Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Flying WASPs - Real Feminists 

Today's Wall Street Journal tells the story of WWII's Unsung Women Pilots, The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs). These pilots were real trailblazers, a group of 1,102 female civilians who flew military aircraft under the direction of the US Army Air Forces. From 1942-1944 the WASP ferried aircraft from factories to air bases throughout the United States. One of these great women, Betty (Wall) Strohfus, lives near Faribault, MN.

These feisty fliers contributed much to our air training, safety and defense during WWII yet went unrecognized by the military; they were considered civil servants and were unceremoniously deactivated in December of 1944.

Finally, those grandmothers and great-grandmothers will be recognized for their work. They will meet in Washington, DC to proudly take their place in history among the unsung heroes of WWII on March 10 when they will receive the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony that will be held at the US Capitol.

An added bonus: I have heard Betty speak - she is just riveting. The stories will have you holding your sides - her delivery is fantastic. You will be able to hear her stories at the CD 2 Reagan Dinner to be held May 14, in Lakeville, MN. Details will be forthcoming.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Translation needed 

From an advertisement for a women's studies series:
Blatant forms of racism continue to exist, but more subtle, equally destructive forms continue to have a significant impact in every corner of U.S. society. A new discourse on racism draws attention to continuing problems such as �color-blindness� and tokenism, and newer perspectives such as intersectionality. This more contemporary framework explores the way that other forms of oppression, such as sexism, heterosexism, and classism, sustain injustice and further inequality.
So if you pay no attention to race, you're a racist? And help me out here: What is "intersectionality"? Wikipedia says:
A standard textbook definition of intersectionality theory might be "the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity".
Did that help you? What standard textbook is that talking about? What field? Who's learning from that textbook and what are they learning?

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Where Are the Western Feminists? 

Seems a Saudi women's rights lady was planning a holiday on the coast in Bahrain with her friends. Slight problem - the border guard would not let her leave Saudi Arabia - why? She had her passport but NO male "guardian" to escort her.

As Ed Morrissey states so well in Hotair, women in Saudi Arabia are some of the most repressed women on the planet. They cannot drive, their education is severely restricted, they cannot vote - rights? Forgetaboudit! They are required to have a male (father, husband and even son) give them approval for most any activity.

The woman, Wajeha al-Huwaider, has been fighting for women's rights for years. Her work has been documented in a book ,The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East. Ms. al-Huwaider is a light in a very dark tunnel. (Let's hope the result is a republic, that is a representative government run by the Rule of Law where the same law applied to all citizens. While we preach "democracy" we are not a democracy, we are a republic, developed with the Rule of Law as the base.)

Where are the women in the UN who scream about women's rights? Where is NOW? Nowhere.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Judge Sotomayor and the All-Female Club 

Thanks to Powerline for the following paragraph to which I'll pose two questions:
Judge Sotomayor has disclosed to the Senate that she belonged to an all-female club called the Belizean Grove. She claims that her club "did not discriminate in an inappropriate way."
If Judge Sotomayor had been a Republican, would the mainstream media, dominated by independents who vote for democrats, have ignored this [sexist] membership?

Secondly, does Judge Sotomayor's comment, highlighted above, mean that they discriminated in an appropriate way?

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Liberal Justice Ginsburg Cries, "More Women on US Supreme Court" 

The USA Today article, Ginsburg: Court needs another woman by Joan Giskupic discusses Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's concern over the fact that she is the only woman on the US Supreme Court. Having lived through much of the complaining feminists era, I have a different take on appointments to the US Supreme Court.

President Obama and Justice Ginsburg seem to be saying that a Supreme Court Justice should function like a legislator, that is, determining "What kind of social policy should the US have?"

But, there are two huge problems with this line of thinking. First, a committee of nine people appointed for life is an inadequate group to be representative of over 300,000,000 people. Because the Founders understood the risk in giving too much power to judges, the US Constitution calls for the legislative branch to be much bigger than the judicial branch. And, the legislative branch members are to be elected by the people far more frequently than appointing judges for life terms.

Second, the US Supreme Court takes up and decides about 150 cases each year. These cases encompass only a fraction of the public policy issues that courts across the nation address. These cases that make it to the Supreme Court are in a very real sense, arbitrary because they reflect special facts of how the legal parties in a particular case interacted.

Thus, this does not mean that Supreme Court cases are representative of how things happen in the broader quilt of our 300,000,000+ person society.

For Justice Ginsburg to say, "the 'worst part' is the image of a single woman at the high projects, particularly to young people visiting the court: "Young women are going to think, 'Can I really aspire to that kind of post?'"

To which I reply, "Yes you can. You 'aspire' but that does not mean you succeed in attaining the goal." Women equal men in law schools and have for many years but this mantra of "equality" ignores the basic differences in humans. We all have talents but no two of us are alike - that is why we have our Constitution, a most enduring document designed to protect people and focus on the law (vs. tribe, religion, sex, etc.).

Does Justice Ginsburg want a female, or a liberal female? Would she support US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Justice Janice Rogers Brown, a dark-skinned conservative?

Sunday's article by Boston Globe columnist, Jeff Jacoby, also discusses this issue here.

My wish for the Supreme Court, and all other courts, is the appointment of people who know the US Constitution, our law. A basic tenet we have failed to teach our youth for decades is that the Rule of Law is a key reason the western world thrived. One's success was determined by work and an equal application of the law. There are and always will be exceptions but in general, we have been able to push human life spans and prosperity for more people beyond anything ever imagined by people just a century ago.

Purposely our Founders separated church and state. Purposely they designed a system that so far provides the most equal treatment for all in a judicial sense.

If the "law" reverts to decisions based on tribe, race, sex or religion, all of us will lose.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wife Murders - A Glimmer of Light? 

In this post, I discussed the beheading of an Islamic woman, Aasiya Hassan, by her husband in Buffalo, NY. Also mentioned in that post was the silence of NOW. As in the past, the national president of NOW, Ms. Gandy, makes inane comments that attempt to equate all domestic violence or simply says nothing. Quoted in the Best of the Web Today, February 17, by James Taranto are the NOW responses to murder and/or violence perpetrated on women. Note Ms. Gandy's different reactions (or lack thereof) when the victim is from another culture:
One popular R&B singer, Chris Brown, assaulted and threatened singer Rihanna. Comment by Ms. Gandy: "Everyone is talking about this case because it involves two popular recording artists, but the sad reality is that domestic violence and dating violence happen every day, even among young teens, and the impact is both far-reaching and under-reported."

Relating to the Buffalo murder by Mr. Hassan, NOW issued this statement: ...

Two other cases were described: one from Murietta, CA where a Mr. Muhummed was sentenced to multiple life sentences for torturing and abusing some of his children and imprisoning two of his three wives; the brutalization of a woman by her husband, a vice consul at the Afghanistan Consulate in Queens. Ms Gandy of NOW issued this statement: ...
However, there may be a new wind blowing. Regarding the Buffalo murder, the NOW president in NY, Marcia Pappas, said: �This was apparently a terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women�s subordination to men.� She decried the scant national media attention paid to the story.

From Mr. Auhdi Jasser, founder and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy,
"It [the murder of Mrs. Hassan] certainly has all the markings of [an honor killing]," Jasser told "She expressed through the legal system that she was being abused, and at the moment she asked for divorce, she's not only murdered � she's decapitated."

His final comment is quite important: "The most dangerous aspect of this case is to simply say it's domestic violence," NOW, pay attention. Western press, pay attention. All behavior is NOT equal.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Imagine a Headline: Beautiful Wife of Televangelist Crucified 

If this event had happened, there would be an immediate media firestorm. That story would have legs, with multiple angles for reporting: Religious hypocrisy. Sex and gore. Domestic Violence. A gruesomely unusual method of killing.

There can be no doubt that national and international newspapers and television would run endless breathless stories. Think Nicole Simpson, Mathew Shepard, Lorena Bobbitt, and Jim and Tammy Fay Bakker. Outraged women's groups would be interviewed. There would be no holding back, even though the public image of Christianity would take another hit.

Now consider a real story with the potential headline: Beautiful Wife of Televangelist Beheaded

Virtual silence by the same media. As of the time of this post, a search on Google News turns only a handful of published stories, mostly local, about the murder of this beautiful woman.

What accounts for the difference? Most people would have no difficulty completing this analogy: crucified::Christianity beheaded::??

The Associated Press carried the following short item on Friday:
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - A Buffalo-area man who runs an American-Islamic television station is accused of beheading his wife.

Orchard Park police say 44-year-old Muzzammil Hassan told police Thursday evening that his wife was dead at his office. That's where police found the body of 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan.

Hassan is now charged with second-degree murder [J:???] and police believe the killing occurred sometime late Thursday afternoon. Authorities say his wife had recently filed for divorce and had an order of protection that had him out of the home as of February 6th.

Hassan is the founder and chief executive of Bridges TV, which he launched in 2004 in hopes of portraying Muslims in a better light. [J: oh, really?]

Police didn't know Friday if Hassan had an attorney.
The only major outlets carrying the story as of now are the Toronto Star and the New York Post. Craven cowardice and political correctness reign. Update - Mark Steyn and Michelle Malkin have posted.

Where are the feminists? NOW? The media that is so quick to ridicule and condemn Christians and Jews? Just how fair and just is this barbaric behavior so easily ignored by western press?

Footnote: the standard texts to be read in our Lutheran church today condemns religious hypocrisy in this passage from I Corinthians Chapter 9, Verse 27: I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Don't you wonder what is being preached in mosques today?

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Leftist Feminists, AWOL Again 

This report from an Australian newspaper is one of the most blatant examples of those who twist a belief system into a very, very sick and destructive force against its own society. Many in the west daily claim all religions are the same, all cultures are equal, etc. Meanwhile in another part of the world, one woman, claiming to be the "mother of the believers" organized rapes of Iraqi women. Rape in the Islamic world is more often than not blamed on the woman. Then she is made to feel so shamed in many of those societies that men, using the excuse of "honor," are permitted to murder them (including daughters, wives, sisters, etc.)

This woman not only recruited the unsuspecting women and arranged for their rapes, she then "mentally prepared them for martyrdom, turned them over to terrorists who supplied the explosives, then she took them to their target spot."

For those of you who insist that all cultures are equal, it's time to think again. Whether or not "mother" devised this scheme, she executed it and those who trained or brainwashed her are horrible examples of humanity gone very wrong. More here. Perhaps "martyrdom" isn't all it's cracked up to be. The horrific practice of intentionally raping women in order to get more "martyrs" (aka murderers) reveals once again the abysmal depths to which our enemy will sink.

If this had involved a right-wing paramilitary group from Idaho, the leftist/Democrat feminists would have been all over this. As it is, they, along with the mainstream media, are AWOL.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Equal Pay for Equal Work 

Yesterday's feminists are at it again - the Equal Pay Act of 1963 is being revived with the old claim that women still make roughly 78 cents to a male colleague's dollar, according to this "Intelligence Report" in the January 18, 2009 issue of Parade Magazine. There are two problems with this meme:

1 - Maternity leave: The report sort of addresses the time off for raising kids, which when factored into pay for women, negates the differences. The phrase the article uses is "A log of 'maternal profiling' goes on." Well, when you take time from work to raise kids, you lose those years of income, period. It's a choice. If you want to go back to work, you can and you won't lose time. (I chose to return to work after a six week maternity leave - for me, it was the right thing to do. Two years later, I was raising my son myself and did for another 14 years.)

2 - The idea that businesses intentionally treat women unfairly. The anti-business Democrats want the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to override the Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. In this case, the Court ruled that women must sue within 180 days of the start of pay discrimination, not years later. While I agree that 180 days might be too short a time limit, removing all time limits is simply beyond the pale.

Ignored in all the hyperbole is the fact that individual preferences are key to the wage gap. This quote from this Washington Post article drives home the point:
Surveys have shown for years that women tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and other personal fulfillment than do men, who focus more on pay. Women tend to avoid jobs that require travel or relocation, and they take more time off and spend fewer hours in the office than men do. Men disproportionately take on the dirties, most dangerous and depressing jobs.
While the mantra of "equal pay" sounds good, it must be tied to "equal work" and performance.
And will this law support men getting equal pay in areas where women now out earn men? (Some 30 professions including engineering management, speech-language pathology, and radiation therapy)

By allowing employees to sue anytime after they "feel" they've been discriminated against, in other words remove the statute of limitations, and placing the burden of proof on the employer, the result will be fewer jobs. There simply is no way, other than the market to value jobs and there is no way an employer can be held accountable for something that may have happened 10, 20 or even 30 years ago.

The US House passed the Lilly Act - if it becomes law, it is one more nail in the coffin of free markets.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Make My Day (Week, Month) 

This news just broke my heart!! Code Pink, the leftist group comprised of so many of yesterday's feminists has been defeated. Their goal, to get the US Marines out of Berkeley, CA has failed. They have announced a "Going out of Business" sale - all furniture, etc. must be gone by this Thursday, October 30.

Just think about it, lefties - they're not donating anything to any other group; they're not redistributing their wealth; they're not sharing a darn thing - they're selling all. What about their anti-free trade beliefs? Oh, guess those don't count. What about distributing their wealth (equipment, etc.) to those less fortunate? Oh, guess that doesn't count.

Something is really wrong when those who preach redistribution, fail in their subsidized goals, then sell what they have to ...... make money! People, think twice before you vote for "the one" who will be more than willing to take what you earn and give to someone else.

HT - Michelle Malkin


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bay Buchanan at St. Kate's (sort of) and The U 

As mentioned in previous posts, here, here, here, here and here, conservative, pro-life speaker Bay Buchanan was to speak at St. Kate's and the University of Minnesota today.

St. Kate's administration decided to play games with the Minnesota Association of Scholars (MAS) to prevent Ms. Buchanan from coming onto the St. Kate campus but there's always an alternative. We moved the talk across the street to the Luci Ancora Restaurant. The crowd was small but the talk was impressive. Bay discussed the role of feminism as it began and how it has changed over the years.

While the feminist movement was successful in promoting more education for more women, there were three major pitfalls that have haunted far too many women since the inception of "feminism" in the 1950's. The first negative issue was the premise that fulfillment for women could be found only in the workplace. The second was that yesterday's feminists turned into a very selfish bunch - nothing was greater than what they could do for themselves, including aborting unwanted or untimely children. The third issue is the belief, still perpetuated by Hillary and many of her crowd, that women are victims and need the government to help them - with childcare, schooling, etc.

In January of 2008, all looked good for the NOW crowd. Their icon, Hillary Clinton, the epitome of a feminist was positioned to crack the last glass ceiling. Then along came Barry..... and their dreams were crushed. But, hey, then along came Sarah.

As Bay stated, Sarah was not exactly the icon these feminists wanted. Yet, Sarah had done it all: educated herself; married; had kids; done the PTA and hockey thing; went into politics and wow, took on the establishment, an incumbent governor, and succeeded - without government help but with true grit. So what's the problem with Sarah, a real feminist? Well, Sarah is (horrors) a Republican, a Christian and a mom who kept her child even after she knew it would have health problems. And, like it or not, she's the new face of feminism.

The audience at the U was small but very interested in what Bay had to say. Half the audience was comprised of men. All were incredibly attentive and asked excellent questions. Bay is quite knowledgeable on a variety of topics though her passion is abortion, what it has done to the psyche of women and what it has done to discourse in our nation.

Youth today need to hear the other side of many, many social issues. Unfortunately, too much of their "education" is influenced by left/Democrat professors (who outnumber conservative/
Republican professors by 6:1-9:1 depending on subject matter). We owe it to our children, our leaders of tomorrow, to make sure they learn not only US History but also hear of those views that do not get coverage by the mainstream media. Bay made a dent in this one-sided coverage. She is well worth hearing - I only wish more knew of her and could hear her speak. She knows her material and is passionate about her beliefs. We need more people like her.

Disclosure: King and I are on the board of the Minnesota Association of Scholars.

UPDATE: Last Friday, I highlighted the fact that a spokesman for St. Kate's had posted a comment defending their decision on the basis of a purported need to protect their status as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. I noted an analysis by the Foundation for individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that shows this to be a disingenuous basis for banning political speech on campus. Today, FIRE quotes from our comments in a greatly expanded discussion of the St. Kate's and 501(c)(3).


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bay Buchanan, Feminist, at U of MN 

The Minnesota Association of Scholars (MAS), for which King and I are both Board Members, is sponsoring a talk on Wednesday, October 22 at 7:00 PM at Coffman Memorial Union Theater, 300 Washington Avenue. The event is free for any college student showing a current student ID and MAS members. General public admission is $10. Here are the details:

Bay Buchanan to Speak at U of M

Minnesota Association of Scholars presents controversial feminist.

St. Paul, Minn. -- An association of Minnesota college and university professors who promote free expression on college campuses is sponsoring a lecture on

�Feminism and the 2008 Election�

by conservative CNN commentator Bay Buchanan. George magazine once recognized Ms. Buchanan as one of the top 20 political women in the country. She was the youngest person ever to hold the position of Treasurer of the United States.

A steadfast right-to-life champion, she co-anchored �Equal Time� on CNBC and MSNBC and worked as a political analyst for �Good Morning America.� Ken Doyle, president of MAS says, �We simply want to encourage reasoned discussion and debate on the role of feminism in today�s political process.�

The event is co-sponsored by Young America�s Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization founded by to promote intellectual diversity by exposing college and university students to the best of conservative thinking. A student group at the College of St. Catherine has invited Ms. Buchanan to tea and conversation the afternoon before her talk at the U of M.
If she were not a conservative, would CNN label her a "liberal" commentator? I don't think so.

St. Kate's has canceled the tea and conversation event under the specious claim that such an event might endanger its tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization.

Update, 9:15 PM Sunday: Since St. Kate's won't let Bay Buchanan speak on campus, Bay will speak on "Feminism Today" at the Luci Ancora Restaurant, 2060 Cleveland Avenue (at Randolph) from 3:00 PM to 4:30, on Wednesday, October 22. Luci Ancora is across the street from the gates to the St. Kate campus. We welcome St. Kate and administrators and students to join us for a professional, polite discussion on this topic.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

An Invitation on Women's Rights 

Today I found a report about a young Pakistani girl who was forced into marriage with a 45 year old man at the age of 9. By age 17, she had had enough of the "relationship" and decided to go to court for an annulment. After fighting for her case, mostly by herself, she was finally granted an annulment.

Freedom? No. Family members murdered her outside the courtroom on the street, in front of police.

A second story in the article tells of three other teenage school girls who wanted to marry men of their choice, not some middle-aged guy who decided he needed a young girl. (We have terms for this in the west.) The three young women and two older women were rounded up by (guess what?) male relatives, taken to a desert area, lined up, shot, and thrown in a ditch. It's not clear they were yet dead. They were buried alive. When the two older women decided to protest, they, too were murdered and thrown in the ditch.

Even more disgusting is this comment by a Pakistan national parliament senator, "these are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them" Excuse me - most cultures have realized that 7th century practices are barbaric and have no place in today's societies. While these cultures have adapted over centuries, there is a subset of one that refuses to treat women with decency.

I invite our readers, the traditional mainstream media, the National Organization for Women and other "feminists" to join me in devoting time and attention to publicizing and condemning these atrocities towards women.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin 


We've got out of town guests all day, more tonight but this is terrific news!

She's got it all!!!!


KING ADDS: I had mused on this possibility last weekend as an appeal to the PUMAs. Howard Wolfson is saying the same thing this morning.
If the pick is indeed Sarah Palin you are going to have a lot of women voters wondering why Senator Obama didn't tap Senator Clinton as his running mate.
In this morning's Political Diary from the WSJ, Colorado state party chair Dick Wadhams is quoted as saying that state's electoral college votes would depend on suburban female voters. Maybe that's the thinking. Powerline is very disappointed; Michael's taking it pretty well given what he's said for weeks.

Update by Janet: Some of us have hoped for this for over a year. True, she is young but she has more executive experience that any of the other 3 top candidates; she is feisty; she has integrity; she's quick - you don't achieve what she's achieved b/c you're short on gray matter. It's not that she's female, it's that she's got guts. She's not bound by the standard network; she thinks for herself yet has conservative values. I would have supported any VP candidate and had my preference in addition to Palin. But this presidential race is crucial. If McCain uses her and does not put her aside, this could be a terrific team! Put Romney in as SoS or Treasury - maybe they will learn from him; Lieberman for SoS or Dept. of Defense; Giuliani for Homeland Security.

The Republicans have a bench, a deep bench; the Dems do not - they had to rely on another leftist liberal Nor' easter. They simply do not understand there are more than seven or eight states in the USA. They are stuck in the 1930's and 1960's mindsets. The world has moved on, they have not. Palin will bring excitement to our party; who knows, we may get back the House. I know, I'm being optimistic here but energy and excitement go a long way. We might even get the Gang of 16 to reconsider. Palin sure knows energy!

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Democrat Pelosi, Catholic Church, Abortion 

Democrat Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a lifelong Catholic apparently paid little attention to her religious instruction. On Sunday's Meet the Press Ms. Pelosi was asked by Tom Brokaw when life begins. Her waffling answer was a pathetic attempt to pacify the abortion rights arm of the Democrat Party and her religion. She failed, miserably.

Anyone who has any amount of Catholic education knows that the Catholic Church has been an opponent of abortion since the beginning. I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school for five years and practiced the religion for a number of years. At no time did I ever hear that abortion was sort of, well you know, uh, maybe.... Ms. Pelosi's excuse that church leaders have not been able to determine when life begins is just bogus.

What I was waiting for was someone of authority in the Catholic Church to say something. Well, someone finally did. The Archbishop of Denver, Father Charles J. Chaput and Father James D. Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, released a clarification document today, the 25th of August.
It clearly states: "...we now know with biological certainty exactly when human life begins. Thus, today's religious alibis for abortion and a so-called "right to choose" are nothing more than that - alibis that break radically with historic Christian and Catholic belief. Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil and so are the evasions employed to justify it. Catholics who make excuses for it - whether they're famous or not - fool not only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith." Translated, abortion is wrong, period.

In addition, Cardinal Rigoli and Bishop Lori added their comments to Pelosi's misrepresentations of Catholic teachings.

You, Speaker Pelosi, are being dishonest with yourself, your constituents, and members of your faith when you try to skirt the issue with your incoherent babble.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hypocrisy of the Left 

Now that Joe Biden has been selected as Barack Obama's Vice Presidential candidate, one can only wonder at the wisdom (?) of Obama's advisers. We keep hearing how the Democrat Party is the party of inclusion. So many Democrats pride themselves saying they include all these people from all these different groups then they totally ignore the strongest female candidate to appear in the political arena, Hillary Clinton.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of Hillary Clinton's socialist vision but her supporters have a legitimate gripe/concern/etc. While Obama out maneuvered her to get more delegate votes, Hillary won the popular vote among Democrats but did not get the nomination. (Does this sound a bit familiar?)

Snubbing Hillary indicates a team of petty, immature, and insecure people. As this short article by Bill Kristol indicates, Democrats do have a glass ceiling.

This behavior from a guy who says we should negotiate with our enemies with no preconditions? Heck, if he can't negotiate with Hillary, why does anyone think he can use his glib tongue to sit down and talk with Chavez, etc. ?

HT - Hot Air

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Biden, Gaffes, Etc. 

The press may or may not cover Biden too often but the following quote by William Katz is a winner:
Biden has a way with words - using thousands of them when ten would do and five would be perfect. Thus, the law of averages is against him. The chances of a gaffe increase proportionately with the number of words employed.
This quote from Richard Cohen of the Washington Post is also quite revealing:
The only thing standing between Joe Biden and the presidency is his mouth. That, though, is no small matter. It is a Himalayan barrier, a Sahara of a handicap, a summer's day in Death Valley, a winter's night at the pole (either one) -- an endless list of metaphors intended to show you both the immensity of the problem and to illustrate it with the op-ed version of excess. This, alas, is Joe Biden.
According to some, Senator BIden is an expert on foreign policy though other readings lead one to question his expertise. Regardless, loose lips sink ships.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Westover does public finance 

Craig goes from a discussion of Federalist 51 to a discussion of classic public goods:

At the heart of [MN House Speaker] Kelliher's misconception is a failure to distinguish between "private benefits" and "public goods," admittedly not always a simple distinction. The problem is, policy-makers who resort to the clich� of taxes as the price of civilization generally don't recognize that there is a distinction. "Public good" cannot simply be applied to the project de jour.

The best way to understand the idea of "public good" is by contrasting it with the more familiar "private benefit." Each of us engages in private benefit transactions when we exchange money for products and services we want. We get in a taxi, and for a fare, we enjoy the benefit of getting from point A to point B. We buy cup of coffee; we drink it, and nobody else gets to drink it. That particular cab ride and cup of coffee are not available to others.

Public goods in support of legitimate government functions provide benefits that, unlike our cab ride or cup of coffee, don't exclude anyone. A streetlight is the classic example: It benefits everyone and anyone equally at the same time. It would be virtually impossible and highly inefficient to limit access or proportionally charge people for the streetlight's glow. Police and fire protection and the court system are other examples � they don't limit discrete benefits to some at the exclusion of others.

The policy distinction boils down to this: If a taxi ride from point A to point B is a private benefit for which an individual pays a market fare, why is a bus or light-rail ride from point A to point B a "public good" subsidized with tax dollars? The only answer is, it is a more "civilized" way to travel.

Let me help my MnFMI colleague out here, because there's a distinction to be made. There are volunteer fire departments. Do they provide any less service than those supported by tax dollars? Well they might -- there was a story a few years ago of a house near International Falls that was allowed to burn to the ground because the home's owner didn't pay his annual fee of $25. They didn't allow the homeowner to free-ride, though they did hose down his garage since it was close to another house that had paid the fee.

The source of the problem there, and in Craig's case for transportation, is one of transactions costs. The situation in International Falls was hampered by negotiation over replacing voluntary fees with a property tax surcharge. Taxes are, as Craig says, the price we pay for not being completely civilized ... and the willingness of people to free ride is a good example of the "angels" that led to Madison's role of government. Transactions costs are another impediment that institutions aspire to overcome, and yes, sometimes those are taxing districts. If all we are going to concern ourselves over is the efficient way of delivering pure public goods, you will continue to combat cases where market failure and free riding are trotted out as explanations for greater use of force.

What folks like Speaker Kelliher lack is not a failure to understand public finance theory, but the ideal that persuasion and cooperation are the best form of social organization. Government is force, wherever it appears. Sometimes force can reduce transactions costs but not often, and the temptation to use force for other things, once granted in the case of fire or police, is something to which every politician, of every party, succumbs. Don Boudreaux makes the case:
Just as many on the right naively fantasize that foreign problems are best solved by force, "liberals" fantasize that domestic problems - real and imaginary - are best solved by force. Jobs disappearing in Ohio? No problem - force Americans to buy fewer foreign goods. Too many Americans without health insurance? Force taxpayers to give it to them. The "distribution" of income doesn't satisfy some Very Caring Person's criterion? Government should forcibly redistribute. A mine collapses in West Virginia? Uncle Sam should force mine-owners to increase safety. See? All very simple.
Kelliher and other liberal DFLers who favor interventionism preach market failure but do not address the likelihood of government failure. And yes, government failure is always a possibility for foreign policy too, as Boudreaux condemns the right of ignoring. A more rational view of government explains why Kelliher ignores the distinction of pure public goods -- private benefits to one's political supporters are often more efficient in building a winning coalition in a democracy than are public goods. The pure public good can waste resources acquired through confiscatory taxes by conferring benefits on political opponents. The DFL is smart enough to recognize that waste.

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WHY? Vaccines, History 

In the August 17 issue of Parade Magazine there was an article on vaccines - who needs which ones and why. One particular point caught my attention. The question was: Why do kids even need vaccines? The answer is very important.

Polio, tetanus and whooping cough seem like dangers that belong to history. It would be a mistake to conclude that the danger of those illnesses has passed. ..whenever vaccination rates slip, those diseases return. A recent outbreak of measles occurred mostly among kids whose parents had not had them vaccinated. We live in a global world and diseases do not pay any attention to borders.

I started thinking. The same logic applies to learning real history. The USA has done more good for more people providing freedom from tyranny than any other nation on the planet. It still is the nation of opportunity. American soldiers have died for more moral causes on behalf of others than any other nation. Our children are cheated when they are taught only a guilt-ridden, victimized view of our history. We owe it to them to teach the entire story as well as teach them the horrors perpetrated by so many other cultures.

Just as ignoring vaccines for diseases that we think no longer can affect us, ignoring the evil of foreign cultures and nations and ignoring the good of US History means the diseases and evil can very well come back to us.

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Media alert 

I will be subbing for Don Lyons on the Morning Show today at 6-8am on 1450 KNSI here in St. Cloud (streaming available through the link). Then at 5-7pm, the Final Word begins its State Fair duties. If you are at the Fair this afternoon, come by the Patriot booth, newly placed on Dan Patch Blvd, and visit with Michael and me. NARN will be at the Fair weekdays 5-7 along with our normal Saturday gig (11-5; the Final Word begins at 3.)

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

I wonder if intellectual diversity would count? 

A note from our faculty union president:
President Potter has asked that a Diversity Task Force be formed and he has created a structure for the task force and a means of populating the task force. Both the formation of and structure for the Diversity Task Force have been reviewed and supported by the Faculty Association.

The Task Force will develop a comprehensive Diversity Plan that addresses all aspects of the University�s efforts to create and sustain a diverse learning community. These aspects include but are not limited to: student recruitment and retention, workforce composition and development, the campus climate, the relationship between academic program development and administration to diversity, the relationship of faculty scholarship to issues of diversity, the role of the University�s community engagement efforts both as service to the community and as a venue for student learning and development and the development of a reflective approach to continuous improvement in the realization of the University�s commitment to diversity.

President Potter has asked that all nominations to the Task Force be people with knowledge and experience with diversity in the educational setting, through prior education and/or scholarship; participation in or certification in diversity training for trainers, a history of activism around diversity and social justice issues or experience working and/or teaching in settings characterized by their diversity.

Question to readers: Should I apply to this task force? Would my research into bulletin boards be considered "knowledge and experience with diversity in the educational setting"?

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Unfavorable deductions 

The hearing on the EFCA ads was held on my father's birthday, and I was in the Boston area at the time. I thought it would be hilarious if I was taken into custody the following Monday.
Other prisoner: What are you in for, son?
Me: Unfavorable deduction about Al Franken.
OP (sliding slowly away): You're his accountant?
(With apologies to Arlo Guthrie.)

As Michael posted yesterday, the complaint was dismissed (he's again posted the Order of Dismissal.) He notes the silence (also evidenced by the lack of posts on the subject found on the BlogNetNews aggregator for the state) of other bloggers who had accused others of lying.

What is "an unfavorable deduction"? The ad states that the Employee Free Choice Act would have eliminated a worker's right to a secret ballot. The defense has been that secret ballots could still happen. True, but as the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace notes yesterday in its press release announcing the dismissal:
Under EFCA, the NLRB must recognize the union without an election if a majority of workers sign an authorization card identifying who they are. Once the 50% threshold has been crossed, the statute is unequivocal in its command: "the [NLRB] shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or organization as the labor representative."
Could the organizers still seek a secret ballot? Yes they could ... but under what circumstances would we expect them to do so? If they can just get that 50%+1 for signatures, they can dispense with the ballot, and the costs of campaigning, and not ever face the counterarguments against unionization. The cost of proceeding past 30% -- the threshold at which you can seek the ballot -- is relatively small and the benefits large. If they don't think they can get 50%+1 votes, they won't ask for the ballot. If they can get the votes, they can also get the signatures. And there is the distinct possibility that one could get 50%+1 signatures in a card-check campaign without getting 50%+1 votes in a secret ballot. So I would argue that it is highly unlikely a union would ever seek the election option. Justin Wilson of the Employee Free Action Committee makes the same point.

That's what the administrative law judge calls "an unfavorable deduction." And that's what Brian Melendez was calling a lie, and what the DFL was saying should be prevented from the airwaves in a country that still has the First Amendment.

I am quite willing to still debate the analysis and facts of EFCA with Mr. Melendez at any place, at any time. I can come by the DFL booth at the State Fair, if he was of a mind to agree to that. I don't expect he will, though, and you can draw your own unfavorable deduction from that.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Putting the bottle before the cart 

As regards the idea that lowering the drinking age would help campuses combat binge drinking, a thought from Milton Friedman in 1991:
...all of the experience with legal drugs is that there's a tendency for people to go from the stronger to the weaker and not the other way around, just as you go from regular beer to light beer. That's the tendency that there is: from cigarettes without filters to low-tar, filtered cigarettes, and so on.
Perhaps illegality induces binge drinking (the fixed cost of acquiring illicit substances over a larger quantity of booze or drugs), and maybe it doesn't. It appears the evidence on that is mixed. But I'd argue for no drinking age. My parents supervised my consumption of beer and wine, under rather generous limits (two glasses of wine with holiday meals was acceptable -- one beer was acceptable anytime if you asked first), and a couple of trips to unrestricted Europe as a car-less 15- and 16-year-old helped to inform me of the effects of drunkenness.

I wonder if we could convince MADD to accept a change in the laws that permitted one to drink before permitting one to drive? It might be a good test to see whether they'd put their time as drivers where their mouths are.

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Minneapolis housing market woes 

The Twin Cities real estate market continues to be flooded with "lender-mediated" sales. Here's the report. Lowlights from the press release:
The mix of traditional and lender-mediated has changed so much that the net price decline overall has fallen 11.9% over the last two years. Over that same period, traditional home sales have fallen more than 43%, while foreclosures and short sales have risen by a factor of more than five.

Data on the right (from Calculated Risk) shows that the overbuilding of 2004-06 has yet to be worked out nationally. The same appears to be true for the Twin Cities.

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All your book are belong to us 

In the newsletter of our union, regarding the MnSCU Code of Conduct:
Faculty should be aware of one important policy change in the Employee Ethics portion of the Code. State law allows faculty to accept free samples of textbooks and related materials. Even though free samples become the property of the faculty to whom they are given, the new Code includes a policy restricting how faculty may dispose of such items. Part 3, Subpart B (1) prohibits faculty from selling free sample books and materials �for the personal benefit of the faculty member.� Under the Code, faculty are still permitted to donate such items to charity. Alternatively, you may sell such items as long as the sale does not profit the faculty member personally. For example, the policy would permit faculty in a department to pool their unused textbooks to be sold to fund student travel or to benefit the educational needs of the department.
In A.D. 2008, semester was beginning.
Professor: What happen ?
Office manager: Somebody set up us the administration.
Provost's office: We get email as official university communication.
Professor: What !
Provost Office: Main screen turn on.
Professor: It's you !!
MnSCU: How are you colleagues !!
MnSCU: All your book are belong to us.
MnSCU: You are on the way to principles of economics.
Professor: What you say !!
MnSCU: You have no chance to survive make your time.
MnSCU: Ha ha ha ha ....
Provost Office: Professor !! *
Professor: Take off every 'duty day'!!
Professor: You know what you doing.
Professor: Move 'duty day'.
Professor: For great justice.

The above attempt at humor will resonate more with workers here at SCSU. The links may help explain. My textbook sample sales fund a thank-you pizza party for the department student workers and have for several years. But what's the ethic involved here? Do we think selling textbooks makes their price higher? What about the revenue the university gets from renting the on-campus bookstore?

The next step may be the administration choosing our books.

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Local jobs tank 

I'm curious about the increase in unemployment in July here in the St. Cloud area. The data won't tell you too much, unfortunately. 210 fewer workers employed, 269 more workers reporting themselves unemployed.

One speculation I would make -- and I'm still trying to nail down the research on this -- is that the number of local government workers lost is quite large. Statewide, there were 540 fewer local government education jobs in July 2008 over July 2007. I thought perhaps the St. Cloud numbers were a reporting issue. Local government jobs (not broken between education and other) fall every July, but this year the drop was not more pronounced:

Jobs in...June...July.....change

So that's not really it. Retail trade and wholesale/transportation were very soft, belying the supposed benefit of the stimulus checks. Otherwise it simply looks like a slow month in the sectors that were expanding, with continued declines in manufacturing. If we are pulling out of whatever you call these last eight months, July probably wasn't the month the new leg up began.

In a related note, the St. Cloud Times announced twelve positions to be cut last Friday. According to one person I spoke with, the eight people being laid off were notified by this morning. One of the data we use in the Quarterly Business Report is the Times' help wanted advertising linage. Ad revenue generally (for example in autos) is down precipitously, and has been for years. Even a relatively small, relatively unharmed market like St. Cloud's is not immune.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When tax analyses argue past each other 

There are numerous analyses running around right now about the tax plans of Barack Obama and John McCain. I think many of them are talking past each other. Let's consider three different paths an analysis can take.
  1. Efficiency and distortion -- one part of tax policy concerns itself with whether the tax system is extracting a given amount of revenue at the lowest possible cost in terms of deadweight costs, rent-seeking, or otherwise gunking up the price system. (Like Phil, I watched that ethanol piece on and said to myself "good principles of econ clip!") Concerns about efficiency and distortion are addressed by study of the marginal tax rate, since distortion occurs at the margin. It's on this score that McCain's proposal to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25% looks good. It is not at all a statement that businesses are paying too much in taxes. Indeed, it could be that we get more tax revenue at a lower rate; neither McCain nor I am making that claim, but it's important to point out that if lowering a tax rate meant you increased tax take (even as a share of profits or GDP, because multinational corporations were shifting tax liability to lower-tax jurisdictions), the efficiency argument would still be valid. Or the higher marginal rate for earners over $250k in the Obama plan is seen by Greg Mankiw, for one, as reducing the incentives to work, save and invest. Either way, these are arguments made at the margin.
  2. Equity -- the argument that some should pay more than others is a different debate. For example, Mike Moffatt responds this morning to Paul Krugman's statement that the debate over the corporate income tax is much ado about nothing. It's not to Mike because "the U.S. corporate tax system is highly complex and distortionary". True, but that's not Krugman's argument. Take also the debate between Brill and Viard on the one side and Obama advisors Furman and Goolsbee, discussing the Obama plan for income taxes. The former point to the inefficiency and increased distortion created for some middle income familes from the Obama plan; Furman and Goolsbee focus on the fact that taxes overall would be lower. (So too the analyses from the Tax Policy Center.) By focusing on average taxes paid in the past rather than marginal rates prospectively to be paid in the future, the two groups are arguing past each other. Tyler Cowen comes closest to my point here in debating the Brill and Viard article:
    I am not saying that Obama is "raising taxes on the poor." It is about marginal rates and yes marginal rates do matter for incentives. This is a genuine problem of many indeed most anti-poverty programs...
    I'm not making the case that there is absolutely an equity-efficiency tradeoff (a la Okun), just that they are separate cases, and policy advisors and bloggers can put different weights on the outcomes of two second-best proposals.
  3. Scope of government -- the other concern can be the size of government. Many people seem to focus on how much each plan adds to the deficit (that seems to be a concern in the Tax Foundation analysis, for example). So people will want proposals that are "revenue neutral" or "deficit neutral" because the proposal is not to increase the scope of government. Increasing deficits do imply a larger scope of government for future taxpayers who must retire the debt that is created by that deficit.
If you want a sense of which argument is being made, look for the number used for the argument. Tax rates are about efficiency, tax shares are about equity, and government expenditures or debt or deficits as a share of GDP are arguments about scope of government -- this would be a simple shortcut that might help sort out who's talking about what.

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What my freshmen know 

The annual Beloit Mindset List is out for the Class of 2012. What do entering first-year students know? The list is long, here are just a few of my favorites:
  1. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
  2. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available
  3. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
  4. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
  5. IBM has never made typewriters.
  6. There has always been Pearl Jam.
  7. The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.
  8. Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs.
My brother is going through withdrawal from sending his first-born off to college last week; today is convocation at St. Cloud State. First order of business with these students will be to tell them who Stevie Ray Vaughn was.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Georgia: Reaction times 

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Russian claim of Georgia starting the war are a stretch; it is also apparent that the Russian government was very ready.

Tom Lasseter visited the disputed South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on Sunday and found little evidence of a massive Georgian bombardment of the city, and not very many deaths.
Russian-backed leaders in South Ossetia have said that 2,100 people died in fighting in Tskhinvali and nearby villages. But a doctor at the city's main hospital, the only one open during the battles that began late on Aug. 7, said the facility recorded just 40 deaths.

...Col. Gen Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy head of the Russian military's general staff, said last Tuesday that "Tskhinvali doesn't exist, it's like Stalingrad was after the war."

But in fact, the city still does exist. While there was extensive damage to some structures, most buildings had front doors on their hinges and standing walls. For every building charred by explosions � the Georgians are accused of using multiple rocket launcher systems � there were others on tree-lined streets that looked untouched.

One government center was hollowed out by blasts, but the one next to it teemed with workers.

The Guardian reports that the South Ossetian government has rounded up 130 Georgian nationals and is holding them in its interior ministry -- for what is unclear, though the article speculates it would be for a prisoner exchange. Interesting, in that South Ossetia is an area with only 70,000 people. How many of them could be captive of the Georgian army? And if there had been a massive bombardment of Tskhinvali, how do they organize this? Seems an odd thing for an area that had been supposedly flattened like Stalingrad to do.

Another interesting piece of evidence on reaction times comes from looking at the timing of the arrival of the Black Sea Fleet off the coast of Georgia -- both to move 4000 troops, and to engage the Georgian coastal defense forces.

The war started on Friday August 8th; the Black Sea Fleet was reported to arrive off the coast of Georgia on Saturday August 9th. That's pretty impressive, considering it is about 400 nautical miles from Sevastopol to Ochamchire. While the Moskva, Smetlivy, Muromets, and Aleksandrovets can make good speed and make the trip quickly, those ships sailed from Sevastopol with an assortment of support vessels that could only make 12-16 knots, at best. Simple math reveals that would make it a 25 hour trip, meaning the ships would have had to put to sea almost immediately after the fighting began. For any fleet to deploy that quickly is extraordinary readiness.

[An eyewitness report from Sevastopol] "We took up station guarding the opposed landing on the Abkhaz shore when all of a sudden four high speed targets were detected. We sent out an IFF signal and the targets didn't react. Receiving a command from the flagship, we got into formation and right at that moment the unidentified targets opened fire on the ship formation and flagship. The cruiser was damaged and a small fire broke out aboard. Then, fearing for seaworthiness, the flagship withdrew from the firing area."

Moskva and Smetlivy steamed into Novorossysk the next day. All this seems quite well coordinated.

Reactions in other countries have been swift. Ukraine has stepped up, following the Polish lead, by offering to coordinate its radar systems with those of the West. Because of earlier disagreements with Russia, President Yushchenko has now an opening to greater cooperation. Certainly everyone recognizes that the earlier hesitation to admit Georgia and Ukraine to NATO was an error. The interesting thing coming out of Ukraine this weekend, though was this comment by Prime Minister Yulya Tymoshenko -- considered both at odds with Yushchenko and favored by the Russians, to the point of accusations of Russian warchests for her presidential ambitions -- in an excellent interview by Christia Freeland:

For all their sparring, Tymoshenko and Yushchenko have been more united on foreign policy than many expected, with the prime minister moving towards the robust defense of Ukraine's national interest that the president has long espoused. Even before Russia's attack this week on Georgia, she has been measured but forthright in her attitude to the Kremlin.

Tymoshenko also understands that Ukraine's proudest accomplishment - its democratic revolution - makes it a particular target for its authoritarian neighbours. "They fear Ukraine as evidence that a post-Soviet country can quickly and effectively build a rule-of-law society and a democratic society," she says. "And this example is very, very uncomfortable for those who would like to keep everything undemocratic and untransparent."

There is little doubt to whom she is referring as "they". I hope this isn't just Yulka playing to the Western press. As long as those attitudes persist, there is some chance that western missteps in this conflict might not be fatal to their ambitions for the success of the Rose and Orange.

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Kobe Bryant - He's OK 

Last week an interview of Kobe Bryant by Chris Collingsworth caught my attention. It was well worth the nine minutes of viewing. I understand basketball since we follow the women's team at the University of Minnesota. I am not a fan of professional basketball so all I "know" about the game is what I hear via media and it's not much. I do remember the weak performance by the American Olympic team in 2004. Looks like egos got in the way of common sense.

This first interview with Kobe Bryant was terrific. Kobe particularly addresses the attitude on this years Olympic basketball team, coached by Mike Krzyzewski from Duke University. They are the "redeem" team, out to get back what Kobe (and many others) believe should have been America's in 2004. Kobe holds back nothing. The team is focused on defense and the team - a credit to Krzyzewski. Kobe also is proud of America, our troops and thinks it's cool to feel that way. Collingsworth's most snarly comment is in response to "cool" - does Kobe really think at this time it's ok to be cool about America? Kobe replies with a calm but definite "yes."

Now there is a second interview with Kobe - about meeting our phenomenal American swimming champion, Michael Phelps. Kobe and the interviewer discussed gold medals, Kobe said he'd like one and was shown cheering Phelps in the last relay race.

This is what it's about - cheering on others, being proud of a nation that does good in the world, doing one's best because one has the opportunity to do one's best.

I'll be a Kobe fan from here on out. Thank goodness there still are people who are famous, have a tremendous skill, are articulate (Kobe is also fluent in Spanish), and have the confidence to be proud of our nation - we do much good and it's time our media start sharing the good we do.

HT: Powerline, Hot Air

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A sensible sense 

In signing the Higher Education Act reauthorization last week, Congress and President Bush have created a small opening for student free speech rights. Sec. 104 of the act reads in part:
(2) It is the sense of Congress that--
(A) the diversity of institutions and educational missions is one of the key strengths of American higher education;
(B) individual institutions of higher education have different missions and each institution should design its academic program in accordance with its educational goals;
(C) an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas;
(D) students should not be intimidated, harassed, discouraged from speaking out, or discriminated against;
(E) students should be treated equally and fairly;
As FIRE notes, it does not have the force of law, and as we've argued repeatedly in discussion of the Academic Bill of Rights, it should not have a law. But this "sense of the Congress" is an important statement nevertheless, and would seem certain to be cited in litigation when the next assault on student free speech happens.

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Goodbye Garcia? 

I received a very short note from Tony Garcia that his 1-3pm show Sundays on KNSI was "on hiatus until further notice" based on a decision by station management. I have enjoyed being a frequent guest on Tony's show, and hope he will appear either back on that station or someplace else soon.

No announcement has been made on a replacement.

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Adventures in numeraire choices 

In Zimbabwe, the new currency of choice as a medium of exchange (and soon as a unit of account?) will be gas coupons.

Bidders (at a car auction) must put down a deposit of 1,000 liters (220 gallons) of gas coupons, worth about $1,500 at the current gas price in Zimbabwe, and pay the rest in coupons when they pick up their purchases.

Zimbabweans face acute shortages of local currency. Already gas coupons can be used to pay some household accounts. Many businesses also pay workers part of their earnings in scarce foodstuffs, or demand dollars for purchases, which is illegal.

It's worth remembering that this currency shortage doesn't mean that there's not enough currency. Rather, there is so much money that nobody wants to use it. (cf. Hans Sennholz.)

From the same story, the removal of zeroes from the currency had as expected no effect, but

Obsolete coins also have been revalued, sending Zimbabweans hunting for coins they squirreled away in recent years.

Shops battled to count heaps of coins, causing long lines at checkout counters. One enterprising Harare business on Tuesday advertised coin weighing machines that even banks had discarded after coins went out of circulation in 2002.

Shopping and visits to cafes and restaurants became further confused this week by a range of different exchange rates used against the U.S. dollar.

On Wednesday, banks quoted the official exchange rate at about 10 new Zimbabwe dollars (1 billion old Zimbabwe dollars) to a single U.S. dollar. Businesses quoted an exchange rate in new dollars of between 25-1 and 100-1.

There is thus not only uncertainty about which currency gets used as the medium of exchange, but also what numeraire to use. At these levels, the output costs of hyperinflation must be huge.

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New adventures in private financing of elections 

Charging for lawn signs:

Purchased in bulk, a two-color lawn sign might cost the Obama campaign $1. I checked the Obama '08 Web site. They offer the budget-conscious supporter a generic 26-by-16-inch sign for $8. For those Obamites into conspicuous consumption, the site advertises a variety of 22-by-15-inch designer signs for $19.99. If this were an oil company, the Democrats would be accusing it of price gouging. As Kurt Vonnegut put it, "So it goes."

I called the Obama '08 Minnesota office for clarification. Media spokesperson Nick Kimball told me it is "generally a policy of the campaign nationally to charge a nominal fee for lawn signs." "An occasional exception might be made for an outstanding volunteer," he added. Kimball later called back to report that "if someone balks at paying for a lawn sign and really wants one, we'll work something out."

Celebrity has its privileges! h/t: Michael.

Seriously, I have thought about this in terms of t-shirts for, say, our radio show. Do we give them away as advertising? Do we sell them for profit? Do we price them at cost and somewhat split the difference? I suspect the marginal value of one more Obama '08 sign isn't that great to the campaign, so perhaps that is the point where you begin to charge. But wouldn't you vary the price by state, and give them away in the toss-ups?

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Congressman Kline, Energy, Independence, Security 

Last week, I was fortunate to hear Congressman John Kline of Minnesota's Second Congressional District (CD 2) speak at two venues: A CD 2 wide Chamber of Commerce meeting and the CD 2 monthly volunteer meeting. (Full disclosure - I am the Republican Chair of MN's Second Congressional District.) Congressman Kline's talks focused on earmarks and energy.


Washington is simply stuck. Sometimes this may be good, other times bad but when important issues that affect Americans and business are ignored, all lose. The earmark system is an example of a system gone amok. My understanding is that local governments can request that their DC representative request money for X project. In the past, the project was raised in Congress, the merits were debated and a decision to allocate or not allocate the funds was made.
Unfortunately, the system has lost its transparency. Today earmarks are slipped into bills without debate, without voting, without transparency to the taxpayer. What Congressman Kline did in 2007 was say, "No more. We've got to fix the system (ie, make it transparent)." There were 12 Congressmen who agreed with him; in 2008, there are approximately 50 who have signed on board. We, the taxpayers, foot the bills for such stupid earmarks as the researching the fruit fly in Paris, France. Excuse me, the French can do their own research.


In 2007, the USA imported 4,915,957,000 barrels of crude oil and petroleum products from all countries. The price per barrel was significantly lower than in 2008 when prices have ranged from $84/barrel in January to $125 in June, and reached $140 in July/August. Bottom line: through May of 2008, Americans spent over $193,000,000,000 for oil imports.

The Republicans have proposed the American Energy Act, an all-encompassing energy plan to free the US from the potential shackles of foreign oil producers. Counter to what much of the press is reporting, the Republican energy bill is thorough. It supports: Increased conservation; increased alternative energy sources; increased nuclear; increased oil refineries; opening the Outer Continental Shelf and North slope of AK for oil and gas drilling. However, the Democrats won't allow the bill to come to the floor of the House for a vot. Their maneuvers, described below, show that they really don't care about Americans.

The US House of Representatives has a procedure whereby any member who is on the floor is allowed to speak for 5 minutes. On August 4, 2008 when Republicans were lined up to speak on energy, as is their right by House rules, Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi (San Fran Nan) and her buddies forced adjournment for the next five weeks, turned off the lights and microphones. This procedure denied Republican representatives their right to speak.

Hm, what to do? Another rule says if a House member is speaking, visitors can be seated on the House floor. Republicans rounded up visitors inside the Capitol, invited them to the House floor because Republicans believe Americans should be represented- their representatives should have a vote on energy bills. These actions have been continued for the past two weeks.

Why won't the House Democrat leadership allow a vote? The bill would pass because many Democrats are in favor of it. But, there are problems. The Democrat leadership is beholden to the environmentalist lobby (as well as trial lawyers and the teachers' unions). We have been fed a bill of goods on the damage to the environment. This is ludicrous - no nation drills, processes and transports fuels as cleanly as Americans. (An aside, a Norwegian acquaintance of mine who is working in the Gulf of Mexico says the Mexican drilling sites are no where near as clean as the American platform sites and ours are 30+ years old.)

The numbers are all over the map but sending $500,000,000,000 or more a year to overseas oil suppliers, many of whom would like to see us disappear is just dumb.

The briefest summary of the root cause of our energy problem is the actions taken by environmentalists and Democrats over the past 30+ years that have literally prevented the US from building nuclear plants and refineries, drilling for its own oil, mining clean coal, etc. Already we have made significant investments in alternative energy sources and will continue to do so. However none has proven financially viable for a large marketplace, yet. In time, yes but not now.

The House did pass an excuse for an energy bill, HR 6 which will be the topic of a separate post.

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Helping Soldiers Vote 

Earlier I wrote a post, encouraging people to get the necessary information to their soldiers so they can be sure their vote in this November's critical election counts. I will post every few weeks through October. Please spread the word to any family or friend who has someone serving in our military. Without them, we would not be free.

A soldier can register to vote absentee at this site.

Thank you.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Some Thoughts on Georgia - European Georgia 

King has posted on the Georgian situation here and here. While there is much hand-wringing, far too many so-called and wannabe "leaders" are spouting pabulum. Putin believed he could get away with this attack because he's been watching the cowardly press in the west. The bully Russia is back and the outcry is grossly underwhelming.

What can be done? This article by Charles Krauthammer actually lays out actions that can be taken. We do have leverage without sending in our military. As with most bullies, they need to be taught a lesson. If they are not properly taught, they bully again. As I've said before, "Appeasement doesn't work."

However, there is another angle that has not been discussed much - that of tribe. Many Americans have difficulty comprehending tribal cultures, that is, tribal in the ethnic sense. For all the complaining about race, culture, belief, etc. in the USA, we have more people from more nations with more spoken tongues than most anywhere else on earth. We have also learned over time to get along.

Most American immigrants to the USA came because they were of the wrong tribe, religion or social class in their home country. Even the original African slaves were either tricked or kidnapped by other African tribes and sold the the highest bidder - first the Arabs, then the Europeans. Today many Christian Africans come to the USA so as to practice their faith without fear of being hurt. Other immigrants come for jobs, others to get away from civil war (war within cultures in a given location). Previous immigrants also made it a point to take advantage of our education system, learned English, and cherished the opportunity to succeed.

In many parts of the world, these freedoms are not available. Ethnic and tribal groups harbor hatreds, some that go back over 1000 years. They are caught up in a "I'm perfect, better than ________, will get even, etc." mindset.

The situation in Georgia is reminiscent of these historical conflicts. Ethnic groups in this region still cling to old patterns to attack and in Russia's case, destroy a free state. We have a choice: take action, as outlined by Mr. Krauthammer, or revert to letting tribes destroy themselves.

KING ADDS: Janet's writing reminded me of Douglass North, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics in 1993. From his Nobel lecture:
There is no guarantee that the beliefs and institutions that evolve through time will produce economic growth. Let me pose the issue that time presents us by a brief institutional/cognitive story of long-run economic/political change.

As tribes evolved in different physical environments they developed different languages and, with different experiences, different mental models to explain the world around them. The languages and mental models formed the informal constraints that defined the institutional framework of the tribe and were passed down intergenerationally as customs, taboos, and myths that provided cultural continuity.

With growing specialization and division of labor the tribes evolved into polities and economies; the diversity of experience and learning produced increasingly different societies and civilizations with different degrees of success in solving the fundamental economic problem of scarcity. The reason is that as the complexity of the environment increased as human beings became increasingly interdependent, more complex institutional structures were necessary to capture the potential gains from trade. Such evolution requires that the society develop institutions that will permit anonymous, impersonal exchange across time and space.

...Not only has the pace varied over the ages; the change has not been unidirectional. That is not simply a consequence of the decline of individual civilizations; there have been periods of apparent secular stagnation - the most recent being the long hiatus between the end of the Roman Empire in the west and the revival of Western Europe approximately five hundred years later.
But at the end of this lecture, in which North discusses the rise and decline of the USSR and world communism, he includes this point:
It is adaptive rather than allocative efficiency which is the key to long run growth. Successful political/economic systems have evolved flexible institutional structures that can survive the shocks and changes that are a part of successful evolution. But these systems have been a product of long gestation. We do not know how to create adaptive efficiency in the short run.
Krauthammer thinks we can impose that from outside, but we really cannot, at least in the short run. Russia and Georgia are still very young in their existence, and the institutional structures have not developed yet. As North, Wallis and Weingast (2005) noted:
For much of the world, the relevant alternative to the natural state is not an open access order like the United States or France, but a descent into the hell of disorder.
I admit to the pessimism of that quote in regards to Georgia this week.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Further thoughts about Georgia 

Once again, when Ed and I get on a topic, the second topic we plan never gets to air. Georgia dominated our conversation. I wanted to put in a few more thoughts.

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Media alert 

I will be on Hot Air with Ed Morrissey at 2pm today, discussing both economics and Georgia. Please join in the conversation! In re the Obama tax plans, see this from the campaign (as published in this morning's WSJ); my summary of the Boskin editorials to which Furman and Goolsbee are responding; and contrast to Brill and Viard,

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Opening act of an academic life 

Reading Mitch yesterday was depressing. Not to find out that there are feminists teaching freshman comp; I'm fine with that, if it's composition that they're teaching. The problem is that it's the most important course a freshman takes (please, not freshperson, and first-year-student is too cumbersome -- thank God they never thought of freshtron!) So what is this 26-year-old grad student thinking as she plans her new course?
And next Monday, a whole new round begins�and this year, I�m doing more socially-conscious assignments than last year. Could be interesting. But I realize now, that if I don�t ask them pointed questions about how they view the world (be it television, themselves, etc), no one else will, either.
And if you worry about how socially conscious your assignment is rather than how well the student can write the assignment, it won't matter how many other classes ask them pointed questions. They won't know how to answer.

My advice to the young Oxsana -- if you want to teach women's studies, teach in their programs. Leave the teaching of composition to those who will focus on the construction of clear paragraphs and proper sentences.

Unfortunately, the senior professors of English are just as bad.

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