Saturday, June 29, 2002
Friday, June 28, 2002
"I'm not defending Gore, or denying that the 1990s were any different, but please don't tell me you don't feel that this administration is NOT working solely on behalf of the powerful. At least Gore is half right and can complete a full sentence, unlike Bush."
Ann Coulter was on Fox News last night talking about media bias. One thing she mentioned is how the left always tries to portray those on the right as being stupid and have done so to every Republican presidential candidate since 1960. It strikes me as rather childish to not discuss the merits of someone's case but to instead simply dismiss them as "stupid." I guess it must be because the left doesn't really have much of a case (not one based in facts or logic anyway) that they have to resort to namecalling to get their way.
"You see now what it means to have an administration that's that committed to fighting and working on behalf of the powerful, and letting the people of this country get the short end of the stick."
Okay so who was in power through most of the 1990's?
DCF = Discounted Cash Fraud
WACC = Weigted Average Cost of Corruption
ROE = Return on Embezzlement
Q: What did the shuttle commander say to his wife after she asked him if he was going to shower before takeoff?
A: "Don't worry honey, I'll just wash up on shore."
SOME NEW ACCOUNTING ACRONYMS:
EBITDA = Earnings Before I Tricked The Dumb Auditor
EBIT = Earnings Before Irregularities and Tampering
CEO = Chief Embezzlement Officer
CFO = Corporate Fraud Officer
NAV = Normal Andersen Valuation
EPS = Eventual Prison Sentence
(Use the comments to suggest your own politically correct titles) (via Libertarian Samizdata
"By weakening Mr Bush, discrediting the US economic model and undermining America’s moral authority, these scandals will confirm a trend which began with the Axis of Evil speech and Mr Bush’s over-enthusiastic embrace of Ariel Sharon. By threatening to go to war against countries which have never attacked the United States, and boasting about his power to dispose of any political regimes not to his liking, Mr Bush has lost the respect of both America’s military enemies and its allies. Now the loss of international respect for the United States is moving a step further."
"America has forfeited its global military leadership by blustering against President Saddam Hussein and failing to curb Mr Sharon. It has forfeited its global diplomatic leadership by abrogating treaties on climate change and criminal justice. It has forfeited its global economic leadership by protecting its steel companies and increasing subsidies to farmers. Now America is forfeiting its global business leadership by failing to enforce proper financial practices and ethical standards. This loss of American leadership will probably be the most enduring legacy of the scandals on Wall Street."
Let's start with the line about "threatening to go to war against countries that never attacked the United States." Hasn't Iran declared Jihad so often against the US that it doesn't even make THEIR papers anymore? Iranian-run and supported terrorist groups have attacked US targets since the 1980's. Don't even try to tell me Hezbollah is independent of Tehran. And then there is Iraq. Does anyone really believe Saddam is just a poor innocent dictator who just wants to kill his own people and nobody else's? And let us not forget North Korea. Technically I think the Korean war isn't over yet as there was no treaty so if we are to get nitpicky about this stuff well then... And by the way, I don't think its really possible to have an over enthusiastic embrace of Ariel Sharon, he has the girth of a giant Redwood.
And then I just love it when a European makes fun of the US for subsidies. These guys are the kings of government intervention in the economy in every facet. I definitely don't support us subsidizing certain groups or industries but it is all a matter of scale. Europe has meddled with their industries so much that growth over there is more akin to a mild swelling while we, despite the current downturn, have one of the most powerful economies on Earth.
And now the doozy. "Now America is forfeiting its global business leadership by failing to enforce proper financial practices and ethical standards." Okay so who exactly is going to take our place in this realm? Japan? HA! They are a nursing home run by the mob. Germany? Okay that one is too easy. France? Even easier. The UK? Nobody can even understand a word they say.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
#1 The religion part is mostly intact, in fact we have stretched over backwards to insure that the state makes no mention of religion of any kind (which is not what the amendment requires, but what the hell).
The speech part, well if it's not very offensive or commercial or politcal and occurs within 30 days of an election or ... hmm ... low points here.
On a scale of 1-10, I score it a 5.
#2 Don't get me started. I give it a 2 (since they haven't been completely outlawed yet)
#3 We've done pretty well on this one a 10.
#4 Random drug tests, probable cause searches, warrants issued by rubber stamp. Score: 3
#5 Asset forfeiture laws, drug testing, re-trying cases in Federal court that get not guilty pleas in state courts, Padilla, wetlands legislation, ... Score: 2
#6 I guess "speedy" is subjective but I doubt the average time to trial qualifies. Also overzealous prosectors prompting witnesses, questionable plea bargains,
military tribunals, Padilla, district shopping by tort lawyers... Score: 3
#7 The IRS, asset forfeiture laws, 'forced' plea bargains... Score: 3
#8 Lets see Exxon was fined over $1 Billion for a accidental oil spill in addition to the $2.1 Billion they paid to clean it up and were levied an additional $5 billion (although later overturned). Seems excessive to me but I guess thats subjective too, nevertheless: Score: 4
#9 & # 10 We don't even pretend to pay attention to these anymore, score for the pair : 1
So let's see, my total for the 10 comes to 33 (out of 100). 33% not very promising but it is a passing grade in Florida.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
So how are random drug tests constitutional?
"The purpose of the Farm Security act is to provide farmers with ''price stability.'' What do we mean by ''price stability?'' We mean: your money. You have already been very generous about this: Last year alone, you gave more than $20 billion worth of price stability to farmers. Since 1996, you've given more than a million dollars apiece to more than 1,000 lucky recipients, many of which are actually big agribusinesses. Some of the ''farmers'' you've sent your money to are billionaires, such as Ted Turner and Charles Schwab, as well as major corporations, such as Chevron, DuPont and John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance.
You will also be thrilled, as a taxpayer, to learn that the Farm Security Act provides new subsidies for producers of lentils and chickpeas. And not a moment too soon. This nation has become far too dependent on imported lentils and chickpeas. Try to picture the horror of living in a world in which foreigners, in foreign countries, suddenly cut off our lentil and chickpea supply. Imagine how you would feel if you had to look your small child in the eye and say, ``I'm sorry, little Billy or Suzy as the case may be, but there will be no lentils or chickpeas tonight, and all because we taxpayers were too shortsighted to fork over millions of dollars in support for domestic lentil and chickpea producers, who thus were forced to compete in the market like everybody else, and . . . HEY, COME BACK HERE!''"
"When the global warmers tell us that the stakes are very high, they are quite right. Global warming has become an immense international gravy train worth billions of dollars. It is now one of the largest recipients of government research money in the world. It finances jobs, grants, conferences, international travel and journals. It not only keeps a huge army of people in comfortable employment but also fills them with self-righteousness and moral superiority, and satisfies those deep instincts in the Green movement for meddling, hectoring, controlling and censuring. It enables them to say, ‘The end is nigh unless you give us more funding, repent, and do what we say.’ Behind these exhortations is the vision of Rousseau, of a retreat from the evil industrialised world of motor cars and electricity back to the simpler, nobler world of nature (except for the Green priesthood who will still be allowed to fly in jet planes to attend conferences). "
At a small terminal in the Texas Panhandle,three strangers are awaiting
their shuttle flight. One is a Native American passing through from
Oklahoma. Another, a local ranch hand on his way to Ft. Worth for a stock show.
The third passenger is an Arab student, newly arrived at the Texas oil
patch from the Middle East.
To pass the time they strike up a conversation on recent events, and
the discussion drifts to their diverse cultures. Soon the Westerners learn
that the Arab is a devout Muslim. The conversation falls into an uneasy lull.
The cowpoke leans back in his chair, crosses his boots on a magazine
table, tips his big sweat-stained hat forward over his face. The wind outside
blows tumbleweeds and the old windsock flaps, but no plane comes.
Finally, the Native American clears his throat and softly, he speaks:
"Once my people were many, now we are few."
The Muslim raises an eyebrow and leans forward, "Once my people were
few," he sneers, "and now we are many. Why do you suppose that is?"
The Texan shifts the toothpick to one side of his mouth and from the
darkness beneath his Stetson says, "That's 'cause we ain't played
Cowboys and Muslims yet."
"It is trade, however, that is the primary engine for economic development. The best proof is from some nations in Asia. Four decades ago, Asian countries were among the poorest in the world. They varied widely in their political systems, but the common theme among the economically successful countries was their engagement with the world trading system. The results have been extraordinary. In 1960 South Korea was as poor as India. Today its per capita income is 20 times higher than India's."
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
NY Times: WorldCom Says It Hid Expenses, Inflating Cash Flow $3.8 Billion (I didn't actually see a quote from anyone at Worldcom that they 'hid' expenses, only that they misstated them)
WSJ: WorldCom Inc.'s disclosure of massive accounting fraud ricocheted through the technology and banking industries...
Wash Post: WorldCom Says Its Books Are Off By $3.8 Billion
Now it may be fraud, but from the actual info available (unless there is something I haven't seen which is certainly possible), there is nothing to definitely confirm this.
I have to congratulate the Washington Post on having the most balanced, hyperbole free articles of the majors. All Worldcom said is that through an internal audit it was conducting it discovered that 3.8BB were improperly characterized as capital expenditures in 2001. It may well be fraud (ie an intentional attempt to mislead shareholders), but it may also be an honest error either caused by some accountants mistake on a spreadsheet or an honest misinterpretation of what constituted a capital expenditure vs an expense. Accounting is not, nor was it meant to be, an exact science. There is honest interpretation involved. EG if they lay trans-atlantic cable that is clearly a capital expense. If they break part of the cable and repair it is that a capital expense or operating expense. If they do it while the cable is still being laid it should probably be counted as part of the total capital expense, if it is done when the cable in operation it should probably be an operating expense. I have no idea if this example is actually relevant, I have heard that some of the things treated as capital expenses seemed pretty egregious, but until there is more information calling this a massive fraud unseen in US market history (as one story I saw described it) is extreme to say the least.
(Addendum: When I spell-checked this post, the word suggested to replace Worldcom was Whoredom, made me chuckle : )
Making it a little less anonymous
1. He made aliyah from LA. He was 70,a Holocaust survivor,and retired. On Tuesdays,he would volunteer to do his weekly 'chesed.' Dr. Moshe Gottlieb would attend to children with severe handicaps. For 13years,Dr. Gottlieb spent his Tuesdays helping the children in different clinics. He would not take any payment. He said that he owed G-d for surviving the Holocaust. Dr. Gottlieb was a benefactor for a yeshiva where he wanted young men to learn and help in their communities. Dr. Gottlieb was blown up by the terrorist as he was enroute in his Egged bus ride to chesed. Dr. Moshe Gottlieb is survived by the Holocaust and his family in the USA and Israel.
2. Leah Baruch,59,worked for the President of Israel for 23 years. Lea was one of the housekeepers who knew the house of the President of Israel on Hanasi. Leah was a 'mother' and a sister to the Presidents and their families. Lea's funeral was attended by former First Ladies,Herzog,Weizman,and by President and Mrs. Katzav. Leah is survived by two daughters whom she helped with her salary from the President's house as their chief housekeeper for 23 years.
3. Rachamim Tzidkyiahu,51,was supposed to drive another Egged bus yesterday. Rachamim got to work early and switched bus routes with another driver who was late. In two months, his son,Ron would celebrate his barmitzvah at the Kotel. Yesterday at the night funeral of his father, who died in his driver's seat on the bus,the Rabbis asked Ron to say kaddish before he even knew his whole barmitzvah parsha of Parshat Nachamu. Only two days ago Rachamim worked out his summer work schedule so that he could take off a whole week to celebrate with his wife and Ron on the barmitzvah shabbat after Tisha Ba'av. Last night Tisha Ba'av arrived early in the Tzidkyiahu home. Rachamim was the 'first' Egged bus driver to die in a terrorist attack in six years. Rachamim is survived by his wife,Ron,12.5,and Chani,20,a daughter.
4. Baruch Garani,60,was on his way to Machane Yehuda to buy vegetables. His wife asked him to be 'careful' and he rode the same bus 32 every morning to go around the city. His children had just bought him a cellphone after the last Machane Yehuda bombing. When his wife was in the hospital two months ago at Shaarey Zedek,Baruch,60,would walk 1.5hours from Gilo to make kiddush for her every Shabbat afternoon. Yesterday,Baruch's wife and four children said kaddish for him at Shaarey Zedek's hospital.
5. Boaz Aluf,54,had just celebrated his young son's barmitzvah last week with the entire Aluf family. Boaz worked in Bank Tefahot as a clerk for many years helping with people's mortgage processing. Boaz was the gabbai in his synagogue in Gilo, a synagogue which was hit by Beit Jalla's bullets months ago. Boaz was the daf yomi giver each day in the synagogue at 6 30AM. Boaz is survived by five children and his wife, Esther,a nurse who was in the hospital to 'receive' the news of her dead husband,as she treated other injured victims.
6. Shiri Nagari,22,the third child of the five children of Dr. Tuvia and Esther Nagari. Dr. Tuvia is a well known dentist in Jerusalem and Esther is a mathematician for the government's statistic office. Shiri was a graduate of Pelech, a dati leumi high school,where she graduated with honors before serving the IDF as a teacher. Shiri had just returned from a year studies in the USA. On Sept. 11,01,she was near the World Trade Center to watch its destruction. Shiri worked with kids here who have Down's Syndrome. They cried at the grave last night with the family of Shiri. Who will help these kids today in their hours of special needs?
7. Glila Bugla,11,was from Ethiopia. The nightly shootings into Gilo were too much for her family. A family in New York had helped the Buglas buy an apartment in New York. Glila was scared to go anywhere and only on Sunday had told her 5th grade teacher at the Paula Ben Gurion school in Jerusalem that her family was leaving Israel on July 10,02. Glila's body was blown into pieces and today that which is left,is buried here. Glila is survived by a brother,14,and her parents who wanted to leave to New York.
8. Shani Avitzedek,15,was a ballet dancer in the 9th grade. Tomorrow was her last day in school and she had a ballet performance scheduled for Sunday. Yesterday was the "Yom Kef" fun day that the class was to have gone to the pools of Mesilat Zion. Shani's parents reminded her at 7 30AM not to forget the sunscreen and take plenty of water for drinking. Shani's last words to her parents were not to worry, "The sun won't kill me." Shani is survived by her parents and her three siblings. Today was to have been her 7year old brother's birthday party. This Friday, her big brother was to have been released for 48hours of R&R from his paratroop duties in the IDF.
9. Helena Avon,63,was an immigrant from Romania,20 years ago. Helena was a 'nanny' and caregiver to Mani family. She had just finished walking the dogs and boarded the bus to go to the city for errands. Helena survived the earthquake of Bucharest many years ago before aliyah. Tomorrow,Helena's employer,Mrs. Mani,was coming back to Israel from a visit to Romania. Helena had fed the dogs and then minutes later on the32 bus,was killed by an animal terrorist.
10. Mendel Barzon,71,loved to ride the busses. His son had just dropped him off at the bus stop and asked his Abba if he wanted a ride today. "No,I have my bus pass and friends on the bus." Mendel was the shoemaker and sandlar on Hillel street. He had been everyone's shoe repairman in the Ben Yehuda area. He survived Ben Yehuda bombings and other terror attacks. Mendel the shoemaker was an oleh from Russia in 1991 during the Gulf War. Mendel was a leader in the Meretz senior citizen party who believed that Israel should give it all back and make peace with Arafat. Mendel's body was blown up into 'peaces' by Arafat. Mendel is survived by his two children and three grandchildren.
11. Michal Biazi,24,had not ridden busses for months. Yesterday,her car was in the repair shop. She had no choice,although fearful of this ride to the city in the32 bus. Michal and her husband got into his car but Michal had forgotten her clothing for the bris of her new nephew which was to take place yesterday afternoon. Michal did not want to come back home to Gilo after work and be late to the bris. Michal asked her husband to drop her off at the bus stop and she would continue to work at the Ministry of Tourism. Michal's husband drove back to the apartment to get Michal's clothing which he would bring to the bris. Michal was killed by the terrorist on her 'first' and 'last' bus ride in months. The bris went on schedule,but was rushed by the Mohel,as the bris congregants had to rush out to bury Michal,the aunt who forgot her clothing and never held her baby nephew. Michal and her husband did not yet have children. Michal was supposed to be one of those women who would carry in the baby to the bris,as s 'segula' (good luck) to have her own baby soon. Michal is survived by her husband,her six siblings,and parents.
12. Tania Braslavsky,41,immigrated to Israel 11 years ago with her husband and child. Tania was an engineer. She and her husband were fearful of raising a child in Russia. Her husband had been beaten by antisemites in Russia for wearing his kippa in public. Tania's love of the sea brought her family each weekend to Tel Aviv for a swim and fun. Tania's hands were found separated 100meters from the bus' explosion. Tania was buried last night, another immigrant from Russia of fear to Israel of death.
13. Rafael Berger,27,served with the IDF as a reserve officer in Jenin during Passover. Only nine months ago,he and Orit, his wife,moved to Gilo. Rafael was working on his doctorate at the Hebrew University. Rafael was supposed to finish oral exams next week for the Phd. Rafael is survived by the battle of Jenin,his wife,and parents.
14. Liat Gan,24,sat next to her baby brother,Yoni,16 on the bus. The terrorist entered the bus and Yoni whispered to his sister that he was suspicious of the terrorist. Seconds later the bomb went off. Yoni talked to his sister and tried to 'revive' her. Yoni fell into a state of unconsciousness and thought that his sister had fainted. Liat was engaged to be married in August. Liat was an employee in a law firm. She and her brother often travelled together on the same bus. Yoni would get off the bus to go to high school and his sister,Liat,would continue onto work. Liat is survived by three siblings, parents, and a fiancee.
15. Gila Nekev,55,made aliya from France 30years ago. Gila was a bus rider too. Gila never liked driving her car as parking was always a hassle where she worked. Gila was a single Mom who raised her three daughters,Ela,28,Orit,24,and Noa,20. Gila was always proud of her three soldier daughters. Yesterday the three daughters recited kaddish together for Mom. Gila was going to work on her last day before vacation week.
16. Iaman Gazi,25,was an Arab from Wadi Ara,and a student at the vocational school in Jerusalem. He had been awarded a special scholarship to the vocational school from the government. He would return every weekend to his home in Wadi Ara to save money on dorm life at the school in Jerusalem. He was an Israeli Arab who was killed by a terrorist Arab. He is survived by 6siblings and parents.
17.18,19 bodies are still in pieces,no identification yet
"The answer is as important as it is contemptible.
In general, the left does not care about women, independent judiciaries, minorities, democracy, gays or almost anything else for which it marches. That is why the left opposed America's war in Afghanistan, which liberated women from being treated like animals.
Nearly all the causes the left speaks for are noble-sounding covers for its real agenda -- the overthrowing of Western, especially Judeo-Christian and capitalist, values. Remember the chant at Stanford, "Hey, hey, ho ho, Western civ has got to go"? That is what animates the left."
"It's a Dick Tracy world: cell phones are wristwatch-size, televisions are a quarter-inch thick, swimming pool chemicals take care of themselves, pre-made salads last nearly forever in the fridge, diapers are silky to the touch and cancer is treatable.
Sound futuristic? Some of those products are already available, and others are in development today. They're all possible thanks to very different inventions by Michigan companies that have one thing in common: nanotechnology."
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
"Western leftists find themselves in strange company when it comes to the Middle East. Are they really happy to line up with neo-Nazis and Islamic fundamentalists?
For Israeli, read western; and for the west, read modernity. What the anti-globalists share above all with their newfound fellow-travellers among the Islamic fundamentalists is a loss of faith in the modern age and in Enlightenment ideas. The spirit of their protests was captured by a banner at a recent rally in Berlin: "Civilisation is genocide".
Yet, despite all the criticisms of America, they end up calling on the Great Satan to solve the problems of the world, and particularly of the Middle East. The demand of the western activists who visit the West Bank is for more international intervention. Back in the west, the Palestinian solidarity campaigns demand sanctions against the Israeli state and a boycott of Israeli goods. The opponents of globalisation want to globalise the Middle East conflict; they demand that the US and Europe turn their attention away from disciplining Iraq and towards punishing Israel. In effect, they end up echoing the call of Robert Cooper, Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser, for a new kind of imperialism - the same kind of "humanitarian" arrogance that recently prompted the British government to say it would send troops to India, although the Indian government did not want them."
Let me take this opportunity to expand on my Tort Theory of Anti-Evolution:
For thousands of years humans have bred, favouring mates who where smarter and stronger. This caused the human race to gradually become smarter and better. (We may still be pretty awful, but we are definitely on an upward path). Very stupid people committed many stupid acts and usually killed themselves before they had a chance to breed. (see Darwin Awards) Even if they did manage to survive they weren't the best picks in the gene pool so they usually managed to grow old alone. Nowadays however, very stupid people can get a lawyer (actually in most cases the lawyer will find them), sue and have a good chance of winning the stupid lottery. The resultant windfall then makes them far more attractive to potential mates which changes the fitness function for future generations. The effect is subtle but, I think, obvious nontheless. Over time we are creating a race of very stupid people who take large, dangerous risks. Look around, prove me wrong.
"Nike used to have two contract factories in impoverished Cambodia, among the neediest countries in the world. Then there was an outcry after BBC reported that three girls in one factory were under 15 years old. So Nike fled controversy by ceasing production in Cambodia. The result was that some of the 2,000 Cambodians (90 percent of them young women) who worked in those factories faced layoffs. Some who lost their jobs probably were ensnared in Cambodia's huge sex slave industry — which leaves many girls dead of AIDS by the end of their teenage years."
The suicide bombing campaign cannot be intended to achieve any significant short-term goal. First, it is not likely to generate a peace movement in Israel --quite the contrary. Second, it locks the United States into alignment with Israel, rather than driving a wedge between the two. Finally, it creates an extreme psychology within the Palestinian community that makes political flexibility all the more difficult. The fervor that creates suicide bombers also creates a class of martyrs whose sacrifices are difficult to negotiate away. The breadth and intensity of the suicide bombings force us to conclude that the Palestinian leadership is focusing on a long-term strategy of holding the Palestinians together in a sense of profound embattlement, transforming the dynamics of the Arab world and then striking at Israel from a position of strength. In short, the Palestinians think that time is on their side and that sacrifices for a generation or two will yield dividends later. If they wait, they will win.
Here Palestinian strategy, intentionally or unintentionally, intersects with that of al Qaeda, which also is committed to a radical transformation of the Islamic world. Its confrontation with the United States is designed to set the stage for this transformation, enabling the Islamic world to engage and defeat the enemies of Islam.
"The star witness against the government of Iraq hobbled into the room, her legs braced with clumsy metal callipers. "Anna" had been tortured two years ago. She is now four years old"
"When did you last see your father? Has he phoned? Has he been in contact?" They half-crushed the toddler's feet.
Now, she doesn't walk, she hobbles, and Ali fears that Saddam's men have crippled his daughter for life. So Ali talked to us.
I have been to Baghdad a number of times. Being in Iraq is like creeping around inside someone else's migraine. The fear is so omnipresent you could almost eat it. No one talks."
Last night while putting my daughters to bed, I read them the book "Pickles to Pittsburgh" by Judi Barrett. It is a sequel to "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" which is about a town called Chewandswallow, where giant food rains down from the sky and where broccoli stalks grow to the size of trees and he rivers run with milk. The end of "...Meatballs" has the inhabitants of the town leaving on boats across the ocean because the storms of food have become too iolent and it has become too dangerous to live in a place where 100 lb meatballs fall from the sky. I mostly enjoy these books as do the girls. The illustrations are musing andwell done. In "Pickles to Pittsburgh" the town has been inhabited again, this time by workers for the "Falling Food Company" which collects the food and istributes it worldwide thereby alleviating world hunger (or so it is hinted) as food is given to countries rich and poor.
And there lies the subject of my rant. It seems to me that this idea exactly mimics the simplistic notions of the utopian fantasies of the leftist, anti-globalist crowds (to say nothing of Bono's African aid delusions). The premise is that if we only had 'free' food (gave more aid money, didn't have exploitive companies like cDonalds selling cheeseburgers in France, etc...) the world would be a much better place. In the book the illustrations show dozens (who are presumably a small subset of thousands) of workers loading giant food onto helicopters and ships for transport. No OSHA rules here to worry about, apparently hardhats are sufficient protection against 500 lb tuna sandwiches falling from the sky. What the book doesn't say however, is how do these workers get paid? Who paid for the ships and helicopters and the fuel to run them? Perhaps the workers get paid in food, but then where do they get their clothes? Maybe they are given a sufficient excess of food to trade, but if food is free anyway it must have zero value as a currency (which again asks the question, why would the workers agree to be paid in food).
These questions are not addressed (it is, after all, a childrens book, so I do not mean to be too hard on the book or expect it to explain everything, but I am annoyed by the suggestion it makes). That brings us back to the real world, where questions of aid, education, food for the third world ignore all the messy questions.
Several hundred years ago people worked on farms for 12-16 hrs/day, 7 days a week to produce enough food to provide themselves a subsistence living with perhaps a little left to sell. As recently as a hundred years ago, 40% of all employment was farm related. It is now under 2% and there is still so much excess capacity in that 2% that extensive government price supports are required to keep food prices from plummeting. Food takes up an average of 14% of the American budget now vs close to 50% in 1900 and the avg calorie intake is much higher (not necessarily a good thing). So for practical purposes food is free (or at least very cheap especially for subsistence level diets). So why is it we don't just distribute all this food and end world hunger? Therein lies the rub: the messy details. We do, in fact, distribute lots of food around the world both through the government and charitable organizations. A lot of it is stolen by warring factions and tribes in the numerous civil and tribal wars that dot much of Africa either for their own use or to sell. Another portion sits on docks where it rots because there
are no roads or other infrastructure to get it from the point where it is dropped to the people who need it or it is taken by the kleptocracies that rule those nations and resold abroad for hard cash to deposit in Swiss bank accounts. Bono thinks with a few hundred million in additional aid we could build wells in every village in Africa and provide clean drinking water. But he does not address the problems of how this is actually accomplished as if just dropping money will create wells. It requires an infrastructure to bring in machinery, people with skills to do it and relatively uncorrupt governments to get it done, rather than stealing the cash.
Unfortunately hunger and poverty are almost everywhere created by local politics and not by lack of resources, but the left sees the world as a fixed pie and would rather blame Third world shortages on our abundance rather than on the corrupt, frequently socialist local policies of their rulers. And while I don't suggest you stop giving to aid organizations (some of the food does actually get through) I would suggest that it will only be a band-aid until there is actual politcal reform and embrace of market mechanisms in these countries and that we would almost certainly do more good by lowering or removing our tariff barriers to goods from these nations and buying their products than by sending them more cash or food.
Monday, June 24, 2002
The Truth About Blogging
Now, just to demonstrate that folly is constant from medium to medium, consider another of this week's examples--the blogger Mickey Kaus.
Bloggers, in case you have been spending the irreplaceable moments of your one and only life reading serious newspapers and good books, are people who maintain Internet logs of their personal analysis and reflections. It's sort of old wine in new skins, since the bloggers are basically a narcissistic throwback to an easily recognizable American type, the 19th century cranks who turned out mountains of self-published pamphlets.
The cranks had all sorts of idiosyncratic preoccupations--single tax schemes, silver-backed currency, vegetarianism and the metaphysical benefits of healthy bowels, for example. Bloggers tend to dabble in politics, media and vendetta.
Wednesday, for instance, Kaus posted an item on his personal site (www.kausfiles.com) praising former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee for allowing reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to publish their articles on Watergate at a rapid pace, even though that "sometimes meant revealing unsubstantiated or simply wrong information."
According to Kaus, "Bradlee instinctively understood--you keep the story going, with hit after little hit, which gets people talking, which panics sources into coming forward, which gets other papers into the hunt and ultimately brings much more information to light, even if this means you occasionally get something wrong....This virtue of Bradlee's editorship, it seems to me, is also a virtue of blogging as a form of journalism. The Web really does put a premium on speed and spontaneity over painstaking accuracy. Bloggers instantly print what they learn, and what they believe to be true. They sometimes--often, actually--get it wrong. But even those errors prompt swift corrections that take the story asymptotically closer to the truth."
For those who cut that particular math class, "asymptotically" is the adverbial form of the noun "asymptote," which is what you call a straight line that always approaches but never actually meets a curve. In other words, bloggers' frequent errors of fact are inconsequential, since they push a story toward the truth, though it never quite gets there, which apparently doesn't matter.
Kaus argues the superiority of this approach to that of "the L.A. Times editor of several decades ago" whose "unbloggish motto" was "Do It Once, Do It Right, And Do It Long."
At the risk of committing "painstaking accuracy," the editor was Bill Thomas, who served until 1989. He was a veteran journalist with a well-founded skepticism of self-interested newspaper crusades. He had traditional notions about the facts, which led him to abhor mistakes and to esteem fairness and balance. His motto was "Do it once. Do it right." He certainly would have recognized an asymptotic approach to the truth for what it is--an excuse and a scam.
THE REPUBLICAN BETRAYAL-- from A to Z
Here are just 26 ways they have sold you out -- one for each
letter of the alphabet.
A is for the Asset forfeiture laws -- that aren't being
repealed, but given only cosmetic changes.
B is for the Budgets that just keep getting bigger & bigger.
C is for Corporate welfare -- which expands and expands and
D is for the Debt -- which gets larger and larger, despite
E is for the Education & Energy Departments, which were
supposed to be Eliminated, but have Expanded instead.
F is for Federalism -- which continues to be ignored by every
new GOP proposal.
G is for all the Gun control laws the Republicans have caved
H is for HillaryCare - the health care takeover the Democrats
couldn't pass all at once, but which the Republicans are
passing one bill at a time.
I is for IRS reform -- which was almost entirely a sham.
J is for all the Judges that Clinton has nominated and the
Republicans have approved, even though those judges don't
support the Constitution.
K is for Keeping every single department and agency the
Republicans promised to get rid of.
L is for Laws, Laws, and more Laws passed by the Republican
M is for Mandatory Minimum sentences, which are
unconstitutional, immoral, and unjust, but which don't seem
to bother the Republicans.
N is for (what else?) the National Endowment for the
Arts -- the Republicans' favorite fund-raising enemy, which
of course they have enlarged, not eliminated.
O is for Over-regulation, which continues unhindered, despite
all the GOP promises.
P is for the Pay hike for Congressmen -- who don't believe they
get paid enough to run our lives.
Q is for the Quotas that never go away -- despite the endless
posturing against them by Republicans.
R is for Repealing laws -- something every Republican vows to
do, but hasn't gotten around to yet. When will they
start -- in 2009?.
S is for Social Security privatization -- and for the GOP
transition plan, which would take 60 years to complete. (Just
think, your great-grandchildren will be free from Social
Security! Oh, by the way, I have some desert property you
might like to buy as well.)
T is for the Tax burden, that continues to worsen for all
Americans, because every "tax cut" just rearranges the awful
cost of big government spending -- which the Republicans have
done nothing to reduce.
U is for the countless Usurpations of power that the 9th & 10th
amendments reserved for the people and the states.
V is for the Victory the Republicans declare whenever they
pass a bill, or when they get the Democrats to moderate
slightly a new burden -- even though every bill they pass
makes government more expensive, more intrusive, and more
W is for the Wars the Republicans always
support -- enthusiastically or reluctantly, but support
they do -- despite the bombing of innocent civilians,
despite the rationale it provides for anti-American
terrorists, despite putting our sons and daughters in
harm's way. (Yes,it's a dangerous world out there. Who do
you suppose made it that way?)
X is for the Xenophobia the Republicans display against
immigrants, imports, Serbs, and anyone else who gets in the
way of the party's major backers.
Y is for the unconstitutional, senseless Yugoslavian war -- which
the Republicans exploited to pass a ton more of their
pork-barrel political payoffs..
Z is for their Zealous pursuit of the insane War on
Drugs -- despite its obvious failure and despite the countless
human tragedies it has caused
The Jane Galt
Take six ounces of vodka
Place in water glass
Drink at once.
That said, I must say that while I find the distinction expressed by the court ridiculous that I am opposed to capital punishment and wish the various state legislatures that allow it would just do away with it. My opposition however, is not on the standard moral grounds against killing usually offered by the anti-CP crowd. The people on death row are for the most part truly heinous individuals and the world would almost certainly be a better place without them. Even if there is no deterrent effect (on which I think the evidence is mixed) I think retribution is sufficient reason to remove most of these folks from the planet. My opposition is three-fold. The first is a vague Libertarian discomfort at allowing the state the power to kill its citizens (although I don't think there is any constitutional restriction, there is more than enough historical evidence to support the position that the 8th amendment doesn't exclude capital punishment). The other two reasons are more practical. The first is that because of the serious and permanent nature of capital punishment that the ordinary legal standard of reasonable doubt is not sufficient. While I don't think there have been dozens of innocents executed as some of the anti-CP folks claim, I think that even the possibility of one innocent person executed is sufficient to end the practice. There have certainly been enough tales of overzealous prosecutors looking to add another notch to their belts that I think the probabilty of executing an innocent person is well above zero. Secondly since the courts also realize that a higher standard is required in capital cases they have allowed endless appeals which makes the entire process enormously costly and wasteful. I think the courts are right to allow the extra leeway because of my first point and I disagree with the attempts to limit the appeals process in capital cases, but that said I think it makes capital cases a huge drain on the courts and prosecutors offices that could be better spent removing other criminals from the street. So while I think the world would be better off without these folks, I have no problem if we just remove them to a small cell in some maximum security prison for the rest of their days.