View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Friday, October 31, 2003

Disraeli Again?

The Tories in Britain are getting ready to name Michael Howard as their leader, after dumping Iain Duncan Smith. Why is this a big deal? Howard is tough, able, smart, devastatingly witty, and, er Jewish. Remind you of anyone?

Friends of the IDF

A little while back, a woman at a Federation fundraiser out here made certain that everyone in the room understood that not one penny of their donation went to the Israel Defense Forces, just in case we were worried. We wanted to know how we could endow a tank, or barring that, a tank shell. The notion of the Last Thing the World that a terrorist would see would be a shell with my name on is profoudly satisfying.

Well, I can't do that, but there is an organization that provides aid and comfort to the widows, orphans, and grieving parents that the Arabs are so proficient at producing, and even to the soldiers themselves. The FIDF provides scholarships, rec rooms, gyms, and generally makes the life of a soldier a little less miserable.

On particularly sweet touch is the "Cozy Home" that they provide to soldiers without friends or family in Israel. Many soldiers, even those on active duty, are able to go home frequently. But we forget that Israel is still largely a country of immigrants, who have no home there, and may really not want to go back to their countries of origin, even for a visit. This program rents apartments for them, sends them Independence Day gift pacakges, and now is even helping to finance their trips back home, if they do want to go.

It's a worthwhile cause. Check it out.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Best of the Rally

We also had a small anti-war/anti-Israel/anti-America rally here in Denver. There was a small counter-demonstration, and one of the attendees noted the 11 best quotes to come from the CCMEP rally:

#11-"You(meaning us) should get your news from a TRUTHFUL source-Al Jeezera"

#10-"The PLO charter does NOT call for the eradication of Israel"

#9- "It's the governments fault that I'm poor"

#8-"Viva La Palestine" (huh??)

#7-"Let's think of some other way to bug them (meaning us) 'cause I'm bored"

#6-When asked why the Palestinians are blowing up women & babies on buses & at restaurants the response
was "Well they have to do SOMETHING"

#5-The Israelis learned how to build walls from the Nazis.

#4-"Excuse me mam, do you know what depleted uranium is ??"

#3-The US government is forcing Hispanics to join the military because that is the only way they can get a college education.

#2- A REAL Jew that knows the Torah is anti-Zionist

#1- Clinton was a Republican

Welcome to Mahathir's World

According to Mr. Mohammed, President Bush said nothing to him about his, er, remarks at the Muslim conference the other week. I guess the President must have been lying to appease the World Jewish Conspiracy.

Now, Mahathir, who can't get out of office soon enough, is at it again:

"Some people say that we here have no freedom of religion," Mahathir said Wednesday, in a clear reference to the United States, without mentioning it by name. "In reality, the people in that country are the ones who were forced to embrace a religion."

People "who were abducted from Africa were brought to that country and made slaves, tortured and forced to change their religion, including Muslim slaves, (they) were forced to convert," Mahathir said.

Two words: Sudan. Today.

"They must never claim they are the chosen people, who cannot be criticized at all," Mahathir replied.

"We sympathize with them, we were very sad to see how the Jews were so ill treated by the Europeans," Mahathir said. "The Muslims have never ill-treated the Jews, but now they are behaving exactly in the way the Europeans behaved toward them against the Muslims."

OK. Mahathir is probably past understanding the notion of the "Chosen People," but since Muslims tend to claim the Bible as a holy book, he might open it once in a while and notice the amount of criticism the Jews come in for. For the record, I don't think the Koran is similarly critical of the Arabs, which is probably good for their self-esteem, and bad for their education.

Also, note, "the Muslims," not "Muslims," or "Arabs." Forget that Palestinian Christians may finally be learning that their Muslim cousins are a bigger problem than the Jews. Mahathir grew up speaking English, and knows perfectly well what that definite article means, just as surely as we all know the difference between "Jews run the New York Times" and "The Jews run Hollywood."

And then, this half-truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: "It is not religion at all, it is territorial." Sure. That's why groups called "Hamas," "Islamic Jihad," and "Party of Allah" are engaged in a cooperative war against the Jews. That must also explains why these groups attack Jews, and now Maronites, and not, say, Muslims. Nope, nothing to do with religion.

It's the Economy, Stupids

I'm sure there's a reason why this Wall Street Journal report is bad news:

The GDP report showed a marked pickup in consumer and business spending. Business spending had fallen for most of the past two years and was the main reason the U.S. slipped into recession in 2001.

Consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic growth, rose at a 6.6% rate, its fastest pace since the first quarter of 1988. That followed a 3.8% rate in the second quarter, and 2% in the first quarter.

Spending on durable goods, which are items meant to last three years or more such as cars, surged 26.9%, after a 24.3% gain in the second quarter. Spending on nondurable goods such as food and clothing rose 7.9%, after a 1.4% increase in the previous quarter.

Business spending, or nonresidential investment, rose 11.1%, its fastest pace since the first quarter of 2000. That gauge rose 7.3% in the second quarter and fell 4.4% in the first quarter. Within that category, spending on computers and equipment surged 15.4%, up sharply from the 8.3% rise in the second quarter.

Federal-government spending cooled to a 1.4% increase, after soaring 25.5% in the second quarter. National defense spending was unchanged after surging 45.8% in the previous quarter.

In a separate report, the number of workers filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits declined last week despite labor strikes in California and other states that caused the filing of an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 claims.

Initial jobless claims fell by 5,000 to 386,000 in the week that ended Saturday...

Getting Things Done

Apparently, the siezed assets from the old regime in Baghdad don't have to get shrunk going through the normal contracting channels; the military has a program where the troops on the spot can disburse funds for public works projects. The number of bids required for a contract under $10,000: one. And the guys prefer to hire locals, partially because they know them, and partially because it gives the individuals working a stake in the community. Also, since the work is being done with money stolen from these people in the first place, it can only add to their satisfaction. Naturally, the aid groups are claiming that this sort of thing distorts the whole process, but one senses that they just don't like being bypassed, and it points out how much of an independent interest the NGOs have themselves become.

While the author clearly didn't get the memo that said everything on the ground was going to hell, she did include one curious comment:

In general, Arnold said, contractors have been "brutally honest" about cost and time and have lived up to their promises. "Maybe," he mused, "because they are terrified." That could be because their bosses are wearing bulletproof vests and packing semiautomatics.

Or maybe, they know how much is riding on the success of this program. If Iraqis really are resentful that we had to effect their freedom for them, maybe they're also eager to show they can do things for themselves.

Home on the Range

Tip to Powerline for this condescending Kristof op-ed about reclaiming the plains for future buffalo-burger

It might be argued that with massive surpluses of food piling up, we're not doing anyone any favors by continuing to subsidize and protect our agricultural industry. But to say this was a "150-year mistake" is bizarre by any standard. What were our parents and grandparents supposed to eat, for crying out loud, when the wheat boats from the Argentine didn't make it into port? Sure, we get winter grapes from Chile now, but it wasn't always thus.

Also, I imagine that Kristof imagines that we'd be returning the plains to some pristine, pre-human state. This, too, is more than a little absurd. The prairie used to be forested (although the plains never were), and the Indians created that million-square-mile buffalo run by keeping the place burnt down.

I'd also note that in the time of Lewis and Clark, grizzly were common on the plains, rare in the mountains. Now Kristof supports gun control. What does he expect me to do when my car breaks down on the drive on Highway 2 to Glacier National Park, and that griz pops up from behind the nearest burial mound?

Finally, is Kristof also willing to reinstate buffalo hunting when the Great Herds have successfully reclaimed their land? Why do I think not? No, it would be a protected nature park.

If the plains are emptying, anyway, at least in part because one man on a combine can now harvest what 400 of his closest friends could do 50 years ago, let it happen. But for Kristof to somehow pretend that he actually cares whether than town of 6 survives? As my neice would say, puuuhh-leeeeze.

UPDATE: Deacon suggests that Kristof might want to move Israel there. Personally, I think he wouldn't want Israel taking over North Dakota's nukes, although he'd probably support a binational state with the Sioux.

Speaking of Farms

In Multinational Finance, we're now moving from currency analysis to country analysis. The professor has introduced us to the Index of Economic Freedom as a useful tool for gauging a country's policies and business climate. Here's what the IEF had to say about the trade policies of all those countries complaining about our supporting our farmers:

  • Chile: On some agricultural goods, such as wheat, vegetable oils, and sugar, Chile applies duties on top of the existing tariff rate, and this can increase the effective tariff rate dramatically. The U.S. Trade Representative reports that "due to low international wheat prices in 1999 and 2000, this system led to applied import duties as high as 90 percent, well above Chile's WTO bound rate." ... Since agriculture is one of the most important export sectors, barriers on agricultural products distort trade significantly.
  • El Salvador: The U.S. Department of State reports that "when the imported goods are vegetables or animals, a license from the Ministry of Agriculture is needed to certify that the goods meet local health and sanitary regulations.
  • Uruguay: As a member of the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR), Uruguay maintains relatively low trade barriers with Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina but applies a high tariff on all goods and services coming into Uruguay from countries outside MERCOSUR.
  • Costa Rica: However, there are non-tariff barriers, such as lengthy and cumbersome processes to obtain standard sanitary and phytosanitary documentation.
  • Panama: "The Government has erected substantial non-tariff barriers for certain agricultural products including chicken, beef, and some produce and dairy products." With respect to specific implementation of this policy, "the mechanism utilized has been alleged phytosanitary deficiencies or simply the refusal or delays in processing phytosanitary permit applications for agricultural products."
  • Guatemala : now imposes tariff rates quotas (TRQ) for corn, rice, wheat and wheat flour, apples, poultry meat and poultry by-products (fresh, frozen, or refrigerated, with some exceptions), and fresh and frozen red meat
  • Peru : In 1991, Peru introduced "temporary" import surcharges on some agricultural products, claiming they were needed to offset subsidies by exporting countries. The U.S. Department of State reports that "the government began reducing the surcharges in increments in April 1994, and in July 2001, this system was replaced by a `price band system' similar to one used by the Andean Community."
  • Brazil : Despite progress, SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] measures remain significant barriers in many cases, in part driven by Brazil's implementation of the harmonized phytosanitary standards of the Southern Cone Phytosanitary Committee (COSAVE)
  • Paraguay: The government maintains no major non-tariff barriers to trade, although it has erected barriers to some agricultural imports such as poultry.
  • Honduras: The U.S. Trade Representative reports that "Honduras implements a price band mechanism for imports of yellow corn, sorghum, and corn meal…. [I]mports entering with prices within the price band are assessed a 20 percent tariff…. [F]rom February to August, duties are allowed to fluctuate according to the predetermined duty tables for each commodity. This seasonal restriction has been added to provide protection to local grain farmers during the main harvest season." Honduras prohibits imports of cement, sugar, rice from Southeast Asia, and beef from South America to protect the domestic industry.
  • Ecuador: commodities are occasionally prevented from entering Ecuador through the arbitrary use of sanitary rules as a way to restrict import quantities
  • Venezuela: The U.S. Department of State reports that Venezuela restricts imports of certain agricultural products (including wheat, grains, rice, pork, poultry, oilseeds, edible oils, oilseed meals, and milk) through a price band mechanism; in addition, "the import licensing system calls for purchasing of domestically produced commodities before granting licenses to importersan item under WTO review."

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2003


    I managed to kill of Gator, Save, and GameChannel, all of which pop-upulated my screen with little, miniature browser windows. But for some reason, virtually every site I go to now spawns a would-be ad window entitled "Micorsoft Internet Explorer." Fortunately, they don't take over the screen, but I'd really like to get rid of them.

    Screaming, Like the Passengers in His Car...

    If the last weeks of August are like the top of the roller coaster, we're now well into that part where, held in place only by your shoulders, you're turning upside-down while twisting and going backwards through a neon-lit tunnel. In the next several weeks, I am facing three case-studies and a final in finance, a paper for Organizational Behavior, a group project for same, and a group marketing plan for marketing.

    "I know," I hear you say, "but you chose this. You knew going into the quarter that half your Sundays were shot, that you'd be working part-time, with an assistantship, and that you'd have all this reading to do. You knew this. So don't complain."

    Yes, I chose this. So I'm not complaining. But it will result in lighter blogging, which is too bad, what with Zell Miller coming out for PresidentBush and against the Bad News Bears.

    Coffee Shop

    So, after doing a little code clean-up at home, I head out to the office. I figure I can spend an hour or so getting my ducks in a row before I actually show up at the salt mines, and I know just the place to do it. Panera Bread has some of the best coffee, a nice atmosphere, and phone dial-ups for modems. The play calming classical music, and, when the weather calls for it, they have a gas fireplace going. When I wasn't working, I would sometimes spend whole days there, drinking coffee, then soda, then going out to the Dearly Departed Mediterranean for lunch, and coming back to finish up before class.

    Except for this morning. They're understaffed, so I spend five minutes waiting in line between two people who are ordering provisions for the 3rd Division. When I do get to the front, I order a coffee, only to get a cup that looks like it just got back from the 3rd Division. The gals arevery nice about it, apologize, and it turns out that one of them even goes to Daniels, although we've never actually met.

    When I return to my computer and the dial-up, I find out that not only doesn't phone line have dial tone, but the couch-and-coffee-table area it looks onto has been commandeered by high school students who are obliterating the music with their conversation about Willie Wonka and cartoons they've drawn. Great. I come here to get out of the house and to get some work done, and instead I get to watch the Breakfast Club live.

    If I had a wireless modem I could seek out a Peaberry or a Starbucks, but they're not nearly as nice. Panera tends to buy larger spaces, serve real food, and has larger open spaces and higher ceilings. The music is really important. I like the blues as much as the next guy, but it's a lot easier to work to a Mozart horn concerto than to Frank or Nat King. All of this makes the whole atmosphere much more - civilized - than the other spots. European, but in a distinctly American way. Except when the Breakfast Club descends.

    Monday, October 27, 2003


    The jeans finally wore out last week, and I had to head down to the local chain western-wear store, Shepler's. I always love going there, looking at the 400 kinds of jeans (relaxed-fit, please), and the rows and shelves of boots that look like they're leftover from a cowboy invasion of some kind. I actually bought a pair of boots about a year after I moved out here. People wear them for formal and semi-formal occasions, although not like in Texas, where guys have as many different pairs of boots as they have outfits. (Black, brown, work, formal.)

    Not to mention the hats. I don't wear a hat, as they do in Texas, since I don't actually work on a ranch. There are some people out here, though, who have disdained the Borsolino for a Stetson for shul. They're still black-hatters, but with an accent. The hat, if anything, is even more of a definer than the boots. Mexicans seem to favor the straw hats, white cowboys like the felt. The fur felt hats seem to be more for show than for work.

    Also the accents. People who do actually work on ranches shop there, not just the urban cowboys who think it's Halloween the rest of the year, too. You hear fairly thick western and southern accents, and it's a reminder than while you're not in Kansas, you're a lot closer to there than you are to 5th Avenue.

    Reagan Slander

    Look, Ronald Reagan was a human being, warts and all, but he was profoundly good human being, who believed deeply in everyone's humanity. The slander that CBS is getting ready to perpetrate on him concerning gays and AIDS has been documented thoroughly elsewhere. It is either malicious or ignorant, and they should know that we know better. Here's where to complain:

    Those of you here in Denver can complain to Channel 4. You can also complain to CBS, and use the "Feedback" link at the bottom of the page. CBS's parent company Viacom doesn't seem to want feedback, since their contacts are blank, but if you are a shareholder, call them at 1-800-516-4399.

    UPDATE: Reader Cory Skluzak has pointed me to this site advocating a very targeted boycott of the network, letters to the show's sponsors, and so forth. I haven't examined it in detail, but it seems like these guys have the right idea.

    As Seen on Powerline

    I think Victor Davis Hanson understates the risk of a free Iraq hostile to Israel. Ahmed Chalabi initially wanted to recognize Israel and normalize relations. Now, we can't get that through a government we've picked, and the esteemed diplomatic corps seems unwilling to press the issue. Twice in the last couple of months, first in Dubai and then at a meeting of Arab countries, the provisional government has made it clear that Israeli companies are not welcome to contribute to Iraq's rebuilding. If Iraq, right now, at the bottom of its curve, is willing to reject Israeli help, what might it do when it doesn't need the US so much?

    Sunday, October 26, 2003

    Who's Idol-Worshipping Now?

    As much as Judaism stands for some things, it stands unequivocablyagainst idol-worship, or, in Hebrew, avodah zarah. There is one God, that's all there is, he's got no physical shape, and there's really nothing other than Him that matters. Idol-worship is one of only three commandments one must die before violating. In Judaism, as in Islam, "idol-worshipper" is just about the worst thing you can call someone. In part, it explains the strength of the Muslim reacton to what Boykin said.

    I always felt that reaction had much more to do with what he said than with where he said it, who he is, or what clothes he was wearing. If someone Leftish overheard Wolfowitz chatting along these lines in shul last Shabbos, they'd be calling for his head, too. But it also highlights the left's continuing eagerness to hold the Right's speech to a ridiculous standard.

    Why? I remember, back when the Left was still demonizing settlers and seriously trying to get Israel to commit suicide, someone wrote an article accusing the settlers and the right of turning "the land" into an idol. Leaving aside the obvious theological problems here, what's the real difference? Evidently, it's all right to accuse someone of violating basic religious principles, as long as you're on one side of the debate.

    Friday, October 24, 2003

    How We Treat Their Children

    I'm surprised AFP didn't find someone accusing the soldier of poisoning the child.

    Madame Chiang Dies

    Sometimes, when someone who used to be someone dies, I think to myself that they had been better off than I thought they were, since I assumed they had died years ago. Madame Chiang was like that. The woman was 106, one of the few, and one of the last, to live through parts of three centuries and two millennia. To give you an idea of how old she was, the Fox News report says that she is survived by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of her stepson. She outlived her step-grandchildren.

    Sparta and Athens

    The conflict between Sparta and Athens occupies a central place in Western cultural mythology. The symbolism inherent in the battle between the cultured, philosophical Athenians, and the militaristic Spartans is tremendously powerful. We still, in some sense, mourn Athens's loss, and the eventual decline of democracy that came with it. In some sense, the wars of the 20th Century were a reversal of that war, with the democracies defeating the Spartan, militaristic and dictatorial ideologies of fascism and communism. And can there be any doubt that a society that celebrates suicide bombers is today's Sparta?

    And yet, those pictures of the Israeli soldiers crying over their comrades' deaths looked for all the world like a family mourning. Israel wants to be Athens, but it has had to be Sparta, too. Kids, 18-year-olds, serve a mandatory 2-year stint with real guns in some of the most hostile territory imaginable. Compare the average American 20-year-old with the average Israeli of the same age. (Many of them still only have the civilian experience of 18-year-olds. I had one Israeli freshman at DU come to me with help on an Excel project, and she had never used Excel before. She was seriously, if needlessly, reconsidering her interest in business because she felt handicapped by this.)

    But these people, in this country where everyone is a soldier until he's 50, still produce all the elements of a vital culture. Books people want to read, new technologies people want to buy, medicines and treatments they want for themselves. To be a certified tour guide in Israel is not merely to master 3500 years of history, but also the local geology, zoology, and botany. Their neighbors have forced them to be Sparta, but they only do so in the service of Athens.

    Aside: this characterization is a little unfair to Sparta. Sparta was never ruled by one man, or even by a static oligarchy, but by a rotating hierarchy, in which all men over a certain age were able to participate to one degree or another. In short, they were not an unmixed totalitarian state, although they were highly militaristic - they just represent that now in our imagination. Likewise, the Athenians ruled over an empire of unequal partners that eventually threw them off, allying with the Spartans and the Pesians to defeat them. But they promoted democratic elements in their neighbors, and have come to represent enlightenment and culture to us. If American politics is played within the 40-yard-lines of life, these two societies probably represented the 25- or 30-yard-lines of their world. The Soviet Union, Hitler, and Mao were playing in the shadow of their own goalposts.

    How They Treat Their Dead

    This is a picture of a Hamas rally after last night's attack on the base in Gaza.

    Just to show that there are a few dozen, not hundreds or thousands. Here's a close-up of the Guys in Green.

    They have the obligatory rifles and suicide belts, although some of them look like maybe they needed the special suicide belt extenders. Look, if they really want to be martyrs, I'm happy to help them. These are what are known as "irregulars," and they're legitimate targets. One well-placed (very well-placed) missile from a helicopter would probably prevent this kind of public display, at least for a while.

    In other news, the Palestinians are now claiming that Israeli soldiers just starting firing at a group of schoolchildren, for target practice, maybe? That's right. Nothing going on, soldiers just decided to start blowing away little kids. This is so obviously a story intended for domestic "street" consumption that one wonders why it gets reported at all. But it gets reported as though the witness is reliable, with no bias of his own, with no axe to grind. Since there were no reporters present at the scene, we don't know what happened. But does anyone consider it inconceivable that gunmen were using the kids as a shield, or that maybe they even shot at their own kids?

    How We Treat Their Dead

    Here's a picture of an Israeli soldier taking away the body of a Palestinian terrorist who was killed in Gaza. You'll notice a number of things, chiefly that she isn't gleefully displaying her hands, covered in the man's blood, to a cheering mob.

    Reuters Watch

    Yahoo! News carries this Reuters story about the Palestinian murder of 3 soldiers, and attempted murder of 3 civilians. Along with the obligatory reference to the "uprising for statehood," it includes these two pictures:

    That's right. Soliders' comrades mourning their deaths. And the friend of an attempted murderer mourning his. Just to show they don't take sides.

    Cuban Travel Ban

    The Senate voted yesterday, 59-36, to lift the travel ban to Cuba. Sadly, both of Colorado's Republican senators went along with the vote.

    Byron Dorgan wants to claim this is about farm exports: "It's not constructive at all to try to slap around Fidel Castro by imposing limits on the American people's right to travel." "Slap around." As though Castro, who throws his own people in jail for owning books he doesn't like, is the victim of some sort of domestic violence visited on him by the US. Poor little Fidel.

    Of course, the real restrictions on travel don't come from the US, but from Castro himself, who makes sure that even themost enterprising and determined tourists get no further than their well-stocked, restricted hotels and beaches, where Cuban nationals are forbidden to stay or visit. They're the source of the only money Castro would have to buy our farm exports, and aren't there better places to vacation than the Heart of Darkness?

    Thursday, October 23, 2003

    Easterbrook Gets Cars Wrong

    Gregg Easterbrook's blog today looks at why your car should be less powerful. Easterbrook makes the valid point that car companies have been increasing horsepower as they increase power train efficiency, since there's been no federal requirement to increase fuel efficiency. Since fuel economy needs to increase, Easterbrook wants to regulate engine horsepower. Here's the money quote:

    Commentators tend to assume that because fuel-efficiency averages have not risen since 1989, Detroit has not improved powertrain efficiency. Actually, gains in powertrain efficiency have been quite impressive in the last 15 years--it's just that all the new efficiency has gone into horses, not MPG.

    Cars need to be able to accelerate for highway-merging and a few other real-world situations; most vehicles sold in the United States have sufficient power for merging and other legal-driving purposes. Horsepower has little to do with top speed, until you pass around 80 MPH; almost all new vehicles sold in the United States can sustain 90 miles per hour, and a spooky number can sustain 120 MPH or more. Otherwise, the arms race in horsepower is about feeling macho and cutting other drivers off.

    Horsepower has never been regulated, but there's no God-given right to it. Fuel efficiency needs to go up. If the Bush analysis is correct, and weight reduction brings a safety risk, then how about horsepower reduction instead? Bonus: The driving environment would become less frantic, as fewer leadfoots stomped the gas pedal to cut others off.

    Ok, Gregg, I don't know if you've actually driven outside of the DC area. There are some nice rural areas nearby, kept that way by a Montgomery County government determined to make sure that locally grown corn continues to stand in the way of a better Potomac River crossing on US-15. Maybe they're hoping for an ethanol contract. Drive to them sometime. Because there's a whole country out there where people drive, where they are no traffic lights.

    Out here in Colorado, for instance, we have these things called "mountains." Sometimes they have lots of snow on them, and we can't drive up them. But much of the year, we like driving from Denver to other parts of the state, or even the country, and to do that, we need to drive over these "mountains." They're steep. They're tall. And if you want to get to Grand Junction while it's still daylight, you want to traverse them in a V-6. Try to cross I-70 in a V-4, and you'll not only get out to see if you've stopped, you probably will have stopped.

    Also, there are these large states out here called "Montana" and "Texas" and "Nevada." Parts of these states are stunningly beautiful. Other parts of these states are best seen from a) 30,000 ft., or b) at night at 90 MPH. If I need to cover 700 miles, that 20 MPH is the difference between arriving in time to get some sleep, or arriving in time to wake up. Believe it or not, this is actually an issue for thousands of people in business. It's also an issue for millions of people who take vacations.

    As for the leadfoots you hope to regulate into sedation: forget it. I realize that many people who like government regulation have only a tenuous grasp on the fundamentals of human nature, but stay with me here. If you take a raging, over-caffeinated, maniac with a V-6 or an SUV, and take away pickup and acceleration from him, you're going to get a more enraged maniac, hell-bent on endangering more lives. I am a much calmer driver with my Contour V-6 than I ever was with my Escort V-4. This had nothing whatsoever to do with the car. It had everything to do with my deciding that I really couldn't go through all the cars in front of me. In any case, if you power down all the cars, the maniac will have his advantage right back.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003

    The Pledge

    The Denver Post writes this morning about the Pledge of Allegience, and its role out here in Red State America. The article on the whole is positive, pointing out the unifying effect of the Pledge, and its role in getting kids to appreciate where they live. We can't underrate simple things like small rituals in developing worthwhile ideals. Many on the left are actively hostile to these rituals, in the full knowledge of what they can accomplish, and they choose to equate noble education with brainwashing. Interestingly, it was President Eisenhower who inserted the phrase, "Under God," expecting that it would help inculcate humility. The kids quoted seem pretty cool about it, and even manage to get the point.

    DU Law Professor Ari Kelman, who wrote a typically non-specific guest piece for the Post on the Patriot Act, and was unable to provide me specifics even in a personal email, sounds a sour note. He points out that the division over "under God" is overriding the "indivisible" epithet. Cute, except that, like the "cycle of violence," the "culture wars," aren't value-neutral. One side has deliberately pointed its weapons at the symbols of the other, with the express purpose of being divisive. This minority has decided to use the court system to force its will on the majority, because it's the only way they can win.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2003


    One of those mornings, recovering from the flu and 4 hours of sleep. Got out of bed, put on the sweats to walk the dog, and the cars on Monaco were going by at 70 MPH. By about 8:00, the internal gyros had powered up, and I was probably running at about 95% of speed, but until then it was me moving in jello and the rest of the world going by on jet power.


    "No, Mr. Sharf, we do not refer to the margin a bank makes on a currency swap as 'vigorish.'"

    Monday, October 20, 2003

    Vikings Win! Vikings Win!

    In due honor of a debt incurred:

    We, the editors of Exultate Justi and View from a Height, certify that the Minnesota Vikings are far superior to all other members of the National Football League - including our own beloved Broncos, who were mercilessly humiliated by the inestimable football prowess displayed by the Vikings (and Randy Moss' unreal field vision) this past Sunday, October 19, 2003.

    Now I know how all those residents of Normandy and East Anglia felt in the 10th Century. On the other hand, you gotta hand it to a team that knows how to perform valuable public services such as this and this. The latter would come in especially useful for a certain marketing teacher...

    Free Speech

    For the second night in a row, Hosting Matters, host to Little Green Footballs, Powerline, Internet Haganah, and Insta Pundit, was taken down by an Islamofascit denial-of-service attack, originating in Malaysia and Saudia Arabia. Evidently, this is in retaliation against some DNS servers that decided they didn't want to provide service to their hate-spewing discussion groups. So they decided to take it out on the Jews and their Pawns, as Mahathir Muhammad would have them do.

    These bozos, from foreign soil, are shutting down speech originating here in America. They are doing so in the name of Islam. Where are the Muslim groups in America? Have they issued any statement of condemnation? Of course not. Has anyone outside of those immediately affected said anything? No. These are, to the best of my knowledge, the only coordinated denial-of-service attacks related to the war. They are not directed at the anti-war dissidents, and they do not originate from inside this country. Keep that in mind the next time some idiotarian talks about being suppressed.

    In the meantime, this is serious business. The blogosphere has become a major organizing arena for news sources outside the mainstream, for creating communities of interest of all stripes. Denial-of-service attacks are the electronic equivalent of busting up the Shinbone Star for favoring statehood. I don't expect the mainstream media, who look at the blogosphere like a sidedish they didn't order, to take this seriously. I can't really expect the State Department to come out with a complaint, especially given the target. Nevertheless, this is another front in the war, and if anyone's got any ideas on how to fight it offensively, not just defensively, let's hear 'em.

    Gregg Easterbrook and Abe Foxman

    Mr. Easterbrook has apologized. The New Republic has apologized. It'll be a cold day in hell before we hear Abe Foxman apologize.

    Easterbrook looked at what he had written, saw where it was a problem, and tried to be an adult about it, saying that he was truly sorry, truly wrong, understood what the specific objections were and agreed with them. To turn that into "absolute ignorance" or "total bigotry" is not a judgment on the writing, but on the man, and that is wrong. Mr. Foxman had no idea, no idea, was what in Easterbrook's head when he wrote that stuff.

    Wieseltier may be right that editing is part of the writing process, but blogging is more immediate, less edited, and more subject to regret. Every blogger I know and read has had this problem, and it's part of the medium. The notion that there might actually be a legitimate point behind such a mistake, that maybe there really was a basis in thought for the comment that Jews should know better than to promote senseless violence, and that, at some level, studio execs are actually responsible for the products their companies create, is an idea that ought to be open to discussion. (I do not believe that Jewish studio execs are any more or less guilty in this regard than their non-Jewish counterparts. So, to that extent, Easterbrook is wrong.) But for Foxman to jump down the guy's throat with both feet was way out of line.

    It's crucial that certain types of stereotyping and attitudes not become accepted in public debate, and what Easterbrook wrote falls outside the limits, as far as I'm concerned. But the guy immediately backtracked, didn't issue some mealy-mouthed "if I offended anyone, I'm sorry" kind of apology, didn't try to justify what he had written, and has a long personal history of philo-semitism. Not to mention that the Jews he worked with at the New Republic probably would have picked up something on their antennae long ago if it were there to be picked up.

    Foxman has been head of the ADL for too long, and has become too identified with its cause. He's too quick to judge individuals rather than their work, and too quick to demand ritual observance of his totems. The ADL is a tremendously valuable organization, but I've seen his cry wolf too often at this point. It's time for some new blood, leadership that has a sense of perspective about people, while still calling attention to public speech that's out of line.

    Friday, October 17, 2003

    Friday Prayers

    This is from the southern Gaza Strip. I hadn't realized that the Palestinians were smuggling crutches in through those tunnels. Maybe if we got them socialized medicine we could persuade them to call off this whole intifada thing.

    UPDATE: I took a little closer look at this picture, and whoa!, is there something wrong. First of all, the guy with the crutch is the only guy not wearing full face armor. Maybe he's the Hamas equivalent of Rudy, or maybe he's saying, "Come and get me, I'm already on disability, so what are you gonna do to me?" Then again, maybe he's just on the Hamas DL, 'cause you notice he's basically wearing hospital pajamas.

    Then, look at the kids sitting behind the men in the Front Row. And look at which way that crutch is pointed. It's pointing the Wrong Way! Maybe he's not on the DL, maybe he's like, down in AAA where they don't even give you real guns or ammunition, just crutches to practice with until you get the hang of it. Suicide belts, those are real, though. He's got an Ace bandage on his wrist, but that could just be for crib notes, to help remember the plays.

    B-School Blues - V

    Ah, the Marketing teacher just keeps getting better. This evening, a number of us were "watching" the baseball game on our computers, using the pitch-by-pitch java applets provided by either ESPN or Major League Baseball itself. (The fact that Baseball can't see clear to allow ESPN the Internet re-broadcast rights, after soaking fans for millions in stadium deals before they even pay for a ticket, well, that wouldn't have helped us during a class, anyway.) Afterwards, one of the gals on our project team asked why there weren't any women playing at the major league level. I submitted that, especially with all the weight regimens nowadays, it might have something to do with, er, physical talent.

    The teacher, overhearing this, remarked that it was all because of baseball's old boys network and clubhouse. Probably something to that, but it's not the reason women aren't starting Game 1 Saturday night. I proposed that if a women's basketball team were to play a men's team, they'd be lucky to score, and then suggested that maybe that wasn't fair because height played such a big role. No, she said, the women's team would do quite well because they play a different game. Yes, I said, they play a different game because of their physical limitations. They're not as athletic in their play as the guys are. No, she said, the height didn't matter that much. In basketball.

    Now, I was in a parliamentary-style debating society in school. Generally, when you got your opposition to say something like, "height doesn't matter in basketball," it was the wrestling equivalent of a 3-second pin. This is a woman who claims to watch sports. This is a woman whose powers of observation have completely surrendered to her ideology.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2003

    Rahm Emanuel - Taxes Again

    Rahm Emanuel, one of the few Former Clinton Administration Officials to actually win election, thinks he sees how he can raise taxes, mostly without your knowing it. He wants to Democrats to run on a platform of comprehensive tax reform.

    The theme of the Bush tax code is this: With the help of their accountants and lawyers, the special interests win subsidies, shelters and loopholes, while middle-class families are buried under a crushing tax burden and piles of complicated IRS forms. Payroll taxes, which are paid by middle-class Americans, now dwarf corporate taxes as the largest component of federal tax receipts.

    Of course, Emanuel also claims the code is regressive. When half of all Americans don't even pay income tax, I have no idea what sort of computational gymnastics you'd have to go through to get a regressive result.

    Mr. Emanuel wants to raise taxes on the "wealthy," while cutting taxes for even more middle-class taxpayers. He wants to use the reform as cover to raise the overall amount of money the government takes in taxes, which had been at a postwar high before Bush's tax cuts. He complains about the size of the payroll tax, but his solution is to raise corporate taxes, at a time when we want companies to be paying for expanding payrolls, not expanding government.

    Mr. Emanuel's "solution" to the complexity problem sounds more like a trojan horse for even more complexity. He wants to replace 2000 pages of a 45000-page tax code with a "simple tax form" for most Americans. What would this form contain? How would it differ from the 1040-EZ, already available to those who don't itemize? Ah, what deductions would he get rid of? He doesn't say. Nor does he explain how the average American will notice the difference between a 43000-page code, and a 45000-page code. Apparently, it's still ok to saddle businesses and the "wealthy" with a system so complex even the IRS can't get it right half the time.

    Mr. Emanuel is open about selling this as an election-year gimmick, used to bludgeon the current President for almost a century's worth of accretions and accumulations. It's a class-warfare appeal to people's hard feelings about taxes, used as a Trojan Horse for a federal money grab. If he were serious about tax simplification, he'd propose cutting the payroll tax and letting people invest it themselves. He'd propose an expansion of Medical Savings accounts to introduce market forces into a health-care system dangerously insulated from them.

    I'm all for tax simplification, and for many of the reasons Mr. Emanuel enunciates. I would dearly love to see Mr. Bush take the ball and run with this issue. Mr. Emanuel says all the right words. But like his mentor, he uses them as a cover for all the wrong policies.

    Beige Book

    Don't expect the Left, or the Democrats, to be talking about this much, but the Fed released its Beige Book for the month, and the news is mostly good. Retail sales were down, mostly because auto sales were off a little, but otherwise the measure would have shown a gain. Ten of the 12 Fed districts showed improvement, manufacturing is up, and employment is starting to show some improvement in that sector. Another good sign is that business loan demand is up, indicating that businesses are starting to purchase again. This goes along with the Denver Chamber of Commerce's report that 25% of businesses are planning to hire this quarter, while only 2% are planinng to lay off.

    Residential real estate leads commercial real estate, even out here in the Kansas City District, which actually has some local tax implications. Residential real estate tax receipts can't be more than 45% of total real estate receipts by Colorado Law. So if residential activity is strong, while commercial activity is lower, residential property tax assessments will continue to drop. There's already a move to cap that drop, and this will probably add fuel to that.

    Who Reads Thurber? - III

    A few months ago, Trunk over at Powerline asked, not knowing what he was getting into, "Who reads Thurber, now?" I let him know that some of us still did. Then, a Thurber piece was included in the incoming reading packet for University of Denver undergrads. Now, F. H. Buckley, he of a recent humor analysis, has a review in the New Criterion of a collection of Thurber's letters, and a re-issue of Thurber Country. It's like buying a new car - you really may have been the first on your block with the new Ford Extrapolation, but suddenly the highways are full of them.

    Buckley is fair, and describes in some relief Thurber's darker side, without which his cutting humor would not have been possible. His assesment is that Thurber was hysterical, the "funniest writer of his generation," but that he has been "almost forgotten." This, he attributes to Thurber's lack of depth, his preference for short stories and essays to novels. It isn't that Thurber went for the cheap laugh, so much as that he didn't push it far enough.

    For those who are agnostic about meaning, minimalism is the best you can do. But Thurber also lacked deep beliefs, and led a cocktail party life. A less frivolous person might have written sharper satire and given us a more profound critique of his time. Like Waugh he inferred a Fall from the evidence about him, but unlike Waugh did not hope for a Redemption. He and his friends shared a commonsense morality which protected them from modernism’s dissolution of values. They lived off an inheritance which they squandered, but while they possessed it threw great parties. They had the gifts of friendship and of enmity, for they had the jester’s belief that we are put on earth to entertain each other as well as his resentment when the offering of laughter is not reciprocated. They are part of the world we left behind.

    Of course, every American humorist has to contend with Twain. Buckley has a point. Twain's funniest stuff was some of his most fleeting. I laugh out loud at his take-downs of Fenimore Cooper, but we remember him for Huckleberry Finn, if it's still in any Politically Correct school libraries anymore, that is. Thurber never got there. But you know, the parties are still there.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2003

    The American Future

    One of David Gelernter's main themes of 1939: The Lost World of the Fair is that the American religion died when its promises were fulfilled for the majority of the population. We arrived at utopia (a place where life is good for the vast majority of people, not perfect for everyone), and the future disappeared. No religion can survive this, and the disillusion and disorientation of the late 1960s until now have been the result. The Fair spoke to this belief, the people echoed back. Our confidence had been shaken by the Depression, but with living standards on the rise again, there was reason to hope.

    Gelernter is equally sure that there will be a New American Future. There's an argument to be made that he's wrong. That the financial and economic security we have, the knowledge that if you invest your money over time, you can be well-off in your old age, can only be kept going by a people who are a little hungry. And that we're just not hungry anymore, we're too satisfied.

    This is rather too horrible to contemplate. A society without belief in its future, without a future, really has no future. In a very real sense, the world needs us. Most of the world's people know this - we are still the only real hope for billions of people without futures of their own. Do they look to Europe or China or Saudi Arabia or Iran for real hope? No, they look to us.

    So the question is: What Should Our Future Be? What really inspires us, speaks to our hopes, allays our fears, and, an a tangible, measurable way, would inspire us? When people go to sleep at night, worried about bills or the flu or the leaky gutter, what should they say to themselves about tomorrow? What should they dream on? In 1939, it was a car, a house in the suburbs, enough food for the week (really). We have these things now. What do we dream on now?

    B-School Blues - IV

    The multinational finance course is taught almost exlusively from cases. Interestingly, the professor who taught it last quarter used alsmost exclusively the lecture & book method. This is the first time here at Daniels that I've encountered this phenomenon, of different professors using fundamentally different methods to teach the same course. Up until now, things were pretty tightly coordinated, to the point where if you missed one class you could go to the same class in another section and get 75% of the same material. Evidently, with the higher-level courses, when you get away from the core, the profs give themselves more latitude. Either that, or they're conducting an experiment.

    The case method is, I think, significantly more work, but probably more effective. Half the time, half the work is figuring out what the case is about. Then the other half is actually solving the problem. While the lecture method is more passive, more about the exams, and doesn't always connect as well with the real world. Also, you end up doing your work at the end, cramming for the exam, and then likely as not forgetting what you learned. With the case method, you work harder down the line, but are able to build from one case to the next.

    Mr. Judt

    Davdi Frum, in today's National Review Online, discusses a proposal by one Tony Judt to dissolve Israel and replace it with a bi-national state. The proposal itself amounts to sanctioning the murder of millions of Jews, but Mr. Judt has a history of opposing right-wing and left-wing radicalism (real European radicalism, not the sort of temperate, 40-yard-line stuff we have here), so Frum has a hard time calling him anti-Semitic.

    I think the proper term for Mr. Judt's attitude is anti-Semitism. He hold no other nation to this standard, doesn't appear to suggest the France or Germany should cease to exist, other than to form an EU with other peoples obviously capable of self-government. Why Israel should be singled out for this experiment in multinational-statism is never explained, either. This proprosal is really nothing more than Shimon Peres's "New Middle East," but with a Flemish accent.

    Since I am not familiar with Mr. Judt's other work, here's a serious question: what is his position on the Balkans? Should Yugoslavia be reconstituted as a solution to the ethnic problems there? Somewhat sarcastically: perhaps the Austrians, now that they've shown they can not only hold elections in their homeland, but win them elsewhere, should be given a mandate over the area as it is absorbed into "Europe." After all, the Europeans like "prior experience."

    As for his concern for the remaining Jews of Europe, I'm sure it's sincere as far as it goes. But like many European philosophers, he seems more concerned with the theory than with the results of his theory. It's all well and good to condemn radicalism, but when the rubber meets the road, he blames the Jews. Does he blame the Palestinians for their fate? Evidently not. Does he blame the French and German governments for failing to move forcefully, early, to confront their Arab populations over this issue? Non. Does he suggest that Spanish reproductions of 1930s German political cartoons may perpetuate this problem? How silly.

    The notion that Israel is holding Jews hostage to its actions is absurd. Leaving aside Israel's obvious need to defend itself, and leaving aside the particulars of that defense, there are Jews who have, quite loudly, denouced specific things Israel has done. If the anti-Semites in Europe lump all Jews together, regardless of their political opinions, that's their doing, not Israel's. The inability to make such distinctions is the hallmark of classic anti-Semitism. The unwillingness to call out others over the point is just enablement.

    No, Mr. Judt may himself be able, for the moment, to look at a Jew on the street and not see an International Threat. But he'd be better off explaining to his fellow Europeans why they should, too. And one wonders how long he himself, or, to make it less personal, others like him, will be able to pull off this double-think.

    Monday, October 13, 2003

    Columbus Day

    "What was that?" "French Horns."

    As a kid, I used to listen to tapes of Stan Freburg. His Columbus Day radio play is possibly one of the funniest things ever committed to the airwaves. The script doesn't do it justice, but if you've heard it before, listening to the few clips at the site should spark your memory enough to be able to read through the thing and laugh at the right places. Freburg got his own radio show for a short while, but never really matched the USA series. He also did a few promos for radio advertising, trying to show how much more powerful radio was than television, but you can see how that worked out.

    Freburg also did the "Green Christmas" sketch that got local DJ Bill Cerri canned the first time he played it. Remember that it took a lot less to get canned 40 years ago. Cerri was a real radio legend in the DC area, and along with Harden and Weaver, Ed Walker, and a handful of others, pretty much defined that era for a certain demographic. Few people remember him now, and I suspect in a few years it'll be the same with most others. You listen to a guy every day for 30 years, or you listen to him growing up, and it's surprising how perishable his work is. Jack Benny, George Burns & the rest produced shows, but a guy talks into the mike, day after day, playing a hymn at 6:55 and a march at 7:23 and "I Love Onions" just to annoy his partner, and it means just as much, only it's completely meaningless to listen to again. I know Lileks has been listening to Arthur Godfrey or something, but who knows if WMAL even saved that old tape?

    Friday, October 10, 2003

    Samet Chinam

    Among the things that Jews confess to during Yom Kippur is the sin of "sinat chinam," or baseless hatred. Gideon Samet, sometime contributor to that bastion of calm and reasoned thought, Counterpunch, apparently reads the New Republic, and has decided to translate Chaitred into Hebrew.

    I'll be among the first to admit that there are times when I wish Sharon had been more aggressive in pursuing Arafat and the terrorists. But the notion that he's keeping Arafat around because he needs him politically, is a product of the same mind-bending, logic-twisting hatred that liberals feel for Bush. Samet can't understand why people believe Sharon? Maybe it's because he's refused to surrender to the pathology of peace that so captivated the Left? Sharon hasn't created complete security? I'm sure Samet wouldn't find Sharon's solutions too palatable, either. Sharon risks others' lives on his own adventures? Please, the man has a personal war record that's replete with personal courage. The fact that he's no longer willing to impersonate Don Zimmer on the battlefield can hardly be held against him. Sharon brought on the war? Almost certainly a reference to Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000, this claim is made either from ignorance or malice.

    Sharon has proven to be the one figure, so far, capable of holding together a coalition and of defending the state, without illusions about the other side. Until the left has something both realistic and constructive to offer, all they'll have is their own hatred, and all they'll contribute is to the destruction of the country.

    More Leftish Pessimism

    JB & the Progressive Taxers continue trying to flog a depressed economy. The latest Western Blue Chip Economic Forecast is the basis for their gloom, but sadly, JB's pretty selective in what he quotes, and what he quotes ain't all that bad. Here it is:

  • Estimated 2004/2003 changes:
  • Real Personal Income: 3.1% (3.2% in August)
  • Wage and Salary Employment: 1.9% (2.0% in August)
  • Single Family Housing Permits: -1.5% (-2.4% in August)

    And this quote from one of the economists on the Forecast's panel:

    ...California's projected $38 billion budget shortfall over the next 18 months will require major tax hikes and deep spending cuts. Tax hikes of all types, directed toward higher income people, could force many to relocate again, fueling another Colorado growth spurt.

    Note that the difference between the September and August numbers is actually better for Housing Permits, and declines by statistically insiginificant amounts for the wage and employment categories. Note also that the economist's assessment of California was prior to the name change to Collyvornia. JB also attacks Owens for making a much-publicized trip to the Bay Area looking to lure companies away, and then suggests that he should do just that.

    Forecasts come, and forecasts go, but the actual numbers are unassailable. The economy, including Colorado's in back on the way up. I do see a lot of criticism of Owens on the site, but I rarely see constructive suggestions.

  • Thursday, October 09, 2003

    George Will

    Maybe we're wrong, and he's right, bu it's evident that this morning's George Will column was written before the Cubs win last night. His basic point is correct, and is much the same as the one Steve Lopez made in yesterday's superficially obnoxious LA Times (registration required) commentary. That the people of California had been asleep at the switch, and didn't care about politics until their car taxes went up.

    Look, most people are not members of the political class. Most people have lives to live, budgets to live within, jobs, kids, their own hopes, and can't be spending every spare moment checking to see if their governor is rifling through the Clinton Files, even when it comes to policy. People pay attention to politics about once every other year. The rest of the time, they're busy living their lives. One can reasonably argue that in an era when the government is so pervasive, this is irresponsible. But it's also human. Even employees of companies with stock-option plans don't go home every night to read the footnotes to the company's 10-Q filing.

    Therefore, when the Governor whacks them with a car tax to fix a deficit that he claimed didn't exist, people are going to be a little peeved. As government becomes more complicated, that part of citizenship required to police it also becomes more time-consuming. At least part of this requires imagination, an ability to believe that things can be different from what they are now. When articles about having beaten the business cycle started to appear in 2000, we should have dug up those same articles from 1989.

    I'm not sure we can reasonably expect people to combat potential threats, be they military or economic. So we at least expect our elected officials to do so. That Davis failed to do so does indeed make him, in Will's words, "obviously incompetent."

    Wednesday, October 08, 2003

    B-School Blues - III

    The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that cable companies are telecom companies, and that, in the interests of competition, they should be denied the fruits of their investments. They will now need to re-sell access to their lines, at cost, to their competitors. The WSJ (subscription required) has a nice, brief piece on the need to undo the mess from the 1996 Telecom Act. But my concern is what happened last night in marketing class.

    Our "current events" discussion was about this topic, and almost all of the students, with the help of the teacher's NPR-induced coma, deicded that this was a good policy. One student suggested that the problem was excess capacity, which clearly isn't the case. Else we wouldn't be forcing Comcast to sell their lines at below-market rates.

    Capping prices creates shortages. Simple micro-economics. Also, businesses develop projects with an estimate of the investment (cost of construction) vs. the return (price * market share). They calculate how much this project is worth to them over its lifetime. This ruling not only changes those lifetime calculations, forcing a scaling-back of investment, it also takes away the project's most profitable years. Of course, companies will build-out more slowly. Both economics and finance justify it. And one wonders if any of these guys had actually stayed awake during their finance courses.

    This is a business school. People should know this stuff already. I don't expect non-finance students to know the nuances of IRR and compeitive advantage and so forth. I only know because I took capital structure over the summer. But we've all done internal rate-of-return and Net Present Value calculations in the core courses. There's no excuse for future MBAs either not to know basic economics, or the basics of their core courses. And even less excuse for the professor, regardless of her opinions, not to remind them of them.

    North vs. South

    I've been reading Bernard Baruch's autobiography in my copious free time. DU doesn't teach a history of American business (which might help explain where we are now), so I've felt the need to supplement it myself. Baruch's family was of very old German-Jewish stock, although he himself married out and his children were raised Episcopalian. They were also southern, from Camden, South Carolina. His father served with distinction as a surgeon in the Confederate Army.

    They moved north in 1880 when he was 10, and he later attended CCNY. At the time, Jews were bascially barred from joining northern fraternities. He has this to say:

    The Greek-letter societies or fraternities played an important part at the college. Although many Jews made their mark at the college, the line was drawn against them by these societies. Each year my name would be proposed, and a row would ensue over my nomination, but I never was elected. It may be worth noting, particularly for those who regard the South as less tolerant than the North, that my brother Herman was readily admitted to a fraternity while he attended the University of Virginia.

    No Sputnik

    The AP is reporting that the Chinese intend to send a man into orbital flight next week. There are a few ways to look at this, but I can't say any of them give me a lot of comfort.

    One way is to say that the Chinese have managed to do the easy part. While the parts are all made in China, they're not doing anything new, and have had the benefit of studying the US and Russian programs for a while. While the US was always a few months behind Russia, we were developing our program contemporaneously with them, breaking new ground at the same time they were. The Chinese are roughly where we were 40 years ago. This is the easy part.

    The other way to look at it is that the Chinese have a plan to make space a part of their national strategy. Our military is highly dependent on communication satellites. Our smart bombs, our command and control, our heavy reliance on air power, all need space. A Chinese attempt to dominate space should be threatening - now. This view also suggests a more dynamic Chinese society, one that senses it has a future. What they'll do with that future, whether it will be freer than now, whether it will raise the standards for the world or lower them, is anyone's guess.

    David Gelernter in 1939: The Lost World of the Fair, notes that we're still a very active society, it's just that "all this activity doesn't amount to much." We can't push forward the standard of living. We can't turn all this marvelous technology of the last 30 years into a revolution in living standards, they way the 30s did with household appliances and cars. We can't even agree on public toilets and public safety. The Chinese are not a model for how to organize society. Therefore, it's imperative that we not become the Greeks to their Romans.

    Gelernter's argument is that the American religion, that claimed that utopia wasn't someplace perfect, just someplace better, fulfilled its promise in the middle 60s, and that from that time forward, our future disappeared. At that point, American civic religion died, because no religion can outlive reaching its promises. If he's right, we're largely coasting, creating toys, but not really going anywhere. Which is fine for a while, but neither the basis for a future, nor for confronting enemies who think they have one.

    Saturday, October 04, 2003

    Our Media 5th Column

    Bret Stephens of the Jerusalem Post pens a fine column, describing why it's so important for the West that we win in Iraq, and calling into question the motives of those who oppose us. In effect, they are waging guerilla warfare against the President, and don't care if they cause the country great harm in the process. Argue against Bush if you like, vote against him if you like, but the Democratic party is being fundamentally irresponsible by opposing this war, and, by extension, confrontation with North Korea and Iran. Even if you don't like our having gone to war, getting out now is hardly the answer. As Victor Davis Hanson has pointed out countless times, the alternative to reforming the Middle East is suffering more September 11ths. We simply have no choice.

    At the same time, in the same paper, Amir Taheri suggests that Al Qaeda may refocus on its strategic base, targeting vulnerable Arab governments rather than the US directly. Of course, this justifies the war as the only way of pre-empting their success.


    The Left's reaction to Rush Limbaugh's football/social commentary has been revealing. Not because they stopped listening at the word "black," and all those pro-dissent liberals started calling for Limbaugh's job. But because their writing has, to a large extent, exposed the sloppiness of their thinking. By and large, with a few exceptions, the Left has shown itself to be completely incapable of the basic element of critical thought - making distinctions. I've given up hoping they'll ever understand the distinction between "conspiracy" and "groupthink." but this is even more basic than that.

    The nature of the criticism has been shallow, self-righteous, and defensive, combined with that smarmy self-certainty that only a true believer can have. Tony Kornheiser's ill-disguised glee on his Thursday ESPN radio show is just the start of it. "What, liberalism is sportswriting? Whatever can he mean?" Tony, ask yourself that the next time you, Boswell, and Wilbon are sitting around a table at the Washington Post cafeteria. You, dear reader, ask yourself that the next time you see Bill Rhoden, Mike Lupica, and Mitch Albom stting around discussing some sports/social issue on the Sports Reporters.

    Look, I don't know if Rush is right about McNabb being overrated. He may be. Certainly Allan Berra of the Wall Street Journal thinks he is. He may not be. Legions of Eagles fans line up behing McNabb. He's still young, so we'll have time to find out. But a comment like that isn't between the 40-yard-lines of sports commentary, it's smack on the 50-yard-line.

    But for Mitch Albom to write this:

    "The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well"? Excuse me. But football is not an affirmative action application at college. We don't give extra points. If McNabb throws one touchdown pass, it doesn't count as two because he's black.

    Sports is one of the world's great equalizers, the rare place where skin color can truly mean nothing once the game starts. If the media were so desirous to boost black quarterbacks, how come Andre Ware is out of the league, how come Charlie Batch doesn't have a starting job, how come Kordell Stewart has been bounced around, how come Akili Smith has been put on the shelf?

    Limbaugh, trying to fend off anger, has pulled in his wagons, saying he was criticizing the media. Sure. Attacking the media is a rogue's safe haven. The media are big. The media are a monster. Who would side against you if you blamed the media?

    he must not only have skipped logic in school, he must have spent a lifetime avoiding it.

    Rush never said football discriminated in favor of McNabb because of race. He said that our perceptions, specifically the media's perceptions, of McNabb may have been inflated, and that we may have given him the benefit of too many doubts because he's black, and because we wanted him to succeed. The reason, Mitch, that the quarterbacks you name aren't playing is that you reporters don't make these decisions, NFL teams who have one goal - winning - do. And yes, Mitch, the context and the comment clearly were aimed at you, not McNabb. From the beginning. If you can't draw basic distinctions like those between perceptions and performance, or between success and hope of success, you shouldn't be writing. Because that kind of sloppy thinking leads to the above kind of sloppy writing.

    I don't particularly think Rush is right about the media and McNabb. There was a time, maybe 15 years ago, when the Black Quarterback was a Big Topic. I remember Sam Huff hoping that Doug Williams's Super Bowl performance "laid to rest the myth of the black quarterback." If you don't believe me, NFL Films used that excerpt in their Official Super Bowl film for that game. But I think that time is more or less gone. I have heard some broadcasters make that point, in that way, but not many. Many more just knee-jerked their way into joint-replacement surgery. And they need to grow up, and learn to take criticism seriously and responsibly. Lord knows, they can dish it out, Tony.

    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

    More good news on the jobs front Friday. Along with the regional business survey and the latest layoff numbers, this makes three strong jobs reports in a row. There's plenty to disagree with in the local papers, but it's hard to say they've been out of the loop on this story.

    I don't have time to do so here, but when the next jobs report comes out, I want to see how it's reported. There are two competing surveys: the household survey and the business survey. Bruce Bartlett wrote a fine piece last week about the discrepancy between the two, and how the household survey will tend to be ahead of the unemployment numbers.

    Still, it's interesting to note that when the unemployment rate was going down, it came before the "but" in all the news stories. This month, when the rate stands still, but payrolls expand, it's after the "but." When the rate went down, we heard that this was due to people dropping their job searches. Funny then, that we don't hear about the rate not dropping because people are entering the force, re-starting their job hunts.

    Thursday, October 02, 2003

    Why Gates Matter

    From to time, I've beaten up on United Airlines and their enablers over at City Hall. If you don't live in Denver, why should you care? Here's Why. Scroll down to the list of airports and their gate usage requirements, and you'll see this is a widespread problem. If United can lock out Frontier from growing here in Denver, other large airlines can do the same to their mid- and small-size competition. The smaller guys want to grow, and if they have a better model, one that doesn't depend on their slipstreaming benefits from the larger guys, the traveler is the only one that gets hurt by not letting them do so. It's a story with national implications for the airline industry.

    The large airlines will claim that by signing long-term leases, they're entitled to lock down gates like this. Sure, if they're going to use them. These deals are meant to guarantee use for the larger airlines, not to lock out their competition. And to cry poor so you can renegotiate lower rates, while still claiming the competitive benefits of exclusive-use contracts is wrong.

    Good Economic News

    Not that you'll get JB over at the Progressives to admit it, but even the job market appears to be turning around. The Denver Post carries an AP story about the regional economic survey and, guess what, every major category is over 50, indicating growth. Naturally the headline is "Regional economy dipped in September," so evidently these guys are making economic judgments based on their inner ears' sense of balance: if things don't grow as quickly this month, that must mean they slowed...

    For Colorado, the overall index is up for 6 months in a row, and we're at 62.5 for new orders, 68.8 for production, and 71.4 for employment. Inventories are at 31.3, which clearly indicates production headed up. All of these are good numbers.

    Nationally, we all know that employment is a trailing indicator. With more mandates being placed on businesses, it's more of a trailing indicator than ever. But current estimates are of 5% growth, possibly above 4% for the year, which is simply not sustainable without increasing employment. The jobs are coming. In fact, the jobs are already arriving.

    Wednesday, October 01, 2003

    B-School Blues - II

    For some reason, our marketing class last night wandered off onto the topic of how assertive women are perceived. The general agreement was that people, especially women, don't like them. One gentleman noticed that there was a general culture of assertive women at his (rather large) company, and that while the women groused about it, the ones lower down fell into line.

    Now this goes against just about everything that I've heard about women as managers in just about every text and PC study I read on the subject. They're supposed to be less hierarchical, more likely to create flatter organizations with teams that provide lots of feedback, and they're supposed to avoid relying on structure and on giving orders. Nobody seemed to notice this contradiction.

    Funny, that.

    Crescent News Network

    This morning, good news, in spite of Ted "50 Years to Go" Turner's crew's editing:

    JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli troops in Jenin Wednesday arrested the head of
    Islamic Jihad's political wing for the West Bank, Israeli military and
    Palestinian security sources said.

    Bassam al-Saadi, 43, was taken into custody by Israel Defense Forces on the
    streets of the town without a fight, according to the Palestinian sources.

    In addition to al-Saadi, Israeli security forces arrested 14 other wanted
    Palestinians overnight in the West Bank -- two in Nablus, two in Tulkarem, six
    in Ramallah, three in Hebron and one in Bethlehem, Israeli military sources

    Palestinian militant groups including Islamic Jihad and Hamas have been trying
    to push Israeli forces out of the Palestinian territories through a popular
    uprising, or intifada, and by staging suicide attacks in Israel.

    The U.S. State Department has designated the two groups as terrorist

    Emphasis Added. Actually, IJ & H have been trying to kill as many Jews as they can in trying to destroy Israel. They don't make a secret of this. Why does CNN? Also, in the Tree Falls in a Forest Category, if the US State Department refuses to call a group terrorist, does that keep the from being so? The CNN fancies itself a global "news" source; maybe they apply this qualification because the EU still thinks Hamas's job is to run hospitals and schools.

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