Thursday, September 30, 2004

For MT: Public Stadiums Suck

A piece by GPL, who knows things like this, because he's from Chicago, and they can burn through public money real fast. Published here, but reproduced in full:

PAT LYNCH: A Voice of Sanity in Washington
Let's consider the recent evidence on sports stadiums. More and more people are starting to sit down and realize that, as nice as it is to have a sports team in their hometown, they certainly do not want to pay obscene amounts of money to subsidize them. And teams have basically been in a less powerful position to push cities around on this matter because the market in professional sports is glutted and there is growing evidence that (surprise) large publicly funded stadiums, like most government spending, don't promote economic growth.

Still in an era when cities all across the country are telling sports owners to start paying for their own stadiums, leave it to the last U.S. bastion of socialism east of Berkeley, DC, to offer major league baseball to pay for a 400 million dollar stadium through taxes and bonds when there's already a franchise 30 miles away. Mayor Anthony Williams, in a Marion Barryesque lie, even had the gall yesterday to tell the people of Washington yesterday that they won't being paying for the stadium because it will be financed by bonds and business taxes.

Well, of course they will, and as
Sally Jenkins points out in today's Pravda, it could very easily set up a scenario in which baseball could leave the District - again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pulling the Republican Lever

Bless Wonkette's lusty little heart.

She rescued this, after it was posted to Craigslist and those Stepford Bloggers yanked it (sorry).

Some thoughts:
1. K. Grease, being himself ambidextrous and possessed of an excellent imagination, never had to pay for it, of course. But this service would command a moderate price in the marketplace. Even if clumsily done by an amateur, it would cost $150-200. Is that what a vote is worth?
2. The "what is a vote worth?" question is complicated by the marginal/inframarginal nature of the negotiation. If you figure control of the administration is "worth" $500 million or more, than one vote in Florida in 2000 was worth about $1 million.

Maybe Clinton was more of an innovator than we thought. Kerry doesn't need better TV ads. He needs lots more blue dresses, and a big dry cleaning budget.

(Nod to MT, who pays all the time)

(UPDATE: craig @ craigslist noted (see comments to this post) that the piece had been restored, through the good offices of Wonkette. So...sorry, my bad, forget the Stepford thing; C stepped up. Besides, if you read the next few entries in Craigslist, you'll see that quite a few angry young women suggest that such fellow just take matters into their own hands, and then shut up.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Nobel's Prize

An interesting site, where market incentives produce information on relative chances of the next Nobel Prize in Economics (October 11 this year).

Best chance, according to this approach? Robert Barro. Seems right. K. Grease has in fact claimed that Barro is a lock.

Second most likely? Edward Prescott. Sure, makes sense.

On the other hand, either someone has a sense of humor or else there are huge arbitrage opportunities in this market. Third most likely is Paul Krugman. (click here for accompaniment).

(Nod to JB)

Soros: Why Not?

Is it wrong for someone to spend their own money to advance a political agenda he agrees with?
George Soros is having quite a year, according to the Times.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- He's donated some $18 million to organizations working to defeat President Bush. Now, billionaire George Soros is taking his campaign -- and money -- on the road.

The Hungarian-born activist will spend between $2 million and $3 million in the next month visiting a dozen cities, sending at least 2 million informational pamphlets to voters and placing ads in national and local newspapers.

``In spite of his Texas swagger, George W. Bush does not qualify to serve as our commander in chief,'' Soros said Tuesday at a news conference.

I've got to admit, I don't see the problem. I think Soros is a goof, but he gets to have an opinion and he gets to try to get other people to come over to his crackpot views.

But why not admit that more spending, and more speech, on all sides gives us a better debate. The idea that the federal government might restrict spending of one's own money on political speech is terrifying. The 527s...God bless 'em!

It is worth repeating the figures published a month ago, and now even more lopsided in favor of the liberal side:

Seventeen of the top 20 groups operating under the 527 code active in the presidential election support Democrats and are funded by donors with ties to the Democratic Party. In all, they've raised at least $133.1 million, according to Internal Revenue Service records compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine. The three Republican groups raised $15.5 million.

Eliminate all fundraising and spending provisions, and let the people decide. If Soros wins, more power to him.

Why Che? Why Now?

HispanicPundit asks a question that interests me, too.

"What's the deal with Che?" I mean, WTF?

But then I look back at my own little essay on Cuba, and find this:

I really admire Guevara. He was an impossibly attractive combination of intellect, physical vigor, and sensitivity to suffering, besides looking really terrific in the beret. But he [was] wrong, dead wrong. There are no “new economic forms.” And people pursuing “the satisfaction of their ambitions” are the real motors of a healthy society. People “incorporating themselves into society” are people descending into a living grave.

Why did I have to say I admire the guy? He was a thug, and a vicious war criminal. Sure, so were Fulgencia and the right-wing brain trust that ran Cuba, but Che was a bad guy. Why do we all love him so? First, Cuba wanted him back. Then, "The Motorcycle Diaries" (admittedly a pretty good read) is made into a movie. And now his home country is pressing for the return of his tired old bones. Again, WTF?

Monday, September 27, 2004

George Butler and Swift Boats III

Have you heard about "Going Upriver"?
George Butler, maker of docufilm "Pumping Iron", is releasing "Going Upriver" on October 1. That's THIS FRIDAY.

It's basically the second "Swift Boats Vets for Truth" ad, with a more sympathetic voiceover.

Ben Affleck is the narrator.

You just can't make stuff like this up. Do they really think they are going to HELP Kerry by doing this? The mind boggles. I haven't seen the movie, but most Americans aren't going to see it, either. They are just going to hear about how a bunch of SBVFT outtakes got strung together into a 130 minute documentary.

(Nod to CoLo, who knows things. Check out some of her work)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Duel Identity

In the Senate race for John Edwards' seat:
Things may start to get more exciting soon, since people seem to agree that Burr has so far not had any effective campaign strategies. Bowles is stretching out a lead, and this race is too important to the control of the Senate to just let it go. In fact, since Zell Miller has already proposed bringing back dueling, this Burr-Bowles race may be something to watch. Burr is (seriously) distantly related to another famous Burr: Aaron, who sent Al Hamilton ("I'm in charge here at the Treasury Department) to his final resting place on the $10 bill.

North Carolina Economy and the Election

The economic situation is darned interesting.

Kerry has tried to make the argument that the NC economy is dying fast, but that argument doesn't hold up very well: According to the U.S. B.L.S., NC has added (as of July 2004) more than 100,000 jobs since the low point of the recession in July, 2002.

Bush has tried to make two arguments: (1) the downturn in the economy was due to 9/11, and (2) the economy is getting stronger. The first certainly doesn't hold up, again using the the BLS data: Bush took office in January 2001. By September 2001, NC had already lost 90,000 jobs. One could say that so many fewer jobs in so short a period had to be some larger structural forces (tech bubble, over-built office space, etc), but the trend starts well before 9/11 in any case.

Is the economy getting stronger, in NC? The state's unemployment rate is 5%. That's 5.0 percent. When I was in grad school, the argument was over whether it was possible for the "Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment" could possibly be below 5.5. I guess it can, if we now consider 5% to be a problem.

Here is the way some of the "debate" may play out:

The Charlotte Observer (EXCERPT, from Lexis)
September 19, 2004, Sunday

Democratic candidate slams president, congressman to Pillowtex crowd
By Lena Warmack

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- As part of her campaign for the 8th Congressional District seat, Beth Troutman met with former Pillowtex employees in Cannon Village to offer her plan for reviving North Carolina's economy and bringing back jobs.

The visit coincided with President Bush's stop in Charlotte Friday for a forum and fund-raiser.Troutman, a Democrat, used the appearance to criticize Bush's economic plan and her opponent, Rep. Robin Hayes., R-Concord. "We have been sold out. There is not enough work in the 8th District in North Carolina," Troutman said. "Congressman Hayes and President Bush have failed North Carolina."

Troutman described the local economy as "struggling" because of recent job cuts and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.Unemployment reached 6 percent in Cabarrus County this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Mary Willimson, 53, of Kannapolis, who has been unemployed for a year, accused President Bush of dodging Kannapolis during his visit to North Carolina."He forgot about us all," she said."We are still waiting for the economic recovery that you (President Bush) keep talking about," Troutman said.

Here is something I have said before, but so have others. (Especially Mark Johnson, of the Big O). It just seems to be getting more and more true. The issue of the North Carolina economy is going to pit Burr and Bush against Ballantine. Likewise, Bowles and Kerry have to run against Easley. (Who would have thought 4 of 6 candidates would all have names starting with B?) If the economy is doing well, it helps incumbents, who can claim credit. But if Kerry is going to argue NC is swirling down the hole in the porcelain, what is Governor Easley going to say? Ballentine will be able to use Kerry ads against Easley, unless they are careful. This sort of intraparty competition is not that rare, but I have rarely seen it pitched in such stark relief.

For example, here is a bit from Easley's web site:

North Carolina’s economic picture is improving. Last year, our state added jobs, while the nation lost jobs. Many of our families, however, are still struggling to find work and we owe it to them to do everything we can to grow jobs in our state. While we cannot control globalization and trade policies, these economic times require that we redouble our efforts to recruit and retain jobs and industry. Although the national economic situation and our national trade policy are outside of our direct control, we have done some things in a bipartisan manner to improve North Carolina’s economy.

Now, for the Kerry (i.e., anti-Easley) message:

"Only George W. Bush could celebrate over a record budget deficit, the loss of jobs over the past three years and last weekend's announcement of a record increase in Medicare premiums," Kerry said.
"W stands for wrong -- the wrong direction for America."

Kerry was campaigning in North Carolina, the home state of Sen. John Edwards, his running mate, emphasizing the loss of American jobs overseas and talking about his plan to change rules that let companies defer paying taxes on money earned abroad.

We give them a complete freebie," Kerry told about 300 people, "and when I'm president of the United States, it will take me about a nanosecond to ask the Congress to close that stupid loophole that rewards companies."

North Carolina voted for Bush in 2000 by 7 percentage points but, with Bush seen as vulnerable on job losses, the contest is closer this year, polls indicate. The state has lost more than 160,000 jobs during the Bush administration, mostly in the furniture and textile industries where free trade policies have encouraged the export of jobs to cheaper labor markets.

So, here's the point: the 160,000 job loss figure is a complete fabrication. The very worst thing you can say is that there has been a net loss of about 46,000 jobs in NC, and that is assuming that Bush is actually responsible for a trend (the bursting of the internet/tech bubble) that was on its way no matter what.

Well, then....are the Dems willing to hammer Easley out of office, and lose the Manse d'Guv, in order to try to turn NC BLUE? There is no other way they can make the economic issue stick.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Let Them Eat Cake! Then, You'd Only Need Water

Teresa Heinz Kerry, drawing on her immense experience of poverty and the needs of desperation, suggested that clothing is unnecessary for disaster victims.

To wit, an excerpt:

Teresa Heinz Kerry, encouraging volunteers as they busily packed supplies Wednesday for hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean, said she was concerned the effort was too focused on sending clothes instead of essentials like water and electric generators.

``Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids,'' said Heinz Kerry, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. ``Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes.''

If the poor would just eat cake, then we could just ship water and generators.

Some fallout: The American Association for Nude Recreation saw a chance to buff its image.

And people apparently take this Heinz advice of "go as naked as you can" pretty seriously. John Kerry's daughter certainly did, at Cannes. Teresa should have warned Alexandra to wear hipper undies, tho. Or...forget the undies; she should have worn a generator.

Channeling John Kerry

Props for Whiskey on John Edwards--Good on ya!

Whiskey is a Captain's Quarters contributor. Their motto, alone, is worth the visit:

"Thus every blogger, in his kind, is bit by him who comes behind."

(You have to say it with a pirate sort of voice, tho. Don't hurt your throat, but add some "ARRRR!"s)

Dan Rather Resigns as Top Kerry Operative

okay, no he didn't.

but Benjamin Ginsberg had to resign, for about the same cause.

This from the NYTimes, that right wing rag:

NEW YORK (AP) -- A top adviser to John Kerry says he talked to a central figure in the controversy over President Bush's National Guard service at the suggestion of a CBS News producer shortly before disputed documents were released by the network.

But Joe Lockhart denied any connection between the Kerry campaign and the papers supplied to the network by the Bill Burkett, the former Texas Army National Guard official he telephoned at CBS' suggestion.

``He had some advice on how to deal with the Vietnam issue and the Swift boat'' allegations, Lockhart said late Monday, referring to GOP-fueled accusations that Kerry exaggerated his Vietnam War record. ``He said these guys play tough and we have to put the Vietnam experience into context and have Kerry talk about it more.'' (bold emphasis mine)

Jesus on a stick, man! How come CBS is in the business of providing campaign advice to the Kerry-istas? And, if CBS is on Kerry's side, why did they publicly bugger him with the Kinko's Papers?

Team Bush's response, from the same article:

``The fact that CBS News and a high-level adviser to the Kerry campaign coordinated a personal attack on President Bush is a stunning and deeply troubling development,'' said White House communications director Dan Bartlett. He urged Kerry to hold accountable anybody involved in helping CBS obtain the documents.

Under the circ's, that is a pretty measured and reasonable answer.

(Nod to JP)

UPDATE: Brief but informative article, quoting Duke colleague and very smart person Susan Tifft. She's pretty fly, for a news guy.

Best Editorial Cartoonist

K. Grease is sometimes asked who is "the best" editorial cartoonist, or (what amounts to the same thing) who is my favorite.

The answer seems to disturb people, but I'm not sure why.

Here it is: My favorite, far and away, is Al-jazeera's house guy, Shujaat Ali.

Sure, 90% of his stuff just makes me mad, but 50% or more also makes me think pretty hard. He speaks eloquently for a lot of people you'll never meet, or even see, and may never have thought about.

From the main Al-jazeera (English) page, go to bottom left. You will find the current cartoon (or click here to go directly to the current bit), and the archives.

Some of them take a little while to load, and the sound is terrible, but there is no faster way to get an insight into an Arab view of current events. And his caricatures are so savage that you just can't help but like him. Yes, he beats up the U.S. pretty bad, but his truly bilious ventings seem to target the U.N., the Arab elite, and the middle eastern media. (And, of course, the "Zionist entity.")

While you are there, take a look around the headlines on the Al-Jazeera main page. We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The Next Scandal

John Kerry, sports putz? So says Dino Panagopoulous, founder of "Football Fans for Truth."

The charges:
  • Last month, John Kerry lauded "Lambert Field" during a visit to Wisconsin
  • He praised the Ohio State Buckeyes football team--during a visit to Michigan
  • Kerry said that Eddie Yost was his favorite Red Sox player - though Yost never played for the Sox
  • John Kerry throws a football like a girl (I don't buy this one; I've never seen JK throw a girl, so how would anyone know?)

But, the inside story? K. Grease has it, for his loyal readers. It turns out that the FFFT postal box is located within just miles of the Bush headquarters. According to the Boston Herald, "Panagopoulous denied they are tied to the Bush campaign, though he and his partner support Bush."

Coincidence? I think not. Call Dan Rather. He'll get at the truth, as he defines it.

(Nod to JP, for the tip)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Burkett Lies, Dan Fries, I Wonder Why?

CBS Statement on source of documents on Bush (excerpt):

...Bill Burkett, in a weekend interview with CBS News Anchor and Correspondent Dan Rather, has acknowledged that he provided the now-disputed documents used in the Sept. 8 "60 Minutes Wednesday" report on President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard.

Burkett, a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel, also admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents’ origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source....

The Dan has to eat crow. Excerpt:

I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where-if I knew then what I know now-I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.

If Dan were really in favor of that tradition, it would be a break from his previous practice.

Still, I wonder why this is such a story. CBS was sloppy and partisan? Yawn.

What about Bush avoiding the draft? Is that really a story? I have to be honest: If I had been of draft age (K. Grease was 15 in 1973, when the draft ended, and the war started to end), I have every confidence that my parents would have told me to stay in college to avoid the war. My dad was a lieutentant, later a captain, in the Army. He commanded an armored cavalry unit (100th Recon Troop, Century Division) in combat in southern France, and won a Bronze Star. He served for years, not months. And he volunteered. But his feelings about Vietnam were confused.

Bush pulled strings to join the National Guard. He really did. Thousands and thousands of other people did, too.

Kerry served, for seven months, and made sure there was a video camera around the whole time to record his heroic facial expressions. Every time he got a scratch, he put in a for Bronze Star, to get out as soon as he could. Thousands of other guys did that, too.

Tens of thousands of other men served, and got killed or got their lives turned inside out.

Others left the country, or objected, for principled reasons, or not. We'll never know. It's complicated.

Here's the thing: there actually is a war to talk about, you know: the one in Iraq. It's not going that well, but the CBS brain trust decided to divert attention from that to the war that American just can't really make up our minds about, from more than 30 years ago.

So, for a week of news cycles, right in the meat of the campaign, we have been focused on Dippy Dan and the Kinkos Papers. The whole chattercult focused, again, on Vietnam. At best, this was just a wasted week for Kerry; at worst, Bush will actually pick up sympathy support for getting picked on with forged documents.

Did I say that Dan Rather was a liberal partisan? I take it back. He was much more effective in hurting Kerry this past week than any Bush operative could possibly have been. Maybe next time Rather can run with Nader, as a VP candidate.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Democracy is Overrated II

Now K. Grease is really angry. I hold the following truths to be self-evident.

  • Voters are (rationally) ill-informed
  • Most of them aren't that bright anyway; in any case, they don't know more than I do about good choices in my life
  • Regardless of their wisdom, other people shouldn't be able to tell me what to wear, or who to sleep with, or what to think or say about God
  • I should have the right to use or dispose of my property in any way that doesn't physically harm others ("I'm offended" doesn't count).

But the particular brand of mob rule we call democracy ignores, or actively lies about, all these things. Still, "democracy" is a thing we all admire, right?

Actually, I think we do, or claim to. That's okay, people get to be wrong about what they believe. But what bugs me is the hypocrisy of so many people who claim to favor democracy, because they actually favor the opposite. What most liberals mean by "favoring democracy" is this: "I favor using the coercive powers of government to implement through the court system, backed by Federal marshalls and the Army if necessary, a particular brand of policy that is honestly supported by less than a quarter of the U.S. population." In other words: We got guns! We don't need no stinkin' persuasion.

Consider "gay marriage": 2/3 to 3/4 of most states are opposed to civil sanction of same sex unions. Louisiana just voted on a ban, and it passed overwhelmingly (excerpt of AP story at bottom of this post).

Now, being a Libertarian, I strongly favor gay marriage rights. But not because I think that gay Americans should be singled out for special protection.

I favor gay marriage because "the people," and their knuckle-dragging hired thug, "the government," have no right to dictate private choices. I don't want to live in a system where some group of yahoos, if they are numerous enough, can use religion, prejudice, or whim to restrict the right of contract between consenting, informed, competent adults. And the name of that system is "Democracy."

I have no problem using the Bill of Rights, and the court system, to thwart repressive impulses of the mob, as long as we all admit that that is what we are doing. Saying "I love democracy" out of one side of your mouth, and then fighting against the majority will on the other side, is the basest kind of hypocrisy.

The real point of disagreement between me and the liberal democracy apologists is this: they think democracy is basically good, but prone to abuse, unless vigilance keeps it pure. I think the abuse is the thing itself: Democracy is inherently oppressive, unless it is chained up like a dangerous wild animal in domain restrictions.

In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse! Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand Error upon which all artificial legislative Power is founded. It was observed, that Men had ungovernable Passions, which made it necessary to guard against the Violence they might offer to each other. They appointed Governors over them for this Reason; but a worse and more perplexing Difficulty arises, how to be defended against the Governors? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Edmund Burke, in A Vindication of Natural Society.


Associated Press Story Excerpt (The lawyer's name is John Rawls! Is that cool, or what?)

September 19, 2004, Sunday, BC cycle 12:26 AM Eastern Time508 words

HEADLINE: Louisiana voters approve same-sex marriage amendment; opponents promise court challenge

BYLINE: By KEVIN McGILL, Associated Press Writer

...Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment Saturday banning same-sex marriages and civil unions, one of up to 12 such measures on the ballot around the country this year.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the amendment was winning approval with 78 percent of the vote, and support for it was evident statewide. Only in New Orleans, home to a politically strong gay community, was the race relatively close, and even there the amendment was winning passage. Turnout statewide appeared to be about 27 percent of Louisiana's 2.8 million voters, somewhat low for a state election. Christian conservatives had conducted an intense grassroots lobbying campaign for the amendment, which had been expected to pass easily.

The civil rights group Forum for Equality had already promised legal action against it."It's gratifying to see the people of Louisiana had an opportunity, as distinguished from judges, having the final say on the issue of whether traditional marriage will continue to be the fundamental institution in our state," said Darrell White, a retired state judge and consultant for Louisiana Family Forum, which pushed for the amendment.

John Rawls, a lawyer for Forum for Equality, reiterated the group's contention that the amendment does far more than stop gay marriage and that it could affect many private contracts between unmarried couples, gay or straight - a claim its supporters dispute."I am disappointed that so many Louisianians either did not read the amendment or are so afraid of gays that they voted for this amendment anyway," Rawls said....

Saturday, September 18, 2004

I had no idea

What a strange little law.

Probably a way to make sure that Dixiecrat votes didn't bleed over into REAL liberal votes for the Presidency, in the 1960's and '70's. (Law was passed in 1967). Still...I had no idea.

Jay Hamilton is one of K. Grease's favorite people. Fair-minded, and extremely handsome, for a liberal. He also has this working paper, on the press. Fascinating.

Florida Joke: What Blows, and Isn't a Hurricane?

Heeeee's baaaaaaaack! Back on the ballot in Florida, to go along with key battleground states Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Maine. (Some of those are in court, but...)

It's your Uncle Ralphie, the one who only shows up late to family gatherings to complain about the food, and then stiffs you for the bill. Later, he tells people they didn't miss anything, because it was poorly organized, and probably run by corporations.

Good on ya, Ralph Nader! You're a great American! George Bush says you are either with him or against him, and I think we all know now which side you are on!

But I don't think I'll be buying his book. I find I don't have time to read fiction much anymore.

Rumor? Pretty cool, if true.

I just made up a joke; let's see if it catches on in Florida: What do Democrats think is the difference between Ralph Nader and a hurricane? Answer: One of them blows, and does lots of damage. The other one involves weather. (A picture: note the Kerry sign at bottom right. Was this caused by hurricane, or Nader?)(Nod to MAG)

(More Nader jokes, if you need a laugh, or can't stop crying)

A Democratic Nadir.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Talk Like a Pirate Day

I almost forgot about "Talk Like a Pirate" day. Even Glenn Reynolds is into it.

A suggestion for a new keyboard, if you also want to blog like a pirate.

Getting started.

Remember: THIS SUNDAY, September 19, is TLAP Day.

(Nod to ARPGang, in a coldly courteous way)

Cone Punk'd

Ed Cone thinks he's Ashton Kutcher.

He "punk'd" me, on his WORD UP blog.

Compared me to Vladimir Putin. Not favorably. Do you see the resemblance?

Seriously: Ed, I'm callin' you out. Admit it, you big wuss: YOU don't believe in democracy, either. No one does. When someone says "democracy" they often mean some mishmash of good government and broad participation. All the rest of the time, they mean:

"If everyone in the world were as smart as I am, and as well-informed, then they would agree with me. The only possible basis for disagreement with my views is ignorance, or immorality. Therefore, REAL democracy is actually a DICTATORSHIP OF ME."

The U.S. is a republic; it has never been a democracy. That's the only reason we have survived this long.

I think you people need more Mencken. So, since it's Friday, here's a double shot of Henry Louis:

"Democracy is a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses."

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule—and both commonly succeed, and are right."

The Man in the Moon

I was on "On Point" last night, on NPR, talking Electoral College. (again).

Two other guests:
John Harwood, WSJ reporter and Duke alum
Alan Natapoff, CRS Research Scientist at MIT.

Harwood was great; funny and well-informed. I don't just mean he knew more than I do; that's easy. He knows more than almost anyone. Excerpt from his Sept. 13 piece in the WSJ:

The Electoral College was designed by the Founding Fathers to place a buffer between popular sentiment and the selection of a chief executive. It awards each state the number of electoral votes that corresponds to its number of seats in the House of Representatives plus two more, the latter an effort to augment the power of small states the way the composition of the U.S. Senate does.

By requiring presidential aspirants to achieve a majority of electoral votes awarded by states, the founders believed, they would force candidates to amass a broad coalition and thus stitch together the young nation.

The 2000 election, which gave George W. Bush an electoral majority even as Americans cast more ballots for Al Gore, revived the off-and- on drive to scrap the Electoral College as antiquated in favor of direct election by the popular vote.

Even before the Bush-Gore battle, polls had repeatedly shown that a majority of Americans favor scrapping the Electoral College in favor of popular-vote elections. But because that would require a federal constitutional amendment, a dauntingly difficult prospect, calls to do so from the likes of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton so far have gone nowhere.

Natapoff...well, at one point I used the old Tom Schwartz line about elections, saying that believing votes matter more under the Electoral College system was like saying that a tall man is more likely than a short man to bump his noggin on the moon.

Natapoff's response? He reminded us all that he worked on outer space, and then claimed that this made him arbiter of metaphors using the moon. And my use was outlawed by MIT's Moon Man. A truly surreal moment.

Take Back the Right

Wisdom! C.J. Maloney's rant. Marvellous.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Democracy is Overrated

The electorate is very poorly informed about most political matters. Grass roots politics is dead, killed by silly and wrong-headed "reforms."

Few adult citizens can name a Senator from their state. Fewer can name a representative. Almost no one can name even one Supreme Court justice.

This matters two ways:
1. It means that we cannot use elections to control corruption or bad actions of elected officials. We don't even know their names! Interest groups and backroom deals are more powerful, unless voters become aroused over some issue temporarily.
2. It means that the standard "majority = morality" argument doesn't hold for legislation. Generally, we want to argue that the reason you have to accept legislation you disagree with is that we obey the majority will. But since only a fraction of voters turn out (55% is a good year for Presidential races, and all others are smaller), that means that only perhaps 1/4, or less, of registered voters voted for even a popular President. What kind of mandate is this? Worse, even those voters who did vote probably could not tell their candidate's positions on more than two issues. Yet the President makes decisions in our name on dozens of policies. The speaker of the House got a majority of the vote in one district in one state. That might be 75,000 voters. How can the Speaker of the House claim a "democratic" mandate for all 250 million of us?

There are two countervailing factors, which mean things might not be so bad.

1. The media may be able to keep us informed. But people aren't going to switch from "Survivor: Atlantic City!" to the news unless the scandal involves sex or ...well, frankly, sex is the only thing we'll pay attention to.

2. Parties can discipline candidates by withholding campaign funds, and by allocating volunteers to (re)election efforts. But parties are very weak in the U.S., especially after McCain-Feingold cut out a source of "soft money" contributions to parties, and then doubled the limits on hard money, so that incumbents are even more independent.

Is my perspective "antidemocratic"? Sure: Democracy is overrated. In fact, "Democracy" is best translated "mob rule," in its original Greek form. The common people are simply not qualified, or interested, enough to be in in charge. Consider Plato's view of "democracy":
"Democracy is precisely the constitution out of which tyranny comes; from extreme liberty, it seems, comes a slavery most complete and most cruel...When a democratic city gets worthless butlers presiding over its wine, and has drunk too deep of liberty's heady draught, then, I think, if the rulers are not very obliging and won't provide plenty of liberty, it calls them blackguards and oligarchs and chastises them...and any who obey the rulers they trample in the dust as willing slaves and not worth a jot." Plato, THE REPUBLIC, Book IV, 560A-564A
What to do? I would advocate two things, as solutions:
A. Give a test, like a drivers' license test, before you get your registration card. 20 questions, basic civics stuff, but you would have to show you know what political choices, and "road signs" mean.
B. Reduce the scope of government powers, cut the domain of collective choice. We have criminalized too many behaviors, federalized too many local choices. Government is too important in our lives, and we have no control over it.
To finish, one more quote, my favorite:
"It [is impossible] to separate the democratic idea from the
theory that there is a mystical merit, an esoteric and
ineradicable rectitude, in the man at the bottom of the
scale—that inferiority, by some strange magic, becomes
superiority—nay, the superiority of superiorities. What
baffles statesmen is to be solved by the people, instantly
and by a sort of seraphic intuition. This notion . . . originated
in the poetic fancy of gentlemen on the upper levels—
sentimentalists who, observing to their distress that
the ass was overladen, proposed to reform transportation
by putting him in the cart." (H.L. Mencken, from Notes on
Democracy, 1926)

(Nod to JM for the title)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Are You Blue?

Got to give the Blue team some props. Great picture of Repub-Wanna-B-Guv Ballentine.

The look on his face, the taxi ad for a strip club, anonymous woman in the back seat...This looks like Dan Quayle on a golf-n-babes weekend. Remember wife Marilyn's spirited defense of Danny? He couldn't have had an affair, because "anybody who knows Dan Quayle knows he would rather play golf than have sex."

What this goes to show you is that, when you think staff people and handlers are paranoid, in fact they are just worried about stuff like this. I hate myself for laughing at the picture, and Ballentine didn't do anything wrong...but it's great.

John Lott and NYT's Pillar of Snide

Damn, Betsy! You go.

She goes after the NYT treatment of the Lott-Hassett study. In particular, she points to the con-FISK-ication by Donald Luskin.

Full disclosure of my own: John Lott is a friend, for two decades.

God is a Republican, Santa Claus is a Democrat

Or is it the Yankees and the Red Sox, respectively?

Ben McGrath takes his shot at this idea.

But see an earlier version, by Frederic Frommer.

Or my own take.

(The title, btw, comes from PJ O'Rourke. You will laugh. Unless you are some liberal or something. Then you will say, in this as in all things in your life, "THAT's not funny!" As in, "How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: "That's not funny.")

Outsourcing Resources

Since the reaction to my earlier post on outsourcing was so nice (no, my head won't fit there, though God knows I've tried), I thought I would share some resources.
For you haters....
For you lovers....
Both amazing sites. Both funny, because they aren't kidding.

Being against outsourcing is like being against gravity: fine, you get to be against it, but what in the world do you think you can do about immutable market forces? People who say they are against using price signals to direct resources to their highest valued use remind me of H.L. Mencken's line:

This notion . . . originated in the poetic fancy of gentlemen on the upper levels—sentimentalists who, observing to their distress that the ass was overladen, proposed to reform transportation by putting him in the cart.

Mencken was talking about democracy, but...

A question: If you are against outsourcing, does that mean you make your own shoes in your garage?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Be on your Guard

Ed Cone notes that he was going to write about the CBS "GuardPapersGate" thing, but Dave Winer had pretty much nailed it. Guess that goes double for me, having to cite someone who recognized that someone else had already done the job.

But I do have some questions:

1. Does anyone seriously doubt that Bush did in fact bail on his commitments, both when he was supposed to be in Alabama and later when he was supposed to connect with the Guard in Boston? Anyone? Why the heck do we care that these particular documents appear to have been forged? (Frankly, Peter Duncan pounded the snot of those guys at CBS. There is really nothing left to say, except sing the HEYHEYHEY: GOODBYE! song to Dan R).

2. Does anyone else wonder if a Republican sympathizer / free-lancer came up with this to discredit both CBS (for being goofs) and Kerry (for not doing anything other than being alive, but appearing to benefit from CBS's using the documents to attack Bush)? I mean, the things are so clearly fake. The IBM ball change, the perfect spacing on the superscript. If the Democrats had actually done this, they would have used a typewriter. They may be dumb enough to nominate Kerry, but they aren't stupid.

(UPDATE: Michael Totten had pretty much the same reaction, but earlier than mine. Nod to CL, just for being CL. And his use of the razor does have much to recommend it.)

(UPDATE AGAIN: Angryouser and angryouser...Nod to Dale)

High Colorado

Colorado is considering changing over to a proportional system for its Electoral College votes. (Did you know that the CO state song is "Where the Columbines Grow"? Now you do.)

There are lots of ways to reform. Proportional is a nice compromise, because it retains the essential character of the EC system, but eliminates a huge flaw.

My own thoughts, more generally:

Should we get rid of the anachronistic Electoral College? Absolutely not. But we should change it from winner-take-all to a proportional system. Colorado's contemplation of a proportional system is an important first step.

The Electoral College served three functions, in the minds of the framers of the U.S. Constitution:

· First, the Electoral College keeps the electorate from acting on wild impulses, and voting for demagogues. At first, many states used the state legislatures to choose electors, so there was no pretense, or even argument for, the popular selection of the president.

· Second, the Electoral College ensures that the small states get a voice in the presidential election. Votes from citizens in small states such as Montana or Maine count twice as much, or more, than votes from citizens in states like California or New York. Consequently, candidates have good reasons to pay attention to small states, instead of just campaigning in a few large states.

· Third, the Electoral College prevents large majorities in just a few states from determining the outcome of the election. Consequently, candidates must seek broad support from many states, rather than deep support from just a few heavily populated areas.

The three examples of past 'anomalies' in the Electoral College, in 1824 (Jackson-Adams), 1876 (Tilden-Hayes), and 1888 (Cleveland-Harrison), are each actually strong evidence for how well it works.

The 2000 election was a different matter. The system is not well suited for handling ties. The real problem is the 'winner take all' nature of the Electoral College votes, for most states (Nebraska switched in 1996, and Maine in 1972, to a more proportional system based on Congressional districts). Colorado would be the first state to go to a purely proportional system, but other states should follow their lead as soon as possible, for the health of our electoral system.

Right now, there are four states that are virtual ties, according to the polls: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Maine. Except for Florida, these are relatively small states, and the Electoral College system serves them well by giving them disproportionate power, compared to their population. The problem is that the winner-take-all system distorts this closeness.

Disadvantages of the winner-take-all system:
1. Too much rides on a few votes. Alternative systems, including the congressional district system of Nebraska and Maine, or a truly proportional system such as that contemplated by Colorado, would eliminate the incentives for recounting close votes. In 2000, each candidate would have gotten half the Electoral College votes in Florida (13 or 14), instead of one candidate getting all 27.

2. In practical terms, makes the small states less relevant, even with the weighting scheme that makes them count more than they otherwise would. If candidates only got half the Electoral College votes in the close, large states, they would have to campaign in other states also.

3. Raises questions of fraud, and the integrity of the electoral system. If just a few thousand votes can swing an entire state's Electoral College votes, then this sensitivity makes people suspicious about every county and even every precinct.

In short, the vote weighting procedures and the majority provisions of the Electoral College are working well. The problem is the winner-take-all aspect. Reform the EC, rather than getting rid of it.

(Best academic article on this: Rabinowitz and MacDonald. You'll need a JSTOR connection....also in hardcopy at library, of course: "The Power of the States in U.S. Presidential Elections" George Rabinowitz; Stuart Elaine MacDonald, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 80, No. 1. (Mar., 1986), pp. 65-87.)

Best example of non-political scientist reinventing the wheel, though with some flat spots and imperfections: Alan Natapoff (no web site!), of MIT. Article. For the obvious problem with Natapoff's view, see here, for example.


Mr. Gore appears to perceive himself as taking a role in a morality play.

Gore said that Bush's expression of faith "the American version of the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir, in religions around the world: Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Muslim", in the New Yorker. (Check the picture).

This week? Polls and stuff, and of course Kitty Kelley...

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3

Yogi Berra said, "In baseball, nobody knows nothin'."

He might as well have been talking about the Electoral College.

Three things, and a very nice article.

Thing 1: Why is Bush leading in Ohio? It doesn't make sense. Are the polls wrong? Or is Kerry?

Thing 2: Key states, as I've said before, that few others are talking about: Colorado and Nevada.

Thing 3: I don't see how Kerry can win in North Carolina. (FOLLOWUP: For a contrary view, see this. I still don't buy it, though. Repubs do 4-6 points better on election day than they did in the polls in NC. When K. Grease predicted Elizabeth Dole would win by 8-10 points in 2002, people scoffed, SCOFFED I tell you, because the polls showed it much closer as election day approached. But she won by 9%. For an explanation of why, you might check this "Republicans cheat" thread. Believing the other side cheats is much more comfortable than thinking that people might disagree with you.)

Current EC map. Kerry leading, but tenuous. Florida not awarded in this map, and Pennsylvania in the Kerry column.

Nice article: Today's WaPo. An excerpt....

The Massachusetts senator spent much of the summer trying to expand the number of battleground states with television advertising and campaign trips to places such as Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana and Virginia. But in the past week, Kerry dramatically scaled back the number of states in which he is running ads. Democratic strategists privately acknowledge that only a significant change in the overall race will put some of the states Kerry sought to make competitive back into play. Democratic hopes for victory in Missouri have diminished sharply, as well.

Tad Devine, a senior Kerry-Edwards strategist, said the shift in advertising dollars marked a decision to ensure that Kerry can campaign fully in all of the truly competitive states in the final weeks. "We did not want to be in the situation that the Democratic nominee was in four years ago of having to choose between Ohio and Florida," he said. "That choice will not have to be made this time. We have the resources to compete in those states and many, many more."

Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign, called the shift by Kerry an acknowledgement that the Democratic ticket's earlier goal of expanding the electoral map had failed. "They've basically decided they're competing in 14 states and sort of ceded, for all intents and purposes, states they were in at the beginning of the year and spent a lot of money in," he said.

For much of the year, the campaigns have described the presidential race as largely confined to 20 or 21 states, which is where Bush and Kerry were running television ads and campaigning personally. But since Labor Day, the Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee have scaled back to 16 states total, with several considered long shots within Democratic circles.

"There's nothing particularly surprising in the provisional choices they've made," said Jim Jordan, a former Kerry campaign manager now working for America Coming Together, an independent Democratic group. "Some of these states, whatever all of our hopes were several months ago, are just hard for the Democrats at the presidential level."

An examination of state polls and interviews with strategists in the two campaigns and the parties suggests that, with less than two months before the election, the 10 most competitive states are, in order of electoral vote strength, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire.

Eleven states are the remaining battlegrounds from earlier in the year. Of those, seven lean toward Bush: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. Four tilt toward Kerry: Maine, Michigan, Oregon and Washington.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Outsourcing Paul Samuelson

The grand old man of liberal economics speaks out, in the NYTimes. An excerpt:

[mainstream economists] are perpetrators of what Mr. Samuelson terms "the popular polemical untruth."

Popular among economists, that is. That untruth, Mr. Samuelson asserts in an article for the Journal of Economic Perspectives, is the assumption that the laws of economics dictate that the American economy will benefit in the long run from all forms of international trade, including the outsourcing abroad of call-center and software programming jobs.

Sure, Mr. Samuelson writes, the mainstream economists acknowledge that some people will gain and others will suffer in the short term, but they quickly add that "the gains of the American winners are big enough to more than compensate for the losers."

That assumption, so widely shared by economists, is "only an innuendo," Mr. Samuelson writes. "For it is dead wrong about necessary surplus of winnings over losings." Trade, in other words, may not always work to the advantage of the American economy, according to Mr. Samuelson.

Now, Mr. Samuelson has also recently endorsed John Kerry, so it appears he (Samuelson, not Kerry) is on a roll.

Another article, by Josh Bivens. A pretty reasonable treatment, considering it comes for the Center for American Progress.

Perhaps not surprisingly, K. Grease finds the response of Bhagwati, et al rather more convincing. Can we outsource Paul Samuelson to Bangalore, in exchange for some better code for MICROSOFT Service Pack II?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Biography as Politics

So....Kitty Kelly, well-known scholar, "reveals" that GWB did some toot at Camp David while Dad was Prez.

And....Bush may have failed to sign up for Reserves, breaking a promise.

Why aren't the Democrats running against that Bush did in the last three years? This other stuff just isn't getting any traction. Why are the obscure parts of the candidates' biographies so important? In Kerry's case, of course, the guy conducted an entire convention on a 7-month period 30 years ago.

At least looney-tune Senator Graham is jabbering about a conspiracy theory on something that happened in the last decade, instead of thirty years ago. There may be some evidence that this F9/11 style stuff has an effect.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Bloody Shirt? or Hair Shirt?

Why do the Republicans use Cheney so much in the campaign? His negatives are much higher, and his positives a little lower, than ever before.

If most people have decided, why parade this guy around? He will not convert anyone.

I think Cheney is a living, breathing bloody shirt. (As in "wave the bloody shirt"*see note below*, from the election of 1872). Waving the bloody shirt is an ancient Republican Tradition. Cheney has been beaten on so much by Michael Moore and the Dems that just seeing him walk around and smile makes the Republican partisans feel strong. "Look at this guy; he has a bad heart, he's bald as a m**********r, and he gets whacked on every talk show and news program by smug lefties! And he is unwavering in his support of the President! How can we falter, when we see such courage!" So why NOT parade him around? Since everyone has decided, he is not going to alienate anybody. Wave the bloody shirt, get "our" people out on election day! That's the only way I can understand what they are doing.

*NOTE on "wave the bloody shirt"*:
There was discussion through several years after 1876 on the origin of the red shirt as the uniform of the Democrats that year. The first red shirt shown, I believe, was that night in Charleston and on a Fifth Ward transparency. United States Senator Oliver P. Morton had delivered in the Senate a frantic and virulent denunciation of the treatment of the colored people by the Southern whites and dramatically produced and held up a crimsoned shirt which he said was from the body of a negro killed or cruelly whipped in Louisana. Democrats contended that the shirt was a fake and made much fun of it. "Waving the bloody shirt" was political slang for attempts to arouse sectional prejudice. Just before the Charleston parade Democrats somehow had intercepted a confidential letter from Judson Kilpatrick (Kill Cavalry) to Hayes, nominee for president, saying that nothing but "money and the bloody shirt" could carry Indiana Republican. It was in derision of this that the red shirt was flaunted in Charleston and later adopted as uniform. (Source)

I have seen other sources that say the election was 1872. But in all cases it was supposed to be the shirt of a black man, freed by the Civil War, but whipped to death in the reconstruction South.

Party Time


The Kerry video is actually pretty effective, for the Bush side.

But Bush himself...maybe not so effective for the Bush side.

The alternatives:
Ralph Nader, the "I love me, ME, ME!" Party
Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party
David Cobb, the Green Party
Walt Brown, the Socialist Party
Lord Sutch (posthumously), the Monster Raving Loonies party

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Gouging....HOOAH....GOOD God, y'all....What is it GOOD for?

When I walk into a Circle K, to buy ice, is it because I love the owner and want to make sure he stays in business. Probably not; I walk in there to take advantage of him, because the value of the ice to me far exceeds the price he is charging.

And does Circle K man open his store out of love for me, out of concern for my welfare? He does not. He opens because the price he can charge for ice exceeds the cost of production, and he can make money.

In other words, we are taking advantage of each other, and both of us are better off. (Here is an ad, where Circle K advertises the fact that they have ice. Watch out for the bowling ball, tho!) Millions in Florida are without power. And, therefore, without ice. That means lots of people want to buy ice. But, Florida has a robust anti-gouging law.

The result is that, if you wanted to drive to Florida with truckloads of ice, and try to sell it at the market price, you would be arrested. Does that make sense? Sure, the people who might drive down there with the much-needed ice are doing it out of greed. Who cares? The people buying it are doing THAT out of greed, too. They certainly aren't worried about truck man's welfare.

Outlawing price-gouging makes sense, if you think that statutes, and vague feelings that scarcity is somehow wrong, create reality. Me, I think that physical facts, like people's need for ice to save freezers full of soon-to-be-rotting food, matters more.

An excellent article on price-gouging after Charlie. And another article, for background. And, another, yet again. In the latter two articles, the claim is that citizens were "hit with price-gouging." No, no, no. Citizens were hit with scarcity, since there isn't enough stuff to go around. People who like price-gouging laws simply refuse to accept the physical reality of "not enough." Higher prices reflect scarcity, rather than cause it. And higher prices, if allowed to do their magic, might ameliorate "not enough."

(Yes, this rant continues K. Grease's previous rant. And I may rant about this again).

Monday, September 06, 2004

Why is it that knowledge of basic economics seems to be a bar to employment at the New York Times?

Bob Herbert, in his column today:

"American workers are in an increasingly defensive position. In a tight labor market, when jobs are plentiful, workers have leverage and can demand increased wages and benefits. But today's workers have lost power in many different ways - through the slack labor market, government policies that favor corporate interests, the weakening of unions, the growth of lower-paying service industries, global trade, capital mobility, the declining real value of the minimum wage, immigration and so on.

"The end result of all this is a portrait of American families struggling just to hang on, rather than to get ahead. The benefits of productivity gains and economic growth are flowing to profits, not worker compensation. The fat cats are getting fatter, while workers, at least for the time being, are watching the curtain come down on the heralded American dream."

Three points immediately occur:
1. If U.S. unions weren't so powerful, and the minimum wage weren't so high, then both immigration (to get jobs at artificially high wages) and out-sourcing (finding workers who will work at wages that are not so artificially high) would not be such a problem. Herbert's list confuses causes and effects. When I reread the list, I find it truly remarkable that someone with even a high school education could be so fundamentally confused.

2. There is a third group, besides workers and corporations, to consider. That is consumers. If you adjust for quality, and price, the chief beneficiary of productivity gains in the last decade have been consumers. So, as workers many people are little better off. But as consumers, their welfare is steadily improving. At least Marx was smart enough to study economics. Bob Herbert isn't even smart enough to study Marx.

3. This idea, constantly repeated by the hand-wringers and bed-wetters who don't understand capitalism, that the poor are not getting better off, is nonsense. Consider a form of analysis that focuses on individuals: a family comes to the U.S., puts down roots, learns the language, and moves up the economic ladder. Or, a family is born into poverty, works hard and saves, and sends kids to college. Over time, THAT FAMILY and its members get better off. (My family: mom and dad born into abject poverty, no one in family went to college. They scrimped, put three kids into private schools, and now all of us have graduate degrees and six-figure family incomes). That is the American dream; why doesn't it count for "the poor"? Because that family isn't poor any more! If you only focus on the "average" of "the poor", then of course that average is falling, because so many abjectly poor people are coming to the U.S. as immigrants, and people who were poor last generation are graduating to the middle class, where their higher incomes don't count in the average anymore.

If Herbert is right and "the poor" are getting poorer, why is it that so many poor people are becoming middle class? Why is it that so many truly poor people, in other nations, are risking their lives to come here? It is because the U.S. is the greatest wealth creation machine the world has ever known. The American dream is alive and well, unless you are a university professor or an ideology-blinded liberal columnist for the New York Times.

Dump Dumping, Redivivus: Amend the Byrd Amendment

The WTO is rightly yanking our chain over the infamous "Byrd Amendment." Now, you have to give him credit: Robert Byrd of WV moved to the "Vote for me, and I will give you other people's money!" platform years before the rest of the Democrats realized that, lacking actual ideas, they should do the same thing.

But this thing needs to go (the Amendment, I mean. Byrd....well, his continued success is explained by his "Porkman" superhero identity). (You might like CAGW's Byrd Droppings page). (And they say W smirks! Check this guy out....)

Interesting analysis (scroll to Aug 31, 2004 entry) by CATO's own Daniel Ikenson. An excerpt:

"By compensating petitioners and supporters of petitions, the Byrd amendment provides an additional financial incentive to file antidumping and countervailing duty cases,” remarked Ikenson. “Furthermore, by excluding from compensation those companies or unions not supporting the petitions, the law encourages companies that might otherwise decline to support petitions to do so simply to maintain eligibility for compensation.”

(Press release continues) While petitioning industries and their representatives tend to deny any linkage between the Byrd amendment and support for trade remedy petitions, the WTO case included as evidence a letter from a U.S. law firm urging a company to register
support for the countervailing duty case against lumber from Canada in order to qualify for Byrd amendment payouts.

“Despite opposition to the law at its inception from President Clinton and advocacy for repeal from President Bush, the U.S. Congress seems to have drawn a line in the sand over this issue,” Ikenson explained. “It is proving difficult to pry Congressional hands from a tool that allows them to quietly subsidize their business constituents. Unfortunately, the relatively low levels of retaliation authorized—about $150 million this year—will do little to inspire a change in that mindset.”

The dispute over the Byrd amendment is not an isolated event. There are a number of outstanding WTO rulings against U.S. laws and policies—including the Foreign Sales Corporation/Extraterritorial Income Tax provision and the Antidumping Act of 1916—that the United States has yet to implement. This mounting record of noncompliance must call into question the commitment of the United States to a rules-based trading system.

Those darned rules...they apply to everyone else, but not U.S., right?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

U.S. Cellular Field, and the White Sox: Where America Lives

I bailed out from APSA and went to White Sox games. Italian sausage, beer, loud folks in the stands. A drunk guy ran onto the field, HOLDING A BEER ("I'd better take along something to drink, in case I get thirsty!"), and was still fast enough to elude the "security" guys. When they did run him down, they beat hell out of him, discreetly, with knees and elbows, right in center field. Actual holes in the turf where the carnage took place; guy was bloody. Great American entertainment.

Later, a Mariners batter got the high-n-tite treatment on a pitch, and fell on his back, hard. A fan a couple of seats to my right immediately yells (to the White Sox catcher): "Kick him! Kick him in the head!"

On the other hand, the Mariners' nonpareil, Ichiro, went five for five, and got a nice standing ovation from the White Sox fans. He tipped his hat. The four of us attending the game together agreed: with his off-balance stance and weak little swing, Ichiro will never succeed as a hitter.

Best moment of the two games I saw: White Sox bullpen is so bad, they fritter away a 8-3 lead. Bajenaru gives up hits and walks, until it's 8-5. Then the Sox management bring out their frisbee-throwing pet hamster, "Shingo" Takatsu. Big production: gongs, "Shingo Time!" on the big screen, loud music, Japanese characters on the really big screen. He has 15 saves for the year; some closers get that in a month. Of course, your team has to win to get a save, so maybe it isn't all Shingo's fault.

Shingo strikes out Edgar Martinez (Edgar: retire, please; this is embarrassing) on pitches that look like wads of tissue paper (Shingo's fastball is 89, if the radar is feeling friendly). Now there are two outs and the bases are loaded; Sox still up 8-5.

The Mariners' Ibanez creams a low liner to right, his third hit of the night. (This means that Shingo gives up two more runs, neither of them earned for him, because Bajenaru put them on base. Shingo is no bargain for other pitchers' ERAs). Two runs score easily, so it's 8-7. But, for some reason, Boone (who had been on first) decides he needs to be on third base. Why did he go for third, with two outs? He's already on second, in scoring position, with Bucky Jacobson, mountain-size phenom, coming to the plate. But Boone scoots for third, is thrown out by a step. The game is over, on Boone's boner. Shingo gets another save (now he has 16). The White Sox shoot off fireworks, and then there is a real fireworks display, made to seem less loud by the truly deafening "best of the 70s, 80s, and today!" pseudo-rock blaring from the speakers. An exquisite evening in the heartland.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

From the (APSA) Convention

I am up at the Am Pol Sci Assoc meetings, home of the combover and the sack-assed K-mart suit, in Chicago. Pity me!

Post-RNConvention thoughts:

Bush's speech was about what an incumbent should do. He was ill-served by his speech writers, because the thing was long and had random micro-initiatives (what happened to Mars?). And if a guy is a bad speaker (Bush is not gifted, to say the least) then why not make the thing short and thematic? It's like the old Groucho Marx joke: we were relieved, on finding that the food was bad, because at least the portions were small.

The reason that this was all okay is that the Republicans are pursuing a fundamentally different strategy from the Democrats, and at this point the race is once again Bush's to lose. A month ago, Kerry had the upper hand, and he has let the advantage slip away.

Kerry strategy: appeal to the center, to the swing voters, and win a majority of the usual voters. Make the appeal broad. Run like an incumbent, take no risks, and make the other guy beat you with policy proposals or negative ads. (This would require quick and decisive reactions to negative ads, which is where Kerry has failed).

Bush strategy: recognize that turnout is 55-60% in Prez elections. Go deep, not broad. Make sure all the disaffected people on the right (pro-life, religious, very patriotic, veterans who feel the left disrespects them, libertarians who like Arnold Sch'ger) actually are contacted and turn out.

Bush / Rove are winning because:
1. Their convention was diffuse, giggly, manic, scriptedly unscripted (okay, Bush twins, go up there and make mild sex jokes!) and with plenty of overtly patriotic tartare de beouf.
2. Kerry failed to respond to the Swifties. In fact, he teed them up by emphasizing this Viet Nam record, and ignoring the 30 years since. His "midnight madness" gig was too little, too late.
3. Kerry is conducting an old-fashioned race, appealing to swing voters. But there aren't enough of those.
4. Bush is going after a much bigger group, the people who don't vote but who have latent (poorly informed, manipulable) beliefs that favor a particular view of the Republicans. If the Bush can sustain that view of the Republicans (handsome, confident entrepreneur Arnold, patriotic Zell, maternal and sweet Laura), then he can win by a lot.

Friday, September 03, 2004

What He Said

I was going to write about GWB's convention speech.

But then I found an article by Tom Shales at the WaPo that said what I would have said, and also said more, and said all of it a lot better.

Two excerpts:
It's doubtful that four more years in office would turn George W. Bush into a great speechmaker, but that he's improving was evident last night when he stood on a circular stage meant to suggest a pitcher's mound and made his case for a second term to near-deafening cheers at the Republican National Convention in New York.

Bush still has problems maintaining poise. Twice, when cheers from the crowd were interrupted by jeers from protesters -- who were quickly hustled out of the hall by security guards and police -- Bush looked flustered, even frightened, though he did keep reading from the prompting devices encircling him. Ronald Reagan in the same situation would have responded with a quip and dismissed the protesters with a tolerant smile. Bush clung carefully to his text, his eyes darting anxiously around the hall.

Where the Republican convention seemed to fall disgracefully short was in paying proper tribute to Ronald Reagan, whose name is invoked at every opportunity but who seemed to get very little in the way of passionate posthumous tribute. Maybe the Republicans feared that too much homage would only serve to remind viewers that Reagan is gone, and that if it isn't mentioned, people will be lulled into thinking he's still around.

Reagan could have beaten John Kerry with one hand tied behind him. George W. Bush will need both hands and lots of additional help besides. Then again, the Democrats' post-convention antics, poor use of TV and Kerry's ill-advised photo ops give the impression that the Democrats are so determined to lose that nobody can stop them -- no matter what and no matter who.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

11 Things I Didn't Know, Plus One More

A list of interesting things, from Gallup.

And, a funny bit. Thanks to Elkrider. This other Elkrider post is just a paranoid fantasy, of course....or is it?

Midnight Madness

Why is Kerry campaigning in the middle of the night, in Ohio?

The real question is why Bush isn't behind in Ohio by 10 percentage points. Some polls actually have Bush ahead, which is remarkable, given the jobs situation there. At this point, you'd have to say that if Bush wins Ohio, he wins the election.

The "midnight madness" bit is exactly like college basketball, of course. Lots of schools do a "midnight madness" practice, on the first day they can hold practice. You'll probably want to be at "The Ralph" on October 15. I hear it's crazy there.

But, for politics: The norm is that you don't do major campaign events during the other side's convention. But the convention ends on Thursday! So, at 12:01 on Friday morning, it is okay to hold an event.

Bush may get a good convention bounce, which Kerry can't afford (Kerry is sinking already!). So, Kerry wants to make the bounce look like a guitar string: plucked, makes noise for a little while, but then settles down to pretty much where it started out.

Three Trials

(On the title: with apologies to John Edwards, whose book Four Trials is now #5,523 on Amazon (and # 7 overall here in Raleigh, NC)). (To be fair, though, I bought the book, and I would say that the good Johnnie Reed owes me an apology, or perhaps a refund).

Trial #1: Todd Parrish, of Cary, NC, thought he was done. He had served the four years active duty, and the four years reserve duty, required by his ROTC contract.

But it turns out he forgot to say "Simon says I quit", and so the Army still owns him. An excerpt from the Army Times story:
The Defense Department has been using numerous devices to keep enlistment up during the Iraq conflict, included a “stop loss” order that prevents soldiers from leaving the military when their obligations end and multiple deployments of guard and reserve units.
Don't the authorities realize that this is a "stop recruiting" order? Who is going to sign up for the reserves now, when Dean Wormer-Rumsfeld can simply declare you subject to "double secret probation" and send your big butt back to a war that may never end.

Trial #2: David Passaro, CIA "contractor", has been charged with abusing prisoners in Afghanistan. In particular, he is charged with beating (using hands, feet, and a large flashlight) one Abdul Wali on June 19 and 20 of 2003. Wali died in his prison cell at the Asadabad Base, quite possibly of injuries inflicted by Passaro, on June 21.

Interesting twist, as John Ashcroft pointed out in his statement on the indictment:
I also note that this case would have been more difficult to investigate and prosecute were it not for the USA PATRIOT Act. The Act expanded U.S. law enforcement jurisdiction over crimes committed by or against U.S. nationals on land or facilities designated for use by the United States government.
Trial # 3: Kobe Bryant. Now a non-trial. Not clear that Mr. Bryant really won, but the criminal part is over. Here is part of his statement, elicited as a term of the agreement to drop charges:
I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year.
Rape is so ungentlemanly. Sorry, sweetie, my bad. Don't know what I was thinking. You want to get some dinner, later?

At least we all got to hear the claim, by Bryant mouthpiece Pamela Mackey, that this was really all about race. She said:
There is lots of history about black men being falsely accused of this crime by white women.
Sure, that's true. There is also lots of history of rich men using power and influence to escape prosecution after abusing and raping women. The relevant comparison here is not to OJ Simpson; Kobe Bryant is simply another William Kennedy Smith. I don't often go for overblown accusations about "the patriarchy," but...

Another great day for American justice.

What Do They Think This Is, The Olympics?

If you were to try to watch the conventions (either the D or the R version), you might wonder if there really is a convention, or just an excuse for the network talking heads to preen.

There really does seem to be a sense among the chattercult that the events here are much to important to be left to the viewers to view or interpret. More important that they explain things to us, even if they don't know a darned thing and the chattering obscures the actual events. I have been watching C-SPAN, for heaven's sake.

Here's an exercise. It is interesting, and it may even be fun. Compare the following two web sites. Which one is doing the better, more accurate job of covering the Republican convention? (Hint: Trick question! It's a tie).

News Organization 1

News Organization 2

The Poets Down There Don't Write Nothin' at All

They just stand back and let it all be laughed at.

On Union Square, hard to tell parody from serious self-delusion. But this is parody.

An excerpt:

Soon our horde of professional rebels is joined by a local weekend rebel dressed in well-ironed Middle Eastern pajamas. His sign says, "The Destruction of the USA is a necessary condition for Peace." How brave of him, to engage in a battle of wits unarmed!

(Thanks to TG for the tip!)