Saturday, February 07, 2004
I'll return to this subject often, especially as candidate Kerry's reiterates his position. For the curious, Kerry believes that global warming is America's greatest threat since the cold war. (Proposed question for future presidential debate: "Senator Kerry, more than 3,000 Americans were killed by Muslim extremists on September 11, 2001. How many Americans have been killed by global warming; and, if your answer is less then 3,000, tell us why your administration would give greater priority to global warming than to international terrorism?")
Addressing the substantive issue, I recommend Ronald Bailey's testimony before a House Subcommittee this week. Bailey, science correspondent for Reason Magazine, posted his statement on Reason's website.
Bailey's testimony is a must for rebutting enviro-wackos, along with Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist, Bailey's review of Lomborg's book, and science and science fiction writer Michael Crichton's September 15, 2003 speech in San Francisco (recently removed from Crichton's website, but mirrored here).
Dr. Roy Spencer summarizes his recent testimony over at TechCentralStation.
RIP, Commander Lloyd "Pete" Bucher, USN, aged 76. Mr. Bucher was Captain of the USS Pueblo, a surveillance ship that was attacked and captured by North Korea in international waters almost exactly 36 years ago.
I hadn't planned on commenting on the creepy attempts to jail the creepy Martha Stewart. But government overkill makes strange bedfellows.
As the trial adjourned for the weekend, the prosecutor's star witness testified that he was lying when he originally denied tipping Stewart regarding insider sales of ImClone stock. The witness, brokerage assistant Douglas Faneuil, said he thought he would be fired if he failed to protect an important Merrill Lynch client. This is supposed to suggest that Martha herself was lying, which is the sole issue in the case. (Prosecutors did not charge her with insider trading.)
As Roger Musil notes, this actually suggests the opposite, because Faneuil cut a deal with the Feds in exchange for his testimony:
How likely is it that a man who admits he lied to federal investigators to avoid losing his job is above lying at the behest of federal investigators to avoid losing his freedom? This single admission of Mr. Faneuil should alone be more than enough to create reasonable doubt as to his credibility in the minds of any sensible jury. And if that happens, the case against Ms. Stewart falls.First they came for a WASP-y home design guru, and I did nothing, because I am not a WASP-y home design guru. . . When terrorists still roam the earth, why is our government wasting time on Martha Stewart?
After Canada bashing last night, fairness requires a pointer to Marcus Gee's article in yesterday's Globe and Mail. Gee addresses the current hand ringing about the failure to find WMDs in Iraq:
But whose fault is that in the end? By developing WMD before the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and hiding them afterward, Mr. Hussein showed he could not be trusted. His constant attempts to conceal his facilities from international weapons inspectors, and his decision to stop co-operating with them altogether in 1998, confirmed his reputation. Given all his cheating over the years, the onus was on him to show that he had abandoned his weapons programs.Read the whole thing.
For reasons that are still mysterious, he refused. Even after he allowed weapons inspectors back into Iraq in 2002, his regime failed to co-operate properly with them or account for missing weapons stocks. As a result, everyone quite reasonably assumed his guilt. In October of 2002, the National Intelligence Council, the Vatican of the U.S. spy community, concluded that "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons" and "if left unchecked, it will probably have nuclear weapons during this decade." The Israeli, Russian, Chinese, German and British intelligence services came to similar conclusions. Even French President Jacques Chirac, the leading European opponent of the war, said that the "probable possession" of WMD by an "uncontrollable country" such as Iraq was a problem. So the blame for the war lies with Mr. Hussein, who might have saved himself by coming clean but would not, and paid the price.
David Warren said much the same back on January 31st:
Western intelligence reports are therefore easy to explain, for they depended entirely on intercepted communications, easily-misinterpreted satellite pictures, and the reports of Iraqi defectors. All these sources tended to confirm that the Iraqi regime was trying to hide big things; none could guess it was trying to hide big things that didn't exist. For even if Saddam had the fondest inkling what was up, he would still not have come clean with Hans Blix or George Bush, for he needed to maintain the illusion of being lethally armed in order to keep his own people scared into submission, to aggrandize himself as leader of the Arab world, and, in his own strange little mind, to persuade the U.S. and Britain that he could inflict too many casualties to make a war against him worth having.Further Update:
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld agrees, in a speech in Munich today:
Mr. Rumsfeld placed the blame for the war squarely on Saddam Hussein for his "deception and defiance," and refusal to abandon his illegal weapons program, as Libya did recently. "It was his choice," Mr. Rumsfeld said in a speech here to 250 government ministers, lawmakers and national security experts from 30 countries, most of them in Europe. "If the Iraqi regime had taken the same steps Libya is now taking, there would have been no war."
David Brooks--the token conservative at the New York Times--rips into John Kerry's reinvention as a populist:
[A] Chinese businesswoman named Liu Chaoying dreamed of having her company listed on a U.S. stock exchange. That cute little girl grew up to become a lieutenant colonel in China's People's Liberation Army. . . [and] had a $300,000 bank account with funds supplied by the head of Chinese intelligence. . .Does anyone still remember the 'tisk tisking' over the Keating Five? Isn't the only difference here that Kerry's a Democrat?
And Liu came to America in search of her dream, for this is the nation of dreams. And she went to see a most special man named Johnny Chung. And in July 1996, according to Newsweek, Chung took Liu to see his special friend John Kerry about her dream, and Kerry recognized its specialness. So his aides faxed over a letter to the S.E.C. about the dream, and the very next day Liu and Chung had a private briefing with a senior S.E.C. official about making her special dream come true.
And then a few weeks after that, Johnny Chung threw a fund-raiser for John Kerry in Beverly Hills. And John Kerry came away with $10,000 in contributions. . .
Early in the 20th century, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of the government to jail people merely for expressing pro-German or pro-Marxist views. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' powerful dissents in Abrams v. United States (1919) and Gitlow v. New York (1925) captured only two votes at the time, but his metaphor is familiar to all:
[T]he ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas--that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.Holmes' view prevailed a few years later, and (with some narrow exceptions) the government cannot punish speech today.
If in the long run the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces of the community, the only meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way.
No such liberty exists North of the 49th parallel in Canada. This week, the Supreme Court of British Columbia decided that a public school teacher could be suspended because he wrote a series of letters to the editor (of his local newspaper) saying "homosexuality is not something to be applauded." The B.C. Court found that "Discriminatory speech is incompatible with the search for truth," and thus not protected by Canada's Charter of Rights and Liberties (roughly equivalent to our "Bill of Rights").
In other words, "move along; nothing to see; freedom of speech market's closed." Because the suspended teacher is a Christian, I guess the freedom of religion market's shuttered as well. What a difference a border makes.
The author of Canada's Orwellian ruling? Justice Ronald Holmes.
Friday, February 06, 2004
Over at The Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last has a sort of eulogy for Howard Dean:
It is already an established cliché that Dean's candidacy resembles a dot-com company of the 1990s. It's a cliché because it's true. The campaign began as a high concept--overt anger at the president and opposition to the war--and quickly found itself drowning in riches from its IPO to the Democratic base. It then used a wave of fawning media coverage to establish the illusion of inevitability.Keep an eye open for abandoned "Dean for President" sock puppets.
The Dean campaign had organization, money, and a message. It had everything except a plausible theory of how it could win votes from a wide cross-section of Democratic voters.
Jeff Jarvis tracks three versions of the same story--the Labor Department's recent release of January's economics data. Jarvis quotes from the February 6th articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the New York Times. And I'm shocked, shocked to find two contradictory versions of a single set of numbers.
The WSJ and the WaPo got it basically right--unemployment falls again, though not as much as expected. Here's the beginning of the WaPo version, credited to an AP writer:
The nation's unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in January to the lowest level in more than two years as companies added 112,000 new jobs, providing fresh signs the prolonged hiring slump may be ending. The jobless rate fell 0.1 percentage point last month to the lowest level since October 2001, when it was 5.4 percent, the Labor Department said Friday. January's rate matched the 5.6 percent posted in January 2002. Employers added new jobs last month at a pace not seen in three years.But the Times story--credited to the British Reuters newswire--is quite different:
The U.S. economy created 112,000 new jobs in January, far fewer than expected, government data showed on Friday in a disappointing report that will likely weigh on President Bush's re-election campaign. The report showed hiring remains weak 26 months after the economy climbed out of recession, even though January's gain was the fifth straight monthly increase in payrolls outside the farm sector and the largest rise since December 2000.Notice that neither Reuters nor the NYT could entirely suppress the truth poking out of the second sentence. But Reuters and the Times are relentless--the rest of the story is bleak:
The weak labor market is expected to be a major issue in the presidential election. Since Bush took office, 2.2 million jobs have been lost and his opponents say his economic policies have helped the wealthy and done little to create jobs.One government news release; two stories--one factual, the other pure anti-Bush spin. Maybe it's not America that's divided, just the press.
New Yorkers: cancel your NYT subscription! You have nothing to lose but your chains.
More proof that 'this ain't your father's Episcopal church:'
The Episcopal bishop of Virginia has told his diocese's annual meeting that it's better to live with heresy than split the denomination over homosexuality. Peter James Lee is one of 60 Episcopal bishops who voted last summer to approve the appointment of V. Gene Robinson, the denomination's first openly homosexual bishop. Since then, Lee has been fighting moves by more conservative congregations in the Virginia diocese that have taken a stand against the biblical compromise. In his speech to the 700 delegates on Saturday, Lee said: "If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy."This isn't about the merits of homosexual clergy, about which people do disagree. But what's the logic in opposing, then conceding for the sake of unity. That's a question of courage--and Bishop Lee has none. Is it any wonder why self-identification as an Episcopal has fallen for decades?
New video footage has been unearthed:
Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Nicholson says the footage is "incontrovertible proof" of the former Iraqi dictator's links to international terrorism. It appears to show the former Iraqi President plotting crimes and paying money to members of an international terrorist group. Baroness Nicholson says the group of men in the footage looked after Saddam's chemical and biological warfare.How long before American liberals awake from their nap?
Wonder who said this?
I am saddened by the fact that Vietnam has yet again been inserted into the campaign, and that it has been inserted in what I feel to be the worst possible wayÂ What saddens me most is that Democrats, above all those who shared the agonies of that generation, should now be re-fighting the many conflicts of Vietnam in order to win the current political conflict of a presidential primary.Was it President Bush? Karl Rove? Perhaps George Will? Maybe Reverend Sharpton?
Answer: none of the above. It was Senator John Kerry, defending candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.
The invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute unearths further evidence that Middle East governments are not reliable. Here's a quote from the Egyptian government daily Al-Masaa, in their January 2, 2004, edition:
"Even if during [a martyrdom operation] civilians or children are killed – the blame does not fall upon the Palestinians, but on those who forced them to turn to this modus operandi.I guess the Arab rule is that Abortion is legal until Jews convert to Islam. (And take note of the ever-so-politically-correct use of "she.")
Ultimately, we should bless every Palestinian man or woman who goes calmly to carry out a martyrdom operation, in order to receive a reward in the Hereafter, sacrificing her life for her religion and her homeland and knowing that she will never return from this operation.
The United States gives Egypt $2 billion per year in foreign aid. Might that money be better spent elsewhere, anywhere elsewhere, including on Mars?
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Since Democrats appear wedded to both notions, here's the two best, recent sources showing that the President is both smart and truthful.
Remember each the next time Democrats complain about negative campaigning.
And don't omit this all-issues Fisking of the anti-Bush threads--with links yet!
In National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg challenges the sound-bite that 'President Bush is a divider, not a uniter'. Senator John Edwards cornered the market on this meme--his platform rests on only two claims: 1) there are two Americas, split like never before; and 2) President Edwards could fix it. Jonah disputes both:
[U]ntil you've got more than 600,000 American bodies stacked up like cordwood, spare me the "more divided than ever before" talk. We have this phrase in political discourse which is very useful. It goes like this: "...since the end of the Civil War..." You can put it at the end or the beginning of almost any sentence to indicate that you are discussing trends that began after the War Between the States concluded. Because that period in American history is what you might call a statistical outlier. We were really divided then, what with all the shooting each other and stuff.Not only is the fractured America concept factually wrong, it's so superficial as to be impractical:
[T]here is no constitutionally or morally acceptable program that could possibly eliminate the elemental social fact that some people will be better off than others. Sure, the divide between the haves and the have-nots can be narrowed, and you can certainly change how the system rewards people (not that a trial lawyer has much interest in that). . .. [S]ince Edwards lives in privileged America himself. . ., I'm sure he can let a few hard-luck folks crash at his pad and maybe his country house too. But where's he going to put up the other 269,999,990 allegedly underprivileged peeps?Similar sloppy thinking infects international relations, particularly regarding the Middle East:
How many times do we need to hear that the road to peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Pakistanis and Indians will be illuminated through "greater understanding"? The truth is that the greatest hatreds have always been between those groups who understand each other best (it's not like the Confederacy and the Union didn't understand each side's point of view, ditto the Irish and the British, the Greeks, and the Turks etc).Back on planet earth, America is no more divided today than 30 years ago (or have you forgotten Vietnam and Watergate?). We still are Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals--and we just disagree. Compromise sometimes provides a solution. But, when compromise is impossible, two choices remain: continued disagreement or surrender. I'll be glad to meet candidate Edwards (or any other Democrat) at Appomatox and accept the surrender; absent that, I'm short-selling "unity" shares.
Via Jonah on The Corner an astounding chart of one symtom of the divide.
Frederick Turner, writing at TechCentralStation.com, says the difference is that the divide now is between libertarians and communitarians. I hope he's wrong, because I see flaws in each approach.
The Edwards campaign finally does something useful: an interactive electoral map. (Via Jonah on The Corner)
Ahmed H. Al-Rahim, who teaches Arabic language and literature at Harvard, addresses (in a subscriber-only article from today's WSJ) the logical implications of the death of 251 pilgrims, mostly Indonesians and Pakistanis, who were trampled to death in Mecca over the weekend. Hundreds die each year during the annual celebration of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the Hajj period--in 1990, 1,426 pilgrims died in a single incident.
The thread that connects the recurring stampedes in Mecca, the suicide bombings in Iraq, and the lopsided exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah is the deficit of respect for the individual in the Arab world. This erosion has occurred in a political context, where too many governments in the region deny their citizens basic individual rights in order to maintain a tight grip on society. When societies trample over the individual, human life is debased.Where celebration and terrorism are indistinguishable, can the government be considered legitimate? Is such a government entitled to be treated as sovereign in international relations?
Howie Carr in today's NY Post provides informative "Kerry-tales":
[M]ost of the stories have a common theme: our junior senator pulling rank on one of his constituents, breaking in line, demanding to pay less (or nothing) or ducking out before the bill arrives.At some point in the 1970s, Democrats became the party of elites and Republicans the party of ordinary people. When will perception catch up to reality?
The tales often have one other common thread. Most end with Sen. Kerry inquiring of the lesser mortal: "Do you know who I am?"
And now he's running for president as a populist. His first wife came from a Philadelphia Main Line family worth $300 million. His second wife is a pickle-and-ketchup heiress. . .
[L]ongtime state Senate President William M. Bulger used to muse on St. Patrick's Day, ". . . He's only Irish every sixth year." And now it turns out that he's not Irish at all.
But in the parochial world of Bay State politics, he was never really seen as Irish, even when he was claiming to be (although now, of course, he says that any references to his alleged Hibernian heritage were mistakenly put into the Congressional Record by an aide who apparently didn't know that on his paternal side he is, in fact, part-Jewish).
Kerry is, in fact, a Brahmin - his mother was a Forbes, from one of Massachusetts' oldest WASP families. . . In 1993, . . . living on a senator's salary of about $100,000, he managed to give a total of $135 to charity. . .Yet that same year, he was somehow able to scrape together $8,600 for a brand-new, imported Italian motorcycle, a Ducati Paso 907 IE. He kept it for years, until he decided to run for president.
Of the 650 terrorists still held at Gitmo, a quarter of them--160--are Saudi Arabian, according to UPI. The next largest group, about half the number of Saudis, is 85 Yemenis.
Res Ipsa Loquitur. Put differently, Riyadh delenda est!
The NY Post reports that Jean-Luc Picard, Captain on STTNG, wants to put the Starship Enterprise in dry dock:
I'm a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to the whole business of space travel," Stewart said in an interview posted on the BBC Web site.Naturally, James Lileks gives Stewart a proper Fisking:
The man whose mission was to "explore strange new worlds" as the captain of the starship Enterprise from 1987 to 1994 thinks space exploration is the height of "arrogance."
"I would like to see us get this place right first before we have the arrogance to put significantly flawed civilizations out onto other planets," Stewart said.
Oh: right. Actor talking. "Get this place right." What would that look like, exactly? And how would we know? If in 2079 there's one monomanical Marxist sub-saharan leader starving his people for political gain, does this obligate other nations to shut down their rocketry programs until the guy dies and crop production returns to pre-tyrant levels? "Arrogance to put significantly flawed civilizations out onto other planets." So it's arrogant to put Americans on Mars, because our myriad "significant" flaws would somehow contaminate the gentle Martian polity that reigns today.Well, I never trusted Stewart. I mean, how can a guy named Picard (the "house" of the Benelux countries at the 12th century University of Paris) speak with a British accent?
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
In case you thought journalistic atrocities were confined to the BBC, consider this FrontPage.com article about Australia's state owned companies, ABC and SBS:
[A] Palestinian wearing a vest packed with explosives who blows himself up in a crowded Tel Aviv cafe is not considered by SBS to be a terrorist. . . . In another instance, SBS blamed Israeli army fire for the deaths of six Palestinian bomb-makers who in reality were killed when their explosives detonated prematurely. Yet, when the truth of this incident emerged, the network did not see fit to modify its original story.The biased government-owned press of the Arab world is lamentable. Mimicking it in West is appalling.
Both the SBS and ABC forfeit any serious claim to journalistic integrity by allowing partisanship to trump objectivity in their news and current affairs coverage.
Great article yesterday in TechCentralStation--great blog; bad title--by Dr. Helen Smith, a forensic psychologist. She provides practical advice for dealing with terrorists. Money quote:
I used to believe (as many of my colleagues still do) that empathizing with my patients and increasing their self-esteem would help them on the path to self-actualization. Of course, for some anxiety-ridden patients who need faith in themselves, the technique of empathy and support works. However, for those patients with serious violent tendencies, just the opposite is true. With those patients, I've found that setting clear boundaries and making judgments about their immoral behavior works like a charm.Not to mention the press, the Democratic party, Europe, etc. Appeasement doesn't work; power does.
Those patients who threatened me backed down only when I got up in their face and told them forcefully to stop -- the slightest hint of fear or intimidation (or sympathy!) on my part was met with increased threats. In the real world of private practice, confronting real murderers, I learned to act in ways that were different from what I had been taught in graduate school. Unfortunately, there are still those in the ivory tower who have not learned this valuable lesson.
P.S.--Dr. Smith moonlights as InstaWife.
Monday's Wall Street Journal included a tremendous article by David S. Evans--available to subscribers only, alas--on the Supreme Court's decision in Verizon v. Trinko, No. 02-682 (Jan. 13, 2003). I agree with Evans that the case is one of the most important decisions of the decade--indeed, a critical boost for constitutional rights. Let me explain why anyone should care about a complicated ruling on telecommunications law. The explanation is long, but stick with me.
First some background. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 introduced a plethora of new laws, and required a plethora (squared) of new regulations, designed to "open local phone service to competition." Remember that the 1984 breakup of AT&T (following a decade of court and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rulings) created viable competition in the "long lines" market. Suddenly you could choose your own long distance carrier, change your mind, or use a "1010" dial-around to select your carrier on the fly. It was confusing for a while, but prices fell for quite some time (they've starting inching up in the late 1990s but are either stabilized or falling again). The 1996 Act was supposed to replicate those lower prices, and more choices, for your local phone service. In other words, the 1996 Act focused squarely on reducing the market share of the Bell Operating Companies, such as SBC, Verizon, Bell South, etc.
A whole bunch of FCC and Supreme Court decisions later (see here for further background), and a bigger bunch of investor dollars later, little such competition emerged. It just wasn't profitable for new entrants to lay new cable on each street to each business or home. But, the FCC and competitors reasoned, why not use the existing cables and lines. Sure, those cables were owned by the incumbent providers (again, for the most part, the Bells). Nonetheless, the law compelled the Bells to lease use of their network to their competitors. And the FCC and Supreme Court set lease rates substantially lower than the Bells' costs to build their network. Presto, chango: watch me pull some competition out of my hat.
Well, this worked marginally (pun intended) better. (Though many competitors still failed, and many shareholders lost.) And it's still the practice, although some states have permitted the Bells to increase competitor lease somewhat recently. But, it's a bit unfair, don't you think? It's one thing to promote competition; it's another to expect a competitor to subsidize competition. Further, this approach requires constant oversight by the FCC and state utility commissions over the business relations between regulated carriers. That's inefficient.
Adding insult to injury, lawyers sniffed money and started filing clever law suits, claiming that customers of the Bell competitors were injured while the FCC or state commissions adjudicated the various claims. Some experts said that the 1996 Act implicitly immunized the Bells, some said not. The circuit courts split on the issue: the Seventh Circuit (the Goldwasser case in 2000) found that the Act precluded private antitrust actions, while the Second Circuit (the Trinko case in 2002) permitted such claims. Such a "split in the circuits" often prompts Supreme Court review. But I was surprised when the Supremes agreed to hear the case; I thought the Second Circuit was clearly right and the Seventh Circuit clearly wrong. After all, the 1996 Act itself says: "nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed to modify, impair, or supersede the applicability of any of the antitrust laws." What could be clearer?
Apparently nothing. The Supreme Court had no trouble agreeing with the Second Circuit (analysis--one paragraph) that the law didn't preclude separate antitrust suits. The rest of the decision is the good stuff, and explains why the Court grabbed the case.
Moving from telecom to antitrust law, the Supremes considered whether the Bell's refusal to deal (or delay in dealing) with competitors was unlawful. As Evans wrote:
The six judges decided that compelling firms -- even monopolies -- to share their property risked reducing innovation and economic growth. A firm would have little incentive to invest if it had to share the results with its competitors, and the competitors would have little incentive if they could piggyback on their more successful rival. They also expressed doubt that courts could identify the exceptions when forced sharing might make sense. And they worried that courts would turn into "central planners" that would have to dictate price, quantity, and the other terms of deals between rivals. This position garnered the support of justices across a wide ideological spectrum, from Antonin Scalia to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Finally, we get to the point. Private property is private, damn it. The government may not pilfer (or significantly impair) it without paying value. U.S. Constitution, Amend V. This extends to property of utilities, including a telephone network. And it covers property, like a phone network, that require prior governmental authorization. Those networks, though regulated, are owned by the Bells, used as they choose.
This is an enormously helpful line of reasoning for us "constitutionalists" (you know, the ones the media call "strict constructionists," the ones who think the Constitution says what it means, not what someone wishes it said). So, in the face of a wealth of recent and contrary precedent, Trinko is a welcome case that emphasizes the narrowness of government power over persons, whether natural person or legal persons (i.e., corporations). For antitrust lawyers, Trinko means that the long-standing doctrine permitting courts to give competitors access to a rival's "essential facilities" is essentially dead.
And there's another lesson as well, a very practical one. Twenty-five years in the industry make me a believer in competition: Cheaper and faster than administrative regulation, competition ensures lower prices, better service and more choices. Whenever possible, rely on the market--not a bureaucracy or a court--to oversee providers of essential services. As the Supreme Court said in Trinko (Slip Op. at 15):
Judicial oversight under the Sherman Act would seem destined to distort investment and lead to a new layer of interminable litigation, atop the variety of litigation routes already available to and actively pursued by competitive LECs. [And such oversight] may be. . . "beyond the practical ability of a judicial tribunal to control."The United States is large enough so that most utility services can be provided by more than a single firm. In such cases, competition is vastly better than government.
But it is not always so. Competition may be infeasible in local telephony, in energy distribution or other areas. Moreover, I've consulted on telecommunications laws in other countries, in the developing world--nations significantly smaller than the U.S. Although one would like to rely on competition (rather than regulators required rapidly to become experts in the relevant industry), it may not always be possible. (This is the so-called "natural monopoly," where prices decline over the relevant range of demand.) In such circumstances, a regulated monopoly may the most efficient provider.
So the Trinko ruling sets some real-world limits to government. Yes, the government should regulate natural monopoly utilities. But, it shouldn't be self defeating: over-burdening such companies freezes technological progress, chokes choice and perpetuates high prices. It's not logical to force a company to subsidize it's competitors; it also won't serve the interests of the public.
This long-winded explanation provides both a glimpse into my work-day world and practical advice. There's no difference between the property of a Fortune 500 company and the family farm. One thing a farmer knows is that beating a cow won't produce more milk. Next time Congress considers a huge law covering a complex industry, I hope they ask: "would this be fair if applied to my house?"
How many statutes do you think would remain?
Anne Applebaum writes in today's WaPo about North Korea's brutal prison system, rivaling anything from Nazi or Soviet times. This information is well documented, yet no one--most particularly South Korea--cares. Why?
In recent years a plethora of respectable institutions -- the Vatican, the U.S. government, the international Jewish community, the Allied commanders -- have all been accused of "allowing" the Holocaust to occur, through ignorance or ill will or fear, or simply because there were other priorities, such as fighting the war. We shake our heads self-righteously, certain that if we'd been there, liberation would have come earlier -- all the while failing to see that the present is no different. Quite a lot has changed in 60 years, but the ways in which information about crimes against humanity can simultaneously be "known" and not known hasn't changed at all. Nor have other interests and other priorities ceased to distract people from the feelings of shame and guilt they would certainly feel, if only they focused on them.My question: Did we not mean it then, or do we just not mean it now?
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the state's highest court) earlier this morning ruled that civil unions aren't enough--only Gay marriage will suffice. This sets up the most stark confrontation possible. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution (Article IV, Section 1) was designed to ensure that judicial and other decrees of one state were valid in all states. Thus, persons legally married in one state can move and still be married in the "foreign state." Putting the Massachusetts decision together with the consistently means that four judges may impose Gay marriage nationwide.
So it's a zero sum game now. And not just between Stanley Kurtz and Andrew Sullivan. The threat to the democratic process has never been more clear: can a bare majority of judges in the most liberal state in the nation impose on America what has not been achieved at the ballot?
Don't get me wrong. I favor civil unions. I also oppose President Bush's constitutional amendment banning Gay marriage as too invasive. I might even be persuaded that principles of Federalism warrant different states experimenting with different forms of marriage. But this is absurd.
My proposal: no Gay marriage until passage of a Constitutional amendment to Article IV, Section 1 specifying that the Full Faith and Credit clause does not require any state to recognize a marriage performed in another state unless either:
1) the marriage is between one man and one woman; or
2) in the case of a marriage OTHER than between one man and one woman, the marriage policy of the performing state was authorized by ordinary statute passed by the state legislature and signed by the Governor.
Over to you Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Sullivan.
Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts, agrees in Thursday's Wall Street Journal.
Another gem from Mark Steyn in the Telegraph (U.K.):
As things stand, it seems unlikely that WMD will be found in Iraq. Doesn't bother me. In these pages a few days after 9/11, I stated that I was in favour of whacking Saddam pour encourager les autres. There was no sharper way to draw a distinction between the new geopolitical landscape and the September 10 world than by removing a man who symbolised the weakness and irresolution of "multilateralism". He was left in power back in 1991 in order, as Colin Powell airily conceded in his memoirs, to keep the UN coalition intact. Lesson number one: don't form coalitions with people who don't share your war aims.As they say: read the whole thing.
Denmark is investigating claims that convicted Mafia types pay stand-ins to serve their "minor" sentences, according to the Toronto Star. Remind me again why the left keeps pointing to the "Scandinavian model?"
A Swedish chef is fired--because he's too good! Employer complains that he "attracts too many people to the company's cafeteria." D'oh!
The Janet-Justin-halftime issue is well covered over at Farrell's Blog, from a traditional conservative perspective. I agree with everything he says; I'm just as annoyed. But then a friend tried to downplay the flap, comparing it to Jack Paar's suspension after referring to a "water closet" on live television about 45 years ago. And that's when I lost my cool.
This was not Jack Paar (RIP). It was simply not art.
The whole art scene, especially Hollywood, has made the fundamental error of reversing cause and effect. Because so much of modern art was shocking, they assume that anything that shocks is art. Actually, modern art was so good that it was shocking. Utterly the reverse. Hence, galleries exhibit, and museums buy, so-called art like "Piss Christ," the elephant dung on the Virgin Mary, half a cow in aspic, etc., etc. It's fair to say that--other then the happy-but-bug-eyed-children school--art is little more than shock.
Picture today's "artists" and "stars": "Oh, those comfortable middle-class and labor bourgeoisie. They don't understand the noble artist and his struggle against the oppression of modern times. We have the right--nay the duty!--to jolt them out of their comfortable suburban living rooms. We have an especial duty to the children, already being brainwashed by the litany of learning, achievement and responsibility. Pfui, I say! We'll show them!" [All to the tune of some song from "Rent" (because they've never bothered to see Puccini's original La Boheme) about artists suffering for society's sake.]
Well show they did. Now, the FCC's gonna fine Viacom, and MTV if they can. Soon, artist contracts once again will include a "morals" clause, this time with a "liquefied damages" clause. Further, the NFL's going to stick to country music from now on. Could this be (I hope!) the beginning of the end for rap . . . ?
This year's half-time show was the television equivalent of the movie "American Beauty," probably the single worst film named Best Picture. How many times must we hear "the suburbs are a confining, secret plot to strip humans of their individuality, possibly turning them into mutant cyborgs?" How many movie or TV plots are encompassed in that sentence?
Janet and Justin's show had nothing to do with evolving standards of decency. Rather, it's the sort of temper-tantrum "edgy" folks throw when they realize their parents may have been right. "Conformity is bad" might have been an interesting slogan in 1964, but when all of Hollywood conforms to non-conformity, which side is the more clueless? The issue is maturity, not decency. And, measured thusly, Janet, Justin, MTV and all the rest are just spoiled children.
Spike Lee agrees with me! Maybe I'm wrong.
Lisa de Moraes provides proof, in the WaPo, that MTV didn't view the strip show as a "regretable incident" as it and Justin now claim.
Steven Den Beste identifies something worthy of praise apart from the great football game.
[Footnote] Somehow overlooked by "artists" and most Californians, millions of people from dozens of countries still emigrate to realize the American dreamâ€”a house in the suburbs. That's what great about this country. And that's why Al Gore and the "progressive" left do great mischief when they whine about the horror of "suburban sprawl." They, of course, already have a 5,000 sq. ft home, plus an SUV and a Porsche. Nope, newcomers aren't allowed--the ladder's been pulled up behind. America's not for them. (I have no idea how liberals oppose sprawl yet favor amnesty for illegal immigrants.)
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Hi, welcome. Much more telecom, politics and foreign policy to come. I'm new at this, and my first post is a bit off topic. I was responding to a question from a friend, and decided it's a reasonably comprehensive summary of my philosophy.
Racism: where to start?
It's well known that conservatives are racists, and liberals aren't. Why else would 92 percent of American blacks have voted for Al Gore in 2000? So it must be true.
But, it's simply false. The most revealing thing I've ever heard about racism is Spike Lee (I loathe his racism) admitting that HE crosses to the other side of the street when he sees two young blacks approaching and actually is relieved to recognize strangers to be white. How can the same act be racist for whites but not for blacks?
The differences between black and white you cite stem from 40 years of patronizing blacks. As liberals patronize the most---one must protect the poor from their own "bad decisions," you can't hold the Arabs or Arab leaders responsible, and you certainly shouldn't expect Iraq to become a democracy. It reminds me of Lee Kuan Yew, former president of Singapore (and responsible for its enormous prosperity since the early '60) who said, often, something like: "Oh you silly westerners and your individual rights. They don't apply to Chinese or Malays, who (via Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism or otherwise) need strong, authoritarian leadership, not freedom or democracy." THAT is the single most racist thing I've ever heard, and current Democrats seem to believe quite similarly now.
Example of racism of current Dems: the effort to expand trade agreements to include fair labor standards, i.e., minimum wage and working hours. For the most part, this idea is pushed by Unions (and Union-friendly pols, such as Gephardt), and it's designed to protect their jobs. I know why such interested parties favor global labor standards, but they confuse their private interest with the interest of the larger public. Still, there are many on the left who defend mandatory labor practices on what appears the noblest of reasons: we have to stop "sweat-shops" and "child labor," they say. Seems logical, right? Or other do-gooders who want the U.S. to force Brazil to stop cutting down its rain forest. Sure it's "unilateral." But, who could oppose it?
I do. Because liberal racists want to prevent poor foreigners from bettering themselves, exactly as Americans did. We're a nation of immigrants. And the first generation lived in cramped, slum quarters, and worked their butts off--never mind a 40 hour work week or $6.15 and hour--to get their kids to college. When my grandfather, grandmother and my father came here, they had $12 and couldn't speak the language. My grandmother worked as a maid, my grandfather had odd jobs--and my father got his Masters at Princeton. My maternal grandfather came here at 14, found work as a watch repairer--and got a B.S. at Syracuse and a PhD from McGill. If it weren't for slums and low paying jobs, I--and many others--would not enjoy the privileges of the middle class. Liberals want to prevent the Chinese from pulling themselves up by their bootstraps as my ancestors and countless other Americans did. And that's racist.
Same regarding the rain forest. That land is OWNED by someone (sometimes by a tribe). So Liberals would remove these owners' sole asset: their land. By prohibiting or conditioning sale of forestland, self-styled "progressives" make it impossible to sell, or mortgage, some land to have money to, say, start a small business. The left accuses conservatives of wanting to keep darkie on the plantation; perhaps without realizing it, that's exactly what the liberal solution would do--freeze people in what ever state they're in today. If liberals want to preserve the rain forest (by the way, the rain forests have shrunk by just 1.47 percent in the 20th century, and the rate of change is decreasing dramatically, but never mind) JUST BUY THE FUCKING LAND YOURSELF!!
Liberals fail to consider the consequences of their actions, and they forget the law of unintended consequences. Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" destroyed any incentive for the poor to work. Thank god we passed, and Clinton signed, a welfare reform that largely eliminates that disincentive. Liberals never look before they leap--change is always good; revolutionary change still better. But it's not necessarily so. Indeed, liberal views can result in more racism than the worst "Klan" plan.
I've seen this time and time again. And so, my views changed over time. This is the best, greatest society ever known to man. Unlike others, Americans don't have to follow in their fathers' footsteps. Thanks to the lack of "classism," to the "frontier" and to bankruptcy laws, Americans can reinvent themselves. And reinvent themselves again, should they choose. This is unique in world history--and should continue.
I'm no racist. Like any intelligent person, I condemn racism in every form. But the discussion must extend beyond such universally shared abstraction. Racism must be judged by the programmatic differences proposed by people or parties. Judged on that basis, the conservative approach to race is far less racist than liberals claim, and some minorities believe. In fact, it's less racist than any liberal proposal.
This country has known racism. And racism still exists. Yet, we've come a long way in just a few decades, and--in my experience in a wide variety of overseas travel--America is now the least racist of any heterogeneous society.
Which brings me to my point: America's strengths--the melting pot, the reinvention, the absence of class boundaries, the esprit--have overcome the vast majority of its racial issues. We tackled the beast with typical American directness and gusto, and are on the path to eradicate racism altogether. So, why do I favor the conservative approach? Simple: I'm a conservative because so much in America is worth conserving.