diet coke for breakfast

Monday, June 30, 2003

Posted by Matthew
You know what would be funny? This...

Posted by Matthew

Yes I admit to watching TechTV... They just showed a neat little utility that puts a little spell check button in your IE toolbar. That's it... no muss, no fuss... so if you are posting to a blog, or writing an email in webmail, you can do a spell check. Groovy.

Posted by Tanstaafl
Slippery Slope

I think this is an interesting way to look at this issue. The question before the court should not be whether it is "just" that such laws are allowed. As people with a civil liberties bent, I think we could probably agree that this behavior should not be restricted between consenting adults. The question, however, should be, can a legislature regulate this behavior, constitutionally. My belief in markets feeds my belief in federalism. If people felt oppressed by the Texas laws, they could have moved to Oklahoma and Arizona, and voted with their feet. Or better yet, they could express their dislike to their representatives, and get the law changed. I think the idea of "rights" has expanded too far. People have lost sight of what they mean, and the struggle that America had to achieve them.

Posted by Tanstaafl
Demographics not Legislation

Jake, I think this further's your argument.

[Rapidly rising rates of intermarriage further the wholesome blurring of the picture of the nation. So does the fact that many Hispanics -- and Arab Americans -- chose "white" or "other" when asked to pick from among the 63 categories on the 2000 census form.

Gee... do you guys know anyone with this "problem"?... oh wait... -Matt]

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Posted by Matthew

Okay... I just read the single worst article I've ever encountered. I'm not exactly sure what its about... I'm not exactly sure what the author was trying to accomplish... I'm not sure if there is a point. Something about 9/11, the growth of the internet, adoption of broadband and WiFi, Americans withdrawing from the world, people hate us... so there! It's an OpEd piece apparently, but what opinion do they want me to have? The Internet is growing, therefore America is stupid? I can believe that this was published by the NY Times because they are weird that way... but I can't figure out why CNN grabbed it and decided it merited a special spot on their front page. Seriously, I'm confused... Can either of you make anything of it? I mean its titled "Is Google God?" for pete's sake...

Friday, June 27, 2003

Posted by Tanstaafl
Metal Storm

I think I remember Salazar talking about this once.

[Yeah that stuff is scary amazing... a cloud of metal destruction... check out some of the concept graphics from their site. I think the "Area Denial System" is just brutal... I mean you could disintegrate anything with that.

Also on the miltary weapons front have you seen this? I stumbled upon it while researching Half-Life 2 and apparently one of the game weapons is modeled after that. - Matt]

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Posted by Matthew
I did not surrender and be questioned by American Infidels! Never!

For awhile there I was acctually worried we had lost forever one of the world's treasures. No, not priceless ancient artifacts, the Iraqi Information Minister! He's resurfaced, alive and well, and thoroughly interrogated by us Infidels. I wonder if this guy has any idea how much money he could make endorsing products in the US? He could be the new Joe Isuzu! "My cars will not break down! Never!"

Posted by Jake
U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Sodomy Law

About friggin' time. You know it is under very rare circumstances when I recommend a judicial remedy, but I think the courts rejection of morality-based legislation, which is by-and-large dictated by a horde of freaky people, is an unequivocably good thing.

Now time for my subliminal message: Social Conservatives...Leave the Party...Go to Pat Buchanan...You'll be happier away...

[Yeah I have to agree with that sentiment... This was an absurd law, but it is interesting to note however that there are some legalities behind this case worth considering. The central theme here is that government should not be allowed to interfere with people's sex lives. Generally this is a good idea, but it got me thinking dangerously, and it seems such a policy doesn't always hold up: there are all sorts of "non-violent sex crimes" out there (incest and polygamy for example) where there may be a true compelling interest for the state to prevent. It could even be argued (as I'm sure it was) that homosexual behavior is bad for the state (although often humorus)... Of course, common sense makes this absurd, but it merits thought about what the boundries of law making are. -- Matt ]

[Careful there big guy. That's the kind of talk that got Rick Santorum into trouble. That's the slippery slope argument, however it doesn't hold up. The easy counter argument is that incest is almost never consensual, and polygamy victimizes the multiple wives. --James]

[Yeah I think that's where I first heard the arguement actually and I agree its a stupid slippery slope argument, but I meant my comment more as a thought question: Can you legislate sex lives on any level? As someone of a rather libertarian bent, I'd like to say "no" but my imagination isn't dirty enough to consider all the possibilites which might change my mind. - Matt]

Posted by Matthew
Behold the Glory! The Self-Cooling Beer Keg!

Yet another reason to love the Japanese. Just think how much this thing will revolutionize parties? No more messy and heavy buckets of ice... and it lasts twelve hours... that means that left over beer will still be ice cold when you wake up in the morning, ready for breakfast!

Posted by Matthew
Some stuff to build a Nuke found in Iraq

David Kay, who led three U.N. arms inspection missions in Iraq in 1991-92 and now heads the CIA's search for unconventional weapons, started work two days ago in Baghdad. "It begins to tell us how huge our job is," Kay said. "Remember, his material was buried in a barrel behind his house in a rose garden.

"There's no way that that would have been discovered by normal international inspections. I couldn't have done it. My successors couldn't have done it."

So... again we have a story about a WMD program that doesn't exist. Another one... uh huh... Saddam wasn't dangerous at all.

I think the subtitle of this one should be Coalition Invokes Preemption on Rose Gardens, Invades. was in some random guy's garden. Anyone who said this was going to be easy, stand up and get a shovel. -- Jake

Posted by Tanstaafl
Sleepy Democrats

So these guys "miss" a vote because they can't get to work by 9:30am? Welcome to life Gentlemen. Get up with the rest of the world and get to work. (Or, don't lie about why you skipped a vote)

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Posted by Jake - Monogamous seahorse is its own worst enemy - Jun. 23, 2003

CARNA, Ireland (Reuters) -- Seahorses are their own worst enemy. Fished to the point of extinction for the traditional Chinese medicine market, they mate for life and their unwillingness to seek new partners after being separated has done little to improve their chances of survival.

Ha! Inspired by the sea horses I too am going to reject monogamy. Oh wait, it doesn't matter.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Posted by Jake - Court issues split decision on affirmative action - Jun. 23, 2003

The court issues a mixed decision and both sides are beating their chests in victory. I got one guy on Fox News happy that they have circumscribed the racial contribution to admissions, and I got the Head of the Michigan Law School saying "We won! We won!". I guess some people are happy that guilt has once again won over reason.

The problem with that I have with this ruling is not that it didn't go far enough. I never really believed that they were going to end it completely yet. The problem that I have with this decision (and you are welcome to read it for yourself) is that it is just as vague as Bakke was.

In one decision it says that you can't quantitate racial admission via a point system, yet in the other it says that race is still a compelling state interest. But the decision never bothers to define what a compelling state interest is (read dissent under the heading A), nor does it attempt to explain what would constitute a legal system. This leaves the people at Michigan Law to decide what standards to use (I believe that the phrase "critical mass" is used, you try and define it).

I think one of the dissenters wrote: This ``we know it when we see it'' approach to evaluating state interests is not capable of judicial application. They basically say that you can use race but you can't use quotas or points. If I were an admissions officer I would be scratching my head right now.

This vagueness will undoubtedly result in another affirmative action case in 10 to 20 years. We'll see what happens then.

Forward looking: What do I think will spell the end of affirmative action? Right now there is a 140,000 person disparity in the number of women and the number of men graduating college each year. There are 140,000 more women. In some schools this disparity has reach an 80/20 split between men and women, causing those schools to enact policies to encourage male applicants, in some cases resembling affirmative action policies.

That is some funny shit: affirmative action for white males. We may be feel guilty enough to countenance affirmative action for under-represented minorities for another generation, but I guarantee the moment it starts the applied widely to males, much less white males, the party is over.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Posted by Tanstaafl
Re: Democrats Go Off the Cliff

I have two responses to this trend in Democratic discourse.

1) I say they should continue with this. First they obviously have no constructive plan, so what else are they going to say. Second, it doesn't play well with the voters, and it costs Democrats elections. Not sure why that would bother me. For instance Jake, I think that listening to these guys has done more to mold your recent political attitudes than anything that I could say.

2) This line struck me as particularly interesting: George Bush's economic policy is the "most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism," says Senator John Edwards. Don't these guys argue for nationalized, STATE RUN, health-care systems? Aren't they backers of large unions, you know "workers of the world unite"? I'm pretty sure that they want to push up the minimum wage. They're interested fiscal stimulus from government spending instead of giving the money back to the people and letting them spend it. [stop, editors note: do you ever have an epiphany while you're writing something? I'm going to leave what I wrote, so you can see the thought process, but I'm going to make a quick turn in reasoning] I was going to criticize Edwards for being the proponent of "radical and dangerous" socialistic policies, but I'm not sure he'd see it as a criticism. I doubt he intentionally means this, but I think that what Senator Edwards is revealing is that he doesn't believe that socialistic policies are necessarily dangerous. He simply says that Bush's policies are the most dangerous "since socialism". Well, starting with Reagan, Republicans have been rolling back the march toward socialized governmental entitlements. I doubt Edwards voted for Reagan, and probably deemed his economic policies as "radical and dangerous". What he's saying, at least subconciously, is that since Democrats started us down the yellow-brick road toward socialism, President Bush is the biggest obstacle that stands in their way. This may be attributing to much significance to what he probably said just to make a dramatic sound-bite, but my feeling is that if he said it to the public, its fair game for analysis, and we have the right to take him at his word.

Posted by Jake
Democrats Go Off the Cliff

"This republic is at its greatest danger in its history because of this administration," says Democratic senator Robert Byrd. "I think this is deliberate, intentional destruction of the United States of America," says liberal commentator Bill Moyers. George Bush's economic policy is the "most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism," says Senator John Edwards. "The Most Dangerous President Ever" is the title of an essay in the American Prospect by Harold Meyerson, in which it is argued that the president Bush most closely resembles is Jefferson Davis.

Listen here, Chicken Little. Is this civilized discourse? I mean come on: the idea that the Republicans want to destroy the federal government and want to line their pockets. The two are mutually exclusive. If I wanted to plunder the country for everything it was worth, I would at least try and keep my country in existence.

Furthermore, even though I have often thought that Dennis Kucinich has lost his mind or that he operates according to a value system that is absolutely foreign to me, I would never say have the stuff they say about Bush. What happened to criticizing the other guys policies? You can't just issue a horde of ad hominem attacks and call it a platform.

Now, I admit that during the contract with America the Republicans were doing something very similar. And I admit that the Bush administration has come up with some reasonably divisive policies. But really people, let's keep the punches above the belt because this is getting ridiculous.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Posted by Tanstaafl
Fat Tax

They must be stopped.

Posted by Tanstaafl
Sorry to see him go...

... but if I'm not mistaken, July 14th is Bastille Day, the day on which the French celebrate winning a war against... wait for it... the French.
At least our Revolution was against someone else.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Posted by Matthew
"Miami is listening to you Fidel Castro"

Anybody have Kim Jung Il's phone number?

The Washington Times gets a bit more specific: "The Cuban leader hurled profanities at Mr. Santos and his mother and questioned her marital status at the time of Mr. Santos' birth. Mr. Castro also questioned the disc jockey's sexual orientation."

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Posted by Matthew
Orin Hatch goes off the deep end.

You know I really had hopes for ole' Orrin... he seemed halfway sane most of the time... but no, he can't read the writing on the wall. Poor guy... I hope he doesn't have a website or some hacker phreak is going to do a number on it in 5...4...3...2... ...

Posted by Tanstaafl
Re: Harry Potter has been Stolen (and inflated)

CNN has corrected the article. The truck-load of books is now worth only $220,000 or $28.65 per book. I would say that still seems like too much, but with the way people line up around the block for these, they could probably find an optimal price that's a bit higher than what they're selling it at now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Posted by Tanstaafl
Harry Potter has been Stolen (and inflated)

"The 7,680 copies of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix -- worth an estimated £1 million ($1.7 million) -- were taken from a trading estate in Merseyside, north-west England at the weekend, officers said on Tuesday."

Now call me crazy, but by my calculations, each of these books would have to be worth £130.21 ($221.35). Are they printed in gold?

Posted by Tanstaafl
So on NPR this morning as I was getting ready for work (can you believe that I do that every morning now? anyway...) they had a story on the health-care and prescription drug coverage debate in Congress. The NPR reporter made the point that one of the flaws with several of the competing plans is that some seniors would end up paying more than they consume in prescription drugs. I almost lost it completely. That's how insurance works. You're not paying for what you consume. You're paying for the reduction of risk. Over the long haul, the majority of people in the plan are likely to end up getting their money's worth out of the system, even if it doesn't happen each year. But that's hardly the point. What you pay for is protection against the possibility of a catastrophic illness that may never happen, but would bankrupt you if it did. My question, was did the reporter hear a politician complaining about this, or did he see some chart and draw his own conclusion. Either way, I agree with Elizabeth M. (did you ever think you'd hear me say that?).

Hmmm...has Jake been doing some editing? Yes he has. -- Jake

Posted by Tanstaafl
Re: To Inspire Japanese Youth, Clinton Pulled In Top Dollar (

Hmmm... I sense a bidding war. Alright Jake, I'll give you the answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything for a mere $350,000.
(Salazar, if you keep your mouth shut I'll split it with you.)

Posted by Jake
To Inspire Japanese Youth, Clinton Pulled In Top Dollar (

What could Bill Clinton possibly say that is worth $400,000? Even if you like him, odds are the speech wasn't that profound. I wouldn't pay $400,000 for a speech that contained the revelation of the mysteries of the universe.

Posted by Jake
Tales of Despair From Guantánamo

All the suffering people at Guantanamo can cry me a river. Prison isn't supposed to be fun. And for all those people that say that they were wrongly accused I got one question for you: what kind of moron do you have to be to carry a gun in a combat area when you know the Americans are coming? Furthermore, should we really be taking everything these people say at face value? Did it occur to the New York Times to ask someone in the government for their side of the story?

They are giving them Zoloft for Christ's sake. They have a chaplain that is there exclusively to deal with their religious needs. Only in America could that somehow be violating their rights.

Jake Young is on BOTW today for this. -- Jake

Monday, June 16, 2003

Posted by Jake - Exit exams deny diplomas - Jun. 15, 2003

Despite maintaining a "B" average, winning an award for "most improved" in his class, being captain of his football team and overcoming the challenges of a broken home and a reading disability, he didn't score high enough to get a diploma and graduate with his classmates.

The disturbing part here is not that he doesn't get to graduate. That is sad, but I think the "captain of his football team" will recover. The disturbing part is that in spite of not being able to pass a test that is reportedly easier than the SAT has a "B" average. That is grade inflation if I ever heard it.

In California last week, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said that making students pass that state's new exit exams before they can graduate should be delayed until 2006, because there is mounting evidence that thousands of students can't pass it. The graduation requirement was supposed to begin with the class of 2004.

Hmmm. If they are all going to pass it, then why are we giving the test? Why don't we not give the test and assume they all passed it?

Posted by Jake
22 States Limiting Doctors' Latitude in Medicaid Drugs

This is a debate where the pharmaceutical companies are very likely to say that limiting doctors choice is going to affect health care. The fact of the matter is that a good doctor is already selective in the medication he or she uses. Doctors tend to rely heavily on drugs that they are familiar with. The good ones also try to be aware of the financial limitations of their patients and will prescribe reasonable alternatives when such drugs are available.

This is generally a good idea for health care because a lot of new drugs cost a lot more and do generally the exact same thing that the old drugs do. The article mentions Celebrex as not having a generic alternative. Well that is not entirely true. Celebrex is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is designed not to cause ulcers. What is the most popular NSAID? Aspirin. And aspirin works pretty damn well is all but a small minority of patients with predisposition to bleeding ulcers.

This is one of the few cases where I would advocate government regulation, basically because it is forcing doctors to do what they should have been doing anyway.

Posted by Tanstaafl
Congratulations to both Jake and Matt for graduating! How was the commencement speaker? I hear that he had to negotiate with the Peruvian congress in order to even make the trip. That should make Brandon feel a bit better about the Carly Fiorina fiascos.


Posted by Jake | Iraq and the oil market

As new investment increases the daily production capacity in Iraq, both the current interim authority and, eventually, a new Iraqi government will want to push up its exports as fast as possible, whatever is ultimately decided about its currently inactive membership of OPEC. The cash is urgently needed to finance reconstruction of the economy. That is likely to make it far more difficult for OPEC to impose its will on the oil market in the future.

I got the world's smallest violin playing for OPEC. Good riddance.

Posted by Jake
Big Dumb Lie -- Is anyone fooled by claims that the media aren't liberal?

Here's a question for you. There have been a lot of books claiming that the media is either too liberal or too conservative or whatever. However, I am not aware of a single reasonable individual that has argued that the media is not biased at all.

It is almost self-evident nowadays that the media is biased. And even though I suspect it was always more or less biased, this is not a good thing. We can bludgeon each other from now until doomsday with evidence as to whether The Weekly Standard is more influential or pernicious than the The Nation, but this would sidestep the larger issue that there is not a single news outlet in this nation that I consider centrist.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that the media tends to be a little bit liberal. 9 out of 10 journalists report themselves as liberal. And let's be honest, a lot more people read the NYTimes, Newsweek, Time, and The New Yorker than will ever read The Weekly Standard or It is not that conservative ideas are not out there, but if we are talking numbers the conservatives are considerably less read.

This is my point. Eric Alterman can paint a vast right wing conspiracy until he is blue in the face. (And, hey, maybe he is right. Because I am without a doubt a member of such a conspiracy. Oh wait, shit, I let it out of the bag. Conspiracy's over boys. Cancel the coup, back into the boats.) But the thing that goes unstated, that he considers the media not nearly liberal enough, is much more pernicious.

It is pernicious because Alterman instead of being satisfied with the correctness of his own arguments on their own merits needs to be additionally reassured by arranging the facts present in the media to affirm them. He demands control of both reason and premises, where any reasonable person would like the media to be correct in its facts and would then rely on the weight of their own arguments to carry them into rightness.

This is where the media is lacking. We have no good source of news that focuses on correctness rather than analysis. My buck is out there, media folks. You want it, produce something correct. I will take care of the arguments myself.

Posted by Jake - Iran protests U.S. 'interference' - Jun. 16, 2003

The best thing about this is that we have nothing to do with it.

Posted by Matthew
Secret Armies of the Night

This is a neat look at the growing role of special forces in conflicts. Apparently, Rummy is really rethinking how "we do business" and his ideas focusing on the most effective use of special forces is really paying off. I love the implications of this quote:

A senior U.S. military official told TIME that Rumsfeld has ordered more special-forces personnel to be "forward deployed"—that is, stationed overseas—and some will be given the same kind of civilian cover that intelligence agents get in order to stay closer to the action.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Posted by Jake
The Boys Who Cried Wolfowitz

I am usually a bit skeptical about what Bill Keller has to say, but I have to say that this is about the best liberal analysis of the war that I have read so far. He makes a good argument, and supports that argument with some real understanding and inclusion of all the facts. Good show, Bill.

No, I supported it mainly because of the convergence of a real threat and a real opportunity. The threat was a dictator with a proven, insatiable desire for dreadful weapons that would eventually have made him, or perhaps one of his sadistic sons, a god in the region. The fact that he gave aid and at least occasional sanctuary to practitioners of terror added to his menace. And at the end his brazen defiance made us seem weak and vulnerable, an impression we can ill afford. The opportunity was a moment of awareness and political will created by Sept. 11, combined with the legal sanction reaffirmed by U.N. Resolution 1441. The important thing to me was never that Saddam Hussein's threat was "imminent" — although Sept. 11 taught us that is not such an easy thing to know — but that the opportunity to do something about him was finite. In a year or two, we would be distracted and Iraq would be back in the nuke-building business.

Second, I like that he acknowledges that there are different approaches to intellligence gathering, and that fight now is essentially over whether you should overestimate or underestimate what you don't know. Instead of accusing people of lying, he acknowledges that a reasonable person is going to be selective about how they analyze intelligence to do their job.

The origins of this may be well intentioned. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the most dogged proponent of war against Iraq, is also a longtime skeptic of American institutional intelligence-gathering. He has argued over the years, from within the government and from outside, that the C.I.A. and its sister agencies often fail to place adequate emphasis on what they don't know, and that they "mirror-image" — make assumptions about what foreign regimes will do based on what we would do.

One tempting solution has been to deputize smart thinkers from outside the intelligence fraternity — a Team B — to second-guess the analysis of the A Team professionals. Mr. Wolfowitz was part of a famous 1976 Team B that attacked the C.I.A. for underestimating the Soviet threat. These days the top leadership of the Defense Department is Team B. Mr. Wolfowitz and his associates have assembled their own trusted analysts to help them challenge the established intelligence consensus.

At the end he comes to a somewhat different conclusion that I did -- that the so called "Team B" has been discredited -- but this is also because he has a different perception of the facts than I do. For some, if we did not find a nuclear weapon or Osama bin Laden himself then the work of Team B is plain wrong. I for one can settle for some trucks that Powell said would be there and Ansar al Islam, which while only affiliated with al Qaeda was probably just as bad.

On the whole this is very reasonable analysis that anyone participating in this bickering should read. I do agree with one of his final conclusions as a good take home:

Honest, careful intelligence is our single most important weapon in the global effort against terrorism. It is also critical to winning the support of allies against nuclear proliferation, most urgently in North Korea and Iran. Already rather compelling evidence of Iran's development of nuclear weaponry is being dismissed as just more smoke from the Bush propaganda machine.

Just because people were really mad about Iraq doesn't mean that we can ignore Iran and North Korea, which are by any reasonable comparison a thousand times worse.

Posted by Matthew
The Palestinians are sending out contradictory messages.

Hey another one! Arab News is on a roll today.

Posted by Matthew
The illusion of "Another Vietnam"

The Arab News baffles me. Nine out of ten articles are typical anti-american shrieking, then one pops up that is plain simple common sense.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Posted by Matthew
Man scares SHARK to death

At first I thought, "dang... a shark..." but then I thought, "well... if I jumped naked into a fish tank, a animal cage, or a room with people in it, I'd probably kill a few things myself."

Posted by Tanstaafl
Bush Will Never Make Them Happy

Environmentalists that is. He tries to meet them half-way on fuel standards and automobile pollution, by proposing govt research into hydrogen fuel cells. Sounds good, but wait... now they tell us that hydrogen fuel cells are going to rip another hole in the ozone layer. I don't know if any of you guys watch "That '70s Show" (which is hillarious btw), but one of the characters, Hyde, is always talking about the fact that "there's this car, and it runs on water man. Water!" I bet if we got that car up and running, next they'd tell us that it causes droughts in the third world because of the water that it uses. We could go back to horse and buggy's, but from what I understand, the several tons of horse manuer that was cleared from NYC streets, each day, wasn't real good when it got into rivers and streams either.

I think the real point, is that no matter what mankind does, we will impact the environment in some negative way. The trick, is to not overwhelm the Earth's natural equilibrating mechanisms. For instance, with it's vast forests, the US is actually a net reducer of green-house gases. Maybe if we tell them that, the Europeans will leave us alone on Kyoto... but I wouldn't count on it.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Posted by Matthew
Iraqi villagers used contaminated barrels from looted nuclear plant

... And I quote:

"Questions have been raised by international inspectors about why, despite U.S. assurances that coalition forces had secured this facility, looters roamed for days, ransacking vaults and warehouses that contain radioactive poisons that could be used to manufacture an inestimable quantity of so-called 'dirty bombs.' "

:-| Nope... no WMD potential here... Bush must have been lying to us! Not only that, but they aren't doing a good enough job keeping NUCLEAR RESEARCH sites secure from looters. Bastards!

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Posted by Jake
Blix goes ballistic at the bastards from the Bush camp - War on Iraq -

Speaking to The Guardian from his 31st-floor office at the United Nations in New York, Dr Blix said: "I have my detractors in Washington. There are bastards who spread things around, of course, who planted nasty things in the media. Not that I cared very much. It was like a mosquito bite in the evening that is there in the morning, an irritant."

In a wide-ranging interview, Dr Blix, who retires in three weeks, accused: The Bush Administration of leaning on his inspectors to produce more damning language in their reports; "Some elements" of the Pentagon of being behind a smear campaign against him; and Washington of regarding the UN as an "alien power" which it hoped would sink into the East River.

Two things:
1.) Hans Blix, you are Ike Turner: doomed to vanish into cultural oblivion once an OJ comes to the fore. Don't be like Bill Clinton. Accept your irrelevance and do it gracefully.
2.) I like Fox News's analysis of the East River comment. We don't want to see the UN vanish into the East River. That would be a horrible waste of prime real estate. Better to make it into nice condos.

Posted by Jake
Bush Prods Congress on Medicare (

On Why This is a Bad Plan

Someone in the government has to say when. Someone in the government has to say, no this is not going to work and we are not going to have the money.

The Democrats and Republicans (inscrutably) have decided to provide a "universal" prescription drug benefit for seniors, setting up another entitlement in a society with a great many already. This instead of a more targeted drug coverage for the poor advocated by the President.

Why won't this work? Why should all seniors be entitled to a drug coverage?

Contrary to popular belief, the government's money does not appear de novo. And as more and more baby boomers become seniors the cost is going to increase. The 400 billion dollars projected doesn't cover the half of it. We are getting ourselves into a cost situation not unlike European countries where aging populations and extensive pensions mean that there are just not enough taxpayers to run the government.

What does the government do when costs increase? It can do one of two things: raise taxes or impose price controls. The first is unlikely to happen not only because it is politically repugnant but also because it would be economically stifling to raise taxes to the necessary degree. The other choice, and the more likely one in this situation, is price controls.

The government will lower the amount of reimbursement to drug companies, pharmacies, and doctors for services and goods. Because of the large nature of the shortfall, they are likely to lower the reimbursements in variety of services outside actual drugs. (Reimbursements incidentally are already a fraction of market value making most hospitals operate at a loss).

At this point, I bet a lot of people are saying: "Well, OK, so what's the problem? Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are rich. Tough shit for them."

Well, first those perceptions are wrong. Doctors are paid well but also are forced to deal with 200,000 dollars worth of school loans, crippling malpractice insurance, and limited reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid (usually less than half a dollar per dollar of market value). Many people in private practice have trouble making ends meet. It is a good thing most doctors are not in it for the money because if they are they picked the wrong business. Pharmaceutical companies are also doing well overall. But in spite of the relatively small incremental cost of producing medicines, there is a huge (sometimes billion dollar) upfront cost in R&D for discovering and gaining FDA approval of new drugs that must be overcome before earning even a cent of profit.

More to the point, what happens when price controls are established? Historically we know that three things always happen when less than market value is delivered for goods. In the words of Thomas Sowell: Keeping prices lower than they would be under supply and demand produces shortages, quality deterioration, and black markets -- whether the price that is being controlled is that of food, housing, medical care or innumerable other things.

Drug companies, because they will no longer be reimbursed for what they make, will not produce as many pills and will be less likely to explore the possibilities of new medications. Doctors will be reluctant to provide the care because they will not be paid. Black markets in medicine and treatment will develop for those who are forced to wait. This is not unknown even now. In Great Britain, the "model" for some of universal coverage, some people are forced to wait for even necessary surgeries so long that either the surgeries are ineffective or they die of their illness.

Which brings me to my point. This is a bad plan. We cannot afford to have a culture of entitlement. They don't work, economically or morally. Only 22% of seniors lack prescription coverage now. We should target relief to those who need it while avoiding attempts for universal coverage.

Sorry for the long rant.

Posted by Jake
Bus Blast Kills at Least 16 in Jerusalem; Israel Hits Gaza

A really bad day.

Everytime there are days like this I ask myself what I would do differently if I were in Sharon's or Abbas's place. I can't really say what I would do in Abbas's place. His situation and the view of the world that he represents are so far removed from my own that I have trouble relating to them.

The sad fact of it is, however, that if I were in Sharon's place I would probably be doing something remarkably similar. I would have probably nixed the settlements much earlier, recognizing that they are an unnecessary provocation, but like Sharon I would find myself hard-pressed to let the obliteration of 16 of my citizens go by without response -- especially when I knew who did it and when the people responsible have an office, a "political wing", and a website on which to release statements of justification.

Thinking about what I would do, I am almost surprised that he has not adopted a more dramatic response. It is within his power to forcibly eject every Palestinian living in Israel into the West Bank and Gaza, set up a Berlin style wall, and shoot those who would approach on sight. Maybe, as unpalatable as that might seem, it is the two-state solution we are looking for -- the only solution that will work.

In any case, I suspect there are some strained phone calls going on this evening. Let us hope that someone in the Bush administration has a better idea than I do.

Posted by Matthew
From today's Dilbert News Letter

Like the proverbial dog chasing a car, the Induhviduals [terrorists] haven't considered what would happen if they caught one. For example, let's say they (the Induhviduals, not the dogs) accomplish their stated goal of destroying the economies of the Western world. Is that really a good plan for people who live in a desert and import most of their food?

Just for the record, if I'm down to my last potato, I'm not sharing it with a guy who wants to kill me so he can get a better supply of virgins in paradise. That lesson is a little thing I call Economics 101, infidel style.

For the Induhviduals, it must look as if Americans are really dumb to have the most awesome arsenal in the history of the world and still be unable to stop terror attacks. They don't realize that the way Americans look at it is that, so far, we're "really mad," but not yet "REALLY, REALLY mad." Oh, there's a difference. Americans understand that somewhere between "inconvenient air travel" and "complete breakdown of Western civilization," the "REALLY, REALLY mad" part kicks in. I won't give away what happens then, but remember you first heard the phrase "New Iowa" in the Dilbert Newsletter.

And let's stop calling the terrorist supporters "fundamentalists," because that sounds like it could be a good thing. I recommend a more descriptive label, such as "slow learners," to keep things in perspective. Then let's airdrop science and economics textbooks on their terrorist training camps with condescending notes, such as, "Maybe this will help. Call us if you have questions."

This would be a small step, in the sense that reading books about economics is only slightly better than suicide. But you have to start somewhere.

This is too funny. - Jake

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Posted by Jake
Bush Goes Soft on Terror

Sad news from Gaza City, where Hamas honcho Abdel Aziz Rantisi is still alive and two bystanders are dead in a failed Israeli helicopter strike. The White House, bizarrely, is criticizing Israel. "The president is concerned that the strike will undermine efforts by Palestinian authorities and others to bring an end to terrorist attacks and does not contribute to the security of Israel," says spokesman Ari Fleischer. "The president is deeply troubled by the strike."

Israel should ignore what Bush says and do what he does. The U.S. has "assassinated" numerous terrorist leaders since Sept. 11, and Israel has as much right to defend itself as America does. One further bit of advice for the Israelis: Next time, make sure you actually kill the guy.

You know, under normal circumstances I would be under complete agreement. Criticism of Israel for taking security into their own hands is a dangerous equivocation with terrorists. But under these select circumstances where we are trying to get this road map off the ground, shooting rockets into Gaza was probably not the best idea.

On the whole, however, I have been very pleased with Sharon. He is actually doing what he said he would by bulldozing settlements (in contrast to Abbas). He is actually standing up to hard-liners in his party who would very much like to see all attempts at peace fail. Still, he could have waited to conduct counterstrikes.

Posted by Jake
Fly Me to the Moon

The latest added $2.3 billion of taxpayer money to cover security costs that should more properly be borne by passengers. Delta led the parade of beneficiaries ($390 million), followed by American Airlines ($361 million), United Airlines ($300 million), and US Airways ($216 million).

Europe's airlines get no such handouts. For example, in the past 16 months British Airways has incurred additional security costs of L100 million for steel cabin doors and other security measures. Compare that with the L135 million in pre-tax profits that the airline earned in the year ending March 31, 2003 and you can see why the difference in government policies places BA and other European carriers at a competitive disadvantage.

America's carriers blame their financial plight on security costs and the fall-off in travel following September 11. But they were bleeding oceans of red ink before the world ever heard of bin Laden, and long before the paucity of merger deals grounded the high-flying Wall Street bankers that filled their first- and business-class cabins.

I am interested in what James has to say about this article (given his much better understanding of the airline business), but the take home that I got was that to save the business we are going to have to let a couple airlines go out of business. This sad realization might be politically unpalatable, particularly to those politicians who need the votes of three powerful unions involved, but it is the only solution besides periodic payouts to the airline industry on a Congressional pay schedule.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Posted by Jake - CDC: Pets could be spreading monkeypox - Jun. 9, 2003

Pet prairie dogs may be spreading a pox-like illness to people in the upper Midwest, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning.

There are several very disturbing things about that sentence. First, are prairie dogs really hanging out with monkeys? Second, "pet" prairie dogs?! What kind of weird shit are they doing up there.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Posted by Matthew
Okay... thanks to FARK I discovered a little background on "John Dean" the guy who wrote the impeachment article. Apparently this guy is a long time Washington dweeb who likes to play to the media, despite being a jerk. He's the guy who did that whole sensationalized "Who is Deep Throat" book about a while back. One article labels him as "Disgraced Counsel to the President [Nixon] John W. Dean, jailed for conspiracy to obstruct justice and defrauding the government and who began his legal career by being forced out of his first firm in a conflict of interest dispute" and calls him a "media shill".

Posted by Matthew
Now I don't want to go on off on a rant here, but:

Is lying about the reason for a war an impeachable offense?

Okay... this is just damn irresponsible journalism. This guy was apparently asked if "lying about war" was an impeachable offense. Well duh. He goes off on a rant about Bush lying and all the "false" things he said. But he completely ignores the rather obvious possibility (and most likely reality) that Dubya was acting on perfectly reasonable intelligence. Intelligence that would invariably change during a WAR. This whole article is just a democratic pundit's wet dream. Nobody is going to impeach Bush, for starters a republican congress wouldn't do it, but even if it was dem controlled and they chose to, all the Bush legal team would have to do is bring in the dump trucks of intel. we've collected on Iraq over the last twelve years that make all of Bush's statements/actions perfectly reasonable. I mean hello? This article borders on slander. While it's an editorial so I guess its jounalistically "okay", its being presented as a analytical law article. An article which is taking as its central argument that Bush lied. There has been absolutely no evidence that Bush or anyone in the administration lied. A case could be argued that they were partly wrong, or mistaken on some issues (which is only to be expected)... but not lied.

So then, thankfully, we have this:

Powell slams media on Iraq WMD reports

Everybody cheer with me: "Colin! Colin! Colin! Colin!" Just when I was resigned to believe Colin "overwheming force" Powell had gone permanently soft, he pulls a Rumsfeld and tells the media to STFU.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Posted by Jake
The 'E' Word, Admit it: America is an empire. BY NIALL FERGUSON

Shit, they're on to us!

Seriously, we need to get over this idea that we are an empire.

1.) Economic integration does not occur without political obligation. Did we really think that all that free trade talk was just going to go over and we wouldn't have to do anything?

2.) Ideological arguments against imperialism are based in the Marxist understanding of class struggle. There's a philosophy that has been a real winner over time: Marxism. But wait there was the Soviet...oh yeah, it fell. Even the Chinese Communists are letting capitalists in now. Drop the Marxism people. You lost, it's over.

3.) Resistance to any hegemony emerges spontaneously, but that doesn't make it right and it doesn't make it the majority. Of course some people are going to against the US, such as those people who have invested heavily in caves and water buffalo.

4.) Most of the world wants what we have. Remember the "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" guy. They may not want us breathing down their necks the whole time, but everybody wants a swimming pool. And that's fine, we have plenty of pools, and our kind of democracy is big enough to accomodate localism, difference, and dissent.

We need to accept the fact that we are already pretty much an Empire. Most people watch our Presidential election more closely than their own. But we also need to realize that there are relevant differences between our Empire and empires that have come before, and ours is much better.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Posted by Jake - Daily Dish

Blogs Will Rule the World?

I do agree with BotW's evaluation that bloggers may have had less to do with Howell Raines's resignation than they would like to believe. It looks more like Raines administrative style was the seed of his destruction rather than popular discontent.

However, this admission does not change my belief that blogs are beginning to have a huge influence on policy, primarily by policing the news. Tens of thousands of amateur news junkies can make a story out any inaccuracy, so the New York Times better get their facts right because someone is going to notice. Likewise, editors that ignore heavily blogged issues will be questioned about suppressing the news.

I like it this way. Blog scrutiny is so much more democratic than any regulations the FCC could enact because it is driven by educated citizens.

And this influence is likely to grow into the next election. Blogs are the next talk radio. They are angry, self-aware, and by and large conservative. Candidates ignore the web at their peril.

Posted by Jake
Drug Money Laundered Into Gold, U.S. Says

I've seen pictures of drug dealers with all their jewelry. I could have told you that.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Posted by Jake
Wife's Fortune Out for Kerry's Campaign

Haha! Take that you gold-digger.

John Kerry has concluded that federal law bars him from tapping any of his wife's vast Heinz investment fortune for his presidential campaign, removing an arsenal of cash that some Democrats hoped he could use to counter President Bush's fund-raising prowess.

Posted by Tanstaafl
And the Earth Responds...

So I find two things interesting about this.

1) I thought the rainforest was being obliterated. These guys say it's growing.
2) Mother nature (like market forces) has an amazing tendency toward equilibrium. Often things such as mankind or natural disaster (volcanos or meteor strikes) shock the environment out of wack. But it always finds some way to compensate and fix the issue. This doesn't mean that we should ignore the environment and just let it on its way, if we didn't curb CFCs or industrial pollution, we could certainly overwhelm these natural adjustment tendencies. But, maybe we don't need all of the alarmism about shifts in the weather or the ozone, etc.

Posted by Jake
The Big Four

You might have noticed that I changed a couple of the links above. I had considered removing the NYTimes one entirely but decided against due to today's interesting news. Besides, half of America still reads the NYTimes so I should at least know what they are talking about.

More importantly, I have added links to two blogs of note in response to an article in the Weekly Standard. Apparently the blogs are actually changing policy because once a story gets captured on heavily read one it has a habit on not going away and being picked up by news editors. It is going to be really interesting to see how they affect the next election.

Anyway, here is an interesting quote:

The Big Four are Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and The Volokh Conspiracy. These four sites are usually visited by news junkies many times a day because they are staffed by bright people and continually updated, and thus they can guide the chattering class to a breaking story or even a hitherto ignored story. Trent Lott is no longer majority leader in part because these superpowers of the blog filed and fueled the story of his remarks at Strom's birthday bash. The New York Times is reeling because of consistent attention to its inaccuracies and biases by these same sites. Because these sites are so widely read and referred to, they can amplify even small murmurs and overnight can redirect traditional media towards a target.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Posted by Jake
Sharon to End Some Settlements; Abbas Says Uprising Must Stop

Reasons for optimism. There are some angry people in Israel and the Palestinian territories, but it would appear that Abbas and Sharon are willing to stare them down and possibly to drag them kicking and screaming into a reasonable settlement. I like how Bush is at least forcing them to see the obvious: what a reasonable settlement will look like. We'll see...

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Posted by Tanstaafl
Free Speech and Video Game Violence

Good news for Jake, St. Louis can't prevent him from buying Half-Life 2

Monday, June 02, 2003

Posted by Jake
FCC Set to Vote on Easing Media Ownership Rules (

The vote has engendered public opposition by lawmakers, consumer and advocacy groups and unaligned citizens who fear that further media consolidation will make it more difficult for those with minority viewpoints to get their message out.

The opposition is composed primarily of groups that have lived in caves for the last ten years and have apparently never heard of the great equalizer of minority viewpoints called the Internet.

I have a statement for all of you:

I have a blog. I have a website where I can talk about anything that I want, in spite of having zero journalistic experience and no multinational corporate support.

I can say that Maureen Dowd wouldn't know a fact if it bored into her forehead like a boll weevil. I can even say the word motherfucker. And there is not a God-damned thing that Rupert Murdoch can do about it or anyone else for that matter.

So step off it. Minority viewpoints are out in the world. There will stay out. There is no way to put to them back in now. You people are being alarmist.

Posted by Jake - Three spacecraft launch for Mars this month - Jun. 2, 2003

The traffic problem overwhelms the tiny planet causing delays for all concerned.

Posted by Jake
A Tale of Two Baghdads (

This article asks a lot of people how many Iraqis they think like the Americans and how many they think don't. Sufficeth to say, they find that the real value is somewhere between all of them for and all of them against. The result is an understanding of the Iraqi public that is about as correct as surveys of the American public.

For people who are feverishly looking for validation of their views on the Iraq war -- whether for or against -- in the minds of the Iraqis this is somewhat unsatisfying. The Iraqi people are sort of like the American people in a couple of ways.

1.) Like the Americans, some Iraqis were against the war and some were for. Some people will benefit from the war, some will not; and this will color their views.
2.) Like the Americans, my suspicion is that the Iraqis don't really know what they want. The jubilation in the streets quickly gave way to a grab bag of Utopian views for the new Iraqi society, not of them the same and few very realistic.
3.) Like the Americans, the Iraqis have unreasonable expections about how quickly the government can solve their problems, if at all.

The point is that ambivalence among the Iraqi public should not distract us from what we have to do. We can't leave until there is a reasonable government, even if a good number of the Iraqis want us to. We won't appoint an interim government until there is some assurance that it will be balanced.

Unfortunately for those who wanted a quick answer to whether this was a good idea -- for how history will judge us -- the conclusion of this whole deal is neither going to be quick, nor clear.

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