Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sex On TV is OK As Long As You Don't Fall Off

You can always turn the television off and of course block the channels you don t want but why should you have to? – Kevin Martin, Chairman FCC

Because after all we have the protect the kids. We do a sub-category of the nation get to decide what everyone else watches on TV? The right pushed hard to mandate that TV manufacturers implement V-Chip technology so that parent could have tools to filter out “indecent” material. Why don’t they just freakin use it?

Quick Aside: In this age of Plasma TVs does that joke even work anymore?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Is Any Explanation Necessary?

The Scandanavian countries are always held up as a model for social welfare programs yet the evidence seems to contradict that assertion. Contrasting that model is Ireland which decided in the mid-80s to scle back on government expenditures, taxes and regulations. Since that revolutionary idea Ireland has gone from the poorest nation in Europe to the fourth largest GDP/capita in the industrialized world. Meanwhile Scandinavia is stagnant or declining, I think the evidense is clear.

HatTip: Marginal Revolution

Free Markets, Free People

We're into our 4th year since 9/11 and we finally get a serious policy speech about the importance of securing our border and stopping illegals from entering the country. Reminds me a little of closing the barn door after the cows have left.

On the subject of trying to discourage the entry of illegals, one has to be aware that there are two groups that have to be addressed in any solution on the southern border. Mexican nationals and other than Mexican (OTM) nationals.

What we've always done with Mexican nationals is load them on a bus, take them across the border and drop them off. Many times they'd be back in the US before the Border Patrol's bus returned from Mexico. Now, apparently the US is doing something called "interior repatriation":

I find it more than a bit ironic that a blog whose tagline is “Free Markets, Free People” takes a stance that is contrary to both ideals. The huge influx of immigrants (legal and illegal) is filling a need for low cost labor that can’t be filled by people that are already living here. Additionally, people everywhere strive for a better life for themselves and their families, what advocates “Free People” more than letting people choose to live anywhere that they can afford to do so?

The terrorism concerns are facile at best, the terrorists of 9/11 were in the US legally so any efforts to stem the flow of illegal immigration is going to is closer to closing the barn door after the egg is broken. The only way to come close to ensuring that terrorists, or others intent on causing the US harm, don’t enter America is to completely close the borders a la East Germany.

Lieberman Sees Progress in Iraq

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn. . . .

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

Iraqi's are better equipped to forecast their future then we are and the numbers have increased dramatically over the last 6 months. Which leads me to two questions: Why does news like this not get reported in mainstream media? (or does it and I am just missing it?) If Iraqi's are optimistic about the state of reconstruction should the US stay the course?

HatTip: Instapundit

Wireless New Orleans

Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans will deploy the nation’s first municipally owned wireless Internet system that will be free for all users, part of an effort to jump-start recovery by making living and doing business in the city as attractive as possible.

I’m not even sure how to respond.  Out of the vast devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina THIS is how they decide to spend federal disaster aid?  They are begging for money to pay municipal workers like garbage men without any garbage to pick up or just refusing to pick it up.  Or begging for money to pay teachers without any students.

We can debate whether or not it is necessary for government to rebuild New Orleans, but if they are going to do it, shouldn’t the money be used to repair the existing infrastructure and services?

Monday, November 28, 2005

How to get around those stupid phone menus.

I’m not a big fan of the tree of menus that you get when you call most companies so try to get around them when I can.  Here is a list of known bypass codes for many of the major companies.

HatTip: Volokh Conspiracy

I Don't Understand Anti-Consumerism

Kip Esquire talks about yet another attack on “consumerism” via a 60 Minutes piece on McMansions.

So while I was watching an atrocious 60 Minutes piece on so-called "McMansions," with a parade of would-be central planners (including bitter neighbors and of course the omnipresent anti-luxury socialist, Robert H. Frank) lamenting that people are tearing down "perfectly good" homes in order to build larger ones, something occurred to me: What exactly is the difference between --

(a) people unable to afford McMansions seeking to ban them via zoning restrictions under the rationalization that they are somehow "unnecessary and wasteful," and

(b) people unable to afford First Class plane tickets demanding that the government ban First Class travel under the rationalization that it is somehow "unnecessary and wasteful"?

Between hating people with big houses because they are “wasteful” and Buy Nothing Day I think someone is missing something important and I’m pretty sure it isn’t me. Do these nutballs think that goods just appear on the store shelves or houses appear out of thin air?

Let’s take this to the extreme and assume for a minute that they get their way and Americans don’t build big houses and don’t buy stuff that they want. How does the carpenter put food on his kids’ plate? How does the Costco (the gloriously benevolent company which sells such wasteful items such as fine art, jewelry, and expensive wine) employee pay for the mortgage on her adequately sized home?

Is it possible that such people are so shortsighted that they don’t realize that the economy is interconnected with everything? That tinkering with something as simple as the tax on yachts has consequences for working class people?

Google Will Be Evil

I just want to go on record saying that Google is going to be the whipping boy of the future a la Microsoft or Wal-Mart.  I’m not sure when it is going to happen but they will be the target of liberal groups for successfully doing what they say they are going to do – making all information available on the web.

I’m not exactly sure what the nature of the attacks are going to be I just want to be able to say “I told you so” and have a document to point to.

Wal-Mart Is Good for Poor People

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

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

Of course, I am not surprised that Wal-Mart benefits poor people by providing low cost goods, but why do liberals ignore everything other than Wal-Mart doesn’t pas its workers enough (in their opinion). Wal-Mart critics never compare it to similar businesses on any factual level, they just repeat over and over what Wal-Mart should be doing. Wal-Mart should pay their employees a living wage (whatever that is). Wal-Mart should provide health care to it’s workers (umm, they do). Wal-Mart shouldn’t under-price it’s competitors (where would all the poor people buy their stuff then?)

Wal-Mart opponents love to put Costco up on a pedestal as the model for all retailers, but tell me – would Costco be able to be so benevolent to their employees if their customer base had half average income?

HatTip: Cafe Hayek

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Toyota Is Gouging Customers - Right?

Overall, GM lost almost $4 billion in the first nine months of this year, hit by falling sales and rising health care costs. Its share of the U.S. market has shrunk to 26.2 percent from 33 percent a decade ago.

The plant closings, which will entail 30,000 job cuts, are meant to chop $7 billion off its $42 billion annual bill for operations by the end of next year, including a $3 billion cut in health care costs.

Toyota, by contrast, is on pace to set a fourth straight year of record profits.

Why is Toyota gouging it’s customers? Shouldn’t we, as patriotic Americans be taxing the excessive profits of this greedy Japanese auto maker.

Out of concern for GM's plight — and possibly to stave off an anti-Japanese backlash by American consumers — Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda suggested earlier this year that Toyota should raise the price of car models in the United States to level the playing field.

Toyota raised prices soon after, but denied the move was to placate U.S. automakers.

So when a car company raises prices it’s to make sure that it’s underperforming competitors can still compete, but when a gas station raises prices it’s only to stick it to the unwitting US consumer. Color me confused, but something just doesn’t add up here.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Jobs Picture Is Looking Brighter
Jobless Claims Surge, Market Seeks Traction
Both headlines are reporting the same news, in fact they are written by the same AP writer, Jeannine Aversa, within an hour of each other.  I don’t know what AP’s practices are for writing articles, but this appears to be a blatant example of an AP writer intentionally spinning a story.

Foot In Mouth Disease

Sen. John Kerry's public profile and prosecutorial past didn't spare him from performing that most mundane of civic responsibilities -- jury duty.

But Duarte's lawyer, Glenn Fortier, said he saw no reason to oppose Kerry's inclusion.
"I think he's a very intelligent man, and I've had respect for everything he's accomplished," said Fortier, who voted for Bush.

As a lawyer, is it prudent to say in a public forum that you voted against the man that you are hoping rules in your client’s favor? Maybe he is hoping that Kerry doesn’t read the local news.

HatTip: Club for Growth

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More Than Just the Right Thing To Do

Bruce Schneier has a great essay on what changes the US should make to scale back the police powers granted by the PATRIOT Act. Let me say upfront, that I agree with him 100%, unfortunately, the argument isn’t very compelling.

There are those that think anyone that doesn’t advocate doing whatever it takes to stop terrorism are complicit in the attacks of 9/11 and will be responsible for any future attacks that happen on American soil. Theoretical fears of a “police state” simply aren’t going to sway them.

The fact of the matter is that most Americans are result oriented type of political being, they want an end to terrorism, they want better schools for their kids, they want less crime. The means that are used to achieve those ends are pretty much irrelevant to how those ends are achieved.

For those of us that are driven by a strong philosophical commitment to rights for everyone the means are very important, putting a criminal into jail by forcing him to incriminate himself is unconscionable, to those that just want safer streets, they can look the other way as long as the criminal isn’t themselves or someone close to them.

In order to sway the vast majority of Americans that we are on the right side we need to show them the consequences of their lax behavior. We need to convince them that increased police surveillance is unlikely to lead to actionable information. We need to show them that the FBI knowing that you went to Vegas with your mistress isn’t going to hurt you today, but could come back to haunt you in the future when they need something for you.

In short, we need to do a better job of framing the debate in terms that matter to people rather than framing it as the right thing to do.

Breaking News: Lafave Pleads Guilty!! oh, and Padilla was indicted.

It's so encouraging to see that teachers having sex with their students gets top billing over an alleged terrorist finally getting his 5th Amendment right to be charged with the crime that he is being imprisoned for.

Lafave does take a prettier picture though, so maybe Fox News can be forgiven.

Paris Still On Fire

It seems to have faded from everyone’s mind, but the French are still rioting. Well, they are at least still lighting cars on fire which counts in my book.

As part of renewed government efforts to combat the inequalities laid bare by France's worst riots in four decades,

President Jacques Chirac is to meet Tuesday with business and labor leaders and national television executives to discuss hiring young people from poor neighborhoods and airing more programs that reflect France's racial diversity.

It looks like the solution is to tell everyone that France is diverse and to ask employers nicely to hire the rioters regardless of whether or not they are qualified to hold the job. I don’t know about you, I’m skeptical of how that is going to work out.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Town By Any Other Name Would Still Smell As Sweet

So when the company changes it’s name is the town required to follow suit?

Counting Calories

Why does the government need to know how many turkeys I eat and how big my Halloween pumpkin was?

Runways In My Backyard

I’m glad that Senator Obama’s commitment to decreasing spending isn’t going to derail the commitment to expand O’Hare.  I’m not sure what Chicago would do without reconfiguring the runways despite the concerns of the airlines and flight controllers that the changes are going to increase risks and increases costs.

Claims that the government is underestimating the costs and overestimating the benefits should just be accepted as a given.  In fact, by the FAA’s estimates any gains to congestion relief will likely reappear within five years.  When the primary benefactors of a project refuse to actually fund the project, chances are that it isn’t needed anyway.  There are two airports within public transportation range of Chicago that are under-utilitized; the O’hare expansion is just an effort by the airlines to subsidize the flawed hub and spoke operation model that the majors cling to.

I guess it comes at no surprise that a centrally planned project is going to over promise and under deliver, but I think that you can oppose this plan on the merits without even having to argue that free markets would do a much better job at providing consumers with precisely the right number of runways at precisely the cost they would be willing to pay.

Wal-Mart Bashing

Wal-Mart sells itself as the all-American company, but it violates American family values every single day. Wal-Mart refuses to sell magazines, books, or CDs that it believes will offend the values of average Americans. But what Wal-Mart's leaders can't seem to grasp is that average Americans are offended by its shameful tactics to boost profits at the expense of the families of hard-working men and women.

I’m fairly certain that the only thing that the average American wants out of Wal-mart is cheap toilet paper. What Mr. Kennedy fails to grasp is that when greedy American companies make a profit some hard-working American man or woman gets a job so that they can demonstrate that they are hard-working.
This is not just a Congressional fight. The American people are also demanding accountability. Wal-Mart has forced employees to work overtime without pay.

Forcing non-exempt employees to work without overtime is illegal and specific stores have been found guilty of the practice, but insinuating that it is a sanctioned corporate practice is dishonest.
They have hired professional union busters to keep employees from having a voice at work.

I can’t blame Wal-Mart for busting unions when the government provides so many protections to unions when they are at the negotiation table. After seeing what unions have done to the airlines, Delphi, GM and essentially the entire US manufacturing sector, why would anyone want unions in their shop?
They have refused to provide affordable health care, while instructing workers to apply for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Wal-Mart offers health insurance to both it’s full time and part time workers; something that most retailers don’t do. What exactly does Mr. Kennedy mean by affordable health care? When you can get coverage at $11/month the price barrier isn’t exactly the issue. Wal-Mart denies Mr. Kennedy’s accusation that they encourage people to apply for federal aid, making the accusation without any evidence is incredibly irresponsible.
They have refused to promote women and people of color. They have violated child labor laws by requiring kids to use dangerous equipment. And they have used predatory pricing practices to put small companies out of business.

Wal-Mart has never been found guilty of any of these practices. And exactly how many children does Wal-Mart have working for them, and exactly what dangerous equipment are they operating?
Surely, the largest company in the world, which made more than $10 billion in profits last year, can do better by its workers, better by our communities, and better for the American taxpayer.
Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, was known for creating the 10 Commandments of Leadership. Well, today I challenge Wal-Mart to abide by the Ten Commandments of Good Corporate Citizenship.

Thou shalt pay living wages.

I’m still waiting for someone, anyone to tell me what a living wage is.
Thou shalt provide affordable health care.
Thou shalt pay overtime.
Thou shalt not bust unions.
Thou shalt pay and promote women and men equally.
Thou shalt not discriminate against people of color.
Thou shalt not support sweatshops.

Similarly, a definition of a sweatshop would be nice.
Thou shalt not violate child labor laws.

What child labor law has been violated?
Thou shalt provide safe working conditions.
Thou shalt not dump toxic waste.

What manufacturing process is causing all of this toxic waste that they are dumping?
Companies that abide by these commandments succeed. One of Wal-Mart's chief competitors, Costco, is a shining example of good corporate citizenship. Its average pay is 76 percent higher than Wal-Mart's, and its employees have health insurance, dental, and retirement benefits. Yet it is Costco, not Wal-Mart, that has delivered higher returns to shareholders over the past decade.

Costco’s business model is different than Wal-Mart’s. And Costco is a club, where the majority of Wal-Mart’s stores are not.
Sam Walton was right when he said that a company's success depends on its values. And Wal-Mart's current CEO, H. Lee Scott, was right two weeks ago when he called for an increase in the minimum wage even though his only reason for supporting it was so that Wal-Mart's minimum wage customers could buy more Wal-Mart products.

Mr. Kennedy is way off here, they don’t want minimum wage increased so that people can buy more of it’s products, they want an increase to damage it’s competitors.
We are working hard in Congress to make the Wal-Marts of the world accountable to workers, families and communities. We have introduced legislation to expose Wal-Mart's practice of dumping responsibility for health care for its employers on the American taxpayer. We have introduced the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a voice at work and to stop anti-union intimidation tactics. We continue to fight for an increase in the minimum wage, to ensure that no one who works for a living lives in poverty. We have sponsored legislation to ensure equal pay for men and women. And we are increasing penalties against companies with dangerous working conditions.

More wealth distribution and socialism in sheep’s clothing, should we expect anything different from this career politician?
The time has come to demand more than low prices from America’s largest employer.

No one is going to thank Mr. Kennedy for raising prices and increasing unemployment, it amazes me that Democrats, who are perfectly willing to tell us how greedy American corporations are, won’t acknowledge that the cost of these programs aren’t born by greedy corporations but by their employees and customers.


KipEsquire ponders whether sugar and caffeine are the root cause of the Ritalin generation.  I think the increased prevalence of Ritalin is caused by the availability of Ritalin.  If parents in the 60s and 70s had a socially acceptable drug that they could give their kids to get them to stop bouncing off the walls I am relatively sure they would have used it.

The other factor that plays into the [over] prescription of Ritalin is that it only costs most parents $5-10/month to keep their kids medicated.  If they had to pay the full price of that prescription (I’d guess $50-$100/month) would they be as likely to use it?

Libertarian Thoughts of the Day

  1. FDA -- drug safety could be ensured by competition among several 3rd party, reputation-driven providers like Consumer Reports, AMA, and CSPI. These are not seen because they are by law not allowed (you cannot make unapproved statements about drugs).

  2. Medicaid -- at the turn of the century, health care was privately provided by the workers themselves who participated in high rates in lodges and friendly societies. The emphasis was on avoiding destitution, and participation was in the 50% range (50% of everyone), but higher among the working poor. "Lodge practice evil", as it was known by the AMA, was strangled in the crib as the AMA sought to distance itself from the rest of society and establish themselves as a politically powerful craft guild. Given the advance of professional skills like finance and engineering, productivity advances in truly essential sectors like agriculture, and the general advance of income and therefore the affordability of housing and transport since 1900, we can only guess at how far advanced a truly free market medical would be by now. Instead, the capture of the regulatory body by the AMA, and then the distortion of the tax-driven third party payer system in the wake of WWII price controls, has led to measures designed to make health care an affordable right but which in reality have made health care markets distorted beyond belief. Successful low income health care measures like lodge practice are now unseen and impossible to establish under current laws.

  3. 97-98% of the workforce makes more than the minimum wage, now, with no laws requiring it. Of the few who make minimum, 2/3 are teenagers or non-household providers, and over 2/3 are advanced within a year with no laws requiring it. The unseen are those who have no skills and are unable to find work where they could develop them because they are prevented by law from doing so; they are counted among the "non-participants" and "unemployed" and are prevented by law from negotiating a mutually agreeable outcome.

  4. Private roads certainly existed before the creation of the DoT. See this collection of papers by Daniel Klein covering the era 1797-1860.

  5. My statement regarding the Department of Commerce was meant to be humorous. Many of the functions, such as NOAA and NIST comply with the Constitution's "Weights and Measures" clause and are largely public goods. I don't really have a problem with those. However, the recent attempt by Senator Rick Santorum, R-PA, to restrict free public access to data from the National Weather Service because it competes unfairly with private weather services serves as both a warning and an example. It is a warning about the potential for abuse that arises from the private-public nexus, in this case a Senator is going to bat for a constituent in order to make life easier for them (rent-seeking). It is also an example of that which is not seen and normally held to be impossible by those who claim that public goods are a market failure and should therefore always be provided by the government, in this case the actual existence of private weather forecasting in the shadow of competition from "free" public service.

  6. Electricity generation is considered to be a "natural monopoly": an industry in which it is actually less efficient and therefore impossible for true competition to arise. The telephone industry was treated the same way for 70 years: AT&T was granted a monopoly in 1914, it began to fall apart in 1984 when a judge ordered the breakup in the face of competition from MCI and McCaw Cellular, and what was left of AT&T was recently swallowed up by Cingular in their competition with Verizon, Nextel, and others – surprising outcome for a "natural monopoly". The first hydroelectric plant was built by the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA), and Westinghouse, Edison, and Tesla were all actively building and competing long before we accepted the burden of the Department of Energy. Since the rise of the regulatory state and the Natural Monopoly theory, energy companies have largely worked hand-in-glove with the states and federal government to defend the status quo. What is not seen is what advantage a fragmented, decentralized system would hold for smaller generators like solar and windpower. FDR's Rural Electrification Administration saw to it that farmers got subsidized, high-cost electricity, leading to the demise of the nascent wind-generation industry.
Blatanly Stolen from: GrimReader – who you should be reading regularly anyway.

Random Trivia

Only a quarter of profoundly deaf people in the U.S., for instance, use American Sign Language

Is it just me, or is that an astonishing statistic?

HatTip: Cathy Young

They Might Be Lying, But Probably Not

Coming to an airport near you:
Tested in Russia, the two-stage GK-1 voice analyzer[sic] requires that passengers don headphones at a console and answer "yes" or "no" into a microphone to questions about whether they are planning something illicit.
The software will almost always pick up uncontrollable tremors in the voice that give away liars or those with something to hide, say its designers at Israeli firm Nemesysco.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Congress tried to implement this at US airports, of course it is absolutely worthless as a security measure, but it would sure make it look like Congress was doing something. And that is the most important thing, isn’t it? That Congress looks like they are trying to do something. God forbid that they actually accomplish something, we might expect them to do it again sometime.

Hat Tip: Bruce Schneier

All Glory - No Guts

Representative Murtha submitted a bill for the immediate withdraw of US troops from Iraq.  The Democrats gave him a standing ovation after his speech on the floor, then only 3 people voted for the bill.  What is wrong with this picture?

HatTip: Rough Ol’ Boy

Update:  I missed the fact that the Republicans removed the caveat “earliest practicable date” which is an underhanded trick.  But instead of abstaining from the vote or accusing Republican leadership of substantially changing the bill they accused the Republicans of character assassination.  Perhaps the Democrats need to grow a pair and stand up for something for a change.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Debunking Kyoto Success

You really should read this article from Prometheus (actually you should just start reading Prometheus regularly, but that is another issue).  Roger Pielke explains that the gains that the UN is reporting in reducing emissions are attributable to one time events – primarily related to the collapse of the Soviet Union – and very little to do with any success of the Kyoto protocol.

Mr. Pielke, says that he doesn’t see any evidence of Kyoto in the numbers, but I have to admit that it is possible, theoretically, that it could be worse without Kyoto.  I’m still skeptical though.

Bridges Before Farmers

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, and Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, were buoyant -- if exhausted -- after sweating out a big victory on the budget cut bill.
After all, they had just salvaged -- at least for the moment -- a major pillar of their agenda despite divisions within the party and nervousness among moderates that the vote could cost them in next year's elections.
The bill, passed 217-215 after a 25-minute-long roll call, makes modest but politically painful cuts across an array of programs for the poor, students and farmers.
I’m all for small budgets and small government, but are bridges in Alaska a higher priority that the poor, students and farmers?  Nevermind that I probably wouldn’t support those programs anyway; our Congressional leaders have a serious integrity problem.

Hat Tip

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Pig By Any Other Name

So the Congress has decided to take the “Bridge to Nowhere” out of the budget.  Great!  Unfortunately all that money is still going to Alaska (the largest pork recipient of any state by a long shot) for whatever purpose they see fit.

How the Founders Would Write the Constitution Today

There has been, often will be, much debate about what the Founders intended when they wrote the Constitution.  Some feel that they meant it to be a very flexible document that would entrust modern day governments to use as a tool to promote societal well-being.  Others believe that they intended to create a very limited government whose only purpose is to protect the natural rights of it’s citizens.  

If the Founding Fathers had perfect foresight of American history through 2005, how would they modify the Constitution to give it greater resilience to their original intentions?  There are obviously some things that would not be changed; they wouldn’t have modified their stance on slavery – it was a necessary compromise.  They also wouldn’t have added universal health care – the concept would have been completely foreign in the 1700s.

The first change that I think is immediately obvious is that they would incorporate the Bill of Rights into the Constitution.  The counter argument – that everything necessary to protect any individual’s right to liberty is contained within the ‘Privileges and Immunities’ clause has proven itself false time and time again over the last 130 years.  If I wanted to be cute I would say that they would also add “and we really mean it” and the end of each of the enumerated rights, but I don’t think that would even go far enough.  They would be more precise with the language so that there was little doubt with what they meant.  By looking ahead 230 years they could easily see what rights have been eroded and modify the articles appropriately.

The second thing that they would change would be to further limit the Executive Power.  The Founders intended the President to be little more than a figure head, I think they would be appalled that Presidents have as much power as they do today.  In order to limit that power they would need to directly address executive orders, defining their specific intent and purpose and define, precisely, how they may be used.  They would also define what duties the “Commander in Chief” actually had.  I seriously doubt that they intended a single man be allowed to wage an armed conflict (yet not a war) without the full consent of the Congress.

The Constitutional Congress would also restrict the powers of Congress by clearly defining what they mean by the power “To regulate Commerce.”  I personally believe that they intended that clause to allow Congress to prevent states from using tariffs and other similar barriers amongst themselves to enact protectionist policies.

The last item that I think would be an obvious change would be to close any open ended powers of government such as “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;” that could be interpreted creatively to justify a broad set of legislation and spending.  

The Founders feared a powerful government and wanted to create a document that would avoid government from becoming all powerful.  Unfortunately, they failed in that goal and given an opportunity to try again, I think that they would have erred on the side of too little power over too much power.

Markets Want To Be Free

For a sizable group of people in their 20's and 30's, deciding on their own what drugs to take - in particular, stimulants, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications - is becoming the norm. Confident of their abilities and often skeptical of psychiatrists' expertise, they choose to rely on their own research and each other's experience in treating problems like depression, fatigue, anxiety or a lack of concentration. A medical degree, in their view, is useful, but not essential, and certainly not sufficient.

They trade unused prescription drugs, get medications without prescriptions from the Internet and, in some cases, lie to doctors to obtain medications that in their judgment they need.

It seems that as technology advances and “globalization” (including the scary quotes) becomes more pervasive in everything, free markets will continue to find innovative ways to buck government regulation and provide customers with what they want.

Another, very telling, example of this is downloadable music. First there was Napster, which the government shut down. Then Grokster met a similar end. The industry started suing teenagers for downloading music off of services like Kazaa. And in the end, of course, we get iTunes and the innumerable look-alikes.

I takes very oppressive regulation to put a complete stop to market forces, oppressive regulation that will do much more harm than good.

Hat Tip: Ann Althouse

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Please Help

Can someone please point me to a blogger template/service that has threaded comments? It is impossible to hold a discussion here with blogger's lame comment app.

Cryptology for Kids

Why does the NSA have a kids site?

Hat Tip: Bruce Schneier

Good News Vouchers

Every good news story about school vouchers are a win.

Ms. Walton found the solution to her problem, one shared by thousands of parents in the District of Columbia, in Washington's Opportunity Scholarship program. The $13 million, federally funded, five-year pilot program - created by an act of Congress in January 2004 - provides a voucher of up to $7,500 for low-income families in the District of Columbia to send their children to private schools. Now in its second year, the voucher program is generating positive reviews, both formal and anecdotal.

Even Kansas, the land of Intelligent Design is considering them.

I just wish that someone, somewhere, would make the jump and provide vouchers for every student as opposed to just low-income families.  I think that there is a very good argument that the state has a vested interest in making sure that children are educated, I just don’t think that the state should actually provide an education.  

So many dumb and pointless arguments about education could be completely avoided if we just let parents decide what is important.

Hat Tip: RedState

Still Alive

I haven’t written recently because I have been extremely busy; taking the kids to the Wisconsin Dells, going to see Wicked and working like a dog.

I have some topics that have been brewing in my head that I am hoping to get to soon, including racism, how the Founders would right the Constitution if they had perfect foresight into 2005 and why TV networks keep canceling good shows.

You Can Always Tell When a Politician is Lying

Others intent on cutting spending have pointed to Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" as a wasteful project. I agree and believe that it represents the first type of project we should cut. But it's wrong to single out one state's pork project. If we're serious about shared responsibility, let's eliminate all pork projects in all states. To find $50 billion in tax breaks, we could postpone a planned tax break for millionaires, and we could temporarily roll back one of the tax cuts for those who make an income of more than $2 million per year.
Mr. Obama is calling for fiscal restraint, which I loudly applaud. I also applaud his effort to curb entitlement tax cuts. Taxes should be shared equally across all Americans. Providing cuts to a specific class or interest group make the incorrect assumption that there money is more likely to provide economic growth that another person’s money.

However, I question Mr. Obama’s sincerity. He rightly points out that restraining pork projects across every jurisdiction is better than singling out specific projects, but Mr Obama didn’t put forth an amendment to cut projects across the board. He didn’t step in front of the Senate to say that he would support the amendment to put an end to the “Bridge to Nowhere” if a similar project were killed in each state, or even putting a project from his own state on the block. Instead, Mr. Obama, quite clearly, affirmed the practice of providing pork to pad the pocket of incumbents and killed Coburn’s attempt to bring fiscal responsibility back into the Senate.

It’s easy to see this as a pre-campaign speech (especially since that is what it is) so that he has something to point to when he is attacked as a tax-and-spend Democrat. When judging a politician pay special attention to judge them by what they do rather than what they say.


Debate on Health Care has been increasingly frustrating because liberals (or more correctly, people that support socialized medicine) have the false impression that the US has a market based health care system.

I’m not exactly sure what to call our system of government mandated, privately provided, health insurance, but market based certainly isn’t it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Liberal Bias

In other French media news, a French television exec explains that he edited out riot footage because excessive coverage may fuel the fire (so to speak) and because “politics in France is heading to the right and I dont want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television.

I'm not sure which is worse, the media trying to hide it's liberal bias by paying lip service to conservative viewpoints or just admitting straight out that you don't like conservatives.

Hat Tip: Catallarchy

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Justifying the Windfall Tax

Properly structured, a windfall tax would generate money for mass transit and alternative fuels, for helping carmakers move from sport utility vehicles to energy-efficient models, and for other ways to cut demand. It would bring in so much money - more than $24 billion this year, if it was set at 50 percent of the profits on oil sales above $40 a barrel in 2005 - that some could also be used to help consumers cope with the current high prices, including providing a few billion dollars for home heating aid for the poor...But using all of the revenue to provide consumer rebates - as some lawmakers propose - would be counterproductive because that would foster only more consumption.

Should anyone tell this NY Times editorialist that if you have a massive tax on oil that costs over $40/barrel that you will be unlikely to have any oil cost over $40/barrel?  The resulting de facto price cap will result in supply shortages?  The resulting supply shortages will bring about lines at the pump that will make you think it is the 70s all over again?  Kinda makes you want to make 4 years of economic a requirement to graduate high school

Good Riddance

I haven’t been able to follow football as closely this year as I would like so I didn’t catch wind of TO’s suspension until just yesterday.

I think that it is great that someone has finally had the courage to punish the adolescent shenanigans that superstars like Owens frequently get away with.  Professional athletes need to learn that multi-million dollar contracts do not buy a license to behave like children.  This is the lesson that Mike Tice should have taught Randy Moss last year in any of the several toddler like tantrums he threw last year.

This suspension won’t mean the end of celebrity pranks in the NFL, but hopefully it will start a trend where coaches and owners will be unafraid to punish their superstars regardless of how productive they may be.  Maybe with a couple more days sitting on the bench, kissing bonuses goodbye, these athletes will learn to think before they speak.

Bush Causes Riots In Europe

Can someone please explain to me how Bush is responsible for riots in France?

Friday, November 04, 2005


Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to Republican senators this week to allow CIA exemptions to a proposed ban on the torture of terror suspects in U.S. custody, according to participants in a closed-door session.
Information obtained through torture can’t be trusted, why the US thinks that it is necessary baffles me. I sincerely hope that the Senate rejects his request.



Is it hypocritical for Michael Moore to own stocks in: Boeing (2000) Sonoco (1000) Best Foods (4000) Eli Lilly (3000) Bank One (8000) And most notably: Halliburton (2000) Source

Thursday, November 03, 2005

We are Number One

As the “freest” nation in the world and one that prides itself on being the best in everything, should we be proud about having more prisoners than China?

From the US Department of Justice:
The nation's total correctional population was 6,996,500 in 2004, of which 4,151,125 were living in the community on probation; 1,421,911 were in a state or federal prison; 765,355 were living in the community on parole; and 713,990 were in jail, according to the BJS report on probation and parole. At year-end one in every 31 adults were under correctional supervision, which was 3.2 percent of the U.S. adult population.
For reference, China, a nation that is at least 4 times as many people as the US, has a prison population of 1.5 million people. There is something seriously out of whack when a democracy has a higher incarceration rate than a dictatorship.

Hat Tip: Crooked Timber

Question for Liberals

If you think that the government is controlled by corporations for their own self-interest, why do you want to give government more power?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Down on the 15 Yard Line

How do you plead innocent to running onto a field during a football game?  They have it on freaking tape!  As someone that saw it in person, I have to admit a sense of satisfaction watching the guy get leveled by stadium security guards.  If only the Packers could have tackled so well on Sunday.

Hurricane Approaching Dover, England

In a surprise move, PM Blair is risking the wrath of hurricanes on Britain’s historic cliffs of Dover by stepping away from the Kyoto treaty.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Night At the Movies

I’ve been saying for awhile that the best way to prevent people from downloading movies off of the internet is to release movies simultaneously in theatres and on DVD.  People want to watch movies for $3.5 and eat popcorn in their own living room, they don’t want to pay $20 for tickets another $8 for popcorn and get to listen to someone else’s brats bicker through an entire movie.

It turns out that Bob Iger, the incoming Disney Chief, has considered the idea himself.  The next question is going to be if they can overcome Walmart’s threat to not carry DVD if the lag between purchase and rental availability is eliminated.  Well that and what are teenagers going to do on Friday night now?

It's A Good Time To Be a Capitalist

The economy grew at 3.8% last quarter, the 10th quarter in a row with growth over 3%, the only time in history that it has ever done that.