Monday, July 30, 2007

Capital and Income Taxes

Alan Blinder wrote a good op-ed on the taxation of carried interest and on the tax treatment of capital income and labor income more broadly. He argues persuasively that the tax code should not treat income derived from Capital and Labor differently. This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to discussing taxes. People on both sides of the aisle focus almost exclusively on marginal tax rates. Democrats especially focus on raising marginal tax rates as a way of getting the rich to pay their "fair share". There is a basic problem with this though, the super rich typically derive a great deal of their income from capital gains. Thus raising marginal tax rates may or may not enhance progressivity much at all. It will raise the amount the upper middle class pays surely, but it won't get much of Warren Buffet's money.

Here's Greg Mankiw on the Taxation of Carried Interest. Here's Mark Thoma on Blinder. Here's Tyler Cowen offering his usual contrarian take.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hillary's Cleavage Redux and I Beat Drudge

Here is more on Hillary's cleavage (or boobage if you so prefer). Hillary is delivering a crushing blow to WaPo for peering down her neckline in print. Note to John Kerry: that's crisis management.

Anyhow, this also marks a supreme triumph for the Pie-Eyed Picayune, nay, mankind. I posted on Hillary's cleavage over a week before the Drudgereport said boo. There you go Matt Drudge, I own you!!!!

I Love Dancing Prisoners

Some of you might remember my post earlier this week about the Filipino inmates performing Thriller. Well apparently these videos are becoming a world wide YouTube phenomenon necessitating an article in The Guardian today.

And due to the response of the first video the prison has released 8 more videos, of the new ones that have been released my favorite (Sister Act’s “Holy Holy Queen”) is below.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Three Cheers for David Cameron

In a speech in Kigali, Mr Cameron called for an immediate end to trade barriers, saying: "Forget the endless tortuous negotiations about getting something in return.
"Just do it. We can afford it, Africa needs it, and we will all benefit from it."


hat tip: Alex Massie of Debatable Land

Quibbles with Anti's Proposal

Anti-Everything has offered a well thought out proposal to curb carbon emissions. That said I think it is flawed in so far as Anti opts for a cap and trade system over a carbon tax. As I attempted to explain in a previous post not all cap and trade systems are created equal. I am yet to hear a politician advocate a cap and trade system where tradeable permits would be auctioned off. To the extent that cap and trade systems are proposed they tend to allocate permits on the basis of current carbon consumption. This would hardly be an equitable system as you would be existing companies at the expense of potential entrants. I think the biggest problem with a cap and trade is that it will be difficult to actually enforce a hard cap as tradeable permits will likely become the new pork factory. I could easily envision a scenario where congress will constantly create new permits for its pet industries (campaign contributors or constituent firms) and thus dilute the scarcity of permits thereby diminishing the price of tradeable permits. To make a long story short, I don't think an effective Cap and Trade system can survive the political process. It will be yet another area where Congress can claim it is "doing" something about a pressing problem without accomplishing anything.

As to carbon capture and sequestration definitely seems like its worthy of dabbling with. Anti- also suggests (I might be putting words into his mouth so I apologize in advance) mandating hybrid technology or plug-ins. If you implement a carbon tax such a mandate is unnecessary. Consumers would no longer benefit from cheap energy and would prioritize things such as fuel mileage over horsepower and torque.

Plug-ins are more in the long line of technological "silver bullets" that Washington loves but may not accomplish anything. For instance, imagine that every car today was a plug-in, would carbon emissions diminish. The answer is probably no. Tailpipe exhaust would diminish, but there would need to be more coal and gas burnt to actually provide the energy to "plug-in"to.

The Next Wave in Health Care

Check out this article from Ron Bailey in Reason. He posits that the next wave in medicine is not a given treatment or cure but rather attacking the aging process itself.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Boo-urns To Ethanol

There was a good article on Bloomberg yesterday which basically explained how inefficient and pointless the idea of Ethanol production as an alternative to gasoline consumption really is. Couple this with research from Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley which found that in terms of energy output biofuels require, at best, 27 percent more fossil energy than the actual fuel produced.

So basically producing ethanol does virtually no good in regards to transitioning the United States to renewable energies.

Here is what I think is the best bet for a solution.
  1. Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles as opposed to E85 Flex-Fuel Vehicles or current Hybrid Vehicles.
  2. Implementation of a national (and eventually international) Cap-and-Trade System.
  3. The development and implementation of some type of Carbon Capture and Storage System.
  4. National legislation that is similar to recently passed Minnesota Legislation which sets a renewable energy requirement of 25 percent or higher by 2025.

The You-Tube Debate

I actually thought the You-Tube aspect of the CNN debate would be utterly worthless. The idea of pre-screening the videos undermined the whole appeal of YouTube and the internet in general: immediacy and interactivity. That said, I thought the YouTube questions were better than Wolf Blitzer's moderation or anything Anderson Cooper would have been able to muster on his own.

I thought Hillary was the clear winner. Her answer on the question about Bush-Clinton families potentially being in power for 28 consecutive years was very well done. To paraphrase her response "It's not my fault that the current Bush got elected, in fact I thought somebody else was elected. Just vote for me on my merits." I am not sure that is a satisfactory answer but I don't know how I would do any better. I am surprised Obama or Edwards hasn't begun harping on this point.

Obama did ok. The man is obviously smart, charming, and he comes across well on TV. I was particularly impressed with how he finessed some of the faux populist questions: "Do your kids go to public school?; Would you be willing to work for the minimum wage while president?". He essentially called these questions for what they are, bs, but in far more eloquent terms.

Biden had another strong performance. I appreciate his candor.

I thought Richardson actually had a coherent response for once. He has up until now been a complete joke in these debates but given expectations for him he acquitted himself rather well.

Gravel is an absolute crank but I actually think he should be in both debates. I don't really think his views actually could be categorized as Republican or Democrat but he occasionally says pretty interesting things.

One of the things that I find absolutely depressing is when the moderators let the candidates completely duck questions. A classic example last night was what to do about the looming entitlement disaster. Most every rational observer will tell you that there are three basic tools that you have at your disposal: 1. Raise taxes 2. Cut Benefits 3. Borrow. A YouTube spot mentioned the first two options and asked the candidates which they favored. Did a single candidate actually answer this question. Of course not.

Members Project

American Express has a little campaign called Members Project where American Express Cardholders can vote for non-profits to receive a $5 million dollar award. There are 5 finalists and among them is DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit I blogged about in the past. If you are an AmEx card holder go to this site and vote, preferably for DonorsChoose.org.

Book Review

The New York Magazine reviews Tyler Cowen's "Discovering Your Inner Economist". Tyler Cowen runs the popular blog Marginal Revolution and is an economics professor at George Mason University.

On a related note, Tyler, in drumming up sales for his book is offering to do a personalized podcast for those that have pre-ordered his book. I have already pre-ordered his book and thus will be submitting a question because I am a dork. Does anybody have any suggestions?

Quote That Makes Me Smile

"Second of all, deductions are the way that the rich make sure that they pay a lot less taxes than the upper middle class. There is a reason that Barbra Streisand thinks that income taxes should be raised; she isn't going to pay much more tax. Most of her money is in assets, earning more money. It's the guy who owns the gas station down the street who's going to get it in the teeth. If we want to tax the rich, let's tax them, not give umpteen zillion deductions so they have the same marginal rate as your average bike messenger."

Courtesy of Megan McArdle.

Three Cheers for Roger Goodell

The new NFL Commissioner has been suspending players left and right for various legal infractions and other bad behavior. Notably he suspended Tenesse Titans star cornerback Pacman Jones for 8 games. The Vick situation (for those of you unaware, Michael Vick Atlanta's QB and bigtime NFL star, has been indicted for running a dogfighting ring) presented a somewhat trickier scenario. The other players that Goodell has recently suspended have a laundry list of criminal behaviour whereas this is Vick's first incident and he has been indicted as opposed to officially tried. Vick's lack of a prior criminal record and the absence of a verdict would conceivably give Goodell some wiggle room to treat Vick, an NFL star, differently from some of the lesser known players he has already penalized. However, Goodell showed that he actually has some stones and has suspended Vick temporarily. Here is Goodell on the Vick situation:

"While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy," Goodell said in a letter to the quarterback."

More Vista

Here is more from James Fallows on his experience with Vista. Initial Verdict: Vista Sucks.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hillary and Breasts

Apparently the coupling of Hillary Clinton and Breasts yields tons of hits. Cleavage is a good one too. Advice for all you neophyte bloggers. However, Romney and Scrotum, not so much.

Thriller

So I am sure there are better things for me to blog about tonight while I procrastinate on writing my final finance paper. I hear there is a democratic presidential debate tonight sponsored by CNN and YouTube. But I found this to be much more entertaining.

Apparently Michael Jackson has a rather large fan following in the Filipino prison system.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bonds in Milwaukee

Barry Bonds has two homers to go before breaking Hank Aaron's homerun title. His next game is in Milwaukee where Aaron originally broke the record. Do your part and telepathically boo Bonds.

Hillary's Cleavage

The Washington Post has an excellent article on Hillary Clinton's recent displays of some boobage on the campaign trail. Good job WaPo, that's some crack reporting right there. I bet you scooped Us and the Enquirer.

Do us a favor though, confirm which male candidate has the saggiest scrotum.

President Cheney

Pres. Bush is undergoing a Colonoscopy and Cheney will be acting President during the procedure. Here is my question: Have the betting markets established a bet for whether or not Cheney will use this brief window to impose Martial Law?

More Google

Google has hired Super Duper Economist Hal Varian as their Chief Economist (Also a contributor to the Economic Scene over at NY Times, though, no longer). WSJ has a blog interview of him. In it he posits that Marketing will be the next Finance.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Private Sector Big Brother Lurks Among Us

I happen to be rather conflicted on the issue of Google. I suppose I am not really conflicted, I recognize them as being pedarasts that routinely invade our privacy and support the subjugation of others (read: CHINA). Nonetheless, I love, I mean love their products. Gmail is tons better than yahoo or hotmail. Google search is of course dandy. Then there is blogger which I am blogging on right now, free of charge. Google Earth, very cool. Now they are pairing street level views with their maps. I think this is great. That said, yet again, Google is bumping up against privacy concerns. They have not taken precautionary measures such as blotting out faces and license plates.

Anyhow, Google apparently has a whole fleet of camera cars to do the StreetView. They are Chevy Cobalts. So if you see a Chevy Cobalt, there is a decent chance that it is a Google Car photographing you and your surroundings.

The Hogs

For any of you who are Redskins fans this a great story by Bill Simmons on "the Hogs". Anybody, that knows football knows that the Hogs were the best offensive line ever and that Joe Jacoby is the greatest football player ever (besides Montana, LT, Jerry Rice and a whole slew of other "skill players"). Also Simmons tells briefly, all too briefly, about the story of Riggins pissing on himself while passed out on the training table before a game. Great stuff indeed.

Is Tom Vilsack a Cheap Date?

The LA Times speculate about the motivations behind Vilsack's endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Money Quote:

"Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said that Clinton had made it clear early "we were going to help retire the debt" but that Clinton did not receive Vilsack's endorsement because of any offer or deal."

Of course not, all above board here.

Costco as Anti-WalMart

The New York Times has a gushing review of Costco's business practices. Give her a look. I love both Wal Mart and Costco because they have low prices.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A little on Sarko and some Bernard Henri-Levy

Check out the NY Times, there is an op-ed by Bernard Henri-Levy on why he dislikes Sarko. I gather it is supposed to be a review of Sarko's pre-election book "Testimony" but Henri-Levy only obliquely refers to the book.

Here is a bit on Sarko by Jon Vincour of the International Herald Tribune (essential the NY Times abroad).

Also check out this book review by Garrison Keillor of Bernard Henri-Levy's "American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville". Keillor writes a scathing review of the book. His chief complaint with the book that the "research methodology" if you will is wanting. The book is ostensibly about America, its culture, people, religion, politics. Much in the same vein as "Democracy in America" Henri-Levy has set to explore the country as a traveler and to relay his observations. Where Henri-Levy errors, in Keillor's mind, is that he sets out almost exclusively to explore the margins of society. Henri-Levy goes to gun shows, brothels, mega churches, and jails. He interviews celebrities and politicians of all stripes but does not really grasp what is ordinary America. In that sense Keillor's criticism is valid. That said, I do think Henri-Levy, in spite of narrow spirit of his travels, demonstrates an open-mindedness and curiosity that in my experience is not common amongst Europeans (or Americans for that matter). The result is a novel that explores a caricature of America, a distinctly European caricature at that, but whose purpose is not confirm that caricature.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

10k

So I am running in a 10k on Thursday. If you happen to be in Alexandria (VA) I am the one that looks like he is on the verge of a cardiac arrest. Wish me luck. If blogging is light there after I will probably be in some ICU.

How to Destroy Your Country 101

More lessons in Economics from Robert Mugabe.

Mickey, Hamas Style

Check out this article, Hamas had a mascot (?). It was an anti-semitic Mickey mouse. Score. Next up, Pat Robertson's CBN airs the world premiere of "Duff- the Homophobic Dragon."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Random Health Care Notes

I was watching bits of the John Stewart interviewing Michael Moore on the Daily Show. At one point Moore made something of a sarcastic comment about the U.S. and health care that went something like this "where else in the world would people talk about trying to get profit when treating cancer." This is a foolish if completely pervasive sentiment. One of the basic things we forget is that things like cancer have become treatable is because it is profitable, ney, lucrative to develop treatments, whether they be diagnostic technology or pharmaceuticals. That's not a bad thing, it's a good thing.

When discussing health insurance people often will speak of how their employer "pays" for their health care among various and sundry benefits. Your employer does not pay for your health care. Your employer compensates you and a portion of your benefits is health care. Your employer does not provide health care out of the goodness of his heart. People think of health insurance as some employer provided freebie when in fact it comes at the expense of higher wages you would otherwise have been paid.

Pay for Performance Drugs

Check out this article over at the NY Times. The article describes various different trial programs where national health services or insurers and pharmaceutical companies are making the drug pricing contingent on results (i.e. if jane doe dies of breast cancer jane doe's insurer does not have to pay for brand X cancer pills).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

While We're on the Topic of Sex...

Mickey Kaus has a good little run down on some shoddy and sensational reporting over at the L.A. Times about Posh Spice and a Diamond Encrusted Dildo. Bunch of perverts if you ask me.

Baby Boom in Germany

The Financial Times details how the Germans have been experiencing a very recent baby boom (15% increase in births over the same time last year). They are crediting recently legislated (3 years ago) pro-natalist policies and a paradigmatic shift in the way Germans view women's participation in the labor force after child bearing (namely that they should as opposed sitting at home) contributing to the baby boom. My guess is that neither of these factors are contributing to the baby boom. First, Germany has a relatively lush welfare society and arguably much family friendlier taxation. In spite of the generous welfare state, or in my view, because of it, Europeans and Germans in particular have decided that raising a family is tiresome and expensive and by and large have opted not to. I doubt any legislation will change that conclusion.

Second, I don't think attitudes change as quickly as the financial times seems to be assuming. My guess is that the women in Germany would have a similarly high rate of labor force participation as her American counterpart but with higher expectations of her when she comes home to her hubby. This is probably in part why 1) Europeans do not get married 2) to the extent they do they don't have many children. The financial times posits a massive shift in attitude in an unbelievably short time. Attitudes towards these types of things I think evolve more slowly.

I think the baby boom is the direct result of the World Cup. The country went on a drunken binge and were genuinely excited about the event itself but also how the world received the event and Germany in turn. Everybody had a lot of sex, more casual and unprotected than usual, and we are starting to see the short run effects.

Friday, July 13, 2007

This Made Me Laugh

I must say that this article has been the highlight of my very boring day thus far. Apparently a group supporting the idea of Creationism called Answers In Genesis have opened The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY.

CEO and president of Answers In Genesis, Ken Ham, stated at the opening of the museum that it will undo the damage done 82 years ago when Clarence Darrow put William Jennings Bryan on the stand in the famous Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn. "It was the first time the Bible was ridiculed by the media in America, and that was a downward turning point for Christendom," Ham says. "We are going to undo all of that here at the Creation Museum. We are going to answer the questions Bryan wasn't prepared to, and show that belief in every word of the Bible can be defended by modern science."

Free The iPhone

I think we all agree that the iPhone is pretty neat, but is it a vehicle for political change? The people at www.freetheiphone.org are sure hoping so.

Oh and don't forget about the people at www.freetheiphone.com who are simply tech developers who want a chance to play around with it.

A Very Big Misunderstanding Indeed

A Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives has been arrested for soliciting an undercover male police officer.

Why I am Finally Buying a Mac

I am about to start law school and would like to get a lap top. Windows has unfortunately screwed up my world in this department. I could get a dell or hp laptop but unfortunately they all run on Vista at this point. The reason I don't want Vista (windows new operating system) is that windows initial product releases are notoriously crappy. It will be at least a year before Windows has developed Vista to the point that it is minimally satisfactory. Most people that I know that have purchased a computer with Vista have found themselves needing substantially more RAM than if their computer had XP as an Operating system. For more on why Vista sucks go here.

"Repugnant Markets"

The BBC Radio had a little program "Repugnant Markets" where Tim Harford (of the Undercover Economist and Slate Contributor) took up the issue of transactions that many view as fundamentally immoral, such as: kindney sales, terror betting markets, and dwarf tossing. The full transcript is here.

John Mackey and the Sock Puppet Fiasco

I posted yesterday about a sockpuppet. A sockpuppet is when a blogger creates a fake blogging identity to smear his critics or detractors or to boost his own image but in the appearance. This is cowardice but in some instances their potentially legal ramifications.

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods and avid blogger, apparently created his own sock puppet and would blog on Yahoo Finance! and elsewhere to talk himself up and bash the management of Wild Oats a firm his company was seeking to acquire.

Interesting Op-Ed on the SAT

Charles Murray (he of the controversial Bell Curve) argues for the abolition of the SAT.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Interesting Podcast from the Hottest Economist EVER!!!!!

Economists are not a sexy group as whole, though, with one exception: Wunderkind Emily Oster. Emily Oster is a genuine hottie. Almost as important as general hotness is her research which is also brilliant. This podcast is a less interesting aspect of her research which ranges from answering Amartya Sen's missing women conundrum to explaining higher infection rates in Sub-Saharan Africa due to greater occurence of the herp. Check it out.

Note: She is like 26 or something and has PhD. Same with her husband, Jesse Shapiro who is in his own right a wunderkind. I hate them both.

Cyber Sockpuppets

Here is article at the NY Times about what a sockpuppet is and specifically about the use of one by Lee Siegel over at the New Republic (the story isn't terribly relevant at this point).

Great Name

There is a U.S. District Court judge named Barefoot Sanders. And no Ilya, his wife is not named Barefoot and Pregnant Sanders. You sexist pig!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

BTW

I thought about putting Anti's name on the poll once but I was afraid of losing.

Cindy Sheehan..

Is intending to run against Nancy Pelosi if she fails to bring impeachment charges against the president in the next two weeks.

New Phrase courtesy of Julian Sanchez

"Outrage kabuki: The disingenuous practice of hunting for any utterance by a political enemy that might serve as an excuse to work yourself (and your fellow travelers) into high dudgeon. It's a pointless distraction that has an unhealthy chilling effect."

Carbon Tax part 1million

I understand why politicians favor cap and trade over carbon taxes, one word explains it all: tax. While I think ultimately a cap and trade system could be efficient it is unlikely. For a cap and trade system to be efficient, i.e. to accurately price carbon, carbon emissions permits would need to be auctioned off. This would as a result provide the federal government with an obscene one-time revenue(probably in the order of a $1 trillion), which, from a public choice perspective is also a boon. That means the government will only have a finite period of time to piss away money raised and dole out favors and subsidies. In all likelihood, a cap and trade system would be a mess, another rent seeking cess pool. I see this for a number of reasons:

1. Perverse incentives: to the extent legislation does not auction tradeable permits but rather allocates permits on the basis of current carbon consumption it provides companies with an incentive to pollute in the near term to elevate the number of permits it receives.

2. Federalism: This has been a problem for the EU where the price of carbon permits has fallen precipitously. Individual EU member states are allowed to dedicate additional permits and as such have been doing so at a frenetic pace to favor their given energy industries. The result of additional permits flooding the market is to diminish the price of carbon, thus defeating the whole purpose.

3. Barring Market Entry: Assuming again that permits are allocated by prior consumption (call it the grandfather method) as opposed to auctions, it would seem that this advantages existing firms at the expense of new entrants. New entrants would have to buy permits in order to pollute, thus incurring a cost that existing companies do not have to bear.

So back to why carbon taxes are troublesome but I think ultimately present a better opportunity from a policy perspective and how I think they could represent good politicking. One of the manners is in which a carbon tax is plain superior to cap and trade is the likelihood that it will survive the political process and have some effect on achieving the stated goal: reducing emissions. There are no similar pitfalls on the front end of the policy process for carbon taxes as allocating too many permits in a cap and trade scenario.

The conservative fear would that carbon taxes would provide additional revenue to the government which legislators could use for graft, pork, or just in general piss away. Not to mention that it would provide a not so subtle manner in which to increase the size of the government. Liberals are probably likely to dislike a carbon tax in the manner that it is regressive. I am not sure that it would be any more regressive than a succesful cap and trade regime, as energy prices would likely be passed on to the consumer. In any case a carbon taxes regressivity is more transparent then the effects of cap and trade. I think both concerns can be effectively addressed at the same time by substituing a carbon tax for the payroll tax on a dollar to dollar basis (Al Gore has proposing to whit).

Addressing the conservative concern regarding bigger government- First, payroll taxes are dedicated to financing social security and medicare. To the extent a carbon tax serves as a ersatz financing mechanism increasing the scope of the goverment would be an irrelevant concern. Second, Given that a carbon tax is a pigovian tax, to the extent it was succesful, it would thereby reduce long run revenues, ergo, potentially reduce the size of government over time as emissions go down.

Now to the issue of regressivity- For most Americans the only tax they pay is the payroll tax which is regressive as everybody is taxed at the same rate for their first $95 k in income. For lower income Americans that don't own a car for instance (car ownership and income are correlated) a carbon tax would be much more progressive as they would be paying virtually no federal taxes.

In terms of politicking I think this will be more difficult but not untenable. I think the important thing her is to emphasize (1), that a carbon tax structured as described above would not constitute a tax hike, in fact a tax cut for many folks, and (2) emphasize the national security angle. There is much talk about energy independence which is foolhardy but for some reason politically popular. A carbon tax would provide a strong incentive for consumers to consume less carbon and for energy producers to invest more in alternative energies. The latter effect would enhance the divesity of our energy portofolio and thus make our economy less susceptible to shocks induced by unstable governments.

From the Language Log

A little synopsis of the candidate's language abilities. They are limited. Interesting note: Mike Huckabee reads new testament (or classical) Greek.

PeP Poll

Check out the sidebar as we have a new poll. Tell us who your favorite blogger is.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Elite Plot to Ruin Americer's Sport

So I was reading the USA Today (AKA the McPaper, Xtra's Official Paper of Record) and I stumbled across the front page... that's usually as far as I get reading any newspaper, I prefer to get my news Fair and Balanced, big up O'Reilly, whose looking out for you too?). Anyhow there is talk about curbing cheating in Nascar. For those of you who don't follow NASCAR-well, first you are a bunch of treasonous bastards who should banished to Gitmo- there was an incident with my boys Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson who both failed their inspections because of some modifications to their cars all in the name of speed, hot nasty, badass speed. As a result of this infraction members of both pit crews are being suspended. Frankly this crackdown is ruining the sport.

Well, you might say, wait a minute there Xtra, cheating ain't right, Nascar has to maintain the integrity of its competition. The suspensions are in order. Well, you would be wrong. Nascar is a sport that came to being as 'shine runners accustomed to outrunning the law started to race each other. Its very origins lie in rebellion. Do you think shine runners would have been successful out outrunning the law, big old blue if you will, had they complied with the relevant tailpipe exhaust regulations or window tinting ordinances? I think not. This is a sport that represents the yin and yang of existence. Just as drivers today dominate the line between speed and chaos (yes, I am borrowing liberally from Talledega Nights) the sport's raison d'etre is navigating the crevices between order and anarchy. It is the sport of men named Peaches and Cooter. This is what makes Nascar not merely the sport of America but the sport of Americer.

Sprint Says F-U to Problem Customers

Sprint has pioneered an innovative customer service strategy. Those customers that it finds particularly troublesome it just terminates their contracts. Brilliant! Way to go Sprint, I am sure this is going to improve your reputation.

David Vitter Down

The D.C. Madame has revealed that U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) was one of her clients. Two things suprise me:

1. Since he is a politician from Louisiana I am not surprised that he paid for sex. Rather, I am surprised that is all he did; Vitter is not keeping up with his delegation past and present. If he wanted to be a proper Louisiana Pol he should have been running the escort ring.

2. Can't these guys be more discreet. Couldn't Senator Vitter have come up with an alias, maybe some fake documents? Reach out across the aisle, ask Teddy how he does it. Isn't the senate an institution of comity?

Dani Rodrik Blogging on the Ottoman Empire

Dani Rodrik has an interesting post on the influence of the Ottoman Empire's influence on European secularism. The research courtesy of a Turkish scholar (appropriately) finds that European religious conflict was negatively correlated with incursions from the Ottomans.

Rodrik is a economist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and is notable for his stance on trade and globalization which he does not view to be an unmitigated good. Though, nor do I think it fair to describe a trade skeptic. Anyways, check it out.

Happy Birthday

It's Mandingo's Birthday. Happy Birthday 'Dingo. Will you grace us with one of your brilliant posts about rust stains?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Nader Chimes In On 2008 Presidential Candidates

You either love him, hate him or think he is a raving lunatic, but regardless it is always interesting to listen to Ralph Nader being interviewed. Earlier today Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! sat down with Nader for an hour long interview and asked him what he thought about the current 2008 presidential candidates:

Hillary Rodham Clinton:
“Hillary Rodham Clinton is a corporatist… to be kind to her, one can summarize as saying, she is severely lacking in political fortitude. She knows she’s the frontrunner, and therefore she’s going around the country pandering to powerful interest groups and flattering the people. Now, maybe they’ll get tired of it after a while. Maybe they’ll say enough is enough. Do we want eight more years of the Clintons? And, you know, you get a twofer.”

Al Gore:
“Gore has been environmentally reborn. He is experiencing an important redemption. And that’s really the description of his present state. It’s quite the testimony. When he had real power, he couldn’t deploy it.”

Barrack Obama:
“Great capacity. He knows the score… and so, the question is whether he’s going to mobilize the people or he’s going to parade in front of the people. And if he does that, he’s not going to be a distinguished winner if he wins.”

John Edwards:
“Edwards is making a good point on poverty. That was a no-no with Democratic [inaudible]. You look at Clinton’s speeches. It’s all middle class. He never would say “poverty.” He’d never talk about 50 million Americans in real poverty and tens of millions of more Americans in a state called -- a category called “near poverty.” And, but, you know he’s got to become much more populist in a much more specific way. He should become the solar energy candidate. He should become the free communications candidate. He should become the affordable housing. More specific, not just, you know, the two Americas. And above all, he should become the law enforcement candidate against the corporate outlaws, the corporate exploiters. And he knows how to do that, but, you know, he has to raise money, too… And I might add, he’s not good on foreign policy.”

Rudolph Giuliani:
“Rudy Giuliani is the one-note candidate. No one has ever made more political capital out of what might be called “9/11 showupmanship.” I mean, what did he really do? He showed up… He’s also an authoritarian candidate. Don’t bet your civil liberties on Giuliani. He thinks the PATRIOT Act is weak. So there’s a real authoritarian language. If you look at the language that he’s conveying around the country, it’s frightening.”

John McCain:
“He’s good on auto safety. He tries to do something on campaign finance reform, although he plays the game and has to raise it from the K Street lobbyists. He’s terrible on the war. I don’t know what got into this mind of his. I mean, he had great authority to be as good as Senator Chuck Hagel on it and to say it was the wrong war. He could have opposed it. But he stuck, and that’s why he’s going to have trouble even getting the nomination. And if he gets it, he’s not going to get elected. The American people will not elect a Republican in 2008, but they will definitely not elect a Republican who is for continuing the war in Iraq.”

Michael Bloomberg:
“Bloomberg is the wildcard. He could easily turn it into a three-way race if he runs as an Independent. There’s talk of a Bloomberg-Senator Hagel ticket, and that could not just be another Perot rerun, it could really be a winning ticket. You know, Bloomberg is a surprise to most people. He’s got a Republican label. He’s a former registered Democrat. I don’t think he’s good on corporate welfare. But he’s got a way where he could really appeal to people who call themselves Republicans, Independents, Democrats. He is big business, so he’s not afraid to talk turkey to them if he wants to. Nobody can say he didn’t meet a payroll. But we’re still waiting to see whether the inside Bloomberg office talk about running is actually going to materialize.”

Ralph Nader?:
“Too early to say. It’s too early to say. If I was going to run -- and I have not decided at all -- the biggest problem is getting on the ballot. The Democrats filed twenty-one phony suits against us. We won most of them, but it was very draining. In Pennsylvania, they got a Democratic judge, using a Republican law firm, Reed Smith, to assess me and Peter Camejo $81,000 in transcription costs and handwriting expert fees for defending our right to be on the ballot, which they got us off through all kinds of shenanigans. First people in American legal history who had to pay court costs for defending their right to be on the ballot. So ballot access obstructions is the political bigotry of American politics. It’s very hard to get liberals who love civil rights and civil liberties and who are Democrats to be at all excited about the systemic obstruction of fifty state laws at one level or another that can be used by either Democrat or Republicans against third-party candidates.”

Smart Words from Obama

in Newsweek:
"

What I'm constantly striving to do—whether it was on the racial profiling legislation, whether it was on the death penalty issues that I worked on in the state legislature, whether it was on some of the criminal justice bills that came up—was to see how could I be true to the core values of fairness and equality and move the ball forward. My experience tells me that we have a better chance of making progress on these issues when we can ground them in a broader appeal to America's aspirations and values than when we simply are shouting racism and trying to guilt people into acting.

Now that doesn't mean there aren't times for some righteous anger. But I strongly believe that Americans want to do the right thing. And if you can show them that racial profiling is neither a smart way to fight crime, nor is it consistent with our values as Americans, then we can get a bill passed. If you can argue to defenders of the death penalty that at minimum we should be able to agree that nobody innocent should be on death row, and by videotaping interrogations and confessions you are not only protecting the innocent person in custody but you are also protecting the police, then you have got a better chance of passing legislation."

Fred Thompson's First Hurdle

Apparently Fred Thompson lobbied for Planned Parenthood in the early '90s.

A Not So Uplifting Story...

about Zimbabwe.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Obama Actually Makes An Actual Policy Stand

Obama spoke out in favor of performance pay in front of the NEA. Now, will he have the stones to tell the NEA that we need to be able to get rid of crappy teachers?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Index Cards

I stumbled upon a blog called Indexed , where life is explained through diagrams written on index cards. Here, in my opinion, is the author’s best work .

Brilliant!! (done in Guinness guy voice)

I came across this ad on YouTube and it is completely brilliant. However, it did take me about 90 seconds before I actually got it.

Ron Paul

has more cash on hand than McCain. I am not saying it is time to pack it in, but I don't think it's far off either.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Raid Map

Cato has a map of police raids gone wrong (wrong address, death on an non-violent offender, etc.). Check it out.

Random Question?

If Dick Cheney were of a sudden to resign (87th heart attack, random onset of guilt and shame), would anybody want to be his replacement?

Jogging is Right Wing...

so muse the French media. Sarko is an avid jogger, ergo, jogging is right-wing. I hear it's wild, you just run. Anywhoo, I am living proof that jogging is not right-wing. I jog, or waddle, several times a week and it is miracle when upon conclusion I don't collapse in cardiac arrest.

The Wii (aka Ninja) of Telecommunications

When the PS3 came out the Nintendo Wii also came out but to considerably less buzz. In fact the Wii's release was almost an afterthought. The PS3 launch was a massive event that over time has fizzled as the Wii has considerably outsold the PS3 and has sustained increasing amounts of publicity. Go to any electronics store and you are likely to find a PS3 in stock but good luck finding a Wii. The Wii has performed like a ninja, you do not know that the ninja has entered the room till he has killed you (this is also true for gay ninjas). It's all pretty unnerving. This once almost happened to me, a ninja entered my bedroom, but since I am actually Chuck Norris' love child I knew that he had entered but concealed my discovery till the last moment. Then I roundhouse kicked the ninja to death. One roundhouse kick is all it takes.

Anyhow, the big consumer electronics news item of the day is the iPhone but another less heralded development occured last week- T-Mobile is offering VOIP calls through its cell phones. I think this development will be like a massive judo chop to the rest of the industry and will force others to follow in that direction. Here is the crux of it all. You get a cell phone, you subscribe to a plan and it has a specific number of minutes. Once you exceed your alotted number of minutes you have to pay extra. Well, for $10 extra a month T-Mobile will route your calls anytime you are in a WiFi hotspot over the internet but won't charge those calls against your allotment of minutes. But what I think makes this phenomenally cool is you effectively have an international cell phone. T-Mobile has hot spots at all starbucks. You could be sipping an overpriced Latte in Dubai and still be making a local (free) phone call to your peeps in D.C. or Dubuque.

InTrade

Over at the Freakonomics blog there is an interesting interview with the founder of inTrade (a prediction market).

Business Support for Hillary

There has been some buzz about Hillary managing to raise substantial funds and general support from the business community (financial services in particular). I think this is a smart play on the part of business. There is assuredly no chance a Republican will be elected in '08 and we are currently in and are likely to be in for a bit an extended populist moment. The Clintons are no populists. Her nominations represent the most realistic chance for business community to stave off more dreadful legislation like SarBox.

Milwaukee and China

For those of you that follow the NBA you may be aware that the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Chinese phenom Yi Jianlian. Some have dubbed him the Chinese Dirk Nowitski. All I know is that he is 7 feet tall and in his workouts he played against a chair. That would be a foreboding sign that he is a stiff. Anyhow, prior to the draft, Mr. Jianlian's agents, wary of the possibility that the Bucks would draft him, refused to work out for the Bucks and went so far as to forbid the Bucks from attending one of Mr. Jianlian's workouts. Nevertheless the Bucks drafted him.

Yi Jianlian apparently wanted to go to a larger city for marketing reasons and to one with a large asian population for personal reasons. Both preferences are understandable but he had to have understood that he was guaranteed neither preference in entering the draft which is something of a random process. But what I don't understand is why one would turn his nose up at Milwaukee. Wisconsin is a lovely state. It is the state of beer, cheese, brats and the Packers. They have tremendous fans and people are friendly to the point that it can be a little scary for somebody like me from the East Coast. Frankly, I think Milwaukee would make Yi more marketable. It is the ultimate fish out of water story. But the other thing is though a small market team has less immediate media exposure, success can overcome that hurdle. Look at Lebron James, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning. I don't think Cleveland, Green Bay, or Indianapolis are regarded as major markets but the aforementioned players are icons.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Men and Women Talk the Same Amount

So alleges a new study according the New York Times. Yes, that New York Times. Obviously the study can't be trusted.

hat tip: Tyler Cowen

Fingers and Tubes in Every Orifice

This actually the title of a Medical Blog. Brilliant title. Lewd and proper at the same time.

Mike Gravel, Avant Garde?

Here is a not so compelling argument that Mike Gravel's campaign is revolutionary. I am surprised the LA Times would publish something this nutty but then again I guess they are catering to their customers. I do appreciate the argument made, as I made these types of arguments, namely bs, all the time for various assignments as an art history undergrad. I hope it serves as a good preparation for my desired future career as an attorney.

A Silly Stupid Law

Apparently the state, ney, People's Republic of Minnesota has decreed that no flag sold in Minnesota can be produced outside of the U.S.A.

Edward's Haircut

There has been much stupid conversation spent on the topic of John Edward's hair. Apparently John Edwards is something of a dandy and spends an ungodly amount on his coif. In fact, the Washington Post decided it was such an important topic it dedicated an article to the subject. I know part of the intrigue stems from the fact that Edwards has become the populist candidate and spending tons on a haircut, or having a massive house all reek of hypocrisy. But honestly who cares? This is absolutely trivial. There have been limousine liberals (and conservatives I might add) before the existence limousines. He's rich, of course he is going to spend money on the finer things. I don't quite see how this is newsworthy.

What Would Our Fore Fathers Think?

On Tuesday Xtra highlighted Geoge Mason’s views on the presidents power to pardon. I thought I would follow up with James Madison’s response.

"[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty...”

Aspen Ideas Festival

The Atlantic is liveblogging the Aspen Festival.

Education

Education is an issue I don't know terribly much about. My knowledge tends to boil down to a couple of things, we spend ever increasing amounts of money on public education and exercise ever increasing centralized control of education but have no improvements to show for our investments. I would like for candidates that promise increased funding to actually demonstrate how these increases will translate into better results. Unfortunately education policy seems to parallel our approach with international aid, cashing a check on behalf of our guilty consciences.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th Everyone!


Here is a quote from the Simpsons that really sums up what the 4th of July is all about.

“Any red-blooded, flag-fearing American would love the M-320. Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”

Watch those hands people.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More Sentences to Commute

David Boaz over at Cato@Liberty suggests some sentences for the President to commute.

Wii

So I got to play the Wii this weekend. I definitely understand now what the buzz is about. It's interactive in a different way. Now, I am not going to rush out and get a Wii. I am about to enter law school and that seems like a way of ensuring my legal education is stillborn. But also, the Wii is decidedly family friendly, i.e. no shootemup games. The degenerate that I am that is the only real reason that I would buy a game system. But anyhow, I found it remarkable how active one could be, need be, when playing the Wii. I think it will do more to mitigate childhood obesity than just about any government program.

George Mason

"the President of the United States has the unrestrained Power of granting Pardon for Treason; which may be sometimes exercised to screen from Punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the Crime, and thereby prevent a Discovery of his own guilt." George Mason on why he opposed the power to pardon.

Mandatory Minimums

I am somewhat conflicted on the issue of Mandatory Minimums in general but not as it pertains to drug related offenses. To the extent that somebody is charged with posession of a narcotic or "hard" drug this does not seem to me to be a major offense. But let's say we do in fact view said narcotics user to be threat to society (even if he doesn't have any prior criminal history or at least no record of violent behavior), is a lengthy jail sentence advisable? Think about this for a moment, take a person who suffers from addiction but otherwise poses no threat to society, stick him in a jail where he will in all liklihood be forcibly sodimized and his peer group will be violent criminals. Does this person come out better or the worse for his jail sentence?

Interesting News

Honda is entering the sub-3k auto market according to Autoblog (BTW, if you are a gearhead check out autoblog, good stuff indeed). Nissan-Renault was the first to announce something along these lines awhile back. They pledged to start producing a stripped down car in India to be sold in India and other developing countries for $2500.

Was It Excessive?

As my colleague Xtra has pointed out earlier today President Bush yesterday commuted the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby so that he will not have to serve a day in jail for the four federal felonies that he was convicted of.

In the president’s statement concerning Libby he stated:

“I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison.”

I was curious exactly how “excessive” Libby’s sentence actually was under federal sentencing guidelines so I looked into it.

Basically here is how the federal sentencing guidelines work; first each of the charges Libby was convicted of uses an applicable sentencing guideline, so for Libby the judge used obstruction of justice, perjury, and providing false statements. Each of these crimes is given a point value, you then utilize the grouping rules since he was convicted of multiple crimes and come up with a final point value. After you come up with a final point value you then use the sentencing table to figure out how many months the person should serve (since Libby has no prior criminal record he falls under category I of the Criminal History Category).

Now I have no idea what the judge used as a basis for deciding whether or not Libby should fall on the high or low end of the sentencing guidelines but the lowest his guidelines would be is the 15 to 21 month range and the highest would be the 24 to 33 month range.

So was Libby’s sentence “excessive”?

Maybe or maybe not but the 30 month sentence still falls right in line with federal sentencing guidelines and zero months in jail certainly does not.

Here is what makes this move by President Bush extremely hypocritical. In early June Attorney General Alberto Gonzales held a press conference where he announced that the Bush Administration was urging Congress to re-impose mandatory minimum sentences against federal convicts.

So basically the Bush administration wants to ensure that all federal convicts (except Libby of course) serve a mandatory time in prison.

Scooter's Free

Scooter Libby's sentence was commuted, as opposed to being fully pardoned. I suppose he will have to wait for Bush's last days for that to happen. It seems stupid not to go ahead and pardon him. You have already pissed off half the country by commuting his sentence, why not just take the extra step?

Not So Great Sales Pitch for the iPhone

Courtesy of Reihan Salam's review of the iPhone over at slate:

"The iPhone: the mobile device that forces you to get a landline."

Apple chose to exclusively offer their phone through Cingular. One of the things people don't realize is that Cingular is essentially paying mightily to be the sole purveyor of the iPhone. It's somethnig like $100 per enrolled plan; that's in addition to the $500-$600 Apple is getting for the phone itself. But the fact is, Cingular sucks. Just seems sort of odd.

Sicko Reviews Continued

Check out this review over at Slate by Austin Goolsbee. Goolsbee is an economist at the University of Chicago School of Business.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Landmark Human Rights Ruling

I realize that I am about a week or two late with blogging about this but I figured that since the illustrious Xtra is on his four day beer and cheese sabbatical that I should pick up some of the slack and write something.

On June 20th the U.N. backed Sierra Leone Special Court found three individuals guilty of war crimes relating to the 11-year civil war that raged in Sierra Leone until 2002. What makes this case a rather remarkable landmark ruling in regards to human rights law is that for the first time an international criminal tribunal has successfully prosecuted individuals for the recruitment and use of children as soldiers.

Furthermore, by setting legal precedent this ruling should have a major impact on the ICC’s current prosecution of warlords from Uganda and the DRC who are also being charged with the war crime of utilizing child soldiers.

If anyone is interested in reading more about the topic of child soldiers I would highly recommend the book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. Beah describes how he was used as a child soldier by the Sierra Leone government army at the age of 13 until he was finally removed from the fighting by UNICEF and eventually entered a rehabilitation center before finishing up high school in New York City. I am currently about half way through this book and although parts of the book can be extremely graphic and heart wrenching, it’s a rather amazing story that everyone should read.

And one more note that kind of relates to the topic. I was tooling around the Minnesota State Fair website today (why wouldn’t I be) and I noticed that Sierra Leon’s Refugee All Stars are going to be playing two free shows at the fair this year on August 29th and 30th. For those not familiar with the Refugee All Stars their story is also rather remarkable, all of the members began performing together in refugee camps with what ever instruments they could find during the civil war and eventually released an album last September. If you like roots reggae music you should really check them out.