Thursday, June 30, 2005

Peggy, Stu, Get Married... the idea that lifetime appointments might be something of a problem. Ladies first:

The Supreme Court this week and last issued many rulings, and though they were on different issues the decisions themselves had at least one thing in common: They seemed to reflect a lack of basic human modesty on the part of many of the justices. Many are famously very old, and they have been together as a court for a very long time. One wonders if they have lost all understanding of how privileged they are to have lifetime sinecures of power and authority. Do they have any sense anymore of common human wisdom, of the normal human arrangements by which Americans live?

Stuart Taylor Jr, offers solutions:

... modern medicine -- and modern justices' fondness for their power and glory -- transformed the meaning of life tenure. This longevity has contributed to some serious problems, according to an ideologically diverse group of 45 leading legal scholars, several of whom are publishing law review articles on the subject. Earlier this year, these scholars agreed "in principle" on a proposal that seems especially timely now: staggered, 18-year term limits for all future justices, to marry judicial independence with more frequent and regular injections of new blood by the president and the Senate.

....Some justices have remained on the Court until mentally debilitated or, at best, long past their prime. There will be more, given our increasing ability to keep people alive long past the point of mental incompetence. ....

If power corrupts, life-tenured power corrupts more completely. ....

....Quasi-monarchical judicial tenure makes it less likely that turnover will lead to reconsideration of erroneous or unpopular constitutional rulings. This feeds doubts about the legitimacy of those rulings among voters and elected officials who feel disenfranchised. ....

The 18-year term-limit proposal advocated by Carrington, Cramton, and more than 40 other scholars would provide for a new appointment every two years, or two in every presidential term. After a complex phase-in period, to avoid suspicions that this is a plot to oust current justices, each new appointee would bump the Court's longest-serving member down to "senior justice," with no power to participate in Supreme Court cases except in the event of a temporary vacancy.

.... The odds of justices suffering severe loss of mental capacity in office would decline dramatically. The odds that they would settle into autopilot, complacency, or diminished productivity, or would lose touch with the temper of the times would decline substantially. And the guarantee of a new appointment every two years would greatly enhance democratic accountability while lowering the stakes in each confirmation battle.

Good News; They Have Free Medical Care

Bad news; you have to get it from the same guys who maintained and piloted the ferry:

A British Columbia ferry lost power, smashed into a number of boats and ran aground at a
marina while docking today at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.

....Witnesses said at about 10 a.m., the 457-foot Queen of Oak Bay missed the terminal berth and was blowing its horn as it crashed into Sewell's Marina. The ferry, part of the province's extensive fleet of boats to connect Vancouver Island and other coastal areas to the mainland, was arriving from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

....The accident occurred as many British Columbia residents were expected to flock to the ferries at the start of the long Canada Day weekend.

The Queen of Oak Bay returned to service on the run from West Vancouver to Nanaimo earlier this month after an extensive, $35 million upgrade.

Posted by Hello

Did the Earth Move?

Europe, already on a demographic downslope, finds another country not exactly willing to face up to their reality:

The Spanish Parliament gave final approval today to a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, making Spain only the second nation to eliminate all legal distinctions between same-sex and heterosexual unions, according to supporters of the bill.

The measure, passed by a vote of 187 to 147, establishes that couples will have the same rights, including the freedom to marry and to adopt children, regardless of gender.

"Today, Spanish society is responding to a group of people who have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, their dignity offended, their identity denied and their freedom restricted," Prime Minister José Luis Rodíguez Zapatero told Parliament.

Spain is the fourth country to legalize gay marriage, after Canada, Holland and Belgium.

Will the Muslims who are on a pace to take over Europe find the above to their liking?

Europe as we know it is slowly going out of business. .... Unless Europe reverses two trends -- low birthrates and meager economic growth -- it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived.

....It's hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling. Europe's birthrates have dropped well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children for each woman of childbearing age. For Western Europe as a whole, the rate is 1.5. It's 1.4 in Germany and 1.3 in Italy. In a century -- if these rates continue -- there won't be many Germans in Germany or Italians in Italy.

....In the 1970s annual growth for the 12 countries now using the euro averaged almost 3 percent; from 2001 to 2004 the annual average was 1.2 percent. In 1974 those countries had unemployment of 2.4 percent; in 2004 the rate was 8.9 percent.

Wherever they look, Western Europeans feel their way of life threatened. One solution to low birthrates is higher immigration. But many Europeans don't like the immigrants they have -- often Muslim from North Africa -- and don't want more. One way to revive economic growth would be to reduce social benefits, taxes and regulations. But that would imperil Europe's "social model," which supposedly blends capitalism's efficiency and socialism's compassion.

[Thanks to NC State's Craig Newmark]

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

When Putin's Around, Keep Your Hands In Your Pockets

If you're the owner of a Super Bowl champion:

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots football team claims he may have lost a priceless keepsake when he handed his Super Bowl ring to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in the Kremlin on June 25.

Kraft reportedly showed his diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring to Putin at a meeting of American business executives in Russia, and after trying on the ring the Russian president pocketed it and left the meeting, Associated Press reported.

And another world champ isn't too happy with Vlad either:

Former chess champ and the chairman of the Russian opposition organization Committee-2008: Free Choice, Garry Kasparov, has announced that he is going to set up a united civil front in Russia....

“The primary goal of the systemic opposition is to dismantle the currently existing system and create a free political floor on which free elections can be held in 2007-2008. The bottom line is to preserve the Russians’ right to elect a responsible government, both in presidential and parliamentary elections,” Kasparov concluded.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Reservation for 'Kelo'?

Next, the Milton Friedman Library at Anthony Kennedy's place?

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of [Justice David] Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

You had us at, 'Hello'

The Fly Under the Bridge Academy Committee on Flattery Will Get You Anything, thinks it's really, really cool to be mentioned in the same post as Richard Posner, Gary Becker, and Clint Eastwood:

In a EconLog post in which Arnold Kling links to the Becker post and Posner post on the case at the Becker-Posner blog, the issue of holdout comes up. Traditionally, eminent domain has been intended to enable local governments to circumvent holdout incentives in amassing plots of land necessary to complete required public works. In fact, Posner focuses on the holdout issue in his post, and Richard Epstein does as well in his commentary in today's Wall Street Journal.

In the comments to Arnold's post, Patrick Sullivan makes what I think is a suggestion worth considering: in a situation that could raise holdout incentives, why doesn't the potential buyer make each of the individual offers contingent on 100% acceptance? In fact, I just watched Pale Rider a couple of weeks ago, and the evil hydraulic mining owner basically did that to the tin-panners he was trying to drive out (of course, they told him to get stuffed and then Clint went in and kicked butt ...).

Especially when the mentioner is Northwestern economist (and Energy Goddess) Lynne Kiesling.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Granny Got Her Gun

'Cause he did her wrong:

Great-grandmother Lena Driskell is charged with firing four shots into her boyfriend's head after he broke up with her, but a judge ordered her freed on bond Friday.

Fulton prosecutor Jack Barrs had urged Fulton County Magistrate Richard Hicks to keep the 78-year-old woman behind bars because he fears she could still pose a threat.

Police believe Driskell decided to kill widower Herman Winslow, 85, after he broke off their yearlong romance and began dating someone else.

....Driskell, a widow who once worked as a certified nurse's assistant, had assumed she would one day marry Winslow, Holt said. The two had dated for a year, often traveled together and had just returned from Daytona four days before the June 10 shooting inside Hightower Manor, a public-assisted complex for seniors and the disabled in southwest Atlanta.

....After the shooting, Driskell told police officers: "Yes, I did it and I'd do it again,"

Stray Pigeons Who Can't Hike a Football, Chew Gum and Plow Fields Without Flying into Each Other?

Come August 1st J. Douglas Allen-Taylor will need a permit for his metaphor mixer:

Mr. Larrick has let fly a number of stray pigeons out of this bush, in all directions at once. Let us pick them off quickly, one by one, before they get too far away.

The first stray pigeon is the inference that African Americans suffer from the “Gerald Ford Syndrome,” taken from the remark by President Lyndon Johnson that because Mr. Ford had played too much football without a helmet, he could not both walk and chew gum at the same time. The apparent contention by Mr. Larrick is that African Americans cannot explore the historical causes of our present problems while simultaneously working to solve those problems, but, like Sam told his son, “You can either plow this field lengthways, or you can plow it wideways, but if you try to do it both at once, you’re gonna end up on the highways.”

But that first stray pigeon is actually knocked down by Mr. Larrick’s own second....

But Mr. Larrick has set forth a third stray pigeon—the implication that a prolonged discussion of American slavery is unproductive in and of itself—which has flown far and fast, and we must hurry to catch it.

The question arises, to what cause can we attribute what Mr. Larrick identifies as the “lag of black performance”?

In his commentary, Mr. Larrick cites, as one example of that “lag,” the work of Dr. John Ogbu, who “found that the very same problems plagued both Oakland and the affluent black suburb of Cleveland, Shaker Heights. Black students were absent more often, did less homework, watched more television and had less involved parents. They did not value education … [Dr. Ogbu] found that the students own attitudes hindered their academic achievement.” Dr. Obgu’s study, Mr. Larrick continues, “raises some uncomfortable questions about race, opportunity and responsibility.”

Yes, but what are the answers?

The FLUBA Committee on Buckling Your Chinstrap Before Play Commences guesses wildly: Going to class more often, doing more homework, watching less television, having more involved parents, valuing education, and changing attitudes.

Public Nuissance Passes Peacefully in the Night

Eight decades of trouble making ended not with a bang, but with applesauce, in Berkeley:

Helen Corbin Lima died peacefully in her sleep in the early hours of May 5. She had recently celebrated her 88th birthday. On the day she died she had lunch with friends at the North Oakland Senior Center and after a rest helped make a large pot of applesauce.

...In 1938, a self declared atheist and non-conformist, she moved to Eureka, California where her older sister Clara was living. Clara had been part of the community support for the 1935 Eureka lumber strike and that attracted Helen. ... she found a job as the secretary for the fisherman’s union Local 38 in Eureka in 1939. ..... She soon, however, became an organizer. That same year Helen joined the Communist Party and in 1940 she married Albert J “Mickie” Lima who was a local leader in the CP. 1945 the family moved to San Francisco. Helen went to work in the offices of People’s World newspaper. ....1951 ... Mickie and other leaders of the Communist Party were arrested under the Smith Act. ....[she worked] in the spring of 1957 in the kitchen at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley. In the summer of 1958 SEIU Local 250 struck at several East Bay hospitals....Helen, who had been a strike captain, became a rank and file union activist....

In 1979 Helen retired from Herrick and devoted her time to political work. She worked for peace, against racism and South African apartheid, in many local political campaigns and raised money for the People’s World newspaper. She also took care of her son Michael who suffered from schizophrenia until he committed suicide in 1982. In 1995 Helen lost her son-in-law Donzell in a tragic incident of street violence. In 1987 Mickie retired from full time work in the Communist Party early 1991 Helen moved into Strawberry Creek Lodge in Berkeley. ... she applied for Section 8 housing—and a whole new realm of political activity opened up for her.

From then until her death Helen was active in the fight for affordable housing and to save Section 8. In May 2000 she was given an affordable housing leadership award for community activism by the Non Profit Housing Association of Northern California. And in November 2004 she received the Hell Raiser of the Year award from Berkeley’s Housing Rights Advocates.

How Many Californians Does It Take To Change a Lightbulb

After August 1st, it'll be one to obtain the permit :

Starting Aug. 1, when the 2004 California Electrical Codes automatically take effect, residents will have to apply for a city building permits to replace or add wall, porch and ceiling lamps, light switches, electric receptacles, and other common do-it-yourself chores.

So changing that noisy electrical switch with a quieter mercury switch will cost a lot more. Besides the costs of the new switch, there’ll be the $81 basic permit fee plus an additional surcharge of $2.15 for each receptacle, outlet or switch and—if you want to add more—$21.50 for altering or changing wiring.

Under the current city code, such small changes can be made without permits and inspections; starting Aug. 1, not so.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Karl Rove Holds Up a Mirror

And the Democrats don't like what they see:

Leading Democrats reacted furiously on Thursday to remarks by Karl Rove that liberals had responded to the Sept. 11 attacks by wanting to "offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," with some Democrats calling for him to apologize or resign as a White House adviser.

How hard would it be to find examples of liberals doing just what Rove stated? Well, Googling up, why do they hate us, brings a plethora of such examples post 9-11-01:

"We've got to ask, why is this man (Osama bin Laden) so popular around the world? Why are people so supportive of him in many countries ... that are riddled with poverty? He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that. How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"--Senator Patty Murray

"Indeed, in the first Crusade, when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem, they first burned a synagogue with 300 Jews in it, and proceeded to kill every woman and child who was Muslim on the Temple mound…. I can tell you that that story is still being told to today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it."--Bill Clinton

"I think it will take years before we can repair the damage done by that [Axis of Evil] statement." --Jimmy Carter

Enough of the elected officials (past and present) how about their supporters:

...although we all want to be at Ground Zero, we can't, but there is work that is needed to be done all over America. Our help is needed at community centers to tutor children, to teach them to read. Our work is needed at old-age homes to visit the lonely and infirmed; in gutted neighborhoods to rebuild housing and clean up parks, and convert abandoned lots to baseball fields. I imagined leadership that would take this incredible energy, this generosity of spirit and create a new unity in America born out of the chaos and tragedy of 9/11, a new unity that would send a message to terrorists everywhere: If you attack us, we will become stronger, cleaner, better educated, and more unified. You will strengthen our commitment to justice and democracy by your inhumane attacks on us. Like a Phoenix out of the fire, we will be reborn. --Tim Robbins

"But what would happen to [Osama's] cool armor if he could be reminded of all the good, nonviolent things he has done? Further, what would happen to him if he could be brought to understand the preciousness of the lives he has destroyed? I firmly believe the only punishment that works is love." -- Alice Walker

My, my, what could Karl have been thinking.

The Charles Wilson Wing of the Supreme Court sez...

That what's good for Pfizer Inc. is good for the country, in its decision to evict lawful residents from their homes (Kelo v. New London). As usual the most cogent argument (in dissent) is made by one of the two most cerebral justices, Clarence Thomas: is backwards to adopt a searching standard of constitutional review for nontraditional property interests, such as welfare benefits, ...while deferring to the legislature’s determination as to what constitutes a public use when it exercises the power of eminent domain, and thereby invades individuals’ traditional rights in real property.

The Court has elsewhere recognized "the overriding respect for the sanctity of the home that has been embedded in our traditions since the origins of the Republic," ...when the issue is only whether the government may search a home. Yet today the Court tells us that we are not to "second-guess the City’s considered judgments," ...when the issue is, instead, whether the government may take the infinitely more intrusive step of tearing down petitioners’ homes.

Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not.

Thomas then goes on to iterate the racist uses to which the power of eminent domain has been put:

In the 1950’s, no doubt emboldened in part by the expansive understanding of "public use" this Court adopted in Berman, cities "rushed to draw plans" for downtown development. ...."Of all the families displaced by urban renewal from 1949 through 1963, 63 percent of those whose race was known were nonwhite, and of these families, 56 percent of nonwhites and 38 percent of whites had incomes low enough to qualify for public housing, which, however, was seldom available to them."

...Public works projects in the 1950’s and 1960’s destroyed predominantly minority communities in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Baltimore, Maryland. .... In 1981, urban planners in Detroit, Michigan, uprooted the largely "lower-income and elderly" Poletown neighborhood for thebenefit of the General Motors Corporation.

....Urban renewal projects have long been associated with the displacement of blacks; "[i]n cities across the country, urban renewal came to be known as ‘Negro removal.’ "

[Emphases above those of the Fly Under the Bridge Academy]

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Like Something That Really Could Have Happened in Nazi Germany

The United States Supreme Court has just had one of its Dred Scott moments, and of the five justices who voted to remove the concept of private property from the Constitution, none deserves his name to live in infamy more than Anthony Kennedy (for making Ronald Reagan look a fool for nominating him).

In a bitter dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the majority had created an ominous precedent. "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," she wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private property, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.

"As for the victims," Justice O'Connor went on, "the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result."

Justice Stevens was joined in the majority by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

....Justice Stevens noted that the homes in question could not be considered a slum area, and that indeed some of the people have lived in their homes for decades. Rather, he said, the properties "were condemned only because they happen to be located in the development area."

"In affirming the city's authority to take petitioners' properties, we do not minimize the hardship that condemnations may entail, notwithstanding the payment of just compensation," Justice Stevens wrote, adding that local governments have the authority to refine their condemnation policies, and curb them if they wish.

The case is Kelo v. City of New London, No. 04-108. Susette Kelo is one of the property owners who petitioned the courts to block the condemnation of their homes in the Fort Trumbull area of New London.

"She has made extensive improvements to her house, which she prizes for its water view," Justice Stevens noted. Another petitioner, Wilhelmina Dery, "was born in her Fort Trumbull house in 1918 and has lived there her entire life," the justice wrote. "Her husband, Charles (also a petitioner), has lived in the house since they married some 60 years ago."

Some of the affected homeowners were dismayed. "It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," Bill Von Winkle said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said he would not leave even if he sees the bulldozers coming.

Richard Durbin could not be reached for comment.

QWERTY's Evil Twin

Paul David and Brian Arthur call your offices. You want path dependence?

In an almost perfect display of Public Choice Economics in action, the city of Seattle has decided to lock in people not even born yet to an inferior transportation system:

With Seattle's monorail headed for a contract signing next month, state Treasurer Mike Murphy yesterday urged local officials to shut the project down.

Murphy is worried because the Seattle Monorail Project's financing plan — which includes 40-year bonds, deferred interest payments and some high-interest "junk bonds" — would require $11.4 billion in taxes through the year 2053 to fund a $2.1 billion elevated train system.

"I'm hoping good sense will prevail at the monorail board and they will stop dead in their tracks," Murphy said in an interview.

He explained: "The average guy can't afford a Ferrari, because he can't afford it. There should be somebody at the monorail saying we can't afford this thing. The numbers keep getting bigger and bigger. To finance something at 5-½ times the construction value is totally ludicrous."

Joel Horn, monorail executive director, says the true burden is much lighter than the numbers suggest, because as a result of inflation, a dollar four decades from now will be worth a dime in today's money.

The agency must push interest costs onto future generations because of continuing shortages in a citywide car-tab tax to build the line.

"The benefits of the monorail will go on for over 100 years," Horn said.

Meanwhile, the search for market based lock-in has failed to turn up even one legitimate example.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Vox Baby Lectures Congress

Dartmouth economist Andrew Samwick holds class in Washington DC:

The default outcome if we do nothing today is to wait until the fiscal consequences of running the current system with a retired population of Baby Boomers become unmanageable. ....When that day of reckoning occurs, it will likely involve a combination of benefit cuts, tax increases, and delays in the retirement age, as in the 1983 amendments. However, unlike 1983, these changes will have to happen in greater measure and with more immediacy. We will have squandered the opportunity to envision a more modern system that relies less heavily on pay-as-you-go financing. We will have done nothing to prepare new retirees for their lower retirement incomes. And, worst of all, we will impose a tax burden on our children’s generation that, with full knowledge of its likely appearance, we will have refused to address ourselves today. I wouldn’t blame them if they refused to pay, or, if in the face of these higher taxes, they simply decided to work less.

.... the driving force behind the projected deterioration in Social Security’s finances is an increase in the number of beneficiaries relative to the number of workers. Between 2005 and 2080, the number of beneficiaries per hundred workers is projected to rise from 30 to 54, an increase of 80 percent. Over that same period, Social Security’s cost rate—the amount of benefits relative to the payroll tax base—is projected to increase from 11.1 percent to 19.1 percent, an increase of about 72 percent.

.... Consider what happens if we wait to act. In 2005, the Trustees Report tells us that we have unfunded obligations (over the infinite horizon, not just the next 75 years) that are equal to about 90 percent of GDP. Those unfunded obligations could be eliminated by raising the payroll tax by 3.5 percentage points, immediately and forever (and ignoring the likely declines in economic activity associated with this tax increase). If we were to wait until the Trust Fund is projected to be exhausted in 2041, then we would find ourselves (according to my own rough calculations) with unfunded obligations that are about 140 percent of (a much larger) GDP. Tax increases and benefit cuts would have to be commensurately higher, and all of those who retire in the next 35 years would evade any responsibility for sharing in the burden of those tax increases.

Which is to say, virtually everyone who wants to do nothing but wait to see if something turns up.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bill Clinton Still 'Loathes' the Military


And he hasn't a clue about how to interogate terrorists either:

In an interview with the Financial Times, the former president called for the camp [at Guantanamo], set up to hold suspected terrorists, to "be closed down or cleaned up".

Mr Clinton joined critics at home and abroad who have singled out the indefinite detention of prisoners without trial and widespread reports of human rights violations at Guantánamo.

He said: "It is time that there are no more stories coming out of there about people being abused."

Talk to the crying Senator from Illinois, pal.

Aside from moral issues....

Ahem; Bill Dale and the other Travel Office employees, disappeared subpoenaed Rose Law Firm billing records in Hillary's closet, Monica, Juanita Broderick, Kathleen Willey....

...there were two practical objections to the US military abusing prisoners, he said. "If we get a reputation for abusing people it puts our own soldiers much more at risk and second, if you rough up somebody bad enough, they'll eventually tell you whatever you want to hear to get you to stop doing it."

Which is why we don't 'rough up' anyone at Gitmo, unless it's in self-defense. The goal of the interrogators is to get the detainees to talk. About almost anything. And keep them talking. Their recorded statements then will be meticulously analyzed and compared with similar statements of their playmates. That's how you glean intelligence nuggets.

Conspicuous by absence in the interview were any ideas about what other methods might be more productive. Nor any alternatives to detaining these bloodthirsty jihadists that would keep them from killing more Americans.

Update: Bill Clinton's usually perfect political pitch seems to have failed him, according to Rasmussen:

June 22, 2005--A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 20% of Americans believe prisoners at Guantanomo Bay have been treated unfairly. Seven-out-of-ten adults believe the prisoners are being treated "better than they deserve" (36%) or "about right" (34%).

The survey also found that just 14% agree with people who say that prisoner treatment at Guantanomo Bay is similar to Nazi tactics. Sixty-nine percent disagree with that comparison. This helps explain why Illinois Senator Dick Durbin apologized for making such a comparison.

When Bears Can't Be Spaghetti Sauce

They feel emboldened to not go down to the woods to have their picnic:

They're not exactly the smoothest criminals in town.

The half-dozen bears scrounging for food in the Issaquah [Washington state] Highlands have left a trail of glaring clues in their wake since March: muddy paw prints, tufts of fur, droppings.

Now they've discovered a new treasure trove in the city's Central Park: a group of six to eight garbage cans stuffed with scraps to feed their insatiable appetites.

The padlocked doors protecting the cans are no match for the hungry creatures, said Al Erickson, city parks manager. Parks officials are looking to invest in some bear-resistant garbage bins at $1,000 each to replace the current ones.

"The bears tear the doors apart by brute force," Erickson said. "We don't even lock the doors now."

And they're getting bolder. Yesterday, a black bear was spotted rifling through the trash at 2 p.m., Erickson said.

"For them to be out in the middle of the day, it's unusual," he said, adding that bears generally look for food in the mornings and evenings. "This type of behavior shows they're getting suburbanized."

....Last week, for instance, state officials set out 20 dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts as bait to catch a bear near Cascade Ridge Elementary School in Sammamish.

Art Lovers Go Bananas

They may not know much about art, but....

LONDON — Monkey business proved to be lucrative yesterday when paintings by Congo the chimpanzee sold at auction for more than $25,000.

The three abstract, tempera paintings were auctioned at Bonhams in London alongside works by impressionist master Renoir and pop-art provocateur Andy Warhol.

But while Warhol's and Renoir's work didn't sell, bidders lavished attention on Congo's paintings.

...."We had no idea what these things were worth," said Howard Rutkowski, director of modern and contemporary art at Bonhams. "We just put them in for our own amusement."

Congo, born in 1954, produced about 400 drawings and paintings between ages 2 and 4. He died in 1964 of tuberculosis.

His artwork provoked reactions ranging from scorn to skepticism among critics of the time, but Pablo Picasso is reported to have hung a Congo painting on his studio wall after receiving it as a gift.

Going Off the Rails in Seattle

Approved by voters (80% Democrat) who can never resist taxing themselves into bankruptcy for mass transit:

The Seattle Monorail Project released details of a contract yesterday to build an elevated train from Ballard to West Seattle by Dec. 1, 2010, and disclosed that the car-tab tax being used to pay for the system is expected to continue until 2050.

....the tax will last nearly twice as long as originally predicted.

....the City Council must affirm that SMP can pay for the line and the first five years of operation. The council has hired independent experts who have 30 days to study the project, then the council can take up to 30 days more for its decision.

"Wow," City Councilman Richard Conlin said when told of the plan to collect the car-tab tax for 45 more years. "It seems like an awful long time to be paying for a single project."

The project's $2.1 billion cost is an increase of more than 20 percent from the $1.75 billion price advertised when voters approved the line.

....SMP is now trying to pay for the deal by stretching out its debt repayments.

A new cash-flow plan last night showed the agency selling $300 million in short-term debt called "commercial paper" over the next two years, and $1.9 billion in bonds through 2014.

SMP Finance Director Jonathan Buchter said the finance plan includes some bonds that would pay 7 or 8 percent interest.

....Richard Borkowski, a backer of rival light-rail technology, said there isn't enough money in Seattle for both monorail and Sound Transit's light-rail system. "I don't believe you can build a project that's 20 percent over budget with 30 percent less money," he said, adding that SMP is on "a glide path toward bankruptcy."

Taxes would go beyond 2050 if the agency misses its estimate of 6.1 percent yearly growth in tax revenues, new figures show. Or, rapid growth could pay the debt off sooner.

....SMP is buying 13 trains, enough to run them eight minutes apart at rush hour, 10 minutes apart at other times and less frequently at night. That's not as frequent as the three to six minutes promised earlier.

....Three of the planned 19 stations will not be ready opening day: at Elliott Avenue West serving lower Queen Anne Hill; at Madison Street downtown; and the Avalon Way station next to West Seattle Stadium. The Madison station requires buying federally owned land that isn't available yet, while the other two were delayed to save money.

....The oval support columns would be bulkier than officials had promised.

....Three years ago, monorail planners said columns would be as lean as 3 feet. ....

A few spots would have bigger columns — 6 feet, 9 inches by 4 feet, 9 inches....

The agency is already taking criticism for its fast-track public-hearing schedule.

"Nine months of private negotiation, 15 days for public review," said Crown Hill resident Mike Schuh, who criticized the agency for having its public hearings in a holiday week.

Transportation by rail in American cities dates to the 19th century, when it was discovered that horses had an easier time pulling streetcars that ran on them.

Monday, June 20, 2005

England Expects Every Blonde To Do Her Duty...

In the War of the Potatoes:

"Potatoes have been around for many, many years, but increasingly, with all the coverage that dieting & healthy eating gets in general, we need to make sure that potatoes remain a popular food," ....

Posted by Hello

Unloaded for Bear

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Veg Out, Guys

Tuberular reasoning in the country that oppressed the Irish for hundreds of years:

LONDON — British potato farmers demonstrated outside Parliament on Monday to publicize their bid to remove the term "couch potato" from the Oxford English Dictionary, arguing that the description of slothful TV addicts harms the vegetable's image.

The group of about 30 farmers carried signs that read "couch potato out" and "ban the term couch potato." A similar rally took place in Oxford, central England.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term "couch potato" as "a person who spends leisure time passively or idly sitting around, especially watching television or video tapes."

The British Potato Council says the phrase makes the vegetable seem unhealthy. It wants the expression stripped from the dictionary and replaced in everyday speech with the term "couch slouch."

"The potato industry are fed up with the disservice that 'couch potato' does to our product when we have an inherently healthy product," said Kathryn Race, head of marketing at the British Potato Council, a body set up by the government to run advertising campaigns promoting potato consumption and research issues linked to the vegetable.

"Potatoes have been around for many, many years, but increasingly, with all the coverage that dieting & healthy eating gets in general, we need to make sure that potatoes remain a popular food," Race said.

The demonstrators in London were joined by celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson, who said the vegetable was one of Britain's favorite foods.

"Not only are they healthy, they are versatile, convenient and taste great too. Life without potato is like a sandwich without a filling," he said.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

And now, for something completely different...

From the Scrivener; a Democrat who actually grasps elementary economics:

[Nick] SCHULZ: In other words that education is not the way out of the poverty trap. Now how do you reach that conclusion?

[William] LEWIS: By sifting through evidence primarily from two directions. Interestingly enough, we got the first hint of this when we were studying the US relative to Japan back in the early 1990's when the Japanese were wiping out the US consumer electronics industry and threatening the steel and automobile industries. The conventional wisdom in the US was that it was true, and that was in large part true because the US labor force was so bad. There were many disparaging comments made in the US and maybe even stronger abroad, (and especially in Japan) about how the US labor force was getting what it deserved because it was lazy, uneducated and maybe even dumb. And of course, the Japanese then showed -- the really capable, competent Japanese manufacturing companies -- showed that was wrong by coming here, building their own factories, managing American labor and taking a lot of other local inputs and coming within five percent of reproducing their home country productivity.

So when we first came out with this conclusion, it just really staggered Bob Reich and others. Bob Reich was US Secretary of Labor and a great advocate at that time of the German apprenticeship system and felt like we just needed to train American labor better. And we showed that something like 40 percent of the unemployed in Germany had been through the apprenticeship system.

But more importantly, you can take the US workforce and train it on the job with sufficiently skilled managers to reach within a hair's breadth of the highest productivity in world in these industries. That pattern -- and of course that conclusion back then coupled with the fact that the US wasn't behind -- really got a huge amount of attention and
really undermined the initial economic platform on which Bill Clinton was elected.

I am a Democrat, by the way, and I voted for Clinton, but he clearly was wrong about the health of the US economy in his first campaign and in the early days of his being president

The great bulk of the evidence about education came from competent multinational corporations of any nationality. Showing they could go virtually anywhere in the world and take the local workforce and train it to come close to home country productivity.

And then, sort of the clinching evidence was we then looked at some other industries. We compared the construction industry in the US to construction in Brazil and found that in Houston, the US industry was using Mexican agriculture workers who were illiterate and didn't speak English. So they were not any different than the agricultural workers who were building similar high rises say in Sao Palo. And yet they were working at four times the productivity.


LEWIS: Just because people are not educated does not mean that they are incapable, which is a mistake educated people in the West often make -- and not just the West but probably in Japan as well. These people can be trained on the job to accomplish quite high skill levels and quite high levels of productivity. And that's basically good news because if the World Bank and everybody else had to wait until we revamp the educational institutions of all the poor countries and then put a cohort or two of workers through it, we are talking about another 50 years before anything happens. That's not acceptable and it's not necessary, thank God.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Would Dick Durbin Like to Fly the Friendly Skies....

...with the few people an FBI agent reported he'd seen chained and isolated at Guantanamo? The same people described in this January 2002 press conference:

Q: Mr. Secretary...Has the United States begun to transfer al Qaeda and Taliban detainees to Gitmo [Guantanamo Bay, Cuba]? And, as reported, are you considering or will you use such restraints as perhaps tranquilizers and even hoods to keep these people calm -- these, as you say, dangerous people calm as you transport them?

Rumsfeld: The transportation from Kandahar very likely is being handled by TransCom [U.S. Transportation Command]. And the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are being handled by the acting combatant commander there for SouthCom [U.S. Southern Command].

And they have been authorized and instructed to use appropriate restraint, as you'll recall. I have no idea what specifically that means.

What they have done is consult a variety of experts on prisons and prisoners. They have reviewed, at my insistence, the uprising at Mazar-e Sharif, where a great many people were killed because of the prison uprising. They have reviewed the difficulties that the Pakistani soldiers had, where some people were killed as the al Qaeda and Taliban forces that had been detained by the Pakistan army broke loose. And they're fully aware that these are dangerous individuals. As you undoubtedly know, one of them came out of a hospital recently in, I believe, Kandahar, and blew himself up and others -- at least himself. I don't know -- I suspect not others, because they were all aware that that is -- that there are among these prisoners people who are perfectly willing to kill themselves and kill other people.

So I hope that they use the appropriate restraint, and that's what I suspect they will be doing.

One Senator Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Dick Durbin, (D, Ill) compares American soldiers, who have to deal with bloodthirsty jihadists at Guantanamo, to Nazis and Communists because of a report of isolated incidents:

On a couple of occasions.....On one occasion....On another occasion....

He observed prisoners restrained by handcuffs, including one who had pulled out a 'pile' of his own hair. Perhaps he might be one of:

The military is spending about $2.8 million to construct a psychiatric ward for mentally ill detainees....

The psychiatric facility is needed because about 4 percent of the detainees are on psychotropic medications for illnesses ranging from schizophrenia to manic depression, said Navy Capt. Steve Edmonson, the head doctor for detainees.

The above coming from a story in the Washington Times that opened:

...after a guard discovered a dangerously sharp object hidden in the empty cell of a detainee, a violent confrontation ensued, illustrating military officials' contention that criticisms from human rights groups only tell part of the story.

According to two Army prison guards... the prisoner was temporarily in another part of the prison for a bath when the jagged, rectangular piece of metal, three to four inches long was found and removed. altercation then followed in which the detainee tried to gouge out one of the guards' eyes.

After first allowing the detainee to return from his shower to the cell, a five-man team of guards then began a carefully choreographed "cell extraction" to move him to another cell, where he would not be able to do further damage.

"He was extremely aggressive from the moment we went in," said the 28-year-old guard, whose job it was to "push the detainee back" as another guard quickly handcuffed the prisoner.

Before the cuffs could go on though, things went wrong and the detainee forced his hands up under the first guard's plexiglass face mask and began digging for the eyeball.

"He tried to insert one finger into my eye socket, then he transitioned into a fishhook maneuver," the guard said. "He got his finger into my mouth and was trying to rip my cheek off." After another moment, the detainee's hands were forced down and into the cuffs.

Por Unos Pocos Rubles Mas...

The daughter of a former Mexican policeman will sell the ice pick that killed Leon Trotsky:

The ice pick used to murder Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is believed to have been found 65 years after his assassination....The murder weapon vanished after Trotsky, exiled by communist leader Joseph Stalin, was killed on the dictator’s orders in Mexico City in 1940 when Ramon Mercador plunged it into the back of his head.

....Now Ana Alicia Salas says her late father, police commander Alfredo, stole it “for posterity”.

Trotsky’s grandson Seva Volkov says if she gives the pick to the museum of Trotsky’s life he will give a DNA sample to see if blood on the handle is Leon’s, the Mirror wrote.

But she said: “I am looking for some financial benefit. I think something as historically important at this should be worth something, no?”

Kinder, Gentler POW Camps

Back in the good ol' days when FDR was president, Senator Dick Durban might be interested in how some (actual) POWS were treated on American soil:

Resentful that Italian war prisoners held at the base enjoyed better living conditions than they did, and angered after a fistfight with the Italians felled one of their own, dozens of black servicemen stationed at Fort Lawton stormed out of their segregated barracks and began attacking POWs on Aug. 14, 1944.

Bloodshed in Seattle

One Italian was lynched and a dozen injured. Three months later, the Army convened the largest court-martial of World War II.

Which does seem a little more serious than malfunctioning air-conditioning. This incident was even reported in newspapers at the time, yet no one suggested we should obsess over individuals acts of wrongdoing. There was a war on.

Just as there is now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Valedictorians, Valedictorians Everywhere...

But, not a lot of think. Since at Garfield High you could be outside the top 10% of your graduating class, and still be a 'valedictorian':

This year's 406-member graduating class at Garfield High School features 44 valedictorians. Forty-four students with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages who, over seven semesters of mostly honors and Advanced Placement classes, have never earned less than an A.

....the multiple valedictorians at Garfield are reflective of a national trend of rewarding a number of high-achieving students at graduation rather than singling out one.

And nationally, Garfield may be just mid-range. Bullard High School in Fresno, Calif., is graduating 58 valedictorians this year.

....Thomas Guskey, a University of Kentucky education professor, said that in schools that use decimal grading, the GPAs of top students may differ by only a hundredth of a percentage point. And he said that parents unhappy with such hair-splitting have taken their complaints to court.

"After special education, the biggest number of school court cases is around the selection of valedictorians," he said.

Amy Hagopian, Garfield's PTSA co-president and mother of one of the valedictorians....pointed out, this year's valedictorians don't reflect the school's full diversity. Only one African-American student earned the top honor, although blacks make up 22 percent of the student body.

"It's pretty much a parade of white and Asian faces," said Hagopian. "That's one of our dilemmas at Garfield."

Part of Garfield's mission under first-year principal Howard is to raise the academic achievement of a broader spectrum of students. Howard said he isn't satisfied with 44 valedictorians.

"I want more," he said. "I want high achievement to be infectious. I want every student here to realize the opportunities that could be waiting for them when they walk out these doors."

Howard may get his wish. Among Garfield's freshman class, 129 currently have perfect 4.0s.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Same old song, next verse:

Municipalities make promises they can't keep too:

San Diego ... Mayor Dick Murphy will soon resign just months after his re-election. Six current and former trustees of the city pension board have just been charged with felony counts of violating a conflict-of-interest law. And the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Dept. are investigating the city for not telling the truth about its finances when selling bonds to investors. But the root of San Diego's fiscal and legal woes is also the root of what could be a radical, and permanent, solution to them: San Diego's $3.5 billion pension fund.

Actually, much of that money isn't in a fund – it's just what San Diego has promised to current and retired workers. The San Diego City Employees' Retirement System faces a deficit that totals one-third of its obligations. City taxpayers must come up with more than $1 billion to plug that hole: A lot of money in a city with an annual budget of $2.5 billion.

How did this happen? San Diego is in trouble because it's done for decades just what other city and state governments around the nation regularly do: Treat its public-retirement fund as a political slush fund at the expense of taxpayers.

For decades, San Diego thought it had found the answer to an intractable municipal problem: City workers want higher salaries, but private-sector voters would rather pay lower taxes. So, San Diego kept public-sector salaries in check and made it up to workers by promising them ever-higher retirement benefits in years to come, guaranteed, of course, by future taxpayers.

Over the past 25 years, according to attorneys at Vinson & Elkins who issued an independent report on San Diego's woes last year, San Diego used temporary pension "surpluses" to, among other things, permanently hike benefits for retirees – kicking the long-term bill into the future.

Worse: It seems that San Diego pols may not have been truthful to investors about the extent of the future payouts it would have to make.

[Hmm. Hasn't Paul Krugman been telling everyone how secure defined benefit pensions are?]

A few years back, that bill started coming due. Retirees sued San Diego in 2003 to force taxpayers to shore up the growing deficit in the pension fund, after the stock market had plummeted – and Wall Street investors started to pay attention to the results of decades' worth of creative accounting.

Now, San Diego is fiscally paralyzed until it sorts out its problems. The city can't borrow for capital projects, like, say, to build roads or sewers.

[What to do? What to do?]

....San Diego's next mayor should propose to fund the current pension deficit only in conjunction with one reform that will improve the city's fiscal health forever: Switching the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System from a traditional public-sector pension, in which taxpayers guarantee benefits to retirees and must foot the bill for benefit increases, to the kind of pension system offered in the private sector.

Under a reformed, modern system, workers would pay into their own 401(k)-style retirement accounts with a matching contribution each year from the city. The workers, not the politicians and the taxpayers, would assume responsibility for investing that money wisely in diversified mutual funds managed by a professional firm.

This switch would mean that, over time, San Diego politicians would have no giant public pension fund that tempts them to repeatedly offer city workers new benefits in exchange for support. Instead, city pensions would be safely in the hands of each worker – just as most private-sector workers control their own retirement accounts.

What's more secure than economic rationality.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Assume a Can't Opener?


Paul Krugman hides his eyes from the bogeyman:

Let's ignore those who believe that private medical accounts - basically tax shelters for the healthy and wealthy - can solve our health care problems through the magic of the marketplace.

Yes, let's ignore the economist with both a Bates Clark Medal and a Nobel Prize--thus outranking Paul--who believes in creating incentives to make health care delivery more efficient. It's much easier to win arguments when you don't have any opposition.

Update: As for Krugman's idea that we'll save money by letting the government handle payments for medical care, here's the history:

National Health Care Expenditures

Private % vs. Public %

1929: 86.4% v 13.6%
1940: 79.7% v 20.3%
1950: 72.8% v 27.2%
1960: 75.4% v 24.6%
1970: 62.2% v 37.8%
1980: 57.6% v 42.4%
1990: 59.5% v 40.5%
1998: 54.5% v 45.5%

Percent Paid Private Out of Pocket

1950: 56.3%
1960: 48.3%
1970: 35.3%
1980: 24.4%
1990: 20.7%
1998: 17.4%

2000: 15%

The above data show the real reason behind health care rising as a % of GDP over the last few decades. And, Krugman wants to move the figure for private payment to 0%

How Dare You Sully Our Tournament With Amateurs

Golf gals of the LPGA had been griping about a rules change for their annual championship that was made to assuage the sponsor, McDonalds. Which didn't sit well with those who apparently prefer to play without anyone watching:

Since its inception in 1955, the LPGA Championship has been a gathering for pros only, a place where amateurs need not apply, much less receive a sponsor's exemption.

That changes Thursday, when 15-year-old Michelle Wie makes history, albeit controversial, by teeing it up at Bulle Rock Golf Course.

...."I don't necessarily agree giving an exemption into any major tournament. Unless you have a precedent, stick to the history behind it," Cristie Kerr said Tuesday.

"Once you open Pandora's box, where do you draw the line? This is the kind of tournament you should have to earn your way into. If we have to resort to those kind of things for publicity, maybe we should look at other ways we can do it."

Here's a way, look at the results:

1. Annika Sorenstam, $270,000 68-67-69-73-277 -11
2 Michelle Wie [amateur] 69-71-71-69-280 -8
3 Paula Creamer, $140,517 68-73-74-67-282 -6
3 Laura Davies, $140,517 67-70-74-71-282 -6
5 Lorena Ochoa, $82,486 72-72-68-72-284 -4
5 Natalie Gulbis, $82,486 67-71-73-73-284 -4

25 Cristie Kerr, $11,225 74-72-67-78-291 +3

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Facts are Wrong. The Analysis is Silly. There's a Reference to E.B. White. It's...

The quintessential New York Times Op-ed:

We used to be one nation, undivided, under three networks, three car companies and two brands of toothpaste for all. Today we are the mass niche nation.

In the 1940s and 50s--in addition to Ford (selling Fords, Mercuries, and Lincolns), Chrysler (Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial) and General Motors (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac) American manufacturers of passenger vehicles included: Packard, Studebaker, Nash, Hudson, Kaiser, and Willys (Jeep).

Beginning in the 50s several of those cars became part of American Motors. But that hardly limited the niches available to American motorists. At least as early as 1949 they could purchase Volkswagons, Mercedes, Jaguars, MGs and a few other British sportscars.

Throughout 50s and 60s there were also; Volvo, DKW, Renault, Austin Healey, Triumph, Vauxhall, Lotus, Rover, Fiat, Alfa Romeo,Toyota, and Datsun (Nissan) . The 70s saw BMW, Audi, Saab, and several more Japanese manufacturers such as Honda enter the U.S.

Too many toothpastes for you? That was true for Ayn Rand's sister in the 1960s too. As Barbara Branden related the story in her biography, The Passion of Ayn Rand, upon Rand discovering that she had a sister who'd survived World War II in Leningrad, she brought her and her husband to New York to live with her. But it didn't go well, as the sister had no skills to cope with life in a capitalist country.

The straw that broke the camel's back was a trip to a drugstore that overwhelmed the sister with the multiplicity of choices of toothpaste.

In Russia there was only the toothpaste you were given, here there was Colgate, Pepsodent, Ipana, Crest, Arm and Hammer, Macleans. Even though her husband's weak heart needed the attention available only in American hospitals, she returned with him to Leningrad, because she was unable to handle the complexities of shopping in America.

As for the Big Three networks, that was the result of conscious Federal government policy to deny licenses to potential new entrants, not market forces, as Tom Hazlett explained.

[Thanks to Mindles Dreck]

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Krugman's Pile of Horse Manure

Labor Force Participation 1948-2004

Ronald Reagan's favorite joke was this:

Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist.

Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked.

“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, and the Angry Bears' favorite appears to be the reverse. Confronted with the galloping horses of strong economic news of the past year or so, and the concomitant decrease in the unemployment rate, the subject is now being changed.

The labor force participation and ratio of employed people to total population must be the manure pile in all this.

Yet, this maneuver leaves Paul having stepped in it with his recent claim that since 1973 his middle class country has been destroyed (by the nefarious Reagan and his Wayback Machine). Because, if the Labor Force Participation Rate is the thing to look at, then the economy post-1973 looks better than ever according to the above graph. And the supposed Golden Age of compressed incomes from 1947-1973 positively anemic.

The Employment to Population ratio tells a similar story. The average rate for the month of January of every year from 1948 to 1973 is 56.5%. For the Januaries from 1974 to 2005, it's 61.0%.

Posted by Hello

Clinton Treasury Official Implicated in Enron Scandal

A story unlikely to get much play at former Clinton Treasury Department economist's blogs:

Wall Street giant Citigroup agreed yesterday to pay $2 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing the bank of defrauding investors through its work for fallen energy trader Enron.

Though one must read through to the 17th paragraph to find out why:

In late 2001, after revelations about Enron's accounting made headlines, Citigroup and J.P. Morgan sought to arrange the company's sale to rival Dynegy so they could split a $90 million investment banking fee and stave off its likely bankruptcy. The suit said calls by Citigroup Vice Chairman and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and J.P. Morgan Chairman William Harrison to credit-rating firm Moody's Investors Service were attempts to "strong-arm" the firm from downgrading Enron before a sale could be completed.

The actual wrongdoing alleged being:

The lawsuit accused financial institutions of helping Enron raise money even as it secretly was imploding. The University of California, which in February 2002 was named lead plaintiff in the consolidated class actions, claimed the banks participated in a host of schemes that violated securities law.

Citigroup, for example, allegedly disguised loans to enable Enron to present a misleading picture of its balance sheet.

Citigroup lent Enron $2.4 billion in a series of deals identified as "swaps" and nicknamed Delta transactions because they were conducted through Citigroup's Cayman Island unit, called Delta. Citigroup paid Enron hundreds of millions of dollars each time, obligating the company to repay the cash over five years.

Although the transactions were in fact loans, they never were disclosed as such on Enron's books. The plaintiffs alleged that Enron was seeking to conceal the full amount of its debt so that regulators and investors would be unaware of its precarious financial position.

Based on its investment-grade rating at the time, Enron could have received credit at much lower rates, but it paid Citigroup and J.P. Morgan 6.5 percent to 7 percent for the "disguised loans," making the deals hugely profitable for the banks, the plaintiffs said.

And Enron wasn't the largest scandal the Democrat-connected firm was involved in:

Citigroup last year agreed to pay $2.6 billion as part of the record $6.1 billion settlement by banks, auditors and former board members to resolve class-action claims resulting from the 2002 downfall of telecom giant WorldCom. Citigroup agreed in March to pay $75 million to investors in the defunct fiber-optic network Global Crossing.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Was It the Long Version of Inna Gadda Da Vida?

Paul reprises his nostalgia for the Great Depression and World War II:

Since 1973 the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled, and the income of the top 0.1 percent has tripled.

Why is this happening? I'll have more to say on that another day, but for now let me just point out that middle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power.

Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families ....

The good ol' days when it took putting 15 million men in military uniforms to cure the 17% unemployment of the late New Deal?

However, if the problem begins to appear in 1973, wouldn't it be somewhat more likely that the cause is located in the 1960s, rather than the 80s? We wouldn't have to look very hard to find plausible candidates, such as the War on Poverty...the Civil Rights Act of 1964...the Sexual Revolution...Feminist ideology.

It's hardly beyond plausibility that the breakdown of cultural norms of responsibility and morality would have unleashed forces that retarded the ability of the least skilled to enjoy the prosperity that the college educated middle class--such as Princeton economists--did.

Or that the explosion of unwed mothers might have contributed to stagnant income growth and lack of mobility.

That giving special classes of citizens the right to sue their employers for not promoting them, might make those citizens more dangerous to employ in the first place, thus preventing their getting their feet on the first step of the ladder.

Or, how about the transformation of teachers' unions (the NEA in particular) from a professional association to a monopolistic union that destroyed most inner city public schools ability to prepare students for productive lives.

I've Got You, Bob

Ann reminds us that the Deep Throat story was long ago demolished:

The fictional Deep Throat knew things [Mark] Felt could not possibly have known, such as the 18 1/2-minute gap on one of the White House tapes. Only six people knew about the gap when Woodward reported it. All of them worked at the White House. Felt not only didn't work at the White House, but when the story broke, he also didn't even work at the FBI anymore.

Deep Throat was a smoker and heavy drinker, neither of which describes Mark Felt.

Woodward claimed he signaled Deep Throat by moving a red flag in a flowerpot to the back of his balcony and that Deep Throat signaled him by drawing the hands of a clock in Woodward's New York Times.

But in his 1993 book, Deep Truth: The Lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Adrian Havill did something it had occurred to no one else to do: He looked at Woodward's old apartment!

Havill found that Woodward had a sixth-floor interior apartment that could not be seen from the street. Even from the back of the apartment complex, the balcony was too high for any flowerpot to be seen. So unless there was a second flowerpot visible from a nearby grassy knoll, the red flag in the flowerpot story is ... well, full of red flags.

In addition, newspapers were not delivered door-to-door in Woodward's apartment building but were left in a stack in the lobby. Deep Throat could not have known which newspaper Woodward would pick up.

Thus Mark Felt's daughter is probably making stuff up for--what she hopes will be--financial gain:

Felt's free-love, flower-girl daughter was estranged from her father for decades on account of her rejection of conventional bourgeois institutions such as marriage. Now she is broke—because of her rejection of conventional bourgeois institutions such as marriage. (Too bad she didn't follow Pop's advice to "follow the money.")

She lives in a house bought for her by her father ...and said she decided to reveal her father as Deep Throat to try to make some more money. "I'm still a single mom," she explained, "I am not ashamed of this."

Now, the question ought to be, why is Woodward playing along.

Posted by Hello

Canada Care Hazardous to Life...

That is now the official legal status of Canada's health care system, according to the country's Supreme Court:

TORONTO — Canada's Supreme Court dealt a powerful blow to the state monopoly on health care yesterday, striking down a Quebec ban on private health insurance for services provided under the country's Medicare system of universal coverage.

....The Supreme Court said Quebec's prohibition violated the province's charter of rights by threatening the lives of patients. The justices noted other countries have successfully combined private and public care.

.... in recent years Canada's Medicare has been troubled by long waiting lists and a lack of doctors, nurses and state-of-the-art equipment. Some patients wait months for surgery, MRI machines are scarce and many Canadians travel to the United States for treatment.

Under the Canadian system, it is illegal to seek faster treatment and jump to the head of the line by paying out of pocket for public care. Private health clinics have sprouted up for Canadians willing to spend their own money for treatment. But they are technically illegal, though some provincial governments tend to look the other way, especially for more minor treatments.

....The justices took a year to rule on a case that began in 1997, when George Zeliotis, a Montreal man, tried to pay for hip-replacement surgery rather than wait nearly a year for treatment at a public hospital.

Zeliotis told the high court he suffered pain and became addicted to painkillers during the yearlong wait for hip-replacement surgery.

He contended he should have been allowed to pay for faster service at a private clinic.

His doctor, Jacques Chaoulli, argued his patient's rights were violated because Quebec couldn't provide the care he needed but didn't offer him the option of getting it privately.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

No Brains in Russia?

More scientific proof you'll still have headaches:

The resident of a Russian village has hammered a nail into his own head.

While alone at home 37-year-old Yuri Dedov took a hammer and drove a 122-millimeter nail into his forehead all the way down to the nailhead, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper wrote.

When Dedov’s mother came home, she found her son had a fever. Upon seen the nail in his head, she called for an ambulance.

Dedov was taken to hospital and operated on.

After the successful operation, he said that he had heard a voice saying “Take a hammer and do it.”

Meanwhile, another Russki Rokket Skientist was heard from:

Russia’s army commanders have banned the bikini wearing category from the yearly army beauty parade, Itar-Tass news agency reported on Thursday.

“Why should our lady officers get undressed?” asked Major-General Nikolai Burbyga, chairman of the judging panel. “Let’s keep that a military secret.”

The final of the “beauties in epaulettes” competition takes place on June 21 in Moscow, with soldiers expected to show grace and artistry, the agency reported. The 19 servicewomen had to show off their military skills to make it to the final.