|View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, May 30, 2004
I'm not such a big racing fan. The only way to tell the cars apart is by color, and there are only so many colors. Plus, while it may be exciting in person, there's not a whole lot of payoff in watching guys go around in a circle.
Fox has gotten pretty inventive in its NASCAR coverage (I'm one of the few who liked the glowing puck), but ABC is still pretty much stuck in the Jackie Stewart era when it comes to race technology. But their announcers do a great job explaining what's going on.
Still, I love the Indy 500. I'm old enough to remember when it was on Memorial Day itself, and was broadcast tape delay in the evening, so the network wasn't at risk for all the time lost to the spring rains. Now, they do it on Sunday and they show it live.
Friday, May 21, 2004
Charles Krauthammer today shows why he's much better writing on foreign policy than on economics. He proposes a gas consumption tax to create a $3 at-the-pump floor, in order to spur consumption. To keep it revenue-neutral, any money collected would be refunded through payroll or income tax refunds. I've been thinking this over, and I can't see any way that this does anyone any good.
First of all, promising to refund the amount of this tax is like promising to put Social Security in a lockbox. What you're really doing is giving the government a chance to create some complicated refund formula that I guarantee will leave it holding more of my money.
But let's say the government tries to play fair. Think about who's going to do the most to conserve. It's going to be the middle class, in particular, the well-educated middle class who always responds better to these incentives, and who has the means to buy a new Prius even if they didn't really plan on it for another 5 years or so. The guys as the very top don't care. The guys at the bottom couldn't scrape together enough to replace that 1973 Malibu anyway, which is why they're still repairing it, and this tax isn't helping them to save the money to do it.
You can't link the savings to income tax. That wouldn't be fair since the wealthly would get all that money back and they don't drive any more than I do. Also, the guys at the bottom end would get slaughted by this thing, and they may not pay any income tax to begin with. You can't link it to payroll tax. If I'm upper-middle, or even middle-class, much of my income isn't covered by payroll tax, but I'm probably doing the most to conserve.
There's another problem with one of Krauthammer's assumptions. Suppose I'm a Saudi prince. Now, I'm Jewish, so I'm a Saudi prince who can't get a visa to visit him home country, but bear with me. Why on earth should I not restrict output to force the price up to $3 a gallon? Well, you say, that may not be the optimal supply-demand curve for you. No, it may not be, but while I'm producing at $2 a gallon, gas is being consumed at $3 a gallon. I'm not reducing consumption by raising the price, because the US Government has already done that for me. All I'm doing is making sure I don't leave anything on the table for it or the oil comapnies to take.
Which goes to Krauthammer's last point. The money won't be recycled through the American economy, anyway. Even if it were, why should we believe that the government can cycle it better than or more wisely than consumers can, in the long run?
In fact, the first couple of paragraphs provide the solution to the problem, and we've been there before:
We've solved this problem before. Why not again?
Trunk over at Powerline believes that we're reliving the Nixon Era, and compares Wallowing in Watergate to Wallowing in Abu Ghraib. Evidently, the Washington Post's Executive Editor, Leonard Downie, Jr., agrees. From today's online chat about the Post's coverage of Abuse Ghraib:
Hindrocket, over at Powerline, finds the idea that large numbers of people claim that the economy is worse for them personally to be perplexing. I think it comes down to gas prices.
First of all, gas prices really putting a crimp in people's budgets. If a family has two cars that get, say, 25 mpg each, and both parents work, they could easily end up spending another $1 a day in gas. Which doesn't seem like much until you compare it to their other monthly bills. Cable. Phone. Electricity.
Then, on top of that, gas prices are ubiquitous. We may not know how much a gallon of milk costs, but you see the price of gas roughly 437 times on the way into work. Big, black and white letters that used to start with a "1", and not so long ago started with "0", now start with "2".
Some of use are old enough to remember when prices shot up through $0.55 a gallon. One gas station in my neighborhood was caught so off-guard, they didn't have any "5"'s to put up, and had to turn the "2"'s backwards. Fortunately for them, prices quickly went to 60 cents, so the embarassment was short-lived.
People remember the last time this happened, and it wasn't pretty. Yes, cars may get better mileage. Sure, oil may be a much smaller part of our economy. I know, it's absolutely a smaller part of the family budget. Thank Greenspan, the Fed knows that printing money probably isn't the best way to control inflation.
But prices are still more likely to go up than down for now. There's a sense that this is going to get worse before it gets better. "Jobs" are proxy for these fear. "Jobs" are a proxy for a "tight job market" which promise a relatively easy answer for the average worker. Now that comfort is gone, and the unease, not yet turned to fear, is strong again.
So, by the way, is the apparently ingrained American resistance to arithmetic. I heard an NPR story this morning that mentioned a woman from Kansas who had put herself on a budget to afford a trip out to California to see her sons. Now, at $2 a gallon, plus 2 cheap motel stops each way, and meals, and she's looking at almost $500. If you want to count wear-and-tear on the car, the extra 3000-mile oil change, the sand-blasting to get the bugs off the windshield (I've driven through Kansas in the summer, folks), and she might want to think about this little thing called an "airplane ticket."
She's so convinced that driving is cheaper than flying, that's she'll put herself on a budget to spend two nights each way in the Bates Motel, super-sizing herself to save money, and paying extra for the AAA gold plan so when the car breaks down 100 miles from the nearest exit she doesn't have to pay an extra $1 a mile for towing.
This woman isn't stupid. Maybe she just likes driving. I do. But I think it's more likely that the local paper, or even the regional one, hasn't bothered to tell her that the reason millions of people will take off their shoes and put their computers in a separate tub this summer is that it costs less.
They're too busy with Abu Ghraib.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
When even the American Prospect is worried about President Bush making inroads into the Jewish vote, you know there's something to it. Then Ken Baer goes and proposes a strategy for Kerry to hold onto that vote:
Ken Baer is a former speechwriter for Al Gore, so I guess it makes sense that his first instincts would be for the candidate to deny his true self. Barring a drastic Bush reversal on Israel, leading Jews to ask if Kerry can be any worse, is anyone really going to buy this?
Jews will still vote mostly for Kerry, because Jews aren't single-issue voters until someone's burning crosses in their front yards. President Bush could move the embassy to Jerusalem, send the 101st Airborne to secure Rafah, and personally buy the concrete to build a fence 100ft above and below the ground, and it still wouldn't be enough for some people out here. (That picture, by the way, is about 20 years old. Vanity, thy name is....) If Kerry has a Jewish strategy, it has to lie not in trying to persuade people that his name in the Old Country was Herzl, but in trying to persuade them that it doesn't matter.
By now, pretty much anyone who's read this space for any length of time knows that my b-school ethics professor is an old-time Democrat, who once headed the party up in this state. Yesterday, it was our turn to talk about the environment.
For some reason, the question was framed as "Green by Conviction," or "Green When It's Profitable." For some reason, "Green Only When the Government Makes You Scream in Pain," didn't make the list. He actually went so far as to tolerate, without comment, a slide arguing in favor of Malthusian population dynamics, which nobody believes any more. Evidently, the environmental question, at least in this class, isn't played between the 40-yard-lines, but well within the Left's field goal range.
With most cases, there's some sort of flanking maneuver available. Not with this case. The only option left was to tunnel underneath and explode a mine from below. So of course, I had to ask about the quality of the research, and the tendency of environmental advocacy groups to do science by press conference rather than in peer-reviewed journals.
There are a million answers to this, many of them covered by my friend Ronald "Beetle" Bailey, here, in today's WSJ. Arguments for which he has no answers, but which appear to have no perceptible effect on his opinion, or on the range of debate allowable in class.
He's also an ex-Presbyterian minister, who still claims to love the sinner (capitalism) while despising all the mayhem it works throughout the world. Now, he seems to have transmitted his religious fervor to the environment.
Julian Simon once asked an audience of his whether or not there was any data, any data at all, that he could present to make them question their opinions. When met with silence, he apologized for not being dressed for church.
I'm not happy having to come to class dressed for church.
Maybe this is why South Carolina kept Fritz Hollings as its junior senator for decades.
Nurse, I know it's hard to get the Senator to take his meds, but you see what happens when you don't...
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Does anyone wonder why Ms. Bryant hasn't been called to testify? Time to recycle this oldie but goodie.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Thomas Lifson over at American Thinker suggests that the administration is trying to control the UN Oil-for-Food scandal so that it can use any potential revelations as leverage over our friends the French, Germans, Russian, and the UN bureaucracy itself. When we need their help, in whatever capacity we choose, we'll be able to get it at a relatively low cost.
While I consider American Thinker to be one of the best "thinker" blogs around, I'm afraid that Mr. Lifson may be praising the administration for purchasing a tactical victory at strategic cost. Consider the possibility that only Iraqis, who don't matter to the UN, and conservative Americans actually care that half of the civilized world, and virtually all of the self-appointed arbiters of the international order, were on Saddam's payroll. Why on earth would we want to do anything to bolster the credibility of this organization?
Note that this support comes at the mere price of blackmail. We don't demand organizational reform. We don't demand fairer rules, better accounting, or even the heads on a platter of the people who were busily stealing from the Iraqi people they profess to love so much. We don't even demand the elimination of the insidious bloc system, which implies that neighborhoods are more powerful than values, permanently and progressively locks out Israel from meaningful participation, and promotes the illusion of pan-Arabism that helped put us in Iraq in the first place.
We don't demand any sort of permanent change, because the system is essentially unfixable. It's even an open question as to whether blackmail, which requires some level of shame, can work on people who clearly have none.
No, what we're liable to be left with is a rehabilitation of the Sick Man of Turtle Bay. The UN was shown to be irrelevant, unwilling to enforce its own dicta, because it was so thoroughly corrupted by the very countries it was supposed to be watching. We should keep the UN on the sidelines, where is barely belongs, and certainly not risk investing it with moral authority it so clearly doesn't deserve.
Monday, May 17, 2004
For years now, the University of Iowa business school has been running an electronic market where you can buy shares of a candidate. The shares come in two flavors: chance of winning, and percentage of vote total. This market has been among the most accurate of "polls" in the last few elections. For some time now, the Bush/Kerry race, despite the ups and downs in the polls, has been pretty steady, at Bush 52%, Kerry 47%. The last week or so, though, has seen the Kerry numbers climb up from about 46% to 48%. Here's the graph.
A couple of points. The movement is small, and it hasn't broken through the previous high, so it may not be significant. Also, Bush's numbers haven't deteriorated at all. Finally, sometimes it take a while for people to believe that a candidate really is vulnerable, and then the deterioration happens quickly. This happened to Bush pere in 1992, and should serve as a warning.
At the same time, Tradesports, which did a nice job with the California recall election, only has a winner-take-all proposition. The numbers there show Bush's chances settling in at about 55%, after peaking just after Saddam's capture. They're basically moving sideways at this point.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Just to show you how far my head has been into my books this last week, it was through the Intermountain Jewish News that I found out that Alan King had died. He was relatively young, 76. King got his start in the Catskills, but was part of the great stand-up era of the 60s and 70s. He had been talking about comedy as much as actually doing it in recent years, but was still one of the funniest guys around.
I remember seeing him debate, in 1986, at the Oxford Union, the question: "Resolved: the British are Funnier than the Americans." He and Steve Allen showed up for the Americans; Jasper Carrot and John Wells defended the Brits.
For some bizarre reason, PBS chose Bud Collins to do the superfluous color commentary. It must have been his association with Wimbledon. Both Oxford and Wimbledon are British and snooty, and Collins had had plenty of practice saying nothing in-between the real action, so he was the obvious choice.
Steve Allen strolled out, and did about 10 minutes of the dry humor, his best, that had the Brits in paroxysms of chuckles. But King stole the show. Not only did explain the difference between "funny" and "witty," he demonstrated it brilliantly. When he said, "funny," emphasizing the "f" and holding his hands out, you knew the American humor was something visceral rather than intellectual. You also knew you were in for 10-15 minutes of the funniest stuff you'd ever heard, and that you'd find out just how well the Brits could laugh at themselves. (Not well enough; the proposition carried handily.)
I hadn't laughed so hard in years. King said (among many other things), "The British are not only not funny, they're carriers. Because Canada isn't funny, Australia isn't funny, and South Africa certainly isn't funny."
From the New York Times, from the days when it wouldn't reflexively have taken the other side:
King tried to do serious stuff now and again, and had the face to pull it off, as in Casino, but that wasn't really his style.
We've been losing a lot of these guys in the last few years. Enjoy them while they're around.
Saturday, May 15, 2004
This, from Denver Water:
Translation: You people have done such a good job conserving water that we'll have to raise your rates. Gee. Thanks, guys.
The Trunk over at Powerline asks why Kerry would prefer to have us believe that he only began opposing the war in 1969, when the Harvard Crimson reports that he began opposing it in 1966.
I think the answer is obvious. Volunteering to serve and then coming back a changed man is a compelling story. But we know that Kerry used his opposition to the war to launch his political career. If he held these opinions prior to volunteering, it takes more than a little shine off that narrative. I doubt that he volunteered solely to bolster his anti-war credibility. But even some of that makes him look less noble and more calculating.
Friday, May 14, 2004
In response to the vicious slaughter of American Nick Berg, the assasination of four little girls and their pregnant mother in Israel, the continued killing of American soldiers in Iraq, the dismembering of Israeli soldiers in Gaza, and the general barbarity of the enemies of civilization and the Jewish people, Americans Against Terrorism, Rocky Mountain Rabbinic Council, Allied Jewish Federation, Faith Bible Chapel, Action Israel, American Jewish Committee, and Anti-Defamation League will be sponsoring a memorial meeting Sunday evening, from 7:00PM to 7:30PM at the BMH-BJ Congregation, 560 So. Monaco Parkway, in Denver.
If you're in the area, please stop by.
View From a Height has made the Blogroll over at the Denver Post's Bloghouse. It's over on the righthand side of the page. Considering the amount of abuse the Post takes in this space, that's rather sporting of them. Won't buy them any leniency, but still rather sporting.
...to visitors from Powerline and Polipundit. When you get bored, about 2 1/2 paragraphs into Kerry's peroration, take a look around, and please visit other members of the Rocky Mountain Alliance, listed over there on the right.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Here's a familiar face, having acquired the shape, if not yet the coloring, of a beefsteak tomato:
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Here is then-ex-officer-Kerry's closing essay in his book, The New Soldier. It is presented here as a public service. Honestly, I don't hold this against him now. But anyone running for President, who's trying so hard to rewrite his own personal history, while using that personal history as the basis for a campaign, doesn't get to pick and choose what's part of the record, no matter how poorly edited, or how juvenile the punctuation.
If you make it to the end, note how tired you are just reading it, and think about the suspension of mental activity necessary to transcribe it.
Monday, May 10, 2004
While Hindrocket gets Hawaii and Washington's Crossing, I get to slog through John Kerry's intellectual masterpiece, The New Soldier. Ah, the burdens of public service.
Kerry has pretty much suppressed republication of the book; the few available copies cost more than I'm prepared to spend, and library copies are all checked out. Fortunately, the academic and public libraries of Colorado share their catalogs via something called Prospector:
It's a completely appropriate symbol for The New Soldier. The old man probably had a better chance of uncovering the Denver Nugget than one would have of finding wisdom buried in the pages of this book.
Talk about not judging a book by its cover. I had seen pictures , but only face-on. I was looking for something shaped like Diplomacy, or even No More Vietnams. Instead, it's like a coffee-table book for people who only drink free-range coffee. It's over-sized, over-photoed, under-worded. "My Day at the Protest," by John Kerry.
It opens with the Senate testimony that's copiously available elsewhere on the web. In-between, testimony about the Hell of War, most of which sounds like Bill Mauldin on downers. There's a gripping day-by-day account of the protest on the Mall, including that anxious, crisis moment when the 800+ "vets" voted to sleep there. As though there were any hotels within three hours' march that would both admit them and that they could afford. The vote was apparently 480-400 to stay, later revised to "unanimous." That's accounting that even Global Crossing could be proud of.
The only part of the book that's not part of the public record is the closing statement by Kerry himself. He wasn't so nuanced then.
So here we are, like the old prospector. Seduced by avaricious outfitters and led by guides who know better, to believe that there's actually gold in them thar hills. If Kerry would just admit his "youthful indiscretions," we'd be done with it. As Lileks has said, I don't care what he did 33 years ago; his record since then is bad enough. But since he chose to run on his Vietnam service, as his only conceivable foreign policy credential, he has to revise history constantly to make himself look better.
It's the perfect distillation of Kerry himself. The only possible reason he's worked to keep this book out of the limelight, because intellectually and politically, it's as lightweight as it looks.
Friday, May 07, 2004
This Sunday is Mother's Day. It's also Allied Jewish Federation's Walk for Israel. You don't have to pre-register, you certainly don't have to be Jewish. You just have to pay your $5 for police protection, and show up at the Denver Academy of Torah, on Alameda just east of Monaco, by 2:30 PM on Sunday. For some unfathomable reason, they've banned dogs, though.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
This morning was the first time I had heard the idea that we should demolish the Abu Ghraib prison as a symbolic gesture. So far, I have heard both Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity dismiss the idea as "mere symbolism." Well, don't underrate symbolism. Symbolism matters. On September 11, I remember seeing a flag on the television. It was probably the most beautiful thing I could have imagined at that moment, and not just because it was color after a day of nothing of drab gray skyscrapers and their remnants. Green probably wouldn't have done it for me just then.
So maybe the symbolism of demolishing the prison would have worked, just like pulling down Saddam's statue last year, or Lenin's or Dzerzhinsky's last decade. It's probably too late for that now. But some post-courts-martial pictures of the offending soldiers, doing a little hard time of their own, that might help.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
...to all HonestReporting readers. Hope you like what you see.
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
In the last couple of weeks, the Washington Post's Molly Moore has firmly established herself as a babe in the woods of Middle East and Israeli politics. Last week, Ms. Moore tried to build a case that the targeted killings of Hamas leaders actually would make that genocidal organization more dangerous. Yes, and bombing the train tracks leading to Auschwitz would have made the Nazis more vindictive, too.
In today's paper, she concentrates on Israel's uncertain political situation, resulting from Likud's defeat of Sharon's Gaza pullout plan. I'll focus on the biases of the analysis in another post, but for now, I'd like to look at her sources.
In the Hamas article, Ms. Moore says:
You can bet that if a "prominent Palestinian psychiatrist" is also described as a "human rights advocate," it's not the human rights of suicide bomb victims he's worried about. Indeed, Mr. Sarraj is the author of this apologia in Time magazine. It's probably one of the most dishonest things Time has every published since the death of Henry Luce. A justification of murder that can only come from a violent distortion of history, its publication condemns both Time for its publication, and the Post for the uncritical acceptance of its author as a neutral authority.
No mention of what party he's from. Imad Falouji is the famous legislator who remarked that the second Intifada had been meticulously planned during the Summer of 2000, and was in no way a spontaneous popular reaction to Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.
Here are the citations from today's article. See which one doesn't fit:
Harmless enough, a Palestinian political analyst. Except that Mr. Barghouti is the brother of Marwan Barghouti, jailed leader of Fatah's Tanzim, and lead organizer of the current intifada. Mustafa himself is a popular speaker both in the territories and abroad, and tightly connected to the International Solidarity Movement.
In short, the Post is now in the habit of quoting Palestinian terrorists and terrorist sympathizers without disclosing these connections. If Ms. Moore is aware of them, she has no business omitting them. If she wasn't aware, well, her sloppiness has now been corrected.