Thursday, October 27, 2005

See You Next Week

I’m off to Cincinnati to watch my beloved Packers embarrass themselves in front of thousands of people.  Hopefully the locals will be kind enough not to beat up the guy in the cheesehead.

All You Can Do Is Laugh

This is America. And Republicans don’t believe in punishing success. But what are these oil companies doing to bring down the cost of oil and natural gas? They haven't built a refinery here in America since the 1970's. They've built refineries overseas, but nothing here at home.

Do I really need to explain why Denny is an idiot?

Sacrificial Lamb

Norm Pattis thinks that Miers was a sacrificial lamb; the administration put her up knowing that she would never be confirmed.  They would then submit a known conservative and whine about obstructionism when they faced stiff opposition from the left.

The theory certainly has a flair to it, I don’t want to believe that the Bush team is that cunning, but they haven’t lost many fights in Congress and have been, politically, very astute.  Why would they screw up the Miers nomination so fantastically unless it was on purpose?  

If Bush nominates a strong conservative I’m going to call Norm’s analysis correct, if we get a weaker conservative then Bush just screwed up.  We will probably know the answer to that question in the next couple days.

Gas Prices

The good news: gas prices probably won't rise in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.
The bad news: drivers can expect to brave long lines for at least the next week or so.

Which is worse? The long lines or the high prices?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Prognostication v2.0

I am going to predict that DeLay gets convicted (or probably strikes a plea deal) and that Republicans will claim that the game was fixed.  Or in the case of a plea deal, use that as evidence that he actually was innocent.


I’m going to predict that Karl Rove does not get indicted and that the liberal base is going to claim that the game was fixed.

As If You Needed Evidence

From the New Yorker:

Last year, Alan Ziobrowski, a professor at Georgia State, headed the first-ever systematic study of politicians as investors. Ziobrowski and his colleagues looked at six thousand stock transactions made by senators between 1993 and 1998. Over that time, senators beat the market, on average, by twelve per cent annually. Since a mutual-fund manager who beats the market by two or three per cent a year is considered a genius, the politicians' ability to foresee the future seems practically divine. They did an especially good job of picking up stocks at just the right time; their buys were typically flat before they bought them, but beat the market by thirty per cent, on average, in the year after. By those standards, Frist actually looks like a bit of a piker.

Of course they are geniuses, that’s why we elected them right? Our politicians could never be corrupt.

The Death of DVD

Tim Cavanaugh bemoans the inevitable demise of DVD:

Where is the DVD, or the VHS, or even the laserdisc, of the 1932 version of Madame Butterfly with Cary Grant as Pinkerton, Sylvia Sidney as Cho-Cho San, and a script by Joseph Moncure March? A world without a home video version of Ernst Lubitsch's last film, the sterling Jennifer Jones girl-plumber dramedy Cluny Brown, is what Krusty the Clown meant when he said "survivors would envy the dead." The beauty of DVD was that it coincided with and helped inspire vast institutional support for exploiting back catalogues. Gone were the shitty prints and full-screen atrocities of the VHS era; in came the vogue for complete collections, crisp transfers, and rediscovered sleepers. But the job is not yet done, and I suspect the market for DVD will run out before the back catalogues do.

What Mr. Cavanaugh is missing is that the new technology will be cheaper for studios since they will not have to pick up the production costs of physical media and run the risk of product sitting on a shelf someplace.  The low/no-cost  inventories will make it easier for studios to justify digitizing old movies that very few people want to see because there is almost no real risk.  Fans of obscure vintage movies (and likely the classic made for TV movies as well) should welcome the medialess revolution.

Dilbert Blog

Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, has a blog.  How cool is that?  

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Minimum Wage

I (and other conservatives) have claimed that minimum wage laws reduce employment and keep minorities and low skilled labor out of the workplace.  According to Thomas Leonard in his paper Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work, early progressives understood this too.  They originally advocated minimum wage laws to keep women out of the workplace.

Hat Tip: Marginal Revolution

Monday, October 24, 2005

At Least He is Inconsistent

For those of you that think that Scalia votes his ideology rather than follow the law, consider this:

The only Justice to use the rule of lenity often and distinctively is Justice Scalia, who applied it in ten of the last eleven cases where it was made an issue.  This helps explain why Scalia’s votes in statutory cases tend to favor the government less often than his votes in constitutional cases, for there is no rule of lenity in constitutional law.

I am of the opinion that the only way to establish rule of law is to follow the original intent of the law (and Constitution), detractors of this approach accuse originalists of using the approach as justification for following our ideological druthers; I think this gives sufficient evidence to counter that accusation.  You can read about the report and it’s findings here.  The paper researches the differences between statuatory rulings vs. Constititutional rulings.  The premise being that only justices that are driven by ideology would rule consistently between the two.

HatTip: Crime and Federalism

They Still Don't Care About You

Daniel Solove at Concurring Opinions responds to criticism that blog activism is failing.

The fact that Bush still stands behind Miers is not an indication of the blogosphere’s failure. The blogospheric reaction certainly has the Administration reeling.

I think that Daniel is reaching, the Miers nomination is all but indefensible and the fact that bloggers are seeing what everyone ideologically driven politician sees just means that the bloggers will get what they want.  If you look at the catastrophic failure that was the drive to defund the Bridge to Nowhere you see first hand how influential bloggers actually are.

Politicians will use bloggers and the fact finding that they generate when it suits them.  When bloggers and politicians are on the same side of an issue they will use them to help shape public opinion, but they will never listen to bloggers when they strike opposing views, there simply isn’t any motivation to.  Party faithful do not win elections; people that only care about politics in November win elections.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Final Thoughts on Gay Marriage - For Now

Mary Gallagher keeps insisting over and over that gay marriage is going to make heterosexual marriage less meaningful.  Yet she has completely failed to offer a scenario where that is going to happen.

I completely by into Jane Galt’s explanation that changes happen at the margins and that I am not a member of that margin, but someone must be – right?  If so, who are the people at the margins?  How is SSM going to effect their decision?  And how is that loss of the marginal heterosexual marriage detrimental to society?  And if it IS detrimental to society, is it even something that we want our government worrying about?

SSM relationships happen, even if they are not contractually marriages, they are de facto marriages.  So the fact of gay relationships are no longer a societal problem, in fact the stigma attached to being gay is largely irrelevant to someone choosing (or accepting) to live that lifestyle.  

The marginal case at this point is only the legal standing that is given to couples.  I have wracked my brain trying to come up with a plausible scenario that would impact a non-SSM on that legal basis and it simply escapes me.   If someone can provide me an example I would love to hear it.

Let's Spend His Money

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Judd Gregg won $853,492 from the Powerball lottery after matching five of six numbers in Wednesday's drawing, adding to his already sizable wealth.
"Even senators can be lucky," he told reporters outside the D.C. Lottery claims center, where he picked up his check.
The Republican from New Hampshire -- who chairs the Budget Committee and who has a reputation as a strict fiscal conservative -- said his wife is currently remodeling their home and already has plans for the new money.
Can’t we have the title “strict fiscal conservative” stripped from any Senator that voted to build the Bridge to Nowhere?  Who runs the National Foundation of Misleading Labels?  I want to write a letter.

They Don't Care About You

Yesterday’s defeat of Coburn’s amendment can be viewed as a crushing defeat of blogosphere activism.  A wide array of groups from Daily Kos to to Club for Growth lobbied furiously to get Senators on both sides of the isle to eliminate huge pork-laden projects like the infamous Bridge to Nowhere.  Nominally they were hoping to use the savings to fund the rebuilding of New Orleans, but in reality it was a shot across the bow to see if Congress was ready to start spending wisely.  The answer was a resounding ‘No.’

What such activist groups refuse to acknowledge, however, is that Congressmen really don’t’ care what their base thinks - they already have their vote.  Do the people at Daily Kos honestly think they have any sway over Hillary Clinton?  They couldn’t honestly threaten to support Pirro for Senator, so there can be no retribution.

As long as there are no viable alternatives to the entrenched two party system, politicians will continue to do what it takes to win over the undecideds, which typically means spending as much money in local jurisdictions as possible.  Typical recommendations such as term limits are meaningless in this context, if you can’t threaten to vote the bum out for overspending, what is going to stop him anyway?  In fact you would probably find MORE pork barrel spending in such a system because paying off local supporters will work amazingly well for post-politics job hunting.

From here we have two possibilities, start supporting third party and independent candidates that support fiscal responsibility or start the process to support a Balanced Budget Amendment.  Force the Congressmen to learn that they can’t keep spending money that they don’t have.  I personally vote that we do both.

For the Good of the Country

Congress is forcing TV broadcasters to stop broadcast analog signals on April 7th, 2009.  Why is Congress so concerned about pushing the technology faster than consumers are willing to adopt it?

The government has also decided that when those analog wavelengths are abandoned, they'll sell them off in an auction that they hope to bring in more than $10 billion.

Oh yeah.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Envelope Please

Just as I suspected, the “Bridge to Nowhere” amendment failed, though It did get 3 more Democratic votes than I thought it would. Here is the list of courageous souls that voted for it:

Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Wayne Allard (R-CO)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Mike DeWine (R-OH)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
George Allen (R-VA)

My Take on the Bridge to Nowhere

The Coburn Amendment to kill the “Bridge to Nowhere” is going to fail.  The culture in Congress to bring as much money to possible into local jurisdictions is too entrenched.  This isn’t about finding $400+ million to rebuild New Orleans, this is about being able to point to projects that you ‘won’ in order to win the next election.

Daily Kos posted “Democrats won’t vote against this. Remember — we want to rebuild New Orleans.”  They are deluding themselves, if any Democrats other than Russ Feingold (D-WI) vote for this, I would be completely surprised.  Democrats, as a general rule, have no philosophical reason to oppose pork spending.

It's Not Taxpayer Money

“It’s not taxpayer money. It’s highway-user money.” – Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska

Does the Senator have any idea where this money comes from?  Seriously.

For more perfectly sane and rational quotes from the good Senator visit the Club for Growth.

Bush for Beer

Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) says: "Why does the average American still want a president that they can feel comfortable with schmoozing over a beer in a bar?" Owens said. "African Americans want a president who through his policies will guarantee that they can afford to purchase that bottle of beer."

I thought that was what they were doing with that $2000 hand-out that Bush gave New Orleans evacuees.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Unintended Consequences

Jane Galt has written an amazing essay on unintended consequences and how legislation changes society.  I can do little more than encourage you to read it.


The media falling over itself in reporting that Wilma is the strongest hurricane ever, assumedly to use as more ‘proof’ that the hurricanes are the product of global warming.  Well, here is what the National Hurricane Center is saying:


Is that the NHC acknowledging that the media is going to jump to conclusions on this one?  Seems that way to me.

HatTip: Prometheus

The Midas Touch

All government provided benefit programs are doomed to failure because they bypass the natural controls that price puts on every commodity and service.   Most conservatives seem to know this (and note I didn’t say Republicans), but liberals always claim that we didn’t do enough or find some corruption to pin the blame on.

The National Flood Insurance Program is failing (HatTip: A Stitch in Haste), but it isn’t because there was a catastrophe, it’s because you can’t insure anything that is in the control of the insured.  You can control whether or not you live in a flood plain so are in control of whether or not you will collect or not.  Most people that buy flood insurance are at a high risk of flood, meaning that premium collected needs to exceed the replacement cost of your home.  Who would buy insurance that costs more than just replacing your home outright?  No one, which is why no one provides flood insurance so the government feels compelled to provide it anyway.  

Medicare and Social Security are no different; the insured has 100% control over the costs.  If you had to provide for your own retirement, you wouldn’t retire until you had enough money to do so.  If the government picks up the tab, however, you retire at 65 whether you are capable of working or not.  With government provided healthcare, you will visit the doctor whenever it is even remotely possible you may have something wrong with you, if you were paying for it yourself you would only go when you were sure you really needed it.   The examples are nearly endless; victims from the recent hurricane are sitting around collecting unemployment and spending their $2000 checks from the feds on strippers and booze while there are countless Help Wanted signs in Louisiana.  They aren’t unemployed because there is no work; they are unemployed because the government is paying them to be unemployed. (HatTip: Louisiana Libertarian)

Programs such as Amtrak and NASA are a bit different, but still destined to failure.  Government runs a train that no one wants to use because no one else is willing to pay for it.  Why is train service for no one a public good?  NASA is also providing services that no one is willing to pay for, as a result we get a program that is unsafe, consistently over budget and consistently late in providing its promises.   At a time when the government is running a deficit to the tune of billions of dollars is this really a priority that we should be wasting tax payers’ money on?  

Education festers because administrators are more interested in securing funding than providing the best possible education.  Highway construction serves as a money laundering service for the politically connected.  How many more examples do we need before the public learns that everything that the government touches turns to shit?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Great Debate

The Volokh Conspiracy is hosting a two-week long focus on same-sex marriage. Week one is going to feature guest-blogger Maggie Gallagher defending the anti-same-sex marriage side (or pro traditional marriage if you prefer). Next week Dale Carpenter will be defending the pro-same-sex marriage position (or anti-traditional marriage if you prefer).

After Ms. Gallagher's first post a commentor challenged her to define marriage so that everyone could understand what was framing the debate. She responded thusly:

Here’s my short answer: marriage serves many private and individual purposes. But its great public purpose, the thing that justifies its existence as a unique legal status, is protecting children and society by creating sexual unions in which children are (practically) guaranteed the love and care of their own mother and father.

That pretty much loses the debate for me as it is based on some false assumptions. Namely: a) Marriage has anything at all to do with children and b) That homosexual parents can't provide as much love and caring as heterosexual parents.

So when your primary goal is to achieve
The vast majority of children born to married couples begin life with their own mother and fathers committed to jointly caring for them. Only a minority of children in other sexual unions (and none in same-sex unions) get this benefit.

How far are we willing to go? Criminalize divorse? Send unwed mothers to jail? Force widower fathers to remarry? The entire premise is a sham whose purpose, in my opinion, is to obfuscate bigotry.
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Gambling Tax

KipEsquire wonders why casinos work in Vegas but not in Atlantic City.

I think his answer is too simplistic and misses the mark for several reasons.

The location of Vegas and Atlantic city certainly contribute to the relative success of each city, but the reasons that Vegas flourishes and Atlantic City does not, is that Vegas is a destination. Vegas has the shows and the larger than life hotels and a night life that Vegas rightly advertises as sinful. Atlantic City, and all of the newly created 'riverboat' casinos and no more than places to go gamble. If gambling was the primary reason for people to visit Vegas it would have floundered a long time ago as it is rare to have to travel more than a state away anymore to finda table of slot machine. The internet age has even made traveling at all obsolete.

What casinos have become, for most states, are revenue generating machine where the tax payer voluntarily hands over their purse to the state.