Sunday, October 29, 2006

Three minutes to a carjacking?

Some call me "Perrynoid," and with good reason.

Tonight I took a friend to dinner -- well, more accurately, we met at a restaurant in Bay Plaza (in the north Bronx). Afterward she took me for a lengthy spin in her beautiful SUV, white and conspicuously brand new. When she brought us back, she parked in the same spot, right next to my car. Since hers is her new pride and joy, she had wanted us to park away from everyone else. The restaurant is at the edge of that part of the plaza, and we parked about five stores away from the restaurant, several rows deep in the lot. Because all other businesses were closed for the night, an empty row separated us from the other cars. That may not have been as good as we thought.

We were starting to get tired, so we reclined our seats for a little refresher snooze before driving home, maybe just 10 minutes. It turned out to be a good thing we're each naturally talkative, and watch out for our synergetic silliness when we're with each other. So we couldn't nap, and we put our seats back up to continue talking. Then my friend started to get annoyed that a particular van, parked two rows away with all the other vehicles (closer to the restaurant), was directly facing us with its lights on. Initially, the rudeness of maintaining lights right in our eyes bothered my friend more than anything. Then she started to feel uncomfortable upon realizing it had been there for several minutes, motionless. Thank goodness she did, because I admittedly was so focused on the conversation and didn't even notice.

My friend pulled out of our space, turned right and kept moving. I was looking at her and not intentionally trying to determine anything about our possible stalker(s), but once the van's lights were no longer in our faces, I noticed a tell-tale light indicating that someone was in the driver's seat and using a cell phone. We drove to the edge of the parking lot opposite from the restaurant (perpendicular to the exit) and did a slow, large U-turn to test their intentions. The van also started moving shortly after we did, but it didn't follow. We proceeded toward the exit (where we had parked was several rows deep within the lot) and found the van just before us in turning toward the exit. They must have driven even more slowly -- watching us? Coincidentally leaving at the same time? With our lights shining on them for a moment, we saw there was at least one passenger, who was hearing a "hoodie."

We drove around the neighborhood for several minutes, ensuring we weren't being followed, then circled back to my car and talked it over. It just didn't feel right. The van was the quintessential criminal type: an old full-sized model, beat-up, red/brown with a mismatched white passenger door. It had windows only for the driver and front passenger: no others on the side, or on the back, so for all we know there could have been two, four or six others inside.

I really think we were a few minutes away from being carjacked, and quite possibly worse. Such a nice new SUV can be a prime mark, and if we really were in danger, our would-be attackers were watching and waiting for the right moment. Maybe "Antoine" and "DeWayne" were ready to tell "Tyrone" and "Jamal" when to jump out the back doors, perhaps if my friend and I looked like we were making out and thus distracted. She and I realized we were pretty stupid to make it so easy: though the lot had lights, only the restaurant was open, nobody could have seen us from it, and nobody else was around.

And, we weren't paying much attention, either to our specific circumstances or that we were, well, in the Bronx. (It's not as bad as it used to be, but its crime rate still isn't zero.) With our talking and laughing, a couple of guys could have come from the van, maybe after pulling up closer, then did whatever they wanted to us. So my friend may have literally saved my life tonight. She was alert, maybe just by chance since the lights were bothering her more than the circumstances, and maybe even more by chance that she made a wisecrack, but each little thing led to our increased suspicions.

Had we failed to be sufficiently vigilant, however, exercising our God-given right to bear firearms would at least have had a chance of deterring the crime. In fact, carjackers are thwarted in any jurisdiction merely by the possibility that citizens have potent means of defending themselves. But as it stands, New York City has some of the toughest gun control laws anywhere, reducing my friend and I to easy prey for whoever wants to violate our possessions and bodies. Worse, once any peaceable, law-abiding citizen enters the five boroughs while in possession of any handgun sans an NYC handgun permit, he automatically becomes a criminal. If I thwarted carjackers, I would be going to jail myself once the NYPD realized I was using an "illegal weapon."

So, Führer Bloomberg, God damn you. I mean that literally: God damn you for your perennial quest to keep the people as sheep. Every time during your administration that an innocent victim has been hurt because he or she couldn't defend himself, may that blood be upon your hands. And God damn you for forcing people to run in fear, as my friend and I did tonight. Know this: when the people tire of being victimized by criminals from both the street and government, they will no longer pardon the shepherd who failed them.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No more talk about a "war on poverty"? GOOD!

This ridiculous Reuters propaganda is more bleeding-heart tripe. Reporter writes about politicians who are ignoring the poor, reporter gets a soundbite from Jesse Jackson (yawn), reporter . Blah, blah, blah. Instead of all but asking what government can do, truthful reporting would have exposed what government has done.

Government has tried battling poverty by creating low-income housing. "The projects" originally was just the literal term, but today everybody knows it as a synonym for crime-infested neighborhoods where poor people have become trapped.

Government has tried battling poverty by giving cash handouts to the poor. This succeeded only in raising new generations of "Black America" to be dependent on the government dole, instead of on their own initiative and skills.

Government has tried battling poverty by raising the minimum wage. But instead of increasing the incomes of those at the bottom of the wage scale, that only made some of them too expensive to employ. Young people looking for first jobs would stay unemployed (and as poor as can be), and sometimes they would turn to crime.

Government has tried battling poverty by enacting social programs, whose innate bureaucratic red tape, corruption and fraud consistently waste more taxpayers' money than could ever be put to good use. Egged on by self-righteous pundits, bureaucrats redistribute other people's money and typically help the wrong people anyway.

Government has tried battling poverty by educating young people from poor families so they can get good jobs, except that the teachers unions care only about getting more teachers instead of good ones (bad teachers are more numerous than good ones). It's also hard to get a good teacher to commute into the projects that government created. Then the bad teachers, politically correct and wanting to make their students feel good, fills young people's minds with nonsense, convincing them that the rest of America left them behind, and that it's government's obligation to give them a living.

So you tell me: would you rather rely on government, whose track record I have laid out here, or would you rather follow Ted Nugent's idea? The latter has said some great stuff, including this on Sean Hannity's show a few years ago: "You want a cure for poverty? Get a job!"

I was thinking earlier today, before I read this article after coming home, that so many people think that 40 hours' pay each week should suffice for their living. So many people don't understand that if your labor does not earn you as much as you need, perhaps you need to labor more instead of using government to coerce your employer.

If a $5 per hour job isn't enough for a single mother to sustain her family, perhaps she needs to work a second job, no matter what that hypocrite John Edwards says is "unfair." And perhaps she shouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place, or at least have fooled around with someone who'd be more responsible for his own children. Those notwithstanding, perhaps children when old enough need to get jobs to help out the family. My father was a promising track athlete in high school, but he had to give it up to work.

And even so, being "poor" in America today is hardly what poverty used to be. My father's family was poor and could afford only the cheapest food in scarce quantities. Once his mother told him, "I'm sorry, there's nothing to eat." That is poor. Today, poor Americans are considered "poor" because they can afford a place to live and enough food to eat, just not all the niceties of a middle-class lifestyle.

Blogging has been light again. In addition to my day job tiring me out again and writing my Intrade (aka Tradesports) newsletter on the side, I caught a very bad cold at the end of last week. I said good morning to one of my friends on Monday. Her back was turned to me as I entered the office pantry and greeted her, and she didn't recognize my voice at all.

However, this is not France, so for about $20 worth of cold remedies, I was able to go to work and be nearly as productive. Hopefully my latest Intrade newsletter will be published tomorrow: last week I talked a bit of economics, and this week I talk a bit about statistics.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tell me what Tan Nguyen did that was criminal?

I'm not even sure that Nguyen or his campaign staff did anything improper. While I have no love for Republicans, I was appalled to read that California's jack-booted thugs have now raided his home and campaign office over this.

And what precipitated things? A "letter, written in Spanish, was mailed to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in Orange County." It simply said,

"You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

That's it. Having read it several times, I wonder how it is not true.

Every AP article on this has said smugly, "In fact, immigrants who are adult naturalized citizens are eligible to vote." So what? The first conditionality is "if your residence in this country is illegal," and as far as I'm aware, illegal aliens are by definition not citizens, so they therefore cannot vote legally. Also, a naturalized person is no longer an immigrant: "naturalized immigrant" is a contradiction in terms. The moment my mother took her oath, she became an American.

And now the Democrats, who I now think must have a gene compelling them to act like morons, are calling this letter a "hate crime." Here's some news: liberal assholes are the ones committing the hate crime. They hate that some people are successful and become wealthy, evinced in every tax increase they support.

Let's be more candid. The Democrats love this, not just because it hurts Republicans, not just because it solidifies their hold on the Hispanic vote, but because this will further encourage illegal aliens to vote in our elections, and illegals by far vote for Democrats. Why do you think Democrats consistently oppose requiring voters to show ID, even if the state will pay for people who can't afford a driver's license or state-issued ID card? "Racist" my natural-born citizen ass. I'm quite open on immigration, but good lord, what is the purpose of citizenship when we don't strictly enforce our election laws? "Only citizens have the right to vote" is the first and most important election law. When you're so lax that you accuse someone of a "threat" or a "hate crime" because a staffer reminded people of it, the rest of the election laws become meaningless.

Also, what "threat" was in the letter? How is it a "threat" to remind people of the law? If you don't realize that the letter doesn't apply to naturalized citizens, then flatly, you don't deserve to vote because you're not aware of your rights. There are too many idiots out there who think their "civil right" to vote means they can be part of 51%+ of voters who elect people to spend the money coerced from everyone else. Like Neal Boortz, the more they don't vote, the more I'm happy. It's not because I want to deprive them of their own inalienable rights, but because they deprive me of mine, specifically my right to my own property.

When you discard limited government, voting degenerates into what Bastiat described: "The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else." It's bad enough when citizens screw each other over at the polls, but then throw in illegal immigrants who pay very little in taxes anyway, who'll illegally vote for a candidate who will give them more in social services. Great, isn't it?

The other day, a friend at work couldn't understand why taxes are theft. A head tax is one thing: as someone, a man I loved as a father, taught me many years ago, "It would be fair if they took a dollar from everybody." But it is theft when our progressive federal income tax collects nearly all the revenue from the top 25% and redistributes it to the bottom half, nearly all of whom pay nothing in taxes.

But, my friend said, there's no theft because "people vote for the politicians." Ho! Nothing could be more incorrect, mistaken or naïve. A mere plurality, or a majority as required in a few jurisdictions, is all it takes to elect a politician over the objections of the other voters. When my neighbors elect someone I would never vote for in a million years, how is it not theft when he raises my taxes? I didn't agree to it, nor did I ever sign some "social compact" bullshit.

My friend also denies that there is any "force" in taxation, ignoring that if I refuse to pay my taxes, I'll have even more of my wealth confiscated, and perhaps be jailed for the "impudence" of trying to keep my own property. How much does it take to be called "force," a SWAT team raid? As Bastiat laid out for us in The Law, government's powers come from the people, so lawful government therefore cannot do anything that individuals cannot lawfully do. Can my neighbors come to me every two weeks and demand a "cut" of my paycheck, threatening me with imprisonment? If they cannot, then by what right can they elect a government to do the same, acting as their agent?

Well, I suppose the same right by which illegal aliens vote in our elections.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What have I been up to lately?

Well, here is my Intrade newsletter for October 10th, and here is my newsletter's October 18th edition. The first one, which was a little "audition" to show what I can do, was e-mailed out but not published on their website.

I rather liked writing the last one because I had an opportunity to touch on economic thought, specifically Kirzner's conception of the entrepreneur. Schumpeter viewed entrepreneurship as the "creative destruction" responsible for propelling economies forward. Mises believed entrepreneurs were "risk-bearers." Both are valid, being non-mutually exclusive perspectives. However, it was Kirzner (who taught my micro professor, Dr. Sanford Ikeda) who pointed out the entrepreneur's quality of "discovering" profit opportunities, especially when he prepared himself to be alert to anything new.

The GOP will almost certainly lose the House, and its control of the Senate hinges on two races. Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How to argue like a liberal (and lose by default)

Maybe that should be the title of Ann Coulter's next book. Our visitor Cate left a somewhat incohesive comment at the end of my entry on Wal-Mart's attempt to open its own bank. And what was the most persuasive part of her babble?

"If you don't see a problem with that then something is wrong with you."

Wow! I don't know about the rest of you, but I was so thoroughly convinced by that one sentence alone. Is it any wonder that liberals always win arguments and always show the substance of their arguments? It's one thing to say "Q.E.D" after laying out a series of logical steps, but if you really want to get 'em, just say "something is wrong with you"!

Yeah. Right. (You have to say "Right" with the dryness of a really flinty, overly citric Pinot Grigio, like when Captain Kirk said it to General Chang.)

In any case, she complains that taxpayers would be subsidizing Wal-Mart because the FDIC had to insure the deposits. Notwithstanding that I oppose the existence of compulsory, centralized insurance for banks, she acts as if Wal-Mart would be the only recipient. What about everyone else today? By Cate's own standard, she's a hypocrite: the rest of us have every right to accuse her of being subsidized by our dollars, unless she uses a private bank that isn't FDIC-insured.

What about all the subsidies paid to all other industries? The billions given to ethanol producers in one year alone would far exceed any potential bailout for a Wal-Mart bank. Where is liberals' outrage about that?

Good lord. In what strange liberal world does Cate live? It's not reality, that's for certain. What's truly illustrative is that she doesn't understand that businesses, at least those that wants to grow, "invest in themselves" all the time. Yet Wal-Mart does not need a bank to "invest in themselves": it wants to open a bank to streamline its financial costs, which will allow it to pass the savings along in the form of lower prices for its customers.

The more I hear liberals criticize Wal-Mart, the more I am convinced it's because Wal-Mart provides goods at such low prices, not despite. Wal-Mart is helping people and making a profit doing so, helping reduce poor people's dependence on government's forcible redistributing wealth.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

So what the ---- is the -------- problem?

(You are being forewarned: if you are offended by gratuitous use of vulgarity, or if you don't understand satire, please skip this entry and move on.)

I read in the New York Post on Tuesday that many PBS stations across the country will edit "fucking" out of the rebroadcast of a 1987 series. It's apparently just that one little fucking use, and that's "fucking" as in an adjective, not a verb. The stations are caving in preemptively to the fucking FCC Nazis, who will fuck over anyone who dares go against these self-anointed Morality Police. Considering how it's pretty fucking impossible to fight those fucking bureaucrats, I can't really blame the stations one fucking bit.

I personally don't see the fucking problem with one little fucking use of such a fucking common word -- and regarding all these self-righteous fuckers and their fucking allies at the fucking FCC, well, fuck them. If you don't like whatever the fuck is on TV, you're perfectly free to change the fucking channel or just turn off the fucking thing. For fuck's sake, go to any fucking elementary school in an urban area, and you'll probably hear more fucking vulgarity from the kids, word for fucking word, than I've been using here.

John McCain's blogging debut

Congratulations to Captain Ed, whose blog featured a terrific guest entry by John McCain. (Thanks to our friends at QandO for the link.) Yes, that John McCain. McCain is far from my first choice for 2008, because he believes (as does Russell Feingold) in sacrificing the First Amendment to have "clean government." All their "campaign finance reform" has done is kill the former with no hope to produce the latter. McCain also doesn't believe in the Second Amendment, and while he's voted for tax cuts, I want a real supply-sider to vote for.

However, McCain nailed the North Korea issue:
We have talked and talked about punishing their bad behavior. They don't believe we have the resolve to do it. We must prove them wrong....

Eventually they will have the technology to put warheads on missiles. That is a grave threat to South Korea, Japan and the United States that we cannot under any circumstances accept. North Korea also has a record of transferring weapons technology to other rogue nations, such as Iran and Syria.

The worst thing we could do is accede to North Korea’s demand for bilateral talks. When has rewarding North Korea's bad behavior ever gotten us anything more than worse behavior?

I would remind Senator Hillary Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush Administration policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure. The Koreans received millions in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to their military. And what did they do? They secretly enriched uranium.

Prior to the agreement, every single time the Clinton Administration warned the Koreans not to do something -- not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor -- they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton Administration with further talks. We had a carrots and no sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior. When one carrot didn't work, we offered another.
Do you hear that, Bill? Jimmy? Madeleine?

Just like 9/11, the Clinton administration's attempts to appease and ignore our enemies (all the while taking credit for a domestic economy whose success they had little to do with) did nothing but prolong the inevitable, forcing the successor to implement a tough foreign policy and fix the mistakes. Hillary can rewrite history by blaming Bush, but the reality is that Bush is trying to clean up the mess her husband left. It was Jimmy Carter and Madeleine Albright who naively relied on diplomacy, when it was obvious to us cynics that North Korea was pursuing nuclear weaponry anyway.

Did North Korea withdraw from Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and kick out the IAEA inspectors because Bush included North Korea in the "Axis of Evil," as Carter claimed? No: this is another confusion of cause and effect, also known as the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy ("After this, therefore because of this"). North Korea withdrew after Bush's accusation, but for years it had been pursuing nuclear technology anyway, in spite of its two-faced committment to any treaties or agreements. What really happened was that Bush and his foreign policy advisors grew tired of pretending: they were going to call a spade a spade, and North Korea realized it had to do something. By protesting the accusation, by pulling an Iran and claiming it's the United States' fault for making them do it, it could dupe the gullible Carter-esque diplomats and stall things for a few more years. Had Bush agreed to bilateral talks, Kimmy would have found a new excuse.

The problem with liberals is that they demand "a chance for diplomacy to work," never learning from history that it's letting diplomacy run for years that exacerbates conflicts in the enemy's favor: Nazi Germany (Chamberlain was a Conservative Party member but a credit to modern U.S. Democrats), Saddam's Iraq and now North Korea.

At least, though, Britain didn't give money, energy and food to Hitler, unlkike the massive American aid that indirectly financed North Korea's nuclear ambitions. There's an old term "guns and butter," illustrating the concept of tradeoffs. In North Korea's case, until now they haven't had to worry about spending any national income on butter: they've been able to spend most of it on guns, because the U.S., Japan, China and others have been stupid enough to supply the butter. That has to end, but it will take more than a mere embargo -- that would have the same success as ours has had on Cuba.

It will take a full-scale blockade to cripple North Korea to where it will beg for terms, including freezing any assets we can that belong to nations that continue doing business with North Korea. Anything less, such as Japan's new punitive sanctions, will cripple North Korea but also push it toward selling nuclear weapons for cash -- and I say North Korea would be pushed sooner, not just pushed. Kim is a madman, and I'm convinced he's had the idea from the start to sell a bomb or two to Iran, Syria or other terrorist states. What's to stop him, especially when harming a common enemy can yield a few dinars profit?

That, of course, would mean war. But instead of wringing our hands and asking how much worse we're making things, let's stop deluding ourselves into thinking North Korea really wants peace. You cannot remonstrate, placate, appease or use "please" with this type of enemy: the time is nigh to cast off our Neville Chamberlain Syndrome.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Now we know for sure: Ramsey Clark is nuts

If this were in the U.S., it would be part of a great strategy: Saddam would later get a new trial on appeal, after having his original defense team declared insane.
Clark: Hanging Saddam Would Cause Chaos

WASHINGTON Oct 5, 2006 (AP)— Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a member of Saddam Hussein's defense team, predicted on Thursday that a bloodbath would follow should an Iraqi court trying the former president have him executed.

At a news conference, Clark said he feared that should Saddam and the others be hanged, "catastrophic violence" would follow that would lead to "the end of civilization as we know it in the birthplace of civilization, Mesopotamia. Total, unmitigated chaos."

Saddam's Sunni Muslim tribe of 1.5 million would be enraged over what they would consider the revenge killing of the former president by the Shiite-controlled and U.S.-sponsored government, Clark said.
Clark forgets the reality that there were plenty of Sunnis who were murdered by Saddam's regime. Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, millions of Iraqis, want nothing less than to see Saddam swinging.

I myself would have it come down to my usual capital punishment question: "Regular or extra crispy?"

Don't be suckered by Democrats' economic bullshit

Unfortunately, a whole lot of Americans would. And will in November.
Pelosi emphasizes economic proposals

WASHINGTON - Pointing toward midterm elections, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi promised on Thursday to raise the minimum wage while cutting taxes to spur economic growth and help the middle class.

She also vowed that Democrats will keep U.S. jobs from going overseas by repealing current tax incentives if voters give her party the reins of Congress on Nov. 7.

"This economy is making the super-rich richer, and leaving middle-class American families further behind, deeper in debt and struggling to make ends meet," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a speech at Georgetown University.

"Democrats believe in the marketplace," she said. "Choices made by President Bush and Republicans in Congress have created a market failure — they have consistently rewarded wealth without rewarding work."

She was one of 10 Democratic leaders giving economic speeches across the country this week.

Democrats emphasized the economy as House Republicans were consumed with the fallout of a virtual sex scandal that led to the resignation of former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and has prompted calls for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to step down.

Five weeks before the elections, polls show the public favors putting Democrats in charge of Congress.

Democrats also have the advantage on the economy as a campaign issue.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Thursday found that 51 percent of likely voters say Democrats would best handle the economy while 38 percent say Republicans would do a better job.

Republicans took issue with Pelosi's remarks.

"The Democrat plan of heaping taxes on parents, families and employers has failed in the past, and is an astonishingly foolish agenda for the future," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, the No. 2 Senate Republican.
So if "Democrats believe in the marketplace," then why are they constantly pushing for a hike in the minimum wage? If they truly wanted to let markets work, they would let employers and employees come to agreements (including on wages) without any government interference. That is letting the market work. Anything else is economic bullshit, and any politician, pundit or economist who advocates more government to help the marketplace is a damned fool or a liar. Your choice, Nancy.

Why is Pelosi ranting like a typical lunatic moonbat, without specifying exactly what the NLRB did? Well, the board ruled a few days ago that if you spend 10 to 15% of your time supervising someone, you're classified as a "supervisor" and hence can't join a labor union. Labor unions are up in arms, because that could mean 8 million fewer people eligible to join them. That's untold millions, if not billions, lost to labor unions' coffers, which means the overpaid bosses might not always be able to travel first-class and in chauffered luxury cars.

If Pelosi weren't so disingenuous about her professed belief in "the marketplace," she'd have simply called for the abolishment of the NLRB, and permitting nurses, whatever their duties, to negotiate their pay with their employers without any interference from government. That is letting the market work. Anything else is economic bullshit, and any politician, pundit or economist who advocates more government to help the marketplace is a damned fool or a liar. Your choice, Nancy.

If you're a nurse who's now categorized as a "supervisor," and you don't like that your employer can use the NLRB to prevent you from joining a union, well, nobody's forcing you to work at that facility, nor is anyone forcing you into that line of work. A while ago I read an article about nurses "struggling to balance" work with their home lives, and I can't say I felt one damned bit of sympathy. If they can't cope with the demands of the workplace, then they need to find easier jobs. My new responsibilities at work are very demanding, and a terrible strain on my eyesight, and though my boss is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, he'd surely remind me that nobody's forcing me to stay in my job. Nobody's forcing him to work his long hours, either.

Democrats talk all the time about "rolling back Bush's tax cuts for the rich," when in fact it's those tax cuts that are the most beneficial to the economy. A tax cut for the typical American just doesn't approach the magnitude of a tax cut for "the rich," whether it's eliminating the deadweight loss of government spending or increasing workers' incentive to produce more. Lower wages by nature don't have much disincentive to work more, whether overtime or a side job. On the other hand, higher wages have the most disincentive because of marginal tax rates (which are the implemention of the Marxist concept of a heavily graduated, "progressive" income tax).

Cut taxes for the typical American worker, and he might produce a little for the little in tax breaks. Cut taxes for the upper incomes, and they'll produce a lot for it, because it's already their nature to produce a lot. Also, contrary to what Democrats would have you believe, the money is never hoarded by the rich: one way or another, it circulates back into the economy. A middle-class family might curse a CEO's big tax break, but whose money do they think they're borrowing for a mortgage or auto loan? Also, a tax cut for a family might reduce their burden by $1000 and give them an incentive to earn $5000 more, but how about a tax cut for an executive who'll negotiate one more deal, creating more jobs in the end, and earning a fat bonus for himself that will go right back into the economy?

Our friend jk at Three Sources noted last month that a fundamental problem with modern liberals is their belief in zero-sum economics. They maintain that someone "wins" only when someone loses, so according to them, someone becomes wealthier at the expense of others, who become poorer. Nothing could be further from reality: if liberals were right, then economies would never expand beyond inflation plus population growth. However, the most important factor in economic expansion is productivity, and just because one person is more productive, i.e. just because one person produces more, it does not follow that everyone else becomes less productive.

It makes no difference to me whether Bill Gates (well, Steve Ballmer now) earned $x or twice that last year, when I by comparison made but a fraction of that. Money at any given point in time is finite, but there are no restrictions on people's ability to create additional wealth. In fact, it makes no difference to my salary how much the CEO makes where I work. People tend to believe the myth that if only top management were paid less, that money could be "spread around" -- distributed to the lower workers. It's a myth because if the CEO is paid $10 million annually, $20 million or $100 million, I would still be paid the same. That's because we each produce a certain amount of value for the firm, and it's willing to pay each of us that much. It is not going to pay me more to produce less, but it will certainly offer a big package to someone who knows how to run the company.

Morgan Stanley wouldn't have offered John Mack $25 million a year if they didn't think he was worth more than that to the company. It could have offered a mere $1 million a year to and attracted a mid-tier financial sector executive, who in the end might have saved Morgan Stanley $5 million a year. But that salary would never have attracted a top-notch executive with the potential to turn a company around, saving and producing many times more than his salary. The lesson, then, is that when companies pay certain employees much more, that's because those employees produce more than what they're paid, and the higher pay never detracts from wages on the lower end of the pay scale.

Let's talk further about producing more. Pelosi talks about rewarding wealth instead of work, which is more bullshit. What she and other liberals just won't acknowledge is that it's not a matter of working hard, but working smart. The capitalist system rewards production, whether you're a manual laborer or a CEO keeping everything together. You can sweat 12 hours a day digging ditches, but though it's physically hard work, that's not as valuable, by any measure, as top management work.

"But at least laborers work hard," liberals retort. And those of us who use pens and keyboards, and have hour-long conference calls hoping we can fix the latest crisis and keep our jobs, don't work hard? I don't mean to denigrate the new mailroom guy, but there's a reason I'm paid more than him. Is that "fair"? Absolutely. It would be unfair if we were paid the same: while he delivers mail, I investigate possible employee trading violations and field questions on compliance rules. We're both working, but Pelosi probably will never understand why one is valued more, why one is rewarded more than the other.

Mitch McConnell had a good response, if a pithy one, but he could have gone further. He could have said we've had several decades of tax hikes and tax cuts to prove that supply-side economics is reality. (By the way, Brad, I started reading the post you linked to, but I haven't had time to address it. No offense, but you appear to misunderstand what the Laffer Curve is really about, and I suspect because you've heard too much liberal mythology about it.) Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan and GWB cut taxes significantly, resulting in economic growth plus more revenue than before. On the other hand, Hoover and FDR, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all raised taxes. The 1990s tax hikes failed to generate the promised revenue, and though Hoover and FDR did succeed in raising more revenue, they exacerbated the Depression by trying to tax the nation to prosperity.

Unlike cutting taxes to give people a reason to create more wealth, raising taxes is worse than zero-sum because of the disincentive. God knows I have my problems with Republicans, but what am I going to do, help elect Democrats who'll hike the top rate to 50%, give everybody "free" health care, and wreck the nation back to the 1930s? Don't put it past the Democrats to insist that "the rich" can afford a "fair" 50% federal income tax to fund wasteful social programs for the rest of us.

Then again, maybe we do need to elect enough Democrats so that they have a super-majority in both chambers, with Hillary back in the White House (officially president that time). That way, seeing how bad things can get, enough Americans will wake up and take their country back.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Are the cops afraid of becoming obsolete?

Criminals don't obey weapons laws, and police already assume (or should) that someone taken into custody can be armed. So I wonder if the NYPD's reaction to this tiny firearm is because they're secretly afraid regular people will have the means to defend themselves, making the police less necessary if not obsolete.

October 4, 2006 -- They are small and dangerous - a powerful miniature handgun that fires tiny bullets and a pint-sized plastic handcuff key that can be easily hidden by suspects and prisoners in custody.

City cops are on the alert for the SwissMiniGun - a 2.16-inch replica of a Colt Python capable of shooting bullets that are just one-third of an inch long.

The six-shot revolver - which sells for about $500 and can literally fit in the palm of a hand - is capable of causing serious damage, authorities say.

The guns cannot be imported legally, but smuggling is a concern, officials said.

Cops are also watching out for plastic handcuff keys that are approximately the size of a nickel.

The keys cannot be picked up by metal detectors and look like a pendant when worn on a chain.

The NYPD last Saturday warned the city's 36,000 officers to "use extreme vigilance" when searching, guarding and transporting prisoners.
If you might be confronted by an enemy, and it's likely your hired protection won't be around, doesn't it make sense to arm yourself at least as well as your attacker? Imagine common citizens carrying SwissMiniGuns inside their belts. When a would-be mugger demands a wallet or purse, a near-victim can turn the tables quickly. You'll have one badly wounded criminal, one averted crime, and a truly empowered citizen who didn't need to rely on government for protection.

As for the tiny key, I would think it appropriate to empty a suspect's pockets and confiscate all personal items, including jewelry and watches, "just in case."


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Let him say "sorry" -- from behind bars

On Monday, a Turk tore down a memorial in Queens that honored a cop who died on 9/11. His motivation? The display was "political," he ranted at the scene.

The New York Post reported today that he said he's sorry:
October 4, 2006 -- The man who tore down a Queens memorial to fallen 9/11 cop Paul Talty told police he thought the crucifix was a political message, then apologized.

"Did not know it was a police officer's memorial," Turkish native Adnan Emre, 26, said at the scene in Long Island City Monday. "Thought it was a political fixture. Sorry, did not mean to."

Yesterday, Emre was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court, charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. He faces up a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Bail was set at $750, and he was still behind bars last night.
Just when I think I understand how Muslim nuts think, one has to throw me for a loop. A crucifix is political?

Though he deserves a full year in prison and then permanent deportation, he'll likely get a slap on the wrist, especially if the presiding judge is afraid of offending Muslims. If this is Emre's first offense, he might get probation and restitution if he pleads guilty. The latter doesn't seem likely, though, if he couldn't afford the $750 bail.

Forget people's dismissal that the guy is merely "out of his mind" -- he's another member of, as Michelle Malkin puts it, "The religion of perpetual outrage." Imagine had it been a Jew or Christian doing the same to a picture of Mohammed, no matter the country: Muslims across the globe would riot, make death threats, and shoot people like a Catholic nun. Oh, forgive me, they already are doing that, and for things that are no offense at all.

I haven't heard that Cardinal Egan called for retaliatory destruction of Muslim displays -- have you?

I haven't heard that Pope Benedict called for a "crusade" in response to the assaults on Christians -- have you?

Previous reading:
"Christians and Jews rampage across Western countries"

In Poland, there's no freedom of...flatulence?

If only this were a joke. From Tuesday's New York Post, in the "Weird But True" compilation, I, uh, caught wind of perhaps the stupidest manhunt of all time:
His wordless protest spoke volumes - and now police in Poland are looking for the man who passed gas when asked what he thought of the president.

Hubert Hoffman, 45 - charged with "contempt for the office of the head of state" - failed to show up for his trial on the charge, setting off the manhunt.

Interpol is on the case.
For heaven's sake, Interpol? What is the difference between Poland now and when it was Soviet-dominated? What has really changed, since Poles are still compelled by government to respect their rulers?

This only serves as the latest proof that freedom of thought is most dangerous to the state. In that entry (worth reading again for the great comments two readers left), I quoted Orhan Pamuk, the author persecuted by Turkey's governmen: "For a country to enter the EU, there has to be full respect of minority rights, freedom of thought and expression." Indeed, that's for a country to enter the union, but apparently such freedoms can be overlooked in existing members.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Five-Minute Star Trek

Fall fashions

Yahoo Hotjobs had some fashion ideas for both men and women. The advice for women about coordinating is sensible to me, from my limited perspective at least. The "skinny pant" has gotten really popular, even before all the advertisements started appearing around the subway. I'm talking about the slim-cut pants intended for women who are already thin (often too thin), not the stretch kind that claim to make a woman look more trim. The latter might be too tight in a conservative business setting, even with a jacket or conservative sweater. In that case it's better to wear a pair of great pants that actually fit, or a skirt. I find women more attractive anyway when they're of a realistic weight and dress nicely, rather than when they starve themselves to fit in some ridiculous new trend for 20-inch waists.

For guys, a good blazer should go without saying, but it need not be expensive. Macy's has frequent sales and good merchandise. Some of us might have to visit the Men's Wearhouse, or a "big and tall" specialty store, to find non-standard sizes like my 48S. The first choice is navy blue, though I personally prefer midnight blue, and then true black. Pick your colors carefully: the Ivy League look of blue jackets and gray pants is fine, except if that's what your building's security guards wear. No choice of tie can change that similarity. So go for a blue jacket and olive pants (very popular now), and a black jacket goes well with tan pants.

Ties are how a guy can make similar wardrobes, even the same, look very different. This is particularly true if you don't usually wear a jacket around the office. One good blazer should go without saying, and I add that one good blazer and five good ties are better than a few mediocre blazers and just a couple of ties. School stripes might be a bit too preppy depending on how conservatively you dress, but you can never go wrong with subdued repeating patterns. A new trend is a semi-plaid pattern with heavy diagonal stripes in the traditional direction (down from the wearer's right in the U.S., and the reverse in the UK and much of Europe) with criss-crossing pinstripes.

A fellow stopped me the other day in the Times Square subway station to ask where I got my medium-green tie and matching handkerchief. They're what I wore last St. Patrick's Day. Depending on how I rotate through my other ties, I wear them about every two weeks with matching green cufflinks, a white shirt and black suit. It seems that combination always garners compliments from someone, as does the red tie with black pinstripes that I got for Valentine's Day. That I pair with a solid red handkerchief, adding a little flair that in recent years is no longer old-fashioned.

I personally dislike sweaters. They're good in a more casual environment, but in a business setting where neckties are standard (not just "often required" like the article says), I find them suitable only for preppies or older men. Regardless, they are most certainly not James Bond, except for the one scene in which Roger Moore wore a totally 1970s look: blue blazer, gray pants and a white turtleneck. Other than that, Bond wears great suits or jacket/trousers combinations, with or without great ties, but not sweaters. Forget what Daniel Craig wears -- that man has single-handedly ruined the legacy, more than any of us initially feared.

Whew, if this isn't my most metrosexual post ever...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Competition breaks up monopolies, including academic ones

It's pretty hard to get an academic paper published. The more prestigious a journal, the more selective it will be, putting submissions through a very rigorous process. I'm pleased to see that some are bucking tradition and publishing their papers online:
Web journals threaten peer-review system

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Scientists frustrated by the iron grip that academic journals hold over their research can now pursue another path to fame by taking their research straight to the public online.

Instead of having a group of hand-picked scholars review research in secret before publication, a growing number of Internet-based journals are publishing studies with little or no scrutiny by the authors' peers. It's then up to rank-and-file researchers to debate the value of the work in cyberspace.

The Web journals are threatening to turn on its head the traditional peer-review system that for decades has been the established way to pick apart research before it's made public.

Next month, the San Francisco-based non-profit Public Library of Science will launch its first open peer-reviewed journal called PLoS ONE, focusing on science and medicine. Like its sister publications, it will make research articles available for free online by charging authors to publish.

But unlike articles in other PLoS journals that undergo rigorous peer review, manuscripts in PLoS ONE are posted for the world to dissect after an editor gives them just a cursory look.
A relative few academics for far too long had the power to restrict the dissemination of what could be great work, and they should be afraid, very afraid, of losing their monopoly. Online journals will still have academic reviewers, but they won't exercise full sway as to whether the paper will ever be released. Perhaps a paper published online won't be worth the photons on our monitors, but can't we decide that for ourselves?

Also, so many more people will have access to the papers without having to pay, whether several dollars per individual paper or hundreds (even thousands) of dollars a year for a journal subscription. Score another victory for the Internet in greatly reducing the cost of acquiring information.

The right to choose your own energy source

John Galt over at Three Sources had a good post on peak oil. I tried leaving a comment but couldn't, and in any case I wanted to reproduce it here for my readers:
An Iranian talking about Peak Oil? I'd sooner believe Ted Kennedy talking about how alcohol makes one a better swimmer. Hmm, wonder why Iranians would be talking about this. Could it be because we're finding new deposits all the time, depressing prices and thus rendering Madman Mahmoud's "oil as a weapon" as effective as spitballs?

I call the Peak Oil doomsayers, the ones who genuinely believe we're running out as opposed to those trying to create a false panic to drive up market prices, "Malthus' philosophical descendants." I look to much earlier than the 1970s, John, for the first instances of "population explosion" Chicken Littles: we're all living proof that Malthus' 1798 prediction of mass starvation was pretty boneheaded. Similarly, the oil doomsayers are being proved wrong as we speak.

Last year I wrote about John Tierney's bet with oil doomsayer Matthew Simmons. The latter thinks we'll have such a scarcity that by 2010 the price per barrel will be over $200 (in 2005 chained dollars). In hindsight, I think they shouldn't have bet an absolute number of dollars ($5000), because what if the price is $199? It would have been better to negotiate some sort of option, where Tierney can make his own prediction of oil's future price. That way the winner's profit would increase with how correct he was.

Let's say Tierney thinks oil will average $60 per barrel for 2010, so they contract that Simmons will buy 100 barrels from Tierney at $130 each (the midpoint). If oil averages $60 per barrel, then Tierney will profit $70 per (less broker fees). If oil averages $200 per barrel, then Simmons will profit $70 (again less broker fees). And the more the winner is correct, the more he'll profit.

Anyway, in that entry, I noted Don Luskin pointing out how our *proven* oil reserves are constantly increasing. As you guys noted last month, U.S. reserves are now up by an estimated 50%, 15 billion barrels. That's on top of the Chinese buying PetroKazakhstan (owned by Canada -- will the wonders of globalization never cease?) so they can explore tar sands in Alberta, and OPEC nations developing their own reserves. The latter for years have *already* been pumping (pun intended) profits back into exploration and development.

Strictly speaking, I won't say "we" should be going nuclear. There are lots of us who are content with fossil fuels for specific reasons, although I think nuclear reactors are great for household electricity. All I ask is that you don't have to subsidize my choices, that I don't have to subsidize yours, and that you don't force me to trade in my gas-powered car before I'm ready. The new nuclear pellets are very promising indeed, but the Department of Energy subsidized the project, while Congress still has environmental regulations that keep nuclear power too expensive, or entirely restricted in a lot of jurisdictions. Sigh.

Indian Point, which is pretty antiquated, and I are on opposite sides of Westchester County. There are two radii for determining evacuation, depending on the severity of any problems. I'm inside the second, I think, but I don't worry about it. The biggest problems are the perpetual ones keeping the damned warning sirens working. The occasional reactor problem is far less dangerous to me than the idiot drivers along I-684 and Route 22.

The environmentalist nutjobs are always trying to shut down the reactor. They know they can't, but their lawsuits make IP much more expensive to operate. Thus its electrical output is much more expensive than it should be, in addition to all the environmental restrictions. Some putz years ago tried telling me that nuclear energy is the most expensive kind, and I had to educate him on why.

Where's the outrage?

I'm wondering if perhaps I'm making too big a deal out of the House passing H.R.5825. Maybe we don't have to worry as much as I am, because the Senate did adjourn without passing their own version -- although S.3876 gives even broader powers to the executive branch.

Forgive me if I've missed yours, but from time to time this weekend, I've checked around the blogs on my sidebar, and even the most die-hard libertarians aren't talking about this. I do see "Jihadist behind every rock" conservatives claiming that it's a bad bill because it restricts the President's ability on wiretaps, but in fact the bill does the opposite! They're so concerned about Section 12, when Section 3 lays out the real powers. When in doubt, read the full text:
(a) In General- The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) is further amended by striking section 102 and inserting the following:
`Sec. 102. (a) In General- Notwithstanding any other law, the President, acting through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this title to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that--
`(1) the electronic surveillance is directed at--
`(A) the acquisition of the contents of communications of foreign powers, as defined in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of section 101(a), or an agent of a foreign power, as defined in subparagraph (A) or (B) of section 101(b)(1); or

`(B) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of section 101(a); and
`(2) the proposed minimization procedures with respect to such surveillance meet the definition of minimization procedures under section 101(h);
if the Attorney General reports such minimization procedures and any changes thereto to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate at least 30 days prior to the effective date of such minimization procedures, unless the Attorney General determines immediate action is required and notifies the committees immediately of such minimization procedures and the reason for their becoming effective immediately....
I don't see any requirement that a terrorist attack need have occurred, do you? This bill doesn't limit those powers; it's quite the contrary.