the biggest loss in its history this year, of between 1.5 million and two million Danish kroner, 268 to 356 million dollars) before tax."....

In the last 20 years, Europe has gone from a economy built on small shops to superstores specialising in knockdown prices," [toy industry analyst Sean] MacGowan said."It means manufacturers have been forced into producing at lower prices without really being prepared for it."

Maerklin was once the uncontested number one in its sector, but now has to compete with smaller Chinese manufacturers who already account for two thirds of the global production of toy trains.

And analysts warn the gulf between the 'new' toy industry and the more traditional sector is set to widen, partly because many of the European toy makers are family firms who are reluctant to re-locate to countries with a cheaper labour market.

"We have tried as much as possible to keep our production in Germany," said Maerklin boss Adams."So we raised our prices and now we find ourselves in a situation where the market no longer accepts them."

There must be an anti-Bush angle here somewhere. Let's see, Bush is a Christian....

Sunday, November 28, 2004

And the Greenspan Committee's Requires...?

The newspaper of record weighs in on Social Security with this headline:

Bush's Social Security Plan Is Said to Require Vast
Of course, the punchline to a very old joke, is again appropriate: "Compared to what?".

The Times reporter tells about half the story with statements such as:

The White House and Republicans in Congress are all but certain to embrace large-scale government borrowing to help finance President Bush's plan to create personal investment accounts in Social Security, according to administration officials, members of Congress and independent analysts.

The White House says it has made no decisions about how to pay for establishing the accounts....

A reasonable amount of borrowing now, the proponents say, would avert a much bigger financial obligation decades later.

And positively dances around the truth with such as:

In an effort to pressure the White House to acknowledge some of the financial trade-offs in its approach, Democratic leaders in Congress this week asked Mr. Bush to include in his next budget an accounting of the money that would be needed for his Social Security plan.

Only by including such figures in the budget, the Democrats said in a letter to Mr. Bush, "will Congress and the American people be able to weigh the difficult trade-offs between large-scale borrowing, Social Security benefit cuts, tax increases, and other spending reductions that may be required to fund your Social Security private accounts proposal. "

Therefore, the Fly Under the Bridge Academy offers-- to fill...part of the void, keeping their audience current on topics of specific interest-- this translation:

In a political calculation designed to brand the Bush Administration as mean to the elderly and kind to Wall Street, the Democrats in Congress put on a song and dance show to make Republicans the bearers of the bad news that has been coming due since 1983 when The Greenspan Committee on Social Security failed to put in place a plan that would have corrected the demographic imbalance that everyone knew was going to have to be dealt with.

In other words, to meet the promises made to the baby boom generation to return their increased payroll taxes to them, taxes have to be raised or those benefits have to be cut. Regardless of whether we set up a system of private accounts to fund future generations retirement.

The FLUBA wonders, do reporters at the NY Times charge by the word for the stories they write?

Zen and the Art of Blog Maintenance

Yet another fine whine from the Seattle Times cellar uncorked:

Technology helps connect us to friends and, on occasion, soul mates. It prevents phone tag. It sorts and recalls massive amounts of information, simplifies writing, and even aids those who want to mellow out by working from the boonies.

Yet, some who study this modern phenomenon say the speed and ubiquity cause problems for those who are either psychologically ill-equipped or ill-trained to face dogged expectations that come with the package. Some of us get obsessed, checking e-mails while on vacation or late at night. We will e-mail to avoid talking and expect prompt reply, or fire off text-messages or gab on cellphones not because we have something to say, but because we can. (What? Am I interrupting?) We get lost browsing and sinking down one rabbit hole after another, dodging pop-ups and never quite focusing. Some of us hang around chat rooms trusting people who often are not what they seem, and "flaming" — harshly criticizing — people we will never meet.

This is such a topic of study that it has sprouted a number of terms, from "online compulsive disorder" to "data smog." Two Harvard professors see evidence of what they call "pseudo-attention deficit disorder" — shorter attention spans influenced by technology and the constant waves of information washing over us. When the brain gets excited over some rapid data and is stimulated, it releases a "dopamine squirt," they say.

"We have so many options, reward centers that we never had before," says John Ratey, who teaches at Harvard and is a psychiatrist specializing in attention deficit disorder. "I think that's why we're seeing more of this. There are more demands on our attention and less training for us to stop and take it all in. We seem to be amazing ourselves to death."....

Fortunately, there is a humanitarian group working to alleviate this tragedy:

Blogs — personal Web sites where people share information, commentary and feelings — have filled part of the void, keeping their audience current on topics of specific interest.

Though even the silver lining has its clouds, it seems:

But... if all your information is tailored to what you want to know, you may miss that which you don't know you want to know, and should.

The FLUBA will now recess to just go and eat worms.

Friday, November 26, 2004

An Economy of Newmarks

Johnny Carson used to be fascinated by unusual collectives describing groups of animals. Such as; an exaltation of meadowlarks, a chattering of choughs, or a charm of finches (inevitably leading to a few made-up ones, such as the one describing another of his obsessions; a shaft of proctologists).

Which is our way of welcoming another Blogging Newmark to the fray. Katie makes a very important point about health care here:

The trouble with third-party payers is that if you aren't paying for something yourself, you will be less price-conscious. For example, you're more likely to order filet mignon when your company is picking up the tab than when you have to pay for it yourself. When you don't care about the price as much, you'll consume more of it--filet mignon every night!--and the increased demand will push prices higher. In addition, sellers will have less incentive to be efficient and keep prices low because you won't be shopping around for the best deals anymore. In short, third-party payers cause higher prices.

A point lost on a woman probably more than twice Katie's age:

Californians came oh-so-close to planting the flag of mandated health coverage on the U.S. mainland. Proposition 72 went down by a hair, despite a $9 million campaign to sink it. California's model was Hawaii, which requires employers to insure workers who put in at least 20 hours a week.

All eyes have now turned to the state of Washington. Lawmakers there are considering a bill that includes much of what was in Prop 72.

Older, but not wiser. Ms Harrop favors the approach:

What Prop 72 would have done is make California more competitive for the nice companies that cover their employees. The race-to-the-bottom mindset never considers the possibility that raising labor standards evens the playing field for companies that already take care of their workers.

Finally, there's the moral issue. When it comes to being a good corporate citizen, certain things are off the table. You don't wreck the environment. You don't ignore worker-safety laws. And you shouldn't be able to beggar your workers on benefits — especially if you're one of the richest companies on Earth.

But, as Katie knows, and Froma doesn't, even the richest companies are constrained by the need to charge prices that customers will voluntarily pay. Meaning that Wal-Mart is the nice company here.

So, We Really Can Know Why The Chicken Crossed The Road?

Markets in everything, said Marginal Revolution. Here's more proof:

It took an hour and a half and a mason jar to make a believer out of Pam Thurston.

The hour and a half was a session with Polly Klein, an Issaquah animal communicator who let Thurston in on what had been ailing her 11-year-old black Lab, Rio, three years ago.

The mason jar held a two-pound, noncancerous tumor that a veterinarian later pulled from Rio's leg. ....

"Everyone can talk with animals," she said. "It just comes more naturally to some people. I think that I'm one of the people that it comes naturally to."

Klein describes the communication as sending thoughts back and forth, kind of like a mental conversation. Sometimes she flashes a series of pictures to show the animal what she means, like envisioning the sun rising and setting to show the passing of time. Sometimes she makes her point through emotions, like showing a dog what it would look like if he were to get run over by a car.

Most of the time, the pet-to-owner problem is resolved through explanation: It would make your owner sad if you were to get hit by that car; that scratching is ruining the new chair.

Sometimes the animals blow her off — as in "Suuure, I'll stop doing that right away," Klein said.

They Appear To Have Had A Valid Point

Then again, they might want to make it constructive criticism next holiday:

WORCESTER, Mass. — A man was charged with stabbing two relatives after they allegedly criticized his table manners during Thanksgiving dinner.

Police said the fight broke out Thursday when Gonzalo Ocasio, 49, and his 18-year-old son, Gonzalo Jr., reprimanded Frank Palacious for picking at the turkey with his fingers, instead of slicing off pieces with a knife.

Palacious, 24, described by police only as an uncle, allegedly responded by stabbing them with a carving knife.

Go Ahead, Make My Fiat?

The problem seems, to the FLUBA, to be that Fiats aren't sold in the USA:

Milan, Italy - Can a "Top Gun" and a tight-lipped loner out of the Old West help rescue the fortunes of Italian carmaker Fiat on a "Mission Impossible" to learn English?

Fiat has indirectly enlisted Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise and Clint Eastwood to help lift itself out of a slump by by showing their films to improve its workers' English.

Part of the troubled Italian firm's rescue plan is to become more international so it's started showing films in English at lunchtime

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Not Only Stupid, It's Not Nice

Would any significant portion of sentient people want a system that requires currently productive people be "robbed" of a portion of what they produce, in order to give it to other people, simply because they are over a certain age?

One can only scratch one's head at hearing the argument that it's okay to continue with such a system, because, one day, our current victims will be allowed to victimize new generations of labor and capital. Such as happened recently at Angry Bear:

It is true that my Social Security retirement prefunding was spent but was it spent on me? Let's assume I'm a worker and you earn mostly capital income. My payroll contributions are being converted to TAXES so your tax rate can be lower. Yes, I have been robbed!

Amazingly, the author of the above--initials, pgl--claims to be an economist.

Moosic Award

Funny we never encowntered one in an elevator:

London - A farmer who plays soothing music to his cows is celebrating: their cheese has been crowned best in the world.

Simon Clapp puts it down to the easy-listening pop music he plays at his milking parlour, reports The Sun.

The 41-year-old reckons the tunes calm the cows. And judges at the World Cheese Awards at London's Olympia agreed when he won the Best Farmhouse Cheddar title.

Simon has 500 Holstein-Friesians at his Brue Valley Farm near Glastonbury, Somerset - producing hand-made cheese for Marks & Spencer.

We Give Thanks...For the Turkeys

Who never fail to supply material for us:

NEW YORK -- A woman who was sued by American Express over an alleged scam where she posed as a Saudi princess to steal thousands has countersued the company, saying she was mentally incompetent when she opened her account and the company should have known it.

The countersuit was filed by Antoinette Millard, 40, free on $100,000 bail and awaiting trial on attempted grand larceny charges for alleged scams carried out while she posed as a Saudi Arabian princess and a Victoria's Secret model. She was neither.

Millard, a former vice president at the Brown Brothers Harriman investment bank, countersued for $2 million in Manhattan's State Supreme Court after Amex obtained a court order of attachment freezing more than $951,000 of her assets for unpaid charges.

Millard's court papers say that to "induce" her to establish a Centurion account, the account through which Amex customers get the rare and envied Centurion "black" card, the company promised she could make flexible payments.
The court papers say the promise was "false and fraudulent" and "in truth and in fact (American Express) did not allow (Millard) to make flexible payments" on the account.

Millard, her lawsuit says, "was suffering from anorexia, depression, panic attacks, head tumors and by reason of such illnesses was mentally incompetent and unable of executing or making any agreement as alleged" in Amex's complaint.

American Express "knew or should have known that (Millard) was acting impulsively and and irrationally at the time she entered into contract," her court papers say.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Shoe...Other Foot...Dept. of

It seems that being threatened with a libel suit enhances one's credibility with a certain Berkeley professor:

Suffice to say that every criticism that Juan Cole has made of MEMRI has been more than doubly confirmed by this lawsuit threat.

Which would seem to mean that the American Enterprise Institute has a new fan:

The Question of CAIR

David Frum
November 23, 2004

Two weeks ago, the National Post and I were served with a notice of libel by the Canadian branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR. The Post and I are not alone. Over the past year, CAIR's Canadian and U.S. branches have served similar libel notices on half a dozen other individuals and organizations in the United States and Canada. Each case has its own particular facts, yet they are linked by a common theme: That we defendants have accused CAIR (in the words of the notice served on me) of being "an unscrupulous, Islamist, extremist sympathetic group in Canada supporting terrorism."

In Honor of Dan Rather

News on the forgery beat:

A new digital technique has been developed that can identify whether two works of art are by the same artist. It can help to reveal fakes, and even discern if an artist used talented students to help with the painting process.

While most forensic work requires a paint sample, the scientists behind the new technique do not even have to touch the masterpiece.

"We just walk around with a nice camera and take photos," says Hany Farid of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, US. A computer program then looks for statistical patterns in the digital image, based on the pressure, orientation or length of the brush stroke and the evenness of the paint.

When these characteristics are plotted in three-dimensions, the paintings of one artist will lie in a tight cluster of "signature" coordinates, while the oeuvre of another artist will cluster elsewhere on the plot. Comparing a suspected forgery with a genuine painting can therefore help identify it as authentic or fake.

Imitators beware

Farid and his colleagues digitally analysed a series of eight drawings by the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel and five drawings that are known to be imitations of his style. When they plotted the points from the drawings, the authentic points lay close together within a ball, while the fake points all lay outside of the ball.

The team also examined the Italian painter Pietro Perugino's Madonna with Child, painted around 1500. Many experts believe that Perugino's students, which included Raphael, contributed to the painting. The computer analysis shows that three of the six heads in the painting were probably the work of one artist, perhaps Perugino himself, while the other heads were painted by three different people.


More grist for the legal mill:

In a case that has puzzled immunologists, a man who received a liver transplant from a teenager who died of anaphylactic shock went on to develop a life-threatening nut allergy himself.

The 60-year-old man, who had no history of nut allergy, suffered an anaphylactic reaction to a cashew nut just 25 days after he received the liver transplant. The 15-year-old boy did have the allergy and had died after eating a peanut.

The man later suffered a second anaphylactic reaction after inadvertently eating food containing peanuts. Skin prick tests revealed that the man had developed sensitivity for peanuts, cashew nuts and sesame seeds. The doctors in Sydney, Australia, then found that the liver donor had had allergen-inducing antibodies, known as IgE, to the same three allergens.

However, when the doctors traced other people who received organ donations from the same teenager, they found no other cases where nut allergies had developed.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Meat of the Latest Class-Action Scam

No wonder the Dustin Hoffman character in The Graduate was advised, "plastics". He must have been thinking of law school, according to this article--which happens to be an excellent example of the lack of basic economic literacy in journalism:

In a lawsuit filed in Seattle today, the Fred Meyer supermarket chain is accused of cheating consumers in five Western states, including Washington, by charging for the weight of packaging materials when it sets prices for meat products.

To individual consumers, the alleged loss amounts to pennies on the dollar per purchase; collectively, it adds up to more than $1 million per year in wrongful charges, the lawsuit asserts.

The suit focuses on the "tare weight" of meat products. Tare weight refers to the cellophane, soakers and plastic trays used to package meat. By state law, tare weight cannot be included in the purchase price, meaning the weight on the label should reflect only the net weight of the meat.

That is economic illiteracy. The law is an ass, as Dickens once put it. Cellophane, soakers, and plastic trays weigh virtually nothing, and have a trivial impact on the price of the cut of meat.

The customer can see right through the package and judge the size of the portion he is thinking about buying. And the sizes of the other cuts that are competing for his grocery dollars. Shoppers are not legally entitled to any particular price.

They have the freedom to compare a package that says it sells for $7.96 to one that says $8.55. How the store arrived at that pricing is irrelevant. If one doesn't find a piece of meat that seems to be worth the asking price one is free to move on to the vegetable section.

Or to the supermarket across the street.

Which brings us to what is relevant; Fred Meyer (Kroger) has the lowest grocery prices of all the major chains except Wal-Mart. Obviously they know a thing or two about efficiency, and pass that on to their customers.

If these lawyers are successful, that will obviously mean Fred Meyer will have to adopt less efficient packaging and weighing practices, which will drive up their cost of offering a cut of meat for sale. Meaning consumers will pay more for each cut than they do now.

But the lawyers will be laughing all the way to their 4 star restaurant celebration:

The suit seeks to represent all consumers who have purchased meat products from Fred Meyer over a period of years yet to be determined. Lawyers said that after their fees and possible nominal payment to [the nominal plaintiff], any proceeds could be distributed to a food bank or to a homeless shelter, or turned into in-store coupons good for a discount on meat.

Ah, for the good old days when the law didn't consider trifles.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


Surrendering to blogworld, The Washington Post faces the brave new world:

The Post just wrapped up its annual self-evaluation meeting, an offsite event that includes top editors and executives from the paper's business side. This year's meeting focused on the paper's declining circulation -- now at 709,500 daily copies, down 10 percent over the past two years -- and the results of an extensive readership survey taken last summer.

In an effort to win new readers, [Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard] Downie said Post reporters will be required to write shorter stories. The paper's design and copy editors will be given more authority to make room for more photographs and graphics.

The paper will undergo a redesign to make it easier for readers to find stories. It is considering filling the left-hand column of the front page with keys to stories elsewhere in the paper and other information readers say they want from the paper, which they often consider "too often too dull," Downie said.

"Newspapers should be fun and it should be fun to work at one," [the Post's #3 editor Phillip] Bennett said.

I Never Lied. Ever. Not Even One Time, Peter.

Former President, and Nothin' But a Houndog, Bill Clinton is outraged:

And still, [there's] not any example of where I ever disgraced this country publicly. I made a terrible public-personal mistake, but I paid for it, many times over. And in spite of it all, you don't have any example where I ever lied to the American people about my job, where I ever let the American people down...

Let's take a walk down memory lane:

White House officials obtained FBI background material on Billy Dale seven months after he was ousted as head of the White House travel office, incorrectly asserting they were considering giving him access to the building.

The Clinton administration said it mistakenly sought the information in renewing White House passes. But Rep. William F. Clinger Jr. (R-Pa.), chairman of a House oversight panel that is looking into the travel office affair, suggested the White House was looking for negative information about Dale that might justify its controversial decision to fire him in May 1993.

....Clinger questioned whether the White House violated Dale's rights as a private citizen and lied to the FBI about why it wanted information on him. "We can't conjure up any legitimate reason why they would be requesting this information, except to find some material they could leak or float to build their sense that they did the right thing in firing Billy Dale," he said.

"I must assume that they wanted the FBI background checks to see if there was anything in Billy Dale's past that could be exploited for political advantage."

....The White House form, sent to the FBI on Dec. 20, 1993, asked for results of routine background investigations of Dale, who had worked at the White House for 32 years before he was fired and escorted from the White House complex seven months earlier. It said the information was needed because Dale was being considered for "access."

The top of the document says "To: FBI liaison, From Bernard W. Nussbaum." Nussbaum, who was then White House counsel, said in a statement yesterday he had "absolutely no knowledge of any request being made by anyone in the White House to the FBI for any report concerning Billy Dale."

"I made no such request. Nor did I authorize anyone to make such a request. Nor did I ever see any FBI reports concerning Billy Dale," Nussbaum said.

The FBI gave the White House 11 letters and 11 memos it had compiled on Dale. According to evidence presented at Dale's criminal trial, FBI background interviews with neighbors and acquaintances turned up nothing negative.

....The firing of Dale and his colleagues in the early months of the administration spawned enormous controversy. The first Whitewater independent counsel, Robert B. Fiske Jr., found the furor over the firings was a factor in the suicide of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster in July 1993.

The White House was accused of pushing out veteran workers to make way for friends of the Clintons, and of bringing in the FBI to trump up criminal charges to justify their actions. Dale was tried and acquitted of charges he embezzled money from the travel office.

Zounds, Outfoxed Again

The Fly Under the Bridge Academy fancies itself a connoisseur of good intentions gone awry. Today's example is from Scotland:

THE ban on hunting with dogs in Scotland has resulted in a doubling of the number of foxes killed, it emerged last night.

New figures obtained by Scotland on Sunday show that large numbers of foxes are now being shot by hunters, and dozens of the animals continue to be legally killed by hounds. Scotland biggest hunt, the Buccleuch, killed an average of 50 foxes a season prior to the ban. Figures produced by the huntsmen themselves show that for 2003-04, it alone killed more than 100.

....The Scottish ruling, enforced in 2002, banned hunts from using packs of hounds to kill foxes, with MSPs claiming that such a "barbaric" act could no longer be tolerated in a modern Scotland. It still allows hunts to use their dogs to ‘flush’ the animals out into the open, so that waiting guns can shoot them. Hounds still kill those foxes which are not fast enough to out-run them.

Instead of protecting foxes the law appears to have had the effect of creating several new ways of killings foxes, which has led to record figures for the main Scottish hunts. Weak foxes are being killed as before by hounds, while those that escape are being killed by guns.

Furthermore, prior to the ban, a fox was deemed to have ‘won’ if it managed to get underground before being chased down by the hounds. Hunts now, however, send terriers in after the fox and then shoot it when it emerges overground.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Transition Cost of Beginning to Think...

Being too high, the usual suspects continue to make utter morons of themselves over Social Security reform. Beginning with their exalted leader J Bradford Delong:

Bush won't spell out how to cover transition costs for new private accounts...

Even when it is spelled out for them by helpful bystanders:

For the umpteenth time, there ARE NO TRANSITION costs for private accounts.
There are the costs of paying the benefits promised to millions of Americans who will soon be retiring. That is true whether or not we move to a private or semi-private system.

(and, yes, they have had it explained to them many times previously by members of the FLUBA and visiting scholars of that august institution)

Reaction to that spelling out being:

Thanks for clearing this up. ... there are no transition costs, rather there are simply the costs of paying promised benefits if we move from the current plan to a private or semi-private system. They aren't transition costs, they are the costs of moving to ta new system. Don't you see the difference?

...I suspect you just haven't had enough coffee this morning


We'll never get past the "why oh why" problem as long as there is a willingness to believe (in ALL CAPS) that you can ignore an increased fiscal demand in the amount of $1-$2 trillion over an extended period simply by insisting that the wrong name is being used to describe the shortfall.


Oh. There are only costs for setting up private Social Security accounts if we decide to pay promised benefits to the baby boom generation. If we let the baby boomers go wanting, there is no problem with affording private accounts. We don't have no transition costs nohow, unless those selfish hipsters who have been paying more than would be needed for Social Security for a generation ask for what is owed. I understand.


What!!! no free lunch!!! Oh God What about the tooth fairy? There is a tooth fairy isn't there? Please


Let's imagine there is no transition. Look no transition costs!

And others too lengthy to share here.

The Academy will spell it out in more detail (and watch with continued amusement the high caliber intellects that read Berkeley economist's blog resist the idea that 2 + 2 = 4):

The government of the United States has promised--but, is not legally obligated--to pay benefits to people who are currently working and paying SS taxes. Those benefits are based on a formula that ties them to the amount of taxes paid.

That is a cost that exists. Period. There is no transition cost that we would incur only if we ended the current system and started a new one. Beyond the trivial, one time, clerical costs, that is.

We have to decide how to meet the already existing cost (which is approximately $ 11 trillion). Essentially by raising taxes or cutting back the promised benefits. It's a sunk cost, and should have no part in the decision to change to a private, or semi-private SS system.

Btw, those who decry "tax cuts for the rich" should favor moving to a system of private accounts immediately. Because the burden of paying the promised benefits would be transferred to income taxes. Meaning they would hit high income earners harder.

Much harder, as the bottom 50% of earners pay only about 4% of income taxes.

Not rocket science. But it might as well be for some people.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I'm Not A Racist. I've Had Holes In My Head.

The Fly Under the Bridge Academy is certainly willing to accept Bob Beckel's claim for the holes, after last night's performance in which he managed to complain that a skinny little white girl was trying to bully him. Presumably by letting him continually talk over her attempts to answer questions put to her by Alan Colmes and Sean Hannity.

Even long time Academy members experienced with the tradition of Democrat operatives wallowing in their self-esteem and patronizing everyone they believe can't get along without their guidance, were amazed at the cluelessness Beckel exhibited. The lowlight probably being his:

Ann [Coulter] you, are taking some of the most incredibly important symbols to us, God, race, and what you’re doing, and what [Pat] Robertson--I’ll say this not about you but about Robertson--he is a con man, and he has prostituted himself. He does not know the Scriptures and he has abandoned his love for the Lord Jesus Christ to love secular things.

Bad enough that he continually went off on tangents while supposedly there to speak of Condi--superstars have only one name, e.g. Ichiro--and her qualifications for Sec'y of State. But one would think a man with Beckel's past might want to avoid, like the plague, one word in the above quoted diatribe.

I'll Be Down To Get You In a Taxi, Honey...

Be ready by half past eight...

Give or take twenty minutes (thanks to Russell Roberts of Cafe Hayek):

The Montgomery County Council plans to vote today on regulations aimed at upgrading taxi service in the county, long a target of customer complaints about late pickups, rude drivers and excessive fares.

If approved, the legislation would require cab companies to pick up customers within 20 minutes of receiving a call for service. Customers who prearrange service could be picked up no more than 10 minutes later than the time they requested. Fines could be issued if a certain percentage of customers was not picked up on time.

Odd, that McDonalds manages to open its restaurants on time. And Nordstrom its department stores.

Wonder what could account for Montgomery County taxi companies not meeting their customers' expectations. Read on:

The planned vote comes nearly a year after County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) proposed major revisions to the county's taxicab code to address mounting customer complaints.

Since then, a council committee has softened parts of Duncan's initial plan. But the amended version is still heralded by community activists as a significant step forward.

"It is going to lead to more accountability and increased competition," said Mark Fraley, executive director of Action in Montgomery, which for two years has been urging greater scrutiny of the industry.

Hmm. In most industries with which the FLUBA is acquainted, entrepreneurs seeing shoddy goods and services being offered, take that as a sign of opportunity. To enter and take business away with better products. What could be going on here that requires "community activists" to reform existing businesses. Let's read on:

A major component of the legislation is designed to loosen the grip of Barwood Inc. on the county's taxi market. The company is owned by Lee Barnes, a Duncan campaign contributor...

[Tulloch and Buchannan, call your offices]

...and a member of the county board that regulates the industry.


He holds -- directly or through affiliates -- 434 of the 580 taxi licenses in Montgomery. During the past decade, the county has received hundreds of complaints about service.

Although he proposed the tougher regulations, Duncan has allowed Barnes to exert considerable influence over the panel that oversees the industry. He has appointed Barnes to three of his five consecutive three-year terms on the Taxi Services Advisory Committee. ....

Last December, Duncan proposed fostering competition by adding 320 licenses to lure another major company into the county. His idea was rejected by cab operators, who said too many new licenses would cripple the industry by reducing the value of existing licenses.

"Cripple the industry"? Not; improve it for taxi riders by encouraging competition?

We guess not:

Over the past six months, County Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), chairman of the Transportation and Environment Committee, has reworked Duncan's proposal. Under the amended version of the bill, up to 70 additional licenses could be issued next year. The number of licenses could then increase 10 percent every two years, reaching a maximum of 878 by 2011.

The Academy notes the phrases: "could be issued" and "could then increase". Rather than: "will be issued" and "will then increase".

And this is a nice touch:

Lawrence A. Shulman, an attorney for the Coalition for a Competitive Taxicab Industry, a group made up of Barwood and the smaller companies that operate in the county, said he is generally pleased with the legislation. But Shulman is lobbying the council to change the 10- and 20-minute time standards, which he says are unreasonable.

Iow, we like the part about keeping new competitors out....

We wouldn't a return to the bad old days:

In the early 1990s, the county received about 20 complaints about service annually, a number that grew to 189 by 2000. In the fiscal year that ended in June, the county received 161 complaints, 85 percent of which were directed at Barwood. The company was responsible for 96 percent of the complaints for late pickups, according to the taxicab unit.

Fox. Henhouse.

Expect A Surge In Pocket Protector Ads

Every man a scholar:

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc. plans to announce today that it is adding a new search service aimed at scientists and academic researchers.

Google Scholar, which was scheduled to go online last night, is a result of the company's collaboration with a number of scientific and academic publishers and is intended as a first stop for researchers looking for scholarly literature like peer-reviewed papers, books, abstracts and technical reports.


The new Google service, which includes a listing of scientific citations as well as ways to find materials at libraries that are not online, will not initially include the text advertisements that are shown on standard pages for Google search results.

However, company executives say it is likely that advertisements will eventually accompany search results on Google Scholar. One academic publishing executive, John Sack, director of HighWire Press at Stanford University, said that such advertising could be quite profitable.

"The commercial reason for doing this is that you can target areas with high-quality, high-payback ads," Sack said. "An advertisement that goes next to an article on cloning techniques is probably going to be for services that are pretty expensive."


Google Scholar will make the world's scientific literature universally accessible, he said.
"We don't know where the next breakthrough will come from," he said. "We want everyone to be able to stand on the shoulders of giants."

Another Failure Of Democrats To Stuff The Ballot Box Fully

A valiant try by Washington state Democrats to conjure up every vote they could has fallen just short of electing a Democrat governor:

Republican Dino Rossi, whose call for a change of leadership in Olympia struck a chord with voters, yesterday came out on top of Washington's closest-ever race for governor.

When the vote count finally wrapped up last night, more than two weeks after Election Day, Rossi's margin was a mere 261 votes over Democratic Attorney General Christine Gregoire, triggering a mandatory statewide recount that begins this weekend.

Of the more than 2.8 million votes tallied, Rossi won 1,371,414 (48.88 percent) compared to 1,371,153 (48.87 percent) for Gregoire.

....After trailing most of last week, Gregoire surged ahead on Monday after King County discovered it had 10,000 more uncounted ballots than previously projected.

Rossi and the Republicans got more bad news on Tuesday, when Grays Harbor County officials found some errors in their vote tabulation and decided to recount all the county's ballots. Rossi lost hundreds of votes in the recount.

Still, Rossi regained the lead and, heading into yesterday's final count, was ahead by 19 votes.

....Rossi's lead grew steadily to more than 400 votes by late afternoon.

But Gregoire jumped back ahead by about 40 votes after King County, her biggest stronghold, reported its final count of nearly 1,400.


But the lead flipped two more times later that afternoon.

Just before 6:30, a loud cheer went up at Rossi headquarters in Bellevue as a call came in from Benton County, the last to report its results. Rossi hugged his wife and hoisted his youngest daughter in his arms as volunteers and campaign workers high-fived one another, joking that they'd worked about 230 votes too hard.


The race was also a big factor in generating one of the highest voter turnouts on record. After yesterday's final tally, the statewide turnout stood at 82.13 percent — not far off the all-time record of 84.5 percent in 1944.

Rossi wound up winning 31 of 39 counties. He won every county east of the Cascades and beat Gregoire in several key Western Washington counties, including Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap and Clark.

That's known as a broad victory, for any Semi-Daily Journal suspects who might wander in here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Blue State Democrats Steal Retirement Investment of Elderly School Teacher

Yes, you read that correctly. As Seattle Times columnist Bruce Ramsey explains:

Edwina Johnson is 71 and working as a substitute teacher in the Seattle Schools. She has no private pension. Her retirement nest egg is a half-interest in 30 acres at Preston, on the south side of I-90 — land that on Jan. 1 will become subject to King County's new Critical Areas Ordinances, under which 65 percent of it must remain undisturbed.

The property has two streams, each so small they run only in the spring. Under the ordinance, the land around these streams is to remain undisturbed.

Among environmental believers, the litany is that such sacrifices are in the public good, and that the heathens who resist them are motivated by "greed." But every piece of property is owned, most often by someone who worked for it. Johnson bought hers in 1977 at a moment of prosperity. She has been taking care of it, and paying taxes on it, ever since.

"They're taking my property for the benefit of the state," she says. "This is my retirement investment. I can't start over again. This is it."


If you have five acres or less, the county wants to make a nature preserve of half of your land; if you have 7.5 acres or more, it wants 65 percent. If you have a stream or a pond, it wants the land around that. If you already cleared your land, you're OK.

"All the people who developed their property are not affected by this," says Johnson, "but I, who kept my property in pristine condition, bear the whole weight of it."

What King County is trying to do, said attorney Sandy Mackie of Perkins Coie, at a speech Monday to Law Seminars International, is to compel the protection of habitat "to the maximum extent permissible under the Constitution" without having to pay the people who own it.
The political motivation for this did not come from the rural area. The three rural representatives on the County Council — Republicans Kathy Lambert, David Irons and Steve Hammond — voted against it, as did the three suburban Republicans. Rural people, says Hammond, "see this as imposed on them by a foreign government" — the county government based in deep-blue Seattle and dominated by urban Democrats.

There is a cultural divide.

A divide the Fly Under the Bridge Academy finds itself on the short end. Situated as it is on 26 acres in semi-rural southeast King County, Washington.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Strong Woman Frightens Berkeley Economist

Though he can't find the imagination to actually say why. Apparently that George W. Bush likes her is reason enough:

Is there anybody who believes that the Senate should advice and consent to the nomination of Condi Rice to be Secretary of State?

Not in the circles you travel in, the FLUBA reckons. However, the guy who won the election obviously does think so.

Now we can sit back and wait to see if Senate Democrats are going to commit suicide by publicly harrassing a strong, intelligent, accomplished black woman, who looks like a million dollar in the bargain, as they did Clarence Thomas.

Bad Vibe Award

They can't all just get along in a Blue State:

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A fight broke out near the stage at the Vibe awards ceremony as rapper Snoop Dogg and producer Quincy Jones were preparing to honor Dr. Dre., and one person was stabbed, authorities and witnesses said.

Dozens of people sitting near the stage Monday inside a hangar at the Santa Monica airport began shoving each other as the show wound down about 7:30 p.m. News video showed chairs being thrown, punches flying, people chasing one another and some being restrained.
It was unclear if the stabbing preceded or followed the fight. The victim, a 26-year-old man, was taken to a hospital and was listed in stable condition.

No arrests were made.

Witness Frank Williams said Dr. Dre was involved in the brawl.

"I saw Dr. Dre fighting somebody," Williams told KCAL-TV. "I don't know if he was fighting back. But there was a guy taken out basically bloodied."

The Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed associate of Dr. Dre, said the melee broke out as the acclaimed hip-hop producer was sitting at a front-row table waiting to receive the Vibe Legend Award. A man walked up to Dr. Dre's table and punched him, and Dr. Dre's bodyguards went after the man, the associate said.

Dr. Dre, who was scheduled to receive a the award for his lifetime contributions to hip-hop, had not come on stage yet when the fight erupted. Jones and Snoop Dogg stood on stage without saying anything.

"My understanding is that it was somewhat chaotic in there," police Lt. Frank Fabrega said in a press conference following the fight.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ah, For The Good Ol' Days

When demonstrators weren't the wimps they are today:

San Jose turned into the real blockbuster. Very tough demonstrators shouting "1-2-3-4-etc." on the way into auditorium. Tried to storm the doors after we were in, and then really hit the motorcade on the way out. We wanted some confrontation and there were no hecklers in the hall, so we stalled departure a little so they could zero in outside, and they sure did. Before getting in car, P[resident Nixon] stood up and gave the V signs, which made them mad. They threw rocks, flags, candles, etc. as we drove out, after a terrifying flying wedge of cops opened up the road. Rock hit my car, driver hit brakes, car stalled, car behind hit us, rather scary as rocks were flying, etc., but we caught up and all got out. Bus windows smashed, etc. Made a huge incident and we worked hard to crank it up, should make really major story and might be effective.

No fair, cries the Professor:

"wanted some confrontation." "no hecklers in the hall, "stalled departure... so they could zero in outside," "rather scary... a huge incident and we worked hard to crank it up, should make really major story and might be effective." Afterwards Haldeman and Nixon are happy because they had successfully taunted the demonstrators into violence and led them into rock-throwing in order to cast Nixon in a sympathetic role.

"led them into rock throwing"!

I'm thinking they're happy because the rock throwers are on the other side.

Yet Another Plan For Social Security Reform

The always interesting David Warsh points to a Fortune article by Phillip Longman:

The idea starts with the creation of Early Retirement Accounts. Individuals could put one-sixth of the money they and their employers currently pay to Social Security into 401(k)-like accounts, which they could use to finance retirement beginning at age 62. How would Social Security make up for the loss of revenue? Monthly Social Security benefits would remain what they are today, but the age at which future retirees qualified for them would be delayed. Today you can qualify for early, reduced benefits at age 62; that age would gradually increase to 68. The retirement age for full benefits would be pushed back from 65 to 72.


In the event that you're physically unable to work, you could still collect Social Security's Disability Insurance benefits, which would not have to be cut, as they would under most privatization plans. Also, there would be no need to bother with annuities. People would be using their personal accounts to finance only a fixed number of years before they reached eligibility for Social Security benefits.

There are other advantages. For example, the early retirement account might actually persuade people to work longer. Research shows that people with 401(k)s tend to delay retirement. Why? Because the money's theirs. If they don't spend it, they can live higher on the hog later. Also, under this plan, people who continue to work until age 65 wouldn't be sacrificing Social Security benefits as they often do today; instead they would be building up credits for bigger benefits in the future.

Because of Social Security's long-term insolvency, taxes will be raised and benefits cut, one way or another. This plan preserves a valuable government-issued insurance policy against advanced old age--the program's original purpose. But it also allows people who want to retire early a good chance (though not a guarantee) of being able to do so. Given polls showing that more young people believe in UFOs than believe they will ever collect Social Security, that's not a bad political bargain.

Now, is there a Democrat out there smart enough to take the above and run with it?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Elevator Doesn't Go All The Way To The Top

Kevin Drum says:

In the high tech world, we like to say that if you can't explain what your company does in the space of an elevator ride, something is wrong. And while I can rattle off the "elevator" version of what Republicans stand for without even thinking about it ("lower taxes, family values, smaller government, and a kick-ass military"), I sure can't do the same for Democrats.

How hard is this: Higher taxes, non-family values, larger government, and a kinder, gentler, more sensitive military?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Counting Our Blessings

With less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, another Stranger columnist gets into the spirit:

You're feeling sick? Listen, I understand. You're feeling defeated, gullible, furious, disheartened, weirdly betrayed, completely baffled, slightly homicidal, and absolutely thrilled you don't live in Nebraska? I'm so with you. Go see Shaun of the Dead before it closes this week. Take your mind off things, take some friends along, and if getting stoned is something you like to do, get stoned first. We live in a city with dozens of movie theaters and a lot of quality marijuana, where the chances that anyone you know voted for Bush are less than one in five, and where--thanks to an initiative passed last year (god bless this city)--prosecuting people who use marijuana (to dull the pain of defeat, to loosen up about the impending loss of constitutional liberties, to better enjoy zombie movies) is law enforcement's lowest priority.

Once you've had your dose of escapism--once you've seen Shaun of the Dead--steel your resolve, ignore your despair, and get back out into the city. We might not feel like we live in a country we can be proud of, but goddamn it we live in a city where a theater company called Defibrillator Productions is staging a flawed but spectacularly designed adaptation of Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, in which the din of Pioneer Square is cleverly used as a stand-in for the din of St. Petersburg, and shredded office documents double as St. Petersburg snow, and one actor spends a lot of time in his underwear.

We live in a city where you can take a trip down Fourth Avenue South to the art space Western Bridge to stand--as I did the other night, after seeing Notes from Underground--inside Carsten Höller's "Neon Circle," a structure of flashing white-fluorescent tubes that looks a little like the discarded shell of a carnival ride dropped into the middle of the room. We live in a city where you can eat a delicious taco dinner on a bus in Rainier Valley--a short drive over the freeway from Western Bridge--for two bucks.

Those Red State rubes don't appreciate the good life.

Stranger Than Fiction

Gay sex columnist Dan Savage advises those with the Blues:

We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They--rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs--are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers.

This lengthy article even has a political platform. It sounds a lot like surrender:

To red-state voters, to the rural voters, residents of small, dying towns, and soulless sprawling exburbs, we say this: Fuck off. Your issues are no longer our issues. We're going to battle our bleeding-heart instincts and ignore pangs of misplaced empathy. We will no longer concern ourselves with a health care crisis that disproportionately impacts rural areas. Instead we will work toward winning health care one blue state at a time.

When it comes to the environment, our new policy is this: Let the heartland live with the consequences of handing the national government to the rape-and-pillage party. The only time urbanists should concern themselves with the environment is when we are impacted--directly, not spiritually (the depressing awareness that there is no unspoiled wilderness out there doesn't count). Air pollution, for instance: We should be aggressive. If coal is to be burned, it has to be burned as cleanly as possible so as not to foul the air we all have to breathe. But if West Virginia wants to elect politicians who allow mining companies to lop off the tops off mountains and dump the waste into valleys and streams, thus causing floods that destroy the homes of the yokels who vote for those politicians, it no longer matters to us. Fuck the mountains in West Virginia--send us the power generated by cleanly burned coal, you rubes, and be sure to wear lifejackets to bed.

Wal-Mart is a rapacious corporation that pays sub-poverty-level wages, offers health benefits to its employees that are so expensive few can afford them, and destroys small towns and rural jobs. Liberals in big cities who have never seen the inside of a Wal-Mart spend a lot of time worrying about the impact Wal-Mart is having on the heartland. No more. We will do what we can to keep Wal-Mart out of our cities and, if at all possible, out of our states. We will pass laws mandating a living wage for full-time work, upping the minimum wage for part-time work, and requiring large corporations to either offer health benefits or pay into state- or city-run funds to provide health care for uninsured workers. That will reform Wal-Mart in our blue cities and states or, better yet, keep Wal-Mart out entirely. And when we see something on the front page of the national section of the New York Times about the damage Wal-Mart is doing to the heartland, we will turn the page. Wal-Mart is not an urban issue.

Neither is gun control. Our new position: We'll fight to keep guns off the streets of our cities, but the more guns lying around out there in the heartland, the better. Most cities have strong gun-control laws--laws that are, of course, undermined by the fact that our cities aren't walled. Yet. But why should liberals in cities fund organizations that attempt, to take one example, to get trigger locks onto the handguns of NRA members out there in red states? If red-state dads aren't concerned enough about their own children to put trigger locks on their own guns, it's not our problem. If a kid in a red state finds his daddy's handgun and blows his head off, we'll feel terrible (we're like that), but we'll try to look on the bright side: At least he won't grow up to vote like his dad.

Speaking of kids not growing up, it seems elementary arithmetic isn't being taught in city schools:

We won't concern ourselves if red states restrict choice. We'll just make sure that abortion remains safe and legal in the cities where we live, and the states we control, and when your daughter or sister or mother dies in a botched abortion, we'll try not to feel too awful about it.

We believe that in the last four years Red States took seven Electoral College votes away from Blue. Wouldn't the above policy exacerbate that? And maybe he might want to think about--in light of W's 60 million votes--these numbers a little harder:

With all the talk of the growth of exurbs and the hand-wringing over facile demographic categories like "security moms," you may be under the impression that an urban politics wouldn't speak to many people. But according to the 2000 Census, 226 million people reside inside metropolitan areas--a number that positively dwarfs the 55 million people who live outside metro areas. The 85 million people who live in strictly defined central city limits also outnumber those rural relics. When the number of city-dwellers in the United States is quadruple the number of rural people, we can put simple democratic majorities to work for our ideals.

And this:

...we are for contentiousness, discourse, and the heightened understanding of life that grows from having to accommodate opposing viewpoints.

By retreating into our cocoons. Hmm.

Blue State Blue Nose

From Seattle, we have a candidate for recruitment by the Moral Majority:

So what would Kerry have inherited, had he won the election, apart from that little problem over in Iraq? He would have been in charge of a country that spends more on pornography than on all professional sports combined. He would oversee a population that is two-thirds overweight, burdened with huge amounts of consumer debt and more and more depressed, perhaps because of the underlying American philosophy of spending money we don't have on things we don't need trying to impress people we don't know.

Of course, now, if you are ugly enough or fat enough, you can get not only on prime-time television and win big money, you can get someone else to "fix" your problem for free. Which seems only to reinforce the very ideals that cause the overweight and depressed state of America: beauty, money and status are the only worthwhile goals.

Here is strategy that Kerry and his not-quite-legion of followers could have tried: eliminate tobacco and alcohol.

I know, I know, the tax revenue shortfall would be large. But the money saved by eliminating about half the health problems in the America could translate into billions of dollars taxpayers could spend on something else: like education and roads and police and parks. And then we could move on to gambling and pornography.

Somehow, we doubt that that would rally the base.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Father Bill Knows Best

Paula Zahn had an interview with someone who could probably explain the Michael Moore-Paul Krugman axis of juvenility in politics:

NEW YORK -- Bill Cosby says the opinions he's expressed in his controversial prodding of fellow blacks are consistent with what he's done as an entertainer for more than 40 years.

In several forums this year, the 67-year-old Cosby has criticized some black children for not knowing how to read or write, said some had squandered opportunities the civil rights movement gave them and unfairly blame whites for problems such as teen pregnancy and high dropout rates.


In the 1980s, "The Cosby Show" came out of seeing so many sitcoms with children smarter than their parents. It seemed many comedy writers had bad relationships with their parents and were trying to retaliate, he said. He wanted to depict parents as strong role models.


And of his critics, Cosby said: "Let them stay mad."

Psst, I've Got a Beating. And You Can Dance To It.

Non-rocket scientists in Oregon sell the rope with which they can be hanged:

JUNCTION CITY - Teens who recorded themselves beating a smaller boy during a schoolyard fight decided afterward to set the images to music and sell the recording to high school students, a police detective said Thursday.

"We do not have testimony from anyone that would indicate there was a plan to film a fight and produce it," Junction City police detective Michael McClellan said in a written statement.

The homemade DVD depicts an Oct. 21 assault on a male Junction City High School student by two other boys, neither of whom attend the school.

The video shows one boy punching the student in the face. The film then cuts to the other boy chasing the student down, punching him in the head and body, and slamming his head into a car window as a crowd watches, police said.

A soundtrack of rap music with violent lyrics accompanies the images.

A 17-year-old boy suspected of participating in the assault and the recording has been arrested on a charge of felony third-degree assault. Police said the investigation is ongoing and witnesses are still being interviewed.

Rumors about the existence of the recording were confirmed when school resource officer Corey Mertz obtained a copy from a student. He and a school official traced it to a teen who had three other copies in his backpack, which he was offering to sell for $5 each.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Will Entertain For Dollars

Henry Blodget lets the cat out of the bag with: The financial media's undisclosed conflict of interest:

The sad truth is that sound investment policy is boring. Diversify, reduce costs, aim to earn the market rate of return—even Stephen King would have trouble telling stories about that. But for the financial media to survive—at least the financial media devoted to helping you "profit" from reading/watching/listening—they have to suggest, over and over again, that there are exciting new places to put your money or dangerous places to remove it from. ....They have to keep you watching, listening, and reading, or else they—not you, they—will go bankrupt.

Unfortunately, the underlying message of such commentary—Do something!—is often hazardous. Once you have gotten the investing basics right, you should do almost nothing. Every time you make a change, you incur costs—transaction costs, tax costs, psychological costs, and opportunity costs. You also, in many cases, decrease your odds of success. The least predictable investment decisions are those focused on the short term (months and years). The most predictable, meanwhile, are those focused on the long term (decades). To the media, of course, the long term is death. How often will you pay or tune in to be told that you shouldn't do anything, that nothing has changed? Answer? Never.

So the media must find other ways to keep you entertained.

Which has implications for all the hysterical claims about the dangers of privatizing Social Security that one can read also. For non-hysteria, we could go here and here. No, really.

A Modest Country

With much to be modest about.

The top [three] Greatest Canadians in alphabetical order, as nominated by you.

Frederick Banting
He’s known as the man who discovered insulin, bringing new hope to diabetics the world over. Frederick Banting’s groundbreaking research in the early 1920s brought him worldwide acclaim and earned him a lifetime annuity from the federal government, a knighthood in the British crown and Canada’s first ever Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Alexander Graham Bell
History was made when the first words were transmitted via telegraph on March 10, 1876, “Mr. Watson, come here, I need you.” After patenting the invention and staging a demonstration of the telephone at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Bell went on to form the Bell Telephone Company in 1877.

Don Cherry
Starting out as a hockey player, then a successful NHL coach, Don Cherry soon found his niche on the television screen. Outspoken, outrageous and at times outlandish – Cherry has been called many things during his 24 years with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, but he’s never been accused of being at a loss for words.