Thursday, December 29, 2005

Separation of Church and State

I usually avoid school prayer and ten commandment posting debates, because I consider them much ado about nothing, but regardless I am continually annoyed by this fictitious creation of the "separation of church and state" as a constitutional concept. Thus I was amused to read this smackdown by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on whether a public building in Kentucky could display the ten commandments along with other historical documents.

The ACLU’s argument contains three fundamental flaws. First, the ACLU makes repeated reference to “the separation of church and state.” This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state. See Lynch, 465 U.S. at 673; Lemon, 403 U.S. at 614; Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 312 (1952); Brown v. Gilmore, 258 F.3d 265, 274 (4th Cir. 2001); Stark v. Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 640., 123 F.3d 1068, 1076 (8th Cir. 1997); see also Capitol Square, 243 F.3d at 300 (dismissing strict separatism as “a notion that simply perverts our history”). Our Nation’s history is replete with governmental acknowledgment and in some cases, accommodation of religion. See, e.g., Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983) (upholding legislative prayer); McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420 (1961) (upholding Sunday closing laws); see also Lynch, 465 U.S. at 674 (“There is an unbroken history of official acknowledgment by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life from at least 1789.”); Capitol Square, 243 F.3d at 293-99 (describing historical examples of governmental involvement with religion). After all, “[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” Zorach, 343 U.S. at 313. Thus, state recognition of religion that falls short of endorsement is constitutionally permissible.

Dark Matter

I mentioned this briefly before, but couldn't link to it properly. Now economist Michael Mandel at Businessweek has a more in depth look at the role of "dark matter" and trade deficits, including a link to the paper by Ricardo Hausmann and Federico Sturzenegger. I guess it is current account deficit day here at the Chief Brief.

A little teaser:

In a nut shell our story is very simple. The income generated by a country’s financial position is a good measure of the true value of its assets. Once assets are valued accordingly, the US appears to be a net creditor, not a net debtor and its net foreign asset position appears to have been fairly stable over the last 20 years. The bulk of the difference with the official story comes from the unaccounted export of knowhow carried out by US corporations through their investments abroad, explaining why the US appears to be a consistently smarter investor, making more money on its assets than it pays on its liabilities and why the rest of the world cannot wise up. In addition, the value of this dark matter seems to be rather stable, indicating that they are likely to continue to compensate for the measured trade deficit.

Globalization has made the flows of dark matter a very significant part of the story and the traditional measures of current account balances paint a very distorted picture of reality. In particular, it points towards imbalances that are not really there, making analysts predict crises that, for good reason, remain elusive.

Dumping US Securities?

More from Alex P. Keaton's favorite economist... I have always maintained that the threat from foreigners buying our securities was overstated. They would have no incentive to dump them and cause a crisis, because they would be the one losing money on the deal. In an interview with Milton Friedman posted on Cafe Hayek, the Nobel laureate agrees with me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Kruggy on Health Care

Actually of all the topics Krugman posts on, he is probably the least clueless on healthcare, but his case would be better supported if he wouldn't make exaggerated comments like this.

...[D]rug companies in particular spend more marketing their products to doctors than they do developing those products ... They wouldn't do that if doctors were immune to persuasion.

Now drug companies do spend a considerable amount on marketing to doctors, by one report an estimated $5.7 billion a year, promoting your products is a cost of doing business after all, but but by no means is this more than they spend on development. Just one company, Pfizer, spent more than that, $7.7 billion on R & D last year. You would think an award winning economist would know how to read a corporate earnings report.

But even this overstates it, about half of the money spent on marketing drugs to doctors is giving them free samples to give to patients! So I guess if the government gives drugs to patients for free that is good, but if the companies do that, it is bad.

The Wal-Mart Effect

Still catching up... Jim Glass has a rather good post on two of my favorite subjects (for different reasons) Wal-Mart and Paul Krugman. Don Luskin has some similar accolades on the post here. While you are at it catch Luskin's latest Krugman Truth Squad post.

Idiocy in Education

I have been on vacation so I am a bit behind in my blogging, but I came across this idiotic article by former Washington governor Booth Gardner on eliminating the WASL, the state education exam.

There are also causes for the achievement gap inside the walls of many schools. Our public-education system is based on a single dominant European culture. As a result, many students of color feel they are studying in a foreign land. They don't see teachers who look like them. They are not likely to read much about people from their culture or background. If they are Native American, they will probably study civics without ever hearing a word about their own sovereign tribal governments.

Oh really, so which ethnic group has the highest acheivement standards in Washington State, is it those "dominant European culture" whites? No, it is Asians. Somehow I don't see them whining about how they can't learn because the teachers don't look like them or because they don't learn Chinese or Vietnamese culture in the classroom. They just do their homework and work their butts off.

That would be too much to ask of other "underrepresented minorities" though, so the left just continues to practise the bigotry of low expectations. H/T Soundpolitics.

Fake But Accurate

Well Ted "Jabba the Senator" Kennedy admitted that the Mao's Communist Manifesto story was fake, but in the liberals newest standard for truth, "accurate". Lame but expected.

Laura Capps, a Kennedy spokeswoman, said last night that the senator cited ''public reports" in his opinion piece. Even if the assertion was a hoax, she said, it did not detract from Kennedy's broader point that the Bush administration has gone too far in engaging in surveillance.

Later in the same article Taranto states that UMass is going to hold a conference on "Rethinking Marxism". What a brilliant idea, I want to sponsor a conference on "Rethinking the Black Plague" or how about "Rethinking the Spanish Inquisition"!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

You are a Kennedy, not a Macy's Parade Float!

OK, I plagiarized the title from a Robin Williams routine. Ted Kennedy once again proves what a moron he is. In a paranoid editorial lamenting the end of human rights in America, not only does he pass on a fake story, but he can't even get the name of Mao's Little Red Book right.

Just this past week there were public reports that a college student in Massachusetts had two government agents show up at his house because he had gone to the library and asked for the official Chinese version of Mao Tse-tung's Communist Manifesto.

Being a Russian Studies major, I had to read this crap in college. I guess this is what happens to your education when you get kicked out of Harvard for cheating.

H/T Opinionjournal and Brainster.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Morgan Freeman: Great American Actor

Morgan Freeman has always been one of my favorite actors. You notice I didn't say one of my favorite "black" actors, he is an American, not black. H/T Opinionjournal.

Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous."

"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Sunday (7 p.m. EST). "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."

Black History Month has roots in historian Carter G. Woodson's Negro History Week, which he designated in 1926 as the second week in February to mark the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Woodson said he hoped the week could one day be eliminated — when black history would become fundamental to American history.

Freeman notes there is no "white history month," and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talking about it."

The actor says he believes the labels "black" and "white" are an obstacle to beating racism.

"I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man," Freeman says.

Iraq's Future, Our Past

A great editorial in the WSJ from several East European ambassadors. These are people who know the power of freedom.

When it comes to tyranny, we believe we can offer some personal experience. After all, it was only a short while ago that our countries emerged from Soviet oppression. During the decades of dictatorship, our peoples' attempts to restore freedom and democracy were crushed. Who would have thought in 1956 in Hungary, in 1968 in Czechoslovakia, or in 1980 in Poland, that we could get rid of the dictatorial regimes in our lifetimes and shape our own future?

The memories of tyranny are still alive in the minds of many Czechs, Hungarians, Poles and Slovaks. We also remember the challenges we faced early in our democratic transition. It is a testament to the resilience of our peoples that we are where we are now -- members of NATO and the European Union, and strong allies of the U.S. We got here by believing in the transformational power of democracy and a market economy. But we needed others to believe in us, too. We could not have made it alone. We needed the perseverance and support of Western democracies for freedom finally to arrive.

The attainment of our immediate goals of stability and prosperity could have made us complacent. It has not. We feel that as free and democratic nations we have a duty to help others achieve the security and prosperity that we now enjoy. That is why we have been part of the coalition to help democracy emerge in Iraq.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

So Much for Racism

I can't believe Louis Farrakhan would lie to us.

( - Statistics released by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals suggest that fewer than half of the victims of Hurricane Katrina were black, and that whites died at the highest rate of all races in New Orleans.

Liberals in the aftermath of the storm were quick to allege that the Bush administration delayed its response to the catastrophe because most of the victims were black.

Damu Smith, founder of the National Black Environmental Justice Network, in September said that the federal government "ignored us, they forgot about us ... because we look like we look."

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in October said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency wasn't fit to help the storm's victims because "there are not enough blacks high up in FEMA" and added that, "certainly the Red Cross is the same."

Rapper Kanye West used his time on NBC's telethon for the hurricane victims to charge that, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

But the state's demographic information suggests that whites in New Orleans died at a higher rate than minorities. According to the 2000 census, whites make up 28 percent of the city's population, but the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals indicates that whites constitute 36.6 percent of the storm's fatalities in the city.

So Much for Inflation

Now maybe the Fed will stop jacking up rates before they cause another recession? From the WP.

WASHINGTON -- A record plunge in the cost of gasoline pushed consumer prices down by the largest amount in 56 years in November while industrial production posted a solid gain.

The new government reports Thursday provided further evidence that the economy is shaking off the blows delivered by a string of devastating hurricanes. But analysts cautioned that the huge drop in consumer prices was overstating the improvement in inflation.

The Labor Department report showed the Consumer Price Index fell by 0.6 percent last month, the biggest decline since a 0.9 percent fall in July 1949. It reflected a record fall in gasoline prices, which have been retreating since they surged to above $3 per gallon right after Katrina hit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Economics of Hybrids: Part II

I speculated on this before, but this says it a little more conclusively. If you want to buy a hybrid for social reasons, the environmentalist equivilant of buying a car to pick up chicks, go ahead, but you aren't going to save any money. From the WSJ.

The Prius is a nifty gadget and comes with lots of extras. But Toyota markets the vehicle on its fuel efficiency, and fans tout its fuel efficiency. And our point was to debunk the idea that saving gasoline is a virtue independent of economics, such that it makes sense, say, to spend a buck to reduce gas use by 50 cents., the auto shopper site, guided us to Honda's Civic and Toyota's Corolla as conventional alternatives to the hybrid Prius. This was the source of our claim that the Prius retails for $9,500 more than comparable vehicles. In its own research, Edmunds concluded a Prius owner would have to drive 66,500 miles per year or gasoline would have to jump to $10 for the purchase to pay off.

But don't take our word for it. Kazuo Okamoto, Toyota's research chief, recently told the Financial Times that, in terms of fuel efficiency, "the purchase of a hybrid car is not justified."

Now, as an economic matter, overpaying for the privilege of saving gasoline is simply a subsidy to other gasoline consumers. Also as a regulatory matter: Thanks to the special genius of our corporate fuel economy rules, Prius buyers directly underwrite Toyota's ability to sell more SUVs and pickups in the U.S. market without paying the fines that Mercedes, BMW and Volvo long ago accepted as a cost of doing business in the U.S.

But doesn't saving oil have benefits beyond the dollars saved -- for instance, postponing the doom of civilization?

No: If Prius owners consume less, there's less demand, prices will be lower and somebody else will step up to consume more than they would at the otherwise higher price. That's the price mechanism at work. Oil is a fantastically useful commodity. Humans can be relied upon to consume all the oil they'd be willing to consume at a given price.

Jay Leno Joke O' the Day

"According to a new ABC Poll, in Iraq 71% of Iraqis think life is going well for them in Iraq. They like living in Iraq. So more Iraqis think things are going well in Iraq then Americans do. So you know what that means? I guess they don't get the New York Times over there."

-Jay Leno-

Monday, December 12, 2005

Outsourcing vs Productivity

I have always thought this talk about outsourcing every job in the country to be a bit ridiculous, while at the same time I have also found corporate America to be a bit short-sighted in its rush for cheaper labor. It is not about outsourcing, it is about productivity. The best companies realize that. From that silly pink newspaper.

Recent research from the consultants McKinsey suggests this may be the case. The research points to a shift away from eliminating jobs, through downsizing or outsourcing, to improving employee productivity.

"For many companies today," says James Manyika, senior partner in McKinsey's technology practice in San Francisco, "and for most companies soon, the biggest pay-off in productivity im-provement will come from making their most talented employees even more talented, and not from automating and outsourcing clerical or production jobs."

Could this be the beginning of the end of outsourcing? Mr Manyika feels businesses definitely should be starting to look at life beyond outsourcing. "Some companies are already at the limits of what they can outsource, given current technology and current costs. Manufacturing has been outsourced. Call centres and other transactional work has been outsourced. Most of the employees that remain are now doing complex work in areas such as sales, research and development and de-sign," he says.

The Sky is Falling, and it is All Bush's Fault

William H. Gates, the father of the richest man in the world, and not exactly poor himself, is famous for his left wing activism, but it looks like he now has crossed over into paranoia.

He picked Wall Street big shot Pete Peterson, who, Gates said, has warned against "the pending bankruptcy of the U.S."

His response drew shocked laughter from the crowd. But Gates wasn't kidding, and he would return to that theme later in the luncheon.

Gates said he is worried about a lot of things -- the Bush administration's tax-cutting policies at a time of war, the financial problems forecast for Social Security and Medicare and a national debt that appears to be flying off the chart as it is being underwritten by foreign governments.

Now personally I would like to see the deficit cut even more, but I think it is a bit of an exaggeration to claim, The national debt is "flying off the charts" and we are on the verge on bankruptcy.

Source: OMB

Besides, how can there be any problem with social security? When the president tried to reform it last year Paul Krugman and all the "experts" said there was nothing wrong with it.

Friday, December 09, 2005

And to Think I am Wasting All My Time Studying Business

The Seattle PI reports on some of my fellow grad students at the University of Washington studying, I kid you not, graffiti. They are even cataloging it on-line. Now I am all for furthering your education, but if I saw something like this on Scrappleface, I wouldn't find it believable. I am glad to know our tax dollars are are being spent wisely. H/T Soundpolitics.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Babs v. Jonah

Intellectual giant Barbra Streisand was so upset over Jonah Goldberg nominally replacing Robert Scheer at the LA Times that she cancelled her subscription. Mr. Goldberg takes the chance to respond to her outrage. It is not a fair fight.

As Streisand surely surmises, we in the warmonger and puppy-kicker community take it as a great badge of honor to be singled out for obloquy by the likes of her. Short of convincing Alec Baldwin to actually make good on his promise to flee the country, vexing the Dashboard Saint of Hollywood Liberalism is about as good as it gets. That my name is such wolf's bane (or Yentl's bane) to her that she must cancel her subscription to the Los Angeles Times is just gravy. Feel free to post pictures of me around your homes if you fear she may be coming through your town.

Streisand's real complaint is that the Times will no longer carry Robert Scheer's column. She's simply wrong on the facts that my column replaced his. I'm part of a bundle which results, I believe, in a net gain of liberal voices. But that Scheer is out and I'm in is a great injustice in her eyes.

Now, Streisand is notorious for her desire, indeed her yearning, to be taken seriously. During the early days of the Clinton administration, when she was basking in the glow of Bubba's gaze, she ostentatiously drenched herself in substance, watching C-SPAN and reading up on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, no doubt finding The Federalist Papers — A.K.A. the Founding's liner notes — particularly helpful. But there were still some things she didn't get. When Bill Clinton invited Sharon Stone to the White House for a consultation, instead of her, Streisand reportedly declared, "Why Sharon Stone? She doesn't know anything about policy."

But we shouldn't mock her interest in substance. That's a healthy sign of citizenship. So let us try to take Streisand seriously.

Is the Current Account Deficit as Bad as They Say?

The Financial Times has a rather interesting article on how the current accounts deficit (more commonly and inaccurately referred to as the trade deficit) is not as bad as portrayed. It is a bit complicated but basically they argue that the important thing is that the income earned from investments bought by US citizens from foreign countries is much higher than the income earned by foreign citizens on investments bought from the US. So overall not nearly as much wealth is leaving the country as portrayed. Unfortunately I only have a subscription to the pink paper version of FT, not the on-line version, so I can't post much of the article, but if you get a chance read it.

‘Dark matter’ makes the US deficit disappear
By Ricardo Hausmann and Federico Sturzenegger Published: December 7 2005 20:40 Last updated: December 7 2005 20:40

In 2005 the US current account deficit is expected to top $700bn. It comes after 27 years of unbroken deficits that have totalled more than $5,000bn, leading to concerns of an impending global crisis. Once the massive financing required to keep on paying for such a widening gap dries up, there will be an ugly adjustment in the world economy. The dollar will collapse, triggering a stampede away from US debt, interest rates will shoot up and a sharp global recession will ensue.

But wait a minute. If this is such an open and shut case, why have markets not precipitated the crisis already?

I Guess Our Local Schools Have Too Much Money

They have to waste their extra money on this idiocy.

FEDERAL WAY, Wash., Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The Federal Way, Wash., school district destroyed lunch menus for 23 elementary schools after an employee added the greeting "Merry Christmas," a report said.

The 11,500 copies of the one-page lunch menu were recycled before they reached students, since the greeting "has a religious connotation for some people," a school spokeswoman told the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune.

The December lunch menus -- reprinted last month at a cost of $494 -- now carry a "Happy Holidays" greeting that the spokeswoman said conforms to practices of the school district between Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.

Nobody knows what incalculable damage these brave public employees saved our children from in having to see those offensive words "Merry Christmas". Who knows, they may have been inspired to give gifts to each other and sit on the laps of fat men.

The next time, rather than waste taxpayers dollars on such stupid things, why don't they just invite the local head of the ACLU in, give them a magic marker, and tell them to go to town?

Monday, December 05, 2005

School Vouchers

I was rather pleased to see an editorial on school vouchers in New Orleans by Nobel Laureate (and Alex P. Keaton's favorite economist) Milton Friedman in today's WSJ. Unfortunately due to the power of the teacher's unions, especially in liberal strongholds, this will probably never happen, but we can always hope.

Whatever the promise of vouchers for the education of New Orleans children, the reform will be opposed by the teachers unions and the educational administrators. They now control a monopoly school system. They are determined to preserve that control, and will go to almost any lengths to do so.

Unions to the contrary, the reform would achieve the purposes of Louisiana far better than the present system. The state's objective is the education of its children, not the construction of buildings or the running of schools. Those are means not ends. The state's objective would be better served by a competitive educational market than by a government monopoly. Producers of educational services would compete to attract students. Parents, empowered by the voucher, would have a wide range to choose from. As in other industries, such a competitive free market would lead to improvements in quality and reductions in cost.

If, by a political miracle, Louisiana could overcome the opposition of the unions and enact universal vouchers, it would not only serve itself, it would also render a service to the rest of the country by providing a large scale example of what the market can do for education when permitted to operate.

Friday, December 02, 2005

France: The New Enron

Don't tell Paul Krugman about this.

Just two days ago France discovered that its national debt was €2,000bn - almost twice the figure normally found on the state balance sheet.

The difference derives from some €900bn ($1,080bn, £630bn) of off-balance sheet public sector pension liabilities that Thierry Breton, finance minister, now points to when warning citizens about the scale of the country's debt problems.

"What is shocking is the bill we are leaving for the next generation," he said this week. The minister is a former chief of France Telecom who was brought in nine months ago to correct France's accounts.

Mr Breton is seeking to challenge not only opponents of economic reform but the 25 per cent of the French workforce in the public sector who benefit from numerous special privileges, notably more favourable pensions than their private sector counterparts.

Well at least they aren't running into each other

You really got to hand it to the people who run our local transit systems.

Expensive new hybrid diesel-electric buses that were portrayed by King County Metro as "green" heroes that would use up to 40 percent less fuel than existing buses have fallen far short of that promise.

In fact, at times, the New Flyer hybrid articulated buses have gotten worse mileage than the often-maligned 1989 dual-mode Breda buses they are replacing. Yet the hybrid buses cost $200,000 more each than a conventional articulated diesel bus.

The disappointing results are a far cry from the rosy predictions made by officials.
In May of this year, when Metro held a public event to herald the arrival of the first of the new hybrid buses, County Executive Ron Sims said they would save 750,000 gallons of fuel a year over the Bredas.

Metro was the first agency in the country to buy a 60-foot articulated bus with a hybrid diesel-electric technology. It ordered 235 of them, 213 for itself for $152 million and 22 for Sound Transit. Metro now has the largest fleet of hybrid buses in the world.

Whatever the news is, it's bad

A bit of wisdom from the WSJ editorial page.

During a quarter century of analyzing and forecasting the economy, I have never seen anything like this. No matter what happens, no matter what data are released, no matter which way markets move, a pall of pessimism hangs over the economy.

It is amazing. Everything is negative. When bond yields rise, it is considered bad for the housing market and the consumer. But if bond yields fall and the yield curve narrows toward inversion, that is bad too, because an inverted yield curve could signal a recession.

If housing data weaken, as they did on Monday when existing home sales fell, well that is a sign of a bursting housing bubble. If housing data strengthen, as they did on Tuesday when new home sales rose, that is negative because the Fed may raise rates further. If foreigners buy our bonds, we are not saving for ourselves. If foreigners do not buy our bonds, interest rates could rise. If wages go up, inflation is coming. If wages go down, the economy is in trouble.

This onslaught of negative thinking is clearly having an impact. During the 2004 presidential campaign, when attacks on the economy were in full force, 36% of Americans thought we were in recession. One year later, even though unemployment has fallen from 5.5% to 5%, and real GDP has expanded by 3.7%, the number who think a recession is underway has climbed to 43%.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Benefits of Incompetence

I was walking to class this morning and I noticed a flier promoting an appearance by former Seattle Police Chief Norm "They won't riot at the WTO" Stamper at an event against the Patriot Act. This flier also promoted his book Breaking Rank. I just continue to find it amazing the number of people who get fired for being incompetent and/or blatantly dishonest, and then manage to get major book deals out of it, Mary Mapes, Jayson Blair, BG Karpinski (of Abu Ghraib fame), the list goes on... People have always screwed up, but at least in the past they had the dignity to be ashamed and hide, now they brag about it! It almost makes you think the easiest way to succeed nowadays is to be an idiot.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Stupid Senate Tricks

I have posted on this subject several times, but this is even dumber than I expected.

The last time Congress imposed a form of the windfall tax was the final gloomy days of Jimmy Carter, and the result was: a substantial reduction in domestic oil production (about 5%), thus raising the price of gas at the pump; and a 10% increase in U.S. reliance on foreign oil. A windfall profits tax is the ultimate act of economic masochism because it taxes only domestic production, while imports and foreign oil subsidiaries bear almost none of the cost.

But wait, this time it's worse. The current Senate proposal would actually require oil companies with daily production of 500,000 barrels or more to disregard generally accepted accounting principles, by revaluing their oil inventories. GAAP accounting (and current tax law) allows oil firms to value barrels of oil sold at what it costs to replace that barrel.

The Senate bill would require the companies to revalue their inventories by $18.75 a barrel -- an arbitrary number if there ever was one. In effect, this means that Congress is creating the illusion of higher oil profits, and thus raising the tax liability of oil companies by an estimated $5 billion next year. This would be on top of the 35% tax rate they already pay on their actual profits.

When Andy Fastow tried to create phony profits at Enron, he got 10 years in the slammer. Now Senators want to create phony corporate profits, so they can grab them to spend. Where's Eliot Spitzer when you really need him? What's even more reprehensible about this revenue grab is its retroactive nature. In a sense this is less a tax than it is an ex post facto confiscation of private property.

Economists Correctly Predict 7 of the last 3 Recessions

Despite the best wishes of some the US economy keeps on plugging along quite nicely.

The economy grew at a lively 4.3 percent pace in the third quarter, the best showing in more than a year. The performance offered fresh testimony that the country's overall economic health managed to improve despite the destructive force of Gulf Coast hurricanes.
The new snapshot of economic activity, released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, showed the growth at an even faster pace than the 3.8 percent annual rate first reported for the July-to-September quarter a month ago.

Of course the NY Times keeps hoping.

Gasoline is cheaper than it was before Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans. Consumer confidence jumped last month and new home sales hit a record. The stock market has been rising. Even the nation's beleaguered factories appear to be headed for a happy holiday season.

By most measures, the economy appears to be doing just fine. No, scratch that, it appears to be booming.

But as always with the United States economy, it is not quite that simple.

Cue ominous music...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The High Benefit of Low Prices

As I have commented before, WalMart has become the limousine left's favorite whipping boy, responsible for all of society's ills (well except for those caused by Halliburton). Cafe Hayek addresses this, commenting on a Washington Post article. One thing the left doesn't quite seem to understand is it isn't the cocktail circuit crowd that benefits from WalMarts low prices, it is the poor people that they claim to want to help. If the government gives poor people 10% more money, that is good in their eyes, but if WalMart allows them to buy goods at 15% lower prices, they are indifferent to the benefits. This isn't about economics, it is about control.

Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Does Paul Krugman Still Claim to be an Economist?

From his latest bit of dribble.

We like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, not like those coddled Europeans with their oversized welfare states. But as Jacob Hacker of Yale points out in his book "The Divided Welfare State," if you add in corporate spending on health care and pensions ... we actually have a welfare state that's about as large relative to our economy as those of other advanced countries. ...

[T]hose who don't work for companies with good benefits are, in effect, second-class citizens. Still, the system more or less worked for several decades after World War II. Now, however, deals are being broken ... What went wrong? An important part of the answer is that America's semi-privatized welfare state worked in the first place only because we had a stable corporate order. And that stability - along with any semblance of economic security for many workers - is now gone.

Regular readers ... know what I think we should do: instead of trying to provide economic security through the back door, via tax breaks designed to encourage corporations to provide health care and pensions, we should provide it through the front door, starting with national health insurance. You may disagree. But one thing is clear: Mr. Drucker's age of discontinuity is also an age of anxiety, in which workers can no longer count on loyalty from their employers.

Surely an economist can distinguish between "welfare" provided by productive corporations which are paying benefits to attract employees, and government which forcibly confiscates wealth in order to distribute to others as it see fit? Can't he? I am taking micro right now, and I am pretty sure the professor mentioned it. I am sure they teach this at MIT too...

Another Sign We Are Too Damn Fat

I feel guilty for not going to the gym this morning.

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fatter rear ends are causing many drug injections to miss their mark, requiring longer needles to reach buttock muscle, researchers said on Monday.

Standard-sized needles failed to reach the buttock muscle in 23 out of 25 women whose rears were examined after what was supposed to be an intramuscular injection of a drug.

Two-thirds of the 50 patients in the study did not receive the full dosage of the drug, which instead lodged in the fat tissue of their buttocks, researchers from The Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Dublin said in a presentation to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

The Transportation System of the Future

Seattle has been playing around with the idea of expanding their Disneyland-like monorail for years now. The last I heard they spent millions on the idea and then voted to kill the project. Now the original monorail has accomplished the remarkable feat of colliding with itself. I am not kidding, you have to see the photo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Moonbat English Instructor Resigns

Certified moonbat and illiterate community college English instructor decided to resign today, after threatening a student group and calling for US soldiers to shoot their superiors. The only thing I can add to this is, why does Ward Churchill still have a job?

Late today, the Board was informed of Mr. Daly’s decision to resign his Adjunct position at WCCC effective immediately. In its meeting, the Board voted to accept the resignation agreement and instructed the administration to make certain that students in Mr. Daly’s class are offered the highest quality instruction in this interim period.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hitler Wasn't Evil, He Just Had a Different "Perspective"

Talk about moral equivilency.

In a speech to political science students at the University of Toronto yesterday, the host of the CNBC current affairs show Hardball had plenty of harsh words for U.S. President George W. Bush, as well as the political climate that has characterized his country for the past few years.

"The period between 9/11 and Iraq was not a good time for America. There wasn't a robust discussion of what we were doing," Matthews said.

"If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up. The person on the other side is not evil -- they just have a different perspective."

UW Beats Harvard

OK, we may have lost the Apple Cup, but the Seattle Times this morning announces that a UW student, at the age of 18, became the second youngest ever to win a Rhodes Scholarship.

Meanwhile, via Taranto, I noticed this headline:

Rhodes Scholars Named, None From Harvard

Too bad, better luck next year.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

John "Long Gone" Daly

I did a little research on this moonbat, and it appears Warren County Community College is going to take some action regarding him.

Warren County Community College to Hold an Emergency Meeting

The Board of Trustees of Warren County Community College will convene an emergency meeting of the Board, Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at 6:30 PM. This meeting was called by Board Chair Edward Smith.

The Board of Trustees intends to consider the welfare and rights of its students, the college community, and the public in lieu of recent events. The Board will also consider personnel issues.

Also, to follow up my previous post, it appears he is actually called an "adjunct instructor" I guess holding an MA from Cal State Northridge and teaching remedial English doesn't quite qualify for that professor title. But hey, at least he didn't lie about being an Indian. Did you notice how many grammatical and syntactical errors he made in his e-mail? The sad thing is he is he teaches ENGLISH.

Moonbats in Academia and Persistant Ukrainians

A student at a community college in New Jersey arranged to have a retired colonel speak on campus, which earned her this threatening letter from a professor (if that is what they call them at a community college)

Dear Rebecca:

I am asking my students to boycott your event. I am also going to ask others to boycott it. Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is extremely offensive. Your main poster "Communism killed 100,000,000" is not only untrue, but ignores the fact that CAPITALISM has killed many more and the evidence for that can be seen in the daily news papers. The U.S. government can fly to dominate the people of Iraq in 12 hours, yet it took them five days to assist the people devastated by huricane Katrina. Racism and profits were key to their priorities. Exxon, by the way, made $9 Billion in profits this last quarter--their highest proft margin ever. Thanks to the students of WCCC and other poor and working class people who are recruited to fight and die for EXXON and other corporations who earning megaprofits from their imperialist plunders. If you want to count the number of deaths based on political systems, you can begin with the more than a million children who have died in Iraq from U.S.-imposed sanctions and war. Or the million African American people who died from lack of access to healthcare in the US over the last 10 years.

I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people's needs--such freedom fighters can be counted throughout American history and they certainly will be counted again.

Prof. John Daly

One could spend hours Fisking the lies in this idiotic rant, but this moron is hardly deserving of the effort. On a related note though, protesters are still demanding that the NY Times return Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize for covering up the death of 7 million Ukrainians (part of those 100 million people who were not killed by communism). H/T Don Luskin.

Battling chilly temps and uncooperative winds, a Ukrainian group assembled outside New York Times headquarters in Manhattan Friday to protest the 1932 Pulitzer Prize awarded to Times reporter Walter Duranty for his pro-Stalin coverage of Russia.

The Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 (Ukrainians call it the Holodomor) was engineered by Russian dictator Josef Stalin -- and whitewashed from Duranty's reporting for the Times. Duranty, who covered the country for the Times from 1922 to 1941, ignored Stalin's atrocities, including the famine that killed seven to ten million Ukrainians.

Duranty, who is "credited" for coining the phrase (referring to Stalin’s purges) "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs," said of the famine accusations, which were reported at the time by left-wing journalists like Malcolm Muggeridge: "Any report of a famine in Russia today is an exaggeration or malignant propaganda."

Another choice quote from Duranty: "Stalin is giving the Russian people-the Russian masses, not Westernized landlords, industrialists, bankers, and intellectuals, but Russia's 150,000,000 peasants and workers-what they really want, namely joint effort, communal effort.'"

So Much for the end of the US Economy

All we hear about is how the US economy is doomed and our companies can't compete, so I was interested in reading this (subscription required) in the Financial Times yesterday (although that pink paper still freaks me out).

In short the FT, a London based paper by the way, conducted an international survey of the most respected companies in the world. US companies took 24 out of the 50 spots, including 12 of the top 14. No other country had more than 6.

Meanwhile news reaches us of Boeing's recent success. China announced the order of $9 billion of their jets.

To plagiarize Mark Twain, the news of our death has been greatly exaggerated.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Excess Profit?

The National Review has a good article on this silly notion of windfall "excess" profit called "Who Profits at the Pump". I was curious so I decided to compare the profit of one of the evil oil companies, in this case Exxon, with two other prominent large companies. If I don't learn anything else, at least getting my MBA is making me a wiz at Excel.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Fake Engineer Shortage

I have found this ridiculous for years. I don't know how many job postings I have seen with ridiculous requirements, such as 5 years of .NET programming experience, 2 years after .NET was released, but yet companies still insist that there is a severe shortage of trained engineers. Mostly this is because they don't know how to hire people, they use laundry lists of requirements in place of good HR practices in screening employees. The last contract I worked on needed someone who could program in C#, which I had never really done, it wasn't even on my resume. They realized I knew what I was doing though, and within a week I had figured out enough to get the job done.

Many companies say they're facing an increasingly severe shortage of engineers. It's so bad, some executives say, that Congress must act to boost funding for engineering education.
Yet unemployed engineers say there's actually a big surplus. "No one I know who has looked at the data with an open mind has been able to find any sign of a current shortage," says demographer Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

What's really going on? Consider the case of recruiter Rich Carver. In February, he got a call from the U.S. unit of JSP Corp., a Tokyo plastic-foam maker. The company was looking for an engineer with manufacturing experience to serve as a shift supervisor at its Butler, Pa., plant, which makes automobile-bumper parts.

Within two weeks, Mr. Carver and a colleague at the Hudson Highland Group had collected more than 200 résumés. They immediately eliminated just over 100 people who didn't have the required bachelor of science degree, even though many had the kind of job experience the company wanted. A further 65 or so then fell out of the running. Some were deemed overqualified. Others lacked experience with the proper manufacturing software. JSP brought in a half-dozen candidates for an interview, and by August the company had its woman.

To JSP, taking six months to fill the position confirmed its sense that competition for top engineers is intense. Company officials "struggle to fill" openings, says human-resources manager Vicki Senko.

But for candidates facing 200-to-1 odds of getting the job, the struggle seems all on their side. "Companies are looking for a five-pound butterfly. Not finding them doesn't mean there's a shortage of butterflies," says Richard Tax, president of the American Engineering Association, which campaigns to prevent losses of engineering jobs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Iraqi Cindy Sheehan

Maybe she will go on tour with Cindy, and Maureen Dowd can write fawning editorials on her "absolute moral authority."

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- The Iraqi woman who said she failed in her bid to blow herself up in an Amman hotel had three brothers killed by U.S. forces, friends of the woman said Tuesday. In a response to the bombings, Jordanian officials unveiled tough new anti-terror measures.

The killings of Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi's three brothers in Iraq's volatile Anbar province is being considered as a possible motivation behind her bid to take part in last week's triple bombings, which killed 60 people, including her husband and two Iraqi bombers.


A must read article in the WSJ on the role of a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) in Iraq, and what it takes to battle an insurgency.

MOSUL, Iraq -- Last summer, two dozen U.S. Army Rangers headed for the Iraq-Syria border to figure out how foreign fighters were slipping through western Iraq's barren deserts.

As they had done in the past, the Rangers took positions around each village and Bedouin encampment. At one village, an officer named David, accompanied by a small security team, strode into the center looking for someone who would talk. Unlike the clean-shaven, camouflage-clad Rangers, David wore a thick goatee and civilian clothes. The Rangers carried long, black M-4 carbine rifles. David walked with a small 9mm pistol strapped to his leg. The Rangers spoke English. He spoke Arabic tinged with a Yemeni accent.

As he recounts the day, David met a woman with facial tattoos that marked her as her husband's property. As they chatted, the pale-skinned, sandy-haired North Carolina native imitated her dry, throaty way of speaking. "You are Bedu, too," she exclaimed with delight, he recalls.

From her and the other Bedouins, the 37-year-old officer learned that most of the cross-border smuggling was carried out by Shamar tribesmen who peddle cigarettes, sheep and gasoline. Radical Islamists were using the same routes to move people, guns and money. Many of the paths were marked with small piles of bleached rocks that were identical to those David had seen a year earlier while serving in Yemen.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Close Call O' the Month

I can see how serial liar Mary Mapes could be so shook up, after avoiding near death at the hands of the Vietcong and all...

KURTZ: You write in "Truth and Duty" that Bush didn't keep his promise to the country. He walked away from his duty. How strongly did you feel then, do you feel now, about that in terms of your pursuing this story?

MAPES: I think that's absolutely true. I have to say, when I grew up, if I'd been a little bit older and if I'd been a boy, I came from a social class where I would have had my rear end in Vietnam.

Friday, November 11, 2005


"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

-Winston Churchill-

On this day just remember those whom we owe so much to.

My father, James F. Bennett Sr.

U.S.M.C. 1962-1964, Vietnam
Semper Fi

My grandfather, Fermin Bennett
US Army Air Corp 1942-1945, Europe
You will always be remembered

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stupid Letter to the Editor O' the Day

From the WSJ

As the author of the windfall legislation your editorial commented on, I must point out some misinterpretations. My bill offers a true windfall profits tax, unlike the 1970s excise tax on oil. The difference between these tax structures is critical to understanding the impact of my bill. I do not advocate an excise tax, which increases the price of oil because both cost of production and profit are taxed. The preferred approach is a windfall profit tax, because it is constructed to tax only excess profit, leaving production costs and reasonable profits unaffected.

A true windfall profits tax raises little revenue because it sends a signal to the industry that price gouging will not be rewarded. Therefore prices quickly return to a reasonable level. Any minor revenue raised gets returned back to the consumer via tax credits.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D., Ohio)

Please explain to me Mr. Kucinich, where in the constitution exactly does it give Congress the power, not to mention the wisdom, to determine what is "excess profit"? Did Congress pass a five year plan or something while I was wasn't looking?

For a contrast to this bit of congressionally sponsored idiocy, read this post on Cafe Hayek (written by actual economists) on oil prices and taxes.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

First things first: given all the bad-mouthing the French receive, you may be surprised that I describe their society as "productive." Yet according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, productivity in France - G.D.P. per hour worked - is actually a bit higher than in the United States.

It's true that France's G.D.P. per person is well below that of the United States. But that's because French workers spend more time with their families.

Paul Krugman in French Family Values

France prides itself on its hourly productivity, among the world's highest. But Philippe Manière, director of the think tank Institut Montaigne, says the high productivity rate is achieved only by shutting out of the job market the immigrants who might cause it to fall. "In France, you employ the most productive people and you leave the rest in the street," he says.

Wall Street Journal, 9 November 2005

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fair Trade?

I needed my caffeine fix this morning so I stopped off at an espresso bar and got a mocha, with a large "fair trade coffee" sticker emblazoned on the side. This got me thinking, what the hell is "fair trade"? I assume they mean there is some minimum price they pay for the coffee to ensure the coffee grower gets a higher than average profit and can pay his workers above the going labor rate. Is this really "fair" trade? If I pay $5 a pound for coffee beans, when I could pay some other guy $4 for the same beans, it is not really fair, I am getting ripped off! What is fair about that?

Only in Bosnia

This is why I never played with the kids.

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - A hand grenade being used instead of a ball in a game of catch exploded early on Saturday killing three youths in this Bosnian town, police and news agencies said.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Productivity and Employment

Scrivener has some interesting comments on the fact that manufacturing jobs are down globally, not just in the US. This is not due to the fact that we are exporting our jobs (as many on the left complain) to Mars or some other extraterrerestrial competitor, but simply because productivity gains allow us to produce more goods with less labor. Whenever someone laments the loss of "good jobs" in manufacturing, I like to point out the fact that only a little over a century ago 90% of American were employed in agriculture, now it is around 3%. While obviously the people who had to move off of farms into cities were stressed by the change, does this mean that we should have banned the use of tractors and fertilizer in order to save those "good jobs".? Just look at the percentage of population engaged in agriculture. Uganda is at 97%, the US is at just 3%, does that mean that we should lament the loss of all those good farming jobs to Uganda?

Paul Krugman Was Right

Herr Krugman back in July:

First things first: given all the bad-mouthing the French receive, you may be surprised that I describe their society as "productive." Yet according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, productivity in France - G.D.P. per hour worked - is actually a bit higher than in the United States.

From the Wall Street Journal today:

It may be difficult nowadays to get people in what the French call the Hexagon to work on Friday afternoons, but not to riot, at least not in the "sensitive" quartiers that surround most towns and cities. The productivity of the rioters has been increasing rapidly of late, and France looks like it will be breaking its record for burnt-out cars: 1,295 on Saturday night alone and 750 on Friday night, 500 the night before, and 300 the night before that. This year so far, the tally is 29,000. If the trend of the last few days continues, geometric progression being what it is, it won't be long before the rioters will have to go to Germany or the Low Countries to express their social conscience in a practical way.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Stolen Valor: The Iraqi Years Part II

Sadly, I predicted this months ago.

For more than a year, former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey has been telling anybody who will listen about the atrocities that he and other Marines committed in Iraq.

In scores of newspaper, magazine and broadcast stories, at a Canadian immigration hearing and in numerous speeches across the country, Massey has told how he and other Marines recklessly, sometimes intentionally, killed dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians.

Among his claims:

Marines fired on and killed peaceful Iraqi protesters.Americans shot a 4-year-old Iraqi girl in the head.

A tractor-trailer was filled with the bodies of civilian men, women and children killed by American artillery.

Massey's claims have gained him celebrity. Last month, Massey's book, "Kill, Kill, Kill," was released in France. His allegations have been reported in nationwide publications such as Vanity Fair and USA Today, as well as numerous broadcast reports. Earlier this year, he joined the anti-war bus tour of Cindy Sheehan, and he's spoken at Cornell and Syracuse universities, among others.

News organizations worldwide published or broadcast Massey's claims without any corroboration and in most cases without investigation. Outside of the Marines, almost no one has seriously questioned whether Massey, a 12-year veteran who was honorably discharged, was telling the truth.

He wasn't.

Each of his claims is either demonstrably false or exaggerated - according to his fellow Marines, Massey's own admissions, and the five journalists who were embedded with Massey's unit, including a reporter and photographer from the Post-Dispatch and reporters from The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.

H/T Michele Malkin

Quagmire Alert: Bomb factory found in Baghdad

Oh wait, that was Paris, my mistake. I must say I am impressed, the French usually don't hold out this long against an attack.

Arsonists burned 1,295 vehicles nationwide overnight Saturday-Sunday — sharply up from 897 the night before, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said, adding that police made 349 arrests nationwide.

For a second night, a helicopter equipped with spotlights and video cameras to track bands of marauding youths combed Paris suburbs and small teams of police chased rioters speeding from attack to attack in cars and on motorbikes.

"What we notice is that the bands of youths are, little by little, getting more organized," arranging attacks through cell phone text messages and learning how to make gasoline bombs, Hamon said.

Police also found a gasoline bomb-making factory in a derelict building in Evry south of Paris, with more than 100 bottles ready to turned into bombs, another 50 already prepared, as well as fuel stocks and hoods for hiding rioters' faces, senior Justice Ministry official Jean-Marie Huet told The Associated Press. Police arrested six people, all under 18.

The discovery Saturday night, he said, shows that gasoline bombs "are not being improvised by kids in their bathrooms."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Don't Tell Paul Krugman

Ahh, the socialist paradise of France.

Car torchings are a daily fact of life in France's tough suburbs, with thousands burned each month, police say.

Police intelligence has recorded nearly 70,000 incidents of urban violence this year, including attacks on police and rescue services, arson, throwing projectiles, clashes between gangs, joy-riding and property destruction, Le Monde reported.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fortunately their parents don't read the newspaper

From a Seattle-PI article on a recent student walkout/war protest.

Many students said their parents knew they'd skipped school -- and wouldn't disapprove when they found out.

But some students weren't so sure. "I'll be grounded for the rest of my life," said one of the youngest protesters, 13-year-old Jeri Riley, from Hamilton Middle School.

The Secrecy Trap

Zell Miller adds some brilliant insight to the whole Plame thing.

It's like a spy thriller. Institutional rivalries and political loyalties have fostered an intelligence officer's resentment against the government. Suddenly, an opportunity appears for the agent to undercut the national leadership. A vital question of intelligence forms the core justification for controversial military actions by the current leaders. If this agent can get in the middle of that question, distort that information and make it public, the agent might foster regime change in the upcoming election.

But the rules on agents are clear. They can't purposely distort gathered intelligence, go public with secret information or use their position or information to manipulate domestic elections or matters without risking their job or jail.

But their spouse can!

The agent realizes her spouse can go out on behalf of the spy agency, can distort information, go public with classified information and use all this spy-agency-sponsored material and credentials to try to pull down the current government, and it is all perfectly legal.

Suppose the spouse adds just one more brilliant, well-aimed lie: claim your foremost political opponent put the spouse up to the trip. As your spouse uses your agency's name to mount attacks, your enemy may fall into your trap. Will your enemy suffer your spouse's lies or take the bait and try to clarify his non-role? If he tells the press he didn't hire your spouse, the press will demand to know, "Then who did?"

Instead of you violating secrecy laws, it is your victim who is guilty because he tried to set the record straight. Heads, you win; tails, he loses.

It sounds unbelievable, a fiction, perhaps to be called "To Sting a King." But it is no fiction. This is the story behind Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson and the Bush administration. And it appears that Plame and Wilson will get away with the biggest sting operation ever.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Why the Wall Street Journal has the best editorial page in the country

The Journal once again shows that it has the best editorial page. No Michael Moore hypocritical ranting or pointless pseudo populist Bill O'Reilly like screeds, just logical, fact based economic and political analysis.

Like bellbottoms and disco, all kinds of bad ideas from the 1970s are coming back with the surge in energy prices. Arguably the worst is a "windfall" profits tax on oil companies.

This not-so-golden oldie got a political boost last week when Exxon announced, almost apologetically, quarterly profits of nearly $10 billion -- the largest of any U.S. company in history. Apparently it's not enough that 35% of that profit will flow into the Treasury via the corporate income tax. Momentum is growing to raise $10 billion a year by slapping an extra 50% tax on all profits earned on oil above $40 a barrel.

The lead sponsors of the "windfall" levy are Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. These two are well known foes of business for whom the phrase "windfall profits" is redundant. More surprising is that GOP leaders Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert are also calling for Congressional hearings on oil profits. Bill O'Reilly, the chief economist for Fox News, has also been drilling for "windfall" cable ratings by blaming Big Oil for making too much money.

They all need a history lesson. Back when Jimmy Carter signed the windfall profits tax during the last oil crisis, the results were the opposite of what the politicians intended. The first adverse result, as recently documented by the Congressional Research Service, was that oil companies reduced their U.S. domestic production by 1.5 million barrels a day, or by almost 6%. Exploration for new supplies slowed because the tax, by design, snatched as much as a third of the profit from these investments.

Investigate the CIA

Not to beat a dead horse, but this is exactly what I just said.

Two decades later, the CIA, either purposely or with gross negligence, made a series of decisions that led to Ms. Plame becoming a household name.

• First: The CIA sent her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger on a sensitive mission regarding WMD. He was to determine whether Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake, an essential ingredient for nonconventional weapons. However, it was Ms. Plame, not Mr. Wilson, who was the WMD expert. Moreover, Mr. Wilson had no intelligence background, was never a senior person in Niger when he was in the State Department, and was opposed to the administration's Iraq policy. The assignment was given, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at Ms. Plame's suggestion.

• Second: Mr. Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement, a mandatory act for the rest of us who either carry out any similar CIA assignment or who represent CIA clients.

• Third: When he returned from Niger, Mr. Wilson was not required to write a report, but rather merely to provide an oral briefing. That information was not sent to the White House. If this mission to Niger were so important, wouldn't a competent intelligence agency want a thoughtful written assessment from the "missionary," if for no other reason than to establish a record to refute any subsequent misrepresentation of that assessment? Because it was the vice president who initially inquired about Niger and the yellowcake (although he had nothing to do with Mr. Wilson being sent), it is curious that neither his office nor the president's were privy to the fruits of Mr. Wilson's oral report.

• Fourth: Although Mr. Wilson did not have to write even one word for the agency that sent him on the mission at taxpayer's expense, over a year later he was permitted to tell all about this sensitive assignment in the New York Times. For the rest of us, writing about such an assignment would mean we'd have to bring our proposed op-ed before the CIA's Prepublication Review Board and spend countless hours arguing over every word to be published. Congressional oversight committees should want to know who at the CIA permitted the publication of the article, which, it has been reported, did not jibe with the thrust of Mr. Wilson's oral briefing. For starters, if the piece had been properly vetted at the CIA, someone should have known that the agency never briefed the vice president on the trip, as claimed by Mr. Wilson in his op-ed.

• Fifth: More important than the inaccuracies is the fact that, if the CIA truly, truly, truly had wanted Ms. Plame's identity to be secret, it never would have permitted her spouse to write the op-ed. Did no one at Langley think that her identity could be compromised if her spouse wrote a piece discussing a foreign mission about a volatile political issue that focused on her expertise? The obvious question a sophisticated journalist such as Mr. Novak asked after "Why did the CIA send Wilson?" was "Who is Wilson?" After being told by a still-unnamed administration source that Mr. Wilson's "wife" suggested him for the assignment, Mr. Novak went to Who's Who, which reveals "Valerie Plame" as Mr. Wilson's spouse.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Real Story

If anyone at the White House broke the law, they of course should be held accountable, but I think the real story here is the incompetence of the C.I.A. The Weekly Standard agrees.

Novak's column can be viewed as critical of CIA ineptitude: the Agency's response to a request by the State Department and the Vice President's office to verify whether a specific foreign intelligence report was accurate was to have "low level" bureaucrats make the decision to send a non-CIA employee (neither an expert on Niger nor on weapons of mass destruction) on this crucial mission at his wife's suggestion. Did no one at Langley think that Plame's identity might be compromised if her spouse writes a nationally distributed Op-Ed piece discussing a foreign mission about a volatile political issue that focused on her subject matter expertise?

The public record provides ample evidence that the CIA was at least cavalier about, if not complicit in, the publishing of Plame's name. Moreover, given Novak's suggestion of CIA incompetence plus the resulting public uproar over Plame's identity being revealed, the CIA had every incentive to dissemble by claiming it was "shocked, shocked" that leaking was going on, and thus made a routine request to the Justice Department to investigate. . . .

While there is no suggestion that the Special Counsel is proceeding in bad faith, there should be abundant concern that the CIA may have initiated this investigation out of embarrassment over revelations of its own shortcomings.

Why are leftwing journalist so paranoid?

Mary Mapes, of the forged Texas Air National Guard memos fame, is back, and accusing CBS of McCarthyism for (gasp), trying to impose journalistic standards. She also had this to say.

Mapes writes that she had felt the Guard segment was a big success after airing on Sept. 8, 2004, until the following morning at 11 a.m. when she learned that a bunch of "far-right" Web sites were claiming that documents were forged.

That same day about 3 p.m. she recalls staring at the Drudge Report and seeing a big picture of Rather at the top and a headline saying that he was "shaken" and hiding in his office. The phone rang and it was Rather, telling her he'd just heard about the Drudge deadline and he wanted to assure her that he was not "shaken" and was not even in his office. He signed off with a favorite expression of his: "FEA" for "---- them all."

She writes that what she didn't know at the time was that the attack on the "60 Minutes" piece was just part of the Bushites "sliming" of those who raised questions about the president.

Maybe I am just not high enough on the food chain to get invited to the meetings, but I am constantly amused by this Vast Right Wing Conspiracy theory of bloggers, that somehow we are all part of some Bush/Rove far right wing network dedicated to silencing enemies of the administration. What do they teach these people at journalism school that prevents them from understanding the simple fact that there are just plenty of people out there, who amazingly despite not having journalism degrees, know how to do things like web searches on Google, and use MS Word.

60 Minutes of Shoddy Journalism

The 60 Minutes Wednesday Air National Guard memo thing aside, I have always been a fan of 60 Minutes, but I found last nights piece on the Wilson (now Libby) controversy an example of rather shoddy journalism. They basically accepted Wilson's whole "martyr for telling the truth" story at face value without even doing the most basic attempts at journalism, and then just added some overly dramatic hyperbola for good measure, even going so far as comparing Valerie Wilson's situation with one of a CIA agent who spent 30 years in jail after being caught spying in China. The last I checked Valerie was not deep behind enemy lines, although I suppose a strong case could be made that Langley is behind enemy lines...

I found the most amusing part of the whole thing was when they went on in depth about the danger of exposing people who used to run spies for the CIA by... Interviewing and identifying two former agents by name... Who used to run spies for the CIA! Is there going to be a special agent appointed to investigate this? How many people will die due to the compromised intelligence operations that those two people used to run?

Then 60 Minutes interviewed Wilson where he dramatically, and without question, proposed that his life was being threatened because of this whole thing, by whom I have no idea. Wilson also lamented the end of his privacy, although oddly enough 60 Minutes made no mention of his book tour, photo spread in Vanity Fair, or work for the Kerry campaign. I just wish some reporter, although this is never going to happen except in the unlikely event that Robert Novak interviews him, would ask Joe Wilson the question. "Joe, if the identification of your wife as working for the CIA was so dangerous that it puts her life at risk, then why did you write a controversial editorial for the NY Times about a government trip that you went on that she helped set up, knowing that any scrutiny into this trip would unveil her role in it and thus her identity?"

Are there any reporters out there with the guts to ask real questions?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Odd standard for qualifications

In his latest editorial, which Don Luskin addresses, Paul Krugman attacks Bush by praising his fed nomination. I know that sounds odd, but if you read it, it makes sense in a typically Krugman way. One thing I noticed though, was a gratutious attack on John Snow, in which he says:

And even before the revelations surfaced about cronyism at FEMA and elsewhere, there was widespread concern that Mr. Bush would try to select a John Snow type - a businessman whose only qualification is loyalty - to run monetary policy.

OK, now even if you make the dubious assumption that being a businessman is somehow a disqualification from a role in government, and even if you concede that Snow would not have been the most qualified man for the job, how is that his "only" qualification? Let's look at his biography from the Department of Treasury website.

John Snow was born in Toledo , Ohio , on August 2, 1939 , and graduated in 1962 from the University of Toledo . He later earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia where he studied under two Nobel Prize winners. Snow graduated with a law degree from the George Washington University in 1967 and then taught economics at the University of Maryland , University of Virginia , as well as law at George Washington. He also served as a Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in 1977 and a Distinguished Fellow at the Yale School of Management from 1978 until 1980

At least now we have Paul Krugman on record that being an economics professor (not to mention a law professor and secretary of the treasury) is not a qualification for running monetary policy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Make this guy a recruiter

1st Lt. Bruce Bishop, 31, a Salt Lake County firefighter, said he'll stay "because as I look around at the state of this nation and see all of the weak little pampered candy-asses that are whining about this or protesting that, I'd be afraid to leave the fate of this nation entirely up to them."

Bishop, who served in Afghanistan, is among the 450 Utah Guard members deployed to Louisiana. Most are volunteers.


I haven't even gotten around to commenting on Harriet Miers yet, and now she has withdrawn form the nomination. Personally, she seems like a nice enough person, but not exactly Supreme Court material. Remember, this is the Supreme Court, not the Slightly Above Average Court. I am sure she would be great on a school board out there somewhere. I must say as a general rule, anytime Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein and John Kerry are all upset over something, it was probably the right decision.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Guess who is coming to town?

Everyone's favorite cigar store indian and intellectual fraud is coming to speak at Shoreline Community College. Now there is a good use of our education dollars. LGF points out that something is missing in the picture the college posts of him:

Why not, if you are inviting a fraud and a liar to speak, it is only fitting that you doctor the photo in the publicity material. Maybe if I have enough time I'll take my camera and go moonbat hunting.

The Follies of the Minimum Wage

Wal*Mart, oddly enough, is getting grudging support from the likes of Ted Kennedy for calling for a raise in the minimum wage. This simply exposes the silliness behind minimum wage laws though, since it doesn't cost them! They already pay above the legal minimum wage, so this cost is bourne by their competitors. This would be the moral equivilant of me calling for an increase in welfare payments in the state of Florida and being praised for my support of the impoverished.

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) sums this up:

It's understandable after years of pounding from unions, trial lawyers, anti-sprawl activists and the media that Wal-Mart would go on a PR offensive. What's troubling, and more than a little curious, is Mr. Scott's desire to make price controls for labor a part of his public atonement for the company's success. Given that anti-Wal-Mart types mostly fire populist blanks, why is Mr. Scott so eager to provide competitors with real ammunition?

The answer may be that calling for an increase in the minimum wage amounts to Wal-Mart calling for a hike in the labor costs of its smaller rivals, not to mention any potential start-ups. Wal-Mart already pays its workers an average hourly wage of close to $10 and so Mr. Scott is essentially asking Congress to strengthen its competitive advantage.

The CEO said his goal is to "help working families," but minimum wage laws have the opposite effect. By putting a floor under wages, regardless of skills or competition, they can force businesses to cut payrolls or even shut down. Hence, they reduce employment in general, and especially among the low-skilled and inexperienced.

More Great Moments in Journalism

Has there ever been so much written about so little? CNN reports:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity could hand up charges as early as today, but Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is not expected to make any public announcements Wednesday, one source with knowledge of the probe told CNN.

The grand jury is meeting Wednesday in U.S. District Court and is believed to be taking up the CIA leaks case in some manner.

Many legal experts and lawyers not involved in the case had expected the grand jury to vote on an indictment Wednesday -- if the investigation is going to result in indictments -- and that the outcome would be announced publicly.

The grand jury's term is set to expire Friday unless Fitzgerald requests an extension.

Several experts told CNN it is possible the grand jury on Wednesday still could consider the question of indictments and if it votes to return one or more, the indictments could remain under seal and made public later.

These experts also said it is possible the grand jury could consider indictments later this week, or that no charges will be brought.

It is also possible Fitzgerald will let this grand jury term end and take his case to a new panel.

Well I am glad they are keeping their options open, but have you ever seen more hedging in one article? I am going to make a bold investment prediction here, write this down; the stock market could go up by the end of the year, although if the economy doesn't do well it could go down. There is also the slight possibility it may stay the same. You can take that to the bank!

Monday, October 24, 2005

It is all Bill Gates' Fault

This is just too funny. Yeah, I want to give the control of the Internet to these yahoos. It just shows that you have to pay attention to all those settings in MS Word.

Bashar al-Assad may become the first dictator to fall from power because U.N. functionaries are incompetent with computers, suggests a report in the Times of London:

The United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged [Friday].

The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes.

I am sure Kofi Annan is sending out e-mail to all employees right now, "TURN OFF WORD REVISION TRACKING!!!!"

Friday, October 21, 2005

Winston Churchill joins

In a fit of amusement I thought what would happen if Winston Churchill were a modern liberal (begin dream sequence now).

We shall probably not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end (at least until it gets too hard) we shall fight in France (but we don't want to look like occupiers), we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air (but we don't want to look arrogant), we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be (well, unless it is too expensive, we do need to pay for that new prescription drug program), we shall fight on the beaches (except in federally protected wetlands of course), we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields (in keeping with Department of Agriculture policy) and in the streets (but we have to make sure not to make an undue impact on lower income neighboorhoods), we shall fight in the hills (just not near LA, Barbra Streisand would be pissed); we shall face the enemy with honesty and humility.

It just loses a little in the translation.

The Sound of Silence

Following up yesterday's post on Patty Murray's mafia-like threat against the Coburn ammendment I looked on google news to see if any of the mainstream media picked up this outlandish statement. Seattle Times, Seattle-PI, New York Times, Washington Post... thus far zero, zilch, nada. I know it has always been an unwritten rule that in the Senate you pretty much spend what you want, but have we really become so used to this that when a senator states that out loud, it doesn't even make the paper? Based on this rule, if Senator Joe Smith proposed $500 million for the Joe Smith Insitute of Underwater Basketweaving, by the tradition of the Senate all the other Senators would have to support it, because he "knows best what is good for his state" and any attempt to stop this waste of money would result in retaliation.


Non Sequitur

From a NY Times article on the Wilson case:

In that article he wrote that he had traveled to Africa in 2002 to explore the accuracy of intelligence reports that suggested Iraq might have tried to purchase uranium ore from Niger. Mr. Wilson said that he had been sent on the trip by the C.I.A. after Mr. Cheney's office raised questions about one such report, but that he found it unlikely that any sale had taken place.

It has been two years now, and the Times still hasn't figure out that "tried to purchase" and "sale had taken place" are two separate things! I guess they don't teach logic at the newspaper of record.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Patty "The Enforcer" Murray

First she was a PR manager for bin Laden's charitable foundations (and perpetual winner in the stupidest person in the Senate poll), now she is the mob enforcer for the transportation appropriations committee. Powerline reports:

Mrs. R. reports that Patty Murray is now speaking against the Coburn Amendment, and has just issued a threat against any Senators who vote for the amendment: we on the Appropriations Committee will take a "long, hard look" at any projects in your state. Can anyone say, "culture of corruption"?

KIRO, The local CBS affiliate omits this, but does have this choice Murray quote:

Washington Sen. Patty Murray said the sculpture park is a critical economic development project for Seattle that will encourage jobs and investment in the city. She said there are other ways to reduce the federal deficit.

"If the senator from Oklahoma wants to look for a culprit for the fiscal situation in this country, he should look at the tax cuts granted to multi-millionaires," Murray said.

Yeah, it is just the tax cuts, it has nothing to do with spending. As Ross Perot would say, let me go to my charts.

And I know I am only in my first year of business school, but how exactly does a sculpture park qualify as a "critical economic development project for Seattle that will encourage jobs and investment in the city"? What exactly are they teaching at WSU?

UPDATE: Radioblogger has an MP3 of the quote, plus a rather interesting interview with Senator Coburn, who sponsored the ammendment that drew shorty's wrath. The exact quote is:

You know, as the old saying goes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and I tell my colleagues, if we start funding for individual projects, your project may be next. And so, Mr. President, when members come down to the floor and vote on this amendment, they need to know if they start stripping out this project, Senator Bond and I are likely to be taking a long, serious look at their projects, to determine whether they should be preserved during our upcoming conference negotiations.

This Explains a Lot

Maybe when he was in Niger he consumed a little more than mint tea...

He said he hoped that the Iraqi constitution vote had failed, not because he wanted to see the administration fail but because he believed a negative vote would cause America and others to rethink their strategy and ``go back to the drawing board.''

``I fear what the administration will do is declare victory and move on,'' Wilson said. ``That will just institutionalize the violence in the country.''

Some in the audience urged him to run for political office. But Wilson said he'd been a true child of the 1960s and had ``too many wives and taken too many drugs. And, yes, I did inhale.''

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Which War?

I saw a giant banner at the UW today proclaiming "November 2nd Walk Out against War" sponsored by an organization calling itself "Students Against Racism and War". I found it interesting that it was just "war" and not "the war". Are they really against war in general? For example are they going to be protesting against the war the Palestineans have launched against Israel? Or the ethnic cleansing being conducted by Muslims in the Sudan? Or the war in Chechnya? If I go to this event will I see a broad condemnation of war by all parties, or only a select few? If I can schedule it I might have to go with my digital camera to get some moonbat photos.

Watch this space.

And Now, the Rest of the Story

I was recently reading (or rather listening to my usual audio CD) Rick Atkinson's In the Company of Soldiers and was reminded of this story regarding General David Petraeus, one of the best officers in the Army, and currently in charge of training Iraqi troops.

Perhaps the most remarkable test of his luck and physical rigor came on Sept. 21, 1991. Shortly after taking command of a battalion in the 101st, Petraeus was watching an infantry squad practice assaulting a bunker with live grenades and ammunition. Forty yards away, a rifleman tripped and fell, hard. Petraeus never saw the muzzle flash. The M-16 round struck just above the "A" in his uniform name tag on the right side of his chest, and blew through his back. Had it hit above the "A" in "U.S. Army," on the left side over his heart, he would have been dead before he hit the ground.

He staggered back and collapsed. Standing next to him was Brig. Gen. Jack Keane, the assistant division commander, who by 2003 had become the Army's four-star vice chief of staff.

"Dave, you've been shot," Keane told him. "I want you to keep talking. You know what's going on here, David. I don't want you to go into shock."

Keane later described the day for me. "He was getting weaker, you could see that. He said, 'I'm gonna be okay. I'll stay with it.' We got him to the hospital at Campbell and they jammed a chest tube in. It's excruciating. Normally a guy screams and his body comes right off the table. All Petraeus did was grunt a little bit. His body didn't even move. The surgeon told me, 'That's the toughest guy I ever had my hands on.' "

A medevac helicopter flew Petraeus, with Keane at his side, to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, 60 miles away. "It was a Saturday and I was afraid the top guys wouldn't be on duty. I had them call ahead to make sure their best thoracic surgeon was available," Keane recalled. "We got off the helicopter and there's this guy they'd called off the links, still in his golf outfit, pastel colors and everything."

And here is where it gets interesting.

It was Dr. Bill Frist, who a decade later would become majority leader of the U.S. Senate. More than five hours of surgery followed.

So in an amazing coincidence, Bill Frist, who has never served a day in the military, probably contributed more to the war in Iraq than any other senator.

And now you know... the rest of the story.