Monday, January 31, 2005

Not Being Max Sawicky...

...pleases James Lileks immensely:

I’m very glad I’m not so aslosh with solipsistic hatred that any success in Iraq makes me trot out a cynical riposte so the rest of my buddies on Olympus will nod in wry assent.

Stuff like this, he means:

There is evidently a mass amnesia in light of the fact that the U.S. was not a real democracy until voting rights were achieved in the American South, not so very long ago. Of course, the exterminated indigenous peoples of the Americas will never have a vote. This makes some of their descendants bitter and given to rash statements. The moral response is to reflect on the roots of such bitterness. Meanwhile, the spectacle of recently enfranchised minorities and immigrants exercising their right to vote is met with warnings of fraud.

The amnesia carries over into present, with the triumphalists doing their best to degrade our political culture by seeking to marginalize and stigmatize critics of imperial policy, even mild ones, with baseless, McCarthyite accusations of treason.

This is what fascists do. They have no standing as advocates of democracy.

What about Iraq? This is an occupied country under martial law, where lawless and anti-government forces hold significant sway. Saddam is on ice, but Sunni/Ba'athism flourishes, to violent effect. It has also become a terrorist incubator, thanks to the proliferation of American targets. Anti-American terrorism has only become possible with American occupation. In this dimension, the Occupation is its own justification.

To the extent anyone is in charge, it is the U.S. Administration. The idea that some kind of process of self-government is moving forward is a joke. ....

Conditional democracy and half-baked sovereignty are what we're talking about. Both for Iraqis and for U.S. citizens. Democratic procedures, like voting, can be authentic or ceremonial. Ceremonies can be meaningful, but in the case of Iraq, the ceremony is simply disatrous testament to the groundless vanity of an unfit president.

As self-parody, that's perfect pitch.

Dumb and Dumber

Amongst the other spectacular inanities spouted by Paul Krugman's, Brad DeLong's, and Michael Moore's pick to be the leader of the free world, on Meet the Press yesterday, was this admission of treason:

SEN. KERRY: I still have the hat that he gave me, and I hope the guy would come out of the woodwork and say, "I'm the guy who went up with John Kerry. We delivered weapons to the Khmer Rouge on the coastline of Cambodia."

He wants to be Commander in Chief, but he can't even keep straight whose side he was on in Vietnam!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

'We'd Be No Worse Off Than the Europeans'...

...who are now forcing young women into prostitution, thanks to their high levels of social spending:

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.

The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.

...."There is now nothing in the law to stop women from being sent into the sex industry," said Merchthild Garweg, a lawyer from Hamburg who specialises in such cases. "The new regulations say that working in the sex industry is not immoral any more, and so jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to benefits."

Miss Garweg said that women who had worked in call centres had been offered jobs on telephone sex lines. At one job centre in the city of Gotha, a 23-year-old woman was told that she had to attend an interview as a "nude model", and should report back on the meeting. Employers in the sex industry can also advertise in job centres, a move that came into force this month. A job centre that refuses to accept the advertisement can be sued.

Such is the future that Max Sawicky thinks we should be okay with.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Misunderestimating Don't-Call-Him-Fritz

Hayek that is. Not surprisingly we have a mis-use of knowledge in liberal economist bloggerdom:

The claim "I deserve my income," as applied to an individual's pretax income in free market economies, has considerable intuitive force.... But... Hayek explained why free market prices cannot, and should not, track claims of individual moral desert....

Those who actually know their Hayek see through this sophistry immediately, and ask: "Deserve my income, compared to whom?".

And to that, Hayek answers; we can't possibly come up with an answer that undermines the claim of the individual to his own income. Because, as humans, we must be ignorant of the myriad details that went into the earning of that income:

The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. The economic problem of society is thus not merely a problem of how to allocate "given" resources—if "given" is taken to mean given to a single mind which deliberately solves the problem set by these "data." It is rather a problem of how to secure the best use of resources known to any of the members of society, for ends whose relative importance only these individuals know. Or, to put it briefly, it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality.

The FLUBA Committee on Chutzpah, says: Not Even Close to a Cigar, Fellas.

It's Friday

And on cue, the once respected economist who is determined to see nothing left of his reputation, says:

It's true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years - but that doesn't mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years' worth of Social Security benefits. Blacks' low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood.

Which is--You guessed!--not exactly truthful. A black male who is today 20 years of age, can expect to live to between 70 and 71 years of age. While a comparable white male can expect to live to 76. So, while it is true that a young black has a higher likelihood of dying in his teens (or younger) that's not the only disadvantaged age group for blacks.

Which means that George W. Bush was telling the truth this week. And guess who isn't?

Further, those who are twenty years old today, are not eligible to retire with full Social Security benefits--thanks to the 1983 benefit cuts that postponed SS's involvency for approximately 35 years--until their 67th birthday. That is, they face, on average, 47 years of paying into SS at 12.4% of their incomes, but an expectancy of only three years of collecting benefits.

And a much greater chance of not living to age 67 at all, than comparable white males.

Finally, if the Axis of Ostrich gets its wish, and Bush's SS reforms go nowhere, the most likely result will be--in the not too distant future when the Baby Boomers start to retire--that Congress will choose to deal with the impending revenue shortfall by raising the age limit for full benefits even higher.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Beginning To See The Light...In Seattle

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat admits he was wrong to say you can't install democracy at the barrel of a gun in Iraq:

Because there democracy is, poking up amid the rubble and the gun-toting Marines on the eve of Iraq's first national election in decades.

Listen to Reyal Sindi, a Sunni Kurd who now lives in Kent. Everyone he knows in his north Iraq hometown of Zakho plans to vote this weekend.

"I talk to them and they say they are hungry for democracy," Sindi said.
Same with the father, six siblings and various in-laws of Burien's Muhamed Qatrani, a Shiite from the southern Iraq city of Basra.

"Everyone will vote, because we have all been waiting for this day for ... for forever," Qatrani said.

Or Seattle's Yahya Al-Garib, raised in Zubayr, southern Iraq, where his father, three sisters, four brothers and all his cousins and in-laws are ready to vote.

"This is our dream, that after this weekend Iraq will be a democracy," he said.

All three of these men, still Iraqi citizens, drove 20 hours each way to Los Angeles last weekend to register. They'll repeat the trip, starting tomorrow, to cast their ballots.

....talking with them melted some of my skepticism about the future, even amid news that parts of Iraq are so violent people are scared to go to the polls.

....the fact that Iraq is holding an election at all — that millions who were oppressed are now free to vote — is cause for unabashed celebration.

By all of us. Including those who think it was a mistake to go there in the first place.

Something W Understands...

...that is lost on the likes of the Kevin Drums and Scott Rosenbergs of the blogworld, is that we're in a very serious war and that we had no choice but to take it up. They might be coming to appreciate that in the Netherlands too:

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — The man accused of killing filmmaker Theo van Gogh dreamed of replacing the Dutch government with an Islamic theocracy and was supported by a network of like-minded fanatics, prosecutors said yesterday at the first public hearing in his case.

The suspect, Amsterdam native Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, was not at the pretrial hearing, but his lawyer said Bouyeri wants to "be held accountable for his actions" and sees them as part of a religious war.

The new details underscore concerns over homegrown radicals in the Netherlands after the Nov. 2 killing of Van Gogh, who offended many Muslims with his film "Submission," which criticized the treatment of women under Islam.

"The murder made it clear that terrorism, inspired by an extreme interpretation of Islam, is a reality in our country," prosecutor Frits van Straelen said.

"From the beginning there were signs that the murder did not come out of the brain of just this suspect, but that there was an organization behind it," he said.

Bouyeri faces charges of murder and 12 others face separate charges for allegedly plotting to kill politicians and belonging to a terrorist group known as the "Hofstad" network, which prosecutors said provided support for the slaying.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Not Keeping Up With The Halls...

Could be costly if you've got luxury apartments to rent in New York City:

AFTER an extraordinary court fight including three bankruptcy filings, five eviction orders and $87,000 in back rent, Peter Hall, a former professional football player who is a financial consultant, has moved out of the $5,500-a-month triplex apartment he rented in a brownstone on West 90th Street - but not before skirmishing with his next landlord.

On Jan. 11, Mr. Hall, his wife, three children, two dogs and several birds packed up their belongings and moved on to a $9,500-a-month rental apartment with river views, bringing an end to a 15-month legal conflict with his landlady, Berryl Fox, a psychologist, who lived in the two lower floors of the brownstone, near Riverside Drive.

During their eviction battle, Dr. Fox learned that Mr. Hall and his wife, Anne Torselius Hall, had a long history in housing court, including prior eviction proceedings at high-rent apartments and multiple bankruptcy filings that automatically delayed eviction orders.

....Officials at Goodstein Management, the management company that runs the building and rented the apartment to the Halls, declined to discuss the case and would not explain how they missed the Halls' troubled rental history.

But after the lease was signed and after an initial account of the Halls' rental troubles appeared in The New York Times last month, the building's owner, William G. Montgomery, sued the Halls in Housing Court seeking to evict them even before they moved in. Court papers filled in some missing details.

The suit, filed on Dec. 30, indicated that the apartment was not rented directly by the Halls. It was rented in the name of a private trust used by Mr. Hall, the Gramercy International Investment Trust. At a hearing several days later, the Halls, the trust and Mr. Montgomery filed a settlement agreement. Under the deal, the Halls agreed to waive many of their rights to fight evictions in housing or bankruptcy courts, and to pay a $57,000 deposit, a $9,500 rent check and $2,100 in renovation costs. In exchange, they were allowed to move in under a two-year lease.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fox is still trying to collect the back rent that the Housing Court ordered the Halls to pay.

All In The Family

Kirkland, Washington, home to the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, sees a little violence off the field too:

The fatal shooting of a Kirkland man and his mother's arrest in an alleged murder-for-hire plot last weekend had nothing to do with each other, police said yesterday.

But together, police said, they made up the latest sad chapter in a family with a history of running afoul of the law.

"It's unfortunate coincidence," said Kirkland police Lt. Gene Markle.

Nicholas Coan, 28, was shot Friday night by his 27-year-old girlfriend during the latest of the couple's many arguments, police and witnesses said. The girlfriend was apparently angry that Coan had brought home a .40-caliber pistol and hadn't told her where he had been.

So, police said, Coan cocked the pistol and handed it to her. She took it and fired, perhaps not knowing it was loaded, police and court documents say.

Coan "looked at me and said, 'I can't believe she shot me,' " said Coan's roommate, Mathew Mitchell, who called 911 and used a towel to try to stop the bleeding.

Meanwhile, Coan's mother, Elizabeth Coan, 45, was arrested Sunday in a separate case and charged yesterday with solicitation of first-degree murder, solicitation of first-degree assault and solicitation of malicious placement of an explosive. She was also charged with two counts of solicitation of witness tampering, a gross misdemeanor.

According to King County prosecutors, Elizabeth Coan had asked Nicholas Coan to arrange the killing or intimidation of five witnesses in her pending identity-theft case.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No One Left To Insult

Perhaps Paul Krugman will soon emulate Alexander, and weep, now that there are no more rivals to conquer:

Alan Greenspan is expected to retire next year. The Bush administration, because of its nature, will have a hard time finding a successor.

....If Mr. Greenspan is replaced with someone who looks like a partisan hack, capital will rush to the exits, the dollar will plunge, and interest rates will soar.

Yet President Bush, as you may have noticed, only appoints yes-men....

Of course, Mr. Greenspan himself has become a Bush yes-man.

Er, then shouldn't interest rates be soaring already?

...the presumed front-runner to succeed Mr. Greenspan was Martin Feldstein of Harvard. ....a former crusader for fiscal responsibility who became an apologist for budget deficits once Mr. Bush took office.

....Glenn Hubbard of Columbia.... everything in his policy career suggests that when the party really got going, he would say: "More punch? Yes, sir, whatever you want."

The last name one often hears is Ben Bernanke, currently a member of the Fed's Board of Governors. ....

I hope I'm wrong, but my guess is that what's intended for Mr. Bernanke is a form of hazing: he will be expected to prove his loyalty by defending the indefensible and saying things he knows aren't true.

That might seem a tolerable price to pay for the Fed chairmanship - but a year of it might well make Mr. Bernanke damaged goods from the point of view of the markets.

Oh. Wait. There's still the co-author of his forthcoming textbook....

A Tax on Urinals in Oregon?

Even in the Blue States the 'T' word is a problem:

SALEM - Straightforward talk about raising Oregonians' taxes is hopelessly out of fashion in 2005.

Public service and education advocates aren't giving up on the subject, though. They're just avoiding the joint appearance of the words "tax" and "increase" when they string sentences together at the Capitol.

Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, is hoping to bring in more money through the excise on beer. But he understands the necessity of steering the proposal around the stated opposition of House Speaker Karen Minnis and Gov. Ted Kulongoski to tax increases.

So don't expect Morrisette to call it an increase in the beer tax.

"It's not a tax. It's a fee. The `alcohol recovery fee,' " said Morrisette....

"If You Miss the 'A' Train"

You won't be alone for a long time, thanks to a homeless person trying to stay warm.

The disruptions of subway service, and dislocations for hundreds of thousands of commuters, caused by a devastating electrical fire under Church Street will probably last for years to come, officials said yesterday.

The fire, which raged from early Sunday afternoon into the evening, short-circuited wiring in a crucial signal-relay control room at the station at Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan.

Officials are investigating the fire as an act of arson. It started after a homeless man ignited a shopping cart containing wood and garbage, according to a press report.

....transit officials warned that service on the A and C lines may be disrupted for three to five years and cost millions of dollars in repairs.

Transit officials said service on the A line will be slashed by more than half for the next couple of weeks while repairs are made to the signal room. Until signal transmission can be completely restored, the A train will be the only line to service the station and may not return to full service for up to a year, leaving hundreds of thousands of commuters in East New York and Ocean Hill-Brownsville to cram into crowded trains.

Not as Billy Strayhorn meant it, but You'll find you... miss... the quickest way to Harlem.

Another Reagan Crime Uncovered

He traumatized the MIT tiddlywinks community:

There's more to tiddlywinks than flipping small discs into a little pot. There's a complex lexicon (to "nurdle" is to "shoot a wink too close to the pot to be pottable or otherwise useful"), 31 categories of official rules, a journal ("Winking World") and newsletter ("Newswink") and lively trans-Atlantic competition between the Brits and the Yanks, their two countries the last still containing avid winkers.

One of those is Larry Kahn, widely regarded as one of the best in the world. The mantelpiece in the rec room of his Vienna, Va., home holds 44 tiddlywinks trophies. He was world champion in 2001, and featured in Sports Illustrated in 1995.

....Serious tournaments began at Cambridge University in England in 1955. The U.S. game coalesced at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1960s and '70s.
Most of today's active players are MIT graduates of the 1970s....

Kahn frets over the outlook for the sport. MIT, once the American bastion of tiddlywinks, no longer has a club. Several dozen Americans participate in tournaments, instead of several hundred decades ago.

"I blame (President) Reagan," Kahn said. "The kids then got worried about getting jobs and stopped being frivolous. Then they got into computer games."

Monday, January 24, 2005

Winning One for the Whopper

The FLUBA Committee on Been There, Done That, takes note of some high profile evidence that confirms a theory of an entrepreneur of our acquaintance. That anyone so stupid as to waste four years and tens of thousands of dollars attaining a college degree, will be of no use to him in his business:

Imagine, a 9-on-9 made for television battle royale to decide whether a college education is worth it. This is a question all of us (especially those paying college loans) desperately want answered.

Here is the bottom line: If episode one's result is any indicator, it is time to put education on the back burner. In the contest to sell a specialty burger for Burger King, the high schoolers soundly defeated the college team.

For his poor leadership, the college grad team leader, 34-year-old University of Miami alum Todd, got the Trump-A-Dump. He was sent from the suite to the street for two failures: an awfully bad burger promotion, and training too few cashiers to serve the mealtime rush. Lucky for us, the way he was grilled and eaten for lunch by the diploma-challenged team, Todd and his educated group gave us plenty of lessons to use in our own workplaces and on our own jobs.

Mr. Trump set the stage by dividing the nine women and nine men into two groups: those with a college degree, and those without. ....

Episode one featured the two teams running separate Manhattan Burger King stores for a day. The winner was the team who sold the most of a featured burger, which each team picked from a group of the fast food chain's new product line. Winning team Net-Worth, headed by technology entrepreneur John, chose the western angus burger and used a cowboy theme and free trip for two to Las Vegas to outsell Magna by 182 burgers to 139.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be college grads?

Economics Major Poised To Again Rule...

...the NFL. As he did last year too:

For Belichick, an Economy of Thought

Richard Miller, the [Wesleyan] economics professor, still gets handwritten notes from Belichick, and when he watches games, he wears the Patriots hat that Belichick sent him.

Twice last semester, Miller said he thought of Belichick and his Wesleyan background. The first moment came when Belichick cut the popular All-Pro safety Lawyer Milloy.

The move shocked much of New England, but Miller understood.

"It was simple cost-benefit analysis," Miller said. "He learned that in economics."

Soon after, Miller was lecturing 100 freshman in an Introductory Economics 101 class and mentioned how his former student, Belichick, used economics to stay under the salary cap.
After class, a young Andover graduate approached Miller and introduced herself as Amanda.
"Bill," she said, "is my dad."

After the above article was written, Belichick's New England Patriots defeated Carolina in the Super--Wardrobe Malfunction--Bowl, and this years team is favored to repeat.

Whistling In The Dark of Washington State's Election

A day after the revelation--in a competing Seattle newspaper--that 129 felons had cast illegal ballots in King (Seattle) and Pierce (Tacoma) counties, the Seattle PI offers its version of Konstitutional Law by Dummies:

Allegations of dead voters and election fraud elicit gasps from outraged voters and pundits, but they won't really matter in the legal challenge to the Washington governor's election.

As legal arguments unfolded in court last week, it became clear the case will turn instead on a close reading of the state constitution. Who has jurisdiction over election challenges -- the courts or the Legislature? What is an "illegal vote"? What kind of proof does the constitution require to nullify an election?

Which is merely the latest Dem Talking Point. The state Constitution clearly gives the legislature the authority to legislate the procedures to be followed in contesting an election--and it has spelled out in statutes that it is the courts that are to hear the evidence in such contests, and that the courts shall rule.

Pretty clearly the Democrats in the state know they will lose that court challenge, and are enlisting their allies in the media to obfuscate the constitutional issues:

Republican Dino Rossi challenged Gregoire's 129-vote victory in the closest, most drawn-out, craziest election Washington state has ever seen. Rossi, a real estate agent and former state senator, won the original count by 261 votes -- an apparent underdog victory against Gregoire, a three-term attorney general. A machine recount whittled his lead to 42. Finally, a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots made Gregoire the winner Dec. 23.

Republicans contend that election workers' errors, especially in the Democratic stronghold of King County, irrevocably tainted the results by allowing illegal votes to be counted.

Democrats argue that while mistakes were made, the hand recount was accurate and Gregoire is the legitimate governor.

Before the case even gets to questions about illegal votes, however, Democrats hope to get it dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.

Democrats argue the election challenge should go to the Legislature, not the courts.

Hope? They should be praying they can find an illiterate judge to so rule, because that's not the law.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

For Larry's Reading List

Harvard's Larry Summers might want to peruse--or, not touch with a ten-foot pole--this from James Tooley. And, when he's finished, pass it on to his favorite female biologist. Consider this from a review:

Tooley, British professor of education, takes to task the U.S and British educational systems for succumbing to feminists in the last 30 years and misdirecting young women into early careers instead of marriage and motherhood. The result is what he calls the "Bridget Jones syndrome," young women suddenly realizing they're squandering their prime opportunities to marry and reproduce. Refuting educational policy in the U.S and Britain that promotes gender equality, Tooley argues that boys and girls are different and should be counseled differently on life and career choices.

Fun for the whole Harvard family.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Peggy, Meet Abe

Peggy Noonan says she was awakened in the middle of the night, by a false fire alarm at her hotel in Washington D.C., prior to the inauguration. It shows:

The president's speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. ....God was invoked relentlessly. "The Author of Liberty." "God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind . . . the longing of the soul."

It seemed a document produced by a White House on a mission. The United States, the speech said, has put the world on notice: Good governments that are just to their people are our friends, and those that are not are, essentially, not. We know the way: democracy. The president told every nondemocratic government in the world to shape up. ....

"It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world."

Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth.

Now, how about we take a look at another President's second inaugural address during a war:

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

.... Both [sides] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has His own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.' If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

The victory of Lincoln's side led to the near eradication of slavery in the world--standing alongside the forces released by William Wilberforce and the British abolitionists.

We're now fighting people who invoke God to bless the beheading of innocent civilians for their cause. Surely more strange than anything Lincoln observed. What's wrong with George W. Bush having the same vision of right and wrong as Abraham Lincoln?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Where Are They Now?

Didn't Doug Brinkley claim he was a Republican:

On a Thursday in which President Bush took office for four more years, critics at the University of Oregon promised change, supporters at a Republican breakfast in Eugene savored victory and Americans, in general, proved similarly divided.

A day of anti-Bush speeches on campus ended with a march to the Federal Building downtown, where speaker Jim Rassmann, a Vietnam veteran from Florence and prominent supporter of Sen. John Kerry's presidential bid, blasted Bush for the decision to attack Iraq.

"Bush's second term will be defined by the war in Iraq and it will be his legacy," Rassmann told a crowd that an organizer estimated at 500-plus and police put around 200. "He will be remembered for a war that, at worst, he initiated in a lie and, at best, in gross incompetence."

The Paper Was a Lot Better When It Printed Letters On the Front Page, Too

This morning's Times of London openly mocks George W. Bush's inaugural speech with:

His second-term mission: to end tyranny on Earth

The transformation of George W. Bush to solemn champion of an urgent, messianic mission to transform the world is complete

Sadly, there was a time when the Brits were made of better stuff:

In 1873 the British Navy compelled Sultan BARGASH to abolish slave trade).

The British have long played a role as advisers to the Sultan of Zanzibar. In 1877, Sultan Bargash, in communication with the Germans, refused a British protectorate; in 1880, Germany's chancellor Bismarck rejected a request by the Sultan of Zanzibar for a German protectorate.

In 1886, Britain and Germany, both interested in the acquisition of colonies, agreed on partitioning the mainland territories of the Sultanate, ostensibly to suppress the slave trade the Sultan had nominally abolished and was unable to suppress, technically while respecting the Sultan's sovereignty.

Britain would receive British East Africa (Kenya), while Germany would receive German East Africa (Tanzania).

Irony Dead? Not Quite Yet

A man drawing a paycheck from the New York Times ought to not go here:

But high returns always get competed away, once people know about them: stocks are no longer cheap. Today, the value of a typical company's stock is more than 20 times its profits. The more you pay for an asset, the lower the rate of return you can expect to earn. That's why even Jeremy Siegel, whose "Stocks for the Long Run" is often cited by those who favor stocks over bonds, has conceded that "returns on stocks over bonds won't be as large as in the past."

But a very high return on stocks over bonds is essential in privatization schemes; otherwise private accounts created with borrowed money won't earn enough to compensate for their risks. And if we take into account realistic estimates of the fees that mutual funds will charge - remember, in Britain those fees reduce workers' nest eggs by 20 to 30 percent - privatization turns into a lose-lose proposition.

Sometimes I do find myself puzzled: why don't privatizers understand that their schemes rest on the peculiar belief that there is a giant free lunch there for the taking? But then I remember what Upton Sinclair wrote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Showing not a clue that the relevant comparison is between the positive returns available to properly diversified investment portfolios versus the guaranteed negative return for future Social Security benefits. Is the paycheck from the Op-ed page larger than the one from Princeton?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Larry sez: 'Don't You Ladies Worry Your Pretty Lil Heads Over This'...

Because the menfolk can do all the thinking about math aptitudes, for themselves, if that's the way you like it:

"I deeply regret the impact of my comments and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully," Summers said in a letter to the Harvard community posted on his Web site and dated Wednesday. "I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women."

But they're cute when they're angry.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Don't Be a Potato Head?

The bad boys always get the girls...and now it gets worse:

Los Angeles - Toymaker Hasbro is revealing the dark side of one of the best-loved toys in modern history.

To coincide with the launch of the next Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith, it is introducing Darth Tater, a new model of its popular Mr Potato Head toy, which is based on the image of Darth Vader, the ultimate Star Wars villain.

Posted by Hello

We Said What About Martha? Perish the Thought!

According to the government's reply to Martha Stewart's appeal brief, apparently no one ever said she'd done anything wrong in selling her ImClone stock on December 27, 2001.

Walter Dellinger has them for lunch:

The Government now suggests that its allegations [regarding insider trading, made numerous times to the jury] could be understood to mean only that Stewart feared “harm to her reputation” from disclosure of a legal stock sale. ... But that is not what the Government told the District Court,... or—more importantly—the jury. Instead, it argued that Stewart “cheated investors” by trading on a “secret tip.”

Similarly, the government is now trying to disavow the testimony from its own witnesses at the trial. Specifically that of its star, stockbroker assistant Doug Fanuell, who said to the court that he'd committed a crime by telling Martha Stewart what another client (Sam Waksal) was doing and he lied to cover that up.

Remarkably, the trial judge did not allow Martha's defense lawyers to contest that assertion, because she wasn't being accused of illegal insider trading. Nor did she explain to the jury that it was not a case of insider trading, as--very clearly, in a post verdict press conference--one juror said he thought it was.

The government is now also claiming that the perjurious testimony of its ink expert was no big deal. Why exactly isn't made clear. Something to the effect, it seems, that since his office was in another federal building from the one occupied by the prosecution, he shouldn't count as part of the government's case.

Nor that the four other Secret Service agents (who knew the ink expert had committed perjury) were either! One of whom only knew the expert had lied because he attended the same meetings as the prosecutors themselves.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

'M' Is For The Many Lies You Told Us....

Col (retired) William Campenni takes Dick Thornburgh to the woodshed:

...we will take just one of these famous memos and prove it to be a fake. ....

The selected memo is that dated May 4, 1972, wherein the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian orders 1st Lt. Bush to report for a flight physical not later than May 14. This memo is the most expository of the memo forgeries for several reasons. First, while the other five memos may be considered Mr. Killian's memos to self, and thus personal musings never intended for distribution, this particular memo is posited as a direct order to 1st Lt. Bush, mailed to his (wrong) home address.

It was used obsessively by CBS and Bush opponents in the campaign as evidence of his refusal to obey a direct order. If any criminal or civil liabilities for fraud or forgery of government documents obtain, they would be most applicable to this document.

.... how do I prove this memo is a fake? Easy — for the weekend that 1st Lt. Bush was supposedly ordered to report for his physical, May 13-14, 1972, the Ellington Air Guard Base was closed. It was Mother's Day. Except for emergencies, Air Guard units never drilled on Mother's Day; the divorce lawyers would be waiting at the gate.

If George Bush showed up at the clinic that weekend, he would have had to get the key from the gate guard.

The drill weekend for May 1972 was the following weekend, May 20-21. A survey of the pay and flight records of several of the Texas Air Guard members of that period shows no activity for May 13-14, but drill pay vouchers and flights for May 20-21. Guard flight physicals were normally conducted on the drill weekends, because that is the only time all the required clinic personnel were on hand to complete lab work and flight surgeon consultations mandated for aircrew. Does anyone think that Jerry Killian, squadron commander and one of the drill-schedule planners would not know on May 4 that the clinic was closed the next weekend?

Campenni--who flew with then Lt Bush out of Ellington AFB--told this to the panel investigating memogate. He was ignored:

While CBS, in its rush to judgment, might have missed this fatal flaw in the Burkett memo, its investigative law firm, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP, cannot be excused.

Why? Because one of their investigating lawyers was informed of this fact on Nov. 15 and given a list of seven witnesses who worked in the same offices with Jerry Killian every day in 1972. (Disclosure statement: I was the source.) The panel report makes no mention of this, and a canvass of most of the witness list reveals no contact attempt by Kirkpatrick & Lockhart.

CBS paid Kirkpatrick & Lockhart big bucks for this report. As brilliantly explained by Tony Blankley ("Damage Control at Black Rock," his Jan.12 column), if Kirkpatrick & Lockhart's aim was an attorney's protection of its client, intentional ignorance was a good strategy.

Apparently Col Campenni was not given more space by the Washington Times, so he doesn't mention that thereare other indications this memo is a fake. For instance, that a pilot's flight physical wasn't due until the end of the month of his birth--for Bush that would have been July 31st--which is why Lt Bush wasn't suspended for failing to take a physical in May. He was suspended from flying status on August 1, 1972.

Further, the very same Jerry Killian signed a glowing annual fitness report for Lt Bush later in the Month of May that year. Odd that it failed to mention that Lt Bush had just failed to comply with a direct order.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Grade Not, That Ye Not Be Graded...

And look like a fool.

Political Scientist James Joyner flunks a 17 year old Kuwaiti student at a California Community College for not to responding to the question.

I must say, I'd have given the exam a failing grade, too. It is an incredibly poorly written, error-ridden, pabulum-filled, essay that essentially ignores the question put forth by the instructor.

Said question being:

Dye and Zeigler contend that the constitution of the United States was not “ordained and established” by “the people” as we have so often been led to believe. They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who representative of powerful economic and political interests. Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest.

Joyner tells us:

The assignment is to give examples from the text of the Constitution supporting the Dye-Zeigler thesis, not refute it by talking about how the Constitution has evolved over time.

The FLUBA Committee on Examples of Poor Reading Comprehension has this to say about that: No, it isn't that.

It clearly says: Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation...

We repeat, with emphasis: its formulation. Meaning, show how the results of its formula for government: excluded majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest.

It says nothing at all about examples, it asks for analysis of its formula's results. Which is exactly what the young man did in his answer. Except he disagreed with the premise of the question (ahem, he showed an ability to think for himself, rather than regurgitate pabulum). The student instructed his instructor that the results of the formula demonstrated the falsity of the textbook's theory.

What Prof. Joyner (and several of the commenters to the post) are grading the young man on, is his attitude; he likes America. That's what got him in trouble with his instructor, and that's what is driving his grade in Joyner's blog:

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Life Imitates Textbook Economics

Dress by the Toronto:

SCARBOROUGH, Ontario — Amid a worldwide glut of U.S. used clothes, Toronto businessmen like Farokh Gahadali have carved out a profitable niche.

He and dozens of other immigrant entrepreneurs buy tens of millions of pounds of used clothing from the United States for less than 20 cents a pound, sort the garments in industrial parks around Toronto, then ship the items for resale in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The clothes are sorted into as many as 400 categories — by garment type, fiber and quality — to reap the most profit. Polyester dresses are shipped to Pakistan, baby clothes and cotton trousers to the Congo, winter coats to Albania and jeans to Japan.

"You could write a book about the used-clothing industry" in Toronto, said Gahadali, an executive with H. Salb International. "There's a whole infrastructure living off this business," from sorters to truckers to accountants to used-clothing brokers.

The FLUBA Shadow Russell Roberts Committee agrees. In fact such a book was first written over 180 years ago, and this newspaper article is an excellent real life example of David Ricardo's theory of Comparative Advantage. For instance:

In one of the widening ripples of the new global economy in clothing, Toronto has come to dominate the North American sorting industry.

At the same time, it has driven out of business up to 40 percent of the U.S. firms that once did the same thing. Thousands of American jobs have been lost.

....The business..."has shifted to where the companies have advantages in labor."

Today that's Canada; tomorrow it could be somewhere else.

How Toronto became the North American center of the used-clothing industry is partly a story of how this dynamic Canadian city has transformed itself in the past two decades.

Of the Toronto area's 5 million people, about 45 percent are immigrants — one of the highest percentages of any major city in the world, according to Canadian officials.

Canadian authorities began to loosen immigration laws in the 1970s as birth rates among native Canadians declined and fears arose of an eventual labor shortage....

Millions from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean poured into Canada's cities, providing the entrepreneurial energy, the abundant low-wage labor and, maybe most important, the contacts in the developing world to run clothing-sorting businesses, experts say.

....According to U.S. government trade figures, used-clothing exports to Canada soared more than 613 percent over the past decade to 190 million pounds in 2003 as Americans — enjoying plummeting prices on new imported clothes — bought ever more quantities.

But, before the Perotistas, Pat Buchananites, and denizens of the comments section of Semi Daily Journal protest too much:

....Ironically, many Toronto sorters now think their days are numbered because of a weak U.S. dollar and a stronger Canadian one.

Because their global-clothing transactions are in U.S. dollars, their sales revenue translates into fewer and fewer Canadian dollars to pay their business expenses at home. Last March, the Toronto sorters got $1.40 Canadian for each U.S. dollar. By late November, they were getting only $1.17.

Toronto sorters have two choices: Increase the volume of sorted clothing to earn more revenue, or close down.

The 71-year-old owner of Cantex, a clothing sorter in Scarborough, said it's likely his company will close for six months this year as he waits "to see what happens" to the U.S. dollar.

Others may do the same. "Right now people are barely hanging on," Gahadali said. "This is not a good time for Canadian sorters."

Meanwhile, sorters in the Houston area are expanding. They don't have the currency problem — and they have access to cheaper Mexican labor.

Friday, January 14, 2005

All Dressed Up In A Sweater...

...With no place to show? That might be Dan Rather's fate:

As much as he would like to recover from the blows his reputation has suffered recently, Dan Rather may not have a chance to work very long on the program that he expected would be his next professional address.

The future of CBS's "60 Minutes Wednesday" - the program that broadcast Mr. Rather's report, now discredited, about President Bush's National Guard record - is in doubt, both the top CBS executive and the program's new executive producer acknowledged yesterday.

Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS and co-president of the network's parent company, Viacom, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Rather was expected to continue his career at CBS on the Wednesday edition of "60 Minutes" after he steps down as the network's primary anchor in March. But Mr. Moonves added the phrase, "provided the show continues."

Maybe he can get Howard Dean--if he becomes DNC chairman--to pay him to put on his pajamas and blog for the team:

Howard Dean's presidential campaign hired two Internet political "bloggers" as consultants so that they would say positive things about the former governor's campaign in their online journals, according to a former high-profile Dean aide.

....The partisan Democratic political bloggers who were hired by the Dean campaign were Jerome Armstrong, who publishes the blog MyDD, and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, who publishes DailyKos.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Yer Mother Wears Army Boots

Indiana University economist Eric Rasmusen takes note of the level of discourse on some blogs:

What surprised me, though, was the number of vulgar, thoughtless, and partisan liberal comments [Political Animal] attracts. ....

I haven't done a comparison. I wonder if conservative blogs with open comments attract just as many mindless, low-quality readers?

As it happens we don't have to look far for those 'conservative' blogs with comments sections, because Max Sawicky--himself having just as high a percentage of low-quality commenters as Kevin Drum--listed them recently:

If you want smart conservative economic commentary, there are Andrew Samwick, Dan Drezner, Arnold Kling, ... Kevin Brancato, Dead Parrot Society, Steve Verdon, ... and David Altig, .... TomMcGuire

We can judge for ourselves

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Max Sez: "Is Too Worth a Dime"

Max Sawicky heaps praise on this really astute political analysis of the situation Social Security is in:

The facts: The Social Security system cannot go "bankrupt," for it has no creditors. By law, the trustees will continue to pay reduced benefits even if the trust fund is exhausted. Payroll taxes will continue to come in and benefits will continue to be paid.

According to the trustees' intermediate economic forecast (neither doom nor boom), the trust fund will be able to pay about 73 percent of scheduled benefits in 2042 and about 68 percent of scheduled benefits in 2078.

....The facts: Social Security says younger people will see a lot more than a dime.

But nothing like what they will have paid into the system in taxes.

As Dick Vitale might put it: He ain't a closer, baby.

Would the Last Reporter to Leave the Party, Please Turn Off the Lights

Howard Fineman--while getting the details wrong--faces up to what's ahead for himself and his colleagues:

A political party is dying before our eyes — and I don't mean the Democrats. I'm talking about the "mainstream media," which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush's Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox's canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards.

....The crusades of Vietnam and Watergate seemed like a good idea at the time, even a noble one, not only to the press but perhaps to a majority of Americans. The problem was that, once the AMMP declared its existence by taking sides, there was no going back. A party was born.

It was not accident that the birth coincided with an identity crisis in the Democratic Party. The ideological energy of the New Deal had faded; Vietnam and various social revolutions of the ’60s were tearing it apart. Into the vacuum came the AMMP, which became the new forum for choosing Democratic candidates. A "reform" movement opened up the nominating process, taking it out of the smoke-filled backrooms and onto television and into the newsrooms. The key to winning the nomination and, occasionally, the presidency, became expertise at riding the media wave. McGovern did it, Gary Hart almost did (until he fell off his surfboard); Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton rode it all the way.

Fineman correctly notes that Republicans like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush could get elected by ignoring the mainstream media, and thus:

...the last thing the AMMP needed was to aim wildly at the president — and not only miss, but be seen as having a political motivation in attacking in the first place. Were Dan Rather and Mary Mapes after the truth or victory when they broadcast their egregiously sloppy story about Bush's National Guard Service? The moment it made air it began to fall apart, and eventually was shredded by factions within the AMMP itself, conservative national outlets and by the new opposition party that is emerging: The Blogger Nation. It's hard to know now who, if anyone, in the "media" has any credibility.

And, as Walter Cronkite would say, that's the way it is.

The Academy's Committee on Taking It Like a Man, offers both its congratulations and its condolences.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Memo to Hillary

If you've lost Froma--and you have--you've lost the health care issue:

How strange that enriching trial lawyers has become a liberal cause. ....

Democrats are not great at seeing the cultural implications. The medical-malpractice crisis takes a toll beyond economics. It is socially corrosive. There's something morally wrong with making doctors the fall guys for medical tragedies they have no control over.

Doctors in my community — some the most progressive people I know — are tearing their hair out over exploding medical-malpractice premiums. They see the Democratic Party throwing them to the wolves.

....What are public-spirited Democrats to do about Republican-sponsored medical-malpractice reforms? They should go along, after making some changes.

....Democrats should put on their glasses. This game of suing doctors is real ugly. And defending it deprives them of the moral high ground on health care. Democrats ought to let medical-malpractice reform pass and get on with their lives.

Next? That Kevin Drum has given up the ghost of the Bush was Awol story.

So? Who's Counting Anyway?

King County Democrats, of course:

Oops — never mind.

Three days after King County election officials explained most of a controversial discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and voters known to have voted, the gap has grown again.
After whittling the discrepancy from 3,539 votes to 1,217 last week, officials yesterday said they had made a mistake.

The number of votes now unaccounted for is "somewhere around 1,800," county Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens said yesterday.

....Republicans asked Chelan County Superior Court on Friday to set aside the election results, saying the number of "mystery votes" in King County was larger than Democrat Christine Gregoire's 129-vote lead statewide over Republican Dino Rossi in the manual recount.

Rossi won the initial machine count by 261 votes and a machine recount by 42 votes.

Huennekens said the larger number of unaccounted-for votes should not shake people's confidence in the outcome of an election that he said was still "99.9x" percent accurate.

Right, the admitted inaccuracy of about 15 times the victory margin is no reason to doubt that victory margin. That's the ticket.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Dan? Heck, We Don't Expect Him to Understand What He's Given to Read.

After all, they only pay Dan Rather $7 million a year, why would he bear any responsibility for the fiasco?

After releasing a 224-page report submitted to him by the independent panel, Leslie Moonves, co-president and co-chief operating officer of Viacom, the network's parent company, announced today that he had fired Mary Mapes, the longtime CBS producer who had prepared the segment.

Mr. Moonves also announced that he was demanding the resignations of three CBS News executives who had overseen the segment. They are Betsy West, a senior vice president and a top deputy to Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News; Josh Howard, who had become executive producer of the Wednesday edition of "60 Minutes" only weeks before it broadcast the disputed segment; and Mary Murphy, his deputy.

It's Why We Give Them Bullets for their M-16s, Fellas

The lefties are now complaining that the Pentagon is about to use the Salvador Option. Otherwise known as seeking and destroying the enemy. Apparently it hasn't penetrated the gray matter of the--We've been assured over and over that they are--intelligent left that an army is a death squad.

Which makes it all the more hilarious that Kevin Drum can say in all seriousness:

Why have Democrats had such a hard time winning elections lately? Maybe part of the answer is lousy campaign consultants.

Right, Kevin. It wouldn't have anything to do with your suicidal belief system. Just as when the doctor has you put one of your legs over the other, and taps your knee with the little rubber hammer, we see the entirely expected:

In other words, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to terrorize the Sunni population ourselves. This may actually be true. In fact, I fear that it is true. But true or not, it's unthinkable that we're seriously considering this kind of barbarism as official policy.

Which is to say, we should surrender Iraq to the barbarians.

The American people don't trust people whose reaction is thus, with national security. For very good reasons. They want grown-ups for that.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Cocaine. The Economics.

Thanks to Tim Worstall for a link to this article by a documentary film maker who bothered to find out the scary details of the war against drugs. Conclusion; it's the same lesson we should have learned from Al Capone, the perfect is the enemy of the good:

I now believe that the tragedy we witnessed in Latin America has little to do with the damage the drugs do to people's heads. The tragedy is a result of the drugs being illegal. People will do a lot for a £34,000-per-kilo profit.

My journey begins in the spring of 2003 in the impossibly beautiful valley of Monzon in the Peruvian Andes. ....

Monzon is in the badlands where the police have not had a presence in 10 years. ....

The valley is a major target of the campaign, run by the Peruvian anti-drugs police, and financed by the United States as part of their attempt to wipe out drug production in Peru and Colombia.

....Edgar chews his coca: 'The government has not thought through the consequences of this campaign. If things go on as they are, the peasants will be forced into the arms of the guerrillas to protect themselves.' The guerrillas are the Shining Path, who terrorised Peru in the 1980s, but almost disappeared when their leader was captured 10 years ago. Now there is talk of their return to defend the coca farmers. Edgar should know. He used to be a local guerrilla commander. This is exactly what has happened in Colombia - there the FARC guerrillas have become deeply involved in cocaine, in the guise of defending the peasants. Edgar predicted, the Shining Path guerrillas did re-emerge. For the first time in years they launched a full-scale attack on a town just outside the valley. They drove out the police and raised the red flag, all the while claiming to defend the coca farmers. A cocaine-financed conflict looms - just like in Colombia - and the victims will again be the peasants.

....the nightmare that is government in Colombia. You can trust no one. The traffickers have people everywhere from the very top to the very bottom. Their money can bribe almost anyone. And if they cannot buy, they kill - a habit which has turned Colombia into one of the most dangerous places on earth. An assassin can be hired for £60 a hit.

....Once again at the heart of the battle with cocaine is US dollars.
Plan Colombia, the biggest US aid package to any country outside the Middle East, has seen almost $3 billion poured into largely military resources over the past five years. ....

We are crouching in a house in the slum of Santa Marta in Rio [Brazil]. Just below is the beautiful city, its beaches full of beautiful people. Inside the house, a group of adolescent boys have covered their heads in balaclavas. They are stuffing little plastic bags with white powder from a metal tray, all the while lovingly describing their 'pieces', which run from a magnum to rocket launchers and home-made bombs. Their leader, barely out of his teens, makes clear: 'Without the white stuff there is no crime. This is where the real money is. We are the parallel power.' There is no question of the power these crazy young men wield over the thousands who live in Rio's slums. ....

This journey has left me thinking the politically unthinkable. With an election looming, the Blair government has made the war on drugs a populist law-and-order priority, once again conflating the taking of drugs with the crime and violence that surrounds them. But it is the war itself that is the problem. The politicians rightly warn that demand will go up if it is legalised. Not good but not the nightmare they summon up. Neither cocaine or heroin is a cancer. In quantities it destroys your nose and is bad for your brain, but it very rarely kills - unlike that other addictive plant we can use legally: tobacco. Nor is it a direct cause of violence, like alcohol.

Let's be honest. People try drugs, whether in the form of alcohol or pills, because they are fun.

Tens of thousands of UK citizens regularly consume cocaine; hundreds of thousands more use other illegal drugs, completely discrediting the law. In his book Cocaine, Dominic Streatfield quotes the monetarist Milton Friedman: 'I do not think you can eradicate demand. The lesson we have failed to learn is that prohibition never works. It makes things worse not better.'

Streatfield quotes the extraordinary statistics involved in fighting cocaine and drugs. Here are a couple: over the past 15 years, the US has spent £150 billion trying to stop its people getting hold of drugs. In Britain and the US almost 20 per cent of the prison population is inside for drugs offences. So what is left? We can muddle on or we can legalise cocaine - and indeed all drugs.

....Yes, more people will try these drugs and there will be tragedies. But 30 years of the war on drugs have achieved almost nothing except to make a few people fantastically rich, to arm our inner cities, to criminalise a generation of users, and to leave tens of thousands of Latin Americans dead. As our cocaine maker in Peru happily told us: 'People want our cocaine because it is good and, for a while at least, makes them happy.'

All The News That's Thirty Years Old Is Fit To Print

The New York Times discovers tires without air:

THE first automobile to use air-filled tires was a racecar built by André and Édouard Michelin in the early 1890's. More than a century later, the French company founded by the Michelin brothers is so identified with pneumatic tires that its mascot, Bibendum, is a man made of little else.

Now, after decades spent persuading the world to ride on air, the company has begun work on an innovation that could render the pneumatic tire obsolete. Engineers at Michelin's American technology center here envision a future in which vehicles would ride on what they call the Tweel, a combined tire and wheel that could never go flat because it contains no air.

But that's old news to operators of heavy equipment and even wheelbarrows. The only question is whether one can be developed with ride quality that is acceptable to motorists.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Public Relations Man Promotes His Client's Message...No Kidding!

The curious case of Armstrong Williams and the No Child Left Behind law, seems to have something in common with a Sherlock Holmes story where a clue is 'hidden' in plain sight:

[Armstrong Williams] is the CEO of the Graham Williams Group and international public relations firm based in Washington, D.C., with clients in entertainment, politics, business, and charitable organizations.

Now, had he been a Hollywood producer trying to get into the travel agency business through his good friend, the President of the United States, the Academy might raise its collective eyebrows.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Cartoon accompanying the ignorant criticism of Rep. Harold Ford (D, Tenn.) Posted by Hello

Harold Ford Conscientiously Represents His Constituents. It's an Outrage!

Donald Luskin points to an assault on Tennessee's Harold Ford:

The Black body politic has been invaded by corporate money, which seeks through its media arms to select a “new” Black leadership from among a small group of compliant and corrupt Democrats. Memphis Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. is a principal vector of the disease, an eager acolyte of the corporate-funded Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and now the point man among Black Democrats in the Republican mission to destroy Social Security.

....Harold Ford is preparing to defect from the Democratic and Congressional Black caucuses in service to George Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme, which he has embraced in principle.

The author of this vitriol apparently is unaware of the basic demographic facts. Blacks may be the most disadvantaged ethnic group under the Social Security system now in place. Blacks born after 1959 are not eligible for full SS retirement benefits until the age of 67. The average Black male has a life expectancy of 68-69 years.

Meaning the average Black man faces 50 years of 'contributions' of 12.4% of his income, and one to two years of benefits. So, who is it again who is a race traitor?

Latest So-Wacky Scheme To Save Social Security...

Make it an arm of the Defense Department!

[by Dean Baker] Those of you who are concerned about the $10.4 trillion Social Security shortfall in the infinite horizon have no doubt been wondering how we will meet our defense obligations in the 22nd century. I just did a simple calculation in which I asked how much it will cost the U.S. to always be the world's pre-eminent military power. This means that we will presumably always have to spend at least as much on our military as the next largest military power, which will presumably be China.

....In the weak China scenario, the defense shortfall over the the infinite horizon is equal to $33.4 trillion, more than 3 times the projected SS shortfall. In the strong China scenario the defense shortfall is equal to $54.1 trillion, almost five times the projected SS shortfall. The moral of this story is that if the Bush people are set on always having the U.S. be the strongest military power in the world, the SS shortfall will be chump change compared to the money they will need.

Meaning that Social Security will have to compete with Defense, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing, Education.... Directly compete. It won't survive that in its current mode.

We've Been Reading Your Fiction For Years, Paul

Renaissance Man wannabe Paul Krugman, thinks he will enhance his vita:

I've been thinking of writing a political novel. It will be a bad novel because there won't be any nuance: the villains won't just espouse an ideology I disagree with - they'll be hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels.

In my bad novel, a famous moralist who demanded national outrage over an affair and writes best-selling books about virtue will turn out to be hiding an expensive gambling habit. A talk radio host who advocates harsh penalties for drug violators will turn out to be hiding his own drug addiction.

In my bad novel, crusaders for moral values will be driven by strange obsessions. One senator's diatribe against gay marriage will link it to "man on dog" sex. Another will rant about the dangers of lesbians in high school bathrooms.

The FLUBA Belles Lettres Committee recommends the Princeton economist go right ahead, if he agrees to include a character with a John Bates Clark medal who tells gullible readers of his New York Times column that the special bonds held by the Social Security 'trust fund' are real economic assets just like the Treasury bonds held by Japanese pension funds.

And who voted for a major party presidential candidate who claimed to be a war hero, but turned out to be a collaborator with the enemy, who falsified After Action Reports to gain medals he was not entitled to (which allowed him to exit the war zone after 4 months), who was refused an honorable discharge when his six year military obligation was up in 1972--only to mysteriously get one in 1978--and who dishonestly charged his opponent hadn't fulfilled his military obligation.

Go ahead, Paul. Make our day.

Want To Remain Active In Politics After You Die?

Get yourself buried in King County, Washington:

At least eight people who died well before the November general election were credited with voting in King County, raising new questions about the integrity of the vote total in the narrow governor's race, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer review has found.

The evidence of votes from dead people is the latest example of flaws in an election already rocked by misplaced votes and allegations that there were thousands more votes counted than actual voters.

County officials say they are investigating the cases pointed out by the P-I. "These are not indications of fraud," said Bill Huennekens, King County's elections supervisor. "Fraud is a concerted effort to change an election."

The P-I review found eight people who died weeks before absentee ballots were mailed out, between Oct. 13 and 15, but were credited with voting in King County. Among them was an 81-year-old Seattle woman who died in August but is recorded as having voted at the polls.

....Doris McFarland said she voted for her husband, Earl, who died Oct. 7.

"I called up the elections board and said, 'Can I do it because he wanted me to vote?' " the Duvall woman said. "The person ... said, 'Well, who would know?'

And, We Offer the Benefit of a USC Education

Southern California student athlete Lodrick Stewart explaining his team's loss (84-59) last night to the University of Washington:

"We wasn't really doing nothing. The effort wasn't there."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Terminator of Calpers

Proving he's no economic girly man, the Arnuhld greases the wheel of Social Security privatization:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will urge lawmakers to pass a sweeping overhaul of the state's public pension systems, including Calpers, the nation's largest pension fund, an aide said on Wednesday.

Schwarzenegger plans to use his "State of the State" address on Wednesday evening to back a plan that would scrap California's defined-benefit public pension plans in favor of defined-contribution plans similar to 401(k) retirement plans in the private sector.

Critics of that partial privatization, which mirrors Bush administration moves to shift Social Security money into private accounts, call it an attempt to undercut the influence of Calpers as a corporate watchdog and curb its political activism.

Another Nail For The Coffin...

Of the Saddam was a secularist so Osama bin Laden wouldn't have cooperated with him crowd (paging Bruce Moomaw):

LONDON — Internationally isolated and fearful of losing power, Saddam Hussein made an astonishing move in the last years of his secular rule: He invited into Iraq clerics who preached an austere form of Islam that's prevalent in Saudi Arabia.

He also let extremely religious Iraqis join his ruling Baath Socialist Party. Saddam's bid to win over devout Muslims planted the seeds of the insurgency behind some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces today, say Saudi dissidents and U.S. officials.

"Saddam invited Muslim scholars and preachers to Iraq for his own survival," said Saad Fagih, a London-based Saudi dissident. "He convinced them that Shiites are the danger."

....Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi — or Salafi — brand of Sunni Islam began trickling into Iraq in the mid-1990s, at the height of punishing international sanctions for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. They came from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, including some returning Iraqis who adopted the Salafi ideology in exile.

A Wahhabi mosque was even built in the Shiite holy city of Karbala at a time when Shiites were banned from worshipping their religion freely. Signs of strict Islamic codes also began appearing, such as a growing number of women wearing veils.

The words "God is great" were added to the Iraqi flag after Saddam's defeat in the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War. He closed bars and nightclubs to appease Muslims.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Toenails Too Long?

Perhaps it's the latest in legal strategy:

The Egyptian-born radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masari, although under detention facing 16 charges including soliciting to murder, continues to be a major problem for the British authorities. In the latest incident, he refused to appear at the Old Bailey on Tuesday because he said his toenails were too long.

....He was to appear in the court on Tuesday, but the judge, lawyers and court official were kept waiting while the toenail drama unfolded out of their sight. Ultimately a prison officer informed the court that Hamza had refused to come out of his cell on the plea that he could not walk.

The defence counsel said Hamza felt he could not walk as he had been perambulating round the prison barefoot. Hamza has also been complaining that he received inadequate medical treatment for his disability-he has no arms and can see through only one eye-and diabetes.

The plot thickens:

TERROR suspect Abu Hamza has been given new hooks on the [National Health Service] - and a £30,000-a-year nurse to wipe his backside in jail.

The Muslim extremist, who has no hands, was fitted with special £5,000 replacement hooks because it was feared his original metal ones could be used as weapons.

He is unable to clean himself as he could do himself an injury. So prison officials have hired a male nurse named Harry to perform the task.

A prison source said: "He's known as 'Dirty Harry'. This guy has got one of the worst jobs in the world. His main reason for being there is to clean Hamza's backside. Everyone's having a laugh about it. But Hamza can't be left unclean. It would be a health hazard."

Hamza is being held in top-security Belmarsh jail, in South East London, as the US attempts to extradite him on terror charges.

The nurse - recruited from a private agency - spends up to two hours a day with him.
His other duties include helping the 47-year-old cleric to wash, cut his toenails, clip his beard and change his clothes.