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Friday, October 28, 2005

3.8 Growth in 3rd Q Despite Katrina

Tax cuts must not have helped I guess. Here are the numbers:

Economic activity expanded at an energetic 3.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter, providing vivid evidence of the economy's stamina even as it coped with the destructive forces of hurricanes Katrina and Rita...

An inflation gauge tied to the GDP report showed overall inflation picking up in the third quarter. But excluding food and energy prices, "core" inflation - something the Federal Reserve pays close attention to - actually moderated. Core inflation rose at a rate of 1.3 percent in the third quarter, down from a 1.7 percent pace in the second quarter.

In another inflation barometer, employers' labor costs - wages and benefits - rose 0.8 percent in the third quarter, up slightly from a 0.7 percent increase in the second quarter, the Labor Department reported. The showing for the third quarter matched economists' forecasts.

Placating The Tyrants

While the "realist" school of global politics as practiced and espoused by Brent Scowcroft, the National Security Advisor to both Presidents Ford and Bush (the elder), results in momentary "peace" today, it can cause worse problems in the future. Charles Krauthammer adds:

Realists prize stability above all, and there is nothing more stable than a ruthlessly efficient dictatorship. Which is why Scowcroft is the man who six months after Tiananmen Square toasted those who ordered the massacre; who, as the world celebrates the Beirut Spring that evicted the Syrian occupation from Lebanon, sees not liberation but possible instability; who can barely conceal a preference for Syria's stabilizing iron rule.

The practice of real politic has had many instances where repressive regimes were given life-sustaining time and resources to bolster their hold on their countries and countrymen. If anyone is paying attention to the UN Oil for Food investigation, how many thousands of Iraqis paid the price for over a decade due to policy of the "realists", "pacifists" and "charading hawks".

Clifford May writes in "The Myth of Stability":

Conflicts are sometimes inevitable – delay only ensures they will be more painful when they erupt. World War II would not have been so costly – indeed, might never have occurred -- had Hitler been challenged in 1933 or soon after...

Maybe this policy has been the cause of today's problems with Islamo-Fascism. May writes:

For decades, the desire for stability has led us to support not Arabs and Muslims who advocate freedom and democracy -- but their oppressors. That led many in the Middle East to conclude – with some justification -- that they had nowhere to turn except to the Islamic Fascists.

Placating the dictator has time and again been of short-term value. Michale McFaul in the Hoover Digest discusses the American experience with Uzbekistan. The dictator there Karimov initially assitsed us in the terror war. But of late he has been mowing down citizens for "national security" reasons and has intimated his desire that we remove our military bases there. He has become closer to Putin and the terror threat grows. Writes McFaul (sorry no link to this article avaliable):

Autocrats... never make for good allies in the long run.

He explains that autocrats answer to no one so they can readily reverse themselves and there is no internal stability as their actions "fuel societal resistance by resorting to even more repression". The realists and their realpolitic are no answer except to delay a worse danger.

We have heard, especially during the last presidential campaign, the realists along with the pacifists say that "War is the last resort." My question is when do you know when it is the "last" resort? I hope it is some time short of a mushroom cloud over Manhattan. Such a view cannot measure when "enough is enough" in time. They are counting the dead soldiers from the Iraq conflict. They cannot count how many lives may have been saved.

Government Ran Jim Crow

While Rosa Parks' refusal to sit in the segregated section for blacks helped to touch off or at least publicize the need to abolish Jim Crow laws, Thomas Sowell advises us the segregated seating was not a result of rules promulgated by bus companies. No, these were rules created and enforced by the state. As a matter of fact, Sowell explains,

Private owners of streetcar, bus, and railroad companies in the South lobbied against the Jim Crow laws while these laws were being written, challenged them in the courts after the laws were passed, and then dragged their feet in enforcing those laws after they were upheld by the courts.

These tactics delayed the enforcement of Jim Crow seating laws for years in some places. Then company employees began to be arrested for not enforcing such laws and at least one president of a streetcar company was threatened with jail if he didn't comply.

None of this resistance was based on a desire for civil rights for blacks. It was based on a fear of losing money if racial segregation caused black customers to use public transportation less often than they would have in the absence of this affront.

So, we need more government for what reason, again? And the profit motive is a cause for evil exactly why?

As Sowell states:

People who decry the fact that businesses are in business "just to make money" seldom understand the implications of what they are saying. You make money by doing what other people want, not what you want. Black people's money was just as good as white people's money...

Viva la capitalism!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tough Talk and Cave-Ins

While someone I know said, "President Bush can only come out guns blazing from here on in....on any issue", he waffles on banning Davis-Bacon (see my prior post on Katrina from 10/9/05) from Katrina reconstruction.

The NYT reports:

President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to "push the envelope" on spending cuts to help pay for hurricane relief while the administration backtracked on a ruling covering storm reconstruction that had come under steady attack from unions, Democrats and some Republicans.

Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said the administration would reinstate the Davis-Bacon Act on Nov. 8 in the areas devastated by the Gulf Coast storms. That law requires paying wages at locally prevailing levels at construction projects financed by federal money.

More tough talk and conciliatory actions. I do not think he is very serious about free market economic issues. But as usual, are his opponents?

Cycle of Violence?

From the NYT: The first Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel in 3 months occurred yesterday at an open air market falafel stand in Hadera, an Israeli coastal town. Five people were killed and more than two dozen were wounded per the Israeli police.

The Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack and called it retaliation for the killing on Sunday night of Luay Saadi, one of the group's leaders, who was shot in Tulkarm, a West Bank town about 10 miles southeast of Hadera.

Killing civilians at an open air market because of the Israeli killing of a terrorist leader. That's a "cycle"? No, that's wanton murder.

Dialogue On Miers

To show how people should argue reasonably and amicably, more between conservatives on Miers:

Skip March adds his personal opinion on the Miers nomination:

There are a number of things that bother, no alarm me about the Miers nomination debate:

1) As noted in a previous commentary I wrote, high profile conservative commentators' objections, in substance and style, were disturbingly similar to liberals objections that they criticized during the Robert's nomination. Objections and yes attacks from conservatives had a personal tone which have previously been the exclusive domain of liberal commentators and members of Congress.

2) We have never gotten to know who Harriet Miers is and stands for because the nomination process has been aborted. Possibly there are better qualified conservative candidates, but I'm willing to bet that a number of them had withdrawn their names from consideration because of the pre-hearings attacks during the Roberts nomination and other judicial nominee hearings. I'm also willing to bet that there will be even more that won't throw their hats into the ring now that no one is taking the high ground, except for President Bush.

3) Far left liberals like Ted Kennedy can now position themselves as taking the high ground by wanting the hearings to proceed, but can't proceed because right wing radicals have aborted the process. It's phony and hypocritical but it will work.

4)Congressional Republicans have shown little willingness to take the gloves off. Twist all the arms you want, but timidity is the present style and substance of the day. My previous commentary on "nuclear option" messaging are illustrative.

5) Harriett Miers' qualifications and accomplishments are in fact quite strong

Skip March

Mike Taylor responds:

Here are my reactions to Skip's enumerated points:

1. The objections of "high profile conservative commentators" were that Harriet Miers lacked the bona fides to be on the Supreme Court. Surely, Skip, you would agree that Janice Rodgers Brown, Michael McConnell or Michael Luttig (Appellate Court judges with track records) are better prepared to sit on the Supreme Court than was Harriet Miers (a private lawyer). Who got personal? What is personal about pointing out that Harriet Miers doesn't have record we can look at?

2. Yes, it takes more courage to stand up to the unprincipled slime machine that is the Democratic Party. Maybe some choices that W might call on don't want that fight. If someone doesn't want the undue scrutiny that's understandable, but it will winnow down to the field to those that can stand the heat in the kitchen. That's the kind of nominee we need because whomever is chosen, the Dems will make it personal.

3. Who cares what Teddy Kennedy has to say? It may take as little as a week for W to call up a new nominee. Wasn't Harriet Miers working on that when W tapped her on the shoulder?

4. I say "Bring it on!" to anyone who wants to fight about how we nominate SCOTUS judges or to stand up to a filibuster threat. We won the elections, it is now incumbent on us to do the right thing for America, that's our responsibility. Let's not avoid a fight. And if RINO's (Republicans In Name Only) can't support us, maybe they'll find it more difficult to win their next primary. Perhaps this is the process we need to get more committed Republicans elected to replace Specter, Chafee and other linguini-spined Republicans.

5. I think that Harriet Miers is qualified, my point is that she's not the MOST qualified nominee W could have put up. I will be happier if W's next nominee is someone who has DEMONSTRATED their judicial chops.

-- MTT

The Sox Win It Again!!!!!

The Sox sweep for the second year in a row!!!

Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Johnny Damon enjoy the crown of the champion once again as the Yankees watch from their estates throughout the country!!!

Oh... It was the White Sox, not the Red Sox? Never mind.

While the ratings were very poor for this World Series with the usual suspects being "no Yankees in it" or "no team from a major market" or "no compelling story", I'll admit I watched only some of each game (but not all) and was satisfied to learn in the morning who won the game. But my reason was there was no suspense.

The White Sox are an incredibly strong team in all aspects of the game. Their starting pitchers place little pressure on their excellent bullpen. Their bullpen inherit leads for short stints. Their closer Jencks is a "man". Their line-up provides timely hitting, sound base running and enough home runs to amass plenty of runs to win games. Their defense is solid. Their manager provides emotion and exudes confidence.

I saw the handwriting of the post-season script when the White Sox easily swept the Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs. Certainly, if the Bosox were handled so simply, the Chisox would have less worry with the Angels and whoever the NL placed in the World Series.

The last point is important. While great pitching (and the Astros have a very good pitching staff) can overcome many deficiencies, NL pitchers do not face consistently the type of powerful line-ups that AL pitchers face over 162 games (with rests during inter-league play). After facing Jeter, A-rod, Sheffield, Matsui, Giambi throughout a game (or the Red Sox mentioned above) regularly, there is a nice break to face the lesser NL line-ups. The Cards last year and the Astros this year were just over-matched.

While I was not consumed with the Series, I am happy for the Chisox to lift their "curse" from their shoulders. The Black Sox scandal is now a historical artifact rather than a current reminder for Chicago players and fans.

The last "curse" looks like it belongs to the Cubbies (though maybe there is a Pete Rose curse on the Reds that we will recognize as the years pass- I hope so anyway). The Cubs have a good line-up and good pitching. Now, Commissioner Selig has to move them to the American League.

As a proud member of W's base, I am energized

Mike Taylor opines on the Bush strategy in the Miers SCOTUS nomination:

Over the past three and one-half weeks, I have been having a pleasant debate with fellow conservative Skip March.

Skip has been of the opinion that Harriet Miers is a practical and overall good pick for Supreme Court Associate Justice.

Skip argued "If George W. Bush expects a fight, can he count on his 'army' in the Senate to go to war? I don't think he can."

With the likes of Lincoln Chafee, Arlen Specter, John McCain and others I don't disagree with Skip. If you want to win, you need to recognize the ground you are fighting on and then choose your tactics. Skip makes a practical argument. If all we want is a "win" then I think Skip's rationale is dead on.

But I think that W's choice of Miers wasn't the best choice for many reasons:

She was a "stealth" nominee. No matter how much W trusts her, the rest of us have no idea who Harriet Miers really is. I think that W thought he could slip one past Chuckie Schumer and The Swimmer (Teddy Kennedy) by nominating someone W could count on and that no one could question as she has no record to evaluate. As Ann Coulter said "I've had five 'trust me's' and look what happened".

She was a nominee made from weakness. Fer cryin' out loud, we have the Presidency, The House AND The Senate... if we can't get a good nominee through now, when are we going to be able to manage it? I agree with Skip that the soldiers we have in the Senate aren't the most reliable, but for something this important W needs to twist arms and tell our weak Republican sisters to "grow a set" or we don't really have a party... it would be more like a club with loose membership requirements.

Harry Reid likes her. If that isn't a loud klaxon warning I don't know what is. It isn't exactly an indictment of Harriet Miers as a Republican, but my stomach turned a little when I saw Harry Reid smiling when her name was announced. I reached for the Pepto Bismol when I heard Chuckie Schumer say "It could have been a lot worse!". I firmly believe that what is a "lot worse" for Chuckie Schumer is a "lot better" for America.

If it has to be a woman nominee, there are a lot better choices. Janice Rodgers Brown comes to mind. So does Edith Brown Clement. Both have impeccable legal resumes and experience. Chuck and Ted could thrown themselves against their reputations and find themselves broken into many pieces. Let the Democrats wail, it only makes them look more petty. Let them rail against a woman, or better yet a minority woman.

This is what we worked for? An unknown quantity? It's been a hard fight, getting the majority and getting the Oval Office back in Republican hands. You have to reward the people that fought for you, and Harriet Miers was not a reward. It was more like W turned away from his support.

There are times to play the political odds, and times when you HAVE to do the right thing. If I were W I would say "This is the most important domestic decision I am going to make in my Presidency, let's make the right choice and let the political chips fall where they may". Sure, it would be harder to get Brown, Clement, Michael McConnell or Michael Luttig confirmed but the most important decisions are sometimes accompanied by the biggest fights. Conservatives want a fight, we want to see a debate of ideas and we're not going to shy away now. George W would have been much better off just going with the best nominee and accepting the fight.

If we can't win an argument with Chuck Schumer, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton then we can't win any argument. The Left is on shaky ground, but they are doing EVERYTHING they can to hang onto power. Conservatives in this country can't shy away from the fight for what is right, not now. It is a watershed moment in American history. And if you'll forgive the golf analogy, W hit one in the water with Harriet Miers.

W has a mulligan, a second chance. If he's going to win this particular tournament he can't shy away from taking his best shot. He needs to take the driver out of the bag and smack one down the middle of the fairway. Go on, be a Tiger.

We'll all be better off for it.-- Mike

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Taking The Bait

From Andrew "Skip" March:

Once again the MSM and Administration opponents are dictating the messaging to the American public. The decision by the Pentagon to release the number of enemy dead only plays into the hands of those that want to keep a death count on the front page and drive us out of Iraq. Instead of aggressively challenging the messaging with the enormous and historic successes in Iraq, the region and the war on terror, the Pentagon, Republican Congressional leaders and the Administration are following, no chasing the opposition's lead.

This is much like Republican Congressional leaders allowing their choice to change Senate rules to combat the filibustering of judicial nominees to be termed as the "nuclear option" and in fact embracing that very term. Why wouldn't they simply drive home the message that the Democratic filibuster threat is the nuclear option, which in fact it is. Or why we have to qualify conservatism as "compassionate conservatism", when today's conservative agenda is far more compassionate than that of today's liberal agenda.

This messaging is vitally important to the public's perceptions of policies and actions and it can either distort or validate realities. Those fighting for freedom in the world and at home need to take control of those messages, particularly in this age of soundbites and aggressively competing agendas.

Skip March

Assuming Responsibility Is The Only Way

Postscript to the post below. Shelby Steele in the WSJ saw the helplessness of his fellow blacks and was shamed at their complete need for government's help. How to break the culture of need? Steele writes:

The black shame of inferiority (the result of oppression, not genetics) cannot be overcome with anything less than a heroic assumption of responsibility on the part of black Americans. In fact, true equality--an actual parity of wealth and ability between the races--is now largely a black responsibility. This may not be fair, but historical fairness--of the sort that resolves history's injustices--is an idealism that now plagues black America by making black responsibility seem an injustice.

...Nevertheless, if New Orleans is a wake-up call to government, it is also a wake-up call to black America. If we want to finally erase the inferiority that oppression left us with, we have to first of all acknowledge it to ourselves, as whites did with their racism. Our scrupulous witness of whites helped them become more and more responsible for resisting the shame of racism.

And our open acknowledgment of our underdevelopment will clearly give whites a power of witness over us. It will mean that whites can hold us accountable for overcoming inferiority as we hold them accountable for overcoming racism.

Government Solutions On Poverty

Walter Williams is disgusted by George Bush's speech after Katrina where he claimed that poverty's roots was "in a history of racial discrimination". Williams asks how one group of blacks are about 40% in poverty while another is at 10%. There is a trait common to one group and not the other. That same differential trait is found among whites where one group is 26% in poverty and the other 6%. The differential trait is marriage.

Williams advises that in 1960 28% of black females did not marry and illegitimacy was 22%. Now, never-married black women is at 56% and illegitimacy is at 70%. Kay Hymowitz has written that one cultural phenomenon is that marriage and child-rearing are considered separate matters. Black women want children early and care less about the father as husband material. They prefer to take a longer look for the "right man" and are willing to marry much later, if at all. So despite government programs to teach safe sex and provide birth control (including abortions), the message has been missed. Unintended consequences or untenable assumptions?

Hymowitz writes:

But the truth was that underclass girls often wanted to have babies; they didn’t see it as a problem that they were young and unmarried. They did not follow the middle-class life script that read: protracted adolescence, college, first job, marriage—and only then children. They did not share the belief that children needed mature, educated mothers who would make their youngsters’ development the center of their lives. Access to birth control couldn’t change any of that.

At any rate, failing to define the problem accurately, advocates were in no position to find the solution. Teen pregnancy not only failed to go down, despite all the public attention, the tens of millions of dollars, and the birth control pills that were thrown its way. It went up—peaking in 1990 at 117 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls, up from 105 per 1,000 in 1978, when the Guttmacher report was published. About 80 percent of those young girls who became mothers were single, and the vast majority would be poor.

A similar conclusion is found in Charles Murray's article "Rediscovering the Underclass". He contends the under-class is created by self-destructive behavior. Returning to the Bush quote, Murray makes an important point:

Hurricane Katrina temporarily blew away the screens that we have erected to keep the underclass out of sight and out of mind. We are now to be treated to a flurry of government efforts from politicians who are shocked, shocked, by what they saw. What comes next is depressingly predictable.

Murray asks who is more contemptible?:

-Democrats who are rediscovering poverty and blaming it on George W. Bush, or Republicans who are rediscovering poverty and claiming that the government can fix it.

While who wins the contemptibility contest can be argued is a tie, I think the latter wins by a step. The latter's approach, while arguably a means for political survival in the PC world dictated by the former's cronies in the press and academia (and France), means they sell out their convictions for the sake of some votes. It shows a lack of courage. The American voter, even if it means a victory by the slimmest of margins, wants candor and courage to face problems head-on. Here is where I want my leaders to show me where they stand. That is why Bush won my vote on the terror front. And still does. That is why I am so disappointed.

Though, look at the alternative. It is a close call and we may need Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to analyze the replays.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pfizer's Role In Kelo

Coyote Blog provides some background on the Kelo property taking. Pfizer has expressed publicly that they just happened to be nearby and just happened to be looking for more property when government officials approached them with an opportunity for business expansion in New London. The local newspaper, The Day, reports that as far back as 1997, their needs for more land was known by public officials and were a condition of their construction of a research facility in New London.

Quoting The Day:

The records — obtained by The Day through the state Freedom of Information Act — show that, at least as early as the fall of 1997, Pfizer executives and state economic development officials were discussing the company's plans, not just for a new research facility but for the surrounding neighborhood as well.

And, after several requests, the state Department of Economic and Community Development produced a document that both the state and Pfizer had at first said did not exist: A 1997 sketch, prepared by CUH2A, Pfizer's design firm for its new facility. Labeled as a “vision statement,” it suggested various ways the existing neighborhood and nearby vacant Navy facility could be replaced with a “high end residential district,” offices and retail businesses, expanded parking and a marina.

Those interactions took place months before Pfizer announced that it would build in the city, on the site of the former New London Mills linoleum factory, and months before the New London Development Corp. announced its redevelopment plans for the neighborhood and the former Naval Undersea Warfare Center next door.

Business hates governmental intrusion. Drug companies especially will complain about the costs of the FDA, litigation, patent protection and other regulations. But when the government can help them with a tax break, research grant or taking land needed in condemnation, they certainly sing a new tune.

In Coyote's later post on a different subject, he showed the lack of consistency between rhetoric and acts. He discusses opposing positions taken by the National Association of Convenience Stores. He writes:

In the last two weeks, the NACS has:

1. Opposed government "price gouging" regulations aimed at how gas stations price their product.
2. Advocated government intervention in the pricing of credit card processing services, arguing that gas stations are getting gouged by banks today.

I guess we need government only when it helps us.

Who Misled Whom?

The MSM, and the NYT in particular, try to pin the blame on the "failed" intelligence about Saddam's weaponry on Bush. They are now also attacking Judith Miller, the NYT reporter recently jailed in the confusing Plame affair, as either a pawn or an accomplice in this inveiglement of the world. Had Bush not proposed Saddam had WMD, there would have been no war. Right?

Robert Kagan of the WAPO finds that MSM had "hyped" the potential dangers emanating from Bhagdad since 1998. Kagan writes these salwarts of truth:

...ran many alarming stories about Iraq's weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush. A quick search through the Times archives before 2001 produces such headlines as "Iraq Has Network of Outside Help on Arms, Experts Say"(November 1998), "U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan"(August 1998), "Iraq Suspected of Secret Germ War Effort" (February 2000), "Signs of Iraqi Arms Buildup Bedevil U.S. Administration" (February 2000), "Flight Tests Show Iraq Has Resumed a Missile Program" (July 2000). (A somewhat shorter list can be compiled from The Post's archives, including a September 1998 headline: "Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb Reported.") The Times stories were written by Barbara Crossette, Tim Weiner and Steven Lee Myers; Miller shared a byline on one.

Many such stories appeared before and after the Clinton administration bombed Iraq for four days in late 1998 in what it insisted was an effort to degrade Iraqi weapons programs. Philip Shenon reported official concerns that Iraq would be "capable within months -- and possibly just weeks or days -- of threatening its neighbors with an arsenal of chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons." He reported that Iraq was thought to be "still hiding tons of nerve gas" and was "seeking to obtain uranium from a rogue nation or terrorist groups to complete as many as four nuclear warheads." Tim Weiner and Steven Erlanger reported that Hussein was closer than ever "to what he wants most: keeping a secret cache of biological and chemical weapons." "To maintain his chemical and biological weapons -- and the ability to build more," they reported, Hussein had sacrificed over $120 billion in oil revenue and "devoted his intelligence service to an endless game of cat and mouse to hide his suspected weapons caches from United Nations inspections."

Kagan gives example after example. Meanwhile, the Iraq Constitution was ratfied today. Not bad to go from dictatorship to constitutional government in little over 2 years with invading terrorists working to break the Iraqi resolve towards self-government. These Iraqis are impressive people.

Was the MSM basing their reports from information fed to them by George Bush while he was governor of Texas? No:

The Times's sources were "administration officials," "intelligence officials," "U.N. weapons inspectors" and "international analysts." The "administration officials" were, of course, Clinton officials. A number of stories were based not on off-the-record conversations but on public statements and documentation by U.N. inspectors.

So...Where's All of The Chaos In Florida?

Andrew "Skip" March connects the peaceful and responsible Florida response to Wilma to local government competence. He writes:

Once again our founding fathers are correct about leadership and what works best. Recognizing that the central government can and should be responsible for a few, well defined aspects of our lives with a few, specific and well defined powers, they created a federal form of government for us. The individual states then would handle the rest, with the assumption there was real leadership in place to do so. The contrast between how Mississippi and Florida have handled their respective natural disasters and how Louisiana has is illustrative of how the federal system works with strong leadership.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush pointed out quite rightly that the first line of responsibility is the local authorities with the first responders, backed by state resources and support. The federal government (e.g. FEMA) is the final back-up and resource. I'm guessing that many more Americans understood this before the bombshells started from the Democratic Party and the MSM over Hurricane Katrina and very wittingly took the focus off of who was really responsible.
Moses could have been in charge of FEMA and been in New Orleans personally parting the waters and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference with the completely inept leadership down there. Let's see if the MSM follows up with any comparative analysis regarding leadership and crisis management.........wishful thinking I know.

A good place to start is to show clips of Governor Bush confidently and competently providing the leadership and direction that he does and to contrast that with the "run, scurry, flee danger" leadership and direction provided by the Mayor of New Orleans and Governor of Louisiana.

PS as of 102505:

Miami-Dade and Broward authorities reported few problems despite the loss of power. Fourteen people were arrested for violating a curfew in Miami-Dade, where fewer than 10 looting arrests were made. Broward had six reports of looting, with one arrest.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bush is an "Ayatollah"

Just when you start hoping any political party will wake up and provide us something new, Howard Dean provides us the Democratic Party's response to a problem. He compares the Bush administration to the reputed "most corrupt" administration, Warren Harding's. Then, as reported by Josie Huang of the Portland Press Herald, Dean gives us his solution to corruption:

To deal with the "culture of corruption," Dean said, there needs to be an ethics code in Congress and stronger campaign finance laws.

Aha! How could I have forgotten? To combat everything, there needs to be more laws. When governments overstep bounds, the answer is more government.

Dean added:

"I'm tired of the ayatollahs of the right wing.We're fighting for freedom in Iraq. We're going to fight for freedom in America."

Is that a downgrade from Hitler? This winning political strategy worked so well in 200, 2002, 2004 and coming soon in 2006. At least he won't lose that solid 35% of Bush-haters. Are these guys hypnotized?

Every Dictator Does Some Good

Nicholas Kristoff reviewed the new book on Mao written by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. "Mao-"The Unknown Story" is a heavily researched book on the "charismatic" Chinese dictator (where can I find a T-shirt?) estimated to have killed through execution or starvation (and throw in some torture) 70 million Chinese citizens.

Kristoff writes:

Yet this is a magisterial work. True, much of Mao's brutality has already emerged over the years, but this biography supplies substantial new information and presents it all in a stylish way that will put it on bedside tables around the world. No wonder the Chinese government has banned not only this book but issues of magazines with reviews of it, for Mao emerges from these pages as another Hitler or Stalin.

But to be balanced, Kistoff hedges:

In that regard, I have reservations about the book's judgments, for my own sense is that Mao, however monstrous, also brought useful changes to China.

Balance is needed regarding the accuracy of the 70 million death estimate per Kristoff. And he helped in women's rights (see BizzyBlog on that whopper). Krsitoff says the lack of balance is a weakness in the book. He writes:

Mao comes across as such a villain that he never really becomes three-dimensional. As readers, we recoil from him but don't really understand him. He is presented as such a bumbling psychopath that it's hard to comprehend how he bested all his rivals to lead China and emerge as one of the most worshipped figures of the last century.

Finally, there is Mao's place in history. I agree that Mao was a catastrophic ruler in many, many respects, and this book captures that side better than anything ever written. But Mao's legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea. Indeed, Mao's entire assault on the old economic and social structure made it easier for China to emerge as the world's new economic dragon.

Don't we hear about how horrible those Chinese sweat shops are these days? When people are actually working and bettering their lives, that is just crass commercialism and materialism. When their torture and death is due to improper ideological deference to the Chairman and his system (think of state-enforced abortions- I thought women had a right over their own bodies), then we should look toward the lofty goals of society as a whole and find the silver lining in such barbarism.

Maybe the NYT can help save Saddam. Watch their Saddam trial reporting. Remember there were some good things happening during his reign.

I Want To Live Where There Is Price-Gouging

You do not get to buy apples, milk, napkins, muffins, coffee at the store because a politician allows you to. You get to buy these things and more because people risked their money, time and effort to provide these items for a price. The whole transaction is voluntary. It is not involuntary just because you do not wish to expend the same money, time and risk to do it for yourself. Because that is what you choose, your purchase was totally voluntary.

Christopher Westley takes issue in "The Right To Set Your Own Price" with the fact that Jason McBride is liable for ciminal charges for charging $3.50 per gallon for gas. Writes Westley:

McBride was arrested last week for violating the Alabama Unconscionable Pricing Act. This is Alabama's "anti-gouging" law, and it makes criminals out of gas station owners who "generally charge a price which is 25 percent higher than the average price during the last 30 days prior to [a] declared emergency unless attributable to reasonable cost factors."

If you were to ask me to stand on my head for 5 hours and you would pay me $1,000 to watch me do it, where is the illegality of this agreement? Well, there may be an official somewhere who could make this arrangement illegal. Force me to only charge $500 for the event. The reason may be that "anyone could do it" or "it's stupid" or any other reason. But the transaction was totally voluntary, so why is it illegal?

Writes Westley:

[These laws] hinder the price system's ability to send signals to consumers and producers. They promote the use of resources in ways that are wasteful. They allow politicians to score points on the economic illiteracy of the masses. In the midst of a disaster situation, they cause shortages, slow the recovery process, and extend suffering.

But there is another objection that, in my opinion, trumps all of these.

They also violate the property rights of owners of scarce resources, such as gasoline. The gas station owners, not public authorities, are the ones who risk their capital in order to satisfy customers. They are the ones who hire labor, set contracts with suppliers, and organize resources so as to provide goods to customers via voluntary exchange. They should be able to charge whatever prices they want.

That's why Jason McBride should have been able to charge $5.00 or more a gallon for gas if he wanted. Or he could have given it away for free. Or he could have stacked it up in one-gallon cans, placed a table cloth over it, and had a picnic. After all, it was his property.

The harm in these anti-price-gouging laws fall on the citizen producers and consumers. To prohibit us from being able to control our own lives regarding what we want to do, how hard we wish to work, how willing are we to take risk, takes away our liberty over our bodies-our primary property.

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