August 31, 2004
Letter to the Paper XXVIII
I linked through to The Yin Blog where, among other good stuff, they ask, can the War on Terror be won? There was an awful lot of negativity on the subject so I piped up with (so far only example of) an optimist's view:
August 29, 2004
Cost Analysis Can't be One Sided
I just got through a Foreign Affairs analysis of GWOT costs and I can't understand how a supposedly serious magazine can be so myopic. Every choice, to become more engaged and fight the GWOT, to stay at home and readopt the law enforcement ethos of the Clinton and prior administrations, has a cost. The article counts the costs of the Bush path but does not provide any sense of what the potential costs are of not going down that road.
The cost of inaction is eventually the loss of a major city population in a large scale WMD attack. What is the cost in GDP, how much will the world go into convulsions after such an attack? While criticizing our present course as financially ruinous, not providing any cost comparisons makes the analysis useless for the mundane task of picking a policy to actually follow in future. It is quite likely that the US will be on a financial tightrope for the rest of my life, the rest of my children's lives as well. Technological inventiveness may come to our rescue but things are looking pretty grim no matter which policy we choose.
Foreign Affairs had an obligation to its readers to make it clear that there are no easy answers available, that all choices have very unpalatable financial costs attached. They failed that test of seriousness.
August 26, 2004
Small Disconnections I
When people think about the 1st world and the 3rd, when they take a look at the Core and the Gap, for most it is an emotional replay of the Cold War. First world observers think that the big disconnections are what bother people the most. In reality, the day to day, small annoyances are what drive the disconnected mad as even small rebellions are viewed with alarm by the maximum leaders.
Who would have thought that the first thing that Afghans would want to do when free from the Taliban was to shave?
August 25, 2004
Iron Blog Subjects: Balanced Budget
The concept of a balanced budget in government finances is intimately tied together to the concept of what is government good for. If you accept, a priori, that you are providing services to the population of today that cannot be accomplished as well privately and you are building things for tomorrow that, again, cannot be better provided by the private sector, you agree to the same sorts of calculations of national interest that families do around their kitchen table when they plan on buying a house or taking on other major expenditures.
Some things are just unaffordable, some things aren't worth doing even if you have the money, and some things are worth going into debt over. To be a fetishist over a balanced budget means that you think that there is nothing so important that it isn't worth going into debt over.
Now, as a libertarian, the list of things that I think the private sector can't do better than government is a lot closer to zero than your everyday average centrist. But it's not zero. Financing a war is probably the most common and biggest effort that is a justifiable reason to run a deficit. Military related expenditures like GPS satellites are also on the list.
Expansion expenses, such as purchasing from sovereigns who would not sell to any but a national entity is another legitimate expenditure. I don't find the Louisiana, Gadsen, or Alaska purchases to be illegitimate and certainly they have paid off over the years. Expenses undertaken to establish law and legitimate security operations in new territory also fit the bill.
So even in a libertarian world view, it's legitimate to go into debt. The expenditure must be for the survival of the country or an investment that cannot be done privately and will benefit the general public over the long haul.
Return of the Weathermen?
Apparently the bombers are getting out of jail recently and some have taken on organizing roles at the anti-RNC convention protests. I've been thinking that some of the worries on the right have been overblown regarding protests but the Weathermen were hard core violent. If they aren't drummed out of any role, if these hard line communists are acceptable coalition partners on the left, the unthinkable is starting to get thinkable.
Will serious violence happen? I hope not. The chance of the left being that kind of stupid is low. It's not as low as it was last week though.
August 24, 2004
Just did a bit of shopping for a client (Macromedia Studio MX with Flash) and it really is amazing how Amazon is willing to undercut its own software sales by listing new products and 3rd party sales at vastly lower prices on the same page. What's more the 3rd party sales are guaranteed by Amazon.
In Favor of Iranian Nukes
If we're serious about the idea of bringing the 3rd world into the functioning core of the world, we are grossly under-endowed with the energy resources needed to do the job without much higher energy prices. Any energy source addition is welcome because it is going to ease the impact of all those new customers coming online. That brings us to Iran and their nuclear power program.
I believe that there is nothing wrong with Iran having nuclear power. Even though they have a local surplus of oil, they can always export more and replace domestic oil burning with nuclear energy. The argument against nuclear powerplants is, in essence, an argument that regime change in Iran will not come in time before the plants come online. That's fine and all but really the argument should be made explicitly on that basis and the Russians, French, et al who are pushing to enter into contracts with Iran to create their nuclear sector should have to confront the reality that by accelerating Iran's nuclear program, they accelerate the death of any political relationship they have with the current regime because that regime will be gone by the time the plants open.
So bring on the nuclear power plants, bring on the revolution.
Where Bush's Immigration Strategy is Coming From?
Global Transaction Strategy is the title of an older Dr. Barnett article. There's lots of good stuff about how the world is shaping up and how it needs to continue for us to all survive this dangerous time. One of the neat things about broad thinkers is that you can go back and find nuggets that you didn't notice the first (or the fifth) time you read a piece:
I can't think of a better description of President Bush's worker visa proposal than a real attempt to put the above paragraph into policy for the US to create a real pressure release valve. Politically, the guest worker visa program never has made much sense. What xenophobes there are in this country are disproportionately on the right side of the political spectrum which means when they're not voting fringe, they'll tend to vote Republican. So why would President Bush take the political risk that this portion of his voting coalition will sit on its hands come November?
Business interests don't mind the current situation too much. Plenty of labor moves into the country in the current situation and they aren't hounded by 'la migra' as in the bad old days of mass immigration raids which shut down business and could decimate a workforce. A minor tweaking of some specialized skills categories would have made business pretty happy without rocking the boat too much.
It's only when you look at it as a national security issue, providing a safety valve while you thin out the infrastructure of illegal border crossing does this initiative make any sense and Bush apparently feels strongly enough about it to risk losing some of the immigration averse vote that he might otherwise have.
August 23, 2004
Kerry's Senate Testimony
CSPAN has Kerry's full transcript of his testimony before the Senate in 1971 on Vietnam. As it's become relevant to all those puzzling over SBVT's 2nd commercial, if you haven't read it, read it. Furthermore, if you've read a bowdlerized version, with ellipsis chopping out relevant bits, go read it again and see who's been messing with your head and how.
The Kerry campaign is claiming that he was not making these accusations of horrible atrocities himself. It's a big stretch to say so at best. Here is the kicker:
SBVT has a great deal to be angry for. Kerry wasn't making accusations on the part of a group of vets but in the name of all vets. Usually, witnesses are given the transcript before its made official and Kerry had an opportunity (when he had more sleep and time to reflect) to change the to a and not claim the mantle of all veterans. Nobody would have said a word in protest.
Kerry's not representing the WSI veterans or even VVAW the group he associated with but "all those veterans", "the group of veterans in this country" and that's what makes Kerry's subsequent testimony stink so bad. I won't pull the rest, go read the sickening transcript for yourself. WSI was long ago exposed as a pathetic tissue of lies. VVAW lost Kerry when members started seriously discussing assassinating pro-war US Senators. This is ancient history except for the truth telling and lies being told about it today. Those acts of faith and betrayal open a window on a prospective Kerry presidency and on the current state of the soul of one John F. Kerry.
August 21, 2004
So What if Bush Condemned the Swifties?
Let's play make believe for a minute here. John Kerry has demanded that George W Bush condemn the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads and demand that they be pulled off the air. Pretend for a minute that President Bush did just that and SBVT pulls the ad soon after. How soon do you think the lawsuits will start flying?
SBVT is a 527 organization, a group that cannot coordinate its political activities with a campaign. President Bush would have given an instruction and been followed. That's a pretty good case for coordination and a hefty FEC penalty for the Bush campaign as well as financial headaches for SBVT and its funders as the IRS gets involved.
Update: Well that didn't take long. It seems like the Kerry campaign decided to let fly with what they've got when the Bush campaign didn't take their bait.
To Gamble or Not To Gamble
My cousin is taking very imprudent bets. He offered 3:1 for Kerry to win in November to a roommate. He doesn't even like Kerry, he just is convinced that he's going to win. He was taken aback at the idea of Tradesports with its politics contracts currently running at 26:24 in favor of GWB. His roommate could bet on Bush at Tradesports, laying off the risk of the bet entirely, and make a profit no matter who won the election.
We banter back and forth on this idea that Kerry's got it in the bag so he got fed up and offered me 2:1. Now I've got to figure out whether I want to truly gamble or just take the guaranteed profit. What do you folks think?
On a broader note, Internet betting on anything is likely to kill the medium to long term amateur betting phenomenon because if you run out of alignment with what the experts are offering (in either direction) you're just giving your betting partner free money. Or maybe not, Vegas, after all, hasn't dried up yet.
August 19, 2004
How Michael Kinsley Lost My Respect
Michael Kinsley used to have such a reputation as a thinking liberal, yet here he is playing the hack and confusing the broad category of stem cell research with one of its two subcategories, embryonic stem cell research. And not only does he commit hackery, it's a nasty form that concentrates on smearing Laura Bush for daring to not be a manipulative power behind the throne.
Kinsley's nasty piece of cat fighting doesn't come out like that though. He's complaining that the media hasn't caught Mrs. Bush in full harpy mode. Perhaps they've been lazy, he seems to suggest, or Mrs. Bush is just extremely good at hiding her harpiness.
The witchiness over Mrs. Bush is an effective smokescreen to stop the reader from asking the important basic factual question. When did stem cells get discovered and how many presidencies could have researched them. The answer is they've been around at least two decades which is how long scientists have been working on trying to get these cells to reproduce in humans. Federal rules against funding embryonic stem cell research long predate President Bush's rules and Kinsley just doesn't want us to bother fact checking him so he distracts us with low blows to the first lady.
August 18, 2004
Wanted: A Department of Anarchy VII
Do we already have a proto-department of anarchy? We just might as a part of OMB. While the Data Quality Act would only do a small subset of what a true DoA would do, it's an important part and something that's in actual law today, not just the fevered imaginings of some blog writer. OMB is an unlikely place for the DoA to grow out of but, like any good bit of anarchy, its very unpredictability is an asset.
Writing For Pay?
I just submitted my first item for publication. It's a reprint of an earlier blog post but it's an evergreen, with little timeliness component to it. I wonder how long it'll take before I find out whether they publish?
August 17, 2004
Remove Troops Where They're Not Needed
Going to the store I heard Richard Holbrooke on the radio explaining how President Bush's plan to reduce troop strength in Europe and Asia was a bad idea. As a Kerry campaign advisor, he really seemed to go into the tank. Foreign deployment of our troops doesn't cost more than domestic deployment, our allies pay for that deployment, it will weaken our alliances at a time of delicate negotiation, and it'll be exactly what Jacques Chiraq wants.
The last part puzzled me as I usually thought that strengthening alliances meant doing what your ally wants so you get what you want. But I guess what Holbrooke meant was that we should interfere with France's politics so that Jacques Chirac is no longer president. Oops, did Holbrooke really say that? What a smooth operator, that guy.
We've spent an awful long time in Germany and Japan, guarding against Soviet imperialism. We even stayed an extra decade and a half after the Soviets collapsed, just to make sure that we didn't rush out just as a new threat was rising. It's time to leave, and its time to do so without playing politics over the whole thing as an election issue. No doubt that's why the Bush administration has been working on these changes for years and will phase them in over further years so that our allies don't get slammed or feel punished over the whole thing.
Holbrooke, unfortunately, doesn't want to go along with the whole "politics stops at the water's edge" tradition and is trying to spin this for Kerry. His claims that this will strengthen N. Korea's hand in negotiations exhibits a strange divorce from reality as I understand the situation. The US is accused by the N. Koreans of planning an invasion. By both pulling back from the border and by reducing US troop strength in S. Korea, the N. Korean position becomes much more difficult to maintain. The idea that more US troops on their border are supposed to induce N. Korea to cease nuclear weapons development as a counter to those troops seems rather far fetched.
Why is Richard Holbrooke descending into political hackdom for Kerry?
August 16, 2004
Defining Deviancy Down in NJ
I have to dissent from Outside the Beltway's take on McGreevey's resignation:
Is it still acceptable to think that somebody who leads that much of a double life, who can lie to not one but two women and have children with them while practicing biologically risky sex on the side is unfit for office even if he weren't also paying off his illicit lover from the public purse? Should such condemnation be just in the privacy of the voting booth and once we are in public we dare not say our true opinions?
That's really defining deviancy down. This man betrayed two families, including innocent children that he fathered. While the corruption itself was sufficient for an immediate resignation, absent that political corruption, would it have been sufficiently forgivable for McGreevey to stay in office? I don't think so, though I do agree that the misuse of taxpayer funds and reckless disregard for the safety of NJ citizens in wartime is the easiest charge and more than sufficient to eject him from the statehouse.
August 13, 2004
Here's a neat bit of technology, a corrugated box that lets you get from high point a to the ground via autorotating cardboard rotor blades. $300, easy to assemble, the CoptorBox doesn't require much training to assemble and drop.
August 12, 2004
So What's our Excuse?
Lots of people have been hyperventilating about Russia and loose nuclear weapons material for over a decade. So what's our excuse? We've been spending a great deal of money in assisting the Russians in securing their nuclear material via the Nunn-Lugar Act. If we heard about 1,375 kilos of plutonium gone missing, the commentariat would be out for blood with every paper in the country running tabloid headlines and panic would grip Washington and probably far beyond.
So we've got that much missing and it's a minor mention in a few little sites. What logical reason do we have to differentiate the two?
Practice Software: Platform Decisions
Medical software is one of those areas where you aren't necessarily locked into Windows/x86. There's a long tradition of Unix as well as a bunch of doctors committed to the Macintosh platform. For Maria Medical, we've decided to go with the Mac because it's likely to give us lower prices than the proprietary Unix vendors but won't expose us to the problems of the Windows platform, flaky code and lot's of malware floating around.
Comments are open. Feel free to discuss platform choices but be aware I support Windows, Linux, and Macintosh for money.
Missing the Point
Benazir Bhutto's recent commentary on Pakistan's plight puts the stress on poverty. The problem isn't poverty, but disconnection and poverty is a consequence of that disconnect from the economic core of our globalizing world.
The difference between the rich and poor in dollar terms is the biggest in the US. We have the world's wealthiest man, after all, in our country. But while some may envy Bill Gates' billions, he does not have to fear violence at the same level as many wealthy elites do in the 3rd world, even though those elites have a mere fraction of the wealth that Gates and other 1st world wealthy have accumulated. The difference between the 3rd world wealthy and the 1st world wealthy is twofold.
First, and most important, the 1st world wealthy tend to have many fewer exceptions made for them in the rule of law than 3rd world wealthy. They may be able to buy their way out of a some personal legal difficulty but they are much less likely to draw a significant portion of their fortune from government granted monopolies and concessions. They are much more likely to have gotten to the top by playing the game everybody else could have played if they were just as good at it as the 1st world wealthy are.
The second difference is in the mobility of wealth. People win and lose fortunes in the 1st world at a pretty astonishing rate. Some people have made the round trip from poor to rich and back again several times. It is the very permanence of the elites in the 3rd world that makes for frustration, the rigging of the rules that not only allows people to make their fortunes, but keep them in the face of incompetence, waste, and laziness that can drive men so mad as to countenance violence.
An honest system, or at least a more honest one, would level the playing field. The rich would have to safeguard their fortunes with care because foolishness will be punished by the market. The poor will start to see their own indigenous Horatio Algers and the idea that applying themselves can lead to great success will steal away recruits from the extremists of all stripes.
Benazir Bhutto, unfortunately, wants to only treat the fever (poverty) without addressing the underlying infection. Her family has risen to prominence in the current system and it would take a truly great, visionary statesman to advocate overthrowing the system that brought them to prominence. Maybe, one day, she'll grow into that but that day is not today.
Core Practice Software I
Modern, mainstream medical practices have a trifecta of software. A mainstream small business accounting program provides for general accounting needs just like any other business. But such programs break down with the arcana of insurance provider billing so a second program exists just to do billing. For those thinking ahead, a third program is added to the mix, an electronic medical records program. This one tracks patient records including observations, diagnoses, and treatments.
There is an efficiency problem here. You can buy three separate programs that don't work with each other and get triple data entry with higher than normal chances of data entry error. Or you can integrate the three together and have data pass down the workflow chain. This not only lowers error but also reduces record keeping overhead, a serious cost in itself.
The name of the game is 55%. That's the traditional overhead figure for a medical practice in the Chicago area. If you can drop the overhead figure below 55% by investing in tools and training, you're going to do pretty well for yourself as a doctor.
My wife is starting a new business, a private practice incorporated as Maria Medical. We've been in a quiet period that ended yesterday when she finally broke the news to her boss. The business is interesting and I'm going to be blogging about the general experience here with cross-posts at my other haunt, Chicago Boyz. I'm hoping to get a few postings from the Mrs. as well so we'll see.
August 10, 2004
Found Person Report
It looks like The Religious Policeman is back from vacation but apparently has decided to keep his head down for now.
August 08, 2004
Letter to the Paper XXVII
The Annenberg Center's FactCheck.org site writes about the Swift Boat Veteran's for Truth ad and, unhappily, seems several days behind the facts:
I wonder when they'll fix the article with the new facts as they evolve? This is a gut check time for Annenberg.
August 07, 2004
The Saudis have announced their election timetable for upcoming local elections:
This phased election pattern is not the best, to say the least. The only thing worse than a phased election system was Saudi Arabia's previous pattern of no elections at all. But you take what progress you can get in the great game of connectedness. If the Saudis end up being happy about it and it gets them closer to rules based consensual government, so be it.
So good wishes to all the brave souls who will try to bring an independent presence to KSA governance. They're going to need it.
Prof. Bainbridge suggests that blogs should be trademarked. That's just fine for most blogs but I do wonder how I should render my own blog name...
Kerry's War Problem II
The Democrat lawyers have given us a splendid opportunity to test the truth claims of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. According to a letter circulated to TV stations Louis Letson is "a man pretending to be the doctor who treated Senator Kerry for one of his injuries" which is a clear statement of fact, that Louis Letson is not one of Senator Kerry's treating physicians for his wounds that resulted in his purple heart citations.
So who were his treating physicians? And what do they remember about Senator Kerry's wounds? Journalists should be following this up.
Another interesting aspect of the letter is that it lays the burden of verifying truth on the stations, stating that false and libelous charges by independent committees can expose stations to libel charges. This is a dangerous course for a campaign which is so heavily supported by independent expenditures.
Kerry's War Problem I
Kerry's problem with the Swift Boat Veteran's for Truth as shown in the recent ad attacking his record is manifold. Some of it is about Kerry's well publicized about face after he returned from Vietnam. The ad script outlines thirteen charges. Three of those thirteen charges are crimes. They are
1. Louis Letson: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury."
2. Van O'Dell: "John Kerry lied to get his bronze star ... I know, I was there, I saw what happened."
3. Grant Hibbard: "He betrayed all his shipmates ... he lied before the Senate."
I'm not quite sure about the 10 other charges. I'm not even sure whether there are statutes of limitations that mean that these crimes are no longer prosecutable. I do know that if the first crime, lying about his first purple heart is true, Kerry is guilty of a further crime, relying on a false citation to get him out of Vietnam. Kerry once famously asked how do you ask the last man to die for a mistake (US operations in Vietnam). How did Kerry ask somebody else to serve 8 months of his Vietnam service if he got out illegitimately?
If Kerry had not run so heavily on his war record, it's likely that a lot of people would let old stories like this die out. But Kerry is running heavily on his Vietnam record, to the point of it crowding out his Senate record in Kerry advertising efforts. That means that his conduct during that period deserves extra heavy scrutiny. If Kerry's actions in Vietnam are his biggest qualification according to Kerry, we should not be judging a lie.
August 06, 2004
The Hits Keep Coming
Off to a client this morning and as I'm heading downtown I find myself car #1 (lead car) in a 9 car pileup. Oh, the joys of pain killers and muscle relaxants...
Actually it wasn't that bad this time but I'm cranky and unhappy and uninclined to write about the sad state of affairs I see around us.
August 05, 2004
Missing Person Report
The Religious Policeman is a very good Saudi blog, funny, irreverent to self-important officialdom and the best advertisement for Saudi Arabian society they've got going for them. He's been on vacation and said he'd be back by late July. It's now August 5 and his latest post is still dated June 22. I'm starting to get worried as he's been certain from the start that he has gone over the line of what the uptight KSA security forces are willing to tolerate as far as liberalism goes.
So how does one inquire after the health of a pseudonymous blogger?
Minor Site Tweak
Yup, that's me going to my first masked ball. For those who have always wondered who is this mysterious TM Lutas
August 04, 2004
Paul Krugman, my reader?
I was going through my daily read and noticed some Oxblog commentary on Paul Krugman where he quotes Campaign Desk. I'm a significant participant in the Campaign Desk forums, which means that if Paul Krugman heads over there (and he's likely to have done so) he'll have read me.
I don't know whether to be flattered or feel dirty.
I'm going to wash now.
August 03, 2004
The Waiting Game
Ugh, I'm going through a few serious life changes right now simultaneously. Unfortunately, I can't write about it and working through it is consuming me. I'm probably going to continue to have low output for a bit.
(of course, writing those words always tends to get my creative juices flowing so who knows). As soon as things clear up and I can write about certain topics, I can guarantee you'll be interested, appalled, and entertained, in short the usual shall return.
August 02, 2004
Chilling Free Speech
So Elliot Spitzer is warning Republicans about how they should exercise their free speech rights when they come inside his jurisdiction during the Republican National Convention. If Republicans step across the line of propriety, Spitzer threatened "we will not let you do it."
It was unclear from the press report whether he was speaking in his capacity as senior NY Democrat, NYS Attorney General, or both. But even if it were a purley party affair (as a quick phone call to the NY AG press office confirmed) can anybody imagine the furor if John Ashcroft spoke like that? It would be on page one of every major daily the next day. So while my little headline above might be over the top, it would have been par for the course if John Ashcroft had behaved in identical fashion.
HT: The Corner
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