May 31, 2005

Been Off the Net

Posted by TMLutas

I hate it when ISPs don't have round the clock coverage...

May 29, 2005

Early Chuckles

Posted by TMLutas

Just told my wife about the French "non!" and she immediately put herself in the French elite's shoes.

Oh no! What will we do? Our nation is not as mentally retarded as we thought. We didn't brainwash them enough.


It's possibly the most honest commentary I'll read about the referendum all week.

France's EU Vote

Posted by TMLutas

With the French voting no on the EU constitution, there's a great deal of speculation going on about what it means. Let me be one of the early ones to ask, how did French muslims vote, yes or no (and why)? I don't expect to have a quick answer.

May 28, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILVII

Posted by TMLutas

Joe Gandelman is outraged that Arlen Specter came under fire when he made an emotional appeal regarding his own health in favor of embryonic stem cell research facilitation. I think that Gandelman's got a good heart but he got taken in.

A few thoughts:

My heart goes out to Arlen Specter and I hope that he wins his fight with cancer. I'm not sure that anybody is on the other side of that statement, even the "poster boy" guy at the AFA.

Arlen Specter could be wrong. Embryonic stem cells could be a dry hole and hold zero appreciable medical benefits that couldn't be done easier some other way. Specter made a personal appeal to his coworkers in the Senate to save his life. His appearance, his demeanor are legitimate parts of the discussion because he's using them to emotionally manipulate his colleagues. There's a reason for the old tradition of not talking about your illnesses. This sort of discussion is why talking about your illnesses used to be considered unseemly. It places unfair demands on the other side of a conversation.

As a practical matter, Specter will be cured or die before the first embryonic stem cell treatments get to a stage where they can be used on humans. We are very far away from any embryonic stem cell treatments. His charge that he will be denied the best in medical care based on funding decisions for the next budget year is simply a lie. It is an understandable lie and I don't hold it against him as staring mortality in the face can do very odd things to even the best of us. In Specter's case it seems he's got an inflated idea of how long he's going to survive without a cure from present state of the art medicine.

Specter is likely to be less beholden to transportation special interests (for example) but I think that he's far more vulnerable to special interest agitation on medical matters. He's got a very personal stake in medical issues now and his new perspective may not be good public policy for the US.

Children who were adopted as embryos point to an alternative to discarding. I would say that it would be a reasonable challenge for the pro-life community to come up with the cash to save these embryos and for the legislature to facilitate the transfer to embryonic adoption groups as an alternative for intestate estates and more generally. What, precisely, is the harm a woman suffers when an embryo that is not in her body is passed on to a woman who wants one? Even more stark is the question of where is the harm when a dead woman's external embryo is given to someone who eventually brings that embryo to life?

May 26, 2005


Posted by TMLutas

12-15 hour days are really cutting into my blogging.. Bleah!

Hope to get something up soon.

May 23, 2005

Eternal Web Life

Posted by TMLutas

Michael Williams brings up the idea of eternal web hosting charities. Given current hosting realities, it's realistic to assume you need about $10 a month and the cost is only going to go down. At $120 a year, your web thoughts and projects could stay up forever with a maximum starting capital investment of $12,000. That's likely going to be within the reach of most people so look forward to seeing that as a menu item in your death planning discussions.

French Bush Fans

Posted by TMLutas

I can't understand why the French diplomatic corps is so blind they don't put people like these front and center in their diplomatic efforts vis a vis the US. A great deal of the problem between the US and France is that many in the US believe that nobody over there likes us. We're aware that Germany has the CDU and when they inevitably kick out the SPD from power some day, things will be looking up diplomatically between the US and Germany. What, exactly, is the pro-american party in France?

Highlighting, instead of obscuring, the existence of philo-american frenchmen would be a relatively cost-free way of letting americans know that we're not perennially doomed to have ankle-biting frenchman pissing us off.

May 22, 2005

Government Spending in the District

Posted by TMLutas

The Angry Economist goes after economic illiteracy but I think that he really doesn't understand that most people want these sorts of public expenditures in their districts because if you're going to get raped, you might as well get as much benefit as you can out of it. The price paid for defense is a necessary expenditure. Why would you not want to get as much of it back in your pocket as you can in the form of local expenditures? It isn't a matter of actual positive economic activity as it is of damage mitigation. It's just more convenient to not have to invent a different terminology.

Bitter Schism

Posted by TMLutas

I regularly read Midwest Conservative Journal but I'm starting to think I'm getting most of what I can out of it and should move it back in the rotation. I use it to chronicle the nasty split in the anglican church and as a reality check for myself. Chris Johnson sounds an awful lot like a lot of people on the Catholic/Orthodox split, a religious fault line which I'm right on the active zone. Being able to see it from outside makes me realize that I don't want to join in in that sort of back and forth trashing. It can be fun, exhilarating, but ultimately not spiritually satisfying and that makes the back and forth of combat ultimately self-defeating.

Silly Clerks

Posted by TMLutas

John Cole gets embarrassed by a clerk who cracks a comment about his purchase of Imodium AD. My first thought is whether the clerk ate something that through off his GI tract or he had something that was contagious and was busy all shift "spreading the love". No doubt a return comment on that theme would have resulted in a good chance of getting this guy fired. My heart bleeds.

Newsweek High

Posted by TMLutas

Glenn Reynolds notes that Newsweek has a cover of the US flag in a trash can. It turns out that the cover already ran (in Japan only) and the story behind it only ran in foreign editions.

I don't have a problem, per se, with showing our flag in trouble. I can actually think of a few situations where it would be entirely appropriate. But what's not appropriate is running it today (opinions will vary on that) and what's completely out of bounds is going behind the american people's backs and doing it only overseas. If you think America is in that much trouble, you need to say it to the people who matter, the US voter. Newsweek didn't do that but did the newsmagazine equivalent of being catty only when you aren't around. That's so immature, it sounds like a story out of high school, a stereotypical high school.

Future Auto Repairs

Posted by TMLutas

Donald Sensing's thoughts about how easy it is to total your car led me off in a different direction. The cost of getting into an accident needs to go down. At a certain point, the value proposition for a large segment of buyers will be in getting the same performance out of a $500 airbag instead of one that costs $1000 not in making a $1000 airbag that is ever so slightly better than the previous year's model.

I can see that 3D printing is likely to be big in repair shops of the future.

Bulk Speed Blogging

Posted by TMLutas

I'm going to try a little experiment and see if I can write something about every blog I read today.

May 21, 2005

Handling Constitutional Coups

Posted by TMLutas

Mark Steyn thunders

Today our head of state lands in, appropriately, Regina. This is still, technically, “Her Majesty’s Government”. But it is not mine.

Steyn's a Canadian and I am not. If I would find myself in a similar situation, I would simply stop paying taxes, putting the money aside for the next legitimate government. In the US, this would be done (for the salaried) by filing a new W-4 with your employer and claiming you are exempt. For the self-employed, you simply don't pay your quarterly estimated taxes.

As a convenience, our support for our legitimate governments are generally taken in an automated way. It is generally possible to stop this support. If we find ourselves in the unfortunate circumstance where our government is no longer legitimate, we have a choice and a civic duty to know the procedure and to avail ourselves of it.

May 20, 2005

Fixing the Vagabond

Posted by TMLutas

Evan Kirchhoff gets scammed and strikes back by blogging it. No doubt the negative publicity has already exceeded the $55 a night that Vagabond Inn is getting by running this scam. But mere publicity is not enough. The Better Business Bureau should be contacted, the local municipality as well as state consumer protection bureaus should also get in on the action.

The point of all this action is both to grind down whatever tool it was that decided to knock out a bunch of low price reservations (defrauding those customers) and reselling the rooms at a higher price but also to help create a general atmosphere that this sort of corporate fraud just does not pay.

The Necessity of a Right to Violence in Popular Sovereignty

Posted by TMLutas

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

- George Washington

Where government is not sovereign, there is no independent force. Ultimately either there is no force at all (how much force is their in Cub Scout government?) or the force depends on a higher, sovereign body for authorization. The latter case is seen in municipalities who gain the right to hire police and enforce their own rules on the sufferance of a sovereign state government.

Popular sovereignty, if it is to be more than a mere illusion, has to come with a general recognition that the people have the right to defend that sovereignty, through delegation when their government is their servant, directly when government styles itself their master. When somebody wants restrictions on this or that method of popular violence, there either must be a border condition where they uphold popular sovereignty or they don't believe, as the founders did believe, that "here the people rule".

May 17, 2005

Star Wars Cultural Politics Terrain Setting

Posted by TMLutas

Chrenkoff writes a letter to George Lucas, and in doing so really exposes the power of Orwellian culture, how newspeak creates facts on the ground in the form of communication that tongue ties and hamstrings opponents to widespread cultural visions.

But if in your mind, it's the United States that has slowly transformed itself into an evil Empire, and therefore, logically all those who stand up to it are our story's true heroes, than I have to say that the Dark Side is very strong indeed, and I have crossed over a long time ago. If America is the Empire, then please prepare a black helmet and uniform for me too.

Chrenkoff is engaging in Orwellian language here, not the language of the tyrant, but the language of the newspeak limited resister. In accepting the limits of newspeak for survival's sake the newspeak limited resister accepts a position of linguistic weakness, of one sided disarmament. It's something that I recognize from pre-Reagan conservatism, an unnecessary acceptance of the field of debate.

Frankly, America is the Republic. It is being eaten up from within by powerful forces with hidden agendas who pose as good, kindly actors with only the Republic's best interests at heart. It's perfectly reasonable to construct those societal termites as the liberals who twist the Republic's original aims into a "living" Constitution that grows to have less and less resemblance to its original principles and purposes. It's also reasonable to put the conservatives in the black hat role using war and faux-wars to eat away at the Republic's principles.

If anything, George Lucas has provided a message that you don't always know who the good guys and who the bad guys are. Sometimes both sides are the bad guys and are either fighting to see who will be on top or are in secret alliance. There are enough real world examples for this vision to be compelling. But there is no guarantee that George Lucas himself is a white hat.

Chrenkoff, in his commentary, obeys Lucas' dividing lines, that he's a black hat, a bad guy, and that it's sometimes good to be bad. This is incorrect and counterproductive and he's trying to pull the anti-communist right along with him into the black hat category. That's just wrong and I emphatically reject it.

The Republic needs to be fought for. Our Republic needs to be fought for. If Chrenkoff has any analogue in the Star Wars characters to date, it's Jar Jar Binks naively giving the Chancellor vastly increased powers. In this case, Jar Jar Chrenkoff is striking a blow for the left and he doesn't even realize it.

May 15, 2005

Abortion Imperils Subsequent Pregnancy

Posted by TMLutas

A significant study on women who get an abortion and later try to have another child has established that having a prior abortion significantly (1.7 times) increases the chance of the subsequent "wanted" pregnancy having a risky premature birth. You can find the article abstract here which will confirm the Telegraph's accuracy for those who have an alergy to UK newspapers.

The question is whether this will change behavior at abortion clinics. Will women start to be warned about the dangers of abortion today to their future ability to have healthy children tomorrow? Will clinics be held liable if they fail to warn now that such a large study has found such a high increase in risk is associated with abortion?

Now is where the rubber hits the road for "pro-choice" feminists. They can either side with women and insist that they are fully informed of the established medical risks or they can side with the commercial interests of the abortion business. It would be nice to see some truly pro-choice women peel off and actually stand for informed choice. I'm not holding my breath.

If anybody knows where the full text of the study is freely available, I'd really love to hear about it.

HT: Michael Williams

Another Job Germans Won't Do

Posted by TMLutas

I think that David's Medienkritik is spot on in lambasting German Leftist xenophobia by IG Metall, Germany's largest union. It really is a rerun of the classic german anti-capitalist propaganda from the '30s. But David misses a trick in that he doesn't answer the question, where are the Germans?

In any economic biosphere there are producers and decomposers. The decomposers are essential to sustainable growth and stability in the system. By taking out firms that are sucking up inordinate amounts of capital and not performing, such economic actors as "Blackstone, KKR, Investcorp" serve the same essential purpose as fungi, earthworms, and bacteria in the worldwide biosphere. They unlock essential resources and make them available for use by other actors.

So where are the Germans? Why is their domestic "decomposer" sector inexistent or so anemic that it is being shouldered aside by the American "bloodsuckers" (IG Metall's term)? Is this highly paid, lucrative, essential economic role work that Germans just won't do? What's wrong with German financiers?

May 14, 2005

Don't Arrest More Criminals

Posted by TMLutas

Ultimately, I'd love to live in a world of open borders. I think that we should move towards that world at all deliberate speed consistent with our security needs. Until that happy day arrives, we have a need to properly control our borders including arresting those who cross illegally. The Border Patrol apparently disagrees.

I don't care whether the Minutemen are vigilantes or neighborhood watch or a border version of the Guardian Angels. There is no excuse for an official of the US government to order his subordinates to relax enforcement of the law so that more violators escape capture and punishment (such as it is in immigration cases). It's purposeful dereliction of duty and conduct that should not be protected by civil service rules. You have a job to patrol the border then you should patrol the border as best you can or stop drawing a paycheck.

Now the original Washington Times article may very well be wrong. Tom Tancredo is renowned for having an immigration ax to grind. The number of Border Patrol officers reporting this (about a dozen) makes it less likely that it's a political spin piece and more a criminal flouting of the rule of law under color of authority.

The next step is likely to get friendly journalists embedded in another effort and simply not tell the Border Patrol until a week or two of patrolling has already gone by. That would make any political adjustments of the type described above by either US or Mexican governments that much more difficult.

May 13, 2005

Geopolitical Incomprehensibility

Posted by TMLutas

When a major geopolitical player does something incomprehensible, there are generally competing explanations for it. Two of the most popular are that they're stupid or they are incapable of the behavior because of constraints external to the problem. Brian J Dunn thinks the PRC's both. He calls the Chinese too prideful to make the verbal concessions that the EU wants and titles his post "China Too Dense to Play Along".

It might very well be pride that is keeping the PRC from verbally giving what the EU wants but I don't think that denseness has anything to do with it. Verbal concessions of this nature are too easily spun into national humiliation and a good reason to throw the bums out. The PRC would rather do without European arms than without its ability to portray itself as a strong, nationalist force.

OK, OK, not a whine

Posted by TMLutas

John Cole took issue with my use of the term "whines" in email. On further reflection it was somewhat harsh. In any case, he admits he was snookered as he hadn't understood that Yalta bashing has been US policy for a decade now and is thus bipartisan. I still think that he's missing a turn in making this more about the US and less about Russia but his current position is vastly improved.

May 12, 2005

Wanted: A New Russian Civic Mythology

Posted by TMLutas

John Cole whines about Yalta and really steps in it when he thinks that it's all about the US. The problem of condemning Yalta isn't that it dirties up FDR and Churchill but rather that condemnation is designed to dirty up Stalin.

Putin is fighting to reestablish Russia. For this he needs to have a suitable civic mythos. Liberal Democracy isn't cutting it in Russia so he has three alternatives.

1. Stalinism - A modified limited restoration of communist heroes, Stalin in the forefront is in order to rally the nation.
2. Monarchy - This is mostly a non-starter since the USSR made sure the world ran out of available Romanovs though the house technically still exists.
3. Orthodoxy - Russia has raised the banner of christendom before when it is in deep trouble.
4. Peasant Mythos - You see some of this in the current national anthem.

Out of the four options, Putin seems to have tossed out option 2 entirely, looked at option 4 and is seriously working on option 1. I cannot begin to tell you how bad it will be for world stability if Russia starts turning out high school students that are neo-stalinists. All of E. Europe would become a danger zone for nuclear proliferation. The long-term dream of pulling Russia fully into the Core would be dead for as long as that nonsense continued. Stalin is a very powerful force for disrupting connectivity.

President Bush is absolutely correct to condemn Yalta. It was not absolutely necessary to win the war against Hitler and Tojo and made the second half of the campaign to rid the world of 20th century totalitarianism unnecessarily long and costly. We did not have to go to war against Stalin. We just had to not stand in the way of the many, many people who wanted out from under his yoke.

Stalin admiration is as dangerous to the world today as Hitler admiration is. We should be ware.

May 10, 2005

What's to Celebrate about VE Day?

Posted by TMLutas

Pat Buchanan wonders What Exactly Is Bush Celebrating in Moscow? and takes a nasty knife to President Bush. What's to celebrate about Victory in Europe day? While I was reading the article I suddenly had a tune running through my head

One down one to go Ah leave it
Another town and one more show Goodbye goodbye goodbye bad
Hello hello heaven

The end of Naziism was one down, one to go. When Stalin's zombie came apart in the 1980s, the job was finally finished, hello Heaven indeed.

Of the two bloodiest totalitarian ideologies of the 20th centuries, one down is certainly cause for celebration. Too bad that Buchanan doesn't seem to want to join that party.

Deterrence and the Bush Doctrine Are Not Antithetical

Posted by TMLutas

Pat Buchanan entirely misses the boat by putting the Bush Doctrine and Deterrence as opposites. They are not. Deterrence is a doctrine of defense. It creates stasis where all sides on the playing field are slowed or even totally paralyzed for fear of some other side lighting off a nuclear weapon in response. The Bush Doctrine creates motion. It is a sword given in aid to ripe local movements (the color revolutions of the CIS) for freedom and democracy and in very rare circumstances (Iraq) it is akin to a pearl cultivator inserting a grain of sand in order to provoke the creation of a pearl. In either case it is a tool of geopolitical offense.

There is no particular reason why sword and shield cannot be used in combination. In fact, there is every reason in the world for them to be used in that fashion. Buchanan's taunt that we're using our deterrence shield is just stupid as tone, not as observation. Of course we're going to deter other powers. We never gave that up. But we're also going to create (Iraq) or recognize (Nigeria, PRC) regional responsible powers who will reign in their local loony toons neighbors. That's not going to go away and hasn't gone away.

N. Korea, if it actually lights off a nuclear explosion, could significantly impact the willingness of people to invest in the PRC. N. Korea maybe could get a missile to San Francisco but they certainly can reach Beijing which means that the economic blackmail that N. Korea must engage in to survive is more likely to be pointed towards the PRC than the US. The US can and is creating a missile defense system that makes such blackmail less effective. The PRC does not have the money to fund that same sort of research.

The negative effect on future PRC investment has likely led to frank and clear advice that bluster and threats at any level are OK but actual nuclear detonations are a very different matter. I would not be surprised if a nuclear detonation would lead to a sealed border between the PRC and N. Korea, a result that would cause regime collapse in a matter of under a year.

Layered Cores

Posted by TMLutas

Reading the current NRSP newsletter I find myself in conflict with Tom Barnett's characterization of the Catholic Church. We're both Catholics so this is a bit of inside baseball but it's also useful to illustrate a general point.

Abstractly, The Core and Gap are useful tools for denoting connectivity of mutually acceptable rulesets. The rulesets themselves can be anything. Core/Gap analysis is a useful tool in explaining the propagation and interaction of the rulesets. Political/economic connectivity is pretty much all we generally talk about because these rulesets are crucial to war and peace, starvation or material plenty.

The Catholic Church does not consider war and peace, starvation or plenty to be the most important thing to worry about. They are secondary to its mission to bring Truth unto the world and save all our souls. Political reform, economic progress, these things are all very nice but you can't understand the Church if that's the lens you are looking through. The Catholic vision of community maps into connectivity but it's not economic or political in nature.

Looking through a spiritual lens, having a base of economically powerful nations aligned with your interests enhances the spiritual mission by providing the material base for the real work. Politically stable nations that permit the work of priests and missionaries are useful but they are not the goal.

Barnett's analysis (page 9 in the link above, a Word doc) is practically irrelevant because it applies the conventional map (politico-economic connectivity) to an institution that uses a different criteria in creating its own maps of connectivity and disconnectedness. Adding a new map layer is crucial and Barnett simply doesn't do that.

For the Catholic Church, the territory of the Romanian Orthodox Church has at least as much reality as the country of Romania and the two entities do not have exactly the same boundaries. The Romanian Orthodox Church, in a Catholic map is a seam state just as Romania is a seam state in the conventional politico-economic map. The reason why the two entities are seam states in the two map systems are quite different though. That difference makes any prospective analysis of what is proper to do to bring each into the Core crucially depend on which map you're talking about.

Romania gets into the Core by negotiating an entry into the global politico-economic rulesets that have been negotiated among the Core for the past century plus. The Romanian Orthodox Church gets into the Core by negotiating a mutually acceptable role for the Pope in the Church, something that has also been the subject of centuries of negotiation. These are two different Cores but the mechanism for admission, agreement on a common enough ruleset, are exactly the same.

The maps interact with each other. Most famously the Islamic map religiously is interacting with the politico-economic map in the Global War On Terror (GWOT) but it does it in less obvious ways too. The Romanian Orthodox Church is holding back Romania's admission into the Politico-Economic Core (PEC) because of its insistence on the government of Romania not honoring the rule of law with regards to properties it received in 1948 as part of an odious communist land/power grab.

More specifically, Barnett's analysis of this Pope mistakes the status of Germany. He's looking at the wrong map, where Germany is a solid part of the PEC instead of the Catholic Religious Core (CRC) where Germany is sliding backwards from Old Core to New Core and arguably is already a Seam state.

Germany's Seam or New Core status in the CRC is what fundamentally matters to the Catholic Church. Germany's status mismatch makes dealing with it difficult because the markers of PEC membership are much more visible than the markers for CRC membership and people tend to believe that there is a close match between the two (where they recognize the two layers existing at all as separate entities). Backsliding state analysis is probably the least developed part of Core/Gap analysis so this remarkable new toolset doesn't help as much as it usually would.

So is Benedict XVI an Old Core Pope? It really depends on which map you're talking about. If you're looking at the PEC, Benedict XVI is about as Old Core as you can get. If you're talking about the CRC, he's coming out of a backsliding state, trying desperately to retain the light and reverse the slide into spiritual darkness. His name pick for his papacy (a crucial early clue into the mind of any Pope) is much more in line with that second vision of his papacy.

So what does all this mean for us poor geo-political amateurs? It means the papacy is likely to surprise. Viewed from a politico-economic view, Benedict's papacy will be full of unexpected activity, vaguely disturbing moves that will be categorized left or right, conservative or radical, and there will be a heavy tendency to censor the reporting of his actions to fit a preconceived news filter.

Treat news reports on the papacy with special care during this pontiff's reign because Barnett's conflation of PEC with CRC is likely going to be the high point of most secular media analysis. For the media to catch on and understand this papacy, they will not only have to understand the Pentagon's New Map but also understand that Catholicism has one too and analyze the Church's actions on its own terms, something that has not happened for decades at the very least.

May 08, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILVI

Posted by TMLutas

Samizdata has an apologia for Microsoft in its current troubles with the EU. Too many libertarians are unhappy with the anti-trust means that Microsoft is being attacked with and fall into the mistake of defending Microsoft's theft and fraud record.

Defenders of Microsoft misidentify the victims. It's not the customer who spends $120 for Windows XP. It's the small Independent Software Vendor (ISV) who spends $5000 a year on universal MSDN subscriptions in order to program for the Win32 API.

Microsoft sells products to programmers in order to access its supposedly publicly documented API. For many years it publicly represented to said customers that they have a level playing field and its own applications programmers do not have a leg up.

Microsoft lied. It lied repeatedly in a strategic way that tilted the OS playing field for approaching a decade and raked in a huge amount of money based on the network effects of that lie. The proof is that they did an orwellian about face and now deny that they ever made such representations. They did lie and I remember. A lot of computer professionals do. There's precious little money in bringing that history up so most stay quiet and just look for opportunities to extract a small measure of justice by kneecapping MS where possible.

MS is engaging in the same sort of lying today. It includes player application technology in its OS platform and discriminates against its OS development tool customers by denying them a level playing field. That's the essence of the current EU contretemps, properly understood.

Letter to the Paper ILV

Posted by TMLutas

John Cole decides that normal economics doesn't apply when it's all about the evil drug companies. I'm not particularly happy with using fascist economics to counteract communist economics but it's somewhat better than the "Atlas Shrugged" alternatives of just letting the companies go down the tubes.

To say "without the current drug companies, there would be new drug companies" is nonsense. That's functionally saying that without the current railroad companies, we'd just have new ones. We proved the latter wrong at the creation of Amtrack because there were no private companies left to take over the bankrupt ones. The prior century's idiotic railroad regulation made sure of that.

Drug companies are the creation of bright inventors combined with capitalists who think that, globally, they can achieve at least an average return. Globally, they have to accept a below average return in most markets.

The US is the last major holdout in free market pricing and the one reason keeping the capitalists from withdrawing their capital and redeploying it elsewhere. For the green eyeshade types that invest the bulk of money everywhere, they go to jail if they purposefully deploy capital at lower returns for non-financial reasons. This is called fiduciary duty. It's not reasonable to expect somebody to go to jail just because your particular disease hasn't got a cure yet.

If you have globally above average returns, you attract new capital and you get new companies entering into the market. If you have below average returns or government mandated losses, people won't invest and you won't have new company formation.

Generic producers aren't affected by this reasoning. They make their money off of production, not new pills. We won't lose our current crop of cures. What we will lose is the financing to push forward our new ones. That is likely to cut down the introduction of new drugs by about 50% (public research will still be around).

We can only hope that our neverending race against the drug resistance is winnable with the remaining 50%. If it's not, you can add advocating mass casualties in a pandemic to the current sin of bad economics.

May 06, 2005

Pension Fund Follies

Posted by TMLutas

Oliver Willis has a nasty bit of defamation in describing a Labor Department Letter telling union pensions to obey the law.

So, the Bush administration has decided that union opposition to social security privatization and benefit cuts is somehow a violation of the law.

The New York Times article on which all this is based makes it clear that this is in no way what is going on. I suspect that the unions tried to illegally strong arm the financial services industry through their pension funds and somebody at a brokerage had the courage to report it to the federal government. The letter is a gentle reminder that if pension funds get caught playing politics with union members' pension money, these pension funds could be taken over by the government and their present fiduciaries sent to jail.

It's very much settled law that fiduciaries can't reduce their members' rates of return just to make a political point. Willis doesn't seem to like the idea of enforcing this particular law much, especially when it's a Republican doing it so he just makes up a nasty accusation that somehow it's the Bush administration that is behaving out of bounds.

Admitting Guilt

Posted by TMLutas

Lyndie England just got caught trying to have things both ways in her Abu Ghraib trial. She wanted to plead guilty but not really. She entered a plea bargain which demanded that she admit guilt but during the punishment phase of the trial, her defense team repeatedly brought forth witnesses who undercut the idea that she was guilty or that she was responsible for her actions.

The judge, finally having enough, declared a mistrial. More power to him because that means that England now has to renegotiate from a much weakened position. The prosecution can go for the maximum sentence and pull in the previous trial's guilty plea as evidence. The societal purpose of a guilty plea is to trade a reduced sentence for a clear admission of guilt and full information that removes all doubt as to what happened. This isn't the first time that defense lawyers have tried to have their cake and eat it too. This time they got caught. I hope that it'll be the start of a trend.

HT: The Annotated Times

May 05, 2005

Cultural Superiority

Posted by TMLutas

There's an interesting Foreign Policy article on arab immigrant success challenging cultural notions about the backwardness of arabs. It's interesting, if incomplete. What's unexamined is that part of arab culture is the culture of creating and supporting a political class to rule their own societies. That part of arab culture is indisputably backwards and in desperate need of reform.

Comparing US arab immigrants to EU arab immigrants points out another ruling class culture issue. Both EU and US elite cultures create advantages for arabs over their home states, thus both have rising arab populations. The differences are striking when you compare these immigrant populations to each other. The US arab immigrants actually are slightly better off than the general US level across several key statistics of income and education while the EU populations do significantly worse than average for their own population.

This EU inability to foster conditions for thriving minorities would not matter much if native population fertility would be sufficient to maintain numbers or grow. Sub-replacement level fertility means that immigrants have to be welcomed and integrated. Here, the US has it all over our european friends and the arab statistics tell the tale.

Clueless Kaplan or Patronizing Kaplan

Posted by TMLutas

In a stunning bit of projection, supposed realist Fred Kaplan believes the PRC has no ability to overthrow N. Korea. Only the US, in his world view, has the ability to act regarding N. Korea.

In one sense, President Bush was right at his press conference: It is better to have several voices sending the same message to Kim Jong-il. But these voices don't matter if the one voice among them that can do something—that can turn the message into policy and action—chooses to do nothing.

This is nonsense. If the PRC/N. Korea border was shut down and nothing crossed, N. Korea would quickly collapse. In the real world, the PRC has much more leverage on N. Korea than the United States if it chooses to exercise it.

Kaplan derides President Bush in this article that he doesn't understand power. Heaven help us if "understanding power" means adopting a patronizing attitude that belittles a rising power like the PRC and does not recognize that, in their neighborhood, they are capable of taking decisive action. Insulting the PRC in that fashion is a good way to keep them on the side of N. Korea. How realist is that?

Is there a Non-Tyrannic Iraqi Insurgency?

Posted by TMLutas

Fred Kaplan has me steamed. He wants to assert that President Bush is wrong to say "there are still some in Iraq who aren't happy with democracy. They want to go back to the old days of tyranny and darkness and torture chambers and mass graves." But President Bush isn't wrong. In fact, he's exactly spot on.

I can't think of any of the several elements of the Iraqi insurgency that is not seeking to impose a tyrannical regime on Iraq that is an echo of the past. The difference is which style of tyranny, what vision of the past would be imposed. The dead would not care much if they died for defying a hyper-strict vision of Islam or for making a joke about the Baathist party. The grave is just as cold.

Kaplan misunderstands the nature of the US system because President Bush did not give a complicated breakdown of the various elements, he obviously is uninformed about the complexity of the situation. That's not the way a democratic republic works. The job of the president is to inform the people sufficiently so that they can make the big decisions come next election time and leave the details and the day-to-day direction to specialized representatives. President Bush did exactly that.

The US public doesn't much need to know whether it's going to be Sunni swords chopping off heads for relatively minor offenses, Shiite hangmen stringing up 14 year old girls who talk back to judges, or Baathist knives slitting throats in the street just for the heck of it. They're all despicable scum and President Bush thinks that we should be against them and for the working majority in Iraq that want a peaceful, free society that they can build out of their own faith and dreams.

Simplifying and clarifying down to reasonable choices isn't a lack of nuance for a US President. It's part of the job description. You'd think that a figure like Kaplan would know this.

America's Natural Rate of Growth

Posted by TMLutas

For decades, the natural rate of growth of the US economy was 3%. In a decidedly mixed article The Economist pegs it at 3.5%-4%. This is a huge difference. At 3%, the US started surpassing western Europe as their soft socialism sclerotized their national economies. If we're truly entering an era where our economy naturally grows even faster, the gap will not only persist, will not only keep growing, the gap's growth will accelerate.

I do wonder if this natural growth rate estimate is real. The Economist's pessimists would have nothing to hang their hat on regarding the most recent quarter's growth. At 3.1% it is slightly above the decades long postwar consensus on the US' natural rate of growth. It's only against this new, higher estimate that it falls somewhat short. The preceding quarter's growth figure, which was preliminarily estimated at the same 3.1% generated similar concerns until it was revised to 3.8% as better data came in.

So, is the US economy just in an unusual growth spurt that will settle back to the old 3% figure over the long haul? We're certainly in an era of longer cycles. I recall earlier articles in the conservative press worrying that we were headed toward an era of 2.5% long term growth. Those overly pessimistic articles might be matched by overly optimistic estimates today. In any case, it's useful to keep the long-term history in mind when reading the latest "are we falling behind" article.

May 04, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILIV

Posted by TMLutas

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is engaging in a brand of macabre hypocrisy by expressing deep concern over a possible 42% benefit for children born 5 years from now when he has no problems with a 100% benefit cut for the quarter to a third of children who won't be born because they'll be aborted.

Michael Williams is on the case and I wrote the following in comments

Social Security solvency heavily depends on birth rates. If total fertility rates weren't 2.1 but 4.1, we wouldn't have a social security solvency problem. We could probably even lower the SS tax rate. This is the ponzi scheme nature of the current program. It is abortion and other fertility altering decisions that have upset the balance of the program.

You can't build up a social program that utterly depends on high fertility and then call fertility discussions out of bounds regarding its continuance. It's just not intellectually honest.

The idea of protection of the unconceived is not held by anybody that I know of and is, in fact, morally and biologically silly. There's an awful lot of sperm that goes to waste in even perfectly normal sexual activity that is meant to result in a child.

As for Sen. Schumer, his politics results in a selective 100% reduction in social security benefits of certain members of that age cohort that he is complaining about in his own letter. This selective reduction in benefits tends to disparately impact minorities and the poor. The rank hypocrisy of piously protesting a supposed 42% benefit for some of that age cohort while backing a 100% benefit cut for others deserves not only comment, but derision.

The title of this post with its roman numeral pun is an absolute coincidence, I swear.

May 02, 2005

Shrink the Gap, Shrink the US Trade Deficit?

Posted by TMLutas

Robert Samuelson argues that a global glut of savings is behind the US trade deficit. The fiscal imbalance caused by all that money pouring into the US creates a situation where we don't save much ourselves, our currency becomes overvalued, and we import an awful lot while exporting relatively little. What Samuelson doesn't examine is the effect that adding new countries into the mix of decent homes for FDI. The US would get less FDI as more opportunities for investment became profitable in India, the PRC, Angola, or Libya. We would sink into a Red Queen economy where we had to work harder, export more, just to tread in place as a destination for FDI.

In other words, gradually improving our security picture gradually undoes the investment imbalance. There are both opportunities and perils in that. There are also important lessons to learn for our allies and adversaries. Because military action ties back into a pretty ticklish economic situation for the US domestically, we are likely to neither go "faster please" in bringing the Gap to an end, nor are we likely to give up the project entirely.

We'll work moderately to shrink the Gap but not so fast that we suffer a domestic economic crisis as the new investment opportunities we have created suck up the capital necessary to make a smooth adjustment out of our unsustainable economic course. In other words, the use of geopolitical dynamite that characterized the Iraq big bang is not likely to be repeated, or at least repeated quickly.

Scientists Need to Drop Science

Posted by TMLutas

Science (the journal), apparently is applying political criteria on global warming article submissions. Nature seems to be on the anti-science bandwagon as well. The journals are spiking scholarly articles that cast doubt on the "consensus" opinion that global warming is real, caused largely by human action, and correctable.

If scientific journals are willing to prostitute themselves to further a public policy agenda, they cease to be scientific journals and become pseudo-scientific. The only cure is for scientists to drop their subscriptions, tell people why they are doing it, and to make publication in these journals a mark of shame, not one of pride in the profession.

Self-policing is the only solution or science itself as an institution for good in society by discovering and documenting the world as it really is will be lost.

Germany's Labor Disaster

Posted by TMLutas

German unemployment is so high in the former DDR that german workers from there are poised to outnumber Turks as guest workers in neighboring Austria. It's so bad that unemployment in the territory of the former DDR is topping 25% with FRG unemployment as a whole, a nasty 12%. So, why do easterners simply drive down wages and provide cheap labor for W. Germans? Germany's inflexible labor laws and social democracy make it impossible.

Instead, you get international labor mobility and desperate germans on the move across Europe looking for work. The FRG can no longer afford to pay them to stay home and do nothing and is cutting benefits thus setting the visible crisis in motion but the problems have been gathering for decades.

Germany, if it doesn't get its act together is going to end up in a decade or two feeling weak, humiliated, and looking for alternatives. It's even money whether those alternatives will come in the form of nationalist extremism or free market policies. If we get to that point, batten down the hatches.

HT: NoonShadow

Israeli's Proposed Bunker Buster Bombs

Posted by TMLutas

Brian Dunne speculates on why Israel is ordering 100 bunker buster bombs. Common speculation is that they're for Iran's nuclear program. He thinks that this is not correct but doesn't come up with an alternate use for them.

Any reasonable speculation on Israel's US defense purchases really needs to have a use for new weaponry. The US is restricting Israeli technology transfer because we've found Israel selling on tech in violation of agreed upon restrictions a few times too often. So not only is it interesting why is Israel buying such weapons but why are we selling them the Israel?

I think that those bombs are for deep tunnels into Gaza used by Hamas and others to run arms from Sinai. Instead of having to invade Gaza, find the surface point, battle your way through the tunnel, and collapse it from inside with explosives, you simply launch a plane, bomb it, collapse it without any warning and no surface casualties.

Such strikes would be a politically superior solution both raising the risk for palestinian use of such tunnels and also lowering Israeli risk. Depending on the cost of the munitions, this solution might actually be cheaper in strict dollar terms as well.

A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.

Blog Tank
A project to create
a blogging think tank

January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
Recommended Reading
The Pentagon's New Map
Links I rely on
Hosts and Friends:
Snapping Turtle
Jantar Mantar
Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog

Chicago Boyz
The Globe and Mail
The Wash. Post

National Review TNR
Weekly Standard

Thomas Barnett
Den Beste
The Shark
The Weevil
Q and O
Jane Finch

Listed on Blogwise

Powered by
Movable Type 2.661