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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Sue My Competitor, Please!

The NYT, protectors of the little guy, the consumers, looks at Microsoft, the now-humbled giant of computer software. Joseph Nocera in "Google This: Is Microsoft Still a Bully?" reviews the effect of the anti-trust litigation against Microsoft that he gleefully observed for years for the NYT. Nocera lauds the heroism of Judge Jackson who stood up to Microsoft and the DC Circuit Court in ruling Microsoft had abused its monopoly power to the detriment of Netscape. No, the lawsuit was not in the interest of the consumer. The lawsuit protected a competitor of Microsoft.

Interestingly, in Europe, Microsoft faces similar anti-trust litigation and is being forced to put out a version of Windows without a media player - called Edition N. (which Nocera admits "not a single computer manufacturer has agreed to use").

So, the computer manufacturer does not want a watered down product and end users, computer idiots like me, do not want to have to download new products after buying a new computer with all of the bells and whistles or even consider which of the many products that do the same thing are better than the original brand I know. Brand recognition means a lot to us illiterates.

And ultimately, as with any monopoly over time, there is/was never any need for an anti-trust lawsuit since open competition leads to new faces like Google stealing the old-timer's thunder. Says Nocera, "AMONG competitors, Microsoft is still respected, but it is not feared the way it used to be. It has become a sluggish, bureaucratic company that, for instance, is going to be at least a year late with a new operating system, called Longhorn, that the world needs now because it is supposed to make computing more secure. Its stock hasn't moved in years. "

Then what was the point of the anti-trust lawsuit?

Nocera will tell you the millions of dollars wasted by both the government and Microsoft was to wake "Microsoft up to the fact that it was truly hated in Silicon Valley."

So it was hated by its competitors while loved by its customers. I guess we really do get a benefit from the government's attempt to regulate the free market. We get a computer with less built-in at the time of purchase and we get to pay higher taxes for the enormous expense of government litigation to benefit some competitor who cannot convince us to voluntarily use their product. And what does this do to innovation when competitotrs get to share the technology of the originator? That's America?

Even Nocera asks the question: "when you come right down to it, did the antitrust trial of the century make a whit of difference?" Inevitably, these anti-trust lawsuits never do.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Newflash- Scientists Agree The World Will Burn Up In 5 Years

I just got off the phone with my 60's psychedelic liberal buddy. With all of his free time, he just quit his first job since 9/11 (the 9/11), he told me he is really worried about global warming. He told me scientific consensus shows the earth has experienced a temperature increase of 3-5 degrees in the past 20 years. Forget about social security, the world will be gone in 5 years! It is easy for him to forget about social security since he just inherited a $500,000 house, there is probably another equal inheritance down the line and his wife has a nice state-paid teacher's pension. But what about the people who do not have such waiting for them?

I told him to call me in 5 years. I think he needs a job.

Boxer against Judicial Fillibuster

From Club For Growth- its Quote of the Day:

“According to the U.S. Constitution, the President nominates, and the Senate shall provide advice and consent. It is not the role of the Senate to obstruct the process and prevent numbers of highly qualified nominees from even being given the opportunity for a vote on the Senate floor.” — Sen. Barbara Boxer, Congressional Record, 5/14/97, p. S4420

We May Disagree On Most Things But Everyone Hates the French

What adjectives would you use to describe the French:

1. "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless".
2. "pretentious, offhand and frivolous".
3. "agitated, talkative and shallow."
4. "cold, distant, vain and impolite".
5. "preaching".
6. "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed".
7. "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants".
8. "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty".

The above poll answers were given by, in order, the Brits, the Germans, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Italians, the Greeks and the Swedes. This is reported in a piece called "Europe unites in hatred of French". Do any of these opinion offend them? I think, non my cherie.

The question was not even loaded.

"Interviewees were simply asked an open question - what five adjectives sum up the French," said Olivier Clodong, one of the study's two authors and a professor of social and political communication at the Ecole Superieur de Commerce, in Paris. "The answers were overwhelmingly negative."

They have brought the world together. Maybe there is some use for the UN.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Make Mine a Double Che With Lots of Sugar

In an entertaining interview (entertaining in the sense that it provides us another instance of the sheer ignorance of almost anyone connected with Hollywood) on a very sad topic, Humberto Fontova, author of "Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant", tells Jamie Glazov of Frontpagemag.com:

Castro's gulag held more political prisoners, as a percentage of population, than pre-war Hitler's and --yes--even Stalin's. Also, the longest serving political prisoners OF THE CENTURY spent their hell in Castro's Gulag. Senores Mario Chanes de Armas, Angel de Fana and Eusebio Penalver all served thirty years in Castro's dungeons. To put this in proper perspective, Alexander Solzhenitsyn served 8 years in Stalin's Gulag. So here's men who served over THREE times as long-- and who's heard of them? They all live in Miami today. So where's the PBS documentary on them? Where's the 60 Minutes interview with them? Where were the rallies (outside of Miami's little Havana) for their release? Where were the U.N declarations for their release? (Instead their jailer's regime is appointed to the UN's Human Rights Commission!)

Where was the caterwauling by Democrats and Hollywood types? Well, these men, and many others like them, are showcased in my book as the heroes they are. Penalver is the longest serving black political prisoner OF THE CENTURY, by the way. He served longer in prison than Nelson Mandela. So where's the Congressional Black Caucus, Jesse Jackson, Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, etc? I'll tell you where: they were hugging and hoisting the arm of Penalver's jailer, Fidel Castro!

And on Che:

A bumbler, a fool, a coward and a mass--killer. He excelled in only one thing: the mass-murder of bound and blindfolded men. In "battle" such as these were (puerile skirmishes that would bore the Cripps and Bloods on any week-end night) his imbecilities defy belief. Che was Castro's chief executioner, a combination of Beria-Himmler. "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary," is a famous Guevara quote, "These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."

Che's slaughter of (bound and gagged) Cubans (Che was himself an Argentine) exceeded Heinrich Himmler's prewar slaughter of Germans–to scale, that is. So what happens today? Well, you see Che's face on t-shirts worn by people who oppose capital punishment!

Yet you see people wearing the Che T-shirts.

My cousin recently remarked how she has discovered a new type of person. You used to meet arrogant people who were well-read and threw their knowledge in your face. Today, we see arrogance in ignorant people. They apparently do not see how little they know and lord their absolute opinions without support. "I'm entitled to my opinion", they say.

George Will recently wrote:

America is currently awash in an unpleasant surplus of clanging, clashing certitudes. That is why there is a rhetorical bitterness absurdly disproportionate to our real differences. It has been well said that the spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure that you are right. One way to immunize ourselves against misplaced certitude is to contemplate—even to savor—the unfathomable strangeness of everything, including ourselves.

What I see today besides certitude is the pride in ignorance. there are too mant people spouting their opinions, often quite loudly, who have read next to nothing on the subjects they are pontificating about. They wear their lack of reading as a badge of honor. Today, as I did when I was a kid, I look at a library and am humbled by how much I have not read and need to learn. Our peers see those books and laugh at the idea of even attempting to read those books. Of course, the parking lots of the Barnes and Nobles and Borders are packed in towns across America. I guess their latte's are tasty.

Now, how is that for getting off on a tangent?

ABC Beats CBS by a Pinocchio Nose

Max Pappas reports how the MSM is panning the President's Social Security plans while ignoring a public endorsement by 450 of the nations leading economists. As to the bias of the MSM, he writes:

The media bias report, from the Center for Media and Public Affairs finds that “Television news coverage of President Bush’s Social Security overhaul was overwhelmingly negative during his two-month nationwide campaign.” The study is based on the 43 stories that covered the Social Security story on ABC, CBS, and NBC newscasts from March 1, 2005 to April 30, 2005. To the networks credit, the study finds that they focused more on substantive issues like personal retirement accounts than on superficial issues like political implications and poll numbers.

However, the report finds that 83 percent of the Social Security comments by non-partisan sources (reporters, experts, citizens) that the networks chose to air were critical of President Bush’s plan. They report that ABC was the worst offender with 92 percent of the comments they aired being negative, while NBC was negative 69 percent of the time and CBS was negative 89 percent of the time.

I am almost sorry to see ABC topped CBS on the bias meter. But, there is always newsweek, I mean next week.

Guess The Number of Jelly Beans in a Jar

Economist Jude Wanniski relates the Galton phenomenon proving the efficiency of markets (and refuting the popular theories of Joseph Stiglitz). Galton showed how a thousand individuals can guess how many jelly beans are in a jar. While no one guesser will come remotely close to the actual number, if you add up all of the guesses and divide it by 1,000, the result is incredibly close to the correct number. A large number of people will have better judgment than individuals. Stiglitz seeks to reduce the number of guessers to himself and his chosen few. His guesses will likely be educated flops. Now, that's freakonomics.

A Playoff Will Not Be Held

There was a tie for Teacher of the Year in the 575-instructor San Luis Obispo County school district this year? A 575-way tie! They're all winners! That must be some excellent school district. Only in California is there never any embarassment.

Mixed Signals from The AARP

Chicago Boyz posts to the AARP suggesting in their letter to the WSJ that one safe approach to pay off the SS Trust Fund shortfall is by "diversifying the Social Security Trust Fund investments to get a higher return."

So the stock market is not like gambling in Vegas. They better pull those commercials and advise their members of the safety and returns of a diversified stock portfolio.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Undoing the Big Lie Is Near Impossible

Allen Gorin comments on "The Big Arab Lie" by David Meir-Levi:

Like any oft-repeated lie fed to the public, it eventually becomes accepted as truth. Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels was right on this point. Unfortunately, countering big lies usually requires big explanations, stated with depth, facts, reasoning and a requirement on the part of the receiver that he or she invest the time and mental energy to process it.

Another big lie about the Arab/ Israeli conflict concerns the "occupied territories." How does anyone think these territories came to be occupied in the first place? As David Meir-Levi's article partially addresses, Israel has come to occupy these lands in the same manner the British, Ottomans, Assyrians, and others once occupied them--through conflicts of one sort or another. In Israel's case, wars initiated by surrounding Arab countries have borne bitter fruit for the Arabs: lost land, refugees, economic deprivation, totalitarian Arab governments sustained by posturing Israel as the bogeyman. But trying to explain all this in the equivalent of a thirty second soundbite is impossible. Those who tell big lies instead of engaging in honest debate certainly know this.

It Takes A Village To Put You In An Old Age Home

Walter Williams denounces the system where the richest segment of our country lives off the less wealthy. That is, seniors living off the sweat of young adults. He explains that the income of retirees is likely lower than the income of workers. However, senior's relative wealth is greater.

According to a 2003 Housing Vacancy Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in conjunction with the Current Population Survey, 42 percent of Americans 35 years of age owned their homes compared to 80 percent of those 55 and older. The bureau's May 2003 report, "Net Worth and Asset Ownership of Households: 1998 and 2000," shows that excluding home equity, the median net worth of householders 35 to 44 years of age was $44,000 and that of householders 70 to 74 years of age was $120,000.

Older people are generally not workers so their incomes are naturally lower than working adults. But they have accumulated wealth over time. The various government-provided benefits for the elderly have to be paid by someone. That someone is the worker. From discounted drugs and movies to social security, their reduced costs are borne by the younger generation. Williams believes the true free ride is given the heirs of the elderly.

I disagree with his final point, though. Says Williams:

Of course, there's another, more traditional, alternative for older people. It's the one found in the Ten Commandments: "Honour thy father and thy mother." There was a day when children cared for their aging parents. Parents used to die in the homes of their children. Often today they die all alone in a hospice room. There's less honoring of parents. Why? Through the tax code, children can force someone else to honor their parents.

I believe the government has intentionally driven a wedge between parent and child through their myriad programs (remember "It Takes A Village"?) that replaced responsibility and instinctual self-preservation. In earlier times, the elder would have developed co-dependent relationships with their children and grandchildren so that they would have a home with loved ones for their late years. Now, we see elders who are independent of their children. The government is there to provide their sustenance. But, as always, the government provides in a cold, bureaucratic and usually incompetent way. And that means living their final days in old age homes where their last relationships are with people they do not know who treat them in hospital work clothes during work-shifts rather than with loving children and grandchildren.

The community will always only go so far for you.

Reporters Know Better

Figures an economist would boil the Newsweek controversy down to its basics. The controversy is an indictment of the MSM. Thomas Sowell writes:

If the forged documents at CBS and the phony story at Newsweek were just isolated mistakes, that would be one thing. But media liberals have made themselves accessories after the fact, by springing to the defense of such indefensible misconduct.

In a sense, that is good. It makes it easier for the public to see that the forged documents and the fake story were not just odd things that happened to a couple of people but were symptomatic of a mindset among many others who sprang to their defense.

We want to get the news. We want the news to be authenticated before published. We want to form our opinions based upon qualitatively clean information. We will go to the editorials and blogs for the broader conclusions as these news items reflect on policy and the human condition.

That is why I go to Sowell to connect the dots. Here is the connection between the corruption of journalists posing their opinions as fact and the corruption of other assumed objective authorities:

That kind of corruption can be found not only in the mainstream media but also in two of our most important institutions, the public schools and the federal courts. Both the schools and the courts flatter themselves that their job is to change society. So does much of the media. But what qualifies these people to be world-changers? They are usually poorly informed about science, uninformed about history and misinformed about economics.

Suicide Bombers Will Stop When They Embrace Their Religion

Religion and culture are what lead people to moral lives. This was said in the NYT of all places!

Thomas Friedman writing about the solution to halt suicide bombers in the Middle East was not through military action but through the traditional nroms of religion. He said:

If you want to stop a wave of suicide bombings, the likes of which we are seeing in Iraq, it takes a village. I am a big believer that the greatest restraint on human behavior is not laws and police, but culture and religious authority. It is what the community, what the village, deems shameful. That is what restrains people. So how do we get the Sunni Arab village to delegitimize suicide bombers?

I thought I was reading Dennis Prager. And then he chastises the silence of the Muslims in the face of these actions by their people. Friedman again cites religious ethics:

The best way to honor the Koran is to live by the values of mercy and compassion that it propagates.

Has another conservative besides David Brooks found his way onto the NYT staff? Has the NYT actually gone for diversity of viewpoint?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Dad, I'm Gay.

Did William DeVane's son pick the absolute perfect time to come out of the closet last night on "24"?

Terrorists have fired a nuclear missile to parts unknown and the Secretary of State's son may know something about the terrorists. Facing torture by Jack Bauer at CTU, DeVane pleads with his son to explain how his cell phone dialed Marwan (the terrorist leader). The son says he went back to his place to party with a couple a few nights ago and while he was in bed having sex, the other used his cell phone in another room. The son admits he was in bed with the guy! DeVane blows that news off to get more information on the couple and where they went afterwards. The missile has to be located.

To all closet-dwellers. This is the best time to tell your father you are gay. He will not get angry.

Freakonomics at Philly Book Club

If you are in the Philly area, Philadelphia radio talker Michael Smerconish is hosting a book club event with Freakonomics author Steven Levitt on June 28th. Looks like a great opportunity!

CAFTA Will Make Us Richer

David Ricardo's studies on "comparative advantage" proved almost 200 years ago that free trade benefits each side of the trade equation. We have an opportunity to increase our wealth in America by pushing through CAFTA.

Kemp on CAFTA:

About 80 percent of imports from the CAFTA countries already enter the United States without tariffs under the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the Generalized System of Preferences...The strongest opposition to the agreement comes from the politically influential sugar industry, which has a racket where it donates millions of dollars to politicians in exchange for billions of dollars of taxpayer and consumer money. Ironically, CAFTA was designed with a carve-out for sugar that would allow only a token increase in imports, yet the industry is still dead set on killing the agreement.

People need to realize that it is not governments that grow richer from these agreements. It all of us little individuals who can purchase more goods for fewer pieces of paper (money). When that happens we become richer individually. Let us force ingenious Americans to work harder, smarter and more efficiently through competition, and the unemployment rates will fall while income continues to grow.

Yalta Again

Phyllis Schlafly reviews Yalta and refutes the claim that FDR needed to give Stalin most of Europe to get him involved in the Pacific Theater against Japan. She states:

FDR came home from Yalta and made a false report to Congress. Calling it "a personal report to you and to the people of the country" he asserted, "This conference concerned itself only with the European war and with the political problems of Europe, and not with the Pacific war."

Roosevelt's defenders have tried to claim that his concessions were necessary to bribe Stalin to enter the war against Japan. The Yalta papers prove that was false: 3 1/2 months before the Yalta meeting, Ambassador Averell Harriman had relayed to Roosevelt a "full agreement from Stalin not only to participate in the Pacific war, but to enter the war with full effort."

Russia wasn't needed in the Pacific war, and letting Russia in simply opened the way for a Communist empire in China and North Korea. This set the stage for the Korean War in the 1950s and for the son of the original North Korean Communist dictator to threaten us with nuclear weapons today.

Of course, FDR was advised by Alger Hiss. Hiss, a convicted Communist spy now irrefutable after the Venona Decrypts, had access to all top-secret files. Stalin had everything bugged. Our soon-to-be nuclear bomb was no secret to Stalin given his infiltration of US Defense and intelligence.

The sincere Yalta apology by George Bush to the millions of decendants of those who suffered for 50 years under Soviet oppression was the least we could do.

They Couldn't Help Themselves

Dennis Prager makes excellent points about the "excessive" (does that word capture the lack of proportionality) Muslim reaction to the Newsweek lie about the Koran-toilet flushing non-incident. Christians did not riot after the "Piss Christ" art was shown in art houses, Bhuddists did not riot when Muslims blew up their statues in Afghanistan, Jews did not riot for all of the desecrations they have suffered but the press is silent about this overdone expression of psychic pain. Anyone need some therapy?

Says Prager:

It is quite remarkable that many Muslims believe that an American interrogator flushing pages of the Koran is worthy of rioting, but all the torture, slaughter, terror and mass murder done by Muslims in the name of the Koran are unworthy of even a peaceful protest.

Nevertheless, one will have to search extensively for any editorials condemning these primitives in the Western press, let alone in the Muslim press. This is because moral expectations of Muslims are lower than those of other religious groups. Behavior that would be held in contempt if engaged in by Christians or Jews is not only not condemned, it is frequently "understood" when done by Muslims.

The press did the same thing when African-Americans rioted after the Rodney King verdict. Certain groups are tolerated for their destructive acts. And as children unable to control their emotions, there will never be any maturity without adults ready to criticize those rages.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Dan Rather Is Not Proved Yet To Be The Source For Newsweek

So far, there is NO evidence that Dan Rather fed the story about the Quran's defilement to Newsweek.., Absolutely none--at this time. But, as a public service the blog will look for confirmation. We have Jason Blair heading our investigation.

Muslims Must Not Be Real People

I heard before the Iraq War that Arabs do not want democracy. Oh, really? I heard that political change cannot come from outside forces. But, historically, bad changes came from the outside so why can’t some good? I heard that despite anything the Muslim governments have done against their people, all will rise against the Western powers that dare to invade. But, the people would react the same way whether one removed an unelected madman from power as removing by coup a beloved leader? That would be to expect Muslims to be the least human people on earth. That is not rational. Where do people come up with these alleged truisms on geopolitics? I heard these comments from many liberal friends. Racists? No.....

While understanding that these truisms were spoken by people ignorant of history or blinded by their prejudices, we read from people like Thomas Paine and Natan Sharansky that all people seek liberty. Liberty was forcibly wrested from the British by the American revolutionaries. Recently, the Russian people took advantage of the crumbling of the Soviet empire. Israel received it upon its birth. Is how one received it all that relevant?

Today, in the WSJ, Fouad Ajami quotes a Kuwaiti merchant who says that Middle Eastern borders, oil exploration and political elites all came to them from without. So, why not freedom?

Ajami calls the Middle East “George Bush Country”. The ruling despots have been wary of late of cracking down on Arab demonstrations for freedom or against intellectuals criticizing their governments because of the fear of Bush’s wrath (with over 100,000 troops next door).

Says Ajami: “They hang on George Bush’s words in Damascus, I was told. The rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they can glimpse their future. Thomas Friedman has written similar things about the Iranian Street crediting the US and Bush for support in their fight for freedom.

Credit Paul Wolfowitz among the many in this administration who refused to listen to these truisms spouted by mint tea sippers in embassies and MSM op-ed offices worldwide.

"We Were Sure Enough And That's Enough"- Newsweek

Newsweek has sorta apologized for the article that recently reported that American officials dumped a Quran in the toilet in Guantanamo Bay as part of interrogation techniques. This report touched off riots in Afghanistan leaving many people dead.

Newsweek admits they relied on a report from someone who had spoken to someone who had read an email from someone that they had heard from a friend’s cousin that their uncle thought the Americans would have done such a thing. Now that is a great source and it is shocking that the report may have been false.

Newsweek denies any intentional wrong-doing. A spokesman said, “Bush is not running for anything so why would we intentionally lie about anything”. Good point.

Two things about that:

1. I must reveal my source for the above quote. I followed MSM journalistic ethics rules to the letter. The above quote is something I thought I heard in a phone conversation with an anonymous source who had either read it or made it up or whatever.

2. A lie is always intentional.

Around 300 clerics from Badakhshan threatened a jihad if Bush does not “hand over the culprits for punishment”. He may just do that guys. Wait by your phone. Little Green Footballs makes a great point that he “thought jihad meant a peaceful internal struggle for self-improvement.”

Now I definitely heard that many times over the past 3 years.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Times Freaks on Freakonomics

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner have authored one of the most original and funny economic analyses in their new book “Freakonomics”. (see Dean Barnett's review on Soxblog). Naturally any review of this book cannot avoid discussion of the headline grabbing theory regarding abortion's effect on crime. The authors posit that the abortions since the passage of Roe v. Wade had a greater impact on the drop in crime in the 1990’s than increased policing and stiffer sentencing.

The NYT review by Jim Holt did not disappoint me in my expectation that this facet of book would be skewed to make their typical political point. Rather than explaining that the drop in crime was due to fewer criminals being born to unwed mothers, Holt says that “legalized abortion leads to less unwantedness; therefore, abortion leads to less crime.”

But, Levitt is not saying that unwanted children actually born and raised by married black, white, Asian (or mix and match as you wish) parents cause more crime. The statistics, rather, point to children born to unwed mothers in poverty are the criminals. The “wantedness” is irrelevant.

Because if Levitt proved that it was the “wantedness” that mattered, we would have to see more crimes committed by the “accidental” children that some married couples have late in life. You know the children who are 10 years younger than their next sibling(s). Those “accidental blessings” may not have been wanted but they rarely become criminals.

But Holt shows his hand when he writes:

Anti-abortion groups do not hesitate to cite undesirable consequences of abortion. Why shouldn't abortion rights advocates get to cite its desirable consequences, like a drop in crime resulting from fewer unwanted children?

My question is whether Roe v. Wade’s “benefit” to society of ridding the world of some criminals was offset by the world losing a potential Thomas Sowell (unwanted by his mother and raised by his grandmother in Harlem).

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