Monday, July 30, 2007
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.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
When you earn income, you can either spend it on consumption, save it, or give it to charity. The latter two should not generate taxes."
Courtesy of Arnold Kling.
Friday, July 27, 2007
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!!!!
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
"Just do it. We can afford it, Africa needs it, and we will all benefit from it."
hat tip: Alex Massie of Debatable Land
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.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
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.
- Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles as opposed to E85 Flex-Fuel Vehicles or current Hybrid Vehicles.
- Implementation of a national (and eventually international) Cap-and-Trade System.
- The development and implementation of some type of Carbon Capture and Storage System.
- National legislation that is similar to recently passed Minnesota Legislation which sets a renewable energy requirement of 25 percent or higher by 2025.
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.
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?
Courtesy of Megan McArdle.
"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."
Monday, July 23, 2007
Apparently Michael Jackson has a rather large fan following in the Filipino prison system.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Do us a favor though, confirm which male candidate has the saggiest scrotum.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
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.
"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.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
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
Monday, July 16, 2007
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.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
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
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."
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.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
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.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
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.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
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.
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?
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.
Monday, July 09, 2007
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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."
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Friday, July 06, 2007
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.
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
"[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...”
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
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
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.
"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.
Monday, July 02, 2007
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.