Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Carbon Tax Center

Yes, there is an honest to goodness Carbon Tax Center. It has a website and it may actually have a physical existence, like brick and mortar.

Paul Krugman on Social Security Through Time

Here is Paul Krugman in 1996 on the funding of Social Security and Medicare:

But aren't Social Security and Medicare basically pension funds, in which workers' contributions are invested to provide for their retirement? Hardly. A private pension fund that planned to pay the benefits these programs promise would be accumulating huge reserves. In fact, the so-called ''trust funds'' are making barely any provisions for the future. In another spectacular statistic, Mr. Peterson notes that if Medicare and Social Security had to obey the same rules that apply to private pensions, the reported Federal deficit this year would be not its official $150 billion, but roughly $1.5 trillion.

Paul Krugman today:

Social Security, if you go through the federal government, piece-by-piece, and see which programs are seriously underfunded and which are close to being completely funded, social security is one of the best. It's not for certain that social security has a problem. And it's something that the right has always wanted to kill, not because it doesn't work. But because it does. And Obama to go after this program, at this time, you have to wonder. All of my progressive friends are saying what on earth is going through his mind to raise this issue.

hat tip: Greg Mankiw

David Copperfield...

accused of Rape. No magic puns.

Private Contractors, Again

More on private contractors over at the Marginal Revolution.

Private Contractors

Tyler Cowen has a good article on private contractors in the military like Blackwater.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cap and Trade Abroad

China and Brazil are talking about the possibility of implementing a cap and trade system. It will be interesting to see if this amounts to anything. If either country does, especially China, the pressure on the US to follow will be immense.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Am Confused

There seems to be a budding consensus (of which I disagree) that Hillary's nomination is inevitable. Whenever I talk to my friends (who are overwhelmingly liberal, sigh) or read liberal blogs I get the impression that she is not the favorite candidate of the left (most prefer either Obama-tolerable or Edwards-loathesome). I think that the notion behind it is that Hillary can win, and at the least, she won't crater. Her best would not be as good as Obama or Edwards in an election or the White House, but she is more likely to get there. It sounds like the Left has just settled. I don't get it because in this election cycle I think just about anybody with a -D besides their name will win. Most of the Republican candidates have major problems with the base, the base is clearly disengaged at this point, and the Republican party is not exactly popular right now.

Harold Meyerson Remembers Paul Wellstone

It's over at the American Prospect. I never cared much for Paul Wellstone's politics. I thought his policy prescriptions were well-intentioned but counter-productive. That being said, it is clear that he was as decent and good as they come (maybe the best person in the entire senate while he was there and since) and that he was a good representative for the State of Minnesota (aka Snowta).

Big Tax Bill In The Works

Charlie Rangel is trying to push together a major tax bill. I don't think anything will happen this year but it is likely to shape the contours of the tax debate in '09.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Too Rich

Mike Brown (former FEMA director) is trying to land appearances on the news as an "Emergency Relief Analyst". You're doing a heck of job, Brownie.

More on Romney

Ryan Lizza has a brilliant takedown of Romney:

"Politicians tend to pander, especially during the primary season. Romney’s chief opponent, Rudy Giuliani, also has a history as a pro-gun-control, pro-gay-rights Republican. But while Giuliani simply downplays his record on those issues, Romney sells himself as a true convert. He not only shifts positions; he often claims to be the most passionate advocate of his new stances. It’s one of the reasons that his metamorphosis from liberal Republican to committed right-winger seems so jarring. In 1994, in his race for the Senate, he didn’t simply argue that he was a defender of gay rights; he claimed to be a stronger advocate than his opponent, Edward Kennedy. Today, he’s not just a faithful conservative but the only Republican candidate who represents “the Republican wing of the Republican Party.” He brings a salesman’s bravado and certainty to issues. At a debate in May, when asked how he would respond to a hypothetical situation involving the interrogation of a terrorist at Guantánamo Bay, he said, “Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is that we ought to double Guantánamo.” Elected as a pro-choice governor in 2002—YouTube is flooded with his passionate advocacy of abortion rights—he now presents himself as the most resolute anti-abortion candidate in the Republican field. A Mormon, he sometimes adopts the religious language of Evangelicals when he is addressing conservative Christian groups. To economic conservatives, he pitches himself as the candidate most strongly committed to slashing spending and taxes. (He’s the only major G.O.P. candidate to have signed a formal anti-tax pledge, the sort of move that his spokesman dismissed as “government by gimmickry” in Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign.) To national-security conservatives, he is the most hawkish. (He says often that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of Iran, should be indicted under the Genocide Convention, and his campaign has named the former C.I.A. counterterrorism chief, Cofer Black, the vice-chairman of Blackwater, as an adviser.) But, while giving customers exactly what they want may be normal in the corporate world, it can be costly in politics."

hat tip: Alex Massie

Prime Example of a Niche Blog

Check out firemeganmcardle.blogspot.com. Megan McArdle is a contributor and blogger for the The Atlantic. She is a libertarian blogger who I link to quite frequently as I happen to be a fan. Anyhow, some bloke or assortment thereof (one of the posts indicates it might be an ex-boyfriend or friend of an ex-boyrfriend) have created a blog with the sole purpose of dogging her. Now, this is a bit pathetic but nonetheless an excellent example of the niche blog. I would imagine its existence is quite flattering. If there were ever a blog dedicated to harassing me I would be tickled, but first I need readers.

City Beaches

Here's an article from the Washington Post on City Beaches in Berlin. The City Beach phenomenon is not just isolated to Berlin but other cities have them as well. Now these City Beaches are not Beaches proper as there is no ocean, rather, they are just slabs of concrete jungle that have been gussied up with some sand and bars. I guess it's a bit silly but I wonder why you don't find these in America. It would seem to provide a Bohemian character.

The Living in D.C.

Isn't all that easy. Check out this column by D. Nicholson from the WaPo discussing why he moved from D.C. to Fairfax County. Summary D.C. schools suck, so he moved to Fairfax County. Megan McArdle fumes about those left behind and the Nicholson's omission of the V-word- vouchers.

Verizon Says F-U to Customers

Apparently Verizon had a nasty habit of terminating customers enrolled in unlimited data plans who made extensive use of the service that they paid for. What is it with Cell Phone companies?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

GMU Mafia

BTW, as we have been mentioned in EconLog, I believe that makes the pie-eyed picayune, or at least me, a member (ok junior member) of the online GMU mafia. I am honored. Pretty shortly I will be rubbing elbows with Bryan Caplan and exchanging recipes with Tyler Cowen.

The Ethanol Myth

hat tip: The Volokh Conspiracy

"When we assume the ethanol production process is fully renewable, it would take all the corn in the country to displace about 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption — only slightly more than we cou
ld displace by making sure drivers’ tires are inflated properly. There are also ethical considerations. In particular, the United States is responsible for over 40 percent of the world’s corn supply and 70 percent of total global exports. Even small diversions of corn supplies to ethanol could have dramatic implications for the world’s poor, especially considering that researchers believe that food production will need to triple by the year 2050 to accommodate expected demand. Furthermore, ethanol would not necessarily be a more reliable source of fuel. By displacing gasoline with ethanol, we are displacing geo-political risk with yield risk, and historical corn yields have been about twice as volatile as oil imports. Finally, because high temperatures can simultaneously increase fuel demand and the cost of growing corn, the supply response of ethanol producers to temperature-induced demand shocks would likely be weaker than that of gasoline producers."

Random Note

TPMCafe doesn't have it's weekly book club up. This is a major disappointment. I hope that haven't ended the series.

How to Become a Douche Part Two

By the way, that Ferrari Edition Segway isn't even faster than the regular Segway. Lame. Oh, and it costs $12k.

More Romney Nonsense

via Andrew Sullivan:

"Actually, just look at what Osam, uh, Barack Obama, said just yesterday. Barack Obama calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq. That is the battlefield. That is the central place, he said. Come join us under one banner,"

Now it is clear here that he is intentionally trying to conflate in Osama bin Laden and Barack Obama. Sadly, this is not an isolated instance for Romney or other Republicans. Fox News has been trying to claim that Obama is actually a closet Muslim and a variety of other Republicans have taken to emphasizing Barack Obama's middle name: Hussein. I am sort of surprised Romney stopped with merely swapping Osama for Barack Obama, he could have said something like this "Barack Saddam Husseing Obama bin Laden, Democratic Senator of Al Qaeda."

And I Bitch and Moan About Mitt Romney Again...

Romney secured an endorsement from the chancellor of Bob Jones University, Bob Jones III. This is the same Bob Jones University that called Catholicism a satanist cult and until 2000 banned interracial dating. Does Romney really want to accept this endorsement. Sadly it has been a staple of Republican Presidential Campaign politics to dance with these wingnuts, but maybe, Romney could have used this as an opportunity to stop that dance. In general I find Romney to be a profound waste. I think the real Romney is a moderately conservative technocrat who is very capable and quite intelligent. He has decided that in order to be electable that he would have to swing dramatically to the right. I think this calculation was wrong. After Iraq, Katrina, and every other monumental screw up by the Bush Administration I think most are looking for somebody that can claim competence. This election cycle was the best opportunity for a Romney type candidate (i.e. the Romney before deciding to run for president) had of securing the nomination. Instead he has shamelessly pandered to the worst elements of the republican base.

MTV Making a Positive Contribution

MTV, once upon a time known for Music Television, though currently it is a reality tv only affair that crescendoes into "Girls Gone Wild" type of Spring Break extravaganza. MTV's film division is going to make a film based on the "Bong Hits for Jesus" case that made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Dumbeldore Is Gay

or so says J.K. Rowling. This seems totally frivolous. I have not read any of the Harry Potter books though I absolutely loved the movies. I guess I will have to read them to see if I can see if there are any signs or if this is just a means to stir up a little more interest.

Real Estate Racket

Todd Zwyicki has interesting post on some parts of the real estate industry that are a something of a racket; notably, title insurance and closing costs. He links to a website hosted by DOJ's antitrust division on competitive issues in real estate. If I were independently wealthy I would commission an army of libertarian lawyers to attack rent seek policies on a state by state basis.

Lower Income Asian Americans Reach Deep into Their Pockets for Hillary

The LA Times has the goods. Hillary has raised $380,000 from a lower income Asian neighborhood that John Kerry raised only $24,000 from in 2004. I am sure everything is above board though.

Chuck Norris Speaks...

and you listen or he will roundhouse kick your ass. Chuck Norris over at the WingNutDaily is endorsing Mike Huckabee for president.

Note: Little known fact about Chuck Norris, his tears cause cancer, too bad he has never cried (I should note that this is not my joke but I can't recall the website-It's a Chuck Norris Joke Website-and can't be bothered to google it).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Huckabee and the Evangelical Elite

Marc Ambinder has an interesting post on why Evangelical leaders haven't thrown their support behind Huckabee. Ambinder's thesis is that since Huckabee is a bonafide evangelical thus he doesn't need evangelical elites to broker support, thus, they are afraid that they will be cut out of the process. This reads about right to me.

How To Become An Incredible Douchebag

Go buy yourself a Ferrari Edition Segway. Yes such a thing exists. If you can't afford a Ferrari Edition Segway or even a regular Segway and are hellbent on being a Douchebag you can always buy a fanny pack.

Note: I am always amused by mall security guys riding around on Segways. I almost want to shoplift just to see if I can escape the clutches of the Segway mounted arm of the law.


What is OPM, well it is every politicians favorite thing, Other People's Money. Megan McArdle has a great post on how advocating the spending of OPM is not virtuous, not that it is not necessary.

Note: EconLog readers, welcome!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Foreign Aid Tax Credit

Here's an op-ed proposing a tax credit for corporations that invest in developing nations. This idea seems really impractical from a political standpoint as it reeks of corporate welfare and is likely to really piss of the Lou Dobbs/nativist crowd. That said, it looks like an upgrade over a lot of our direct foreign aid, sadly.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Red-Blue Divide Viewed Through Housing

Virginia Postrel has a great article over at the Atlantic where she posits that housing is as an important factor as religion in predicting Americans political views. Now I think here thesis is overdone but she does make some very interesting points. Especially noteworthy is looks at how Americans view the disappearance or non-disappearance of the middle class as a function of land use regulations and zoning laws.

IMF Blog

Here is a blog run by an IMF researcher.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More on Baby Bonds

Alex Tabarrok from Marginal Revolution has a modified proposal on baby bonds. He suggests recipients be means tested (or rather parents of recipients) and that the bonds only be awarded if the child graduates from high school crime free.

Earth Shattering News

The Spice Girls are going on a reunion tour and are releasing a Greatest Hits album through Victoria's Secret. How's that for cross branding.

Armenian Genocide Vote Update

Apparently the vote is losing steam.


Drew Carey is doing a series of video spots on various policy issues over at Reason. The first one is on traffic congestion.

Politics and Religion...

is the topic for this month's Cato Unbound. Mark Lilla has the lead essay. Damon Linker, Phillip Jenkins, and Andrew Sullivan have written resonses.

1000 Posts

This is the 1000th post for the Pie-Eyed Picayune. What follows below is a recap of the brilliance of my mostly absent co-bloggers:

Green Cowboy bust onto the scene with his Green Manifesto
Mandingo engages in intense hand-wringing about his yuppiness and introduces us to the term: Rust Stain
Archduke F.F. (glutton for punishment-he actually reads what I write) taking it to the man
Anti-Everything, being against everything (or Bush in this case)
Xtrachromosomeconservative (that's me) blogs the first part of a million part series on the Earned Income Tax Credit

and finally the blog founders:
Ilya introduces us to the blogger bliss that is Zing
Pied-Pieper blogs about the Economic World Cup (our most commented upon post)

Weird Relations

Cheney and Obama are Distant Cousins.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Armenian Genocide Vote...

Is one of the stupider things that Congress (mostly Democrats but a good number of Republicans are joining in on the fun) could be doing right now. I guess, to the extent that one holds out hope for Iraq, pissing off the Turks doesn't really seem to be a good idea. I am not denying the Armenian Genocide, nor do I think it is good that Turkey denies it. I just sorta think we don't have all that many friends in that part of the world and Turkey is one, one that we need and are currently relying on not to mess up our shit even further. Maybe that's something we don't need to disturb at this point.

EITC, part 1 gazillion

I am a big proponent of the Earned Income Tax Credit. I have written on it here ad nauseum and think it is the single best anti-poverty tool the federal government wields. That said, I find it mind numbingly dumb that we apply stringent asset tests to recipients.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a wage subsidy, thus you have to work to get it. However, if you have accumulated savings (generally above $1000), depending on your state, you are not eligible for it. Likewise, if you accumulate savings above a certain amount while you are receiving the EITC you will no longer be eligible. This measure is in place for two reasons. 1) to discourage tax fraud, 2) to keep from subsidizing upper middle class liberal arts white kids like me. Both of these fears are real if small. The fraud issue isn't all that big because we aren't really getting much in the way of tax receipts from this subset of the population anyhow. The second issue is also a realistic fear in the sense that you would be incetivizing some college educated types to loaf around but I doubt such a phenomenon would occur in a significant manner. The asset test to me seems foolish as you undermine the basic notion of the earned income test, to help people better their circumstances through work. If someone manages to accumulate assets of $1000 on a subsidized wage of $14/hr, well, bully for them, they have shown some real thrift. This doesn't seem to suggest we should penalize them. Instead we should hope that with time, this support will no longer be necessary as they have increased their earning potential through the acquisition of skills and hopefully built up something for a rainy day.

The other improvement I would like to see is an improvement in the incentive structure of the EITC. The EITC's other basic defect is that is rebated at the end of the year in a lump sum just like a tax return. This undermines the incentive structure as there is no visible link between the work put in and the amount of assistance received. I would think if we can withhold taxes on each pay check and administer all types of public assistance plans on a recurrent basis, that we could cut somebody a EITC check on pay day. However, if this were to prove too cumbersome I would think at the very least we can show on a person's paycheck how much they will be receiving at the end of the year so they can make the linkage of their work and the amount of an EITC accrued in real time and actually plan on how they would use it.

In the end, you are trying to demonstrate that work pays, or in other words, that it is preferable to not working.

Sports Blurb

Fins are pushing hard for a perfect record.

Naughty New Zealand

Apparently women in New Zealand are the most promiscous in the world.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

HD-DVD/Blu-Ray Format War

The WSJ has a write-up of the ongoing format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. What it doesn't touch on is which way the porn industry has tilted? Piss poor reporting.

Solar Energy From Outerspace

Engadget has a little blurb on a study on the feasibility of setting up satellites to reflect light into remote areas of the world for use as energy.

Feldstein on the Falling Dollar

Over at the Financial Times.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Baby Bonds

Here is an article praising Sen. Clinton's baby bond proposal. I know the republican candidates have been tripping over themselves in their rush to denounce the proposal as stupid and reckless but I am not so sure. I think $5,000 is far too generous, and I typically don't like the notion of universal entitlements, but this is an interesting concept. The New America Foundation has been marketing it for awhile.

Milton Friedman

Here's an interesting interview with Milton Friedman.

Al Gore Won

The Nobel Peace Prize with the IPCC.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another Classic

Courtesy of D.C.'s former mayor (and unfortuantely Anacostia's ward rep.) Marion Barry (He of the "the bitch set me up" fame):

“Except for the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”

Note: Barry said this in 1991 while mayor. While no longer mayor, he remains a personal hero.

Pet Peeve

From time to time in conversation I will hear somebody say "well, the government can pay for that." Granted, the government should in fact provide certain services and carry out certain functions. But in the persons assertion that the "government can pay for that" there seems to be the presumption that the government has its own money. It does not. Rather it has other people's money, which it takes through coercive measures (not that it isn't necessary up to a point).

Odd Quote

"My body is far from a wonderland. My body is more like a pawnshop. There's a lot of interesting things put together, and if you look closely you'd probably be excited, but at first glance, not so much." Jennifer Love Hewitt

I happen to think pawnshop and wonderland.

In Case You Didn't Notice

The UAW striked again, this time during negotiations with Chrysler. Then you probably finished blinking and noticed the strike was over. The settlement is along the same lines as the GM-UAW settlement.

I Agree

Here is Radley Balko:

"As a libertarian, it will at least be entertaining to watch the left squirm while defending Hillary Clinton's "right" to employ the same executive powers and engage in the same foreign policy blunders they now argue that President Bush has superceded his authority in claiming. And it'll be equally fun to watch the right cry foul when President Hillary claims the same powers they have so vigorously fought to claim for President Bush. The problem, of course, is that entertaining as all that might be, an increasingly imperial presidency isn't good for our republic.

Neither is our overly interventionist foreign policy, or the continuing erosion of our civil liberties, be it in the name of "family values," government paternalism, the war on drugs, or the war on terror.

Activists on the left need to recognize that Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic primary is the GOP's last best hope to elect a Republican to continue pursuing President Bush's pursuit of these unfortunate policies. And judging by her political career and recent voting record, they should also realize that even if they succeed in electing Hillary Clinton to the White House, it's likely that the only real resulting change in Washington will be that come 2009, we'll merely have a Democrat pursuing the same misguided policies."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The 70s Sucked

"Conservatism rose in the 1980s in large part because the mid to late 1970s were such an economic mess and because American had lost so much relative status internationally. Krugman won't face up to that; instead he blames the Republican manipulation of "the race card," even though at the time racial tensions arguably were lower than ever before."

Tyler Cowen on Paul Krugman's new book "The Conscience of a Liberal." Though Cowen also has positive things to say about the book. Recently I have seen the race canard advanced as the explanation for republican dominance starting in the 80s. This ignores the fact that the 70s were a miserable period from any number of vantage points, mostly associated with liberal policies (though in the case of price controls liberal policies executed by a Republican, Dick Nixon). We had record high inflation and unemployment. Wage and price controls created shortages and a full fledged energy crisis. Public order was lacking and as a result crime was rising. In essence, there was a failure of governance. High tax burdens stifled growth. Maybe these things affected a shift in public views on governance?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lotteries: A Tax on the Poor That Doesn't Pay

The NY Times has a good if depressing article on lotteries. Lotteries typically fund public education but there are two major drawbacks: 1. poor people primarily purchase lottery tickets; 2. Only about 30% of lottery proceeds end up being dedicated to public education.

Should Larry Craig Resign?

Much has been made about Larry Craig's about face on the issue of his resignation. He has decided to finish out his term after initially promising to resign.

He was in a men's stall where he was engaged in the infamous "wide stance" and he exchanged foot taps with the man in the next stall (who happened to be an undercover cop) and I gather reached under the stall (this transpired at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport). He was subsuquently arrested. Larry Craig plead guilty to disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor). There was no sex involved, apparently no self-gratification, but rather some coded solicitation of sex (though not necessarily solicitation in the sense of prostitution). There was a tap of the foot, and the reaching of the hand. Now that a cop was in the men's bathroom and tapped his foot (and knew that this was some sort of a come-on for men cruising for gay sex) does seem like an entrapment situation.

Why are we talking about Craig's resignation? Well, I suppose cruising for sex in public bathrooms is not necessarily becoming of public officials. But the principal reason here is that Larry Craig is a republican and was cruising not just for sex, but sex with another male. That is the primary sin. The republican caucus is homophobic and he simply gooed out the rest of the caucus. There have been no similar calls from Republicans for the resignation of Sen. Vitter for soliciting prostitutes or from Sen. Stevens for being an outright crook (that goes for the entire Alaska delegation). One can certainly claim that Craig's conduct, homosexual or not, is cause for his ouster. But then they must also agree that Sen. Vitter's resignation should be promptly tendered as well.

Candidates' Foreign Policy Advisors

The Post has a wrap-up of the presidential candidates' foreign policy advisors. McCain's list is positively schizophrenic. It features the who's who of the GOP war caucus and the most prominent GOP critics of the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Friday, October 05, 2007

McCain Endorsements

McCain has wrapped up endorsements of the following republican "very important people":

George P. Shultz
Henry A. Kissinger
Alexander M. Haig Jr.
Lawrence S. Eagleburger
James R. Schlesinger
John F. Lehman Jr.
R. James Woolsey Jr.
Robert C. McFarlane

With Dobson raining on Giuliani's parade, Romney's reputation of being completely disingenuous, and Thompson established as a lightweight, I think McCain stands a chance of a campaign turnaround.

Note: Kissinger is actually a McCain adviser. I don't know why McCain would want to have that connection.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

American Gladiator Returns

For those of you unfamiliar with American Gladiator, well, you are not worthy of being addressed. NBC is bringing back American Gladiator with Hulk Hogan as the host. Hulkamania + American Gladiator = Emmy for Best TV Show Ever.

Desmond Tutu...

Would be welcome to speak at St. Olaf. Just thought I would put that out there. Go Oles!

The University of St. Thomas...Really Good At Making Stupid Decisions, Round Three

The Jewish activist website MuzzleWatch has a pretty good synopsis of why St. Thomas’ decision was so stupid. They also have an online form set up so that all you have to do is enter your contact information and they will email your letter to the president of St. Thomas expressing your disgust at his decision.

If you are interested in reading the remarks that Desmund Tutu made back in 2002 that supposedly caused the University of St. Thomas to ban him follow this link.

Coverage of this stupid decision:
City Pages
Star Tribune
Pioneer Press
The Guardian of London
International Herald Tribune
Independent Online - South Africa
Cape Argus - Cape Town, South Africa
Pretoria News - Pretoria, South Africa
Democracy Now!
Inside Higher Ed
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The American Muslim
KXMC - Fargo, ND
WKBT - La Crosse
Booman Tribune

Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Common Weal Magazine
International Solidarity Movement

See Also:
The University of St. Thomas...Really Good At Making Stupid Decisions
The University of St. Thomas...Really Good At Making Stupid Decisions, Round Two

Dobson Says Non

Dobson is threatening to recurit a third party social conservative to run for president if Giuliani wins the nomination.

Tom Friedman's Wet Bag Of Shit, Er, Column

Tom Friedman who has been waging jihad against GM has now directed his attention East towards Toyota (East as in the Rising Sun). Toyota's sin, they made the Prius and have since tried to brand themselves as Green friendly even as they roll out a bevy of new gas guzzlers. What GM and Toyota are doing is responding to consumers who until recently have sought to surround themselves with as much steel as possible. This was a sensible tendency in the context of cheap energy prices. Now gas prices are rising and consumer demand is shifting.

Friedman then goes on to complain that the industry has sought to water down CAFE regulations (fuel mileage standards). Well of course they have. And why shouldn't they? Why should GM or Ford or Toyota bear all of the costs related to curbing emissions? It is the consumers who need to emit less carbon. I understand why politicians would like to scapegoat auto manufacturers, after all, outside of Michigan there isn't much danger in doing so. However, opinion makers don't face the same pressure, which maybe vests with them the responsibility to grow a pair and not act like simpleminded wankers. While on the subject of politicians from Michigan, Friedman also singles out Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) for trying to undermine CAFE standards. That is true but Rep. Dingell has proposed a sensible carbon tax, which is an eminently preferable and more just policy. Maybe Friedman could have written a column about Dingell's legislation instead of this wet bag of shit.

Note: Wet Bag of Shit is a term coined by ManGina, er, Mandingo. A contributor emeritus to this blog.

Ron Paul Has a Good Quarter

Paul just raked in $5 million. Not that he stands a chance but it does mean that he should have enough money to stick around and bug the other candidates. That alone is worthwhile.

DipShit, er, Note

The State Department is getting not quite savvy on the whole blogging thing. They now have a blog called Dipnotes.

The University of St. Thomas...Really Good At Making Stupid Decisions, Round Two

As a follow up to the City Pages article that was released yesterday there were front page stories in both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press as well as articles on WCCO and Kare 11's website today concerning St. Thomas’ stupid decision concerning Archbishop Desmund Tutu not being allowed to speak at UST.

Also MNspeak has a rather large amount of comments on their blog concering this topic.

See Also:
The University of St. Thomas...Really Good At Making Stupid Decisions

Greenspan on Inequality

The Free Exchange (a blog hosted by the Economist) quotes Alan Greenspan on reducing income inequality:

"We ought to be opening up our borders to skilled labour from all parts of the world because if we were to do that we would increase the supply of skilled workers that our schools have been unable to create and as a consequence of that we would lower the average wage of skills and reduce the degree of income inequality in this country."

Such a policy would have the effect of reducing inequality but not growth.

Greatest Foodie Nom De Plume Ever

Amuse Biatch.

Anyhow, a little bit on Top Chef, as we all know now Hung won. Dale put up a good fight and Casey blew it. I was rooting for Casey. She seemed to be peeking at the right time and she is a stone cold fox to boot. I think if Dale hadn't butchered his lobster dish so badly, if he had made something edible, he would have won.

Will on Austin Goolsbee

George Will has an op-ed on Barack Obama's economic advisor Austin Goolsbee. This line more or less sums up my thoughts as I look at the Republican field of pygmies, charlatans, and cranks (I do actually like Huckabee although his policies are to put it charitably less than fully developed):
"But he seems to be the sort of person -- amiable, empirical and reasonable -- you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president, if such there must be."

One of Obama's other advisors is Jeffrey Liebman who is co-author of the LMS plan for Social Security. Though, as it includes personal accounts, as any good plan that requires more revenue should, I don't see it being adopted.

Pete Domenici Retires

It looks like Heather Wilson will try to succeed him on the Republican side. My guess is that once Richardson bows out he will toss his hat in the ring on the Democratic side. '08 looks like it will be a continuation of '06.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The University of St. Thomas...Really Good At Making Stupid Decisions

As you may or may not know I received my undergraduate degree from the University of St. Thomas and I am currently working towards an MBA degree also from St. Thomas which can be a daunting task, not the class work, but constantly having to defend the university for some stupid decision it made which makes it appear that I attend some sort of right-wing backwards institution.

Well for this year it was looking pretty good so far, but of course it couldn’t last. Basically St. Thomas is to stupid decisions that make them look like idiots publicly like Robert Downey Jr. is to heroin…they try to keep away but they keep coming back.

Case in point this City Pages article explaining how St. Thomas has banned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights advocate Archbishop Desmond Tutu from speaking on campus this coming spring.

You can read the article for your self, but basically St. Thomas administration officials are making the argument that any criticism of Israeli government policy automatically makes the person providing the criticism an Anti-Semitic Jew Hater.

Kudos to you UST, thank you for making it that much harder to show any pride in my alma mater.


Here's Schlesinger writing about Kennedy on parenting:

"March 31, 1962. The White House. The issue of raising children came up. The President, probably in order to provoke Marian and [society hostess] Martha Bartlett, said that he did not see why children should not be brought up in community nurseries. This led to a discussion of the role of the family. I asked why the Kennedys had turned out so well and the Churchills and Roosevelt[s] so badly. JFK said, "Well, no one can say it was due to my mother. It was due to my father. He wasn't around as much as some fathers; but, when he was around, he made his children feel that they were the most important things in the world to him. He seemed terribly interested in everything we were doing. He held up standards for us, and he was very tough when we failed to meet his standards. This toughness was important. If it hadn't been for that, Teddy might be just a playboy today."

Super Duper Important News Item

College Rankings by Marijuana Consumption. It does not surprise me that my alma mater, St. Olaf College, isn't on the list.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Surge Working?

"The number of American troops and Iraqi civilians killed in the war fell in September to levels not seen in more than a year. The U.S. military said the lower count was at least partly a result of new strategies and 30,000 additional U.S. forces deployed this year."

Reihan Salam asks if conservative commentators are correct that the surge is working. First one must ask what the purpose of the surge was? It was to provide security and stability (breathing room if you will) for an Iraqi political reconciliation to work. I see no evidence of such a reconciliation occurring. I think what the surge has allowed is for a less violent partitioning of Iraq. If we are to stay in Iraq policy makers must disabuse themselves of the notion of "Iraq". Sens. Brownback and Biden are the only ones thus far to present this concept. Brownback was ridiculed for it and Biden has not gained any real political support from it either, though it has not been harmful as the Democratic caucus is decidedly more sane these days.

That Iraq the Nation is dissolving should not surprise us. Peaceful multi ethnic/religious states are not the norm. After WWI when the great empires dissolved Europe experienced tremendous internal migration, Turks being booted out of Greece and vice versa, and the formation of States along ethnic lines proceeded in full force. This process has trickled into this century as the Czechs and Slovaks amicably split when the Wall came down and as the UN/NATO continues to oversee the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The extent to which a nation has boasted a multi-ethnic/religious population it has often used nationalism as a substitute for ethnicity (with a good deal of authoritarianism mixed in: Tito in Yugoslavia, Saddam in Iraq, to a lessor extent Ataturk in Turkey). The Iraqi national identity was not, and is not a sufficient substitute.

Not a Good Model For Art History Majors

Here is John Derbyshire (NRO's resident curmudgeon) on Martin Creed's Turner Prize winning Exhibit, “Work No. 227: The Lights Going On and Off.” (the Turner Prize is awarded with 2ok Sterling):

"What do I think about all this? Well, first I think that the directors of the Tate Gallery, which receives funding from general taxation, should be locked up in prison and made to do hard labor scraping the rust off bolts for twenty years or so with nothing to eat but cold oatmeal porridge. Then I think Mr Creed should be stripped naked, sprayed all over with bright blue paint, and made to run round and round Piccadilly Circus until he drops from exhaustion, after which he should be killed by some not-very-humane method. Then the Tate Gallery should be reduced to rubble by aerial bombardment, the rubble carted away to be used as landfill, and the ground sown with salt. Then the fools who pay good money to look at this “art” should be packed into boxcars and tipped off the white cliffs of Dover, and their mangled corpses left to be feasted on by dogs, crows and crabs."

I had similar sentiments as I was reviewing various pieces as an undergrad but my desire for an A usually prevented me from letting loose like this.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Russian Democracy Shell Game

Putin is suggesting that he will step down from his position as President as required constitutionally and serve instead as Prime Minister. Can we say Dick Cheney on Steroids.

On Being Late

Michael Munger has interesting post on people's tendencies to be late. In short, incompetent people tend to be late for meetings.

Infinite Injustice

Britney Spears is being forced to give custody of her children to man-whore/baby-mama maker/Britney despoiler/my idol Kevin Federline. When K-Fed is the stable parent you know the kids are going be fucked up.

More on Social Security

Liberals claim that the conservative hysteria over social security is misplaced. They are half-right, social security is certainly a small bore problem in comparison to medicare. However, I think other oft repeated claim with regards to social security, namely, that it is fine shape for a couple of decades is deeply misleading. Social Security does have valid claims in the Trust Fund, the problem is what those claims mean for the rest of the budget. Megan McArdle puts the issue quite well:

"And though the long term projections have gotten somewhat better as a result of improving fertility, the short-term projections have gotten slightly worse. Ten years ago we thought that program income would fall below program outlays in 2019; now the projected date is 2017. Meanwhile, the estimated year in which the social security surplus will peak has also moved steadily backwards, to 2010. In 2011, a small hole will appear in the general fund budget as OASDI revenues start to decline, a hole that will become a gaping wound by 2020. From the Social Security Administration's perspective this is fine, but from the taxpayers perspective, this is a huge problem that needs to be, well, fixed--and from which economic growth is unlikely to rescue us."

Norwegians and Condoms Don't Mix

Ad-Supported Cell Phones

Tyler Cowen is blogging on the concept here. The idea is that you would enroll in a service that instead of charging you a certain amount for you phone service would buffet you with ads before you are able to call. I think this has niche market potential but nothing more. Those, who hardly use their cell phone and thus don't want to pay for a subscription service might be inclined to get such a phone. However, by the same token you could get a drug dealer phone where you pay as you go. This the premise of the GooglePhone which makes me think it will be a flop.

Steven Landsburg Coming to GMU

For those of you in the D.C. area Steven Landsburg will be lecturing at GMU Thursday Oct. 4 at Enterprise Hall room 80. He is the author of More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics and the Armchair Economist.