September 30, 2003
Week 4 Freaks of the Week
My latest Freaks of the Week column is now up at SportsBlog.
The Paradox of Voting
Here's something interesting (and completely unrelated to Plame/Wilson) from Will Baude:
I've recently heard a comment to the tune that Libertarians who vote for a Libertarian presidential candidate are "throwing their vote away," or hurting the major party that they consider to be the lesser evil. This isn't so.
It doesn't matter if you vote because your single vote won't decide an election, but if everyone acted in a purely rational fashion then on election day no one would show up at the polls. But that would only happen one time because voter A would realize that if no one showed up at the polls besides himself his vote would be the most valuable. But voter A wouldn't be the only person to come to the same conclusion. They would vote thereby diminishing the value of their votes.
The question that comes out of this intellectual run-around is why people vote at all? Baude has an explanation:
That is, we vote for Candidate A over Candidate B (or abstain altogether) because we feel like it, not because we have marshalled some careful analysis of whose positions are more likely to make the world a better place.
Voters also go to the polls because they see it as their duty as citizens, as well as give them a foundation to gripe. I've told plenty of people, "He who doesn't vote shouldn't complain."
"Throwing it Away"
[Note the paradox here has little to do with the game theory puzzle.]
Bush's Role in Plame/Wilson
John Cole's question about President Bush's role in the Plame/Wilson investigation is just so good:
Why does the left seem to think that Bush needs to get involved in this- my guess is so that anything he says can be scrutinized and distorted so later on they can treat it as a lie or as evidence of a cover-up?
If Bush did get personally involved in the investigation he could be asked by reporters or investigators as to what he knew and when. If he lied or said anything strange this affair would turn into a "coverup is worse than the crime" scandal. To protect the President, I'm guessing only lawyers in the White House Counsel's office is asking anything. As lawyers they have more protection with the attorney-client privilege. Ironically, those Bush critics who complain that Bush isn't involved enough to get to bottom of this have created an environment where the President can't get involved or risk further political and legal liability.
"Last Plame Post for a While"
This is the year for Ronald Reagan books. Lou Cannon has one on Reagan as governor of California. Peter Robinson came out with one a few months ago on How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. Now, two collections of Reagan's letters will be available for Reagan fans this Christmas. Andrew Sullivan reviews Reagan: A Life in Letters.
"How Reagan Fooled Us"
Matthew makes two good points on Plame/Wilson. First:
Am I alone in thinking that the CIA is withholding some information on Plame -- in particular, exact details of her "undercover" status -- not because it would reveal secrets, but because the CIA as an institution feels slighted by the administration's cherry-picking of intel from various sources, and so is allowing the Plame scandal to play out in a way that's as embarassing as possible to the administration and their hawk supporters, including those DOD apparatchiks who will inevitably fall on their sword if and when the administration decides to cut its losses and finger someone to blame?
Here's another question that nobody seems to be asking: if Plame really was undercover at the time Novak's column was published, why would White House politicos/PR hacks know the identity of an undercover CIA agent? Does the CIA go around handing out booklets with the names of undercover agents to just anyone who works in the White House? The fact that leakers could so readily name Plame suggests either (a) that there are inter-administration leaks between the CIA and the White House, or (b) that her identity really was an "open secret," as some Beltway conservatives have alleged.
George Tenet could answer a few questions, but since he fell on his sword over the 16 words he'll just let the White House flail away for a while.
A question that hasn't been answered is who are the other reporters who were told about Plame yet didn't report it? Who initiated contact? What was said? This is news that the public should know. It would help the investigation, and help President Bush hold people accountable. It would also make one blockbuster story sure to boost the reporters' careers. There may be some qualms about compromising a source, but if accurate, this source broke the law.
"Still a Lot of Smoke, and Justice Thinks there's a Fire"
UPDATE: Today's Howard Kurtz column tries to answer my question about why reporters haven't come forward:
All good questions. Reporters who got these calls are now in the uncomfortable situation of having to honor their confidentiality pledge to the administration officials, even as Justice looks into who the officials are and whether they committed a crime. Not since Ken Starr and his folks were accused of illegal leaks during the Clinton impeachment have journalists, and their willingness to grant high-level people anonymity, become part of the story in this fashion.
It really doesn't answer my question, but it does get into the mind of these reporters. But if the leaker would be hung out to dry or forced to do the perp walk, why should the reporter care about their confidentiality pledge? Suppose the pledge is broken and the reporter outs the leaker. Future leakers would be disinclined to talk to that reporter. Is that a bad thing? It stops the flow of information, but the flow would never happened anyway because the reporter keeps quiet. Also, the leaker intends to use that flow for anti-social purposes.
"One Heckuva Leak"
Third Translator Arrested
Another translator has been arrested for spying at Guantanamo. Once is a fluke. Twice problem. Three times is a conspiracy. Think I'm off my rocker? Well, two of the three arrested had ties to Syria.
"Another Guantanamo Base Translator Arrested"
Luskin on Plame/Wilson
Think about the sequence of events. Novak talks to administration officials who tell him about Plame. He has the integrity to call someone at CIA to confirm his risky story before he runs with it -- and they confirmed it! Instead of saying "Valerie who? We've never heard of anyone named Valerie" or simply that "We don't answer media inquiries about CIA personnel" -- the CIA itself confirmed it, and in so doing the CIA itself leaked it.
We're three days into this and still no more real information. And I thought the Internet shortened news cycles.
The Demise of a Scandal
At this point, though, the scandal (to my mind, at least) has become less about the wrongdoings of specific officials (whether senior or not) than it is about the president's lack of desire to get to the bottom of things.
If that's all this is then this will go away in a few days leaving Bush bashers praying for something to nail him on.
Say you want to tackle some major public policy problems. Maybe you want to work on intellectual property issues (downloading music and movies) and think the FCC would be your place. Or maybe you want to help Colin Powell in getting support to rebuild Iraq. Or maybe you want Donald Rumsfeld's job because you think he's a pansy. You could spend years working on building political contacts to get nominated, OR you can fill out an online application. My guess is no one has ever been discovered for an appointed position just by filling out a form. But don't let that deter you from your dream of a government job.
September 29, 2003
Blaster has a theory that Iraq may have hit the U.S. with a bio-weapon.
"The Real Bush Coverup"
Plame/Wilson: DC Smoke and Mirrors
To use McGehee's words, "not only is there no 'there' there, there isn't even a 'there' for "there" to be there, or not be there. Uh, so there." Bob Novak, who started the whole story with a forgotten column back in July declares, "'Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this." [via Drudge] According to Novak's CIA source, Plame wasn't a spy or running a covert operation.
Since the CIA turned the Plame/Wilson incident into a scandal by releasing the letter asking the Justice Department to look into whether laws were broken, CIA chief George Tenet moves right into my crosshairs. Did he authorized the sent letter? Did he know about it? If so, what's his agenda? Is he ticked he had to take the rap for the African uranium mention in the State of the Union?
Much of this depends on what the Washington Post describes as "administration officials." Somehow the reader has to distinguish this from "White House officials." If you read these stories quickly (like 90% of readers do) you'll interchange them.
Let's look with a wider scope. Why did President Bush retain Tenet from the Clinton administration? Why didn't Tenet resign or get fired after the Sep. 11 attacks? (I know of no one who got fired at all.)
Then there's Joe Wilson's role. What was the thinking of Vice President Cheney's staff to send a man antagonistic to the administration to check out an intelligence lead? His "investigation" amounted to tea parties at the U.S. embassy in Niger. The key here is Wilson's wife. From what's known so far this guy wouldn't be able to find out whether the uranium story was true or not, but his wife would know much more. If she starts talking all of DC will be listening.
What we do know is someone wanted to bring attention onto Plume. Novak says the CIA didn't want her name mentioned but didn't tell him it would "endanger her or anybody else." What they may have told him (but not mentioned by Novak) is the information wasn't life or death. Telling the world Plume's true identity and occupation would damage the intelligence pipeline, but no one's life was on the line. That's just speculation. DC is world all to its own where the Machiavellian tactics would turn the greatest idealist into a cold cynic.
But Plume might not have the secret job we've been led to believe. If her identity was to be kept secret then why does Wilson's bio on the Middle East Institute website mention his wife by name? [via Pejmanesque] With a simple Google search her connection to a former U.S. government official could be assertained.
As for Bush bashers, they now have to wipe up a lot of drool. They must have thought they finally got that poor-talking, born again, Texas business dork.
"Bush Aides Say They'll Cooperate With Probe Into Intelligence Leak"
Hit the Lecture Circuit
I think it was one of the writers at 2blowhards who said that only a few hundred people in the world made money just from writing books. Taking that as truth, then how do writers pay the bills while still writing books? To use Virginia Postrel and her latest, The Substance of Style, as an example you can have portions of books reprinted in magazines, you can free lance, or you can go on the speaking circuit. This recalls the 19th Century where intellectuals like Ralph Waldo Emerson made a living giving public lectures. Unlike his time, philosophical discourses won't earn a lot, but for Postrel, the ideas in her books can be applied to the business world. There businessmen actually pay to hear her and pick her brain.
So the lesson to be learned from Postrel is if you want to make a living as a writer, find an idea that can get you onto the business speaking circuit. It can still be full of policy stuff and somewhat philosophical (see her The Future and Its Enemies).
Too bad my book idea, a history of Islamic-American wars (it's not a recent phenomenon), seems to have little application to the business world. :-(
There's a lot to digest on this whole incident. I'm not calling it a scandal because Bob Novak's statement today complicates it. As a starter, here's Clifford May's take.
In a related aside, Jane Galt thinks this takes oxygen from Weasley Clark's embryonic campaign.
September 28, 2003
AintNoBadDude has a link to the Washington Post story on Plame/Wilson (to use Glenn Reynolds' label) as well as blogosphere commentary. I didn't watch any Sunday yap-fests so I don't know how it's playing inside the Beltway. Outside the Beltway (like the transition?) James Joyner takes a wait-and-see approach.
To show how serious this scandal could be Daniel Drezner, once an unpaid Bush-Cheney advisor, mentioned the i-word if Bush had anything to do with this.
German Firms Under Scrutiny
German companies are under investigation for violating the embargo with Saddam's Iraq.
"German Firms Face Iraq Arms Trade Probe"
It's all well and good that the Pentagon will review it's chaplain policy, but I want to know how Capt. Yee, who was trained in Syria got his security clearance. Last time I checked, Syria was still considered a terrorist state. Sounds like a warning sign to me.
September 27, 2003
TAM to Host Carnival
Mark your calendars for 01.28.04. That's when TAM will host the Carnival of the Vanities.
Webloggers Out of Commission
With Kate out with illness and Stephen out because he was dreaming about weblogging, remember you can still cuddle up with TAM for your fix. I may be on vacation from my bill-paying job, but there is no let up planned for TAM.
First, here are my thoughts on Chicago's new Soldier Field that I posted at SportsBlog:
I haven't seen the new Soldier Field in person. I can only rely on pictures. But from what I've seen, at most, I can only give it a C grade. The interior is spectacular. It has great sight lines, and the slices in the bowl allow fans to see Chicago's skyline. The asymmetry of the design is a good innovation without taking anything away from its function.
However, the exterior has a whole lot to be desired. Critics are correct. New Soldier Field is a space ship that landed around a 1920s exterior. There is too harsh a contrast between the 21st Century interior and the early 20th Century exterior. Stainless steel and glass don't mesh well with classical stone pillars.
"Bearing up Well so Far"
"Bears' 'Spaceship' Stirs Furor"
Next, Terry Teachout posts an experience from someone who spent some time living in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. How can architecture be considered "great" if it's so hard to live in? Buildings aren't just pretty things to be looked at. They have function and need to relate to those who occupy them.
Putting the Africa uranium claim into the State of the Union speech may have been a mistake (the 16 words have never been shown to be inaccurate), but if White House officials broke laws and compromised an intelligence agent they must be fired and prosecuted. This could be serious scandal if the President doesn't act fast. None of the standard "wait for the investigation to proceed" business.
A SportsBlog Testimonial
In my fantasy football league I have Buffalo's Travis Henry. Last week he injured his ribs. All this week I didn't know if he would start. Thanks to the post by Kevin Pritchard I have enough information to bench him.
Thank you SportsBlog.
Football is in full swing, baseball playoffs will soon begin, and hockey and basketball will soon start. If you like sports and want to write about it, SportsBlog's here for you. Just e-mail Kevin (admin at sportsblog dot org) or myself (sean at theamericanmind dot com), and we'll get you set up.
Stuff for Going to BloggerCon
I realized that if the mail gods like me and my notebook computer arrives in time next week I'll be dragging that with me to Boston. Since I'm bringing a computer, I can bring my digital camera and not worry about using up all the space on the smart media card. I'll also be bringing along a cell phone (haven't owned one in a few years). Along with all this tech junk I'll be bringing a travel book and map as well as an assortment of magazines and books (Quicksilver for sure) so I can catch up on my dead tree reading. I normally don't take music with me on airline trips but by loading a bunch of MP3s on my computer, I'll have stuff to listen to.
Then there will be the problem of staying in an area (Cambridge) that's home to some fine new and used bookstores [also click here]. If my experience there is like when I went to London I won't be buying much, but if the prices are right I don't know how I'll get my discoveries home.
I'm becoming a tech geek pack rat.
The Clark Economic Plan
Steve Verdon on Weasley Clark's economic plan:
Lets also be clear here. What Clark is talking about is deficit spending. Sure, he can talk about repealing Bush's tax cuts, but there will still be a deficit and he wants to increase spending. So if the deficit is say $400 billion, and half of it is due to the tax cuts. Further, Clark wants to roll back the tax cut, but at the same time spend an additional $100 billion dollars, what he is saying is he finds a $300 billion deficit reasonable.
"He Has A Plan"
September 26, 2003
Luther: A Review
Joseph Fiennes pulls off an Oscar-calibre performance as Martin Luther. His portrail of the conflict within was outstanding. We see the tortured soul dealing with salvation, damnation, and temptation. His thrashing and yelling at the devil reminds me of Smegal in the second Lord of the Rings movie. Peter Ustinov played Luther's benefactor, Prince Fredrick. He did a great job with great wit and a keen use of subtle facial features. The settings and costumes were gorgeous. The mud, dirt, and heavy clothing reminds you that this is set in the 16th Century
As a historical epic we do get to see what effect Luther's ideas had on Germany. Peasants took his rejection of Roman authority to heart and revolted. Luther was appalled and asked the ruling princes to put down the revolt. The princes also used Luther's Reformation as a means to oppose Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor. Roger Ebert does make a good point that there wasn't enough description of the political background of the time. Attempts were made by characters like Pope Leo X to mention the Turks were threatening Vienna, but more could have been done.
Catholics probably won't be too fond of this movie. Rome is called a "sewer" where priests sleep with prostitutes and commerce (in the form of indulgences) was more important than spirituality.
I'd love this movie to get some Oscar consideration. Fiennes and Ustinov shine; and Jonathan Firth, who plays Cardinal Aleandro, makes for a sly, cunning adversary. I wouldn't go so far as to say Luther should get best-picture consideration. It's too much of a morality play where all the characters are either good or bad. What Luther is is a story of man challenging the most powerful institution of his time and winning. As that, this is a fine movie.
After catching some dinner and seeing Luther, I must clear out the dated links in my "possible links" folder in my browser. There's stuff that's been sitting there for months waiting for pithy commentary. Unfortunately most of it is going to be deleted.
"Martin Luther's Passion, Still Resonating Today"
More Speakers at BloggerCon
Added to the BloggerCon lineup are Eric Folley, Democratic National Committee; James Taranto, Wall Street Journal; Len Apcar, New York Times; Jeff Jarvis, Advance Publications, Dan Gillmor, San Jose Mercury News. With some interesting stuff happening on Day 2 (the free day) it may cut into my Boston sight-seeing.
Plimpton Dead at 76
George Plimpton had that blue-blood, East Coast accent (almost like Bill Buckley's) yet I remember him most for his talk on something that connects with the American everyman: sports. I never read any of his books, but I listened to him being interviewed about Muhammad Ali and baseball. He added poetic touch to a sweaty and dirty subject.
Paper Lion, Plimpton's story of his month-long stint in the Detroit Lions' training camp is being re-released in October.
UPDATE: ScrappleFace has the latest on Plimpton's current project.
"George Plimpton to Write Book on Death"
California Issue Quiz
If I were a California voter (poor me), a nifty new KQED website would be helpful. Their Vote By Issue Quiz forces you to pick an issue position without knowing which candidate it's from. I'm most closely aligned with Tom McClintock. If California McClintock supporters take this quiz will it just harden their support for him or throw them into another struggle of weighing electability versus ideology?
New domain for Cynthia. Change all links accordingly.
Weasley Used to Like GOP
Drudge reports that Weasley Clark used to be pretty good at praising Republicans, especially President Bush. Does that drive die-hard Dems towards the Duck because they seek party purity?
Kudos to Blaster for adding TAM to his blogroll.
Pape and the Logic of Suicide Attacks
There has been some scribbles on Robert Pape's research on suicide terrorism. He's written a paper (download pdf here) in the American Political Science Review and an op-ed for the NY Times. An important insight from Pape's work is that suicide (homicide) attacks are purposeful and effective. For people in Washington the latter is not good to read when they're waging a global war on terrorism.
A problem with Pape's findings is he claims religious extremism has little to do with suicide bombings. In his research he notes that "leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion (they have have committed 75 of the 188 incidents)." The Tigers may be opposed to religion as commonly thought, but Marxist-Leninism is itself a faith an a worldview. Such an ideology is as full of unprovable assumptions and logical conclusions as Christianity, Judism, or Islam.
Instead of religion as the root cause Pape finds that suicide attacks are in response to military presence in homelands. Nationalism, not religion, is the foundation for suicide attacks.
Pape's policy prescriptions are beefing up homeland security and getting troops out of the Middle East. The former is appropriate, but by abandoning Iraq by leaving it in the hands of the U.N. destroys U.S. credibility with the freed Iraqis. Removing troops from the Middle East will satisfy some Cato types and a whole lot of paleoconservatives/libertarians, but the U.S. will end up looking weak and soft. Such action would prove bin Laden's view of America. It also emboldens other enemies that the U.S. will cut and run if a few suicide attacks occur. Adam Wolfson recommends that we deny terrorists the ends they seek. In other words, don't negotiate and don't give in to their demands. The best solution is to destroy the terrorist organizations before they can attack us. It's hard for them to kill if they're already dead.
September 25, 2003
Said Dead at 67
Edward Said, author of Orientalism, is dead. As James Joyner writes, "[Said] represented most of what I've long thought wrong with that discipline: His ideology always trumped his scholarship." He also showed the intellectual bankruptcy of many in the academic Left:
He prompted a controversy in 2000 when he threw a rock toward an Israeli guardhouse on the Lebanese border. Columbia University did not censure him, saying that the stone was directed at no one, no law was broken and that his actions were protected by principles of academic freedom.
There is also questions about Said's life in Palestine/Israel brought up by Justus Reid Weiner.
Hobbs Speaks Truth
Bill Hobbs has some good evidence that President Bush didn't lie about his reasons for going to war in Iraq. It didn't have to do with Iraq sponsoring the Sep. 11th attacks. It was a pre-emptive war to oust a wicked man who was a threat to the U.S.
[via Balloon Juice]
The Air Force completed a test where one B-2 dropped 80 500-pound bombs in 22 seconds. Every bomb hit an individual target. Military advances have come to the point where we can literally rain down fire and brimstone on our enemies.
Can Now Focus, Focus, Focus
Nothing sucks out the weblogging energy quite like hunting for stuff on eBay. That's what's been diverting my attention for the past few days. I did get a deal on a notebook computer so I won't feel like a tech neophyte at BloggerCon.
Because of my eBay hunting, I missed my second Bonfire of the Vanities. I hold my head in shame again. Go check out the bad stuff. After that, go to the Carnival of the Vanities hosted by Pathetic Earthlings.
Airports Seeding Growth
Just as railroads created (and destroyed) cities simply because of where they went, airports are driving the growth of cities. Sprouting up around the Denver International Airport and Washington's Dulles Airport are office parks and subdivisions.
"New 'Cities' Springing up Around Many U.S. Airports"
Dems Bash Bias
When Democrats are critical of media coverage in Iraq, you know something is wrong with the press. Most notable was a comment by Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) who said there were only 27 reporters left in Iraq.
Miss America at Harvard
David Adesnik gets all witty:
Believe or not, Miss America will be enrolling next fall at Harvard Law School. I guess she was so used to being around superficial ego-driven overachievers that three more years of it didn't seem like much of a sacrifice. (Yes, Urman, that was a cheap shot.)
September 24, 2003
Lindsey on Iraq Costs
Larry Lindsey got fired from his White House job because he did a poor job talking about a sluggish economy that has finally started to perk up. It wasn't because he was stupid. His USA Today column shows he's a pretty bright guy. He predicted that the Iraq War would cost 1-2% of U.S. GDP. It turns out the cost could be about 0.8% for both Iraq and Afghanistan. Lindsey then puts this cost in perspective:
Each year American households spend about 1% of their income on alcoholic beverages and another 1% on tobacco products. We spend about 0.7% of our money on cosmetic products. In other words, our combined operations to combat terror in the Middle East cost a bit more than we spend on makeup and shampoo and a bit less than we spend on booze or tobacco.
For that relatively small sum, we ended the horrible reign of an evil man, and ended a threat to the Middle East and the West. That's not a bad return on investment.
Defending the Duck
TAM isn't in the business of defending the Duck. He's fully capable of bloviating about his record and policy statements. What I have to point out is that this critical website of the Duck, Waffle Powered Howard (cleaver title) is intellectually dishonest. For instance, WPH quotes the Duck in 1993 as saying Medicare is "one of the worst federal programs ever." To "prove" the Duck waffled, there is a link to the candidate's position on healthcare. Medicare isn't mentioned on the page. Then there is the difference between the Duck's death penalty position in 1992 and 2003. That's 11 years. Anybody's mind can change on an issue during that time. What would it say about the Duck (or any candidate) if he hasn't changed his mind on any policy positions after living in the real world for 10+ years? It doesn't matter what party he comes from, I don't want leaders to have calcified minds incapable of excepting new ideas or opinions.
WPH does have some better examples of the Duck changing his mind for political purposes. In 10.02, he said it was possible the U.S. might have to invade Iraq unilaterally, but in March, the Duck complained about Democrats not attacking President Bush on the Iraq War. Also, the Duck said in June that the Social Security retirement age could possibly be raised to 68. In an August debate, the Duck said he didn't favor one.
[via Balloon Juice]
Boss in Brew City
For those headed to Miller Park Saturday, a Bruce Springsteen concert should be a memorable experience. But the Boss had another unforgettable show in Milwaukee 28 years ago.
"The Night the Boss Bombed in Brew Town"
Freaks of the Week
My latest Freaks of the Week column is now up at SportsBlog.org.
September 23, 2003
The White House has no record of Wesley Clark calling Karl Rove. Clark just got into the Presidential race, and he's already fibbing. But since when did lying ever stop and Arkansas Democrat from running for President?
The Purpose of College
James Joyner comments on my thoughts on the future of higher education:
I've long thought that if college is to exist primarily as a job training center for the business world, it not only will but should fail. That's never been the role of the academy and, frankly, it is amazingly unsuited for it. Professors are subject matter experts in their field but, at least in the "pure" academy, they are primarily theorists. Their job is to educate, not to train. Those are vastly different missions.
He's right. The purpose of the university is to expand our knowledge. The only training that should take place should be future researchers and scholars. Trades like accounting, business, marketing, nursing, and teaching should be left to trade schools. We used to have government colleges specifically for teachers, but a time passed, they grew (as all government programs do) beyond their initial purposes.
Right now, I see a college degree as useful to employers as a sorting mechanism. But if undergraduate scholarship continues to be watered down, employers will look for proof of training in specific skills. That's where innovative for-profit and non-profit schools could make a serious impact and change higher education.
"College of the Future"
Another Guantanamo Arrest
There may be a big security problem down in Guantanamo Bay. An airman was arrested in July for spying and aiding the enemy.
"US Airman Charged with Espionage in Guantanamo Case"
September 22, 2003
Just below PrestoPundit's title is a list of publications, websites, and weblogs that recommend it. Along with big newspapers, a cable network, and some major weblogs is TAM. I'm flattered. Read Greg. He's good and hyperactive, two qualities that make for a must-read weblog.
Greg even gets profound. In this post, he briefly argues that James Madison failed in his quest to set faction against faction in government. In California, he writes, "the faction driven legislature is killing the taxpayer and business in the interest of the trial lawyers, the government unions, and the countless spending lobbies and dependency constituencies. This is Madisonian government run amuck...." He then praises ballot intiative and recall as "effective tools for saving the people and the common good." I'm not so sure. From what little I know about California government, much of the state budget is out of the hands of the legislature because of ballot intiatives. Also, if Madisonian government has been such a failure how come other states haven't run into similar problems as California?
The topic of Madisonian government versus Progressive reforms within the context of California political history would make for a really good paper or dissertation. I know TAM has a few political science (oxymoron) PhDs and students. Has anything been written on this?
Fuel Cell Fantasy
Schwarzenegger played to Californians' environmental sympathies with a plan to build hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles on California interstates. Arnold, you're state is suffering from a $38 billion hole in the budget. How are you going to pay for this? Then there's the problem of where the energy will come from to get the hydrogen. It will be hard to cut air pollution by 50% if the fuel that used to go into cars was used to get hydrogen. He should have pushed for nukes.
"Schwarzenegger Says He Will Push Fuel Cell Cars"
Gaffney on Yee
Frank Gaffney comments on Chaplain Yee's arrest:
One can only hope that the surveillance that resulted in Yee’s arrest is part of a wider effort to ensure that chaplains ministering to Muslims in the U.S. military are promoting the sorts of moderate, pro-American views he purportedly held in 2001, rather than the sort of radical, intolerant and jihadist views of the so-called “Islamists.” Otherwise, the danger is very real that serving members of the armed forces could be subjected to ominous proselytizing intended to give rise to clandestine Fifth Column activities in this country and a whole new front in the War on Terror.
"Fifth Column II"
Best Political Websites
To add to the latest John "VH1 of the blogosphere" Hawkins' list are my selections of the best political websites:
I've given you my list, discuss.
"Right-Of-Center Bloggers Select Their Favorite Political Websites"
September 21, 2003
Weblog or Rock Band?
Lynn lists some weblog names that would also be good monikers for bands.
Here's a question about the Islamic chaplain who has been arrested for spying: shouldn't have red flags come up when Capt. Yee re-enlisted after living in Syria? Then they send him to Guantanamo where other Islamic radicals are housed. This makes no sense to me.
The Future of College
Arnold Kling has a vision of the college of the future:
Colleges today are in a position to continue to increase tuition charges. They have successfully met the demand for the aesthetic qualities desired by parents and students. They have achieved market dominance by becoming highly attractive holding pens.
But if colleges can continue to increase tuition without losing students, then where is the incentive to outsource? Does anyone imagine top schools like Harvard and Stanford outsourcing? I can imagine lower-tier schools outsourcing to Harvard but not the other way around.
If anything, the future of higher education (beyond high school) will be for-profit businesses providing specific training. Firms would hire the companies to train their employees to use some new piece of technology or individuals will get certified so they have better chances in the job market. As time goes on and businesses view college life as "holding pen" the value of a four-year degree will diminish.
"The World's Nicest Holding Pen"
September 20, 2003
What's Up Doc?
I'll be at my 10-year high school reunion, but I'll still be rooting for Tina Maria Sauerhammer in the Miss America pagent. If she wins she'd the first doctor Miss America.
"Green Bay Natives Contend for Big Things on Small Screen"
Where are the Hits?
TAM made MSNBC's Weblog Central. Cool, but it's generated almost zilch for traffic. Does anybody read this weblog? Or do they read it and just don't bother clicking on anything? Jay Solo has a nice weblog with no connections to Big Media and he sends more traffic to TAM just with his blogroll.
Badger: The Next Macarena
Bird's the Word
I never would have thought a major news magazine would ever put an obscene gesture on their cover, but the breakdown of the WTO talks in Cancun really set The Economist off.
September 19, 2003
I won't complain about the average IQ of the customers I dealt with today (less than my belt size) because my day was nothing like Blaster's "adventures" in the air and road. I will also not make fun of Blaster's experience in any way since I'll be off to Boston in a few weeks.
"Worst. Episode. Ever.
"It's the Style, Stupid"
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds understands Build-a-Bear's success. He called it a "Virginia Postrel moment". This is a meme I can't wait to use. (HINT HINT If you want an Instalanche.)
French Aren't Our Friends
Thomas Friedman was a little slow this time, but he's finally come around:
It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.
It's now acceptible in liberal circles to admit that France isn't very helpful. Does that mean they'll lay off President Bush for not working with the Gallic half of the Axis of Weasles? I doubt it.
"Our War With France" [via Blaster's Blog]
Worst Science Jobs
Popular Science has a list of the worst science jobs. PS may rank flatulence sniffer as number one, but I have to think animal masturbator has to be worse. Then there's the most worthless science job: "metric system advocate." The Metric Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology motto is "Toward a Metric America." Not if I can clock them with a 1/2" wrench.
Food, Beer, Yum!
Food a beer pairings from local brewpubs are making me hungry. I don't care if it's after bar time. Give me something cold and crisp with a plate of spicy buffalo chicken wings.
"Tapping into Food-Beer Combos"
Glenn's a Swell Guy
One reason so many people like and respect Glenn Reynolds is his humility. On Instalanches he writes,
My advice is keep blogging, get noticed by other bloggers at varying traffic levels, and you'll build an audience. The vaunted "Instalanche" looks impressive on your counter for a day, but most of those readers won't stick around. Readers you build on your own will.
I hope he's a nice in real life at BloggerCon as he is on the Web.
Economist vs. Krugman
Ambit responds to Paul Krugman's arguments about income inequality in his interview with Kevin Drum.
"The Economist Fisks Paul Krugman"
September 18, 2003
Stephenson's Big New Book
Eugene Volokh will hate me, but thanks to my connections in the book world, I've already started Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. I've just begun and already well-known people and places have already appeared.
France Wants U.S. Out of Iraq
Want to assure failure in Iraq? Listen to the French and hand over power to Iraqis in a few months. Such a quick transistion would require neglecting work on a constitution. Democracy isn't enough for Iraq. A limited government that respects the rights of its citizens is needed. Otherwise that place has a good chance to splinter along ethnic and religious lines. David Phillips of the Council on Foreign Relations sees this transition taking at least one year.
If you haven't already, read Fareed Zakaria's column in the Washington Post.
"France Wants Transfer of Power to Iraqis in Months"
"Iraq: Washington Sees Complex Process To Restore Sovereignty"
Islamic World Has One Arm Tied Behind Its Back
Another approach has been to view the main culprit as the relegation of women to an inferior position in Muslim society, which deprives the Islamic world of the talents and energies of half its people and entrusts the other half's crucial early years of upbringing to illiterate and downtrodden mothers. The products of such an education, it has been said, are likely to grow up either arrogant or submissive, and unfit for a free, open society. However one evaluates the views of secularists and feminists, their success or failure will be a major factor in shaping the Middle Eastern future.
I also believe in WWW Lewis quotes a Turkish official that not giving women equal rights was like cutting off one's arm. I don't have the book so I'm paraphrasing.
"What Went Wrong?"
Java Tax Rejected
There's at least one tax people of the Left Coast don't like.
Cheerleading Mode On
To all Packers fans:
Vote for Nick Barnett as last week's Rookie of the Week. He had 14 tackles, an interception, and one pass defended. Be like Chicago (the city, not da Bears): vote early, vote often.
Kevin gives some good advice to best get Glenn Reynolds' attention. Based on my two Instalanches (that I can remember), Glenn likes music posts and posts that covers an event (a car accident in my case) faster than big media and just as accurate.
What I want to know is how to get on Glenn's blogroll. I don't know how much traffic one generates (especially if near the bottom), but it would be a great badge of honor. If anyone wants to start an e-mail campaign to get TAM on Glenn's blogroll, I won't get in the way. ;-)
"How to Get an Instalanche"
What Money Won't Get You
Jim of Unix, Music, and Politics posts on the fact that foreign aid doesn't buy votes at the U.N. If it did, a lot more countries would be on the U.S.'s side. No campaign finance law needed there.
September 17, 2003
It's the 52nd Carnival of the Vanities. It's grown from 15 entries to 70. None from TAM. I always seem for forget to submit until just after the deadline has passed.
Another Economist Interview
CalPundit's interview with Paul Krugman isn't as full of virulent condemnations of the Bush administration as his columns (which I haven't bothered to read for a long, long time). Krugman sounded calm yet kooky. He thinks the Bush administration hates Government, wants to slash Social Security and Medicare, and wipe out the New Deal. He's also worried that budget deficits could create an Argentina-type financial crisis.
I say he's only a little kooky because with the U.S. having the largest economy in the world, other countries look to her to lift the world out of the economic doldrums.
As for the anti-government philosophy of the Bush administration, I have to laugh. You don't get record-setting budget deficits by tearing down government. If Bush, Grover Norquist (whom Krugman seems to be mildly obsessed with), et. al. really hate the social safety net, then how come the GOP is working on a prescription drug plan, the largest new entitlement created since Medicare? And if the Right was doing such a good job destroying the government, how come Jonah Goldberg has declared our time as an age of Big Government Conservatism?
Michele: Next CIA Chief?
When not living her "normal" life, Michele operates a global, underground network. For what, only she knows. It's just found a Saddam tape.
Good Stuff at RWN
Then there's John Hawkins' interview with Nobel Prize-winner Milton Friedman. It's full of insights from a man who doesn't sound like he's 90+ years old.
September 16, 2003
Don't Jamal Lewis to Democracy
No wonder Stephen Green considers this Fareed Zakaria piece "required reading." It's a sensible argument why we shouldn't give into France, Germany, and the U.N. and get an elected Iraqi government running ASAP. Zakaria writes,
Popular sovereignty is a great thing, but a constitutional process is greater still. The French know this. The French Revolution emphasized popular sovereignty with little regard to limitations on state power. The American founding, by contrast, was obsessed with constitution-making. Both countries got to genuine democracy. But in France it took two centuries, five republics, two empires and one dictatorship to get there. Surely we want to do it better in Iraq.
A problem I have with the Bush administration over Iraq is the constant talk about an democratic Iraq. Just a democracy is not what's needed there. What's needed is a government that respects its citizens' rights and allows them to live free and productive lives. Democracy is arguably a necessary condition* to that but it isn't sufficient. A limited, functioning government is what Iraqis and the region needs.
"Don't Rush to Disaster"
*Hong Kong had no democracy while under British rule. Yet, it was one of the most free places on earth.
P.S. I hope someone gets this post's title. I have a feeling it's too cleaver by half.
A D.C. Lesson
Here's what should be learned from the Senate's gutting of DARPA's budget: when you hire a person, John Poindexter, who has had really bad relations with the Congress, expect Capitol Hill to hang him when he tosses out even the tiniest piece of rope.
"Darpa's Ditziness Dents Budget"
Some Lessons of My Own
Wow, that was longer than I planned. I hope that my little bits of wisdom help you with your weblogging.
"10 Things I've Learned About Blogging"
James has some comments about Kate's list.
Week 2 Freaks
Summer may be over, but there's still one good reason to break out the marshmellows. This week's Bonfire of the Vanities is here.
September 15, 2003
Good Old Paper and Pencil
Here's Iain Murray's suggestion on the Ninth Circuit court's ruling:
The answer is not postponement, but an eradication of the cause of the discrepancy. Let the election go ahead, as required by the State Constitution, but have it done with good old paper and pencil. If the paper and pencil system works for a larger electorate in the UK, why can't it work here, even with the longer ballot paper (see my 2000 Denver Post article here)? You can postpone the initiatives to March, fine. Just don't mess around with postponing elections on the basis of technological quibbles. That's a serious breach of the most basic democratic principles, it seems to me.
I'd prefer going way back in time, and use the ancient Greek's pebbles.
In a related note, I've heard more than one news network call the Ninth Circuit, the "most liberal in the nation." No, I didn't hear it on Fox News. Isn't that blatant bias?
What About Fire and Brimstone?
Laurence wants an act of God in California.
Company Ditching Ground Zero
New York City leaders should really rethink the new design for Ground Zero. Westfield America, the company that has the lease for retail space there wants to sell it. An officer of the company said,
While Westfield wanted to be part of the future of the World Trade Centre, we recognised the conflict between the interests of the public and the needs of our commercial/net lease rights. Selling our interest back to the Port will allow the public interests to take precedence.
In other words, Westfield doesn't want any part of the debate over the amount of commerce versus memorial there should be at Ground Zero.
"Westfield Set to Quit Ground Zero"
High Tech Football
Tech geeks should really like this SportsBlog post even if they hate sports. You know that line Fox, CBS, and ESPN/ABC "paint" onto a football field to show where the first down marker is? Well, it takes 8 computers and 4 people to operate the system.
"First Down Line - How Does It Get There?"
Milwaukee Flash Mob
A Milwaukee flash mob was scheduled to take place tonight at 5:45. No word as to how it went. This time, the local media didn't tell everyone beforehand.
Friedman Interview Tomorrow
I didn't do it. That lucky guy is John Hawkins. It will be posted tomorrow. I can't wait.
"Big Interview Tomorrow"
Down to the Wire
Going into tonight's game between the Giants and Cowboys, I'm trailing Kevin by 13 points. Fortunately, I have Amani Toomer and the NY defense. With Travis Henry scoring 3 TDs for me yesterday, I don't know how I'm behind. Here's keeping my fingers crossed. Go, G-Men go!
UPDATE: For anyone who really cares, I beat Kevin. The Giants' defense couldn't stop the mediocre Cowboys from scoring, but they got a TD and a few sacks. Also Amani Toomer caught at TD.
Ninth Circle of Hell
The wacky Ninth Circuit does it again. Today, the most liberal appeals court in the nation ruled the California recall election had to be postponed because some counties were going to use punch ballots. The court divined from that punch ballots are unconstitutional.
How long did "unconstitutional" elections take place just because the ballot was in punch form? Do we invalidate the thousands of previous elections that used punch ballots? Hindrocket at Power Line asks the same questions.
What would the court have preferred? Give all voters a scrap of paper and a pencil to write their choices down? How about going back to ancient Greece and give every voter colored rocks? Or how about getting rid of the silent ballot entirely, and just make voters declare their choices by voice?
In the AP story, the court sided with an ACLU argument that punch ballots are prone to error. Well, since humans are fallible, any ballots can result in mistakes.
Here's Daniel Weintraub's first thoughts about the decision:
In the rush to evaluate the potential effect of delaying the election until March, don't overlook the short-term effects that will be present no matter what the Supremes do with the Ninth Circuit Court decision. One is voter anger or frustration. I predict that the California electorate will be most unhappy with judicial intervention in their election. They might want to take that anger out on the closest institution, which right now would be the governor's office. Another effect is to force the candidates to campaign in a sort of suspended animation, with voters perceiving that there is a delay even as the candidates have to assume that the election will go forward on schedule. The court fight itself will overwhelm all other issues in the race for the next few days, and the position the candidates take in the legal battle could well end up becoming important in the campaign itself should it resume quickly.
For quality linkage, Greg Ransom is tops. He points out that the judges who made the ruling were all appointed by Democrats. Combine that with Justene Adamec at Calblog who noticed that by moving the recall election to March 2, 2004, it comes just in time for the Democratic primary.
On a deviously funny note, Xrql (some weird hacker name?) found this hidden provision in the constitution:
No state shall ... use punch card ballots... in any specially-called election against a Democrat incumbent. Nothing in this section shall preclude such state from using punch card ballots to re-elect said Democrat in a regularly scheduled election.
Steven has used punch ballots and did all right. But he does have a PhD.
"Appeals Court Delays Calif. Recall Vote"
UPDATE: Steven has come to the most logical conclusion from the Ninth Circuit's decision.
Also, James notes that Gore v. Bush should have little bearing on the use of punch ballots:
The trouble is, the per curiam decision doesn't say that punch card ballots are unconstitutional, just differential standards of doing manual recounts on them.
UPDATE 2: Eugene Volokh makes an excellent point that switching to a new voting system would have its share of problems. Wouldn't that be ruled unconstitutional according to the Ninth Circuit's reasoning? [via A Fearful Symmetry]
I'm just not in the mood to post tonight. It's not that there isn't anything to comment about. There's the collapse of the WTO talks in Cancun (it must have been the distraction of the nice, sandy beaches), the Swedes rejecting the Euro, and Microsoft raising its dividend. In the blogosphere, there's Steve ripping on Dick Gephardt on energy independence, Steven pointing out the horror of legal abortion, and Matthew's take on John Rawls' relevance in 100 years.
"Talks Collapse at WTO Meeting in Mexico"
"Swedes Reject Euro Referendum"
"Microsoft Doubles Dividend, Investors Seek More"
September 14, 2003
Jamal Lewis made what will go down as one of the greatest predictions in sports history. Earlier this week, while talking to a Cleveland Brown player, he predicted he would break the single-game rushing record if given 30 carries. Today, Lewis did it by rushing for 295 yards. He certainly talked the talk and walked the walk.
The Cleveland Browns feel really, really bad. Safety Earl Little said,
This is the most disgusting feeling I've had in my whole life. He said what he said, he did it and it's in the history books.
I predict Lewis won't make anymore predictions this year. Never tempt fate, I say.
"Baltimore 33, Cleveland 13"
"J. Lewis Breaks Rushing Record"
September 13, 2003
I would love to know how the insurance company that Pepsi got to write this policy determined the odds for a premium.
Don't Feel Sorry for Andres
George Andres should have looked a little more closely at the contract he signed before he moved into his house in Jupiter, Fl. He just has to be an ass and fly his flag on a flag pole instead of a bracket attacted to his house.
Do I think the Indian Creek Phase 3B Homeowners Association's rule barring flag poles is stupid? Yup! I would just choose not to live in a neighborhood where little things like that are regulated. Andres chose to live there. If he doesn't like the rules, he can move. I have no sympathy for a man who wraps himself in the flag just so he can act like a stubborn mule.
Dumb Sen. Murray
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) thought it would be a good idea to have a fund-raising event while her fellow Senators were taking part in Sep. 11 memorial events. Then when criticized, she had the gall to say, "I don't think anybody should politicize any part of any moment of that day -- ever."
The Weather Channel is Her Favorite
Michele, weather freak.
"Waiting for Izzy"
Brooks in the NY Times
David Brooks has started as a NY Times columnist. His first column deals with President Bush's Iraq speech last Sunday. Brooks concludes by writing,
The essential news is that Bush will do whatever it takes to prevail, and senior members of his administration are capable of looking honestly at their mistakes. You will just never be able to get any of them to admit publicly they've ever made any.
It may drive Bush's critics crazy, but the end result is what matters.
In his second column, Brooks does one of his sociological examinations that are always fascinating. We find that President Bush and Howard the Duck (Dean) have similar backgrounds. In fact, the Deans have a pedigree than the Bushes. At the end, Brooks gets to the point of his column.
The Protestant Establishment is dead, and nobody wants it back. But that culture, which George Bush and Howard Dean were born into, did have a formula for producing leaders. Our culture, which is freer and fairer, does not.
Brooks is off to quite a start.
"Whatever It Takes"
Richard Brookhiser Interview
Kevin Holtsberry interviews National Review's Richard Brookhiser. His latest book is Gentleman Revolutionary : Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution.
Is Hayek Still Relevant?
Hans H.J. Labohm ponders Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. Even though centralized economies proved to be no match for free markets, we still need to be aware of illiberal policies arising from egalitarianism, regulation (especially environmental), and interest group politics.
"A New Road to Serfdom?"
More Human Every Day
The more we learn about the unborn, the more we realize that they indeed are human. Fetuses smile, blink, and cry inthe womb. Technology is showing us they are more than clumps of cells that can be discarded when inconvenient.
"Smiling from the Womb"
Past Sep. 11 Entries
From Sep. 11, 2001, I see that much of what I put into my paper journal made it onto TAM.
Book TV's Fall Preview
There looks to be some interesting discussion this weekend on C-SPAN's Book TV. One of my favorite programs is their fall book preview. I'll be jotting down titles for my Christmas list. Representing the Right are Charles Kesler of the Claremont Review of Books and Kathryn Jean (K-Lo) Lopez of NRO.
Commiewatch links to some disturbing pictures from Cancun. Notice in the right-hand corner of the page that the site is part of an "Anti-Capitalist Movement." These anti-traders oppose the private control of the means of production. The only other possibility is socialized control. There can be no third way. These anti-traders also consider violence to be a form of protest. But at the WTO conference who's rights were being violated that deserved such a violent response? It's one thing to parade around shouting your anti-capitalist slogans. It's quite another to attack police, rip down baracades, and use them as weapons. Each and every one of us has political disagreements. However, most of us don't pretend we're holy warriors fighting in the name of the cause. There is such a thing as discussion and debate. Change may not come quickly, but it sure prevents broken bones, broken glass, and scarred memories.
September 12, 2003
How Times Have Changed
To show you how much the GOP now dominates the South, here's a little anecdote from Lt. Smash's tour of the Georgia governor's mansion:
We started at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, also known as “The House That Lester Built.”
"War" Has Taken Odd Turn
Can the Blog "War" get any weirder? Glenn has joined the alliance against himself. No wonder I'm still waiting for my bribe. There's no intention of winning. It's kind of like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We need a big news event. This August-doldrum escapade has driven people wacko. But don't worry TAM readers. You can depend on TAM while everyone goes loony. Unless, one side finally offers me a bribe.
Ground Zero: More than Morgue
Since al-Qaeda attacked the WTC because it represented America's economic power and greatness, there would be no better middle finger to them than to once again make it a center of commerce. As Jeff Taylor writes,
The best tribute to the fallen would showcase another bustling center of human activity -- working, eating, buying, selling, yelling, crying, striving. Living.
At the very least, NYC leaders should scrap the awful postmodern Libeskind design. Let's create some architecture that looks like people should live and work in.
10 Years of Conan
Steven points out that Conan O'Brien's been around for ten years.
I remember first watching Conan and thinking it was the dumbest late-night show ever. Over the years it's gotten much, much better. It's now at the point where it's the funniest of the late-night shows. If I'm not posting and am flipping channels, I'll come to Leno and Letterman and maybe smile; but with Conan, out comes a real laugh.
"Has it Really Been Ten Years?"
There is very promising data from a Zogby/The American Enterprise polls of Iraqis. Seven of ten expect their lives to be better five years from now. As to what country's political system to emulate, the U.S. topped Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. 60% said they don't want an Islamic government.
Fashionable Freedom Fighters
Anne Applebaum thinks the anti-globalization movement has run out of steam. In Cancun, protesters bared all against the WTO. Applebaum's explanation: "It was fun." She sees a youth movement in pro-capitalist ideas with France's Sabine Herold and Sweden's Johan Norberg (who is duking it out online with Robert Kuttner).
"The New Radical Chic"
UPDATE: Stephen linked to a picture of said naked protestors.
September 11, 2003
Remembering September 11
My first memory of that day is my mother telling me to get out of bed and come down to the television. She was saying something about planes hitting the twin towers and an attack on the Pentagon. I got up, raced downstairs, sat in front of our big 27-inch tv, rubbed my groggy eyes and watched smoked pouring from the towers. I was hoping this was some cruel accident, but knew war was at hand.
As I look through my journal entries (no, I don't put all my writing on the Net) I was filled with war rage. I wrote,
This must be treated as an act of war. This isn't a criminal issue; it's a military issue.
It was Osama bin Laden, and he should be killed.
The U.S. response must be as strong as an Israeli response. We cannot look weak. Nukes shouldn't be off the table.
I also noticed the surrealism. In another entry I described people walking away from Ground Zero,
They looked like ghosts. Some of the survivors from WTC were caked with grey-white dust.
Watching the plane crash into the 2nd tower was like something from a James Bond movie.
Ironically, the night before, I was watching a James Bond movie.
September 10, 2003
The latest Rolling Stone features the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Like many lists, this one is messed up. It's bad enough that Kurt Cobain made the list, let alone got in at #12. The White Stripes' Jack White got the fad vote and was put at #17. Joan Jett makes the list (#87), but Bonnie Raitt doesn't.
The talk about the list inspired a few co-workers and myself to put together our own lists. I poured over my album collection to find suitable selections. Sadly, I'm too young to have enough listening experience to put together a list of 100. But I did get to 50.
1. Jimi Hendrix
Big Music Lawsuits
It's easy to laugh and get angry at Big Music for suing a 12-year-old, but stores do sometimes prosecute youngsters who are caught shoplifting. Big Music haters can now use the battle cry, "Pick on someone your own age!"
"File-Sharers Scoff at Lawsuits"
Lisa Williams found a bunch of webloggers who will be coming to BloggerCon next month. Attending will be a little strange since people I don't know and have never directly communicated with will no about me. It's being famous but without the fame.
"An Incomplete and Probably Inaccurate List of Bloggercon Attendees"
September 09, 2003
BN.com Turns the Page on E-books
Barnes and Noble's website no longer sells e-books. If a reader in invented that is inexpensive, easy to read, and can hold a bunch of books, then maybe e-books could be the future in my lifetime.
"Barnes & Noble Shelves E-books"
Will Sen. Cracker Run for Reelection?
Will Sen. Bob Graham Cracker (D-FL) do the politically stupid thing and not run for reelection to the Senate? Will he pull a Sen. Edwards and make it even harder for the Dems to retake the Senate? Since the guy can't understand numbers he probably doesn't realize how far back he is in the polls.
Please Shut Up!
A Dixie Chick opened her mouth and proved again why musicians rarely should talk about politics.
Mississippi's Pro-Life Ruling
Robert Sargent examines the opinions in a recent Mississippi Supreme Court case where it was ruled a mother could sue for wrongful death on behalf of her fetus. He calls for abortion backers to support federalism or Roe v. Wade "will someday be totally chipped away."
"The Writing's on the Wall"
Watch Out for Smelly Penguins
The Sunday comics will once again have meaning.
Good RFID Story
News.com offers up the potentials of RFID tags and what's going wrong in trials. This technology would be especially good in a store. In theory, a salesman would know exactly where a book, CD, or some other item is in the store. Or customers could go to a kiosk, type in what they're looking for, and they would be given directions to where the product is. These tags will radically change retail.
"Retail Takes Stock of Radio Tags"
Read this article on recycling before the next time you have to sort all your recyclables and drag them to the curb. Two items of note are 1. "the total land area needed to hold all of America's garbage for the next century would be only about 10 miles square;" and 2. mandatory recycling programs use more resources than traditional landfill with voluntary recycling.
Reality in Iraq
With most of the news coverage from Iraq reporting what an awful situation our troops are in, perspective is needed. Some was provided last Saturday at a press conference. General Ricardo Sanchez told reporters:
The last five days we have had an average of 15 attacks per day. Fifty percent of those attacks were attacks that were conducted at a long range, outside of contact of the American and Coalition forces. The enemy has made a decision to stay away and not engage us other than with improvised explosives that are being remotely controlled, or with mortars where they can escape readily.
He went on to say,
We've said it repeatedly that what is required here, and the Secretary just highlighted it, is that we need the Iraqi people to help us, give us the intelligence that is necessary for us to go out and defeat these disparate elements
At that same press conference, Donald Rumsfeld offered a good explaination for not sending a massive amount of new troops to Iraq:
To the extent you "flood the zone" or whatever you said by burying this country in foreign forces, what do you do? You don't fight any more battles because there are only so many terrorists, there are only so many criminals, and there are criminals and terrorists in practically every city in the world. But what you do do is you create this heavy, unnatural presence. And to the extent you do that there's a tendency, not always, but there can be a tendency for the people not to assume their own responsibility but to point fingers and rely on the foreign troops to make life perfect and that's not going to happen.
Secretary Rumsfeld Press Availability in Iraq
Then there's a story that I'm sure won't make the front page of the NY Times. 158 troopers from the 101st Airborne re-enlisted for another tour. Those guys know the Islamist War isn't short-term. I'm proud these guys are defending us.
Fantasy Freaks of the Week
The first ever SportsBlog Freaks of the Week have been announced.
Where Were the Protesters?
Last week when Paul Hill was executed, Joshua Claybourn noticed there were few protestering the execution. I admit, I wasn't screaming about how Hill shouldn't have been killed. Since I'm in the minority on this issue and with this country's infatuation with the death penalty (not as black a mark as legalized abortion) I didn't feel compelled to comment. Every few weeks someone is being killed by the state. When I find out about it I sigh a little knowing it didn't ease anyone's pain or bring anyone back from the dead.
Stephen Karlson at Cold Spring Shops writes,
The role of existence proofs in blackboard economics is overstated. Most of what we teach, and a great deal of our theoretical research, is characterization results. That there is a mapping from a simplex to itself is useful; that the underlying behavior involves the extinguishing of all arbitrage opportunities is essential.
The only terms that I understood here are "simplex" (from my mathematical econ class) and "arbitrage." I don't recall ever encountering an existence proof in an econ class. In some of my math classes, maybe.
I then scanned the John Quiggin post Stephen linked to and got a slightly better understanding of existence proofs. No insight, which helps me understand why I might want an advanced econ degree but have no desire to teach or do research in a mainstream econ department.
I don't mean to knock anyone's research which may be very valuable. I'm just more sympathetic and partial to Mises' and Hayek's methodology and approach to economics.
BOTV 10: I Hold My Head in Shame
Shame, shame, shame on me! I forgot to enter something. If I would have remembered (even with Kevin's reminder e-mail), I would have submitted this entry where I offered to hand out a prize in a weight loss contest, but no one replied.
September 08, 2003
Not a Federal Case
Jacob Sullum wonders about the constitutionality of Federal Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act which makes it a federal crime to interfere with an reproductive health clinic.
Soledad O'Brien's Smile
Good for her that she's got a sweet gig with CNN, but does she have to emulate the Katie Couric smile?
Duck All Wet on Trade
ZombyBoy has declared it Howard Dean Week. His first post is on the Duck's stance on trade. ZombyBoy writes,
Anyone who expects Dean to be a president that would help the economy rise from its current doldrums would do well to consider what the effects of such a wrong-headed policy would be, and anyone who is a proponent of free markets and free trade would do well to consider just how Dean would act in office to stifle free trade.
"Dean Week Kick-Off"
Edwards Won't Run for Re-election
Steven calls Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) decision "bold and stupid." It settled the talk that he wasn't in the Presidential race for the long-haul, but it generates only minor attention and gives the GOP a great chance at having a real majority in the Senate.
"A Presidential Contender Rules Out a Senate Race"
The Outing of a Conservative
At Meredith's high school conservatives are talked about in the same way as homosexuals. When she tells her friends that she's conservative her friends are surprised. Meredith goes on to write,
The poor girl next to me looks embarrassed and insists that she didn't mean any offense and didn't mean to suggest that there's anything wrong with it.
Could the Seinfeld gang get back together to redo that famous episode only replacing homosexual with conservative?
We Have a Winner
Someone has left TAM's 500th comment. There will be more details when that lucky person contacts me. Don't stop giving me your two-cents (how much is that in euros?). There will be a prize for the 1000th commentor. Ghost of a flea was wondering about the prize. Since I don't have any cool TAM merchandise to offer (never jumped on that weblogging bandwagon), I'll just pick something off the winner's Amazon wishlist.
Scientists have found fungi thriving underneath snow. Since these organisms both lock up and release carbon, fungi's effects have to be taken into consideration when creating climate models. This discovery should make people skeptical of global warming alarmists and the political hacks who use the models to advance statist agendas. We know so little about how our planet works. We don't know how solar fluctuations and now fungi behavior affects the planet. Greens shouldn't be so conceited as to think Man is destroying it. Jumping to economically destructive "solutions" like Kyoto may not have any effect on the environment but will surely wreck America's standard of living.
"Fungi Find May Alter View of Global Warming"
We are very close to having a winner. It should be sometime today, so post away. If you leave the lucky comment, there will be a prize. There will also be a prize for the 1000th comment so don't stop reading and responding.
Wisconsin State Music Video
All this needs is a cow. This has to be played at all Badger sports events. The drunk students would go crazy.
[via Ghost of a flea]
What Should I Make of This?
My inner child is ten years old!
[via Venomous Kate]
September 07, 2003
Those Darn Vikings
All right. All you Vikings fans can start ragging on me. Any team that gave up that many 10+ yard plays deserves plenty of ripping.
Big Rock Won't Hit
About that asteroid that might his earth in 2014, don't worry it won't.
"Asteroid Doomsday 'Risk' Evaporates after Media Fans Flames"
I need more on this story. How 80 Australian SAS troops took on Iraqi opposition sometimes outnumbering them 10 to 1 is amazing. Even more amazing is they didn't have a single casualty. Wow!
"Inside the SAS in Iraq"
September 06, 2003
For everyone besides the Jets, Redskins, Bucs, and Eagles the NFL season starts tomorrow. The Green Bay Packers begin their season by bringing in the Minnesota Vikings to dedicate the newly-remodled Lambeau Field. The new additions of more seats (bringing total capacity to over 72,000) and an atrium to make the stadium an all-year attraction will be successes, but what of the team?
An analysis of this team requires three separate examinations. First, is the team better than they were last year? Second, Are the teams in NFC North better than last year? Third, what intangibles will affect the Packers?
Did the Packers Get Better?
The question on offense is whether linemen Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher can come back from last year's serious injures to open holes for Amman Green and to protect Brett Favre, the NFL's #4 player.
The real problems for the Packers last year were on defense. By bringing in linebacker Harvey Nickerson, Green Bay thought they'd be tough against the run. Oh, were they wrong. They couldn't stop anybody on the ground. Even though they won their division they couldn't stop Atlanta's T.J. Duckett in the home playoff loss. This year stopping the run is still a question mark. Lineman Gilbert Brown is playing with a torn bicep. Don't expect him to play the entire season. Unless someone like Rod Walker does a good job in Brown's absence rookie linebacker Nick Barnett will have a really tough time.
Looking at both sides of the ball, it seems the Packers are about as good as last year.
What About the Opposition?
Detroit may be slightly better simply because Steve Mariucci is their coach. QB Joey Harrington has one year behind him and will be throwing to top rookie WR Charles Rogers. The Lions suffered some bad luck by losing RB James Stewart for the year. Orlandis Gary is in to replace him, but we'll see if he can regain his Denver form with Detroit's offensive line.
The Chicago Bears were awful last year and will be awful again. Their defense had the potential to regain their dominating form of two years ago, but they traded lineman Ted Washington. That leaves linebacker Brian Urlacher with a big bulleye on his helmet. On offense Kordell Stewart is running the offense, and no running back has impressed the coaches.
The NFC North is only slightly better than last year. Minnesota and Detroit have made efforts, but they don't look to have much of an effect this season.
What's With Intangibles Anyway?
Another intangible is team chemistry. The Packers cut center Frank Winters. By all accounts he was Favre's best friend on the team. Do players feel a connection with each other and the fans to want to do all they can to win? Can the coaches rev up the players to play their best?
Hurry Up! We Want Your Predictions?
As a special bonus, I offer up my Super Bowl picks. The Philalephia Eagles will beat the Tennessee Titans.
September 05, 2003
Working on Stuff
I'm working on my Packers prediction and Super Bowl picks. Unless something catches my eye or I take a much-needed nap here is StumpJumper's fine taste in music to keep you occupied. Or there's a Niall Ferguson book review on U.S. world dominance.
"Hegemony or Empire?"
Rush on ESPN
It sounds like Rush Limbaugh did all right in his debut on ESPN's NFL pre-game show. I only saw him offer his Super Bowl prediction, so I don't have an opinion of his performance. From the AP review it looks like Rush critics will have little to blast him with, but I'm sure they'll find something.
"Limbaugh Makes ESPN Debut on Pregame Show"
September 04, 2003
The NY Times reports that Ticketmaster will start selling tickets via auction. Ticketmaster CEO John Pleasants said,
The tickets are worth what they're worth. If somebody wants to charge $50 for a ticket, but it's actually worth $1,000 on eBay, the ticket's worth $1,000. I think more and more, our clients - the promoters, the clients in the buildings and the bands themselves - are saying to themselves 'Maybe that money should be coming to me instead of Bob the Broker.'
This is a double-edged sword for Ticketmaster. In theory, the company could reap the revenue now going for tickets on the secondary market. But if there's such a bad response to this by the public it could cause politicians to look at Ticketmaster as an antitrust issue. Also, venues could reject Ticketmaster's auction and ask other companies to sell their tickets.
I have a feeling that only prime seats and really hot shows would work best with an auction system. An auction involves a higher transaction cost than simply buying a ticket. You don't know if you've got a winning bid until the auction closes, and you have to watch the auction to make sure you still have a winning bid.
On the macroeconomic front we have mixed messages:
Further signs emerged on Thursday suggesting a quickening in the pace of the U.S. recovery, but a rise in applications for jobless benefits showed the economy is not yet firing on all cylinders.
Unemployment is considered a lagging indicator. That means it's one of the last pieces of data to be affected by booms and busts. The Labor Department said productivity grew at a 6.8% annual rate in the second quarter. Since wages normally rise with increased productivity, the consumer sector should be strengthened.
"Signs of Economic Recovery, but Not Jobs"
While the U.S. recovery can be said to be tepid at best, it's doing better than France's. The budget minister predicted 0.5% growth while advancing a tax cut plan.
"French Economy 'to Grow 0.5% in 2003'"
On the international trade front, the World Bank called for developing nations to reduce their trade barriers.
"Gains for Poor Countries in Removing Barriers: World Bank"
Looking for the 500th Comment
In a few days some TAM reader will write the 500th post since TAM's been MT-powered. Whoever that lucky person is will get some kind of prize. Don't expect something with four wheels, but something off of an Amazon wish list isn't out of the question.
Did ScrappleFace Write This?
The RIAA will announce an amnesty program this week. Participants would "delete all unauthorized music files from their computers, destroy all copies (including CD-Rs) and promise not to upload such material in the future. Each infringing household member will have to send a completed, notarized amnesty form to the RIAA, with a copy of a photo ID."
How would Big Music enforce this? Would they make surprise visits to people's homes to check if their CD-Rs only had legal music on them? Who will be dumb enough to go to the trouble of notarizing a form?
Scratch Off Estrada
Miguel Estrada withdrawing from his appeals judge nomination gives the Democrats and liberals a victory and a proven battleplan for stopping President Bush from getting any conservative judges onto the courts. In the offices of Sens. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as well as the People for the (un)American Way champagne corks are popping in celebration. The Left's strategy of delay and ideological partisanship worked. Unless Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN)--so far a major disappointment--can gather the full support from his fellow Republicans to fight for Bush's nominees don't expect any conservatives to reach the federal bench.
Of Bush's "controversial" nominees, Estrada had the best credentials and had no dirt on him. He was considered highly qualified by the American Bar Association and worked in the Clinton administration's solicitor general's office. The only "flaw" was Estrada is a conservative Hispanic. On the appeals court, he would have been an example that Hispanics and minorities don't have to tow the Leftist Democratic line. The Left also has gotten lots of their policies implemented through the courts. Any conservative on the bench would be a threat to the Left's continued legislating through judicial fiat.
GOP insiders can claim all they want that the Democrats' victory is only "Pyrrhic." The fact of the matter is the Democrats beat the Republicans without the latter putting up much of a fight. They now have a tool that will be used again and again until it is countered.
Lawrence Solum argues that a 24/7 filibuster wouldn't work [and here] in getting a vote. It may not, but such a move would certainly draw media attention. The media has been pretty quiet about the Democrats' unprecedented use of the filibuster. Having the Senate going for days would force coverage and discussion. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News would have a small window on their screen open to the Senate debate while President Bush would be speaking from a rally about how undemocratic the Democrats were behaving. In the end victory wouldn't be assured. Most likely the filibuster would fail, but it would put the GOP in a much better position with their base and the public to make judicial nominees an election issue.
Hopefully this event serves notice to the GOP and their supporters that we have to fight hard for the judiciary. Everyone on the Right from think tank policy wonks, to academics, to webloggers, to informed conservatives/libertarians have to get active in defending Bush's conservative nominees. That means letter writing and phone calling to Senators. The Right failed with Estrada. We can't let it happen again.
Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be a professional politician, but he sounds like one--an inexperienced one. Critics and those who submerse themselves in politics laugh and cringe at Arnold's stumbles, but I think a public so disenchanted with how the pros have failed California appreciate his unpolished campaign.
Inside the Liberal Mind
Keith Burgess-Jackson on why liberals think conservatives are stupid:
Let us explore this liberal logic. If (1) moral progress is linked to reason and (2) someone either denies that a particular liberal policy (such as state-sanctioned adoption of children by homosexuals) constitutes progress or believes that it constitutes regress (change for the worse), then (3) he or she must not be reasoning properly or must be reasoning from false premises. Who could oppose moral progress? Only an ignorant or stupid person! Only someone who is either factually mistaken or incapable of reasoning correctly. Only, in short, a dolt. Opposition to liberal causes is viewed by liberals as opposition to reason itself. Conservatives, who oppose many liberal causes, are benighted, whereas liberals are enlightened. Conservatives are not just wrong; they are willfully and perversely wrong. They are intransigent. They are bigoted, prejudiced, superstitious, and vile. They must be suppressed or, preferably, (re)educated. They are no more to be reasoned with than a cockroach is to be reasoned with. You step on cockroaches.
"Why Liberals Think Conservatives Are Stoopid" [via baldilocks]
Universal Lowering CD Prices
Music buyers are seeing economics in action. Universal Music Group has announced they will lower their CD prices. This will allow big retailers like Best Buy to sell their CDs for around $10.00. It shouldn't be long until the other members of Big Music follow suit. At least Universal is realizing that suing your way to profitablity may not be the best business plan.
September 03, 2003
Bear Tracking "Blog War"
The Bear is tracking the "Blog War." The anti-Glenn side is way behind in traffic but ahead in links. I don't know what constitutes a victory for the Alliance, but if they offered a bribe to TAM their war progression could be improved.
The Bear also notes that he's a member of the Neutral Until Bribed Coalition too.
I'll remain neutral in this particular conflict for now, pending suitable incentives from one side or another --- simply consider me your humble war correspondent, observing from the sidelines...
"Tracking the Great Blogwar"
Opposing the death penalty is difficult. My position means I support the continued incarceration of horrible people at the taxpayers' expense. But needless killing of human beings coarsens us. That said, I'm pleased with the overturning of over 100 death sentences out west.
"Judges' Rulings Imposing Death Are Overturned"
In Florida, Catholic bishops spoke out against killing Terri Schindler Schiavo by having her feeding tube removed. The bishops then made some important distinctions on when to continue treatment and when to withhold it:
Just as we are concerned for Terri Schiavo, we are also concerned for others who are weak and vulnerable. There is an inherent danger in assuming that food and water can simply be withheld without clearly knowing a patient’s wishes. There is reason to be circumspect and ever careful in these cases. We reject outright the euthanasia movement and its utilitarian standard that some lives are not worth living. Every life is precious and unrepeatable.
"Florida Bishops Reject 'Euthanasia' in Terri Schiavo Case"
Cool Story/Movie Plot
In a story on an newly discovered asteroid with a slim chance of hitting earth the last paragraph caught my eye:
Another asteroid, 1998 VS, is due to pass within 14.6 million miles of Earth on Sept. 11.
Do you think any Islamists are praying for some divine intervention? It sure could make an interesting plot for a book or movie.
Zombyboy has a good post on those skimpy outfits teen girls are wearing. He writes,
Message to parents: these are children. They may think that they are sophisticated, they may think that they are mature, but they are not. It is your job to be sophisticated enough to understand the things that they do not. It is your job to be mature enough to say "no" when it is appropriate.
Along with the post are some good comments.
September 02, 2003
TAM Has to Pay Up
Great job guys! Donuts are on me.
"Here Are The Biggest Losers"
Why I Don't Give Money
Micha Ghertner at Catallarchy.net posts on why humans give gifts rather than cash. Micha quotes from a David Friedman selection that is one of those socio-economic texts that rob all the vitality from human interactions.
I approach gift giving as a way of self-expression and to show I care about the receiver. My gift searches involve balancing the desires of the receiver with my own personal preferences. For example, I like books and the ideas contained in them. I also happen to work in a bookstore so it's no surprise to many that they get books as gifts from me. I won't give a book that made Oprah's book club (The Corrections and East of Eden excluded). Instead, I seek books that stimulate the mind and have something important to say. David Friedman would call that "paternalism." I wouldn't. For me, I hope the ideas contained in my gift books would add pleasure and insight to the receiver. I want that person to grow intellectually. I hope my gifts build up the person to be better than they were before. I hope my gift would be used and remembered. That doesn't happen with cash or a gift card. I can't force someone to read the book or use my gift. I can only give them the opportunity.
Serious gift giving forces the giver to think deeply about the receiver to figure out what gift would best help the receiver become a better person. You have to examine the receiver's life as well as your own. That's not paternalism. That's love. But love is a subject that becomes "preferences" and "utility" in the hands of over-analytical economists like Friedman.
Do I go about this lengthy process when I'm shopping? Not entirely. Most of it is done instinctually. Before shopping, I consciously tell myself that I want to be serious in seeking a gift. As I stroll around a store looking at items I compare the item to the personality of the receiver. Then I compare it to my own. The gift should not only add value to the receiver, it should also be a capsule of memory. A good gift is remembered by the receiver.
P.S. This thinking shouldn't be completely applied to gag gifts. The whole purpose of that is to make people laugh. Plenty of thought should go into these gift searches if you want the joke to be funny and memorable.
"The Social Construction of Matrimony"
Will Baude responds to Micha's post. I think it's safe to say that he and I are on a similar page. He writes, "Gift-giving, I argue, simply isn't very economic behavior in the first place."
Focus on DARPA
The AP looks at a now Poindexter-less DARPA. It's one of the few government agencies that tries to pay market wages to draw in top-notch talent.
"Agency Behind Terrorism Futures Profiled"
September 01, 2003
Free Banking and Private Currencies
For non-econ geeks (you know who you are) just ignore this post. For the rest of us Lawrence White has an essay on free banking and competing private currencies. With the financial press and investors infatuated with central bankers, I don't expect to see real, viable private currencies in my lifetime. However, it's a stimulating subject that gets strange looks from people at parties. Free bankers aren't just goldbugs, they're even "crazier." Just add Hayek, White, and myself to the list of nuts then.
"Competing Money Supplies"
Harley Concert Review
The concert got panned by the local newspaper music critic. About the big mystery performer Elton John, Dave Tianen wrote, "Elton John is the Rocket Man. He is Captain Fantastic. He is not a biker brother." He the offered the reason why the concert fell flat:
In keeping the entire lineup secret, Harley planners forgot what would seem to be a basic fact of life in the concert business - people go to concerts because they happen to like the performers in question. By keeping their lineup secret, Harley guaranteed that their all-star lineup would play for an audience that was essentially indifferent to their presence.
This was a case where the acts were picked to fit the target demographics of Harley owners. Tim McGraw satisfied the country music rider, Kid Rock was for the youngins, and Elton John was the big name that was suppose to please everybody. But surprisingly what H-D forgot was that the concert-goers were bikers, not just people going to a concert. I say surpisingly because H-D rose from the ashes to become a great American success story because they are so in tune with their customers. They've created a brand community where people gather to ride, talk, and buy H-D stuff.
Besides ditching the secrecy which only allowed for disappointment, H-D could have filled the day and night with lesser acts that were more fitting for a biker audience. Many riders wanted to see Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers. Steppenwolf, who play THE biker anthem "Born to Be Wild," could have moved from playing Saturday to Sunday. Sure it would have resembled a state fair concert, but lots and lots of people would have showed up and had a good time. But like I wrote yesterday, the concert was the only glich in an otherwise awesome week.
Outside of Milwaukee, this isn't a story. There was only one little mention from one concert-goer who didn't think John fit the event. So while we nash our teeth for a day the outside world just thinks that Milwaukee threw one hell of a party.
"For Bikers, Rocket Man Never Took Off"
"McGraw, John Honor Harley-Davidson B-Day"